In 1510 the Spanish settled in Bocas Del Toro, Panama as a port to stop between shipping Peruvian gold and treasures from Peru to Spain. Pirates were attracted to what was called the most dangerous waters in the sea, The Caribbean. The Spanish began rounding Cape Horn straight to Spain to avoid being sacked by pirates. Fast forward to the 1800s. Scottish and English families brought slaves from Jamaica and the Colombian islands of San Andreas to the archipelago of Bocas Del Toro to evade taxes. They came to harvest sugar cane, cocoa, and coconut palms. It is also the base of the banana boom for Chiquita Bananas. There was a tortuous shell and live turtle trade as well. Today islands are inhabited by some of the original Indian families as well as the Caribbean Creole. There are no cars on the islands but the walking streets are full of English speaking Rastafari accents and Jamaican music plays all day long. I haven’t made it to Jamaica yet but I assume it would feel a lot like this…
I personally wasn’t much impressed by the main Island so I booked 4 nights on Isla Salarte. The island has only one hostel, The Bambuta Lodge.
I can tell you what kids you won’t find a better place to sleep in Bocas!
Dorm rooms are $17 a night or there is very nice private rooms out back for quite a bit more. Complete with a beautiful pool overlooking the Ocean, full bar and a great breakfast and lunch menu. Dinner differs every night but it is always 5 star. You can book tours here or take a canoe from here to the Blue Coconut..
Not a bad view I had on the way either..
The Blue Coconut is a little tiki bar on stilts around the corner of the island a bit. They have lobster burgers, tropical cocktails, free snorkel gear and hammocks to use.
Getting here is only possible by boat or canoe but worth every second!
Where to stay-
Bambuda Lodge-$17 per night. Breakfast and lunch from $3-$8ish. Dinner options-$8-$12 Beers-$2 (Blue Coconut prices are similar) I also stayed one night on Basimentos Island at Bubbas House but not much to see there.
Getting there and away-
-From the south. I took the chicken bus from El Valle to David for a night and then a bus from David to Bocas. It took 6 busses from Panama City total to go to el Valle for a night. Not worth it in my opinion. This trip was miserable and really confusing. I would highly suggest to anyone to take the night bus from Panama City direct to Almirante (the port city of Bocas). From the port you take a taxi boat to Bocas main island for $6. From there you another taxi boat to Isla Solarte to Bambuda Lodge for $5.
-Getting to Costa Rica. This can be arranged by any of the hostels. You taxi to the main island and your taxi boat to the mainland is included in your ticket. There will be a shuttle bus waiting that will take you to the border. Get your exit and entrance stamp and on the other side there will be another bus waiting that will take you to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica all included in the $22 shuttle ticket.