A boat in Bocas Town ready to take people to the best beaches in Bocas del Toro

Your Guide to Beaches in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Bocas del Toro, a beautiful archipelago of islands on the north east coast of Panama, is renowned for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life. More recently, they’ve become famous for their parties, especially Filthy Friday, which is the self-proclaimed only island-hopping bar crawl in Central America. So, as you can see, Bocas del Toro (or Bocas for short) has a bit of everything.

You can reach Bocas del Toro with a long bus ride and a short water taxi from Panama City (a full guide is coming soon!). The islands are also so far north in Panama that they’re just a couple of hours from the beach towns of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita in Costa Rica. When I went, I travelled from Puerto Viejo to Bocas del Toro and then carried on to Panama City, but the two people I was travelling with just came to Bocas for the weekend and then went back to Costa Rica! 

Bocas del Toro is home to some of the most beautiful beaches around, so lets take a look at some of the best…

Starfish Beach (Playa Estrella)

Located on Isla Colón, the main island in Bocas del Toro, is Starfish Beach or Playa Estrella. As you might imagine from the name, this beach is known for its abundance of starfish, which you can see swimming in the island’s calm waters, or from the beach if you’re lucky. Starfish beach is an easy day trip from Bocas Town, the “capital” of Bocas del Toro and where you’ll find the most nightlife and hostels. You can either organise a trip with your hostel, take a taxi, or even take a bus there from Bocas Town.

Carenero Beach

Carenero Beach is on Isla Carenero, just a four minute water taxi ride from Isla Colón. The water taxis between islands are easy to catch and often cost just a couple of dollars per person. This beach is known for its picturesque views and is an easy getaway from Isla Colón. Isla Carenero is the second most popular island to stay on after Isla Colón because of its abundance of hostels and its proximity to Bocas Town, so you may find yourself closer than you think!

Cayo Coral Beach

Cayo Coral Beach is perfect if you want to see a coral reef snorkelling close to the shore. Cayo Coral Beach is quite a journey from the main islands in Bocas del Toro, so it’s usually visited as part of a boat tour which commonly includes stops at other great snorkelling spots, including Cayo Zapatilla.

Wizard Beach

Located on Isla Bastimentos, there are two ways to get to Wizard Beach: the easy way, and the hard way. The easy way involves taking a boat tour (and you’ll take a lot of these, if you’re interested in exploring a lot of beaches in Bocas del Toro!) which will give you several hours to sunbathe, take in the views, and swim in the crystal clear waters of Wizard Beach. The hard way involves taking a water taxi to the main town on Isla Bastimentos and doing an hour-long hike through jungles and remote farms to arrive at the beach. If I were you, I’d plan on arriving early so you can leave early enough to take a boat taxi home…

Dolphin Bay

If you’re interested in dolphin watching, you might have gathered that Dolphin Bay is the place to be. Dolphin Bay is a hidden lagoon located on Isla Cristobal, and again, you will probably need to take a boat tour to get there. They don’t come cheap but they are absolutely worth it, as your chances of seeing Dolphins are very high. It’s impossible to know for sure before you go whether or not you will see Dolphins, but the best time to go to increase your chances is in June and July.

Polo Beach

Tucked away on Isla Bastimentos, Polo Beach is further afield than Red Frog Beach or Wizard Beach, meaning it takes some time to get there but it’s worth it to avoid the crowds. This secluded beach is surrounded by nature and palm trees. You can take a water taxi there from Bocas Town, or hike through the jungle from Red Frog Beach (a common place to stay the night with hotels and hostels).

Read more: Is it safe to travel alone in Panama?

Boca del Drago Beach (Playa Boca del Drago)

Boca del Drago Beach, or Playa Boca del Drago, is in the northern part of Isla Colón, close to Starfish Beach. It’s a great spot to enjoy the natural beauty of Bocas del Toro away from the crowds, and you can reach it fairly easily by water taxi or by bus from the main town on Isla Colon.

Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park

Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park (Parque Nacional Isla Bastimentos) is home to mangrove forests, long beaches, and an abundance of wildlife and marine life. The best way to visit the National Marine Park is to take a tour, otherwise it’s forestry can be difficult to navigate. 

Playa Bluff

Playa Bluff is to the east of the main island of Isla Colón, accessible by bus from Bocas Town every hour during daylight hours. It’s a favourite amongst surfers because it’s one of the only beaches in Bocas del Toro with real surfable waves, and there are a few hostels and hotels around the area if you want to make a weekend of it. Be careful of the time of year when you go, because it is a nesting beach for sea turtles. This is a great opportunity to see incredible wildlife, but it’s also important to ensure you don’t disturb any hatching nests of baby sea turtles on the sand!

Zapatilla Islands (Cayos Zapatillas)

Cayos Zapatillas, or the Zapatilla Islands, are remote islands on the other side of Isla Bastimentos. They are usually accessed as part of a tour, or with a private boat, as they are too far away to take a traditional water taxi. The beaches and hikes here are absolutely incredible, but there are no restaurants or accommodation on the islands so come prepared with supplies for a full day!

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