Bocas del Toro, Panama

Am just back in Panamá City after two days on Isla Colón, the largest of the nine islands in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. These islands are located on the extreme western side of Panamá, only 40 kilometers, or about 24 miles, from Costa Rica.

The first words out of my mouth when we stepped onto this island were “Key West!” Like most resorts that feed off the beautiful blue Caribbean waters, Bocas shares many characteristics of our south Florida resort. It crawls with plump, sunburned tourists and hops with hostels full of international kids who’ve not bathed for days. If you take a big whiff, you’ll catch a healthy waft of last night’s cocktail. Full of fruit, of course. Shark teeth and plastic woven wristbands are abundant in the souvenir shops, as are sarongs made in the Orient and jewelry purportedly handmade.

But if you look beyond the first impression you’ll find nature our children experience only through pixels. Our group of four stood mesmerized as a tree sloth, high in a tree, nursed her young. I carried with me a huge palm branch, enthralled with its intricately woven fibers. Starfish as big as a dinner plate, lay abundantly only feet from the shore line. And the frogs and birds of the rain forest . . . their sound almost symphonic.

I hope you’ll enjoy this visual tour of the area known as Bocas del Toro as much as I did. I begin with the moment we stepped off the bus and into our next means of transportation, a bright yellow water taxi. Hail Marys come in handy, whether you’re Catholic or not. The young driver, donning a bejeweled LA cap, instructed twenty-five of us (yes, I counted) to jump in and put on our life vests. This is where you surrender to the man in the tacky cap, and pray that you’ll see your kids “just one more time, dear God!”

I survived and was very happy to leave the island in an airplane.

Once on the main island of Isla Colón, we found lots of hostels teeming with kids from around the world.
It always amazes me how creative bar owners can be with their watering holes . . . surely designed while under the influence.
Then, of course, a slice of Atlanta . . . the hometown I share with Coca-Cola.
Our hotel, Gran Hotel Bahía, once the headquarters of the fruit company now known as Chiquita, has two large porches overlooking the water. As you peer down the hallway, you could almost imagine the workers running back and forth across the dark wide hallways, with clipboards in hand, barking out orders to the workers who load bananas on the dock outside.
Fueling up for the ride around the nine islands of the Bocas del Toro province of Panamá. (see below)
Walking through the rain forest to reach Isla Bastimentos’ Red Frog Beach, one of the most pristine beaches I’ve ever seen . . . also one of the frog chirping-est! (see below)

Tents for rent at the Palmar Tent Lodge, ranging from $10 if you pitch your own, $70/per for a 4-person tent. Each comes with 5 gallons of water for showering and basin/pitcher for brushing your teeth. For the young, I’m afraid. (see below)
When you’re this deep in the rain forest there’s not much to do but drink, I guess. And be creative. Following are photos of the open-air bar and the creativity used in lining the path to it. Yes those are wine bottles. (see below):
The starfish!
The fibers of the palm tree:
Some of the sights on Isla Colon, the largest island and the only one allowing cars.
Here is the sanctuary of an open-air Catholic church in the town called Bocas.
Residents often have small shrines to the Virgin Mary in their gardens. Some quite beautiful as the one below. I remembers these as a child in El Salvador.
Everything here is a colorful piece of art here in Bocas del Toro. Even the signage.
Cerviche and a freshly-squeezed lime drink. A perfect way to end a day in Bocas.


  • Jane K.
    Posted at 17:25h, 24 January

    What an adventure! Thanks for bringing us along with all the photos.

    • lisaweldon
      Posted at 20:16h, 24 January

      Will be glad when this my head hits my own pillow tomorrow night! It’s been an incredible trip but ya know, “Ain’t no place like home!” Lunch this week, come hell or high water!

  • Anne Dukes
    Posted at 12:42h, 25 January

    Great blog, Lisa. I’ve enjoyed being along for the ride with you and your sister.

    • lisaweldon
      Posted at 21:34h, 26 January

      Panama is a great country. The people are phenomenal. If you have a chance to go, GO!

  • Katy
    Posted at 04:39h, 26 January

    I feel like I’ve been there! Thank you!