Getting to Bocas del Toro is far less complicated than it appears on paper. As you hop in a speed boat to Bocas, you will steadily see the ever-changing shades of water turn from blue to patchy spots of turquoise. By the time you arrive on Isla Colón, the main island of Bocas del Toro, the water is unbelievably crystal clear. When planning this trip, we had a few decisions to make regarding Bocas del Toro accommodation – which island were we to stay on, and did any allow camping? We decided not to stay on Isla Colón, as it’s known as the party island, and instead retreated to Palmar Tent Lodge on Isla Bastimentos, an eco-lodge located directly on the well-known Red Frog Beach. It is 100% solar powered and all water is purified rainwater (drinking water, shower, sinks, toilets, etc.). Walk around barefoot, sleep in luxury tents, and eat your meals 50 feet from the waves, this is the place to stay. The food at the restaurant is fantastic, reasonably priced, and large portions are provided for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 5FT Tip: There is no grocery store on the island, so factor in food costs into this trip.
At first we thought that the dorm tents would potentially be noisy, but we lucked out and had an awesome, respectful group of people in our dorm. The dorm tent is extremely spacious, but there are some unsealed areas in the tent, so be sure to wear a lot of bug spray since technically Bocas del Toro is a malaria area. If you’re allergic to mold, as I am, I would recommend taking a Zyrtec everyday as parts of the tent are a little moldy. Otherwise, the beds were comfy, the room was airy, and the bathrooms were perfectly clean. This really is, without a doubt, the place to stay in Bocas del Toro.
The beaches themselves are absolutely incredible – extremely clean and clear. When we were there the waves weren’t that big, so you can hang out in the water all day if you’d like with no fear of rip tides. Isla Bastimentos is composed of many beaches other than Red Frog Beach and they’re all very easily accessible. Polo Beach is a bit of a trek, but worth it – follow the footsteps there! There’s decent snorkeling so bring your gear and a few dollars so that you can meet Polo and grab some grub – supposedly he offers really cheap, fresh-caught fish in huge portions. Be advised, if he offers rabbit, it’s really opossum! While we didn’t get to personally meet him, he’s a known legend – he’s been here 60 years, has supposedly fathered 25 children, and speaks a mix of English and Spanish with a Jamaican accent.
Palmar Tent Lodge on Isla Bastimentos is the perfect place to go for a relaxing getaway to beautiful, non-touristy beaches. I can’t wait to go back sometime in the near future.