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Overview

Panama's most popular tourist destination for foreigners has a uniquely laid-back, almost funky, appeal. Beginning life in 1889 as the unlikely setting as the United Fruit Company's headquarters, on an island - Isla Colón - fringed by fine beaches, Bocas was put on the tourist map as a backpackers' haven barely a decade ago. Although big resorts and condominiums are now going up, the mood is still barefoot and counter-culture, drawing visitors whose idea of a good time is lazing in a hammock by day and jamming to reggae by night. Local culture is mainly Afro-Caribbean; houses are clapboard, in vernacular Caribbean style, many on stilts ...

Panama's most popular tourist destination for foreigners has a uniquely laid-back, almost funky, appeal. Beginning life in 1889 as the unlikely setting as the United Fruit Company's headquarters, on an island - Isla Colón - fringed by fine beaches, Bocas was put on the tourist map as a backpackers' haven barely a decade ago. Although big resorts and condominiums are now going up, the mood is still barefoot and counter-culture, drawing visitors whose idea of a good time is lazing in a hammock by day and jamming to reggae by night. Local culture is mainly Afro-Caribbean; houses are clapboard, in vernacular Caribbean style, many on stilts overhanging the water. Surfing is fabulous, as are snorkeling and diving. Five neighboring isles that make up the Bocas archipelago are smothered in rainforest teeming with monkeys, sloths, and other wildlife, including poison-dart frogs. Visitors are whisked from isle to isle by boats. The mainland coastal strip, part of Bocas del Toro province, is a great place for spotting manatees and waterfowl in wetland lagoons, and for learning something about indigenous life in Indian villages now opening to eco-tourism. Bring rain gear - it rains a lot here!

Christopher Baker
About the Expert

Christopher P. Baker has authored guidebooks to Costa Rica, California, and various Caribbean islands for Frommer's, Lonely Planet, and National Geographic, among others.

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Christopher Baker for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: on the island of Isla Colon in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago in the Caribbean Sea off the northwest coast of Panama
  • Language: Spanish and English
  • Currency: Panama Balboa
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    December-April dry season