NEW YORK -- Bocas del Toro, an archipelago of 68 islands and scores
of islets recorded in the logs of Columbus' final voyage to the New
World in 1502, today is the quintessential eco-adventure
destination -- with a cosmopolitan flair.
Bocas is booming, in an off-the-beaten-path way, as Europeans
and North Americans have settled here over the years, investing in
restaurants, lodgings and bars.
Snorkeling, diving and bird- watching are the main attractions
in the archipelago, which stretches along the western edge of
Panama's northern coast. The mainland is part of the Bocas del Toro
province, and the only town also is called Bocas del Toro, or Bocas
town, and is located on Isla Colon, the largest island in the
Bocas town provides a convenient base from which to explore the
rain forests or to laze on pristine beaches.
Day-boat trips take visitors to neighboring islands and to the
archipelago's reefs for diving and snorkeling.
Clients should not miss the boat excursion that features a visit
to Panama's first marine park, Bastimentos National Park, home to a
large variety of sea turtles as well as abundant sea life, birds
The oldest lodging in Bocas town is the Hotel Bahia, housed in
the former office of the United Fruit Co.
The newest hotel is the deluxe Punta Caracol, an aqua-lodge
located 15 minutes off shore. Its handsomely crafted, thatched-roof
cabins and one master suite -- all with private bath and hot-water
shower -- are built on stilts over the water.
In the evening, dinner is served by candlelight or on the
terrace; during the day, arrangements are available for a variety
Priced at $215 for a cabin and $325 for the master suite, rates
include transfers to the hotel from Isla Colon, a welcome cocktail,
breakfast, tea and biscuits in the afternoon, dinner and use of
snorkel gear. Rates are per room, single or double.
To book, call (011) 507 263-5350 or visit www.puntacaracol.com.
One-hour flights depart from Panama City (Albrook Airport) to
Isla Colon, and clients also can journey to the island by water
taxi (a 30-minute ride) from the mainland at Chiriqui Grande.
There also is air service from David in the Chiriqui highlands
to Isla Grande, and for travelers driving south from the Costa
Rican border, boat service is available from the dock at
The prime months -- meaning least amount of rainfall -- to visit
Bocas del Toro are March, April, September and October; the months
to see sea turtles nesting -- four of the world's eight species lay
their eggs on Bocas del Toro beaches -- are between April and
For additional information, contact the Panama Tourism Institute
(IPAT) at (800) 231-0568 or on the Web at www.visitpanama.com.