Archipelago de Bocas del Toro consists of six heavily forested islands and scores of uninhabited islets in the Caribbean 32km south from the border with Costa Rica. The largest of the islands, Isla Colon, is home to the town of Bocas del Toro, capital city for the province by the same name, a colorful town of wooden houses built by the United Fruit Company early in the 20th century.
We took the easy way of getting here from Costa Rica. Our options were either, bus from Puerto Viejo to Sixaola, cross the border to Guabito, bus to Changuinola, change to bus to Almirante, boat to Bocas; or private shuttle. We chose the shuttle which took us to the border where we met a related shuttle on the Panama side which took us to the dock in Almirante where we caught the boat to Bocas. This border crossing was significantly less hectic than our crossing from Nicaragua into Costa Rica at Penas Blancas and, we’re told, much less rowdy than the CR to Panama crossing on the Pacific side. The border we crossed is actually the Sixaola River so to make the crossing, we had to walk approximately 300 yards across the metal bridge that spans the river, said bridge being just barely wide enough to accommodate the buses and tractor-trailers that have to drive across it.
On the day after arriving in Bocas we went out on an all day snorkeling tour. The weather wasn’t ideal. The clouds grew heavier and we had rain for part of the time. The first stop was Dolphin Bay which is a breeding grounds for the dolphin. No snorkeling here, just watch the dolphin from the boat. We then went to an area called Cayo Crawl. There is a restaurant there built out on the water. We stopped for a bathroom break before the first snorkeling stop which was out about 100 yards from the restaurant. While at the restaurant, we had noticed that there were lots of jellyfish in the water there, most about 3 – 5 inches across, some larger. When we got out to the snorkeling spot we noticed that there were jellyfish there as well – we could see them in the water from the boat. When they asked who wanted to go snorkeling, we all sort of looked at each other and said, “With the jellyfish?” There were already a couple of other boats there and some people already in the water. The guide picked up one of the jellyfish from the water and rubbed it on his skin showing us that they do not sting. We had come to snorkel so we went for it. Even though they didn’t sting, we were still a little freaked out when we encountered them in the water. There were lots of jellyfish there and you would occasionally feel one brush against your skin. As for the snorkeling, there weren’t many fish in this spot but some fairly nice coral formations.
From here we went to Red Frog Beach, home to the “rana rojo” (strawberry poison-dart frog). This was just a beach visit, no snorkeling. It is a very nice beach and we did see the red frog. An enterprising young boy had one in inside a big leaf that he offered for photos ($1 please). They are tiny – could easily fit on your finger tip. While at this beach, Valerie got attacked by sandflies. She ended up with 20 or 30 bites on each leg and suffered greatly for the next 3 – 4 days with pain and itching. We’re not sure why she was singled out because I was right next to her and didn’t get bitten at all. It made for a very uncomfortable few days for her.
After the beach, they took us to Hospital Point for more snorkeling – jellyfish free, this time. There were some nice fish and coral at this spot. Hospital Point is so named because the United Fruit Company built hospitals here to house workers who were stricken with yellow fever and malaria.
Here’s some more pics.