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Casco Viejo, Panama

An archipelago of over 100 islands in the Caribbean Sea, Bocas del Toro barely made the maps just a decade ago. It is a land of       pirate coves, deserted beaches, virgin jungles, and insane nightlife. It is rare to find a destination where one can sail away to the     calm of a sun drenched, unspoiled beach by day and yet party like crazy through the night. Bocas del Toro, Panama provides both   the escape and the ecstasy; it is a backpacker’s paradise. The locals are friendly. The food is tasty. The adventures are plentiful.       The beaches are stunning. The party is wild. Here are a few of the Bocas trips that top our list of things to do:


The “Bocas” Boat Tour – Now offered by a number of boat captains, the full day boat tour is a great value and experience. The tour departs from Isla Colon at around 9:30 AM and stops at Dolphin Bay, Cayo Coral and Red Frog Beach.


• Dolphin Bay – Dozens of dolphins play in the wake of your tour boat. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a pod leaping out of the water just after your boat passes


• Cayo Crawl – Snorkeling, lunch stop, sunbathing dock


• Red Frog Beach – One of the legendary beaches of Bastimentos. Wild waves, pure sands, the legendary Bastimentos red frogs.


• Wizard Beach – Set upon a jungle backdrop, Wizard is the closest beach to Bastimentos town. Don’t let the proximity to the town scare you off – this place feels like Jurassic Park! The hike (30 minutes) from Bastimentos town to the beach is not for the unadventurous; the trail can be very muddy…but for us that is part of the fun. The setting is epic – crashing waves and white sand shores. Be very careful not to wade into the water at Wizard above the waist – the rip tide is deadly at this beach.


• Bocas del Drago – On the far side of Isla Colon is a tranquil peninsula frequented by Panamanians as well as backpackers and tourists. Starfish Beach, having landed itself on many a magazine cover might no longer be a secret, but it still is beautiful. The beachfront is small and the water is calm. Drago is the perfect spot to lie in the ocean on your back and float away the day. There is a good restaurant which serves an eclectic lunch cuisine.


• Cayo Zapatilla– These two islands located off the far coast of Bastimentos are worthy of being placed on the cover of National Geographic. Though out of some backpackers’ budgets, (about $25) the islands should be checked out for those with the cash. Gather a group of fellow backpackers staying at Hostel Heike and negotiate a cheaper, group rate.