10 reasons to visit Bocas

posted by Frank Leone
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Hidden in one of the most remote areas of the Caribbean coastline, in the Republic of Panama, lies one of the most wonderful places I’ve seen on earth: Bocas del Toro. It’s a place of magical beauty which will blow your senses away, leaving a mango aftertaste in your mouth while at it. This place, still relatively untraveled by many, is calling for you; it longs to be visited by you. I came to Bocas for the first time 16 years ago, and have felt that calling ever since. I have lived in many places and visited several others, but definitely, Bocas is that little corner of the world which has stolen my heart. What I am about to share with you are what I consider ten good reasons to come and experience this magical place.

To begin, well Bocas is a little group of Caribbean islands. If you type the word Caribbean in your favourite search engine, the first images that will show in your browser will include blue skies, white sand beaches, palm trees, and pristine turquoise waters. Close your eyes, and you will almost feel the fresh sea breeze caress your face, as you dip your toe in the warm tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s much more to Bocas than just this.

Bocas del Toro’s archipelago is in Bahia Almirante (Admiral’s Bay,) referring to Admiral Christopher Columbus, who arrived in the islands in 1502, on his fourth voyage to America. Isla Colon, Bastimento, and Carenero got their names from this, which would be his final visit to the New World. When you come to Bocas, you will be able to relive the sensation these men must have felt when they had their first glimpse at the breath-taking beauty of the islands with the majestic mountains of the Sierra Madre standing mighty in the background.

Next, and one of my favourite reasons, is its flavours: Cocoa, coconut, mango, papaya, passion fruit, tamarind, plantain, bread fruit, cassava, sugar cane, coriander; you will find all this and more growing locally, and in one way or another, in your plate. From exotic tropical fruit to fresh seafood and vegetables, eating in Bocas will definitely prove to be a gastronomic experience whether you try local or international fusion cuisine, and regardless of your budget.  

Now, imagine getting off the plane, and in less than an hour, being taken to a remote part of one of the islands, where you will enjoy being surrounded by nature, and yet have all the comforts of the modern world. Imagine walking along a trail and pick a mango from a tree and eat it right there, or enjoying the most amazing sunset while sipping a drink out of a coconut or a pineapple. Or imagine gazing at the moon or the stars at a place where the only sound you hear is the delicate sound of the ocean waves. If none of these matches your idea of paradise, I’m sure Bocas will help you discover yours. One good tip is that you make sure you have enough memory in your camera. Trust me, with all there is to see, you will not stop taking photos.

And since I mentioned photos, I’d love to share with you that, when it comes to diversity, Bocas is a treasure chest full of surprises. So whether you’re a scientist doing research, a naturalist filming a documentary, or a simple amateur bird watcher, your will be able to observe birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, marine species, or plants you would only find at an exotic store or a museum. Best of all, they will be in their natural habitat.

Just as diverse as its flora and fauna, Bocas is a melting pot of ethnic groups, and a huge expat community. This and the tropical island environment have definitely had an influence in the local life. You will never feel like a stranger here, or have a problem in meeting friendly locals. Wherever you go, you will find people are welcoming and laid back. Just come and see how Panamanians live up to their reputation of knowing how to have a good time, and don’t be afraid to join in. You won’t regret it.

Another thing people in Panama are well known for is their love for music. Bocas is definitely not an exception to this statement. Whether you walk down the vibrant streets of Bocas Town or the footpaths of Bastimento Island, or chill out at a beach lounge, you will listen and dance to the beat of traditional Panamanian music, combined with Afro-Caribbean and Latin rhythms. Bocas music cultural scene has been growing for the past years, and today you can choose whether enjoying live music or dancing to a DJ’s mix at one of the many clubs. In addition, more music festivals are being organized each year, opening the possibility of enjoying a good music show surrounded by the enchanting natural beauty of the location.

And speaking of locations, did you know that Bocas has multiple world class surf spots? The place even hosts local and international competitions throughout the year. Besides this, there are coral reefs, mangrove channels, trails and roads; and it’s easy and inexpensive to take lessons or rent equipment. So if you’re into scuba diving, spear fishing, kayaking, mountain biking, or hiking, Bocas will prove to be an ideal place to keep your body tuned.

But your body is not the only important thing. Bocas has also what you need for your mind and soul. Bocas has this unique positive energy which you notice the second you set foot in Bocas Town, and especially when you depart, at the end of your holiday. The warmth and serenity of the colourful unspoiled Caribbean landscapes, make Bocas an ideal place to pamper and spoil yourself at a spa, or practice yoga or your favourite form of meditation. The tranquillity of the place offers you the chance to connect with yourself as you connect with Mother Nature. As I mentioned before, when you leave, you will feel an aura of positive energy around you.

Finally, Bocas is a perfect place for adventures. Charter a boat, explore the mainly uninhabited islands and, sail into the sunset. Pack your tent and enjoy sleeping at a remote beach under a star blanketed sky. Rent a kayak, paddle through the mangrove labyrinths, and admire the local wildlife, or visit a native village. Dare to walk (and swim!!!) inside a cave. Submerge into a world of bioluminescence as you go for a night dive.

So whether you travel alone, in a group, or with your family. You will find that Bocas has the perfect combination of ingredients to make your vacation one of the sweetest memories of your life. I hope this information has been of any help. I would like to close with a fair warning: Beware of Bocas’ magical beauty for it has the power to evoke your deepest emotions, and make you not want to leave at all.

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