The Perfect Beach For You! Safe Swimming GuideJanuary 22, 2016
Beautiful beaches are why people come by the thousands to Bocas Del Toro, Panama every year. Since Bocas is an archipelago with several islands there are many options to choose from when finding the perfect beach for your vacation.
On Isla Colon you can travel very easily to a number of places to get your fill of Vitamin Sea. For the families with children, and those who are new to swimming in the ocean, there are several nice beaches where the water is calm and shallow and lots of fun can be had. Bocas Del Drago and Starfish Beach are two of the most tranquil beaches on the main island. There are also a few more private areas if you explore a bit farther. Isla Colon has some great surfing beaches with both Paki Point and Bluff.
The island of Bastimentos has some gorgeous places to breathe in the sweet, salty air. Red Frog Beach is the most popular among tourists. The beach has a lifeguard on duty, but it is still important to be aware of how strong the waves are, and never to get to far from shore. Right in the same vicinity are some great surf beaches and a few jungle beaches as well. There are boat taxis ready to take you out to Polo beach where you can meet a true Bocas legend, Polo himself and listen to his tales of living off the land. You can hike from Basti Town to First Bay, aka Wizard Beach and watch the surfers have fun. Or you can take a more romantic approach and head toward the beautiful secluded national park of Zapatillas.
Which ever beach is the perfect beach for you there are some things that you should always keep in mind. The beautiful turquoise, tranquil Caribbean Sea that surrounds the islands of Bocas Del Toro, Panama is very powerful and hides many things beneath its calm waters. As those of us who live here know, the water can be tricky with changing currents, different breaks, and swells approaching and leaving, it is recommended that people use caution while spending their sunny days splashing in the sea.
Most of the beaches are equipped with signs that warn of the dangers that might be encountered in the ocean, so it is important to look for and read the signs. Only one of the beaches has a lifeguard on duty so it is the responsibility of the visitor to be aware of undertows and riptides. You can see both of these conditions in the waters surrounding the Isla Colon and the other islands in the Bocas Del Toro archipelago.
You will see the power of the undertow at Bluffs beach. The sand there creates a somewhat steep downward angle into the waves. The waves break close to the shore, so if you are caught in an undertow, you will be pulled out to sea and each wave will work to pull you under. If you see that the shore line is on a steep angle, and the waves are big, avoid going near the water. A big wave can pull you in and force you under. Avoid being knocked over by the incoming white water by standing sideways to the water and shore. That way you can maintain your balance and not be pulled out to sea. Move with the white water when it moves toward the shore. Keep contact with the sand and climb out of there as quickly as you can. If you do get caught and you know how to swim quickly get past the waves into the less turbulent water outside the waves. Regain your composer and strength while floating and then look for an opportunity to swim with the waves toward the shore until you reach the sand.
Even more difficult are the riptides that are created wherever there are waves. The best example is at Tiger Tail. There a hole has developed to the left of the point where surfers ride the waves. That hole pulls the water out toward the sea. The deeper the hole the faster the water will flow. It looks very much like a river flowing back into the sea. For surfers this is perfect. You can ride the riptide out after catching a wave then exit the river and paddle toward the point. For a swimmer it can be a disaster. You have no contact with the sand or reef, you cannot stop yourself from being pulled out to sea. If you try to swim against the current you will tire out and get no closer to the land. Many people have died in different places around the world trying to fight a riptide. The only strategy to use is to not swim against the current, but swim to the side and out of the river. It seems counterintuitive, but you must swim toward the reef and the white water. Once you feel that the water is not pulling you out you have escaped the riptide and can now swim toward the shore.
Look closely at the waves and the flow of the water before entering the ocean. If the angle of the shore is steep, don’t go near the water or you may get caught in an undertow. If you see a place where the waves are not breaking hard and the water seems to be flowing back into the ocean avoid that as well. It is a riptide and it will pull you out to sea. Be careful the ocean is wild and unpredictable.
Come to incredible Bocas Del Toro to get your fill of the sun, the sand and the sea while staying safe. Please remember to respect the sea and what she is capable of, wear sunscreen and insect repellant and take your trash away with you so the islands remain clean. Be aware of what is going on near the shore and in the water. Inform your family and watch for the posted signs. Your experience here in Bocas is something you will remember for a lifetime!! Remember SAFETY FIRST.