We were so close that we couldn’t resist visiting the islands of Bocas del Toro, Panama, and it was 100% worth it! Despite the fact that immigration demanded we buy return bus tickets from Panama to San Jose (even if you don’t want to go there), hassled us to take a bus to Altamirano, and charged us random fees… once we arrived it was a great experience. Bocas del Toro is formed by many small islands thirty minutes from Altamirano, in the Caribbean. The most popular is Colon, known as a party island with lots of young tourists and hostels. We only stayed one night in Colon, and instead opted to go a lesser known island called Bastimentos. Bastimentos is a rural island, with only 600 people, no cars and only a few restaurants. It has the total flavor of the Caribbean, colorful little houses, music in the streets and kids playing all over the island.
We stayed in Tio Tom’s hostel, a set of bungalows built over the water. Tom and Ina, a couple from Germany, own and run the place. They offer a family dinner every night for any guests that would like to join. We really enjoyed chatting with all the travelers and the food was always excellent. Tom is quite the character which resulted in some interesting conversation. Hammocks everywhere and ocean views make this place very cozy and relaxing.
In addition to the vibe, there are many things to do on the island. We were lucky to get in contact with an adventure guide, Uwa. He took us snorkeling at two different reefs in the region and a mangrove swamp. The day after snorkeling Uwa took us on one of our favorite adventure experiences so far: a cave exploration. It started with a boat ride up a jungle river and a hike to the mouth of the cave. Once inside, we were constantly surrounded by bats, had to swim, squeeze through places we barely fit, and climb a waterfall (this was crazy)… it was hard core! It took us about an an hour to emerge from the other side and we found ourselves in the middle of the jungle. Uwa let us know he had never been this far before so we pushed further on, following a small stream to another cave. One “let’s do it” later, we were discovering a new cave with him, it was epic! This second cave was small though, we made our way through in about 10 minutes and turned back to leave the way we came. One big bummer, I couldn’t take any pictures since we didn’t have a waterproof camera.
Bastimentos will be a tough place to beat!