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Bocas del Toro

Getting to Bocas:

From Panama City, Panama, fly Air Panama
From San Jose, Costa Rica, fly Nature Air or by ground, the Caribe Shuttle
From Boquete, Panama, use Panama Shuttles or Hello Panama Travel Services

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Lodging in Bocas del Toro

Hostels - If you're looking for an inexpensive private room try Hostel Hansi. I rent a guest room here at Bocas Yoga for quiet, respectful people. If you are more in the mood to party then go to: Selina Hostel - The newest hostel in Bocas, water-front, party place, late-nights. Mamallena is a newly refurbished, popular water-front hostel within easy walking distance to the yoga studio. Hostel Luego - chilled out, within easy walking distance.  The Bocas Surf School Hostel is a nice waterfront location, beautiful view, within walking distance of Bocas Yoga. Twin Fin hostel just opened, right around the corner from Bocas Yoga, and is owned by local surfers, with laid-back vibes.  Private rooms and dormitory lodging is available at hostels.

Hotel Lula's Bed & Breakfast - Starting at $50/night. Right across the street from Cocomo. A great place to stay, at an excellent price. It's in a nice location too, in a quieter part of Bocas Town. Near the water, and within easy walking distance of the Bocas Yoga studio. The owners are very hospitable and make you feel welcome. There's free Wi-fi. Air-conditioned rooms, and a book exchange. Clean rooms. Breakfast included. Very convenient is the surf school right there! Check out their affiliated over-the-water hostel.

Hotel Bocas Del Toro - Upscale rooms from $160 to $270/night. Located waterfront, downtown Bocas Town. A premier boutique hotel, offers a unique blend of simple elegance and historical ambiance of Caribbean exotic wood craftsmanship with the sparkling sea beneath. Nicely appointed with wood and nautical furnishings the 11 room hotel offers the concept of comfort with 400-thread count cotton sheets, WI-FI , Flat Screen cable TV, air conditioning, telephones, coffee makers, ocean & town balcony views, ocean kayak rentals and in-room massage. Luxury accomodation within easy walking distance of the Bocas Yoga studio!

Palma Royale Hotel & Suites - From $80 to $290/night. Bocas Town's newest and most luxurious hotel. The suites have full kitchens and ocean balcony views. Within easy walking distance of Bocas Yoga studio. A/C, Satellite flat-screen TV, free wi-fi.

There are many hotels and resorts in Bocas. I've only listed my favorite above. Click here for a full-listing of hotels. It's my preference to stay in town, and make excursions out. There are plenty of resorts located in remote areas, but the logistics of getting into town if you want to shop, eat, check email, go to the yoga studio, or see other people, can be very challenging. It's much more pleasant to stay in town with its conveniences, such as being close to the yoga studio, Internet cafés, water-taxis, shopping, and restaurants, then making excursions out for your adventures.

Restaurants

Leaf Eaters - vegetarian/vegan cafe, waterfront, Isla Carinero - only a $1 water-taxi ride away. Open for lunch starting at 12:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. A healthy alternative for after yoga class hunger! Tell the lovely owner Francesca we sent you. Open daily. Closed Sunday & Monday.

Raw Fusion - Main Street, Bocas Town, on the water. Japanese with an island twist. Fresh, gourmet food. Sushi, salads and more. Ocean front. Sunset view. Vegetarian/Vegan options (remember miso is has fish in it). Most menu items you can replace any meat with fried tofu! :) Open daily. Happy hour prices from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on food and drinks.

Falafel Bocas - located on First Street, near the Fire Station, Bocas Town. A wonderful, decadent vegan, Kosher treat! Only $8 for a platter, including hummus & fries. Eat there or get it to go. Opens at 5:00 p.m. daily. Closed for the Sabbath. Operated by the Chabad House. Perfect for a post-yoga-class treat.

Om Café, Main Street on the water, Bocas Town. Dinner only. Yes, Bocas has an Indian restaurant! This is a great place to go to get that Indian food fix, which since traveling to India I find I want more and more of. Both veggie and meat dishes are served. If you are vegan, be warned that the red curries have fish sauce in them. As with other Indian restaurants, I recommend getting the Thali so you get a variety of dishes and flavors. When mangos are in season make sure to get the mango lassi. The Chai tea is yummy too. Om has a nice ambience, with groovy, chilled-out, down-tempo electronic music. They also have a balcony to sit on to catch the evening tropical breezes. Mon. - Fri. 4PM - 10PM. Call: +507 6127 0671

Bibis On The Beach - Isla Caranero. Traditional Panamanian food, over the water. Vegetarian options in addiction to typical seafood dishes. Try the patacones (deep fried plantains).

La Casbah - Mediterranean Food. Intimate restaurant, open air dining, nice music. Good for people watching. Goat cheese salad, gazpacho, falafel, and pasta are vegetarian options. Catty-corner to the Bocas Yoga studio. The chef will make you a plate of sauteed veggies, which is not on the menu. He's very willing to accomodate and please and the food is delicious! Very fresh food, gourmet preparation with attention to detail. Closed Mondays. Dinner only. .

El Ultimo Refugio, 100 meters past the ferry dock, Bocas Town. Dinner only. Closed Sundays & Mondays. Waterfront. One of Bocas' most popular restaurants with the hip crowd, with wonderfully creative chefs creating a different menu every night. They have no problem making something special for you if you tell them you're a vegetarian. I usually get a big salad (which usually has eclectic things on it like roasted beets), hummus, and then order sides of their home-made mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies. They often have live music after 8:00 p.m., and it's a nice atmosphere because it's right on the water. The artist who painted the artwork on the walls of this restaurant is the same artist who painted the groovy murals at the Bocas Yoga Studio. Closed Saturday, Sunday.

Guari-Guari - Isla Colón. Dinner by reservation only. About 2 kilometers outside of Bocas Town. You can take a taxi there. This is a great restaurant with a gourmet chef. If you are vegetarian you must call at least one day in advance so they can prepare for you. They offer a pre-fix 5 course meal. Each course is more impressive than the last. The restaurant is across the street from a beach. Bring OFF bug spray with you though, as this particular spot has an abundance of "no see ums", but OFF should repel them. Service is impeccable. Call 6627-1825 for reservations.

Buena Vista Bar & Grill - Waterfront, Main Street, Bocas Town. Traditional Panamanian food. Tropical treats with great ocean-front view. Their home-made veggie burger is great option if you do not eat fish. Open daily from 12:00pm until 9:30pm

Yarisnori - Boca del Drago, Isla Colón. Lunch. Closed Tuesdays. This restaurant is right on the beach of Boca del Drago, which is on the other end of Isla Colón. It's 14 kilometers from Bocas Town, but is a beautiful ride/drive through jungle area of the island. If you rent a bike or a quad, this is a fun trip to make. If you're on a bike, it does go up and down hills, so it's not necessarily an easy ride. Taxis and buses also go there daily. Eating right on the beach is peaceful. It's fun to play with your toes in the sand while eating your meal and gaze out at the ocean. If you are vegetarian, they have a plate of side dishes, which includes a basic salad, coconut rice with black beans, patacones (fried plantains), and sautéed vegetables, which are pretty good. If you're not vegetarian, they have freshly caught seafood here, as well as other carnivorous dishes.

A note about restaurants in Bocas. Many restaurants add a 10% gratuity onto the bill, but some don't. Check the bill ("la cuenta") to see if the 10% tip is on there, in addition to the tax. I like to add another 10% tip on top of that, making it a 20% tip. The very minimum tip should be 15%. Ice in restaurants is fine to drink. Water is by bottle only. As with most things in Bocas things are done in their own sweet time. There is no fast food here, thankfully, and no corporate chain restaurants either. Good food is worth waiting for and also teaches you to slow down and just sit, breath deeply while watching the boats go by, or the eclectic assortment of characters walk by. For some reason waiters typically won't bring you your check unless you ask for it. So, when you know you're done, just say, "La Cuenta, Por Favor" (the check, please). There are also many fresh produce stands in Bocas if you want to take fresh tropical fruits back to your room to snack on.

Clubs

Even if you don't drink alcohol, these places can be fun for live music-appreciation or dancing to a hot DJ

La Iguana Surf Club- Waterfront. This is a favorite of the surfer crowd. Lots of reggae music and good vibes. It's a bit small, so dancing is limited, but a cool place to hang out. People usually go here first in their night, then onto the Barco later. I'm home reading or sleeping.

Barco Hundido - A Bocas institution. Party responsibly, at your own risk. Water front, Bocas Town.

Aqua Lounge - Isla Caranero. Waterfront. Open day and night. This is a cool lounge & hostel right over the water, on a different island than Bocas Town. It's just a short water-taxi ride to the Aqua Lounge from Bocas Town. Water taxi rates vary, but it's probably around a dollar for a ride to get here. The lounge has wooden decks over the water and also has a water trampoline for the adventurous. Swimming is encouraged here. It's perfectly normal to go to this lounge in your bikini. There's an outdoor shower to rinse off after swimming.

Grocery Stores & Shopping

Super Gourmet- Speciality grocery store featuring local organic produce.

Tajada De Sandia - Main Street, Bocas Town. Sexy surf clothes, bikinis and more.

Activities

Boat Tours

There are tour operators that will take you to outer islands, such as Zapatilla, which is a tropical island out of a postcard, protected by the National Park Service, with a white-sand beach that rings the island, so you can walk all the way around the island. DO NOT TOUCH WILDLIFE, INCLUDING SEA LIFE. DO NOT TOUCH STARFISH. LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOTPRINTS. Bring your own refillable water bottle - please do not contribute to the problem of disposable plastic trash on in our precious island community.

Water taxis are available at Taxi 25 and Bocas Marine Tours.