After crossing the border from Costa Rica to Panama, we were picked up by a tour company booked through Gecko Trail and continued on our way to Bocas Del Toro. We had a short wait in a small port town, and then were loaded onto a boat and off we went to the Islands themselves! We were lucky to have smooth waters for our transfer to the Islands, which took around 40 minutes.
We arrived at Bocas Del Toro’s main Island without any booked accommodations so we set off to find our home away from home first thing.
Not surprisingly, it was hard to find accommodations. We ended up staying in Hostel Heike, which was one of the hostels we had looked into before arriving. As far as hostels go, this one was just fine. The only availabilities were two beds in a ten-bed dorm, and while it was fine, we did try to find different accommodations for our second night, but didn’t have any luck. Hostel Heike was a very busy place and there were always a lot of guests trying to use the very tiny kitchen, including in the morning when we tried to make our “complimentary breakfast” which meant a big batch of pancake mix that you made yourself whenever you could get a turn.
Overall, for $15 it was a good place to stay and was on par for most of the hostels we’d experienced in Central America.
On the third day we were able to find accommodations at Isla Chica, which was a bit more expensive but we had a private room with AC and our own bathroom. It felt like paradise.
What did we do in Bocas?
We went diving!
Travis was already PADI certified prior to this trip, so I had some catching up to do! Before leaving home, I completed part of the course by signing up for PADI Open Water Diver online. I did some research using Trip Advisor and by sifting through numerous blogs, and decided to contact La Buga Dive and Surf. Because their responses were both timely and friendly, I felt confident in booking with La Buga to get my PADI certification.
I spent the morning of our first day learning and reviewing in a “classroom setting” (aka sitting on the dock outside of the dive shop) and then we did two dives our first day. My instructor was the owner, Tony, and it was a wonderful experience. I was quite nervous the first time we went under water, and to be honest I only lasted a few moments before going back to the surface. Once I was back above the water, Tony joined me and was both reassuring and comforting. He offered a few extra tips, and then we were able to go back down and complete the first several tasks necessary for certification.
La Buga has a huge boat for going to and from dive sights (the the photo above), and all the staff were there to assure you were safe and having a great time. I would highly recommend diving with La Buga Dive Shop while you are in Bocas, and if you aren’t already, it’s a great place to become PADI certified. After three dives on the second day, I was a certified Open Water Diver!
Where we ate:
We also took a tour to Starfish Beach (we paid to go on a private boat). It was later in the afternoon on the day we went, and we completely missed the crowds, but unfortunately we missed the Starfish as well! We only saw one, which was still pretty cool.
We actually ended up leaving Bocas for a couple of nights to visit another area of Panama, and then returning for a couple of days before flying back to Costa Rica right from Bocas Airport. We had a great exploring other parts of Panama, but to be honest I think we both would have been happy to stay longer and enjoy more of what the Bocas Del Toro Islands have to offer! It’s already on our list of places to return…someday!