Isla Colón, Bocas del Toro

Isla Colón

After brief stops in the towns of Cahuita and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast, we headed across the Costa Rica/ Panama border to the Archipiélago de Bocas del Toro, a group of six densely forested islands, scores of uninhabited islets and the oldest marine park in Panama.  Arriving at Isla Colón, the largest and most developed of the islands and Panama’s most popular tourist destination, we found that tourism in Panama, though in the midst of a major development boom, remains far less developed than in neighboring Costa Rica.  Instead, low-key development and the absence of mega-hotels and resorts have helped to preserve the unspoiled beauty of the archipelago.

Sharing the same name as the province and archipelago, the town of Bocas del Toro on the southern tip of Isla Colón has been our base for exploring the region.  A colorful town of wooden houses built by the United Fruit Company in the early 20th century, Bocas’ small-town charm, laid-back Caribbean vibe and spectacular natural setting are incredibly appealing.  We spent our first day in Bocas spotting dolphins and snorkeling along the archipelago’s extensive coral reef ecosystem before heading out to explore several of the other islands and beaches.  It hasn’t taken long for Bocas del Toro to become one of my favorite spots in all of Central America.

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