Bocas del Toro, Panama
This laid-back archipelago of approximately 200 islets is known as a surfing mecca and is fast becoming one of the most coveted spots for ecotourism. Considered by many to be the Galapagos of the Caribbean, the islands are home to two national parks and a wealth of biodiversity. The powdery white beaches and mangrove-lined islands come alive in Bocas town, which is situated on Isla Colon made up almost entirely of wood-panelled, colonial-style buildings, reminiscent of Key West in Florida. The town serves as the perfect base from which to explore, as you're spoilt for choice with the dockside restaurants while there are plenty of water taxis ready to whisk you away to secluded sandy spots.
Panama recently suffered some bad press with the popular #PanamaPapers which unfairly embroiled an entire country in scandal. Now is the time to travel there and remind the world what an idyllic place it is and Bocas's raw, natural beauty is the perfect place to do so. Be warned: the friendly, mellow attitude is contagious, making it easy to linger for (a lot) longer than you expected.
When to go?
Bocas has a tropical climate, so while some months are drier than others (September and October in particular) in Bocas you never really know, so may as well go when it's low season to escape the crowds.
Most likely to bump into…
A surfer who has come to Bocas for a holiday, fell in love with it, set up a health food cafe, and never left…
Who to take with you?
Friends, family or partner - everyone will love with this place.
Surrounded by turquoise waters the best attractions here are undeniably water based: scuba dive untouched reefs, catch some surf or sail among dolphins. If above water activities are more your kinda thing, try zip lining through the rainforest canopy or sample chocolate at La Lomo cacao farm. Be sure to visit Red Frog beach, Bluff beach and Isla Bastimentos. The relaxed, surf-themed cooperative right in the heart of Bocas town housing Taco Surf restaurant, as well as FOY, a healthy café and sushi restaurant, rustically decked out and serving delicious plates.
An essential you bring with you?
A light raincoat and a snorkel.
How to get there?
Bocas is accessible by air or boat. Fly direct to Bocas' small island airport from Panama City with Air Panama or with Nature Air from San José in neighbouring Costa Rica. Alternatively, make your way to Almirante (about a nine-hour drive from Panama City) on the mainland and then catch a water taxi; Taxi 25 makes the trip to Bocas town every half hour from 6AM until 6:30PM.