Like all travelers, we have a bucket list – hike the Camino de Compostela de Santiago in Spain, backpack through Southeast Asia, eat and drink our way through Italy, visit every country in South America, and set foot on every continent on the planet. And that’s just a start! But after six months in Panama, we’re beginning to realize we’ve just scratched the surface of everything to see in this amazing country. Now we can tick off one more item on our Panama bucket list: Bocas del Toro.
Bocas is an island archipelago on the Carribbean (northern) coast of Panama. It’s a three-hour drive from Boquete through an incredibly scenic mountain range (think Switzerland, only tropical), but culturally it’s a world apart. Everything about Bocas reflects this: the breezy architecture, the Afro-Caribbean heritage of so many of the people, and the brilliant splashes of color everywhere you look. Although Spanish is of course the dominant language, many of the islanders also speak a dialect called guari-guari that has elements of Creole English and Spanish, mixed in with the language of the local Ngöbe Buglé indigeneous people (Bocas del Toro province borders the Ngöbe Buglé comarca). To us, it sounded vaguely Jamaican/Belizian.
We’ve wanted to visit Bocas since our sailing days, when many of our cruising friends made the voyage up from Panama City and spent idyllic weeks at anchor among the sun-drenched, palm-fringed islands. We never made it on our boat, but over Hallowe’en weekend we crossed the mountains with our friends Bond and Luana. We even got a boat “fix” when we were able to visit the catamaran of our friends and former landlords Jules and Jon, who are living the life at anchor off Isla Bastimentos. We apologize in advance for so many pictures, but we were knocked out by the color, scenery, and people of Bocas and just couldn’t decide which ones to cull!