mapa-de-bocas_0001 Bocas del Toro Getaway Bocas del Toro The Expat Life

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!


  1. Carrie Weiler Reply

    Wonderful account of your trip! We can’t wait to go!

    On another topic, my husband is in Boquete getting set up and ready for me (and our dog). Is there a way to reach you to ask questions regarding your move, with your dogs? We will be coming from San Jose, California on Copa at the end of January. We don’t want to bother you too much. Let me know if there is a way for you and my husband to meet up.
    Thank you,

  2. Janis Peace Reply

    As always, looks fabulous! I am so happy for you and so glad to be sharing in your life and adventures via the internet! Fun, fun! Thanks for all the time you spend in posting these wonderful stories and photographs! Love it all!! xoxo Kisses to the girls! Janis

  3. Charles Wilsdorf Reply

    Hey Guys, Thanks so much for the great post. Sure brought back memories of our 10 month stay in Bocas. We actually bought property there on Isla Pastores (3.5 hectors) on the South end. We closed on it about 3wks before we left the area and sold it for double our purchase price while at anchor at San Andres. Again, great memories.

    Keep all those pics and stories coming.

    Chas & Teresa

    On Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 6:39 PM, Latitude Adjustment wrote:

    > Latitude Adjustment: Two Wanderers in Panama posted: ” 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. “

    • Wow, didn’t realize you were in Bocas for so many months and that you bought property there! We wish you still owned it so you’d have a reason to come to Panama for a visit 🙂

      We still have so many fond memories of the good times on El Regalo and with you and Teresa. If you ever think you’d like to come back down here, you have a place to stay!

  4. Just gorgeous and on my list. The Captain has visited there many times. I was in such a rush to get to the Pacific I didn’t stop in many places along the way. Nice to see it here. Glad you enjoyed it

  5. Just what we needed, another bucket list item! Thanks, you two. Can’t wait to visit Bocas del Toro. Gotta move to Panama first, then onward. Hey, if you read this soon, we have questions about the Pensionado Visa. Get back to us? Thx.

    • Hey there – we have not gotten our pensionados yet ourselves but we’ll tell you what we know!

      There are basically two types of residency visas available to us (your mileage may vary) – the pensionado and the Friendly Nation. We could apply for and get Friendly Nations visas now but they’re much more expensive than the pensionado. Therefore, we’ve decided to wait until John starts collecting social security in just under two years. Until then, we’ll be making border runs to Costa Rica every three months (see our blog posts about that).

      You need a lawyer for visa work. We have a good one, Lourdes Miranda, whom we gladly recommend. Basically, it’s a pretty involved process that takes several weeks and lots of paperwork. To qualify for the pensionado you need to have at least applied to start receiving social security, or some other government or private company pension. Retirement savings don’t count. I think the minimum amount of pension income you have to show (per couple) is $1,200, but I’m not too sure about that. If you’re from the U.S., you also have to have an FBI background check (not sure what the requirements for Canada are).

      We know lots of people that started the visa process before they even moved here. Our advice is to wait – you might want to get your feet on the ground first and live here a few months just to make sure Panama’s right for you before you go to the time and expense of getting a visa.

      Hope that answers your questions 🙂

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