The Savvy Traveler’s Corner
Panama’s Best Beaches
Coconuts and limes…briny breezes and salty skin…a translucent sea… This is Bocas del Toro, Panama. The risks of buying untitled property here keep me from recommending Bocas as a full-time retirement destination. But the fact remains that it continues to beckon to people from all over the globe with the brilliant, blinding beauty of its beaches.
The drive to the launch point of Almirante can be spectacular (Bocas del Toro is a province and, within that, an archipelago). But I suggest flying to maximize your time in paradise. Panama’s domestic airline, Air Panama can get you here from Panama City in an hour (see: Flyairpanama.com). Ticket prices vary, depending on current fuel prices. Right now, budget about $200 round trip including fuel and taxes. (Resident retirees or pensionados get 25% off.)
The main strip on Isla Colon, the main island, is lined with restaurants, bars, inns, and little handicraft and sundry shops.
Pick up a $5 souvenir shoulder bag, fill it with $0.60 beers from the Chinese Market, and head out to the beach. Pay about $20 per person for a three- or four-stop beach and snorkeling tour (my favorite tours stop at Isla Zapatilla, a pristine “deserted island”).
If you want to take it easy—be on your own schedule—head to Bluff Beach on the far side of Isla Colon. You can walk or bike it in 30 to 40 minutes or take a $10 cab ride. Playa Bluff lodge has its own little beach and is one of the island’s quietest, remotest locales.
I also like Pukalani Hostel…it has a pool and offers free shuttle service to the main strip. Share a dorm-type room for $15; private doubles are about $65 a night. Paki Point Bar & Restaurant is covered in the flamboyant art of Panamanian painter Rolo de Sedas. I go there during the day to watch the surfers and enjoy $3 fruit smoothies or $2 beers.
The best place for a night out? Try Mondo Taitu bar and later the debaucherous Wrecked Deck bar. I like Indian for dinner at the delightfully decked out Om Café, then drinks at Rana Azul. Shhh…very few people know about this place. You get to Rana Azul by boat (about $9 round-trip), it’s surrounded by jungle, and at time of writing it only opens Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons.
It’s the “gringo” hangout…a place where you can get a fresh baked clay-oven pizza and meet the expat crowd (and mine them for more island secrets).
Editor’s Note: This article was taken from a past issue of International Living’s monthly magazine. To get full access to all past and future articles and to receive the magazine in the mail or online each month, simply click on the below button to subscribe to International Living magazine at the special introductory price of $49. You will get instant access to the current issue of the magazine as well 10 years of back issues. As an added bonus, we will also send you a FREE report – How to Retire in Paradise on $30 a Day. (You can cancel your subscription at any time.)