|Trying the local beer, Balboa, at La Bugita waterfront cafe and dive/surf shop|
Bocas del Toro, a little archipelago on the Caribbean coast of Panama not far from the Costa Rican border, was recommended by several cruisers we met in Jamaica, so that’s where we headed. What an interesting area! Aside from the several main islands (Isla Colon, Cayo Carenero, Isla Bastimentos), there are hundreds of mangrove islands dotting the water. In some places it’s like a green maze crisscrossed by sometimes incredibly deep (50 feet!) channels. There are shallows, of course, and those are sometimes hard to discern due to the opacity of the water (no clear, blue Bahamas water here!). The charts for the area also aren’t great, so we tend to have one person glued to the depth sounder while the other looks (sometimes futilely) overboard. The town of Bocas del Toro is unlike any we’ve been to thus far. Since Panama is south of the hurricane zone, they don’t have to worry so much about building close to the water, so many of the structures are built out over the water. Brightly painted hostels, hotels, and restaurants line the shores of town, making a pretty scene. Boats asea greatly outnumber vehicles ashore. The most prevalent are the outboard-driven pangas, which can seat perhaps a dozen or so passengers in bench seats (thankfully with permanent bimini tops for the sun, and sometimes fold-down sides for when it rains, which it does a lot), and the paddled cayucas (dugout canoes). There are quite a few expats here from all over the world, many living on their boats (mostly in marinas) or in homes ashore, very friendly folks who’ve been quite welcoming. Anyone want to buy a mangrove island for a pretty reasonable price?
|Some of the over-water buildings on the Bocas del Toro waterfront|