3 best places to stay in Bocas del Toro for a secluded tropical escape

In CENTRAL AMERICA, LUXURY HOTELS by Janice and George2 Comments

You know us. We like five-star hotels :-). So the first question on our minds after deciding to go: What are the best places to stay in Bocas del Toro?

Good question too. Because search for “luxury hotels” on Bocas del Toro – and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything. That’s because Bocas del Toro is (mostly) still off-the-grid.

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of small islands off the north coast of Panama on the Caribbean side. The comfortable way to get there is to fly to funky Bocas town on Isla Colon.

best places to stay in bocas del toro

Bocas town is the gateway to small island resorts in the Bocas del Toro archipelago

For a secluded tropical escape, you then want to take a boat ride to one of the jungly islands.

On the islands, virtually all accommodations are small eco-resorts or guesthouses. No air conditioning. Rainwater for drinking. Solar power (candle-light dining!). Bocas has graduated from the backpacker phase of tourism development to boutiquey inns and B&B’s. But the five-star hotels simply haven’t found their way there yet (though Viceroy plans to open a luxury resort with 42 overwater villas in 2020). So finding the best places to stay in Bocas del Toro was a bit of a challenge for us.

Still, we wanted to visit Bocas.

We saw dolphins in Bocas del Toro! photo Casa Cayuco

Our small-ship, adventure “UnCruise” from Costa Rica ended in Panama. And we’d read come-hither stories of Bocas del Toro – how the islands were a bit of an obsession for British novelist Graham Greene, who finally reached them on his third attempt; how they’re a salt-water paradise if escapism and going barefoot trumps marble bathrooms and butlers.

best places to stay in Bocas del Toro

White sand beaches? Check. Warm turquoise waters? Check. This is Bocas del Toro! photo Island Plantation

Best places to stay in Bocas del Toro

We did our research – and booked three of the best places to stay in Bocas del Toro.

While on Bocas, we also peeked into other inns, and we’re satisfied the following are indeed three of the top places to stay. Each is completely different, offering different vacation experiences; a nice combo for a seven-night holiday would be to split your stay between two of these resorts.

1.  Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge

Punta Caracol is built entirely over the water; boardwalks on stilts connect the restaurant and reception with the bungalows

Stay:  Bed down in one of 9 cute, two-storey wood cabins built over the water. (Multi-generational families like the 1,000 sq. ft. “Master Suite” bungalow, with over 600 sq. ft. of additional deck space; it has a king bed up and four twin beds down.)

Do:  Snorkel to your heart’s content right from your overwater bungalow. Paddle about the mangroves in a kayak. Get lost in a book while swinging in the hammock on your deck.

Appeals to:  Water-loving couples and families.

Location:  Isla Colon, a 20-minute boat ride from Bocas town.


*Read our detailed review of Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge


best places to stay in bocas del toro - Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge

Each overwater bungalow has a large deck with a ladder leading down into the water, so you can easily go snorkeling


2.  Casa Cayuco Eco-Adventure Lodge

Cabins at Casa Cayuco are rustic but comfortable; the food is seriously yummy! photo Casa Cayuco

Stay:  This remote eco-adventure lodge has clean and comfortable cabins. Home-cooked meals are healthy and super delicious; you’ll be craving seconds of their fresh-baked chocolate coconut cake and other desserts! (Meals are included in the rates.)

Do:  Go stand-up paddleboarding, visit a local Panamian village, snorkel with sea turtles, spot the monkeys that often visit the resort and see “star fire” bioluminescence at night.

Appeals to:  Adventure-loving couples, families and small groups.

Location:  Isla Bastimentos, a 45-minute, high-speed boat ride from Bocas town.


*Read our detailed review of Casa Cayuco Eco-Adventure Lodge


best places to stay in bocas del toro - casa cayuco

Banana muffins and lemon butter for afternoon tea – photo Casa Cayuco


3.  Island Plantation Resort

best places to stay in bocas del toro - island planation hotel

Our Bali-style bungalow at Island Plantation had a lovely outdoor bathroom

Stay:  Charming Bali-style digs, a garden pool, romantic restaurant and a beautiful beach all make this one of the most stylish places to stay on Bocas.

Do:  Practise your sun salutations on Island Plantation’s hillside yoga platform, walk the beach, splash in the pool and forget about the outside world.

Appeals to:  Couples who love beachy boutique inns.

Location:  On Isla Colon, a 20- to 30-minute drive from Bocas town.


*Read our detailed review of Island Plantation Resort


A few visitors bicycle up past Island Plantatation from Bocas town – photo Island Plantation


All photos are © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase (except where noted)


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Check out our Islands.com magazine story

Interested in our magazine story on these three best places to stay in Bocas del Toro? Read “Where to Stay in Bocas del Toro” published in Islands.com magazine (July 6, 2017).


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