Bocas del Toro, Panama

Colorful and full of Caribbean-style clapboard houses, Bocas del Toro (better known simply as Bocas town) was built by the United Fruit Company in the early 20th century. Today it is a relaxed community of West Indians, Latinos and resident gringos, with a friendly atmosphere that is contagious. It’s an easy place to get stuck into and an even easier one in which to linger.

Bocas serves as a convenient base for exploring the archipelago; taxis marinos (water taxis) can whisk you away to remote beaches and snorkeling sites for just a few dollars. The real allure here, though, is simply to be able to slow down and soak up the Caribbean vibes

Located 32km from the Costa Rican border, the Archipiélago de Bocas del Toro consists of six densely forested islands, scores of uninhabited islets and Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos, Panama’s oldest marine park. Although Bocas is Panama’s principal tourist draw card, a fair measure of authenticity remains. Low-key development has maintained the charm of small-town Caribbean life and the absence of megahotels has preserved the archipelago’s idyllic beauty. Even the most developed of the islands, Isla Colón, possesses a strong local flavor and appealingly slow way of life, while the oft-forgotten Isla Carenero is a lovely, peaceful haven.

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