Isla Bastimentos is one of nine islands in Panama’s Bocas Del Toro Archipelago. This island is much quieter than nearby Isla Colón where Bocas Town is. It’s less developed, sees fewer tourists, and has an abundance of lush vegetation. This is exactly what appealed to me.
Despite its chill low key vibe, there’s still a lot to do here. After Isla Colón, it’s the next largest island. The popular activities on the island are Red Frog Beach, Wizard Beach, Cayo Zapatilla, Crawl Caye (Coral Caye), and Old Bank.
Here are a few things we were able to to experience on Isla Bastimentos.
Titillate your taste buds at Firefly Restaurant
My taste buds are somersaulting at the memories of FireFly Bar and Restaurant! They also offer lodging with its outdoor bar and restaurant. The food was amazing! Fresh, full of flavor, and a wide variety of options offered. Most items were tapas style plus a few entrees. The yummy tapas pricing ranged from $6 to $15. Their entrees ranged from $13 -$15 (Green Curry, Panang Curry, and Seared Ahi Tuna) to $22-24 for the Filet Mignon and Whole Red Snapper. They are priced on the high side when compared to other restaurants but i really think its worth the splurge at least for one dinner while on the Island.
We dined here our last night in Bocas Del Toro and I’m glad we did. The vibe is pretty relaxed and in addition to the amazing food, they have really great cocktails. We came here a couple times to have drinks and had such a great time trying the different cocktails on the menu. The staff is really cool and the reason we went back for drinks and then for dinner. Give it a try!
Tips: The restaurant is only open 5-9 pm but not open everyday. Reservations are required. They only accept cash like most businesses on Isla Bastimentos. Everything we had on the menu was amazing! Visit the FireFly online for contact info, directions, and more on the restaurant.
Experience a very unique rocky beach and beautiful sunsets at Oceanside
From the Old Bank water taxi port, go up the stairs, and take a left. Keep walking until you see a little path way to the right. You’ll see a sign for FireFly, follow that path all the way down. This will bring you to Oceanside, where you’ll find a stunning rocky beach. It’s hidden away with very little foot traffic. There’s a little sandy beach area but when the tide is high, its under water. There is an area cleared of the rocks that provides swimming access. It’s very unique beach and there is no other beach in Bocas Del Toro like it. You must not miss the sunsets from here. They are unbelievable – The most beautiful shades of gold, blue, purple, and pink! Here’s are a couple short videos – here and here.
Tips: Ask for directions to FireFly if you are not able to locate the beach. Firefly sits right on the beach and is very well known. The sunsets are so gorgeous! Just when you think it can’t get any prettier, it does. So arrive before dark to experience the amazing transformation.
Get your groove on at Bubba’s House Monday Night live music
Bubba’s house is a family-owned hostel in Old Bank. Everyone – locals, backpackers, and other tourists, congregates here on Monday nights for live music. I met so many locals and other fellow travelers from around the world. It got pretty packed but was still comfortable. There’s also an outside deck with additional space right by the stage. The music is popping, the drinks are strong and inexpensive, and the patrons are friendly. There are several music acts through the night and local musicians are also featured. This was one of the funnest nights we had in Bocas. If you are on the island on a Monday night, this must not be missed! Here are a few short video clips here and here.
Tips: Dress code is very very casual (like most of the island). Bring cash for drinks. Ladies, have some extra tissue just in case they run out in the one unisex bathroom. They did on the night we went! 😐
Taste brownie heaven at Up in the Hill Organic Chocolate farm
From the Old Bank water taxi port, go up the stairs, and take a right. Follow the signs for Up in the Hill Organic Chocolate farm. It’s about a 25 minute hilly hike to the farm phew! On the way up, you’ll pass Old Bank houses set high in the hills and see breathtaking views of the very calm Caribbean Ocean. Once you pass the Coco vegetarian restaurant, you are about 5-6 minutes away from the chocolate farm.
The farm is reeeally earthy and peaceful- It’s eco-lodge, coffee shop, and an organic farm. No shoes or insect repellent are allowed in the coffee shop. We tried the hot chocolate, mocha, truffles and brownies. I’ll be honest and say the brownies were spectacular – moist and yummy but sad to say everything else was not to our liking :(. The coffee and truffles were very grainy and gritty while the hot chocolate was watery. Nevertheless, it was a great hike up, the farm is really nice, surroundings are pretty and quite interesting with books and organic products for sale. These and the brownies made the trip worth it.
Tips: Call ahead if you want to do the farm tour. They were short staffed the day we wanted to do the tour and we were not able to do it. Take lots of water for that long steep hike up. Its not a leisurely hike!
Snorkel away at Crawl Caye (Coral Caye)
Crawl Caye also known as Coral Caye is a great spot for snorkeling. It is about 20 minutes outside Bastimentos and before Popa Island via water taxi. I could not get over how calm and clear the ocean was here! This is a perfect spot to take kids and non-divers snorkeling as its calm and not too deep. We saw an abundance of beautiful colorful schools of fish, sponges, and corals here. You don’t have to swim far out to see the amazing sea life, though the farther out you go, the more incredible it is. We paired a trip out here with Cayo Zapatillas. There are lots of excursions that will bring you here with a group for $25-35 per person. We came out on a Sunday afternoon and there was only one other water taxi here so it was uncrowded and a great snorkeling experience.
Tips: Bring water shoes since the water is shallow. Don’t touch the wooden stilts, they’ll make you itch! If you decide to have lunch here, there are several restaurant options close by, your tour guide can help you with this.
Experience pristine and untouched Cayo Zapatilla Islands
Highlight. of . Our. Bocas. Del. Toro. Experience!! Let me start by saying if you can get a private tour to bring you to Cayo Zapatilla, DO IT. It’s so worth it. A group tour will cost $25-35 per person while a private tour will run about $50 per person. There is also a $10 fee to be paid once you get on the island. We arrived at the island around 10 am and we had the island all to ourselves for a good hour plus before the group tour boats showed up. We were able to roam the island freely, it felt like our own private island!
Cayo Zapatillas is actually two islands, both of which are uninhabited: Cayo Zapatilla 1 is the larger of the two. This one is undeveloped, flat, pretty bare and quiet. We rode by this one but didn’t stop. Cayo Zapatilla 2, the smaller of the two islands had a lot more character. We spent a few hours here. With the unpredictable rain patterns in Bocas Del Toro, we were lucky to have a beautiful sunny day. Here’s a video of us arriving at the island, with not a soul in sight! Here’s a blog post on how we spent the day on this island
Tips: Do a private tour if possible. If not, find a group tour that gets you there by 10 am latest. There are no facilities at the beach so bring everything you need including food and drinks. There are several restaurants in the area that your tour guide can arrange stops for food. Please do your part to preserve this island and don’t leave your trash behind. The universe thanks you!
Thank you for coming along on my adventures!