In my dream head, I’m a 20 something backpacker, rocking denim shorts, meeting cool surf dudes and getting trashed at the Aqua Lounge. Sweet Love Bocas...In reality, I’m a middle-aged woman heading to bed with a cup of tea to watch an episode of CSI after eyeing up the cute Capitan Caribe Burger boys..
The beautiful scenic archipelago of Bocas del Toro is a province made up of 9 islands on the Caribbean coast of Panama. A short 45 minute plane ride, from Panama City took us to Bocas Town on Isla Colon. We flew with Panama Air, where hearty measures of Ron Abuelo are handed out with happy smiles to get your ‘island life’ mode right on.
But *big sigh* I felt old & flabby in Bocas Town. This scruffy little town has a Caribbean reggae vibe, full of busy hostels and plenty of young skinny hip travelers. My grumpy old inner lady came out listening to tattooed dinky Americans who, like, say, like, in every, like, sentence. Like, stop it!!
Most expat gringos live over on nearby Isla Bastimentos or Isla Solarte, pootling over to Bocas Town in their motor boats to pick up groceries from one of the many Chinese run supermarkets.
Bocas Town in our eyes was a big letdown. Competitive guys tout for business as if they have only just discovered tourists and as if no tourists will arrive tomorrow. They will happily charge you $5 in a water taxi until you say ‘I have $3’. There was a charge for everything, even going to the beach. You have to pay $3 just to get out of the airport for ‘municipal tax!’ Bocas is the hub for exploring the neighbouring islands by tour boats from, any trips we wanted to take would cost $70 for us both, which is expensive when you’re on a budget.
Bocas Town seemed sketchy on the edges, we didn’t want to wander past 4th street, there were plenty of guys wanting to sell us hash and the town was dirty, I guess all the rubbish has to be collected, to be taken somewhere else off the island.
If you’re a ’20 something’ sleeping in a dorm, it’s probably a great place to meet people, drink and be happy to the sounds of Bob Marley. Now I’m getting my grey on, I prefer a touch of luxe and a nice 8 hours sleep!
It wasn’t all grim though, along the waterside we found some fabulous places to have a beer and watch the boats go by. There are cute clapboard houses built at the turn of the 20th century by the United Fruit Company, these colourful buildings certainly add lots of charm to the town.
We stayed in the lovely Tropical Suites, one of the pricier hotels in town but great value as the room rate included breakfast at one of the nearby restaurants. The studio rooms were spacious with covered balconies, so even during the many torrential downpours, we had a great place to be in. All the staff were excellent and they genuinely wanted to make sure we were having a great trip.
We really enjoyed our boat trips to see some of the other islands even though it rained every time, more on that to follow…but for us oldies, we won’t be in a hurry to return to this Sweet Love Bocas backpackers paradise.