Bocas Del Toro, Panama

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Bocas Del Toro, Panama: Everything You Need To Know

Reviewed by Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen is the Live and Invest Overseas Founding Publisher. She has more than 30 years of hands-on experience traveling, living, and buying property around the world.

Evening scenery on the beach in Bocas del Toro, Panama
Adobe Stock/

Bocas del Toro is a province with white-sand beaches, turquoise crystal-clear waters, vast water sports, and a laidback lifestyle. If you’re looking to retire someplace with a bohemian Bob Marley type of ambience, where everyone kind of minds their own business and wanders around on a bike wearing shorts and flip flops wherever they go, then Bocas del Toro might just be what you’re looking for.

Bocas del Toro borders the Caribbean, Costa Rica, and the Province of Chiriquí. It’s often regarded as one of Panama’s top tourist destinations. The high volume of visitors means that English is widely spoken here. That’s great news if you’re not particularly interested in learning Spanish or if you just know the basics.

All in all, Bocas del Toro is a dream for anyone who’s ever desired to live in a typical movie-like beach town––with its pros and cons of course but we’ll look into those later.

Cost Of Living In Bocas Del Toro, Panama

Vegetable market
Adobe Stock/tichr

Bocas del Toros isn’t the most affordable destination in Panama. It’s popularity among tourists and foreign residents has made this place’s cost of living similar to that of Panama City and Boquete.

However, it will most likely still be less than your cost of living back home. Let’s take a closer look.

A retired couple could live comfortably in Bocas del Toro on a budget of US$2,000 per month.

Depending on where in Bocas del Toro you decide to settle, renting a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment or house costs close to US$600 and US$800 per month.

For instance, if you’re moving with kids, you’ll want something bigger which’ll cost US$1,200 up to US$1,800 per month.

Transportation in Bocas del Toro isn’t the same as transportation in other regular towns or cities.

People here tend to get around by foot, bike, or boat. That’s not to say there aren’t any taxis. But the islands and the mainland are generally small enough for them not to be a necessity, meaning your transportation costs will be brought down considerably.

If you decide to head over to a nearing island for a day trip, the boat (water taxi) will cost between US$5 to US$7 one-way.

Other than that, you could buy a bike for US$100 and use that as your means of transportation, or better yet, walk and your cost will be US$0.

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As for groceries, a couple could buy just about everything they need for the month with US$400. This budget will go up or down depending on what products you decide to buy.

For example, if you buy imported foods such as kiwi, grapes, imported grass-fed beef, jazmin rice, etc., what you pay will be way more than someone who buys local products.

If you’re ever in David, Chiriquí, we recommend you take that opportunity to head over to PriceSmart and buy things such as toilet paper, paper towels, detergents, cooking oils, soaps, in bulk so you keep them in storage. Because PriceSmart sells things in bulk they tend to be a bit cheaper.

For things like fruits and veggies, your only real options are the small stores around town and sometimes you’ll run into someone with a stand at some street corner selling a few things.

Here you’ll find fresh tropical fruits such as papaya, melons, coconut, bananas, etc., and vegetables like onions, peppers, squash, potatoes, and more.

Important: In Bocas del Toro, you cannot drink tap water. Make sure to always have drinking water at your disposal both at home and when you’re out and about.

Thing To Do And Places To Visit In Bocas Del Toro

Things to do in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Bocas del Toro is a well-known tourist destination in Panama. It has a super active night life and a long list of activities to take part in during the day.

Let’s have a look at what things you can do and what places you can visit during your stay in Bocas del Toro.

Witness Nesting And Hatching Turtles

The nesting season for Leatherback Turtles starts during the first week of March and usually lasts until mid-July, however it can sometimes last up to mid-August.

So, if you plan your trip around this time, make sure to take time out of your day-to-day activities and head over to Bluff Beach to see these magnificent creatures make their way onto the beach to lay their eggs.

The babies should start hatching between 50 to 78 days after, so you may even get the chance to spot a few during your visit.

Cacao Farm Tour

Bocas del Toro is Panama’s chocolate producing haven. If you’re a chocolate lover and are curious about the whole process of chocolate-making: From the growth of the cacao plant to the harvesting and the processing.

It’s a good idea to book a tour with one of the few cacao plantations in the area.

Cacao Blessings offers a Chocolate Making Class. This company aims to support the female farmers who grow and harvest in a sustainable manner.

Everything they produce is organic and is kept at a high standard. They are a brand that prides themselves in being socially and environmentally responsible.

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Island Hopping

One of the best things you can do when in Bocas del Toro is go island hopping. A one way trip on a boat (water taxi) costs between US$5 to US$10.

Visit islands like Cayo Zapatilla, Red Frog Island, Bastimentos Island, and Solarte Island.

Scuba Diving

Bocas del Toro, Panama, has turquoise waters. The best way to explore them will be by scuba diving.

If you’ve never been scuba diving before you’re in luck. The Bocas Dive Center (BDC) is considered the best professional dive school in all of Panama.

Firstly, sign up for classes and get your PADI certification by the BDC while on your trip here. Secondly, if you already know how to dive, you could also sign up to advance your skills with specialized training.

Meanwhile, if you’re already a seasoned diver, then sign up for one of the fun activities they have at the BDC such as Fun Dive or the Night Dive.

Experience Bocas’ Night Life

Bocas del Toro’s vibrant night life is one of the most talked about experiences when inquiring about this sector of Panama.

Bocas Town, on the main island, is often referred to as a party town. Once the sun starts setting, you’ll experience a change of ambience. Music starts playing in local bars and discos, and people start gathering.

Some places to go to are Bocas Bookstore Bar, Barco Hundido Bar, and La Iguana Surf Bar.

Retiring In Bocas Del Toro, Panama

Red Frog Beach, Bocas del Toro, Panama
Adobe Stock/joseph

Just like anywhere else, there are pros and cons to retiring in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

The pros of retiring here are that you’ll be able to adopt a slower pace of life, you’ll be surrounded by beaches, and you can buy a bike or walk instead of driving a car.

However, the cons might be a dealbreaker for some.

For example, health care in Bocas del Toro isn’t the best. Most who live here will likely head to David, Chiriquí for medical appointments and such.

Keep in mind, though, David and Bocas del Toro are 4 hours and 30 minutes away from each other. There’s another hospital in Changuinola, which is 2 hours and 10 minutes away from Bocas del Toro. If you suffered a serious injury or require immediate medical attention, though, there is one hospital and one private clinic on the main island.

Bocas del Toro is also a bit more expensive than the rest of the country. But, if you’re looking to live someplace where you barely need to speak Spanish, where you’ll be surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, and where you can trade in your fast paced lifestyle for a very relaxed one, then Bocas del Toro is waiting for you.

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Moving And Visas

Departure for Bocas del Toro, Panama
Adobe Stock/Zerophoto

To move to Bocas del Toro, you first need to address the paperwork necessary to enter the Republic of Panama.

U.S. citizens don’t need a visa to enter the country and stay for up to 180 days: So, you could head down on a scouting trip to get a feel of the area of Bocas del Toro before deciding to make the big move.

Once you’ve decided, you need to apply for one of the various programs Panama offers people who are looking to stay in the country and eventually obtain residency.

  • Invest-For-Residency Program
  • Panama’s Country Specific Visa (aka Friendly Nations Visa)
  • Retirement Visa

For more details on the visas and programs, visit the Panama Embassy website here.

After you’ve got your paperwork in order, it’s time to start packing.

Don’t worry too much about packing your furniture. We guarantee you will be able to find couches, beds, tables, chairs, and stands in Panama. Focus on packing the essentials, the things you think you cannot live without.

Your clothes, shoes, books, photos, and whatever else you think will be easy enough to pack in a suitcase and not be a huge hassle. Everything else you could sell, give away, or keep in storage.

Retiring to Bocas del Toro, Panama, doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision. If for some reason this destination doesn’t check all your boxes, you could always pack up and move someplace else. You could even move back home to the States, regroup, and try somewhere else.

Weather In Bocas Del Toro, Panama

Bocas del Toro enjoys a tropical rainforest climate.

There are two seasons: Dry season and rainy season.

The dry season for Bocas del Toro is generally from October to mid-April, though this may vary slightly.

During the rest of the year Bocas del Toro will be quite rainy, as it tends to be in the rest of the country.

May is the warmest month in Bocas del Toro, with an average maximum temperature of 82°F (28°C).

The coldest month is February with an average maximum temperature of 79°F (26°C).

The weather is warm and humid year-round, so there aren’t temperature fluctuations for you to worry about. Just make sure to have a raincoat, water-resistant shoes, shorts, and T-shirts, your bathing suit, and you’ll be more than fine.

Bocas Del Toro, Panama, FAQs

What Should I Wear To Bocas Del Toro, Panama?

Bocas del Toro is a tropical place. The weather is warm and humid, so you’ll want to pack shorts, bathing suits, t-shirts, tank tops, flip flops, and perhaps a very light raincoat (in case you visit during the rainy season).

Does It Rain Every Day In Bocas Del Toro?

No. Bocas del Toro, like the rest of Panama, has a rainy season and a dry season. Rain is pretty much guaranteed every day if it’s the rainy season. However, if it’s the dry season you could spend days without seeing a single drop of rain.

Can You Drink The Water In Bocas Del Toro?

No. Bocas del Toro is one of the places in Panama where we strongly recommend people not drink the water there. Make sure to stock up on water bottles for your trip. If you’re planning on moving there, we suggest you buy large water jugs for your home.

Is Bocas del Toro, Panama Safe?

Generally speaking, Bocas del Toro, Panama, is safe. But we always recommend you keep a lookout on your things if you’re wandering around. Just like any other place in the world, you could come across a pickpocket. So, try not to wear anything flashy and don’t carry large quantities of cash around. Also try to stay out of any dark hidden alleys.

If you practice the regular precautions you would take in any other country in the world, you should be fine.

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Learn more about PANAMA and other countries in our free, daily Overseas Opportunity Letter. Simply enter your email address below and we’ll send you our FREE REPORT - Live And Invest In Panama: The #1 Retirement Haven In The Americas

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