If you are considering Bocas Del Toro Islands in Panama with kids, irrespective of the age of the kid, don’t hesitate booking your ticket. We took our 5-year old and had at-most fun. We visited Bocas Island from Panama City, Panama on our 9-day long trip to Panama in October. I must admit, 9 days is not enough to cover the entire country. I figured we need to visit Panama again in future to explore the Pacific side islands. But, given the month of the year we went to Panama, we chose Bocas because google said the weather is expected to be moderate with less rain in Bocas in October. We spent 2 full days and 2 half days in the Bocas.
Bocas Del Toro Islands in Panama with Kids
How to get to Bocas Del Toro Islands in Panama with kids ?
The least painful way to get to Bocal Del Toro Islands from Panama City with kids is to fly. You can drive too, but we didn’t rent a car in the country because Panama City has really good Uber service overall. We used Uber pretty much everywhere in the city.
And for day trips that we did, we just needed boat trips and a tour operator and we were good to go.
From Panama city the Bocas flights are very short. Just one thing to keep in mind is the domestic airport is not the same as the international airport. Smaller domestic airport in Panama city is located closer to the city center. Just be aware of that when you book your Uber.
With no hiccup we Ubered from city center to the airport with in 20mins of ride and reached on time for the flight. And now you start switching to Island pace and time as you start navigating your way to Bocas.
Bocas flights can be easily delayed which it did in our case. But we still reached the same day. But, we met another family who had a delay by a day. So, my recommendation is to book a flight in the morning time that allows for enough time to still fly out before night. If you booked late evening flight and any delay may force you to stay back in Panama city another night.
How to get around in Bocas Del Toro Islands in Panama with kids ?
From the airport, which welcomed us with the only ground staff who helps with loading/unloading luggages and sings and entertains people until luggage arrives, there are lot of taxis and big buses that will take you to anywhere with in Bocas island.
Our airbnb host told us that the taxi should cost $1 person from airport to her house. But, we ended up paying around $10 (total) to get to the airbnb house in a big shared van.
After reaching our airbnb which was kind of in the narrower section of the island, to get around anywhere we just stood outside the house and called out for taxis. And only paid $1 per person. And it was absolutely no problem to travel like this with the kid.
To get to other islands, there are water taxis available throughout the day.
Where to eat in Bocas Del Toro Islands in Panama with kids ?
We stayed at a house with a full kitchen and a grocery right next door. And cooked most of our meals. However, we did eat out pizzas and Indian food at Bocas town a couple of times.
Bocas downtown area overlooking the ocean has tons of restaurants and you will have plenty of options.
How was weather in Bocas Del Toro Islands in October ?
Most mornings the day started with heavy rain pour. It would almost look like you can’t do anything that day. But, proceed with your activities even if it rains. In about an hour or two rain completely stops and the sun shines.
What to do in Bocas Del Toro Islands in Panama with kids ?
Once we reached the airbnb, the first thing we wanted to do that evening was to visit Starfish beach. It is at the north west part of the island, which would have taken 1.30 hours by road to get to.
So, we went down to the downtown and negotiated a water taxi round trip for $60 for just the 3 of us. By the time we headed out to the beach it was already 3:30PM local time and the taxi driver said we have to return by 6PM. That was just the right amount of time for us at the beach.
We were literally the only family at the beach that afternoon. It was really neat to have a secluded beach for yourself. There were tons of starfish at the beach and at knee depth even for our Son to spot and enjoy. Highly recommend this beach for kids and families visiting Bocas.
Zapatilla Island, Snorkeling and Dolphins:
This is one of the tours pretty much every outfitter will offer in the island. And the price seemed more or less the same everywhere. It was something like $50 per person if I remember correctly. And they didn’t charge for the little one. Food was not included.
Make sure to chose the tour that covers Zapatilla island as a part of the itinerary. All boats will life jackets for everyone including kids. Our tour took us to a restaurant where we put in order for lunch ahead of time in the morning itself so they can get the ingredient and cook and be ready for us when we return for lunch.
After ordering food, we made our way to Zapatilla and along the way the dolphin bay. We got really lucky and saw two beautiful dolphins doing their thing. My son was absolutely delighted. After a spectacular dolphin show, they dropped us at the white beach island.
We spent at least 2 hours at the island playing in the water. It was mesmerizing to say the least. I could easily spend an entire day here. Zapatilla island is not inhabited. There is absolutely nothing there, not even potable water. You can take everything with you on your own.
After sufficient playing around, we started on our way back to eat lunch. Right before the lunch spot, the boat stopped for a beautiful 45 min snorkeling experience. My son also jumped into the water with his life jacket on and saw some beautiful fishes.
The boat also had a kids snorkels but he refused to wear them. He just wore his swim goggles and put the head down to look as much as he could.
After snorkeling we went to the restaurant. This restaurant had a water slide from deck. We had tons of fun sliding into the water from the slide while everyone else was eating at the restaurant.
Scuba Diving in Bocas:
We went with Bocas Dive center. They have morning trips and sometimes afternoon trips. Afternoon trips are conditional on weather and demand. So, we decided to join the morning trip. Each trip is usually for 2 dives. So, we decided we would take turns and do one dive per person while the other one hangs out in the boat with the little one.
The first dive was at a near by island and close to the shore. When I (mom) did the dive, dad and son swam around in the shallow beach shore side and had some fun. And the second dive was a bit deeper and by that time my son was already tired. He just napped in the boat which Chakri did his dive.
By the time we returned to our airbnb it was approximately around 3PM. Luckily we had packed lunch for all of us and didn’t have to miss the meal time for the little one.
Even a single dive and a boat ride can tire you out. We just took it easy the rest of the afternoon and went down to Bocas downtown for evening stroll and some Pizza.
Bocas has plenty of beaches in and around and you and your little ones will certainly have a lot of fun. Next day afternoon we had a flight out to Panama city, so we decided to just spend some time at the local beaches and get ready for the flight.
Other Activities in Bocas Del Toro for Kids:
- Paddle boarding
- Zipline tours
- If you are there March through November, and get lucky you can catch turtle nesting. Some of the spots for turle nesting are Bocas del Toro–Bluff Beach on Isla Colon, Long Beach on Isla Bastimentos and Zapatillas Cays
- Rent a bike and bike around
Other random tips:
- There may be ATM there in the Bocas town. We didn’t go looking for it. But we had enough cash with us to spend.
- Almost all tours, restaurants, dive shops take credit card or Paypal
- Internet is abundant
- Drink bottled water
- Don’t get into a boat if they don’t have life jacket for kids
- People are nice and trust worthy
I highly recommend visiting Bocas Del Toro Islands in Panama with Kids, if beach destination is on your top of your mind. Especially for those in California who flock to Hawaii and other popular Caribbean destinations, Bocas is an excellent alternate option which is safe, clean, fun, and much cheaper and less crowded. Truly a gem !!