After spending a couple of days in Bocas town, we decided to spend a few more days in a more secluded spot where we could enjoy beaches and jungle. The Tesoro Escondido guesthouse seemed to be the answer, located by the sea just 5 kms north of the town, but still on Isla Colon Bocas Del Toro.
Isla Colon Bocas Del Toro – Accommodation & Food
Before heading up north from Bocas town, we visited the local supermarket to stock up on fruit, snacks and drinks. There are no shops in the area we were planning to visit, and we would be staying up there for 3 nights.
Tesoro Escondido Eco Lodge and Cabinas
We took a taxi to get to the Tesoro Escondido Lodge ($12). The place is pretty hard to find, since there are absolutely no signposts. Once there though, the location is great – on the edge of the jungle, high up on the cliff – and the views are terrific.
Our room was basic but with plenty of light and storage. We had an individual toilet, a separate sink and a really cool open shower.
All the windows had nets, and faced towards the jungle at the back. This not only gave us privacy from other guests, but was also an excellent observation point over the family of monkeys that lived in the trees outside.
If you have neighbors in the room next door, though, you’ll hear everything, Its just a matter of luck the kind of neighbors you’ll get.
Basic breakfast, lunch and dinner was available at the guesthouse at reasonable prices. We paid around $58 per night for our room at Tesoro Escondido, including 10% tax. You need to pay cash: No credit card facilities here.
Getting to and from Bocas Town
Also a big negative is getting there and back from Bocas town. The going rate is $8-10, but the shark taxi drivers will demand $15. They know you have no options, since the walk will take over an hour, and the buses are totally unreliable. This overcharging is called ‘getting gringoed’, and in Panama you’d better get used to it.
When we left we waited just outside the lodge for 45 minutes for a bus that never came. We eventually gave up and took a taxi.
Where to Eat
The food at Tesoro Escondido was really nothing special. You may enjoy it if you’re a vegan, or suffer from similar eating disorders.
There are a 3 places to eat 15 minutes walk away towards Bluff beach.
The first is an up-market place called the Humming Bird, popular with North Americans. Burgers and fries for 2, with a couple of beers each came to $41 – Pricey by any standards.
Further up there is a cheaper pizza place popular with backpackers. The kitchen was out of order when we visited. Beyond that you’ll find the third – and even more expensive – restaurant.
When eating out in the evening, you need to consider how you are going to get back to your guesthouse. At Bluff beach we saw notices advising tourists – for their personal safety – not to use the beaches before 9 am and after 5 pm. One night we were obliged to make an unplanned hike in the dark back along the jungle path to our guesthouse. It was a pretty creepy experience, and one to be avoided if possible.
Your only other choice is a $30 return trip to one of the restaurants in Bocas town.
Locations and Activities
There are a few picturesque, secluded beaches and lagoons to visit on the north-eastern coast of Isla Colon. If you’re in the mood, there are also plenty of trekking opportunities through the jungle trails.
Bluff beach is just minutes away from Tesoro Escondido. You can follow the beach north for 5 kms or so to reach some really secluded spots.
You’ll need to watch out for a treacherous rip tide when swimming, but there are calmer swimming areas if you look for them.
Trekking to Iguana Bay – The Blue Lagoon
Iguana Bay can be reached by beach or via a shaded path through the jungle. We took the picturesque jungle route, accompanied all along the way by a friendly local dog called Thor (we met his owner on our return, later in the afternoon).
Thor had apparently done this journey many times, and kept us on the straight and narrow. When we arrived at Iguana Bay, we found a sheltered lagoon perfect for swimming. We spent an hour or so there, and shared our picnic with Thor.
Iguana Bay (also known as La Piscina) is a really chilled-out spot – Just beware the huge horseflies that will want a piece of you.
On our way back, Thor left us when we reached his home (the expensive restaurant, mentioned above).
There is a variety of other jungle hikes you can try out in this area. Just start out early and be aware that distances can be deceptive. After dark its easy to get lost on some of the narrower paths.
If you’re not into trekking (or are short on time and flush with cash) try the Flying Pirates. On a 2-person quad bike you can reach most destinations on Isla Colon much quicker. It also looks like a lot of fun.
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