Isla Bastimentos Bocas Del Toro – Panama
Following our 5-day tour of Isla Colón, we were ready to venture further afield to one of the other large islands of the archipelago – Isla Bastimentos Bocas Del Toro. We were looking forward to pristine beaches and fascinating jungle trails, similar to what we had discovered on Isla Colón.
Isla Bastimentos Bocas Del Toro
If you’ve seen the publicity photos of Bastimentos, you could be forgiven for expecting something of a treat. This expectation is still maintained when you’re 100 meters out, approaching by boat to the landing jetty.
From there onward, however, it all begins to go rapidly downhill.
The arrival jetty leads directly to the center of the Bastimentos town ‘high street’, which runs along the coast either side of the jetty for around 600 meters. Along this street you’ll find 3 or 4 evening places to eat and a handful of guesthouses/hostels. There are also a couple of small shops.
Apart from that, the remaining rubbish-littered shanty-houses are where the locals live. ‘Squalor’ is putting it mildly.
In this area of Bastimentos there is nowhere to swim. Even if there was, it would be too dirty and contaminated. The nearest decent beach is 30-plus minutes walk away along a jungle trail at Wizard beach (on the other side of the island). Otherwise, you can hire a boat to take you further along the coast to Red Frog beach.
Up in the Hill
There are a couple of steep trails that lead inland through the jungle to a place called Up in the Hill. This is a small bar and shop that sells various hippy trinkets and health drinks. After the long hike up to the top, it’s a bit of an anti-climax.
The trail leading across the jungle to Wizard beach can be found at the eastern end of the high street. This trail is interesting enough itself, winding up and down through the jungle, with some huge spiders to admire in their webs.
There were a couple of groups of police at the start and end of the trail, taking photos of anyone who passed. This was possibly related to the brutal murder of a young tourist on one of these trails 2 weeks earlier.
In any event, there were signs advising travelers to carry no valuables with them.
This safety issue is a nagging theme around the beaches of Bocas Del Toro, and even elsewhere in Panama (see Mountain Trails and Panama City Activities).
In Bastimentos, we had the unenviable choice of either carrying our valuables with us or leaving them in our rundown and completely insecure Ushuaia Guesthouse.
In the end, we decided to keep our passports and credit cards with us: The prospect of being mugged in Bastimentos seemed marginally less likely than a robbery from our room.
On the far side of the island, Wizard beach is a wide white-sand beach, and doesn’t get very busy. However the huge waves and rip currents are truly frightening – not much chance of actually swimming here. At least the beach is relatively clean, unlike the other side of the island.
We had originally planned to stay 3 nights in Bastimentos, but one night was more than enough. Apart from the miserable state of our guesthouse, the other areas of the island we visited were unimpressive.
When we returned earlier than planned to Bocas town, we discussed our Bastimentos trip with our hotel manager at the Hotel Residencial La Terraza.
He just smiled wryly, adding that a day-trip is more than enough time to experience Bastimentos.
If you enjoyed Isla Bastimentos Bocas Del Toro, check out our Panama Roundtrip. You may also like:
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