Marina Carenero
Bocas del Toro, Panama, Central America

The Cruising Sailor's choice for Security and Service.

Cruising Inside Bocas del Toro Archipelago

By Mary J. Robertson & Karen Bradbeer

The Caribbean current is what makes the formation of Bocas del Toro archipelago so unique. The current runs about two to three knots setting towards the east and the country of Panama itself lies from east to west, unlike what most people think.

The Bocas del Toro Archipelago is inside of the main current that runs along the Panamanian coastline. The fact that almost all of the islands in the archipelago are sheltered by the cup formation of the coastline and protected by the hump of Colon makes these islands more popular with cruising sailors. This archipelago is well protected by large barrier islands with other islands.

The popularity of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago has risen as the word is broadcast by SSB from cruiser to cruiser with the secret promise that only those who really desire such a paradise are begged to visit. Since the current is strong, the inside islands give protection to the various indigenous Indians that live among the islands. Cruising sailors are starting to find that sharing the inside islands with the Indians is interesting, remote, and unique. The natural rainforest beauty is not only visual, but also offers a variety of calling sounds of the many tropical birds, monkeys, sloths, and bats that live in its trees. What more could a cruiser need than the basics of plentiful rainwater for drinking, easy foraging and fishing, yet an infrastructure to make entering and exiting easy by vessel, launch, bus, or airplane?

Bocas del Toro is considered a Port of Entry and maintains a Port Captain for clearing from outside countries; no agent is needed. The clearing process is easy; call on VHF 16 to the Port Captain during the office hours of 9:00 a.m. (changed to 7:00 a.m.) to 4:00 p.m. (changed to 3:00 p.m.), Monday to Friday (overtime fees applicable outside normal hours). All vessels are welcome for a three-month cruising period. The cruising permit for the vessel can be extended every three-months on an unlimited basis. Immigration is for a period of three months that can be extended for an additional three months in Changinola before having to exit the country * Changes in red are updated in my second article. Now offering a maritime visa.

There are two marinas in Bocas del Toro, Marina Carenero (Marina Carenero), and Bocas Marina . Marina Carenero has 27 slips and has been in service since 1998. Contact on VHF 68, owners Mack & Mary Robertson. They have very good security, new showers/bathrooms/laundry rooms, Internet and other services, as well as customized boat maintenance. This is particularly good for long term stays for cruisers that need to leave their boats. Bocas Marina has 75 slips with floating docks, a small bar/rest, showers/bathroom, Internet, and laundry service. They also have boat maintenance. Both marinas take reservations.

Bocas del Toro has excellent water taxi service for travel within the province. There are two water taxis that serve Almirante (approx. 20-30min) for continued bus travel to David, and other points in Panama. The road from Panama City has recently been extended to David and then on out to Chirique Grande and ending at Almirante.

A water taxi also provides service to Changuinola (approx. 45min), a Panamanian town located on the Caribbean side, close to the Costa Rican border. Changuinola is where you can renew your immigration for an extended three months, go shopping, or cross the border into Costa Rica for travel, and also to renew your visa passport stamp. There are two bus services that offer transportation to San Jose, C.R., from Sixaola via Changuinola, MEPE and the Caribenos bus line. Also, from either Sixaola or Changuinola, car taxis can be hired to complete a journey to Almirante where a water taxi can be taken to Bocas del Toro.

From the Bocas del Toro airport you can reach Costa Rica or Panama City. For Panama City, David or Changuinola, there are two airlines named Aeroperlas or Air Panama . For Costa Rica, there are two airlines named Nature Air or Air Panama. This gives cruisers many different routes to choose from when planning to do land travel.

Cruisers now have a new safe haven from hurricanes in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago. What are you waiting for?

*Changes in red. Water taxi does not go up the Changuinola river due to heavy flooding in 2009. Waterway blocked by downed trees. Only goes to Almirante and then go by bus or car taxi to Changuinola.


Marina Carenero
Bocas del Toro, Caribbean, Panama, Central America
Phone: (011) (507) 757-9242

Latitude 920.64' N Longitude 8214.11' W

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