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,
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),
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
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
www.aeroperlas.com or Air Panama
www.flyairpanama.com . For Costa
Rica, there are two airlines named Nature Air
www.natureair.com 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.
Bocas del Toro, Caribbean, Panama, Central America
Phone: (011) (507) 757-9242
Latitude 9º20.64' N
Longitude 82º14.11' W
**If you do not have an email
program on your computer copy & paste the email address into your online