Bocas del Toro, Panama - Guide for digital nomads
A beautiful archipelago in Panama holds several islands where you can work online meanwhile you enjoy amazing sunsets, swim at crystal waters and eat international food. Isn't that great?
This is why Bocas del Toro is one of my favorites places to live.
- Nature. The big plus of this area is surrounding of water and forest. I just love the idea of island hopping to every location, and just having the water close to you anytime you want.
- Cost of living. Prices are relatively low for a small town and the use of USD as their currency makes it easy to calculate your monthly costs.Prices are relatively low for a small town and the use of USD as their currency makes it easy to calculate your monthly costs.
- Food. Even tho the Panamanian gastronomy ain't the best, there's a lot of international cuisines in here, even vegan options.
- Fun. There's just so much cool things to do, especially water related: diving, kayak, boat, paddleboarding, snorkeling, swimming, etc.
- Safety. As the tourism is big part of their economy, they take care of foreigners so you can feel calm most of the time.
- Wifi speed. There's just a few places, like Selina, where you can find great wifi but besides that, it's hard to really fast speed.
- Too much party. Now this depends on your style, but Bocas Town is almost live dancing every night. Which is cool for a day, but later it becomes too noisy. At least in the islands around is quieter.
- Low access. As it's an archipelago, you won't find many options of technology or deliveries, so it's better to be over-prepared when you stay there.
- Humid. It's not news coming from the Caribbean coast, but the weather can get very hot, and not everyone likes that. ****
Cost of living
Prices are relatively low for a small town and the use of USD as their currency makes it easy to calculate your monthly costs.
Up next here's a list of all the expenses I had for a month, with the total sum at the end.
What you need to know
Here is the most important information needed to consider the option to live in Bocas del Toro, Panama.
- When to go - It's very humid most all year round, so anytime is good to go but you can visit in December if you want to skip cold winter in other places.
- Weather - Average temperatures vary very little. Considering humidity, temperatures feel hot all year with a fair chance of precipitation about half of the year. The warmest time of year is generally early to mid March where highs are regularly around 94.4°F (34.7°C) with temperatures rarely dropping below 73.7°F (23.2°C) at night.
- Currency - Even tho they have their own currency (Panamanian Balboa), you can use USD dollar as it's the same rate.
- Language - Spanish is the main language, but as tourism is important here, a lot of people still speak english.
- Data - There are big companies like Movistar or Claro with relatively cheap prices for data.
- Visa - ****Most country citizens are allowed to stay from 90-180 days without hassle.
- Safety - As the tourism is big part of their economy, they take care of foreigners so you can feel calm most of the time.
Where to stay
Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of a bunch of islands (9 to be exact). The 3 main islands which visitors frequent are: Isla Colon, Isla Solarte and Isla Bastimentos.
However, when people are saying they’re going to Bocas, they typically mean they’re headed to Bocas Town. That's the main island where you arrive from, and where's most of the human activity is happening.
It's better to book a place in Bocas Town, and then just move around each day. For longer trips, just book ahead a place in any island (like Red Frog) for a couple of days and come back to Bocas Town.
There are two Selina's. One in Bocas Town that's very noisy and more a backpacker style, which I don't recommend to stay if you want peace of mind. It's great only for the coworking space.
But the one in Red Frog it's a beautiful place, where I recommend to stay for a weekend or so.
If you want to book an apartment, it's better to be there to meet people in person and get a better deal. You can always check Airbnb to book in advance, but just remember that is a small town so there's won't be many options available.
How to move
All around Bocas Town there are taxis in yellow pickup trucks. It's only 1 USD to move from one corner to other of the island. Really cheap.
But when moving around the islands, you just need to visit any dock and get a 1-5 USD water taxi boat.
What to eat
The Panamanian cuisine is not really that diverse; it mostly consist of plantains, rice and seafood. But still it's very enjoyable and fulfilling. You can eat it all around the town, mainly in this small restaurants that offer daily menus, for around 5 dollars.
- Restaurante Don Chicho - cheap buffet restaurant
- Mama's Home Cooking - panamanian food for cheap
But what makes Bocas so great, is the option of international food, as the tourism bring people from everywhere. A few of my favorite places to eat:
- La Buga - a diving center that has great seafood
- Azul - a fancy restaurant with great international cuisine
- RAW fusion - great sushi variety
- OM café - really good indian food
- Leaf Eaters - a vegan place that you can later jump in the water
Where to wifi
- Selina Bocas Town - has really fast wifi, AC, skype booth, free coffee and a great view. It's my favorite place to work at.
- Selina Red Frog - it's in the
- Pasteleria Alemana - it's a small coffee shop with AC. horrible wifi but great cheesecake
- Bocas Beach House - a chill place where you can work, but it gets hot and noisy
What to tour
- Visit the islands - there are 9 island to discover, so you can take water boats to visit any of the great places around
- Cayo Zapatilla - a massive uninhabited mangrove island, it's better to take a tour that can take you there for a day.
- Snorkel - you rent a boat independently or get it part of a tour
- SUP Paddleboard - places like Selina offer daily rents to paddle around the area
- Dive - you can book a diving time with La Buga