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[2024 GUIDE] How To Get To Bocas del Toro, Panama

By 18 March 2024 May 22nd, 2024 No Comments

If you’re dreaming of a visit to the mesmerising paradise of Bocas del Toro, Panama, but have no idea how to get there, you’re in the right place.

Bocas del Toro is a dazzling archipelago nestled in the heart of the Caribbean Sea. It’s a tropical haven with pristine beaches, lush jungle hideaways, and a culture that pulses with vibrancy.

But here’s the kicker – this isn’t your average road trip destination. You can’t just hop in a car and drive to Bocas Town. 

Lucky for you, having had my fair share of hammock moments there, I’m stoked to be your guide on this adventure, sharing all the nitty-gritty details to make your trip smooth sailing.

 

So, grab a virtual seat, friends, as we delve into a world of possibilities – from thrilling plane rides to scenic bus and shuttle journeys – and uncover all the ways to reach Bocas del Toro from Panama City, Boquete, David, and San Jose.

From plane rides that feel like a magic carpet to bus journeys filled with local tales, let’s make planning your Bocas del Toro escape a piece of cake.

Where Is Bocas Del Toro, Panama?

Picture turquoise waters lapping against white sandy beaches, vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life, and lush rainforests brimming with exotic wildlife.

Located on the northwestern coast of Panama, Bocas del Toro is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

But here’s the thing – it’s not just one island, but rather a collection of islands, each with its own unique charm and character.

The main island, Isla Colón, is where you’ll find the bustling town of Bocas del Toro, known for its colourful Caribbean-style buildings and lively atmosphere.

Now, here’s a fun fact you might not know: Bocas del Toro isn’t just a tropical paradise; it’s also a hotspot for biodiversity. The surrounding waters are home to an incredible array of marine life, including vibrant coral reefs, tropical fish, dolphins, and even sea turtles.

And if you venture into the lush rainforests of the islands, you’ll discover a wealth of flora and fauna, from sloths and monkeys to exotic birds like toucans and parrots.

Best Way To Reach Bocas del Toro, Panama

exit tax, costa rica to bocas del toro panama

In June 2022, I took a trip to Bocas del Toro for a quick visa run after nearly 90 days in Costa Rica. My journey began in Costa Rica, where I hopped on a series of vans and buses until I reached the border.

We crossed over from Puerto Viejo, the closest point in Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro. Make sure to pay the Costa Rica exit tax before crossing the bridge.

That was my route, but there are several other excellent ways to get to Bocas del Toro, Panama. One very convenient option is a 45-minute plane ride from Panama City. It’s quick and quite straightforward.

Here are my top recommendations on how to reach Bocas del Toro, Panama: 

From Panama City

By Plane: In Bocas del Toro province, you’ll find two domestic airports: one in Bocas del Toro town on Colon Island, and another in Changuinola.

The quickest and most convenient route is by flying from Panama City with Air Panama, offering a swift 50-minute journey.

Flights start at USD 70 each way.

From David, Panama

By Shuttle or Public Bus: When travelling from David to Bocas del Toro by bus, head to the city terminal. Buses depart to Rambala (2 hours), Almirante (3.5 hours), and Changuinola (4 hours).

If Bocas del Toro Archipelago is your final stop, get off at Almirante and take a taxi to the marine taxis terminal for onward travel.

From Boquete, Panama

By Shuttle or Public Bus: Start by catching a public bus from Boquete Central Park, running roughly every half hour from 6 am to 7 pm. Look out for buses labelled “Almirante” upon arrival in David; they depart every 30 minutes and take about 3.5 hours.

Once in Almirante, grab a taxi to the docks (usually USD 1, but confirm before hopping in!). From there, hop on a boat to Isla Colon for USD 6 one way or USD 10 round-trip. Remember, no online bookings are available, so you’ll have to arrange transportation on the day of travel.

Once on Isla Colon, you can easily catch water taxis to explore other islands in Bocas del Toro at a reasonable rate.

From San Jose, Costa Rica

By Plane: For those venturing from San Jose, Costa Rica, the most efficient option is to fly to Bocas del Toro, offering a swift 1.1 hour journey.

The preferred airlines for this route include AirPanama, Copa Airlines, Avianca, Wingo Airlines, and A.P.G. Distribution System.

Flights start at USD 160 each way.

How To Get To Bocas del Toro From Panama City

By Plane

Flying from Panama City to Bocas del Toro offers the quickest and most convenient route to the islands.

In Bocas del Toro, there are two domestic airports: one located in Bocas del Toro town on Colon Island, and the other in Changuinola. Surprisingly, there are no direct flights between
David and either Changuinola or Bocas del Toro.

Flights depart from Marcos A. Gelabert International Airport (Albrook Airport) in Panama City and arrive at Bocas del Toro “Isla Colón” International Airport.

Air Panama provides a convenient option for travellers, serving as the sole airline connecting Panama City (Albrook Airport) with both Bocas del Toro and Changuinola.

The flight typically lasts about 1 hour. Book via Viator or trip.com for the best availability and prices.

Prices vary but generally range from USD 100 to USD 200 for a one-way ticket.

Insider Tips On How Get To Bocas del Toro From Panama City By Plane

  • Ensure you’re departing from the correct airport! Flights to Bocas del Toro depart from Albrook Airport, not Tocumen International Airport. Albrook is located about a 40-minute Uber ride from Tocumen, so plan accordingly when scheduling your flights.
  • Since flights may not align perfectly with your travel plans, you might need to spend a night in Panama City. I recommend staying in the Casco Viejo area for a pre-vacation vacation. It’s a beautiful part of Panama City with many accommodations to choose from.
  • Skip the haggling taxi drivers at the airport and opt for Uber, which isn’t only more convenient but also cheaper. Requesting an Uber is easy and provides a hassle-free way to reach Albrook Airport.
  • Keep in mind that Air Panama’s website might not be the most user-friendly. To secure your desired dates, it’s advisable to book your flights as soon as your travel plans are confirmed.

By Bus

Taking a bus from Panama City to Almirante, followed by a water taxi to Bocas del Toro, is a more budget-friendly option. It allows you to experience the scenic countryside of Panama.

The bus journey from Panama City to Almirante takes approximately 10-11 hours, followed by a 30-40 minute water taxi ride to Bocas del Toro.

Buses depart from the Albrook Bus Terminal in Panama City and arrive at the Almirante Bus Terminal. From there, you’ll take a water taxi to Bocas del Toro.

It’s a cost-effective option for budget travellers. However, it has a longer travel time compared to flying.

Bus tickets range from USD 25 to USD 40 one-way, while water taxi fares are approximately USD 6 to USD 8 per person.

Insider Tips On How Get To Bocas del Toro From Panama City By Bus

  • Bus Ticket Purchase: Head to the Albrook Bus Terminal in Panama City to buy your overnight bus ticket to Almirante. Ticket prices typically range around 35 USD. Since bus tickets aren’t available online, plan to purchase them in person a few hours before departure. Contact the Bocas del Toro bus ticket office at 303-6326 or 303-6327 for more information.
  • Prepare for the overnight bus ride by bringing plenty of layers. While the buses are air-conditioned, they can sometimes be overly chilly, so ensure you’re bundled up for the journey.
  • Bus Schedule: Overnight buses from Panama City to Almirante usually depart around 6 pm and 8 pm, with arrival times in Almirante between 6 am and 7:30 am. It’s essential to plan your travel accordingly, considering the bus and water taxi schedules.
  • Return Journey: If you’re planning to return to Panama City from Almirante, note that the bus departs daily at 8 am and 7 pm. Tickets for the return journey can be purchased a few days in advance from the local Bocas del Toro office.

Shared Shuttle

For those seeking a comfortable and hassle-free journey, shared shuttle services from Panama City to Bocas del Toro are available. These services often include transportation by van and boat.

The duration varies but typically takes around 10-12 hours, including transfers.

Shared shuttles depart from various locations in Panama City and arrive at Bocas del Toro “Isla Colón” International Airport or Almirante, depending on the service provider.

This offers a convenient and comfortable option for travellers who prefer not to drive or navigate public transportation.

Prices range from USD 70 to USD 100 per person one-way.

How To Get To Bocas del Toro From Boquete/ David, Panama

By Plane

Flying from either Boquete or David to Bocas del Toro is the fastest and most convenient way to reach the islands, offering stunning aerial views of Panama’s landscapes along the way.

Flights depart from Enrique Malek International Airport in David or from Boquete Airport and arrive at Bocas del Toro “Isla Colón” International Airport.

The flight typically takes around 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Prices vary but generally range from USD 100 to USD 200 one-way.

Insider Tips On How To Get To Bocas del Toro From Boquete/ David By Plane

  • Airport Transportation: Ensure you arrive at the correct airport for your departure. Flights from Boquete or David to Bocas del Toro depart from Enrique Malek International Airport in David or from Boquete Airport.
  • Arrival Preparation: Upon arrival at Bocas del Toro “Isla Colón” International Airport, consider arranging a shuttle service or taxi to your accommodation in advance.

By Bus

Taking a bus from Boquete or David to Almirante, followed by a water taxi to Bocas del Toro, is a more budget-friendly option. It allows you to experience the scenic countryside of Panama.

Travelling to Bocas del Toro from Boquete or David typically involves a combination of bus and water taxi rides.

Starting from either Boquete or David, you’ll first need to make your way to Almirante, the gateway to Bocas del Toro. From there, you’ll take a short taxi ride to the docks and board a water taxi to reach the islands.

The bus journey from Boquete or David to Almirante takes approximately 6-7 hours, followed by a 30-40 minute water taxi ride to Bocas del Toro.

It’s a cost-effective option for budget travellers. However, it has a longer travel time compared to flying.

Bus tickets range from USD 20 to USD 30 one-way, while water taxi fares are approximately USD 6 to USD 8 per person.

Insider Tips On How To Get To Bocas del Toro From Boquete/ David By Bus

  • Bus Ticket Purchase: Begin your journey by heading to the bus terminal in either Boquete or David to purchase your bus ticket to Almirante. Ticket prices range from USD 20 to USD 30 one-way.
  • Bus Schedule: Buses from Boquete or David to Almirante have varying departure times, so be sure to check the schedule in advance. The journey takes approximately 6-7 hours, and it’s essential to plan your travel around the bus and water taxi schedules to ensure a smooth transition.
  • Water Taxi Ride: Upon arrival in Almirante, take a short taxi ride from the bus stop to the docks, where you’ll catch a water taxi to Bocas del Toro. Water taxi fares are approximately USD 6 to USD 8 per person, and the ride takes about 20 minutes.
  • Return Journey: If you’re planning to return to Boquete or David from Bocas del Toro, note that buses depart from Almirante daily at varying times. Tickets for the return journey can be purchased a few days in advance from the local Bocas del Toro office.

Private Transfer

For those seeking a comfortable and hassle-free journey, private transfer services from Boquete or David to Bocas del Toro are available. These services often include transportation by car and boat.

Private transfers depart from various locations in Boquete or David and arrive at Bocas del Toro “Isla Colón” International Airport or Almirante, depending on the service provider.

The duration varies but typically takes around 6-7 hours, including transfers.

It offers a convenient and comfortable option for travellers who prefer not to drive or navigate public transportation.

Prices range from USD 150 to USD 250 per person one-way.

How To Get To Bocas del Toro From San Jose, Costa Rica

By Plane

Flying from San Jose to Bocas del Toro is the fastest and most convenient way to reach the islands, offering stunning aerial views of Costa Rica and Panama along the way.

Flights depart from Juan Santamaría International Airport in San Jose and arrive at Bocas del Toro “Isla Colón” International Airport.

The flight typically only takes around 1 hour.

Prices vary but generally range from USD 150 to USD 250 one-way.

Insider Tips On How To Get To Bocas del Toro From San Jose By Plane

  • Airport Transportation: Ensure you arrive at Juan Santamaría International Airport in San Jose well in advance of your flight departure time. Consider using reliable transportation options such as Uber or private car services to reach the airport on time.
  • Arrival Preparation: Upon arrival at Bocas del Toro “Isla Colón” International Airport, plan your transportation to your accommodation in advance. Consider arranging a shuttle service or taxi beforehand to avoid any delays or confusion upon arrival.

By Bus

Taking a bus from San Jose to Almirante, followed by a water taxi to Bocas del Toro, is a more budget-friendly option. It allows you to experience the scenic countryside of Costa Rica and Panama.

Buses depart from various terminals in San Jose and arrive at the Almirante Bus Terminal. From there, you’ll take a water taxi to Bocas del Toro.

The bus journey from San Jose to Almirante takes approximately 14-16 hours, followed by a 30-40 minute water taxi ride to Bocas del Toro.

Bus tickets range from USD 30 to USD 50 one-way, while water taxi fares are approximately USD 6 to USD 8 per person.

Insider Tips On How To Get To Bocas del Toro From San Jose By Bus

Shuttle Bus:

Affordable and Convenient: Consider Caribe Shuttle for an affordable and convenient option. Priced at approximately 80 USD each way, this shuttle leaves San Jose at 6 am and arrives in Bocas around 4 pm.

The price includes lunch at Banana Azul in Puerto Viejo, a guide for border crossing assistance, and boat transportation to Bocas Town.

Keep in mind that border fees of USD 8 to exit Costa Rica are not included in the price.

Public Bus:

Public bus options are available and much cheaper. If you’re accustomed to taking buses around the area, this could be a viable option to consider.

Private Transfer

For those seeking a comfortable and hassle-free journey, private transfer services from San Jose to Bocas del Toro are available. These services often include transportation by car and boat.

Private transfers depart from various locations in San Jose and arrive at Bocas del Toro “Isla Colón” International Airport or Almirante, depending on the service provider.

The duration varies but typically takes around 14-16 hours, including transfers.

It offers a convenient and comfortable option for travellers who prefer not to drive or navigate public transportation.

Prices range from USD 200 to USD 300 per person one-way.

What To Do In Bocas del Toro, Panama

Snorkel or Dive in Crystal-Clear Waters

floating bar, bocas del toro, panama-2(1)

Dive into the vibrant underwater world of Bocas del Toro, known for its colourful coral reefs, diverse marine life, and crystal-clear waters.

Explore popular snorkelling and diving spots like Hospital Point, Coral Cay, and Zapatillas Islands. Or you can also join guided snorkelling or diving tours offered by local operators or take a water taxi to the snorkelling and diving sites.

Snorkelling gear rental starts from USD 10, while diving tours vary based on duration and location.

Beautiful Beaches

Bocas del Toro is renowned for its stunning beaches with crystal-clear waters and powdery white sands, offering a perfect tropical escape.

Visit popular beaches like Starfish Beach, Red Frog Beach, and Bluff Beach. You can reach these beaches by taxi, bicycle, or water taxi from Bocas Town.

Price: Free

Island-Hopping Adventure

Embark on an island-hopping adventure to explore the pristine islands surrounding Bocas del Toro, each offering its own unique charm and attractions.

Visit nearby islands like Bastimentos, Solarte, and Popa Island for a day of exploration.
You can also join guided island-hopping tours offered by local operators or hire a private water taxi to explore at your own pace.

Island-hopping tours start from USD 25 to USD 50 per person, depending on the number of islands visited and tour inclusions.

Surf at World-Class Breaks

Bocas del Toro is a surfer’s paradise, offering world-class breaks and consistent waves suitable for surfers of all levels. Head to popular surf spots like Paunch, Bluff Beach, and Wizard Beach for epic surf sessions.

Rent a surfboard from local shops in Bocas Town or join surf lessons offered by experienced instructors.

Surfboard rental starts from USD 10 to USD 20 per day, while surf lessons range from USD 30 to USD 50 per person.

FAQs About How To Get To Bocas del Toro, Panama

How do I get to Bocas del Toro from Panama City?

To get to Bocas del Toro from Panama City, you can take a domestic flight from Marcos A. Gelabert International Airport (Albrook Airport) directly to Bocas del Toro "Isla Colón" International Airport. Several airlines, including Air Panama, offer regular flights on this route.

What transportation options are available for reaching Bocas del Toro from David?

Transportation options from David to Bocas del Toro include taking a bus to Almirante and then a boat to Bocas del Toro's main island of Isla Colon. Buses depart from David to Almirante regularly, and from Almirante, you can catch a boat to Isla Colon.

What is the most convenient method of travel to Bocas del Toro from Boquete?

The most convenient way to travel to Bocas del Toro from Boquete is to take a bus from Boquete to Almirante, then transfer to a boat to Isla Colon. Buses depart regularly from Boquete to David, where you can catch a connecting bus to Almirante. From there, boats are available to take you to Isla Colon.

Can I travel to Bocas del Toro from Boquete by road?

Yes, you can travel from Boquete to Bocas del Toro by road. You can take a bus or drive yourself from Boquete to David, and from David, continue by bus or shuttle to Almirante.
From Almirante, you can then take a boat to Bocas del Toro's main island, Isla Colon.


Having travelled to Bocas del Toro, Panama, I can attest that getting there offers many transportation choices tailored to various preferences and budgets.

Whether you opt for the convenience of flying directly from Panama City, Boquete, David, or even San Jose, or embark on the adventurous journey by bus or shuttle, reaching this breathtaking archipelago in the Caribbean Sea is an experience worth cherishing.

Whether you’re a beach lover, an outdoor enthusiast, or a culture seeker, Bocas del Toro has something special to offer to every traveller.

Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

Full-time travel blogger at Bel Around The World and SEO coach roaming the world at a whim, Isabel helps aspiring content creators and brands get the most out of their online presence by attracting organic leads/traffic and achieving financial freedom with her Skyrocket With SEO course. She's closely involved in and has been featured as a speaker in other travel & digital nomad networks & podcasts such as Traverse, Travel Massive, The Nomadic Network and Location Indie.