Bocas del Toro has become one of the hottest stops in Central America… and it’s easy to see why! The archipelago is a sweet escape away from the traditional Caribbean vacation of all-inclusive resorts and crowded beaches. With gorgeous blue waters and laid-back vibes, it’s the perfect destination for eco-travelers and adventurers.

But with so many different islands to choose from (nine to be exact), it can be overwhelming when deciding where to stay in Bocas del Toro. But for the most part, people stay on the two main islands: Colon and Isla Bastimentos.

In this guide, I’ve got all the best stays in Bocas Del Toro covered whether you’re a first-timer or you’re trying to make $30 go as far as possible. (Don’t worry—we’ve all been there, you’re in good hands!)

So, let’s dive in and find the best area in Bocas Del Toro for you…

cyclists standing in front of bocas del toro sign at the beach, panama, central america
Welcome to Bocas!
Photo: @joemiddlehurst

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Where is the Best Place to Stay in Bocas Del Toro?

If you’re looking for the best place to stay in Bocas Del Toro while backpacking in Panama, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’ll take you through the top areas, the ultimate places to stay, and the best things to do in each neighborhood.

But if you’re short on time, I’ve got ya back. Here is a quick summary of my top three places to stay across Bocas Del Toro.

Mosana Reef Garden B&B | Best Bed & Breakfast in Bocas Del Toro

Mosana Reef Garden B&B Bocas Del Toro Panama

A jungle oasis, this B&B is great for travelers who like a quieter stay. You’ll be able to relax in the garden or on your private balcony with a book and the sounds of nature.

The friendly hosts will help you organize any activities or transportation you may need. Borrow some snorkels and head over to Bluff Beach to spot some manta rays.

Bambuda Bocas Town | Best Hostel in Bocas Del Toro

Bambuda Bocas Town Bocas Del Toro Panama

This is the best hostel in Bocas Del Toro for couples or solo travelers. They have gorgeous private rooms with a large balcony and a hammock to enjoy the mornings.

The dorms are clean and spacious with privacy curtains for a good night’s sleep. The overwater deck is always full of travelers catching a tan, snorkeling, or just having a drink and enjoying the sunset.

Selina Bocas del Toro | Best Party Hostel in Bocas Del Toro

Selina Bocas del Toro Bocas Del Toro Panama

Get your party on at Selina Bocas del Toro! This trendy hostel is one of the most social stays on all the islands. Full of backpackers and solo travelers looking for a good time.

Located right on the water with colorful decor and a lively atmosphere, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet new people and join loads of tours and boat parties.

Orange House – Over The Water | Best Airbnb in Bocas Del Toro

Orange House Over The Water Bocas Del Toro

This Airbnb is the ULTIMATE home away from home in Bocas Del Toro. With incredible views across the ocean, dreamy sunsets, and all the snorkeling, kayaking, and other water toys you can imagine… for FREE! This is ideal as this house is literally built over the water… cool, huh?

This two-story, two-bedroom home is ideal for four travelers, either two couples, friends, or families. Equipped with everything you need for a cozy stay including air-conditioning, a kitchen, and a private deck to soak in the sunshine.

Bocas Del Toro Neighborhood Guide – Best Places to Stay in Bocas Del Toro

FIRST TIME IN BOCAS DEL TORO
Street food stall in Bocas Del Toro Panama
FIRST TIME IN BOCAS DEL TORO

Bocas town on Isla Colon

Bocas Town is where you’ll find the most action and is also the main arrival point for ferries, water taxis, and flights. It’s located on Isla Colon, which is the main island in Bocas del Toro.

ON A BUDGET
Two pairs of legs crossed over relaxing on a blanket watching the sunset at the beach
ON A BUDGET

Bastimentos Island

Bocas del Toro is the ultimate destination for budget travelers. The island is only a 10-minute boat ride away from Bocas Town, and the ferry only costs $3. Home to the famous Red Frog Beach.

FOR FAMILIES
Sloth in Bocas Del Toro Panama
FOR FAMILIES

Outside of Bocas Town on Isla Colon

Isla Colon is the easiest Island to stay on, because you don’t need to take additional ferry rides to get to and from Bocas Town. Great option for families as it offers a variety of activities and amenities.

Bocas del Toro is a rugged group of islands that will capture the heart of any traveler looking for a mix of adventure and relaxation. With crystal clear waters, lush rainforests, and laid-back Caribbean vibes, it’s no wonder this archipelago is becoming an increasingly popular destination for those traveling in Central America.

I wasn’t the only traveler who originally booked 3 nights and ended up staying a month! Bocas del Toro has that slow, easy-living vibe that transports you away from your worries and into their chill-out way of living. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, family vacation, or solo adventure, there are plenty of places to stay in Bocas del Toro that cater to all types of travelers.

small beach with rolling waves, golden sand and lush greens in Panama, central america
Palm trees, golden sand, rolling waves… life in the Caribbean is GOOD.
Photo: Chris Lininger

If it’s your first time visiting Bocas I recommend staying in Bocas town on Isla Colon. It’s a small center with colorful houses, beachfront restaurants, and easy access to all of the popular tours and activities.

For those traveling on a budget, Bocas del Toro is about to be your jam! The island is full of budget-friendly hostels and hotels. For the cheapest stays, you’ll want to take the $3 water taxi from Isla Colon to Basimentos Island. There you’ll find hostels for as little as $10 a night and private rooms for around $20.

The islands aren’t very built up, so you can easily escape to a more secluded and quiet spot because trust me, Bocas Town is WILD just about every night. So for families that are looking for a bit more space and comfort, there are plenty of stays a little bit outside of town on Isla Colon that offer a more family-friendly atmosphere.

Bocas Del Toro’s Three Best Neighborhoods to Stay in

Now that you’ve got a sneak peek at where to stay in Bocas del Toro, let’s dive into more detail on each location and the epic hotels, hostels, and villas in each.

Here are the three BEST areas to stay in Bocas del Toro.

1. Bocas Town on Isla Colon – Where to Stay in Bocas Del Toro for Your First Time

Bocas Town is where you’ll find the most action and is also the main arrival point for ferries, water taxis, and flights. It’s located on Isla Colon, one of the BEST Caribbean islands to visit, which is the main island in Bocas del Toro. Because a lot of the activities leave from Bocas town or require a boat ride from the port, staying here for your first time in Bocas is a no-brainer.

Street food stall in Bocas Del Toro Panama
Uno cafe, por favor!
Photo: @joemiddlehurst

The little town is your typical island town, with colorful houses lining the streets and plenty of restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops to explore. Staying in Bocas town means easy access to the best food, bars, nightlife, and water activities like snorkeling and some of the world’s best diving. Just about anyone can have a good time in Bocas town!

Divers Paradise Boutique Hotel | Best Boutique Hotel in Bocas Town

Divers Paradise Boutique Hotel Bocas Del Toro Panama

Divers Paradise is an excellent stay for anyone, but divers will especially love it. With its own private dock and dive shop, this boutique hotel makes it easy to explore the underwater world of Bocas del Toro. (And at a discount, score!)

They also offer FREE bicycles and kayaks to guests, making it easy to explore the island above water too. Can this place get any better?

Selina Bocas del Toro | Best Hostel in Bocas Town

Selina Bocas del Toro Bocas Del Toro Panama

The most popular stay in Bocas del Toro is Selina, a boutique hostel that has made a name for itself all across Latin America. With its vibrant and colorful decor, Selina is the perfect spot for solo travelers or anyone who likes to have a good time.

It is the place to be for late-night parties, and day drinking while chillin’ in the water. If you’re in your party era… this is where you’ll want to stay!

Bambuda Bocas Town | Best Party Hostel in Bocas Town

Bambuda Bocas Town Bocas Del Toro Panama

The waterfront decks of Bambuda Bocas Town are one of the most serene stays in Bocas Town. Not only does it have a prime location with beautiful views of the water and sunset, but it also has a social atmosphere that’s perfect for those solo traveling to Central America. With both private rooms and dorms, there’s an option for every budget.

Island Oasis | Best Airbnb in Bocas Town

Island Oasis Bocas Del Toro

Perched over the tranquil, clear Caribean sea… you can’t beat this Airbnb in Bocas Town. The rooms have a small decking area to relax on, enjoy a drink, and soak in the incredible view across the water. The decor in the rooms is vibrant and tropical.

Located in the hub of Bocas Town, you’ll be close to all the excitement but also be able to come home to the chill-vibes at this Island Oasis.

Things to See and Do around Bocas Town

  1. Explore Isla Colon by bike or motorscooter.
  2. Party at Filthy Friday, a famous weekly party in Bocas del Toro!
  3. Join a catamaran day cruise.
  4. Take a day trip to Starfish Beach, but I recommend avoiding weekends it gets crazy busy.
  5. Try your hand at snorkeling or diving in the crystal clear waters.
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2. Bastimentos Island – Best Place to Stay in Bocas Del Toro on a Budget

Bocas del Toro is the ultimate destination for budget travelers, and Bastimentos Island is the place to be if you want to experience its beauty on the tightest budget possible. The island is only a 10-minute boat ride away from Bocas Town, and the ferry only costs $3. Yep, it’s bloody cheap, my friends!

Two pairs of legs crossed over relaxing on a blanket watching the sunset at the beach
Grab yourself a Red Stripe and relax!
Photo: @Lauramcblonde

Bastimentos is also the second most popular place to stay and visit of all the islands, it’s home to the famous Red Frog Beach and some of the best surfing spots in Bocas. But even with its popularity, Bastimentos has managed to maintain its laid-back and low-key vibe. You can still discover spots that make you feel like you’re traveling off the beaten track.

El Jaguar | Best Hotel on Bastimentos Island

El Jaguar Bocas Del Toro Panama

Right on the water, El Jaguar offers gorgeous ocean views and waterfront activities. With a 3 hour happy hour every night, the deck is always full of travelers chatting and relaxing in the hammocks.

They have two large kitchens for guests to use and comfortable communal areas, making it easy to meet travel buds.

A&K Island Apartments | Best Apartments on Bastimentos Island

A&K Island Apartments Bocas Del Toro Panama

A&K Island Apartments is a great stay for those traveling as a couple and travelers on a budget. The apartments are well-equipped with a kitchen and cozy living area, perfect for cooking your own meals and enjoying the island life.

Enjoy evenings on the balcony swinging from the hammock and taking in the sea breeze. Dreamy.

Bastimentos Hill Guest House | Best Guest House on Bastimentos Island

Bastimentos Hill Guest House Bocas Del Toro Panama

A comfortable escape from the parties and crowds that linger in the main town, Bastimentos Hill Guest House is a top choice for budget travelers looking to relax and enjoy the island’s natural beauty.

This guest house offers cozy rooms with a shared terrace, kitchen, and lounge. They also have family rooms making this a good stay for those traveling with children.

Things to see and do on Bastimentos Island

Two people taking a selfie whilst scuba diving.
Say cheese!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short.
  1. Enjoy a beach day at Red Frog Beach.
  2. Zip through the air on the Bastimentos Sky Zipline.
  3. Go Diving with Scuba 6 ECO Diving.
  4. Hike through the lush rainforest to reach Wizard Beach.
  5. Take a surfing lesson at one of the island’s popular surf spots.
  6. Learn about the Organic Cacao farm at Up in The Hill.

3. Outside of Bocas Town on Isla Colon – Best Neighborhood in Bocas Del Toro for Families to Stay In

Isla Colon is the easiest Island to stay on when you visit Bocas because you don’t need to take additional ferry rides to get to and from Bocas Town. If you’re wondering where to stay in Bocas Del Toro with the family, this is a great option as it offers a variety of activities and amenities.

Sloth in Bocas Del Toro Panama
Slow down and soak in the island magic.
Photo: @joemiddlehurst

But Bocas Town is typically full of backpackers gone wild, lapping up the island life (and the cheap beer). But if you just go a little outside of town, you’ll find amazing stays nestled in the jungle. This will give you quieter nights with privacy without sacrificing convenience.

Mosana Reef Garden B&B | Best Bed and Breakfast on Isla Colon

Mosana Reef Garden B&B Bocas Del Toro Panama

Further outside of town, Mosana Reef Garden is for those who want to be engulfed in the nature of Isla Colon. The bungalow is surrounded by jungle and is located right on the water near Bluff Beach.

The B&B is very spacious and offers private terraces and hammocks for ultimate relaxation. The owners also offer cooking on-site and will happily arrange tours and transportation for you.

Sand Dollar Beach Bed & Breakfast | Another Great Bed and Breakfast on Isla Colon

Sand Dollar Beach Bed & Breakfast Bocas Del Toro Panama

This B&B just screams Island Paradise. Tucked away in the palm trees right on the beach, it’s the sweetest escape. You can borrow bikes and snorkels to explore the island and also enjoy a delicious breakfast on the deck overlooking the ocean.

If you’re traveling as a family, even the smallest travelers will love this cozy spot.

Santuarios del Mar | Best Apartment on Isla Colon

Santuarios del Mar Bocas Del Toro Panama

Right outside of Bocas Town, this apartment will give your family the best of both worlds. The oceanfront property is perfect for a family of four. Spend your days exploring the nearby beaches or relaxing on the balcony with a cold drink in hand (the sunsets are epic here).

The owners provide excellent hospitality and are more than happy to help you plan activities during your stay.

Things to See and Do on Isla Colon

  1. Spend a day snorkeling around Bluff Beach.
  2. Learn about the nature preserve at Green Acres Chocolate Farm.
  3. Get rowdy on an ATV with Flying Pirate.
  4. Visit Dolphin Bay and Coral Cay.
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FAQs About Where to Stay in Bocas Del Toro

What To Pack For Bocas Del Toro

Pants, socks, underwear, soap?! Take it from me, packing for a hostel stay is not always quite as straightforward as it seems. Working out what to bring and what to leave at home is an art I have perfected over many years.

Product
Description
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!

Ear Plugs

Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

Keep your laundry organized and stink free
Keep your laundry organized and stink free

Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

Stay Dry With a Micro Towel
Stay Dry With a Micro Towel

Sea To Summit Micro Towel

Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

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Make Some New Buddies…

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Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!
Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!

Grayl Geopress Water Bottle

Always travel with a water bottle! They save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. The Grayl Geopress acts as a purifier AND temperature regulator. Boom!

Check out my definitive Hotel Packing list for even more top packing tips!

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance for Bocas Del Toro

Unfortunately, things can go wrong when you least expect it. This is why good travel insurance is essential before you head on your trip to Bocas Del Toro.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

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Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Bocas Del Toro

After spending a month frolicking (more like drinking) across Bocas del Toro, I can say tell you that regardless of where you stay, these islands will, without a doubt, give you the island vacation you’re craving.

If you’re like me and want to hit the ground running when you get to Bocas del Toro, then Bocas Town is the place for you. With everything in walking distance, and so many stays along the beach, every day is full of adventure. My favorite place to stay was at Bambuda Bocas Town – I met a ton of cool people here.

However, if you’re after a more chilled-out stay, I’d recommend staying just outside of Bocas Town on Isla Colon. Relax amongst the jungle and rest up at Mosana Reef Garden B&B (my favorite stay outside of Bocas Town).

Fall in love with early morning waves, lazy afternoons on deserted beaches, and (if you’re up for it!) get a bit wild evenings in Bocas Town!

Man Fishing in panama Islands
Fish, surf, party. Repeat!
Photo: @joemiddlehurst
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