Bastimentos is the largest island of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. However, it only has one very rustic and local small town. Aside from that it’s mostly jungle, remote beaches, indigenous villages and a few hotels and lodges. Most people choose to stay in Bocas and take day trips to the beaches of Bastimentos. The Bastimentos tours are actually cheaper if you leave from Bocas Town because there’s more competition in town. Part of Bastimentos is also covered in the Bastimentos National Marine Park which also includes the Cayos Zapatillas. This park preserves the many mangrove forests and coral reefs of the area. Check out all the best activities and things to see on Bastimentos below.
1. Up In The Hill Coffee and Cacao Farm
This organic cacao farm is nestled up in the jungle in the middle of Bastimentos. It is a super cute cafe that serves coffee, cacao drinks, wraps, veggie burgers, and amazing banana cake. They also sell coconut oil, coconut oil products, cacao products, and beeswax products for all sorts of uses. Besides being a cute cafe to hang out at, they also do tours of the farm for $25 per person. The tour includes food tasting and a detailed explanation of the process of growing and transforming cacao into usable products. Tours only go at certain times of the day. You also have a very high chance of seeing strawberry poison dart frogs around the gardens of the cafe. This type of poison dart frog is only found on Bastimentos, out of the entire world.
GETTING THERE: Take a water taxi from Bocas Town to Old Bank, Bastimentos. When you get off the water taxi at Old Bank, you will walk a little bit along the sidewalk to the right. Almost immediately you will see a sign pointing to the left that says Up in the Hill. Follow this sign along the marked trail all the way to the cafe.
1. Polo Beach Full Day Hike
There are a good amount of beaches on Bastimentos that are pretty much inaccessible to people, and are therefore completely empty and remote. Polo Beach is one of those beaches. The only way to reach year round it is by hiking through the entirety of Bastimentos on this guided tour. This full day hike takes you hiking through the entirety of Bastimentos – which is really the only chance you would have to walk along the interior of the island and explore the jungle. After hiking, you will reach Polo Beach where you can lay on the beach and swim. Then a water taxi will take you back around to Old Bank. You can organize the tour with Bastimentos Alive (firstname.lastname@example.org). The tour is $45 per person and includes lunch, tropical fruit tasting, info on medicinal and edible jungle plants, and transportation back to Old Bank by boat.
GETTING THERE: We’re happy to help our guests organize this tour. If you’re not staying with us you will want to reach out to the tour company, Bastimentos Alive to organize your arrival. You will have to provide your own transportation to and from Old Bank. Water taxis from Bocas Town to Old Bank are $3 per person each way.
3. Bahia Honda Bat Caves (Nivida Caves)
Bocas del Toro has a surprising amount of cave formations made out of reef that have risen over time. Bocas also has a surprising amount of different species of bats. Together, this provides the opportunity for many bat caves to exist across the archipelago, and they do. The biggest and most known is the Nivida Bat Cave in Bahia Honda. You can take a tour that will go from Bocas Town through the mangroves to Bahia Honda, on Bastimentos. From there you will hike about 30 minutes up to the entrance of the cave. You can then explore the cave with a guide and a headlamp. There are many stalagmite and stalactite formations and thousands of bats. The water here is about chest deep so you will be walking through deep water the entire time inside the cave. Wear clothes that can get wet and either bring a water-proof bag for your other stuff, or don’t bring anything with you. The total amount of time spent in the cave is about an hour.
GETTING THERE: You can arrange a tour with a few different companies in town. Habla Ya (the Spanish school) does tours for $35, but there are a few other tour companies as well. All tours will leave directly from Bocas Town and transportation will be included in the cost of the tour.
4. Red Frog / Turtle Beach
Red Frog is one of the most well known beaches on Bastimentos. There are many hotels, hostels and restaurants scattered along Red Frog Beach. It’s a beautiful beach, but can be a little expensive to access even the main public entrance. Instead of taking a water taxi to the general entrance portion of the beach, I highly suggest checking out the La Rosa Beach Club. Located right on the Turtle Beach section of Red Frog you’ll find an amazing private beach club with a huge infinity pool, waterfall, bar and restaurant. For $20, per person, you can buy a day pass to this private beach club. The day pass gives you access to all of their spotless facilities, loungers, pool and private beach access to one of Red Frog’s most premier shorelines.
GETTING THERE: To get there you will need to take a water taxi from either Bocas Town or Old Bank to the Red Frog Marina entrance. Make sure you specify you’re heading to the Marina. This allows you to buy pass the public entrance with a fee of $5 per person. Once you enter the Marina you will see a large activities desk. Let them know you would like to buy a day pass to the La Rosa Beach Club. Have them provide you with walking directions. Often they will also set you up with a free ride to the club.
5. Wizard Beach
Wizard Beach is a remote and beautiful beach on the eastern side of Bastimentos. The walk to Wizard Beach is about 45 minutes through the jungle. It’s not an easy walk, so this is for someone looking to do something different and literally off the beaten path. The walk is mildly steep, extremely hot during the peak of the day, and typically super muddy. Make sure to bring plenty of water with you, and maybe also food depending on how long you will be there.
GETTING THERE: You will need to take a water taxi from Bocas Town to Old Bank on Bastimentos. Old Bank only has one sidewalk as the main “road” so follow this sidewalk to the right from where the boat drops you off until you reach a sign that says Wizard Beach with an arrow to the left. This sign is about 15-20 minutes from the dock and the sidewalk goes underneath the sign. If you follow the trail to the left where the sign is, it will wind through people’s yards and can be a little bit confusing. Try to stick to the bigger trail if it splits. There is one split where they look the same size – stick to the left and go up the concrete block stairs. Eventually you will go out of Old Bank and the rest of the trail is more obviously marked and through the jungle.
GETTING BACK: You can come back on this same route, or you can take an alternate route to stop at Up in the Hill. If you want to reach Up in the Hill, start walking back on the same trail and split off to the right when you see a painted flower made out of plastic nailed onto a tree. These flowers are the trail markers for Up in the Hill and will be on trees every so often on the way. The split off doesn’t seem like a well-traversed trail, but if you see the first flower then this is the right way. Eventually you will step over a root and go through a tiny break in a barbed wire fence and the trail will continue through rolling pastures. You will reach the jungle again and the trail will start to incline until you reach a wooden fence with a Up in the Hill sign. Pass through the fence and take the last steps up to the cafe.