from panama city to bocas del toro

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

How to get From Panama City to Bocas del Toro and Our Full Travel Guide: Things to Do, Where to Stay, and Where to Eat!


By Air

Bocas del Toro flights are by far the most expensive yet most time-efficient way to get to the archipelago.


From Panama City's International Airport, you can not find a direct flight to Isla Colon (the main island). However, there are direct flights that run from Panama City's domestic airport called, Albrook Airport. This flight generally costs $150-$200 USD (not a cheap flight) one-way and runs about 2-3 times a day. AirPanama is going to be your best bet. If you have a flight that is arriving in the morning to Panama City you have a chance to connect with the typical afternoon flight that goes to Isla Colon after transferring over to the domestic airport via Uber or local taxi. We did notice that Panama City traffic can be a factor in delays so plan plenty of time to make this transfer. Alternatively, you could plan to spend a few days in Panama City -- a wonderfully modern city with plenty of activities.


Be sure to research the baggage limits as most of these smaller flights have stricter policies and fees associated with baggage. We always suggest paying your baggage fees ahead of time as we have had bad luck with having to pay exorbitant amounts of money at the airport on the day of our flight.


Via Costa Rica Flight

Unfortunately, the airline that used to make this flight path from Costa Rica, Nature Air, does not fly anymore due to a plane crash that occurred in 2017. Your best bet is to use a major airline that flies through Panama City, Panama.


By Bus From Panama City to Bocas Del Toro

This is one of the more economical ways to reach Bocas del Toro but you will need a little more time and patience to use this form of transportation. We actually used the bus system quite a bit in Panama and we thought the buses were nice, modern, and on time. It just took more planning and time to reach our destinations.


The bus station in Panama City is also known as the Albrook Bus Terminal near the Albrook Mall. It is a modern and large bus station but with the Albrook mall nearby you will have plenty of options to kill some time if you are waiting for a bus to depart.


There are many direct buses to Almirante which is the destination you will reach before transferring over to a water taxi (30 minutes) that will take you to the island of your choice. Most of these buses are overnight bus options and take about 10-11 hours. This is the way we suggest doing it. As we said, the buses are comfortable and you will arrive at the water taxi well within the hours that the water taxi runs. If you catch a day bus you might experience lots of stops and you might make it to the water taxi after the hours that it stops service.


We showed up a few hours in advance of the bus leaving from Albrook Bus Terminal and purchased our tickets, and cost about $30 USD.


As for the water taxi in Almirante, the place the bus drops you off is a little bit of a walk (2 kilometers or just over 1 mile) to the water taxi departure place. There are plenty of taxis waiting to offer you a ride! The water taxi ride is about $6 USD and takes about 30 minutes. The taxi will take you to Isla Colon or Isla Bastimento. BE CAREFUL here, we had someone carry our luggage to the water taxi for us and then they asked for us to pay them.


Via Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

We did make this journey with Caribe Shuttle and it was a seamless process. This shuttle runs either way. They take you from the Isla Colon (main island) to Almirante where you then get into a shuttle. The Caribe Shuttle will take you over the border of either country and help you through the process. This option costs about $34 USD one-way and takes about 7-9 hours depending on the border crossing process!


Our Full Travel Guide to Bocas Del Toro

On a Saturday morning, we woke early and were dropped off at the bus station for our journey to Bocas del Toro. From the mountainous region of Boquete, Panama, we took two buses and one bumpy water taxi before arriving at Bocas del Toro about five hours later. Finding our feet, we stumbled down the streets of Bocas, the smell of the salty sea hitting our senses and the hot-humid air soaking into our skin. This would be our home for the next two weeks.


After talking with other travelers about Bocas, we'd built a different picture in our head: dirt roads, only a few restaurants, and typical beach shacks. What we found was quite different: an eclectic mix of colonial buildings, brightly painted beach shacks on stilts, paved roads, grungy backpackers, and a vibrant community of Afroantilleans (people from the English and French-speaking Caribbean islands). All of the restaurants and shops presented normal facades but on the other side, there is likely a party on the docks that jet out over the waters of the Caribbean sea. The laid back and chill vibe of the town quickly changes at the end of the week for a spectacle known as, Filthy Friday, which we did not attend but heard rave reviews if you are looking for a crazy and unique party.


The islands of Bocas del Toro are a major hub for adventure seekers.


where to stay

Surf Break at Paunch - Who is craving a jungle retreat where you can hide away, listen to nature, and surf to your heart's content? Aren't we all?! The owners of Surf Break at Paunch, David and Alli, are some of hospitality's finest individuals. Several years back, they decided to trade in the "American dream" and build a small boutique property in the jungle of Panama.