It could be paradise…
Bocas is a hidden gem.
It’s one of those places I really don’t want to tell you about, for fear of encouraging people to visit.
Though, it’s probably not under threat, because it’s not all that easy to get to.
We flew in a little 18 seater twin-prop from San Jose, directly onto Isla Colon, scattering the crabs infesting the runway, as we land.
Nature Air allows 40 lbs (18 kg) each of check-in and 10 lbs (4.5 kg) for carry-on. There is also a maximum passenger weight: if you exceed 250 lbs (113 kg), which I think we are safe on, you must purchase an additional ticket.
We had fastidiously packed in the morning to ensure we avoid paying excess baggage charges. Don’s wearing his ‘heavy’ items; jeans, chunky shoes and is ready to add layers if required to reduce luggage weight.
We needn’t have worried. Our check-in baggage is under the limit and they weigh us holding our hand luggage; as long as your total weight doesn’t go over the 250 lbs they’re not concerned.
This is an international airport and as small as it is, they even have a resident sniffer dog. Once he’s checked over the luggage he goes back to playing catch with his handler.
It’s a short ride to the dock at Bocas Town. Here we jump into a water taxi for a $2 trip across to Isla Carenero.
From the dock at Bocas we can see across the water to our accommodation; the brightly painted blue and white, two story clapboard house. It sits on stilts over the clear tropical waters of the Caribbean.
The water taxi drops us off on the private jetty of Casa Acuario.
Our room is the cheapest of the 7; the one at the back, but it’s lovely bohemian-style luxury. Luxury for us, that is.
A large room with an eclectic array of furnishings, more importantly an air-conditioner, ceiling fan and our own bathroom (of course).
When I clean my teeth, I can see straight down the drain to the water below. The shower is the same. We inspect the toilet plumbing, just to make sure it doesn’t go the same way – with relief, we can see it leads to the septic tanks.
Casa Acuario is comfortable, convenient and has good WiFi. It was lovely being over the water, listening to the lapping of the sea. Each morning there is a pot of coffee for guests, though, like most places, fresh milk is not on the agenda, so we bought our own.
Long-life milk is one of Don’s pet hates. So much so, that we order a latte at a cafe on Bocas and he goes and buys them fresh milk to use.
Most afternoons it rains, a torrential down pour which continues through the night. The wet season has arrived early and the first few days were dreadful (though I used the time to catch-up on the blog). We considered leaving early, but persevered and the weather did get better.
The original plan was to move from island to island, the Bocas del Toro archipelago consists of 9 main islands. From what we seen of Isla Colon and Isla Bastimentos we decided we couldn’t improve on where we were.
The further away from Isla Colon you go, the less infrastructure there is. Most of the outer islands don’t have a lot of accommodation options aside from luxury resorts.
Isla Carenero exudes an idyllic chilled back vibe. It has the right balance; a few places to eat and a short stroll to a beautiful palm-shaded beach. And, we can easily pop across to Bocas for more dinner options and supplies.
The variety and quality of restaurants was surprisingly good, especially the fresh seafood; ceviche, snapper and octopus. No lobsters though, or there shouldn’t be!
Due to over fishing, there has been a significant depletion of lobster in the area. There is a seasonal ban from March to June, in the hope of giving them some breeding space.
A popular spot in Bocas Town is Raw Fusion, a sushi bar which we visit for happy hour one evening. Aside from feasting on the daily specials, which included sweet chili chicken, tempura calamari and octopus ceviche, we chatted with the couple at the table next to us.
Bill and Kelli are a fun and inspiring pair. They’ve recently moved from Colorado to Costa Rica with their 3 children. The youngest, only months old, was born there. They previously lived in Romania for two years, working with orphaned children.
They are the sort of couple who are going to ensure life is full of adventure, not afraid to do something different. I hope we cross paths with them again.
Red Frog beach is one spot that people raved about and while it’s lovely, we preferred the beach on Carenero.
The Bocas locals are friendly and happy people, the children wave and shout “hola”. A pair of cheeky young boys accept Don’s to help them climb a tree to pick fruit.
But, as idyllic as Bocas del Toro appears, there is a down side; it’s the rubbish.
Circumnavigating the island one day, we walk through the squalor, poverty and filth the locals live in. It’s no different on the other islands.
These islands are not unique. It’s a sad reflection on many parts of the world that lack the concern, motivation and the resources to deal with the issue.
Resort owners, researchers (looking at the damage to the reef) and environmentalists are voicing concerns, the government does not seem to be listening.
I hope it does before it’s too late; this place could be paradise.