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Bocas del Toro, Panama is a Little Slice of Paradise

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Red Frog Marina - Bocas del Toro, Panama
Red Frog Marina – Bocas del Toro, Panama

If you’re looking for a paradisiacal port stop before or after transiting the Panama Canal, then head to Bocas del Toro. This 68 island archipelago – located in northwest Panama in the Caribbean Sea, out of the hurricane belt and only 133 nautical miles from the Canal – features picture-postcard-perfect white sand beaches, lush rainforests, mangrove-lined bays and coral reefs brimming with sea life. Nature, not the neon lights of more cosmopolitan destinations, is the highlight here. This is especially true on Isla Bastimentos. Sea turtles nest, parrots fly and two-toed sloths hang upside down in the trees in the National Marine Park here, while there are no cars, roads or airports anywhere on this 20-square-mile island. Access to Isla Bastimentos is only 10 minutes by boat from the charming eclectic Caribbean town of Bocas with many restaurants, bars and airport. That’s a plus for many, especially since this idyllic island offers an oasis of services and amenities for superyachts at Island Global Yachting’s (IGY) Red Frog Beach Marina, part of the Red Frog Beach Rainforest Resort.

What makes Bocas del Toro such a great yachting destination? Dan Cranney, Red Frog’s vice president of marketing, answers, “It is safe and well-protected. It’s a unique secret paradise not yet discovered by all. It’s remote, yet civilized, tranquil, fun and very friendly. There’s a little bit of everything here, a jungle paradise with many different islands to explore – some with people and some virtually uninhabited. It’s a place you will want to stay for a while.”

‘Must-see’ attractions are many. For example, take a 20 minute hike from Isla Bastimentos’ main village of Old Bank to Up In The Hill, a small organic farm nestled in the rainforest. Here, organic cacao, coconuts, tropical fruits and fragrant herbs grow. They are hand-made into food and natural body products. These, along with juices, herb teas, baked goods made with home-grown chocolate and coffee are sold in the farm’s small shop. Nature lovers will enjoy bird-watching, cave tours, botanical gardens complete with capuchin monkeys, and beach walking, swimming and surfing. Red Frog Beach is the easiest to reach from the marina. It’s named for the strawberry-colored frog that lives in the nearby forest, yet the seas are a breath-taking turquoise. Watersports here and around the island include kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing. Those looking for more excitement can try the new zip-line canopy tour located at the top of the island. The two-hour tour features up to 1000 foot long zips, up to 150 feet high at speeds up to 42 miles per hour. There’s also a Tarzan Swing and Traversable canopy net, Treetop Challenge Course, and Swaying Sky Bridge.

At night, there are a number of different dining options located three minutes away by boat in Bastimentos Town. Roots is a favorite local restaurant that serves great-tasting, inexpensive Creole food such as fresh fish and seafood with sides of veggies, coconut rice and fried plantains. There are a few local nightclubs here too. Ten minutes away by boat in Bocas Town, on Isla Colon, there are all types of restaurants serving everything from Italian, Mediterranean, Panamanian, American and Chinese to Vegan. Bocas Town is the capitol of Bocas del Toro and home to over 13,000 people.

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For Captains – When arriving at IGY’s Red Frog Marina, captains will find good deep water all the way in. There are a number of waypoints that make navigation safe and easy. There are 84 slips, 15 for superyachts up to 250 feet in length with a 25-foot draft, on floating docks equipped with 30-, 50- and 100 amp power, metered water, complimentary Wi-Fi and new fuel dock. There are brand new shower and laundry facilities. Three phase 480 x 200 amp shore power for superyachts will be available this spring. A marina bar and grill are in the planning stages. Crew will find provisioning is available on the main island of Isla Colon.

IGY’s Red Frog Marina offers general labor for needs such as boat washing/waxing/stainless steel polishing/interior cleaning, as well as customized yacht maintenance programs. There are a few repair technicians available throughout the Bocas and parts can be shipped, however their arrival might not be fast due to the remote location. The marina also has 24-hour security.

Marina guests enjoy full access to beautiful Red Frog Beach Resort’s restaurants/bars, hiking and nature trails, luxury vacation villas that each come with a private pool and surf lodge with private suites. Jungle carts rentals are available for exploring.

Those not arriving by boat can fly into Panama City. Air Panama makes a 45-minute flight to Bocas Town daily. There are water taxis to Isla Bastimentos. IGY’s Red Frog Marina also has its own helipad.


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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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