THE CARIBBEAN PEARL

Panama 2014 | TOURISM | FOCUS: BOCAS DEL TORO

Verdant rainforests surrounded by white, sandy beaches, colorful coral reefs, and laid back locals are what characterize Bocas del Toro, an archipelago with seven main islands that today maintains its untouched splendor.

Situated on the northwestern coast of Panama, the Bocas del Toro archipelago divides the Chiriqui Lagoon and Almirante Bay from the open Caribbean Sea. Its main city, Bocas Town, on Isla Colón, can be accessed by plane, and water taxis and private boats connect the other islands. Isla Colón (Columbus Island) takes its name from Christopher Columbus' visit to Bocas del Toro in 1502, in his fourth and final voyage to the New World. The archipelago then became a pirate haven during the 17th century, attracted by the Spanish gold.

Blessed by nature with its lush vegetation, biodiversity, and endless white, sandy beaches, Bocas is the perfect destination for adventure lovers who can enjoy snorkeling, sailing, hiking, swimming with dolphins, or scuba diving. But this Caribbean paradise is not only an exotic destination with tropical vegetation and lush beaches, it's also a region that shows multicultural respect and integrates the indigenous. It is a region known for its rich gastronomy where seafood, yucca, coconuts and bananas are the order of the day, and it can be a truly enriching experience for those that are looking for a genuine experience.

Situated South of Isla Colón, Parque Isla Bastimentos is home to Panama's first national marine park, not only renown as a nesting site for turtles, but also for hosting a diversity of species including crocodiles, monkeys, and red poison dart frogs, which can only be found here.

With 50 cays, around 200 small islets and untouched beaches, Panama's hidden Caribbean gem has also become heaven for surfers from all around the world. Surf breaks are the best in the country and the season runs from November all the way through to April. Black Rock, Carenero, and Long Beach are among the numerous idyllic beaches that are becoming a top destination for surf lovers, making the archipelago a major surfing destination.