Getting Here

Getting here to Isla Bastimentos in Bocas del Toro Panama is a little tricky, but once you get it down you can get here no problem, with most of your luggage.  ;)
As far as traveling here, there are a few options that we will summarize:
1) Fly to Panama City, catch a little flight to Bocas (which has one stop in a little airport called Albrook).
2) Fly to Panama City and catch a 10 hour bus ride to Almirante, then a water taxi to Bocas.
3) Fly to Panama City and catch a bus to David (6 hours?), then get off the bus in David and hop on a bus to Almirante (4 hours) at the same bus station.
4) Fly to San Jose, Costa Rica, then fly to Bocas.  Nature Air is the airline that flies from San Jose to Bocas and last we checked they did have their flights posted online.
5) Fly to San Jose, Costa Rica, catch a 5 hour bus ride to Almirante, then a water taxi to Bocas.Ok, we will detail some more information and we hope it doesn’t get too confusing!When travelling any of the routes that end up in Almirante (coastal city off the mainland), you have to take a water taxi in to Bocas and they typically stop running around 6pm or at the latest 6:30pm.  It wouldn’t be advisable to have to stay the night there in Almirante, it is not a safe city to be in after the sun goes down.  There are two main water taxi companies, BMT and Taxi 25.  We really like Taxi 25 and prefer it, but either one will get you to Bocas just fine.  Also, if going this route, the bus drop off is a little bit of a walk to the water taxi’s so plan on hopping in a regular taxi cab and tell them “Taxi 25″ or “BMT.”  It should cost $1, or at the most $2, if you’re really white looking.  We really do recommend taking Taxi 25 and the fee is $3 for a trip to Bocas.  They make trips every 30 minutes to Bocas.  If for some reason they are super busy and packed and the wait is really long, then we would say take BMT, but it could be worth just waiting it out.  BMT will try to get a lot more money out of you the whiter you are, and there are more little guys hanging around trying to sell you stuff, “help” you, and become your friends. :)

The cheapest way might be to fly to Costa Rica and then take the bus to Almirante (mainland but on the coast), then take a water taxi to Bocas on Colon Island.  However, getting the flight and bus schedules to match will probably be the most challenging part of that route and once you factor in taxi fares and a hotel stay if needed, we don’t know what kind of savings there would be…?  It might require that he stay overnight in San Jose but might be worth exploring that option, depending on your finances.  Here’s a link to a bus line shuttle service that we know of there:

Unfortunately we don’t have any company information on the bus rides from Panama City to Bocas (a rough estimation on price is $26 or $30).  We know that you have to take a taxi to the bus terminal from the airport, but it’s not too far.  The last time Terry and Liz (who live here with us) came through, they took a taxi to the bus terminal and purchased the ticket the same day and got on the next bus, so it’s possible if you can’t find reservation information online that you would need to just play it by ear, the Panamanian way.  Knowing there are at least a couple of routes to come to Bocas would be important because we believe there are several more bus trips a day through David to Almirante, than there are straight to Almirante.

The easiest and simplest way to get here would be to fly to Panama City and try to catch a flight to Bocas, but that’s typically not the cheapest.  If you can fly into Panama City early enough though, ideally you would be able to catch the short flight to Bocas the same day and not have to stay the night anywhere. That flight from Panama City to Bocas is always changing, so there doesn’t seem to be a set “standard” time you can count on, unfortunately.

The first time Bobby traveled here he was able to schedule that flight through Orbitz when he purchased his tickets.  When we flew in as a family we had planned to try to take the 10 hour bus ride from Panama City to Almirante, due to all of our luggage and the weight limitations on air travel but we found a way to ship our luggage cargo and then we took the plane from Albrook airport just outside of Panama City, to Bocas (we were in Panama City a couple of days so we had time to inquire).  We can get details for that if you move here and are coming with tons of luggage! :)

We tried to book that flight online with Air Panama (the only airline that flies within Panama to Bocas), but had to call to make that reservation and purchase that ticket.  They typically don’t speak a lot of English but maybe they have someone in the office that can if you call and are unable to communicate effectively.  The only piece of information that is critical you know is that Albrook airport is where they fly out of to get to Bocas but you’d be wanting a flight from Panama City (PTY) to Bocas (I think they always have a puddle jumper flight to Albrook airport from Panama City, but it’s possible there’s a direct one).  When Bobby flew here in January his reservation through Orbitz put him through Panama City where he went through customs, then took a short 10 min flight to Albrook, and from there got on a plane to Bocas.

If taking a flight from Panama City to Bocas, the weight restrictions on luggage go from 50 lbs (to Panama) to 40lbs (on the flight to Bocas), after which they charge you something like 80 cents a pound each additional pound over 40.  These are rough estimations, but just something to keep in mind when packing a bag. :)

From Bocas it’s a another short water taxi ride (about 15 min) to our place (Jampan is our preferred water taxi service) but we would happy to try to meet you in Bocas to give you a ride in.

Just for your information, at this time there are 4 places that fly directly to Panama City from the States:  Atlanta, Miami, Houston and just recently Las Vegas started scheduling direct flights as well.

While I’m thinking about it, a good tip for taking taxi’s here is to always ask how much the ride to the destination place will be before getting in the car or boat taxi.  The prices can vary drastically from one end of the taxi ride to the other, so always ask to make sure you don’t get taken advantage of! ;)  Also, most taxi drivers around here in the islands speak at least a little English.

We sure hope that we haven’t inundated you with information that is more overwhelming than helpful, but more information is better than too little – usually.  ;)

See you soon,

Shirlene & Bobby


  1. Mom - Nancy Wood
    Aug 28, 2012

    LOVE the photos!!!!!!!!!! Good info!!!!

    Love and miss you guys!!!!!!!

  2. Alice Mathis
    Aug 28, 2012

    Thanks for all the info. Love you guys

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