Bocas del Toro with kids is fun! We found this archipelago in Panama to be a really super fun destination to visit. We especially liked the center of Bocas del Toro with good restaurants and cozy cafes! In addition, you can visit beautiful beaches and spot animals in Bocas del Toro especially. We stayed in Bocas del Toro for a week and list all of Boca del Toro’s family-friendly tips here!
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#1 Zapatilla Island
By far the most beautiful beach to visit in Bocas del Toro with kids is Zapatilla Island. This island is about a 40-minute boat ride from the main island of Bocas del Toro, and in fact, you can only visit Zapatilla Island with a tour. You can book this tour anywhere in the city and this tour lasts approximately from 10 in the morning until about 4 in the afternoon.
On this tour, the first thing you will do is look for dolphins. Since there are also eight other boats all sailing right to the dolphins that occasionally surface, it does not feel like a fine activity, with no real regard for the welfare of the animals.
You also go snorkeling at Cayo Coral, but we didn’t find that super either. A lot of coral is dead and we didn’t see super many fish, We had a better snorkeling experience in many other places in the world.
It seems like a little extra activity just to make it a full day tour. Last we visit the Zapatilla Island and that was though an island with very nice beaches. White beaches, clear blue water and because the tourists are spread throughout the island, it doesn’t feel super crowded either.
We really thought visiting Zapatilla Island was one of the highlights of our trip to Bocas del Toro. At the tours, do try to negotiate a bit, as you can still haggle quite a few dollars off the original prices listed on the signs.
#2 Red Frog Beach
We also enjoyed a visit to Red Frog Beach. You sail in about 10 minutes from the main island to the island of Bastimentos and from this point it is about a 10-minute walk to the beach. You can book a water cab at the various bureaus. You also pay another $5 entrance fee for the beach.
Red Frog Beach gets its name from the red frogs you can find near the beach. You can find these on the route to the beach on the roadside. They also have another path you can walk and then you can see them right away. And if you really don’t see them (the frogs are quite small) you can always ask the person selling the tickets. The latter immediately walked with us to show us the frogs.
Red Frog Beach is quite a nice beach, only disadvantage of the beach is that the sea is very wild and you can’t really swim in the sea. Our daughter did absolutely love playing in the surf with us. On Red Frog beach there is also a restaurant where you can have some food and drinks. There is also a hostel there, so there are quite a few young people on this beach. We found it to be a pleasant beach.
From Red Frog Beach, you can also walk to Polo Beach in about 40 minutes. Polo Beach is also sometimes mentioned by some as the most beautiful beach in Bocas del Toro, but there is not really much beach. However, you do have a good chance that you are almost the only one here, as it takes some effort to get there. You just can’t really lie on the beach here.
#3 Bluff Beach
On the main island of Bocas del Toro to the east is a really beautiful beach. We read online everywhere that you can rent bikes in downtown Bocas del Toro and then bike to this beach in an hour. We had a quick look at renting bikes, but we saw very few children’s bikes or anything like a tandem.
We ended up taking a cab to Bluff Beach, which was a good choice with our eight-year-old daughter. We found the route to the beach not super special and the road to it is very bad. Our daughter did enjoy the cab ride, as on some stretches the entire cab went up and down. We paid $15 for a one-way ticket (i.e., $30 round trip) and arranged with the driver what time he would pick us up again.
We found Bluff Beach to be a beautiful beach with beautiful yellow sand and we liked best of all that we had the entire beach to ourselves. There was no one there on Sunday afternoon. We were dropped off at the Bom Bom Beach Bar. We thought there would also be many surfers here, but there were none either, but were present in large numbers in the sea a bit back on the route to Bluff Beach.
What is a big disadvantage of this beach is that the sea is very wild and you can’t really swim in the sea. Our daughter has only been in the surf and that was already very intense. She absolutely loved this, but as parents we had to keep an eye on her the whole time and really hold her, because the current was very strong. We did have a really lovely sunny afternoon at this beach and therefore definitely do recommend it.
#4 Starfish Beach
Starfish Beach is actually called Playa Estrellas. This is one of the most famous beaches in Bocas del Toro where you can spot many starfish in the water. We had read online that there were almost no starfish, yet we still found quite a few starfish lying around. Furthermore, we found the beach very disappointing and there is actually no beach. You especially have a lot of eateries on the beach. Therefore, you really only need to go to Starfish Beach for about an hour because you will have seen it by then.
You can visit this beach in different ways. So you can book a tour to this beach. Then you are on the road from about ten in the morning until about four. We did this. You then visit a bird island (sea permitting), a resort and the beach at Boca del Drago in addition to Starfish Beach, but we found all of these to be unimpressive. We also stayed at Starfish Beach for three hours and that was also too long in our opinion.
The second way to visit the beach is to take the bus to Boca del Drago (it goes once every hour when the bus is full, so not really at a fixed time) and from Boca del Drago you can walk to Starfish Beach in 20 minutes via a beautiful route. You will be on the road for quite a long time to see the beach. On Starfish beach, you can also sit on a banana behind a boat. The sea here is very calm though and definitely suitable for kids.
We were on Bocas del Toro for a total of 7 days, which is definitely a bit on the long side. If you spend 5 days or so on the island with kids, that’s long enough. Still to do something to do the last two days of our trip, we went to Skully’s for a day which is on the east side of the main island.
Skully’s is on the beach and we drove there by cab for $3 per person. With the cab driver we agreed on what time he could pick us up again, even though it is also possible to arrange a cab on the spot or stand on the side of the road and wait for a cab to come by.
Skully’s has beachfront beds and also has a small pool. We found it quite a nice place to spend a few hours around. We had emailed them in advance if we could stop by like this and it was no problem. Of course, we did have some drinks here at Skully’s.
Yet another place we went to on the last day was Carenero Playa. This beach is near the main island and by water cab we could get here for $2 per person. Don’t expect super much from this beach, but you can take a dip in the sea just fine, without immediately spending a lot of money for a cab or a boat. You can’t really do that on the main island in the center.
We also wanted to go for drinks at Aqua on this island, but this beach club is only for 18 plus, so that was difficult with our 8-year-old daughter. If you’re without kids, that’s also kind of a cool option to relax for a few hours.
Where to stay in Bocas del Toro with kids?
In Bocas del Toro, we stayed 7 nights at the Grand Bahia Hotel. This hotel is located on the main street in the middle of downtown. We found this a nice hotel with a fine room and a nice big balcony overlooking the sea and the main road. Everything is at hand here. You are near the boat arrival and departure point here, there are many restaurants nearby and all the tours go from here as well.
The only thing we didn’t like about the hotel is that you could occasionally hear music from the street, but fortunately our daughter wasn’t bothered much by this and slept through it. For more information on the Grand Bahia hotel, take a look here.