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3 Top Snorkeling Spots at Bocas del Toro Resorts

June 17, 2016

When you’re on a Panama vacation, one of the best ways to explore your new surroundings is by snorkeling in the calm, blue Bocas del Toro surf. Snorkeling is an absorbing activity of discovery that can also be relaxing, as you rhythmically kick your finned feet and breathe steadily through your snorkel, letting the water cradle you while you take in the underwater sights. The Caribbean sea surrounds the islands that make up the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, providing you with ample locales for discovering the wonder and beauty of this part of the world’s oceans.

Zapatillas Islands
A short taxiboat ride from the main island, Isla Bastimentos, the Zapatillas Islands are two uninhabited islands encircled by white sand beaches and by a shelf of coral reef in the sea. The islands are protected land, as part of the Bastimentos National Marine Park, and are completely undeveloped except for the Park Rangers station on Zapatillas Major, the bigger of the two isles. The station is responsible for the stewardship of local species, on land and in the sea. Zapatillas Minor, the smaller isle, provides an occasional base for marine scientists studying turtles. Leatherback and hawksbill turtles migrate here yearly to lay their eggs on the beaches.

Part of the appeal of these islands is that there are no commercial activities, just the simple elements of water, sand, and trees. You can snorkel, sun, and picnic in the shady small forest at the center of each island, free from the noise and chaos of a city beach. Expect to see all kinds of wildlife on your excursion, including reef fish like angelfish, parrotfish, snapper, and butterflyfish; creatures that live in the reef’s crevices such as lobster, crab, and morey eels; and colorful sea invertebrates like corals, sponges, sea cucumbers, and starfish. Going beyond the breakers reveals a series of caves, some up to 50 feet deep, for further exploration.

The Zapatillas see quite a few boat tours every day, from all over the area; your Bocas del Toro resort can arrange for your snorkel trip, including equipment and transportation to and from the islands.

Dolphin Bay
Known locally as Laguna Bocatortito, Dolphin Bay is located on the east side of Isla Cristóbal, which lies just west of Isla Bastimentos. Aptly named, this area is famous for the bottlenose dolphins you can find swimming in the bay for most of the year. The lagoon’s serene waters are surrounded by mangrove trees at the shoreline, whose tangled roots attract small fish and crabs looking for shelter. The dolphins are drawn to the bay by this abundant food source, especially mothers and their calves. Dolphin Bay is also one of the most popular swimming sites in the Bocas, and can be scheduled as part of your snorkeling trip.

Coral Cay
Coral Cay, or “Crawl Cay” to the locals, is one of the most accessible snorkeling spots in Bocas del Toro. Surrounded by coral reef, like the Zapatillas Islands, the cay is a small islet surrounded by mangroves, like Dolphin Bay, and is located in the canal between Isla Bastimentos to the north and Isla Popa to the south. More developed than the Zapatillas, this island hosts a small community of people, as well as a delicious seafood restaurant to dine at after your tour of the reef.
Garden of Eden, a boutique eco B&B in Bocas del Toro, Panama, is the perfect place for affordable cabanas, welcoming service, and activity coordination, including snorkeling, for your next international adventure. Call us at +507-6967-0187 or email us at for more information.