When planning to visit a new destination, it can be hard enough to decide which hotel or hostel to stay at. When it comes to Bocas del Toro, that decision-making process is even more difficult. First, you have to decide which Bocas del Toro island is right for you.

The islands of Bocas del Toro are as distinct as they are beautiful, with each offering their own special blend of pros, cons, and accommodations. Island hopping is one of the draws of Bocas del Toro– with most islands being no more than a 5-10 minute water taxi ride apart. Still, you should take care when choosing which island you’re going to lay your head down at night, as different islands offer a completely different experience.

The following is a breakdown of the main islands in Bocas del Toro, and what you can expect from staying on each.

Bocas Town: The Heart of Bocas del Toro

Whether you’re stepping off an airplane or a boat from the mainland of Panama, you’re stepping out into Bocas Town.


This is the core island of Bocas del Toro, where you’ll find the overwhelming majority of shops, restaurants, accommodations, bars and nightclubs in– as well as the international airport. It’s the closest Bocas has to a “downtown,” and if you want to be in the heart of it all– this is unquestionably the place to be.

Bocas Town is favored more for it’s community, convenience, and nightlife scene than it’s natural offerings. While the island does have a few beaches,
such as the famous Starfish Beach and Bluff Beach, the real magnetism of Bocas Town lies in its nonstop social and cultural experience.

Selina Hostels in Bocas del Toro

Selina Hostels in Bocas del Toro

Of course, staying in Bocas Town in no way limits the amount of natural beauty you can see. In fact, island hopping is perhaps easiest when starting from Bocas Town, where water taxis are abundant and can be flagged down at all hours of the day (and night.) If you stay with us at Selina Hostels Bocas del Toro, you can flag one down right from our oceanfront deck.


Most travelers who stay in Bocas Town will venture out to the surrounding islands in the daytime, and come back late afternoon to nap, fuel up, and get their party on.

Isla Bastimentos

Some of the most beautiful beaches in Bocas del Toro are on Isla Bastimentos– which sits about a 10 minute taxi ride away from Bocas Town. If you’re looking to spend more time relaxing on the beach than exploring and socializing, this might be the island for you.


On Isla Bastimentos, you’ll find virtually no nightlife, restaurants, or shops, other than whatever basics are offered by the various hotels and resorts. What you trade in community and convenience, you get back in natural beauty. The beaches at Isla Bastimentos are truly beautiful, as any quick Google search will attest.91-red-frog-beach-island-discovery

Isla Bastimentos tends to attract a more mature couples and families than Bocas Town. As a result, accommodations here tend to be higher-end than what you’ll find in Bocas Town, and the vibe considerably more “G-rated.” Of course, you can always take a water taxi out when you’re craving some nightlife (though taking a water taxi at night is not considered ideal.) Most travelers who stay at Isla Bastimentos aren’t too interested in experiencing the nightlife; they prefer to spend more time on the beach.

Isla Solarte

For those seeking ultimate privacy, serenity, and eco-luxury, Isla Solarte is often the place. About 10 minutes from Bocas del Toro, Isla Solarte is a small and deeply beautiful island of about 8 km2. It’s home to miles of untouched tropical rainforest, and a coral reef that’s teeming with wildlife.


Like Isla Bastimentos, Isla Solarte has little nightlife, shopping, or dining to offer. The island is best for those who really want to get away from it all– to bask in the serenity of nature, enjoy a more mature, quiet crowd, and stay in unique eco-chic accommodations that are free from kids or late-night mischief. Isla Solarte maintains a degree of serenity that even surpasses Isla Bastimentos, as far fewer people visit Solarte for day trips than Bastimentos.

Bottom line:

If you’re looking to stay in the heart of Bocas del Toro, within walking distance of restaurants, nightlife, and shopping, and in the heart of a non-stop flow of fascinating travelers– Bocas Town is for you.

If you’re looking to spend more time in nature than around people, aren’t too concerned with dining, nightlife, or shopping, and don’t mind taking a water taxi whenever you’re craving either– Isla Bastimentos might be for you.

If you’re looking for a romantic, private, or absolutely serene getaway, surrounded by vibrant jungle, fluorescent coral reef, and an unparalleled level of serenity– Isla Solarte might be for you.

The good news is….

Hopping between islands in Bocas del Toro is easy, fun, and part of what experiencing Bocas del Toro is all about. Whichever island you choose to lay your head down at night… you can do so knowing the next day you’ll be one quick water taxi ride away from the next.



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Selina Hostels at Bocas del Toro

Photo: Eden Graziani

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