BOCA DEL TORO
Bocas de Toro – literally translated as Bull’s Mouth – is both lost in time and blessed by nature. A town, a province and the name of the archipelago that contains 10 islands, 50 cays and an incredible 200 islets, Bocas del Toro (or just Bocas to the locals) is every bit the sum of its parts.
At just 40 kilometres off the Costa Rican coast (the islands are closer to San Jose than Panama City), there is a Caribbean energy of the place – think coloured huts, cool vibes and pristine beaches. While that may be more than enough for some, the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park provides others with a reason to love the place.
The National Park, adjacent to the tiny town of Bocas is Panama’s first marine park. Its mission is to protect mangrove forests, manatees, sea turtles, caimans, amphibians, crocodiles and other reptiles (there are at least 28 different species of these), as well as monkeys and sloths. Among the amphibians the red dart frog is the most famous, it even has a beach named after it, and although barely 20 mm long it is already considered large for a dart frog (rest assured, the beach is much gentler than its namesake)! The park is over 32,000 acres, and is an important nesting site for sea turtles.
The name Bocas del Toro has an interesting history. It is said that the island was named by Christopher Columbus on his visit here in 1502, after he saw various waterfalls in the form of “bocas del toro” (mouths of the bull). The name has stuck ever since.