If you’re planning a trip to Panama, one of the must-see destinations is Bocas del Toro, an archipelago on the Caribbean coast. While Panama City, the capital, is a bustling metropolis with a lot to offer, Bocas del Toro is a laid-back tropical paradise that’s perfect for relaxing and soaking up the sun and of course, there are a lot of waves to surf. Famous waves like Bluff or Silverbacks are located there. Click here to have a look on the surf spots in Panama. In this article, we’ll explore the best ways to get from Panama City to Bocas del Toro, so you can make the most of your trip.
The Archipelago of Bocas del Toro from the top
There are a few different ways to get from Panama City to Bocas del Toro, depending on your budget and time constraints. The quickest way is by air, but this can be expensive. A more budget-friendly option is to take a bus to Almirante, the closest mainland town to Bocas del Toro, and then take a ferry to the islands.
The following table gives a quick overview of all travel options from Panama City to Bocas del Toro with the most important factors such as cost, travel time and comfort.
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1. Panama City to Bocas del Toro by plane 🛫
The most comfortable but also most expensive option is to travel by plane. Departures by plane from Panama City to Bocas del Toro are from Albrook “Marcos A. Gelabert” International Airport (code: PAC). Remember that this is not the same airport as Tocumen International Airport (code: PTY), which is also located in Panama City.
From PTY airport to PAC airport it’s around 30 min driving.
Flights are direct, take about 1 hour and land at Bocas del Toro “Isla Colón” International Airport (code: BOC).
After arriving at the airport in Boca del Toro, you can rent a car for your onward journey, take the ferry to the other islands, or take a cab. Motorcycles, mopeds, e-scooters and bicycles are also available if you want to stay on the main island.
2. Panama City to Bocas del Toro by shuttle/bus 🚌
Traveling by bus or shuttle is the cheapest option. But it takes around 10 – 12 hours.
- First step is to go to the bus station, “Albrook Bus Terminal”. (Link to google maps). The buses depart at 7 pm, 8 pm and 8.30 pm and will drive overnight and will cost you around $30 per ticket.
- The final stop of the journey by bus is in the town of Almirante. The name of the bus station is “Terminal de buses a Panamá”.
- Unfortunately, this is not Bocas del Toro yet. But almost! From the bus station, you will have to walk (15 min) or take a taxi ($1) to the dock. There you can take a water taxi that will bring you for $5 to Bocas del Toro within 30 min. Every 30 minutes a water taxi leaves the dock starting at 6 am.
Departure at Albrook Bus Terminal
7 pm, 8 pm and 8.30 pm + Sundays at 7 am
Arrival in Almirante
6 am and 7.30 am
Total travel time to Bocas del Toro
≈ 12 h
The shuttles final stop is Almirante as well. Usually the costs for the water taxi are included already. And you don’t have to walk to the water taxi, and they will bring you there directly. So traveling by shuttle is more organized.
3. Panama City to Bocas del Toro by car 🚗
If you prefer a more adventurous way of traveling, you can also rent a car in Panama City and drive to Bocas del Toro. The good thing about a car is that you are maximally independent. You can take a break whenever you want, explore other corners of Panama, and drive as fast or as slow as you want.
However, be aware that the roads in Panama are not always perfect and the route from Panama City to Bocas del Toro by car can be challenging.
According to Google Maps, the route from Panama City to Bocas del Toro by car takes 8 hours and 40 min. The probability of completing the route in this time is not very high. And to bring your car on the main island, you still have to take a ferry (2 hours).
For those who are flexible with time, traveling by car can be an adventurous option. To rent a standard category car, you will need to pay around $ 25-35 per day, including insurance.
There are numerous car rental agencies available in Panama City, including well-known brands such as Six Rent, National Car Rental, Alamo Rent a Car, Dollar Rent a Car, Thrifty, and Hertz, among others. However, before renting a car to travel from Panama City to Bocas del Toro, it’s important to take a few factors into consideration. Firstly, it’s crucial to carefully review the opening hours of the car rental agency. Additionally, you should examine the daily insurance fees, which are usually added to the rental price. Lastly, it’s advisable to confirm whether the car rental agency accepts your preferred method of payment, be it debit or credit card.
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Don’t forget that there is still some water between the main island of Bocas del Toro and the Panama mainland.
In case you want to bring your car on the main island, there is a ferry service available that connects the mainland of Panama to Bocas Del Toro, specifically Colon Island. This ferry operates from Tuesdays to Sundays and departs from the port of Almirante. The ferry leaves Almirante at 7:00 am and Bocas Del Toro at 3:00 pm, with a journey time of approximately 2 hours. The cost of the ferry ride depends on the size of your car, with prices starting at $25 each way. Additionally, if you prefer a faster option, you can park your car in Almirante in one of the car parks available and take a water taxi to Bocas Del Toro.