Any traveler knows that the most popular places tend to be the most over populated. This is no different in Bocas Del Toro, Panama. Isla Colon, also referred to as Bocas Town, is the main island in the tropical paradise, but it is surrounded by a lot of competition. All of the islands have access to the same activities and boast magnificent views, so regardless of where you choose to stay you can’t lose. When you are ready to escape the tourist traps and bad American cuisine I encourage you to travel to Old Bank on the island of Bastimentos, a true hidden gem in Bocas Del Toro.
Old Bank is a small neighborhood of the island with plenty of hostels, guesthouses and rustic havens to rent a room or an entire place if traveling with a large group. To give you an idea of how far off the beaten path you will be, there are no cars or motorized vehicles of any kind in Old Bank. With only one sidewalk leading throughout the entire neighborhood (which you can walk entirely in less than 20 minutes), everything you need is close regardless of where you choose to lodge. The population is estimated to be somewhere between 400 – 1000, making for a tight knit community that speak English, Spanish and a local dialect referred to as guari-guari, reminiscent of Jamaican Patois.
As for food, you are completely in luck! This is one of the few places in Bocas to get authentic Caribbean food and it is very cheap, the plate of the day at the popular restaurant Kecha and Alvin’s is only $5. When you are ready for dessert you can hike up to Up in The Hill for the best brownies in Bocas. Up in The Hill is a very cool place, owned by a small expat family, hidden in the jungle. They offer all types of organic oils and creams they make on location from their farm. There are three small stores in Old Bank so that you can purchase basic groceries and any toiletries you forgot at home.
Old Bank has all of the activities you need to fulfill a true tropical adventure. For the nature lovers you can simply take a hike through the beautiful island, which has breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea, as well as the other islands. You can even take a hike through the jungle to a beach that few tourists have learned about, Wizard Beach, with beautiful clear water and white sand. If you are more into the relaxing beach day, you can always catch a boat at the park to Wizard Beach, Polo Beach or Red Frog Beach all of which are on the island of Bastimentos.
The next time you find yourself in Panama heading to Bocas Del Toro or looking for a tropical vacation off the beaten path, remember the beautiful island of Bastimentos. Regardless of the type of vacation you are looking for, there is something for everyone. If you are too afraid to commit your entire trip be sure to at least take a day trip and check out the island, which is only a $3 boat ride from the Isla Colon.