What to do in Bocas del Toro with Kids
Have you ever travelled somewhere and the minute you arrived thought, “Hmmm… This is where we belong?” Those were the words that came to mind the moment I stepped off the plane in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Just a quick flight from Panama City, there was something in the air that made me instantly appreciate making this journey with Kiddo. We were a million miles away from home, but there’s something about see the sea from the sky that makes everything OK no matter where you are.
The Year of Adventure: Part 1 of Many
Kiddo and I were on a family tour with Eric and his son, from Travel Babbo, and Patty and her daughters from Our Whole Village, as a part of Thomson Family Adventures Panama trip. Over 8-days we were traveling the Central American country heading to the city, beach, and mountains. Bocas del Toro was our second stop and it’s hard to say, but might possibly be our favorite. There’s something so peaceful, yet exciting about this part of Panama. And the overall island vibes had this mystical way of matching the kids individual personalities as well.
First Things First: Surfing Lessons
Our tour guides scheduled the group for a morning of surf lessons with the pros at EDM Surf School. You know what a big deal this is because one of Kiddo’s favorite bands is Eagles of Death Metal. She immediately saw this as a sign and smiled. She knew this was exactly where she was supposed to be.
I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that she was a bit apprehensive at first, but that soon disappeared once her surf instructor, Leandro Non Non, assured her everything would be OK. They took a boat out into the middle of the crystal waters of the Caribbean sea where the waves were big, but not rough. They had about an hour before the storm rolled in and the water was warm and beautiful. Besides the gray skies, it was a beautiful day to learn how to surf.
She did it! I’m proud to share that Kiddo actually surfed and loved every minute and was sad to see it end. So much that not only does she want to go back, but is asking for a surfboard for Christmas this year.
The snorkeling was fantastic and those who participated really had a wonderful time. A quick ride to Coran and Man-of-War Cay, the group swam and studied the underwater landscape that resembled real life aquariums near the mangroves. Even though she’s been a few times before, this time Kiddo really fell in love with swimming in the sea with the fishes.
Sea Star Beach
The boat took us to to Sea Star Beach before lunch which I particularly loved the most because we spotted giant sea stars everywhere which I have never seen before. The water was shallow so we were able to walk in up to your knees to get a glimpse of these beautiful sea creatures. The sea stars would be in clusters so you couldn’t miss them looking so peaceful together in the warm water.
Just outside of Colón Isla, Fincas Monos Botanical Gardens is a private garden at the home of David and Lin Gillingham. Over the years, they have transformed this property from unruly jungle to beautiful lush tropical paradise with wildlife. We saw troops of howler monkeys, exotic birds, and sloths while enjoying David’s culinary greatness. The kids especially loved exploring the trails and spending time in the garden pool.
Where to Eat in Bocas del Toro
Upon arriving in Bocas del Toro we headed straight for the bay and dined at the fabulous El Ultimo Refugio. Don’t go expecting a 5-star Michelin restaurant, but you can bet you are in for a night of good food with a great atmosphere. The kids loved hanging on the dock at sunset, and the parents loved the relaxed vibe with good food and fun cocktails. There are only a few places in the world like this one, and it would be an understatement to call it a hidden gem. El Ultimo Refugio is the kind of place Anthony Bourdain would go looking for on Parts Unknown.
Oh, and they totally have a “Greetings From Asbury Park” sticker proudly displayed so you know The Boss would approve as well.
Where to Stay in Bocas del Toro with Kids
For this trip we stayed at Playa Tortuga Hotel Beach and Resort due to availability and it serves the purpose. Right on the water, we woke to beautiful sunrises and the pool was perfect for the kids. Our next visit, (yes, we will return,) we would like to try the Red Frog Beach Island Resort or Laguna Azul Eco Lodge because they both look fantastic and we’ve heard many great things about the properties. The nice thing about Bocas del Toro is that it is affordable, so your vacation budget will go a long way.
Headed to Bocas del Toro? Here Are The Best Hashtags for Panama
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