Isolated from the rest of Panama until the 1980s, Bocas del Toro Province owes much of its distinct Afro-Caribbean character to the 19th-century banana boom, which brought the wealth, plantations and migrant workers so crucial to its independent development. Today, ramshackle communities cling to the shores of rum-soaked islands. Indolent beaches flank verdant rainforests, home to scores of colourful birds, butterflies and tiny psychedelic frogs. World-class waves pound the sands, while delicate coral gardens and eerie underwater caverns occupy the protected waters just offshore. The archipelago’s superlative natural attractions are partially protected by the Parque Nacional Bastimentos – part rainforest, part marine park, home to populations of dolphins and sea turtles. But all this natural beauty has brought unprecedented attention to Bocas del Toro and its islands are now under threat from over-development.
Fortunately, tourism on the mainland is much less advanced, with dense banana plantations and a single road skirting the coast. Beyond here lies the Kingdom of the Naso with its impenetrable jungles, crocodile-infested waterways and vivid indigenous culture.
Come prepared. Bocas del Toro has its own micro-climate that can see heavy rain at all times of the year.
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