Getting to Bocas del Toro
There are two routes into Bocas del Toro Province, one over the lush, jagged mountains from Chiriqui, the other from the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Buses travel both of these routes.
By bus and boat from Costa Rica
From Costa Rica take a bus to the border town of Sixaola – the MEPE bus company run buses to Sixaola from San Jose, Limón and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.
The border is a little bit tricky. On the Costa Rican side you have to first pay your exit tax (US$7 if paid by card, or US$8 in cash – the card machine may not be working) at a little store next to the bridge. Next, walk onto the bridge, up to the door of the main immigration office and ask for an immigration form. Fill it out and queue up for your exit stamp. After getting your stamp, walk across the old railway bridge (watch out for all the loose boards and don’t fall through any of the holes to the river below!). You are now in Panama.
At the first office on the other side of the bridge you must pay US$4 for a sticker that goes in your passport. Once you have the sticker, walk down off the bridge and to your left to the immigration office. Queue up for your entry stamp – be aware that you may be asked for proof of a return ticket out of Panama, have one ready (real or fake). The border is open 7am-5pm Costa Rican time and 8am-6pm Panamanian time (there is a 1hour time difference between the countries).
Once finished with your paperwork you can take a US$1 chicken bus to Changuinola and change there to another bus (US$1.50) to Almirante, or pay US$7-10 for a shared taxi to take you direct. From Almirante there are frequent boats to Bocas Town on Isla Colón for US$6 (US$5 for Panamanians) and taking about 30minutes.
By shuttle and boat from Costa Rica
- From San Jose Airport and San Jose & Alajuela Hotels to Bocas del Toro Easy Ride Shuttle Services offers daily trips at 06.30am. Shuttle will make a lunch break in Puerto Viejo for 1 hour and continue to Bocas del Toro. Service includes Ground Transportation and taxi boat from Almirante to Bocas Town. From Bocas del Toro boat leaves from Taxi 25 office at 08.00 am and goes directly to San Jose and Alajuela Hotels also drop off at SJO airport rate is $69 each way per person.
- From Puerto Viejo, Caribbean Tours runs a shuttle service that includes transport all the way to Bocas del Toro town. It departs Puerto Viejo (or Cahuita, Punta Uva or Manzanillo) around 8:00am and includes hotel pickup and a van to the border. After you cross, there is a waiting van on the Panamanian side to Almirante, then the boat to Bocas del Toro, arriving about 1:00pm Panamanian time. Price is $25-30, and it can be booked at some travel agencies in Puerto Viejo or at the Caribbean Tours office near the bus station.
By bus and boat from Panama City
- From Panama City, Taxi 25 offers direct buses to/from Almirante. Price is $28. From there, take the boat to Bocas del Toro.
- There are several daily AirPanama flights into Bocas del Toro from Panama City, departing from the Albrook domestic airport (PAC). The one hour flight starts at $80 each way after taxes and fees. There is a $3 “environmental contribution tax” payable in cash upon arrival at the Bocas del Toro airport. A private taxi from Tocumen international airport (PTY) to Albrook domestic airport (PAC) will cost approximately $35.
- AirPanama recently started flying from David International airport (DAV) to Bocas del Toro once a day, starting at $70 each way after taxes and fees thus connecting the tourist area of Boquete via air to Bocas.