I’ve been to a lot of beaches in my travels and I’ve got to say that this past week, I’ve seen some of the most beautiful, tranquil, pristine beaches ever. It’s rainy season here but last week it was beautiful in the afternoons so I took full advantage of the blue skies and explored every day.
Bocas del Toro includes a group of islands and I am staying on Isla Colon. It is cheap and quick to take a boat over to the other islands which makes it easy to island hop. Here’s a map for your reference 🙂
On Monday, my classmate (Natalie) and I took a boat over to Isla Carenero (just southeast of Isla Colon) around 4 pm. The boat ride is only $1.50 and it takes just about 5 minutes to get there. Easy peasey. We just wandered around and were happy to have our feet in the warm Caribbean water.
On Tuesday, I went out exploring with my friend/classmate Lizzie. We rented bikes and did the 30 minute haul down a very rocky road to get to Playa Bluff.
It was gorgeous. I loved it because it was so clean (not a speck of trash), there was hardly anyone there, and there weren’t any vendors trying to sell you anything. It felt raw and secluded. Perfect for relaxing. I wanted to go in the sea but the waves we too big and powerful. Not a swimming beach! Lizzie read and I took a nap.
It was the 4th of July that day and on the way back we stopped at a beach bar to celebrate.
On Thursday I headed to the other side of Isla Colon with 3 of my classmates to get to Playa Estrella– Starfish Beach!
It was incredibly beautiful! Everywhere we walked looked just like what you think of when you hear the word “paradise”. Again, so incredibly clean, crystal clear water, not crowded, very quiet…..and huge starfish at our feet!! It felt magical.
We saw 8 or 10 starfish when we were there. My professor at school told me that 10 years or so ago there were hundreds…..but then tourists came and started picking them up out of the water and they started dying quickly. She said “how would you like it if some big fish grabbed you, took you out of your oxygen and held you under the water for a whole minute?” 😦
We did pick up a couple of them, but we never took them out of the water and we made sure our hands did not have any sunscreen on them. But, I still felt bad touching them at all after my teacher said it like that!
After we were done harassing the poor starfish, we soaked in the perfection of the sea; both literally and figuratively. It was a moment.
And finally…..Saturday was a full day excursion with 6 of my classmates. We took a boat and headed for Cayos Zapatillas (Zapatilla is “slipper” and it is said that the islands were created by the feet of God as they touched down from the heavens). Cayos Zapatillas are two mangrove islands, ringed by golden sand beaches and coral reefs. They are a part of the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park and are ecological sites for the endangered Hawksbill sea turtles that nest on their shores.
On our way there, we made a few fun stops.
Stop 1: Sloth island. Sloths are called “lazy bears” and this is now one of my favorite Spanish words to say: “osos perezosos”. Say that fast five times. We saw a few hanging out in the trees, not moving, being very sloth-like.
Stop 2: Dolphin Bay. We saw about 5 dolphins swimming around and having fun.
Stop 3: Snorkeling by the coral reef. After coming from the freezing cold, yet very refreshing, Pacific Ocean- it was SO incredibly nice to swim around in bath water. I saw lots of little Dory looking fish and way too many jellyfish.
Stop 4: Deep boarding! Ever heard of it? Probably not unless you’ve been to Bocas because I don’t think they do it anywhere else yet! It’s kind of hard to describe so you can watch a video of it (click here). Basically, it’s a new way to explore the underwater world by holding onto a fin-type board and being pulled by a boat while snorkeling. By turning the board up or down, left or right- you shoot through the water so quickly and can dive down deep and get a really good look at everything, then shoot back up for another gasp of air before you go down again. It gives you the sensation of flying effortlessly under water like a fish or a dolphin or a mermaid or something. It was an amazing sensation and it far exceeded my expectations! I could have done it all day.
Stop 5: Isla Zapatilla. Here is an ariel view so you can see how dense the mangroves are.
We walked through the mangroves to check out the beach on the other side of where we docked. It was a gorgeous, lush green from top to bottom and it gave off the sounds of life all around.
We followed the bridge to the other side which was a bit rough at times…..
And when we started to reach the edge of the mangroves I knew we were coming upon something spectacular….
It wasn’t just the look of it (although that is pretty perfect), but also the feel of it. We were all so excited to be there and played in the water like kids for an hour.
So there you have it! Six days, three islands, four amazing beaches, one joyful Kelly.