My fiance and I recently traveled to Bocas del Toro, Panama. We showed up with no specific plans, thinking we'd stay for a couple of nights. We met a very friendly local, Antoin, on the shuttle from Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, who suggested we might stay on his home island, Bastimentos. This is a much calmer, more relaxing setting than Isla Colon. If you are partier, stay on Colon. If you want to chill with the locals, head over to Bastimentos. Tio Tom's staff, currently pension-sitting for their friends, is a couple from Holland. They have given up the rat race in favor of basic living and a slower pace. Roberto and his wife offer tons of great advice, helpfully set up day tours, and cook up hearty, comforting food. (Incidentally, Antoin is a great guide for hire for various trips.) They also give good information about the island locals, with advice about where to shop to support local families, where to get good coffee, who to talk to at what restaurant to get the best meal, and the damage caused by the Red Frog Beach Resort development. Prices for food are very budget-friendly. The rooms are good-sized with private bathrooms and lock boxes. Check that the fan in yours has a good kick, or you might be a little hot at night. Open, screenless windows afford views of the water, as does a peek through the floorboards. Walls are thin. Water resources are limited on the island, and guests are strongly encouraged to take short showers and generally be mindful of their usage, something we found refreshing. Internet is available for free. Snorkeling gear and a kayak are available to rent for cheap. There is a nice reading area with hammocks. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are available for cheap. The establishment feels secure, friendly, and very relaxing. At night the skies are beautiful, and the laid-back pace of life is comforting. We ended up staying for 5 days.
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