Are you planning to do some Scuba Diving in Bocas Del Toro?
If you’re looking for an unforgettable scuba diving experience, Bocas Del Toro is the place to go. Located in north Panama, this group of islands offers some of the best dive sites in Central America.
In March 2023 we had the opportunity to do 4 dives at different dive sites in Bocas Del Toro. And we’re so glad we took it!
With its crystal clear waters and lots of marine life, it’s no wonder why so many experienced divers flock here every year. Whether you’re a beginner or have lots of experience, plenty of dive sites are available to explore.
From shallow reefs to deep walls and many wrecks, the Bocas Del Toro underwater world has a lot to see.
Is it Worth Diving In Bocas Del Toro?
It is definitely worth diving in Bocas Del Toro. There are many different dive sites, shipwrecks, reefs, and underwater life.
We’ve done quite a lot of diving in Central and South America, and Bocas Del Toro is still one of the best diving destinations we’ve visited!
The water around Bocas has great visibility. It’s easy to see your buddy, and the marine life is easy to spot.
The shipwrecks in the area, which are intentionally sunken, also make Bocas a great diving spot. They’re fully taken over by the sea life. Corals grow on the top and sides, and both big and small fish have made it their home.
Some of them are open and you can swim through them. Only through the small areas though, since you need a wreck diving speciality certificate to actually go inside wrecks!
These wrecks are not suitable for wreck diving anyway, since they’re quite small.
Other than the wrecks, the area is full of coral. They’re actively growing coral to make Bocas an even better diving area and to preserve the life underwater. You’ll see this in action when you dive at Mangrove Point. Which is a great site!
Best Time Of The Year For Diving In Bocas Del Toro
Bocas Del Toro is great for diving all year round. But rain and clouds won’t improve visibility underwater. In contrary. It’s ideal to plan your trip around the rainy seasons.
The prime time for scuba diving in Bocas del Toro is during the dry seasons – from February to May, and from September to November.
The water temperature in Bocas is usually quite high. In the coldest month, January, the average water temperature is around 82°F. Which is 27.6°C.
Top Dive Centers in Bocas Del Toro
There are 4 dive shops on Bocas Del Toro. 3 on Colon Island, and 1 on Carenero.
In order, based on reviews, these are the 4 dive shops:
- Panama Dive School – 5/5
- Bocas Dive Center – 4.8/5
- Bocas Pirates Dive Center – 4.8/5
- La Buga Dive And Surf – 4.6/5
To be fair, there aren’t any “bad” dive shops in Bocas Del Toro. We went with Bocas Pirates Dive Center, because they had space when we wanted to go. Any dive shop on Bocas is a good dive shop!
Bocas Dive Center is the dive shop on Caranero. But that’s only a $1 boat ride away.
Cost of Diving in Bocas Del Toro
Not fully unimportant: What does diving in Bocas Del Toro cost? Well, that fully depends on the type of diving and the dive school. I’ll discuss the current (17th of June 2023) prices for the PADI Open Water and 2-tank fun dives per dive school.
Most of these schools also offer other trips, like to Tiger Rock and night dives.
Panama Dive School
This dive school offers 2 tank dive trips for $80. A very decent price! It gets even cheaper if you book 2 days with them, which will be $140.
If you’d like to get your PADI Open Water with them (definitely get certified if you want to dive more often!), you’ll be $340 lighter.
Check all of their prices on their website.
Bocas Dive Center
While Bocas Dive Center does not have any prices on their website for fun dives, I have reached out to them to find out. The price of a 2-tank/half-day diving trip is $110.
Disclaimer: This is what they’ve told me personally over e-mail. Prices could be different if you just show up at their dive centre, although I doubt it.
They do have prices for the Open Water certification on their website: $420. While still cheap if you compare it to the rest of the world, they are very highly rated which could mean the price difference is worth it. Plus, they’re the ONLY PADI 5-star IDC. Which is incredible!
You can definitely expect a highly professional dive centre.
You can find prices for the courses on this page.
Bocas Pirates Dive Center
This is the dive centre we picked. They’re professional, easy to reach by WhatsApp and have experienced dive masters.
For a 2-tank dive, you can expect to pay $90. Which is a decent price if you ask me!
They also offer courses, and for the Open Water course, you’ll pay a mere $320.
Check their other prices on their website.
La Buga Dive and Surf
While we didn’t dive with this centre, we did eat at their restaurant multiple times. I recommend it, it’s great!
The price for a 2-tank dive trip with La Buga Dive and Surf is $95.
If you chose this dive centre for your PADI Open Water, it’ll set you back $340.
Check all of their prices right here.
For easy reading, here’s a price table:
|Price of 2 fun dives
|Price of PADI Open Water
|Panama Dive School
|$80 ($140 for 2 days)
|Bocas Dive Center
|Bocas Pirates Dive Center
|La Buga Dive and Surf
Our Experience Diving with Bocas Pirates
As mentioned before, we chose Bocas Pirates as our dive centre. We don’t regret it for a second! We did 4 dives spread over 2 days. All at different dive sites. Although we are Advanced Open Water divers, we didn’t go any deeper than 18 meters. This means you can enjoy these dives with the Open Water certification too.
Location and Equipment
The shop itself is located in the north of the town on Colon Island, a 5-minute walk from the park. Their equipment was decent, although the wetsuits were a little damaged.
Their regulators, masks, and SPGs were all in good condition. We’ve had better, but it all did the trick safely. And that is the most important.
I have noticed that most dive schools have different equipment for courses and fun dives. The equipment you get for fun dives is always safe, but usually a little older.
This might be the case for Bocas Pirates Dive Center too.
Dive Sites We Visited in Bocas Del Toro
There a quite a lot of dive sites in Bocas Del Toro. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to visit all of them.
Which is a shame, because we loved diving here so much, we wanted to stay. But we had other stuff booked, so we had to leave Bocas Del Toro.
These are the dive sites we did do:
A gem of dive sites! This healthy coral reef is full of diverse sea life. You’ll have the chance to spot the Spotted Drumfish while diving here.
With a maximum depth of 15 meters/50ft, it’s the perfect spot for divers looking to experience the beauty of the Bocas Del Toro ocean floor without taking too deep a plunge.
This channel is named after the famous banana company. The channel was primarily used by this company for their freight ships which made it unsafe for divers. But since they’ve moved their route, the area is now a great diving spot.
This is also why Bocas Del Toro is not very known in the diving community. It didn’t have many dive sites because of this.
Anyway, let’s get back to the topic. This dive is similar to Pandora with the corals, but it’s a wall dive going all the way down to 30 meters if you keep going. We didn’t and stayed within 15 meters of the surface.
Mangrove Point is FULL of starfish. It was fun to see! This is one of the easier dive sites because of the lack of currents. You’ll only go to a depth of 12 meters, so the dives could last a bit longer due to the lower air consumption.
Our dive lasted more than an hour, which is the longest one we’ve done so far. It felt like 20 minutes though, that’s how good it was!
The Ferry Wreck
Imagine yourself diving into the depths of the ocean and stumbling upon a small sunken ferry that’s been resting there for over 15 years. It’s an underwater haven for small fish, arrow crabs, cleaner shrimp, pufferfish, and even tiny seahorses.
The ferry sits at a depth of 7-8 meters (depending on the tides), making it a popular spot for beginner divers completing their PADI Open Water course.
But don’t think this shipwreck loses its magic when the sun goes down – it’s actually one of the most popular sites for night diving!
The active sea life and spooky crevices create an eerie and exciting atmosphere. And if you’re lucky enough to witness it during a new moon, you’ll be treated to an awe-inspiring display of bioluminescence, illuminating the natural beauty of the ocean.
It’s no surprise why this underwater gem is a popular spot for diving in Bocas del Toro.
This was my favourite site. Can you tell?
More Great Dive Spots in Bocas Del Toro
We visited 4 sites, but there are so many more! I won’t go over all of them, just the most popular ones.
When the current is calm, it’s considered one of the most beautiful spots around the island. The abundance of life and colours here are unmatched by other locations, and it’s a great spot for shark sightings.
Even though it’s quite a distance from shore, Tiger Rock is still considered one of the top dive sites in Bocas del Toro. However, please note that it can only be accessed when there are no waves due to the tricky rock formations.
Located outside the bay by Isla Colon and near the indigenous community of Kusapín, this site offers divers a deep dive and depths far beyond those found closer to the shore.
But what makes this spot really special are the diverse sea creatures that call it home. You might catch a glimpse of moray eels, sharks, rays, or lobsters – just to name a few. And when the water is clear, the visibility is unparalleled compared to other dive sites in the archipelago.
A notorious coral wall at the tip of Isla Solarte and aptly named Hospital Point due to the old hospital that used to be in the area.
If you’re part of a group that includes non-divers, no worries! You can still experience the beauty of this location by snorkelling at the beginning of the wall near the shoreline.
You’ll be treated to stunning corals that start at just a few meters deep (depending on the tide).
What Can You Expect To See While Scuba Diving in Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro area is a haven of marine life, with over 70 different species of corals.
You will definitely have a field day with the different life that calls these reefs and sea floors home. We loved seeing all the diverse corals and animals all around us.
From crabs and jawfish to shrimps and lobsters, there’s no shortage of creatures to see. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot some seahorses and boxfish.
But don’t think that it’s just small animals here – you’ll also have the chance to see larger marine life at most dive sites.
Keep your eyes peeled for stingrays, puffer fish, nurse sharks, moray eels, squid, and Caribbean reef fish of all shapes and colours, like one of my favourites: the parrot fish! With such diverse marine life, every dive is sure to be unforgettable.
Other Things To Do in Bocas Del Toro
Diving is not the only great activity on Bocas del Toro. We’ve spent a few days doing several things. One day, we rented a scooter and zoomed around the island!
Visit Starfish Beach
You can probably guess the main attraction of this beach. It’s absolutely FULL of starfish! It’s quite easy to get to, and it’s a great way to spend the afternoon.
There are several bars/restaurants on the beach if you fancy a cheeky cocktail between swims.
We wrote a post about this incredible beach for more info!
Try Free Diving in Playa Estrella
Alright. You got me. This is technically diving too. But oh how it’s different!
You’ll learn breathing techniques to lower your oxygen consumption. Which means you can hold your breath a lot longer. And thus dive down without any breathing equipment. Pretty cool if you ask me!
Go Snorkelling in Cayos Zapatilla or Bastimentos mangrove reefs
These are the best snorkelling locations on the island. Lot’s of stuff to see without having to go under. Great if you’re a diver with non-diver friends.
Relax on the beach
There are a bunch of great beaches in Bocas Del Toro. Pick your favourite, take your towel, swimsuit, and water and spend a few hours relaxing. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
Beaches are a great way to relax after a busy day of diving.
Spend the afternoon at Scully’s
A popular area to take it slow. Scully’s has a bunch of restaurants in one place. Relax with some great food, and watch the waves crash onto the rocks.
What else do you need? I know, cocktails! Good thing they also have a bar with cocktails and other drinks.
You’ve heard of pub crawls. Now get ready for an island crawl!
Arguably the best party in Panama: Filthy Friday. It’s a pub crawl that covers three islands. Get ready for a massive party and make a ton of new friends along the way!
This is a great way to spend an afternoon. We didn’t participate since we had only just arrived that Friday, but we watched it happen. It looked like great fun!
How to get to Bocas Del Toro
There are two ways of getting to Bocas Del Toro: By boat and by plane. Let’s discuss both options:
The easiest way, by far, is booking a shuttle from wherever you are to Bocas Del Toro. We did this from Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, and the shuttle drops you off at the boats that take you to Bocas. The boat ticket is included in the price!
You can get tickets with Caribe Shuttle from Costa Rica and Boquete. We’ve used this company many times and are very happy with their service!
If you’d like to do it yourself, you’ll have to make your way to Zegla or Chiquiri Grande. From there you take a 30 or 45-minute boat ride to Bocas Del Toro.
The easiest way to get to Bocas Del Toro is by plane. You’ll have to fly from Panama City to the Island.
The flight only takes 50 minutes, so if you can afford it, I recommend flying.
Where To Stay While Diving in Bocas Del Toro
Bocas del Toro has some great accommodations. So, picking the best one might be challenging. These are my recommendations for affordable accommodation:
Budget option – Surfari Bocas
Located just off the main road of Bocas Del Toro, Surfari Bocas offers budget-friendly accommodations for travellers seeking comfort without breaking the bank.
It has a relaxed, easy-going atmosphere that attracts visitors who crave a balance between affordability and quality experience. We loved it!
Mid-range Option – Selina Red Frog
Selina is a well-known name in the hostel scene. They have got locations all over Central and South America.
The hostel is known for its quality and decent prices. This particular one is also known to be a bit of a party hostel, so only book if you’re up for some dancing! The party normally stops at midnight, so you can still get your night’s rest.
Diving in Bocas Del Toro FAQs
I’ve been as thorough as I could. But, in case you have any other questions, here are the frequently asked ones and their answer.
Is there good diving in Panama?
YES! Specifically Bocas Del Toro has some of the best dive sites in all of Central America. And that says a lot!
Other than that it’s quite affordable, too.
Can you dive in Panama City?
Unfortunately, according to the PADI website, there are no dive spots located in Panama City.
How long to stay in Bocas del Toro?
That fully depends on how much diving you’d like to do! You’ll need about 2 full days of exploring to see the highlights of the island. Add the amount of dives you’d like to do and that’s your ideal stay!
I recommend diving for AT LEAST 2 days, so that makes the total time in Bocas 4 full days, or 5 nights.
You can also take a look at our Panama Itinerary for more ideas on how to spend your time in Panama.
Diving in Bocas Del Toro – Final Thoughts
Diving in Bocas Del Toro is worth your while. We specifically came to this island for diving, but loved the islands so much! We were glad we stayed 5 days to see everything Bocas Del Toro has to offer.
The Diving is some of the best in Central America. Expect to see shipwrecks, lots of coral, and a whole bunch of marine life. Including sea horses.