What's it like to Dive in Bocas del Toro?
Due to its isolation from large cities, river mouths and thanks to the fact that Bocas del Toro is outside of the Caribbean's Hurricane Zone, the reefs of Bocas Del Toro in Panama have some of the best preserved hard and soft coral in the world. Bocas del Toro is home to 95% of the coral species found in the Caribbean Sea, with many unique and endemic species to our area. The waters are inhabited by a wonderful variety of tropical reef creatures including nurse sharks, sting rays and many species of crab and lobster. When you dive in Bocas del Toro, besides all the species of colorful tropical coral, you may see spotted drum, snapper, rat fish, sea horses, moray eels, nurse sharks, sea turtles, rays, vase sponges, starfish, lobster, the list goes on and on.
Year-Round Scuba Diving Season
Diving conditions are excellent year round, especially for training, with the best times to scuba dive being February, March, May, September and October – during these months sea conditions are flatter allowing access to more remote dive sites. Regional visibility peaks during the Caribbean's Dry Season: from February to April and during September and October. The following video gives you a pretty good idea about what it's like to scuba dive in Bocas del Toro!
Rates for Scuba Diving in Bocas del Toro*
Bocas del Toro is one of the cheapest places in the world to scuba dive. If you're already certified to open water dive or if you're looking for a scuba diving course, in Bocas del Toro, you'll find the best deals in Central America... by far!
The following rates are for those who already know how to scuba dive and have the appropriate diving certifications. If you'd like to learn how to scuba dive in Bocas del Toro, Panama, refresh your diving skills or gain further scuba diving certifications, check out our scuba diving courses in Bocas del Toro.
|One Tank Dive||$35 per person|
|Two Tank Dives||$60 per person|
|Night Dive||$50 per person|
|All Day Tour with 2 Tank Dives||$75 per person|
|Off-Shore 2 Tank Dives||$75 - $125 per person|
* The above prices DO INCLUDE Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales Tax. A video of your dive can be purchased for $35 and photos for $20. The All Day Tour with 2 Tank Dives visits Dolphin Bay, Coral Cay (for lunch) and Red Frog Beach ($3 admission) besides the 2 Dives and requires a minimum of 3 persons. Additional guests can join this tour and snorkel instead of diving by paying only $25 per additional guest. A Credit Card is required to make a reservation. Trips can be cancelled up to 1 week in advance with no penalty. After that a 50% penalty is charged and no-shows or cancellations within 24 hours incur in 100% penalty.
Certain Off-Shore Dives require a minimum of 2 persons and others require 3 persons, and can only be done when sea conditions permit and generally not between November and March and certain days of June and July. Exact price for Off-Shore Dives depends on distance to dive site. The selection of your dive site is made depending on weather and sea conditions. Machete Cave (2 person minimum, $75 pp), Isla Pastores (3 person minimum, $75 pp), Cayo Zapatillas All Day Trip (3 person minimum, $85 pp), Tiger Rock All Day (3 person minimum, $125 pp). Certain prices can be adjusted depending on number of guests.
The Dive Shops regularly take their guests to more than 15 dive sites and are constantly looking for new sites and new underwater adventures in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Dive sites for your scuba diving trip are chosen taking into account weather and sea conditions, your desires and wishes, and anticipated diving conditions such as visibility. Checkout some of Bocas del Toro's dive sites! Dive spots' descriptions provided by Starfleet Scuba.
Hospital point is a five minute boat ride from the town of Bocas del Toro on Isla Colón, the archipelago's main island, and is situated at the northern end of Isla Solarte. The reef starts at two meters and consists mainly of cauliflower and brain coral, which gradually descends until it becomes a wall with a depth of sixteen meters. The wall has numerous cracks and caverns, which are home to a wide variety of marine life. When the tide is right a small current will drift divers along the entire site. Hospital point features an enormous rock outcropping extending out over the reef, providing shelter for schools of silversides.
Buoy line is also situated at the northern end of Isla Solarte and slightly to the mainland side. A deep water channel marker buoy serves as a convenient descent point to begin the dive. Flat sand at seven meters slopes gradually to a reef starting at twelve meters and falling away to more than twenty. This is the inshore site where you are most likely to encounter slightly stronger currents and therefore, also the most likely site to find pelagics and larger marine species.
Discovered by one of Starfleet's very own Divemasters, Manuel's Wall lies just inside the deep channel off Isla Solarte. The site consists of two walls, the first at fourteen meters and the second at twenty two meters. This is one of the deepest inshore sites where depths in excess of thirty meters can be reached.
Coral Garden lies on the westerly side of Isla Solarte. This site boasts some of the best Coral in the region and is a must-see for all visiting divers. Depths range from four to eighteen meters.
The Log get it's name from the bough of an old tree which used to break the surface of the dive site, but now lies on the bottom at around nine meters. The site itself features one of the widest variety of coral formations in the area, which stretch along a two kilometer run with depths from six to eighteen meters.
Visited predominantly on all day diving tours, Crawl Cay offers some of the best coral formations in the region and is situated in the channel at the southern end of Isla Bastimentos. Maximum depth twenty meters.
Situated twenty minutes from the town of Bocas del Toro, this dive site lies between Isla Colon and Isla San Cristobal. It centers around marker nineteen on the deep shipping channel, where the sea bed crests towards the surface creating a circular reef. Depths range from nine to twenty meters.
The bad news is that this is actually a dive site. The good news is that the site lies in the sea of Isla Colon and is adjacent to the airport runway. The water here is usually the calmest of all dive sites and covers a sloping reef which stretches around the base of the island.
The wreck in question is that of an old landing craft which was intentionally sunk in 2000 to create an artificial reef. It lies above the reef which surrounds Isla Colon's most southerly point. Divers can explore the wreck at the beginning of their dive and hopefully meet its resident nurse shark before dropping onto the reef below to continue their exploration.
A circular reef in the bay in front of Bocas town forms the Playground. This site has more soft coral formations than most others in the area and turtles can often be seen here. Maximum depth sixteen meters.
For sure the best dive in the area. 40 km away from Bocas town is this beautiful group of pinnacles where life is abundant. Here you can see large schools of fish, sharks and huge parrot fish among others. This trip is only done if sea conditions are calm. Trips leave at 9:00 am and come back around 5:00 pm. On the way back boats stop at Zapatillas Cays for lunch and to spend some time at the nicest beach around. Maximum depth 35 meters.
Great dive -- a little further away compared to the other dive spots but well worth the journey to the most beautiful island in the archipelago. There are very nice swims that make this dive a very nice one. Maximum depth 12 meters.
Escudo de Veraguas Island
110 km from Bocas there is this archipelago that is breathtaking. Lots of dive sites in the area. Overnight trips are offered to these islands staying in tents and eating lots of great seafood!
Other offshore dives in Bocas del Toro also include Polo Beach, Wash Rock and Dolphin Rock.
The "inside" dive locations are excellent for beginners: shallow dive sites without strong currents or big waves. On the outside reefs you will find numerous caves and caverns. Colourful sponges and abundant macro life offer lots of possibilities for underwater photographers. Flamingo tongue snails, arrow crabs, feather duster worms and brittle stars will provide good photo opportunities. Dive sites include slopping coral reef, walls, overhangs, vast sandy areas full of coral blocks and sponges and even a shipwreck.
Due to calm conditions and highly competitive pricing, Bocas del Toro is amongst the best and most affordable places in the world to participate in scuba education! Whether discovering the underwater world for the first time, advancing your existing certification, or simply in need of a refresher, Bocas del Toro in Panama's Caribbean is your place to go!
Scuba Diving Courses in Bocas del Toro, Panama*
|Discover Scuba Diving||$65 per person (1 tank dive)
$90 per person (2 tank dive)
|Scuba Diver Course||$190 per person|
|Open Water Course||$250 per person|
|Advanced Open Water Course||$225 per person|
|Rescue Diver Course||$265 per person|
|Emergency First Response||$95 per person|
|Specialty Courses||Upon Request|
|Master Scuba Diver||-|
|Divemaster||$650 per person|
|Open Water Scuba Instructor||$950 pers person|
|Emergency Frist Responder Instructor||$250 per person|
|Materials for IDC and EFRI||$300 per person|
|PADI Exam Fee for IDC||$620 per person|
* The above prices DO include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales Tax. A video of your dive can be purchased for $35 and photos for $20. A Credit Card is required to make a reservation. Trips can be cancelled up to 1 week in advance with no penalty. After that a 50% penalty is charged and no-shows or cancellations within 24 hours incur in 100% penalty. For certain courses, cost of materials and exams also have to be added. Please contact us for more information.
This half day PADI program introduces participants to scuba diving in a highly supervised and relaxed environment. It serves to dispel common misconceptions about scuba diving and is often the first step on the path to becoming a recreational diver. The Discover Scuba Diving program allows you to experience the under water world using scuba without getting certified. The program involves some basic theory, shallow water skills practice and an offshore dive.
The Discover Scuba Diving experience runs daily from 7:30 or 8:30 a.m. until 12 or 1 p.m. Minimum age required is 10 years of age and you will dive to a maximum of 12 meters. Once completed, you are eligible to continue diving with the dive shop that you did it with for the duration of your trip. It can count as credit towards your Open Water Certification, in which case the cost of your Discover Scuba Diving Course is discounted from the Open Water (OW) Course.
This course is a partial certification program made up of key sections of the Open Water course. After completing it you will be qualified to dive with a PADI Divemaster to maximum depth of 12 meters. The course is 1.5 - 2 days long. For those studying Spanish, it can be completed in 3 to 4 half day sessions. It comprises 3 modules of theory, 3 modules of confined water skills plus two open water dives.
The Scuba Diver course runs daily from 8 a.m. and includes course materials, all equipment and certification with PADI. Minimum age required is 10 years of age. Upon completion you can upgrade to the Open Water Course and just pay the difference.
This course is a full certification program for worldwide independent diving. The course is 3 - 4 days long (or 6 to 8 half days if you're learning Spanish) and entails 5 modules of theory (including the PADI Open Water video to enhance your learning and a complete a series of Knowledge Reviews followed by a final exam), 5 modules of confined water skills training, and 4 open water dives (it is a performance based program meaning you'll be spending plenty of time in the water practicing skills and demonstrating you diving capabilities).
The Open Water course is the most internationally recognised scuba qualification in the world. It runs daily from 8 a.m. and includes course materials (including the PADI Open Water Manual for independent study), all equipment and certification with PADI. Minimum age requirement is 10 years of age and you will be able to dive up to 18 meters deep. Participants aged 10 to 15 years will be awarded the Junior Open Water certification.
The PADI Scuba Review is designed to help qualified divers back into the water after a period of inactivity. Our Instructors or Divemasters will review key areas of theory, recap and practice essential dive skills before you re-enter the open water environment. The Scuba Review program does not include a dive. The Scuba Review program is conducted daily from 8.30 a.m.
This course is for qualified divers (with an Open Water Course certification) who wish to expand their skills and diving experiences. Being an Advanced Diver means you have completed training in five specialized areas of diving, two of which are requirements for this certification: Deep Diving and Navigation. The remaining three specialties can be chosen from Multilevel Diving, Peak Performance Buoyancy, Photography, Search and Recovery, Underwater Naturalist, Night Diver, Nitrox or Drift and Wreck.
The course is usually conducted over two days (or 4 half days) and involves 2 core dives in deep diving and navigation and a further 3 dives chosen from the list of specialties. The Advanced Open Water qualification is run daily from 8 a.m. and includes course materials, all equipment and certification with PADI, which counts toward the Master Scuba Diver rating. It is an extremely popular program with recently qualified divers as it offers supervised experience in a variety of new environments.
This course will help you to refine and further develop your accident prevention and management skills. The program will teach you how to manage an emergency situation from the shore, boat or in the water. This course is both rewarding and challenging, is taken over a 3 day period (or 6 half days) and involves extensive First Aid and dive theory plus 12 practical rescue scenarios. Rescue Divers learn to look beyond themselves and consider the safety and well being of other divers. Although this course is challenging, it is a rewarding way to build your confidence. Many divers say this is the best course they've ever taken.
The Rescue Diver course is run on request and includes course materials (including book), all equipment and certification with PADI. Rescue Diver training will prepare you to prevent and anticipate problems and, if necessary, manage dive emergencies. During the five open water sessions, you'll cover:
- Self-rescue and diver stress
- emergency oxygen delivery systems
- diving first aid
- swimming and non-swimming rescue techniques
- emergency management and equipment
- panicked diver response
- underwater problems
- missing diver procedures
- surfacing the unconscious diver
- in-water rescue breathing protocols
- egress (exits)
- first aid procedures for pressure related accidents
- dive accident scenarios
It is a requirement for all students starting the Rescue Diver Course to have successfully completed an internationally recognised First Aid course within the past 2 years. Students without this requirement can take the Emergency First Response course which is an additional $65 when run together with the Rescue Diver program (or $95 just for the First Aid Course). This course takes 1 additional day (or 2 half days).
Our Instructors arethe most qualified in Panama and can teach a range of 13 specialty programs for those divers wishing to focus their scuba skills on specific disciplines. These programs involve between 2 and 4 dives and are designed to improve knowledge and practical skills in the chosen areas.
Specialty programs are conducted on request. Achieving PADI Specialty ratings can take anywhere from as little as one day to a full weekend - but this is all hands-on, so you'll be diving right from the start.
This is the highest non-professional rating that can be achieved in the PADI System of diver education. To be awarded you will need to be qualified to Rescue Diver level and have also completed at least 5 specialty ratings.
What do you need to accomplish this level?
- PADI Open Water Diver certification (or qualifying certification from another organization)
- PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification (or qualifying certification from another organization)
- PADI Rescue Diver certification (or qualifying certification from another organization)
- 50 logged dives
- Five PADI Specialty course certifications
- Minimum age: 15 years old (12 for Junior Master Scuba Diver)
PADI Master Scuba Diver indicates you have a significant amount of training and experience in a variety of dive environments.
The PADI Divemaster course is the first professional level in the PADI system. The course is made up of 3 areas - knowledge development, water skills and stamina, and practical application. During the course you will develop new leadership skills and professional level knowledge and abilities, qualifying you to supervise dive activities and assist instructors with student divers.
The course is challenging and demanding but by earning this certification you will be distinguished as both an accomplished diver and leader. The course can be completed in 10 days although most candidates prefer to do an apprenticeship within the dive academy. Dive shops in Bocas del Toro can put together a training package to suit individual requirements which can include food and accommodation. The apprenticeship gives you first hand experience of the role of a divemaster within a controlled environment.
The Divemaster program is conducted upon request for the 10-day straight course - candidates are required to purchase their course materials in addition to the course fees. A more popular alternative to the 10 day program is to participate in an internship over a number of weeks. With this option candidates will gain real world skills working with divers and students and learning how a busy dive school operates. Working closely with our PADI Instructors, you'll expand your dive knowledge and hone your skills as you become a dive professional. PADI Divemaster training develops your leadership abilities by training you to supervise dive activities and assist instructors with student divers.
What can PADI Divemasters do?
- Work at local dive centers, on live-aboard dive boats, yachts and at exotic resort locations
- Assist PADI Instructors with students
- Lead PADI Scuba Divers on guided dive tours
- Teach and certify PADI Skin Divers
- Teach PADI Discover Snorkeling programs
- Conduct PADI Scuba Review programs for certified divers
- Lead certified divers on Discover Local Diving experiences
- Teach Emergency First Response programs after successful completion of an Emergency First Response Instructor course.
What do I need to start?
- PADI Advanced Open Water Diver or qualifying certification from another training organization
- PADI Rescue Diver certification or qualifying certification from another training organization.
- Medical clearance signed by a physician
- 20 logged dives
- 18 years old
What will I do?
- Learn dive leadership through classroom and independent study sessions
- Complete water skills and stamina exercises in confined and open water
- Training exercises to test organizational and problem solving abilities
- An internship or series of practical training exercises
The PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor program is your final step in the quest to become a PADI Instructor. During the IDC (Instructor Development Course), you'll learn to use and adapt the PADI System of diver education to individual student needs. Comprehensive training, supported by a wide variety of PADI educational materials, earns PADI Instructors respect from both students and peers. PADI Instructors may conduct the entire range of PADI programs - from Discover Scuba through Divemaster.
What do you need to start?
- PADI Assistant Instructor certification or be an instructor in good standing with another training organization for at least six months (check with a PADI Course Director or PADI Office for qualifying credentials)
- Hold a dive certification for at least six months
- Have 60 logged dives that include night, deep and navigation dives
- Proof of CPR training within the last 24 months
- Medical clearance signed by a physician
What will you do?
- Knowledge development through self-study, quizzes, lectures and presentations
- Confined water skill review and assessment, workshops and presentations
- Open water workshops, rescue assessment and candidate presentations
- Have at least 100 logged dives prior to entering a PADI Instructor Exam
What materials are needed?
- PADI Instructor Manual
- Instructor Candidate Workbook
- Open Water Lesson Planning Slate
- Confined Water Lesson Preparation Slate
- Open Water Aquatic Cue Cards
- Confined Water Aquatic Cue Cards
- The Law and the Diving Professional
- The Business of Diving
- The Best of The Undersea Journal
- Log Book
- Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty Instructor Outline
- Project AWARE Specialty Program Instructor Outline
- Aware Coral Reef Conservation Specialty Instructor Outline
- Open Water Diver Manual
- Recreational Dive Planner, The Wheel and table, and Instructions for Use Booklets
- Open Water Diver Quizzes and Exam booklet
- Adventures in Diving Manual
- Rescue Diver Manual
- Rescue Diver Final Exams Booklet
- Divemaster Manual
- Divemaster Final Exams Booklet
This program comprises 2 or 3 phases
- Phase I - Instructor Development Course (IDC) conducted over 12 days
- Phase II - Instructor Examination (IE) conducted over 2 days by PADI
- Phase III - EFR Instructor and Specialty Instructor Courses begin following the Instructor Examination
Want to become a PADI Instructor? Bocas del Toro is the base for Panama's only PADI Course Director. Instructor Development Courses are programmed throughout the year - the next IDC will begin on July 21st 2012.
Bocas Dive Center is Bocas Del Toro's newest dive company. Started by Edgardo Ibarra, Padi's only Panamanian Course Director (which is PADI's highest posible instructor level), Bocas Dive Center is ready to start taking Bocas diving to a whole new level. Bocas Dive Center is located on Second Street, on Colon Island, across from the park. With brand new equipment, compressor, boat and tanks, you can rest assured you will be diving with the best Bocas has to offer.
It all began as a routine supply stop for PADI Instructor Ricardo Porras. Taken in by the positive island vibes and exceptional dive conditions he decided to set up shop. In November 2007, with the help of close friend Diego Florez, they built and renovated La Buga Dive Center & Adventures. Backed by many years experience working for and operating dive centers, they established high standards for equipment and service to provide the best range of customized dive experiences Bocas has to offer.
Starfleet Scuba is Panama's most reputable scuba diving operator and was the first 5 Star Instructor Centre in the country - ensuring that the education and service you receive areconsistently provided to the highest possible standards. Our Training Academy has built a reputation second to none. Located on Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro - the hidden jewel of the Caribbean - the water temperature averages 30 degrees C and plays host to one of the widest range of marine life in the Southern Caribbean.
The Dutch Pirate has been expanded and relocated to Isla Colon. Our experienced instructors offer courses in English, Spanish, German, Dutch and French. We are the proud new owners of a comfortable fast 30ft dive boat that transports our clients to the dive locations in style. We have also invested in new equipment and a new compressor to keep on providing the quality our divers are used to.
At Habla Ya Spanish School in Bocas del Toro, Panama we only work with the top dive shops in our area. We will make sure that you have the time of your life while you scuba dive in Bocas del Toro!