My Culinary Experiences in Bocas del Toro | My Favorite Bocas Restaurants

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My Culinary Experiences in Bocas del Toro | My Favorite Bocas Restaurants

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Eating is probably one of my biggest hobbies (after sleeping), and having lived in large metropolitan areas before I came to Panama, I have always been spoiled by the availability of many different types of cuisine. Luckily, Bocas del Toro has an awful lot of choices to offer, with many international dishes including Indian and Thai, which is quite great for such a relatively small archipelago in terms of population.

One must add that on our island, it is not always easy to find all the necessary ingredients on demand, and finding exotic spices can cost you lots of trips to David or even Panama City. When you live in Bocas, you learn that the vegetables that you have always taken for granted while living on mainland can become quite a luxury on an island: if you're not able to be there when the ferry boat arrives, they just run out!

Several times a week a Ferry Boat loaded with trucks and cars arrives to the island from Almirante brining all sorts of goods, from fuel to food
Several times a week a Ferry Boat loaded with trucks and cars arrives to the island from Almirante brining all sorts of goods, from fuel to food

For the reason stated above, I enjoy eating out because it can be quite difficult to prepare Indian of Thai food when you don’t have all the spices. So those restaurants that do offer these luxuries on a regular basis are probably the most successful ones (at least considering me as their client!). However, when deciding where to eat out, of course, you also have to consider the economic factor, besides the quality of the food you are eating... although I must confess that I do get to splurge once in a while!

At Habla Ya Spanish Schools, we take our students to a different restaurant each Friday, and have therefore been able to select our list of favorites, taking into account the quality and also the price of the meals. The goal is to eat out at a nice restaurant, obviously, but also to practice your Spanish with the staff members and students while having a fantastic time. We also do this because it is a way for us to show our support to the local businesses in our community, which is very important for us too.

Night out with Habla Ya students at Bibi's on the Beach on Carenero
Night out with Habla Ya students at Bibi's on the Beach on Carenero

But let’s get back to food - Personally, I have a preference for Asian food, Mediterranean food, and every once in awhile just a good old steak with fries, Belgian style (my mom is Belgian). Thankfully I have found some places in Bocas del Toro that offer all of these choices at a reasonable price, and with excellent quality!

If you are craving a good steak, prepared the European way (with a green creamy pepper sauce just perfect to dip your fries or potatoes in), you have to try La Casbah. At first, because of its name I thought I would mostly fin Mediterranean food (which they also have) but their Filet Mignon will just make your mouth water (it is 3pm as I am writing this and the thought of it makes me so hungry!). The owner is British, but has lived many years in Belgium...

I love the Casbah's yummy steak with sauteed potatoes and vegetables
I love the Casbah's yummy steak with sauteed potatoes and vegetables

One of my other favorites for food but also the atmosphere is Natural Mystic, which is located at the very end of the main road. Whoever has met Dave before knows how welcome he makes you feel, and even when you are not hungry you can have a glass of wine and have a nice evening with friends. My favorite appetizer there is the black bean dip (I could eat just that for dinner!) and their Lamb Kefta as a main dish when it is available. David is Turkish, so you’ve gotta taste his Kefta!

Hanging out at Natural Mystic with my friends is always a blast...
Hanging out at Natural Mystic with my friends is always a blast...

Another favorite of mine is Bibi’s on the beach, which offers the best Ceviche I have ever tasted in Panama. No kidding! They are located on Carenero Island, and I highly recommend this option if you like having a romantic date over the water, or simply a nice brunch on a sunny Sunday! The fact that it's on Carenero Island makes it a small adventure, and allows you to escape the crowds in town for a bit.

If you like Sushi, then RAW Sushi is where you need to be. The sushi is excellent, and there is always a DJ or a musician to give the evening a nice twist! Thai lovers will fall in love with the Thai soup served at Último Refugio and I just love how Katherine experiments with the local ingredients to create the most beautiful dishes (don't miss their Sesame Seared Tuna Steak, a true classic!). And if you like Indian food, you cannot miss going to Sunanda's OM Café (and I've been told that her new restaurant, Maracuyá, has quite nice Thai food too... right now it's next on my list).

At El Ultimo Refugio you will find Bocas' best Tuna
At El Ultimo Refugio you will find Bocas' best Tuna

There are many more restaurants that I like in Bocas, and I could keep writing about the delicious Greek wrap from Buena Vista or yet another succulent steak at El Pecado on main street.

Now I bet you are wondering - what about lunch? The choices are numerous, but ideally if you are looking for something not too expensive ($5 or less), but healthy, fresh and of course tasty, my number one recommendation is the little Bocas Blended bus, which serves the best wraps in town with fresh ingredients, along with some healthy fruit and veggie smoothies! Don’t miss it! Another great place is the Tropical Birds restaurant on first street, which serves tasty local dishes at a very reasonable price. The menu of the day will cost you only $3.50 and will really fill you up. If you like sandwiches, and give a lot of importance to the quality of the bread, you should try a fresh cut sandwich from the Super Gourmet.

For a quick, healthy and substantial lunch, grab a wrap at Bocas Blended with refreshing smoothie
For a quick, healthy and substantial lunch, grab a wrap at Bocas Blended with refreshing smoothie

Again this list is not complete, and I am pretty sure that I have only tasted 30% of what’s really available in Bocas town (and I haven't even mentioned the eateries out of town and in other islands of our Archipelago), but hopefully it will give you a start of ideas, when you are about to discover our beautiful Bocas! For a complete list of restaurants in Bocas del Toro click here and feel free to contact us and let us know if we're missing any restaurants on our list.

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Search our blog if you're visiting Panama! From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss, you'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while in our country! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


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2 Responses to "My Culinary Experiences in Bocas del Toro | My Favorite Bocas Restaurants"

  1. lauren says:

    You MUST try The Firefly on Bastimentos! Thai/caribbean food and amazing cocktails!

  2. Evelyne Meyer says:

    Thanks Lauren =) I came once but have to go back! Your steak was awesome!


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