Get to Bocas from Panama City, Boquete, Costa Rica, Colombia

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How to Travel to Bocas del Toro?

This page was LAST UPDATED: JULY 17TH 2018.

The following information was specially crafted for those students studying at our Spanish School in Bocas del Toro, but will come in handy for anyone visiting our stunning island paradise in Panama's Caribbean.

How to get to Bocas del Toro? First of all it all depends on:

  • how you'll be traveling into Panama (as in the country, not in the city)
  • how fast you want to make it to Bocas del Toro (with or without spending a night in Panama City, in Colombia, or in San José, Costa Rica)
  • your budget (using a domestic flight within Panama, flying into Panama from Colombia, or taking the bus once you're in Panama City or in Costa Rica)
map of Panama with location of Panama City, Boquete, David, Bocas del Toro and Paso Canoas

In this page you'll learn how to travel to Bocas del Toro depending on how you entered into our country and you'll get a good idea about how much time your journey will take.

Click HERE for more information about airlines that fly to Panama (country)...

Where will Spanish take YOU today? Bocas del Toro!

The most common ways travelers enter our country are:

Ultimately, there are several ways to travel to Bocas del Toro:


Flying into Panama City and from there going to Bocas del Toro

Instead of flying direct to Panama, you can first fly into neighboring countries Costa Rica or Colombia, and then from there make your way to Panama. There are many cheap flights between Panama and Colombia. It's useful mentioning this possibility in case you find a good deal. HERE you'll find info about flights from Colombia and Costa Rica to Panama (and come back to this page once you need the info about how to get to Bocas del Toro once you're in Panama).

Traveling from Panama City to Bocas del Toro is fairly straightforward. The airport is located on Isla Colon, the archipelago's main island and is also known as the Isla Colon International Airport (BOC).

The best way to travel? Well... it depends on what you want: fast and convenient, or taking a bit more time and saving some money. To travel from Panama City to Bocas del Toro there are mainly these options:


Flying from Panama City to Bocas del Toro

One way airplane tickets from Panama City to Bocas del Toro cost around $110 - $130 (or $210 - $250 round trip approx. - discounts are sometimes available). We are more than happy to book these flights for you for $25 per ticket per passenger if you intend to study Spanish at our schools (please contact us). Online reservations and schedules can be checked at:

AirPanama currently only flies from Panama City to Bocas del Toro from Albrook Airport (PAC, also known as Marcos A. Gelabert Airport or former Paitilla Airport). In the past they also flew from Tocumen International Airport (PTY, the airport that you'll be landing into Panama City) but right now they don't.

Tocumen Airport, the international airport, is located in the outskirts of Panama City. Albrook Airport, the domestic airport, is located within the city. It's about a 35 minute commute without traffic between both airports, or 1 - 2.5 hours with traffic. A taxi should cost around $35 and we also offer private airport pickups for our Spanish students for $45 (one of our drivers will be waiting for you with a sign with your name on it).

AirPanama's flights from Albrook Airport to Bocas del Toro depart daily around 6:30 a.m., 6:45 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. On Sundays AirPanama also offers an 8 a.m. flight. During certain times of the year, flights get completely booked, so make sure to book in advance.

If you manage to find a flight into Panama City's Tocumen Airport that lands before or just after 1:30 p.m. you can make it to Bocas del Toro on that same day flying via Albrook Airport, providing there aren't any delays or major traffic jams in Panama City.

If your flight lands after 1:30 p.m., you'll have to spend a night in Panama City. The reason for this is because the last flight from Panama City to Bocas del Toro from Albrook departs around 4:30 p.m., which means you have to be at the domestic airport by 3:30 p.m.

If your are planning to study Spanish at our school in Bocas del Toro, feel free to contact us and we will get back to you with flight options in case you don't want to spend a night in Panama City.

Air Panama has a 30 pound (14kg) baggage allowance and on their website they say that: "any excess baggage is accepted as baggage conditional and subject to available space inside the aircraft. If there is available space it will be sent on the same flight, otherwise it will be sent on the next flight". More info about Air Panama's baggage policy here. To this date we have NEVER heard of someone not being to take all of their luggage on a flight from Panama City to David so no worries! What we can't tell you is exactly how much it will cost but people tend to pay between $5 - $25 for additional luggage (sorry, but they change what they charge so check out their websites if you want up to date info!)

Panama City's hotels have one of the highest occupancy rates in the world so if you're spending a night over there and want to reserve a good room at a decent price, the sooner you book it, the better.

For information about hotels in Panama City for different budgets please click here...

A taxi from your hotel should not charge you more than $5 to take you to Albrook Airport if you're staying within Panama City.


Panama City to Almirante by Bus, and then a Boat to Bocas del Toro

If you want to save some money, then taking an overnight bus from Panama City to Almirante (10 - 11 hours), and then a boat from Almirante to Bocas del Toro (30 minutes) is the way to go.

The final destination of this bus is Changuinola (30 minutes further ahead) so make sure to get of in Almirante! There's also a bus that leaves at 8 am in the morning, but it's too tight to get to the last boat that leaves from Almirante to Bocas del Toro (6 p.m.) and traveling during the day in these buses is extremely tedious (even if they are air conditioned with reclining seats) as it stops a lot and there is more traffic.

To make this happen you first have to take a taxi from Tocumen Airport ($35) or from your hotel in Panama City to Albrook Bus Terminal (Gran Terminal de Transporte, And from there you can get your bus to Almirante. We arrange private transfers from the airport to the bus station for our Spanish students ($45), in which case one of our drivers will be waiting for you at the airport with a sign with your name on it.

Overnight buses from Panama City to Almirante depart at 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m and take around 10 to 11 hours. Buses are air conditioned, modern and have reclinable seats. You'll arrive to Almirante between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. The cost for the overnight bus ticket is approximately $30 and the boat (water taxi) costs $6. On Sundays, there is also a bus that leaves Panama City at 7 a.m.

The Bocas del Toro bus ticket office numbers are: 303-6326 and 303-6327 in Panama City, and 758-8127 in Bocas del Toro.

Ticket sales of different overnight buses open up at different times (some can be purchased a day in advance, and others only open on the day itself). They often sell out very quickly, especially from Thursdays to Sundays, during Panamanian National Holidays, and during school breaks (3 times a year and dates constantly change).

Once you arrive to Almirante, you can pay any taxi $1 to take you from the bus stop to the docks from where the boats depart to Bocas del Toro.

The first boat to Isla Colón (Bocas del Toro's main island, where our Spanish school is) departs at 6 a.m. and takes 30 minutes. Boats depart every 30 minutes until 6 p.m.

Currently there are three water taxi companies: Bocas Marine Tours ($6 USD per person), Transporte Torres and Taxi 25.

The bus that will take you back from Almirante to Panama City departs daily at 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.


Alternative: By Bus from David to Almirante (or from Boquete to David and then Almirante)

If the above bus schedules don't work for you (because you arrive into Panama City in the morning or late at night, and don't want to spend a night in Panama City), you can always take a bus to David (6 - 7 hours, $15 - $20) and from the bus terminal in David, then take a bus to Almirante (3.5 - 4.5 hours, $8). Busses from Panama City to David depart almost every hour, with the first one leaving at 5:30 a.m. and the last one leaving at 12 midnight. Busses from David to Almirante start at 3:00 a.m. and end at 9 p.m. The bus that takes you to Almirante is the one going to Changuinola. If you were visiting Boquete, you also have to go David to get to Almirante. Busses from Boquete to David start at 5:30 a.m. and run until 7 p.m.

As stated above, it's important to note, that the last boat from Almirante to Bocas del Toro departs at 6 p.m. After that there are no boats to Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro's main island, until the next morning. So if you arrive after dark, you really should spend the night in a hotel in Almirante. Sometimes someone offers boat rides at night at overpriced rates but it is not advisable at all to take a boat in the dark, as fatal accidents have happened in the past, because of boats not having appropriate lights for the evening (it doesn't have to be your boat the one without lights!).

Busses from Almirante to David depart every 30 minutes and run from 3 a.m. until 7 p.m.


Driving from Panama City to Almirante, and then a Ferry to Bocas del Toro

If you're just visiting Bocas del Toro, there really isn't any reason you'd want to have a car in Bocas del Toro. Almost everything is within walking distance. Taxis and minibuses aren't expensive and can take you to all of the beaches and surf breaks on Isla Colon. If you want to go to another island, the only way to do that is by boat. So the only reason you'd want to bring a car to Bocas del Toro is if you're relocating here and will be living out of town. If you're renting a car during your Panama vacation you can always leave it at one of the public parking places in Almirante that charge $3 per night, are fenced in and are perfectly safe.

Having said all of this, if you want to drive from Panama City to Almirante and the cross your car over to Bocas Town on the Ferry (Palanga Ferry,, Andrés Cerrud, 6615-6674, 261-0350, or MantaRaya), here is how to do it. First of all, you have to exit Panama City and get on the Interamerican highway. There are two bridges that will allow you to cross the Panama Canal: El Puente de las Américas and El Puente Centenario. Once you leave Panama City you just have to drive on the Interamerican highway to the West for about 400 km until you reach a town called "Chiriqui". If you arrive to David, you've gone too far: turn back! At the town called Chiriqui you should be able to see a sign indicating that Almirante and Chiriqui Grande are to your right (North). It's also sign posted Gualaca which is a town about 30 minutes ahead. Basically you follow that new road up North. It's very windy and with lots of hills. If it's rained a lot there could be mudslides. You drive on this road for about 2.5 hours (95 km) until you reach a town called Chiriqui Grande. At Chiriqui Grande you'll turn left (West again) and drive for a bit more than 60 kms until you reach Almirante.

In Almirante you should ask someone to direct you to the Ferry. The Ferry leaves from Tuesdays to Sundays at 7 a.m. and they start boarding vehicles at 6 a.m. There is no way to make a reservation and it's strictly a first in line, first to get on bases. Sometimes you have to lineup from the night before (another reason to not bring your car over). Having said that, it is openly known that certain firemen at the fire station are willing to take care of your car, put in line the night before and put it on the ferry on the next day for $10 - $15 USD. The ferry returns to Almirante at 3 p.m.

There is a new ferry service operated by Manta Raya. It's slightly cheaper but their schedule is more random, normally leaving Almirante at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.


By Bus from Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro Crossing through Sixaola

In San José, Costa Rica you can take a bus to Changuinola in Panama (about 7 hours plus border crossing time), which is 19 km away from Almirante, from where you'll be taking a boat (30 minutes) to Bocas del Toro. You can also take a bus from San José to Sixaola, which is located right on the Costa Rican border, do the immigration procedures, cross over to Guabito on the Panamanian side, do the rest of the immigration procedures, and then continue by other means of transportation to Almirante.

There is also a private shuttle from San José to Bocas del Toro (Costa Rica just 4 U,

If you're in other parts of Costa Rica such as Puerto Viejo, Cahuita or Manzanillo there is a shuttle that does private transfers from these destinations to Almirante and include the boat ride within their price (Caribe Shuttle,


By Bus from San José to Changuinola, and from there to Almirante and then to Bocas del Toro

With this option you'll be traveling with Transportes Bocatoreños (758 - 8511 in Panama, and 2227 - 9523 or 2259 - 1325 in Costa Rica). This bus company departs from the same bus station as Panaline does (for traveling to David in Panama from San José, Costa Rica). The station for Transportes Bocatoreños is just north of the Coca Cola Bus Terminal, in downtown San José in front of the Hotel Cocori. Buses leave at 9 a.m. and arrive at the border around 3 p.m.

At the border in Sixaola you'll have to get an exit stamp from Costa Rica, and then when you cross the border (over a bridge) to the Panamanian side (the town is called Guabito) you'll have to get your passport stamped to enter Panama. Keep in mind that you'll have to show a valid exit ticket for Panama, and if you don't have one, just purchase a bus return ticket to somewhere in Costa Rica (for more information about Panama visas click here). Then you'll be able to continue your journey to Changuinola (about another hour). In Changuinola you can take another bus to Almirante (less than $2) or a taxi (around $15). And once you arrive to Almirante take a $1 taxi to the dock, from where you can take a water taxi to Bocas del Toro ($4 or $5 depending on the company).

On your way back to Costa Rica, buses to and from Changuinola (45 minutes every 20 minutes, from 5:50am - 9 p.m., US$1.20) leave from the station near to town. With your back to the docks, turn left, and when the road dead ends walk to the right 100 m.


By Bus from San José to Sixaola, and from there to Almirante and then to Bocas del Toro

With this option you'll be using a company called Mepe (in Costa Rica 2257-8129 or 2758-1572) which departs from the Caribe bus station. This bus takes around six hours and stops in Cahuita and Puerto Viejo. The fare is around $12. If you take any later buses (other departure times: 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.), you risk not making all the required connections and might find yourself in an undesirable place to stay the night. In this case, it's advisable to stay in Puerto Viejo or Cahuita for a night instead.

Once you arrive to the border in Sixaola you'll have to get an exit stamp from Costa Rica, and then when you cross the border (over a bridge) to the Panamanian side (the town is called Guabito) you'll have to get your passport stamped to enter Panama. Keep in mind that you'll have to show a valid exit ticket for Panama, and if you don't have one, just purchase a bus return ticket to somewhere in Costa Rica (for more information about Panama visas click here).

In Guabito you can get a taxi or other type of private transportation to take you to Almirante (1 hour) for about $5 USD per person if you're sharing the ride or $15 - $20 if it's only 1 person. From Guabito you can also just take a bus to Changuinola and from there another bus to Almirante, and finally the boat to Bocas del Toro (in Almirante for $1 you can take a taxi to the docks). Or the bus to Changuinola (a bit more than $1) and then a taxi to Almirante.

Border hours on the Costa Rica side are from 8 a.m. -to 5 p.m. On the Panamanian side hours are the same but there is a time difference between Costa Rica and Panama and it is 1 hour less in Panama.


By Bus from Costa Rica Crossing through Paso Canoas

If you're traveling to Bocas del Toro from Costa Rica, the only reason you'd want to travel through the southern border with Panama (Paso Canoas) is because you're planning to visit Boquete before (as this way it's a lot longer to get to Bocas del Toro).

In which case you can find information about making the journey from San José, Costa Rica to David by bus here...