Monthly Archives: October 2013

Swap the Taxi for… Water Taxi!

In Bocas del Toro, there are a few paved roads and even fewer cars.  At the same time, there are thriving communities on the main Isla Colon and out on several other surrounding islands.  From daily tasks including the job commute and household shopping to surfing and excursions, the regular way around the Bocas del Toro archipelago is best done by boat.

Water Taxi is the local way to travel in Bocas del Toro

Water Taxi is the local way to travel in Bocas del Toro

Along the waterfront in Bocas Town on Isla Colon there are many water taxi options.  Jampan Tours is one that runs regular routes back and forth to Isla Bastimentos, as well as other places on demand.  The Red Frog Resort also can help arrange water travel around the islands as you need it.

Top 6 Reasons to Appreciate The Panga*

*Panga= Bocas del Toro term for the typically fiberglass motorboat; most common transportation choice of locals and used for water taxi.  Parks on a beach or at a dock.Appreciate the Panga: Water Taxi in Bocas del Toro
  1. Sightseeing every minute.  Bocas del Toro is no place to have your nose in a smartphone (or newspaper?).  Keep your eyes open and on the wonderland around you and you’ll spot starfish in the water underneath your ride or even dolphins playing alongside.
  2. Schedule? It’s a fluid term.  Account for the laid-back Island Time Zone that you enter in Bocas del Toro.  Also, some water taxis have covered tops, but weather can still be an influence in water conditions.  Embrace the easy going vibes as an unexpected opportunity.
  3. Anyway you like it.  Go from Isla Bastimentos to uninhabited Zapatilla Cay for postcard-worthy snorkeling, out to a local favorite surf spot, a restaurant on another island, or anywhere else in the region for just a few dollars.  No traffic, no honking, just open air and your adventure ahead.
  4. It’s Local.  Panga is the transportation of choice for most locals, including water taxi service.  These small boats might serve for groceries one day and be your coach to paradise the next.  They are crucial to local culture and economy.
  5. Early to Bed.  Sunset around here is about
    Water Taxi access beats having a Rental Car any day.

    Water Taxi access beats having a Rental Car any day.

    7pm year-round, so most of the regularly scheduled services will end with the last ride at 6:30.  Arrange later services as necessary with reputable companies that have well-lit boats.  Or, pick up drinks in the afternoon and take them back to party at your villa poolside at night.

  6. Language Lessons.  Water Taxi drivers will be bi-lingual in English and Spanish.  Practice your phrases and learn some new ones on the ride!

Have you taken a water taxi?  What would you add to the list?  What favorite memories do you have from your ride or the driver?

The Best of the Caribbean (hint, it’s in Panama)

The Caribbean has been the top cruise destination for years, and consistently is among the most popular world destinations for holiday breaks, weddings and honeymoons, and special occasions.

Red frog beach caribbean

Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos (Bastimentos Island) in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Though the Caribbean Sea includes dozens of countries and territories, each with unique personality variations and attractions, these Caribbean characteristics keep a variety of travelers coming (and coming back) every month of the year: Weather, Water, and Beaches.

Come to the Caribbean for blissfully warm weather and sunshine, reliably about 80F anytime of year.  When dreamers picture long beaches and warm, crystal blue water for swimming and splashing or snorkeling and scuba diving, the Caribbean is the place that fulfills the image.

Get the Best of the Caribbean at Isla Bastimentos

Want to know why Budget Traveler listed Isla Bastimentos among “10 Great Islands You’ve Never Heard of?”  The Bocas del Toro archipelago is along Panama’s Caribbean coast and boasts the best of these Caribbean characteristics and more.

The Best of the Caribbean is in Panama

The Best of the Caribbean is in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Weather at Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro

For weather, the unique geographical layout keeps Isla Bastimentos hurricane-free while most of the Caribbean is seasonally at-risk. The Marina is a sailor’s haven year-round, and the surf is great for a variety of activities.  Being in the tropics, we get rain to keep the environment fresh, and an intermittent morning drizzle will usually give way to sunshine and bliss through the afternoon and evening.

Water of Panaman’s Caribbean

The water here is not only brilliantly turquoise and clear, but we are blessed to be near the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park and enjoy many species of rare tropical wildlife from Wizard beach bocas del torostrawberry poison-dart frogs (harmless unless you ingest the venom) to toucans, as well as outstanding thriving coral reefs and water conditions for surfers, divers, kayakers and swimmers alike.

Beaches of Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro

What about the beaches? Well there’s a more complete breakdown of the beaches of Isla Bastimentos here but we’ll just say that travelers come from around the world, any time of year, to experience the soft, white sand and capture the untouched vistas.

Take it from Travel Channel, MSNBC, or see them for yourself, these beaches are not to be missed.

The Bottom Line

Boat on Sea Red Frog ResortIt is hard to argue the beaches and rich environment.  On top of all that, Bocas del Toro maintains the genuine culture.  For travelers wanting a boxed vacation special from high rise hotels, this isn’t the place. Discover the natural treasures as Mother Nature intended them. Then at night, sit at the bar next to the guy whose forefathers worked banana plantations and fished for a living.  Enjoy the blended dialect with a Jamaican twist.

Best of the Caribbean? Whose opinion matters most to you?

5 Beaches You Need to See: All on One Island

The Travel Channel isn’t keeping it a secret, but listed our whole island on their exposé of the World’s Best Secret Beaches.  Here’s a breakdown of the 5 beaches on Isla Bastimentos.  Being the best of Bocas del Toro, the best of the Caribbean, and even on Travel Channel’s world-wide list doesn’t surprise us.

If you’re making the trip to the Caribbean where there is a lot of coastline to be had, you have room to be choosy.

1.  Red Frog Beach—Where else could we start but with our namesake beach?  This is undoubtedly the most popular beach on the island as more are hearing it is the “Hottest Beach in Central America,” according to MSNBC.  Many travelers to the area come on water taxi to at least spend a day or an afternoon taking in the stunning, jungle-lined, white, soft-sand beach.  Join an impromptu volleyball or soccer game on the beach, enjoy the water, and lounge in the local mood.

Beaches- Turtle Red Frog Wizard

Left to right: Turtle Beach, Red Frog Beach, Wizard Beach

2.  Turtle Beach—Just on the other side of a lava outcropping from Red Frog Beach continues the stretch of beautiful sand on Turtle Beach (Playa Tortuga).  One bonus our guests can attest to: few visitors make it past Punta Lava Beach Bar & Grill and The Point lookout spot.  That leaves Turtle Beach just as close and just as lovely but giving you a lot more alone time.

3.  Wizard Beach—Also known as First Beach (Playa Primera), Lonely Planet says that this is actually the most beautiful beach on the island.  You’ll have to see for yourself.

North Beach and Coral Reef, Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro

North Beach and Coral Reef, Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro

4.  North Beach—This is a distinguished, long sandy beach that stretches out to a coral reef, offering great snorkeling.

5.  Playa Larga—Known to surfers and animal watchers, this is a 3-mile stretch of postcard-perfect beach within the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park.  Several species of turtles nest here in the early spring. Access Playa Larga by hiking the marked trail through the jungle (great for animal spotters), kayak or consider a water taxi.

Columbus’s Discovery of Bocas del Toro

In 1500, Bocas del Toro was a quiet island group in the Caribbean.  Indigenous groups had lived on the mainland and among these islands for thousands of years.

Ageless scenery around Isla Bastimentos

Ageless scenery around Isla Bastimentos

The Ngöbe-Buglé people didn’t know they were about to receive their most famous visitor: Christopher Columbus.

Ancient towns and indigenous artifacts throughout mainland Panama have now largely been claimed by the thick rainforest in an ambiguity that continues to tempt historians and archaeologists.

Spanish Discovery of Bocas del Toro

Map of the Caribbean

Map of the Caribbean

With 140 crewmen and 4 vessels, a worn Columbus set sail in May 1502 on his 4th and final journey to find a strait that connected the Atlantic Ocean with the Indian Ocean.  He ventured from the port of Cadiz to Jamaica and soon to Central America.  Traveling south looking for a waterway to take him to the Orient, Columbus and his crew skimmed the rims of Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  Soon they found the islands we call home.

On October 6, 1502, Columbus sailed the channels around then-Caribaro, which was renamed Almirante or Boca del Almirante meaning Mouth of the Admiral.

He noted the deep, rock-free channels and the fragrance that came from fruits and flowers on the islands.  When Columbus anchored, the men were able to refill their provisions, which had been damaged from recent storms, and refresh their spirits.  With this, their island base was named Isla Bastimentos, meaning Provisions.

Refuge on Isla Bastimentos

For ten days the explorers took refuge on Isla Bastimentos, making friends with the native people through offering gifts and hiring translators to communicate. Columbus learned that the mainland was just a narrow isthmus, and over the mountains there was another large ocean.  This reassured his goal of finding passage to the Far East, which he never accomplished.  The people also told of rich gold mines far to the south which diverted later Spanish explorers away from these islands.

Sunset on Isla Bastimentos

Sunset on Isla Bastimentos

In the following weeks and months in 1502, Columbus led his crew south to other points along the banks of Panama and Central America, and the mainland later fell under Spanish rule in a conquest for gold and influence. In 1503, the ships had seen their share of traveling.  The Vizcaino sunk along this part of the trip, yet to be found, and Columbus retreated to Jamaica to await repairs and new ships before returning to Spain in 1504.

Columbus spent significant time of this 4th journey in Bocas del Toro relaxing, learning, and naming his favorite places, including Isla Colon, Isla Cristobal, and Bahia de Almirante.  While this is only one page in the rich layers of history and culture here, October is the month to remember this famous explorer’s visit to our favorite island retreat.


Birding Paradise in Bocas del Toro

From your private patio or on a jungle trail, Isla Bastimentos is an ideal place to spot tropical birds of all kinds. With the nature-centric community design plus the nature preserve acreage and bordering National Marine Park, the environment is rich with opportunity to see wildlife of all kinds, including over 65 lively species of birds.
Read here about how one new birder enjoyed his discovery of the unique birds, flora and fauna of Bocas del Toro right in our own back yard.

What birds and other tropical wildlife are living in there? at Isla Bastimentos

What birds and other tropical wildlife are living in there? at Isla Bastimentos


Bring your camera, your binoculars, and an eye for the trees and let us know what you find!
What are your tips for new birders? How do travelers take quality wildlife photos?

Gearing up for the Open House!

Open House is just a few days away!  We are having an open house to celebrate the (finally) finished hillside construction, and opening of our new spa!

This is great timing to spend a fall break in paradise, think of Columbus coming 511 years ago and realize that the natural riches are largely unchanged and ready for you to discover it again.

More Open House details are coming soon, with new resort photos, special events, and more!

Villa at Red Frog Beach Island Resort

Villa at Red Frog Beach Island Resort

What we can share today are some of the specials going on.  If you want to be one of the first to celebrate with us, these great prices and travel deals make it tempting to invite family and friends to join.

If you’re lucky enough to be from Panama and have the November holidays coming up, use these deals to make your holiday more than just a day off.

  1. Book 5 nights get 1 night complimentary
  2. Book 7 nights get 2 night complimentary
  3. Unbeatable All-Inclusive Island Packages from $149 per person per night (includes food, zipline tour, island massage, Jungle Cart) (4 person minimum in a villa)
  4. Beachside Breakfast included!
  5. 10%  discount on domestic flight
  6. $70/person credit towards our discovery activities
  7. Discount Packages available to see Panama City Hotel accommodations, Panama Canal and Red Frog Beach Island Resort in Bocas del Toro (two vacations in one!)

Call for more information!



Fall for Feria del Mar and Other Unique Island Events

A natural island masterpiece brimming with undiscovered beaches and vibrant emerald rainforest, Red Frog Beach Island Resort offers a private island experience combined with easy access Bocas’ unique cultural gems such as Feria del Mar (“Fair of the Sea”).

Bocas Del Toro Boat Races (2)

Bocas del Toro, Panama – Escape this fall to Red Frog Beach Island Resort, a newly completed luxury villa retreat on beautiful Isla Bastimentos, overlooking unspoiled Caribbean beaches and miles of vibrant rainforest virtually unchanged since it was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502. Red Frog offers the feel of staying in your own private island paradise yet affords easy access to the rich culture of the Bocas del Toro archipelago – including Feria del Mar (“Fair of the Sea”) on neighboring Isla Colon, held each autumn for 50 years to celebrate the Bocas del Toro’s fishing traditions.

This year’s Feria del Mar culminated on September 15 with the Bocas Boat Races, festively showcasing hand-built pangas and classic wooden Cayukos (canoes) sporting detailed art work glistening under the brilliant blue skies. During this uniquely original Bocas event, thousands of participants from the surrounding islands, region and throughout the world gathered on Istmito Beach  to cheer on the racers and enjoy the social atmosphere of the festival, which also included local food, crafts, music and dancing.

The day started with the 15hp motor class and worked its way up to the big guns (75 hp) by evening. Spurred on by a sizeable cash prize, the drivers push there crafts to the limit. The long narrow panganitas glide across the sea with only a portion of the hull in water. Following the oval course, laid out by buoys in the bay, the boatmen strive for best time as they run individual laps. With a spray of salt water, they lean hard into the turns. The straightaways see the bow bounce heavily while the motor turns at top speed.

Win, lose, or just watch it’s a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon in the Caribbean islands of Bocas Del Toro. Feria del Mar is a great event for families as well as couples–with many daytime events and activities for children and a lively street party atmosphere at night—and Red Frog Beach Island Resort offers ideal accommodations for both.