On the streets of Bocas, bikes rule. Isla Colon is the only island in the Bocas archipelago with public roads and bicycles actually outnumber cars on the island. While in Bocas hiring a bicycle makes a fossil fuel free, and enjoyable, way to explore Bocas town and visit the beaches of Isla Colon.
There are a number of places in Bocas that hire out bicycles. Bocas Bicis keeps a well maintained fleet of cruiser style bikes. They all come with a front basket, lock and chain. A few local people also rent bicycles. To find them just look out for the row of bikes parked on the roadside and maybe a homemade sign. Prices are around $2 per hour and $8 for a full day. It is possible to get a discount on weekly and monthly hire rates. Also, some accommodation in Bocas provides complimentary bicycles.
All the beaches on Isla Colon are within easy riding distance from Bocas town. There is one road that leads out of town. This leads to all the beaches. A two minute ride from town is El Ismito beach. It is a long arc of sandy beach with tiny waves breaking in a protected bay. It’s a good swimming beach and a safe place to take children.
Those looking for surf will want to head to Playa Paunch, on the north east facing side of the island. Paunch is a 20 minute ride from town. There waves break over a limestone reef very close to the shore. Even if you are not a surfer, it’s worth visiting Paunch to watch the waves break and see why so many surfers love coming to Bocas Del Toro.
Bluff Beach is further around the coastline from Paunch, reached by taking a dirt road. Your reward for making the 45 minute journey to Bluff is a long secluded beach with golden sand, which you will probably have to yourself. The sand drops away steeply from the shore on Bluff Beach. This can make it a little dangerous for swimming, but it also creates a barreling shore break wave which is a favorite of the local bodyboarders.
The furthest beach you can reach by bicycle is Boca Del Drago. To ride to Boca Del Drago you need to cross the island. It takes about 1.5 hours and passes over some hilly terrain. The trip gives you an insight into life in the interior of the island. The road passes by teak plantations, cattle fincas, through dense rainforest and small villages. Don’t let the terrain put you off though, they are only small hills and there is as much downhill cruising as uphill peddling. When you arrive at Boca Del Drago there is a small settlement, one seafood restaurant and plenty of Coconut palms. If you walk five minutes further around the coast you will find Starfish Beach, famous for its hundreds of orange cushion sea stars lying in shallow, crystal blue water.
While you have a bicycle be sure to explore the neighborhoods of Bocas town. Peddling around will give you a feel for the Caribbean lifestyle and possibly lead to finding the cheapest place to buy fresh fruit or find a plate of Gallo Pinto (Rice and Beans).
Riding a bicycle is a way of life on Isla Colon. Hiring a bicycle while you are here gives you a carbon neutral way to visit the beach and lets you slow down and really feel what life is all about in Bocas Del Toro.
About the author: James Galletly is a freelance writer and perpetual traveler. His travels are shaped by a curios mind, surfing and all things green. He finances his lifestyle by writing about it. His work can be seen at http://scribblesontheweb.blogspot.com/