Winter Island Escapes: Isla Bastimentos, Panama

Start planning where to warm up this winter. We’ve made it easy with these 15 adventure-packed, off-radar island hideaways.

azure beach blue green idylic magical paradise tropical tropics turquoise unique unusual Lifestyle Archilielago De Bocas Del Toro Bocas Del Toro El Limbo Isla Bastimentos Panama Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bas Red Frog Beach colorful colors colourful luxurious the good life

In Panama's Bocas archipelago.     Photo: Steve MacAulay

POPULATION: 200
SIZE:
20 square miles
TAGS:
Mangrove tunnel, open-air bungalows, empty surf breaks

Unlike the nearby party town of Bocas, hardly anybody knows about Isla Bastimentos. A water taxi will drop you in Old Bank, where most of the island’s residents live. Head straight to Al Natural, an eco-lodge on the western tip with seven seaside open-air bungalows (doubles from $310 all-inclusive). Spend your days hiking nearby jungle footpaths to the long swaths of beach at Wizard and Red Frog’s, or grab one of the resort’s kayaks and paddle 30 minutes through a mangrove tunnel to the village at Salt Creek. For ridiculously good snorkeling—74 of the Caribbean’s 79 coral types occur in the Bocas archipelago—have the resort book a boat to the fish-riddled Zapatilla Cayes. Experienced surfers: head to Silverbacks, a reef break with one of the heaviest waves in the Caribbean. For mellower rides and excellent instruction, ask the resort where to find local Javier Lijo (half-day, $170).

ACCESS: Fly to Panama City, taxi over to Albrook airport, and fly Air Panama to Bocas Town on Isla Colón. Then catch a water taxi ($3 to $5) at the Bocas Marina for the 15-minute ride over to Bastimentos.

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