A boat ride through the bright blue Caribbean Sea, dolphins playing in the water beside you, snorkelling the reef and finally, paradise.
From Bocas del Toro in Panama you can take a tour with a number of companies to Cayos Zapatillas, a small group of uninhabited desert islands. The boat moors and you hop out into the warm sea to splash your way to the shore. The islands consist of a patch of jungle surrounded by a border of white sand and clear water and the afternoon is just spent relaxing in and out of the water (or, in the case of some lads on our tour, dashing in and out of the jungle, trying to knock a coconut out of a tree). It literally looks like the scene in Pirates of the Caribbean when Jack and Elizabeth are stranded on a Caribbean island. Except the whole British army aren't looking for you. Thank God, beacause we didn't want to leave!
A long journey to get there so give yourself five days at least! Fly in to Bocas del Toro, stock up on cocktail supplies then grab a cab along the white sand road through the rainforest to Bluff Beach Retreat - 20 minutes away. The beach is pristine, long, soft, gold and deserted. All yours. All day. Or hire a boat for away day coral dives, dolphin spotting, island hopping and surfing. Then back to the retreat, a v friendly shared kitchen, relaxation and a dip in the pool.
Aqua is quite possibly the best backpacker-style beach haunt I have ever come across. It is located on a small island in the group called Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean coast of Panama. Easily accessible from the mainland by small taxi boat, the hostel/bar has been built above the water with a swimming pool area cut out of the decking. The vibe is chilled out Caribbean with a characterful collection of international staff. Key attractions: cheap accommodation ($10 a night), amazing surfing and snorkelling opportunities accessible by boat, swimming literally off the decking, hammocks to relax in by day, a sea trampoline, AMAZING parties twice a week and easy access to the main island (a $1 taxi or 15 minute swim!) where there are cheap club nights every night. Also, on ladies' night, girls drink for free!
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