bastimentos marine park bocas del toro panama islas zapatilla
Bastimentos Marine Park encompasses a large section of Bastimentos Island and Zapatilla Islands and the surrounding waters and mangroves. Oddly enough, the portion of Bastimentos Island reserved for the park resides in the middle of the island and runs north-south. Therefore, the island’s western end, which includes Bastimentos town and Red Frog Beach, and its eastern end Coral Cay, are not part of the marine park.
There is no access to the park along the island's southern side; it is closed in with dense mangroves and forests. You can access the park along its northern side, which faces the Caribbean Sea, but you will need to hire a boat to take you there, or you can walk from Bastimentos town or Red Frog Beach. The northern side is subject to rough seas, and the best time of year for that is between August and October.
The landscape along the northern side includes large rock outcroppings, stretches of beautiful beach, and numerous coves and inlets. There is no defined hiking trail, so you'll need to hug the coastline. Expect to get wet!
Bastimentos Island contains a healthy supply of wildlife, including white-face and howler monkeys, sloths, and the ever-so-popular poison dart frogs. Unfortunately, the absence of interior trails means you will be limited to whatever makes itself visible along the coastline. Not part of the marine park, the area surrounding Bastimentos town and Red Frog Beach is the best place to see multi-colored poison dart frogs. Only 3/4” in length, they exhibit a variety of different colors and should be easy to find, even without a guide.
The Park’s headquarters reside on Zapatilla's southernmost island, where Panama’s National Environmental Authority (ANAM) maintains an office. A short nature trail leads to the island's windward side, winding through mangroves and forests. All visitors must pay $10 to enter.