To reach Bocas del Toro, fly from Panama City’s domestic airport, Aeropuerto Marcos A. Gelabert (it’s locally known simply as “Albrook,” after the area in which it’s located), to tiny, walkable Bocas town ($70 one-way; about one hour) on Isla Colón, on either Air Panama or Aeroperlas.
Caribbean views greet you at the breakfast table at quiet Cocomo on the Sea (from $60). Stay in one of four white-wood-paneled rooms resting at the Caribbean’s edge. Row around in free kayaks or grab a cold beer; the honor-system fridge is convenient to both hammock and lounge chair.
Budget travelers will appreciate the clean, colorful Hotel Casa Max (from $35), a renovated old house in Bocas. Ask for an upper-level room to get your own terrace and hammock.
Experience the wild at the ecofriendly La Loma Jungle Lodge ($100 per person per night, includes meals and transport) on Isla Bastimentos, a 35-minute boat ride from Bocas town. Three open-air, stand-alone cabins are artfully hidden among the lush tropical forest overlooking the bay, Bahía Honda. Only mosquito netting separates you from the jungle’s exotic critters (highest-situated room affords the best monkey-spotting).