Shelly’s BBQ Restaurant in Bocas del Toro

Shelly's BBQ Bocas del Toro

Shelly's BBQ Bocas del Toro

Shelly’s BBQ is a small restaurant and looks like a hole in the wall located in Bocas town. Do not let this fool you. The food is great. My personal favorite is the crispy pork tacos. The shells are fried and crispy and the pork is tender and juicy which makes a very dynamic combination. It takes a bit longer than the other meals since they have to fry the tortillas, but it is worth the wait.

The Shelly’s Special is also a go to item. You can chose between beef brisket, pork or baby back ribs. All of these are worthy choices. Also, the hot sauce and pico de gallo are decent. While the price tag is a bit on the high side, it is still worth it.


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Balboa Beer Distributor Bocas del Toro


Balboa Beer Distributor in Bocas del Toro

Spending a day on a boat in Bocas del Toro typically requires copious amounts of ice cold beer. There are three popular Panamanian brews: Panama, Atlas and Balboa. My personal favorite is Balboa, which is a light and refreshing beverage. Also, it is very accessible since there is a distributor right on the water in Bocas town.

Bring in your old crate of empty bottles and get a replacement crate for less than $15 for 24 beers in a bottle. Always go for bottles. The cans have a different and in my opinion, unpleasant taste. Continue reading

Beso del Drago Restaurant


If you want to experience the true cuisine of Bocas del Toro, Beso del Drago is the place to go. Typically a dish will consist of mostly starches, but not the bad kind like you find in the States and Europe. Bocas cuisine consists of a lot of rice, noodles and plantains. Whereas in the US you find a lot of over processed meals from fast food restaurants and mega supermarkets.

A dish of pork, rice, noodles and lentils will cost you around $3.50 USD. While the pork is a small portion it still equals roughly 25grams of protein. And if you are a fat back enthusiast like myself, this meal will satisfy your needs with a piece of cooked fat with pork attached. Add hot sauce. Continue reading

Retiring in Bocas del Toro

Bocas del toro Panama Bocas Villas rental retirement salesThere is an established and growing expatriate community spread throughout the islands of Bocas del Toro.  A couple of years ago I went to a Fourth of July party in the Darklands (a bay behind San Cristobal) and assumed that I would know most everyone there, I was shocked that I really only knew a small percentage of the Americans at the party.  There was a whole community of neighbors from that area and the more eastern islands of Bocas del Toro that I had never run into.  What I realized is that Bocas can offer a wide range of retirement situations.  The islands and province are big enough to allow private retirees to remain self-sufficient and to themselves, there are areas where Americans and foreign retirees have created almost independent sorts of neighborhoods, and there is the area in Bocas town and nearby for those that want to be more included directly in the town life.  All of these lifestyle options are available here. 

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A Boater’s Paradise in Bocas del Toro

bocas del toro bocas villas island sailing yacthingBocas del Toro is clearly a place that depends upon boats and now Yachthing Magazine confirms it is one of the 50 best yacthing towns in the world:

A nature lover’s paradise and one of Panama’s most popular tourist spots, Bocas’ 5,000 residents are still way outnumbered by the surrounding wildlife. Enjoy the town’s laid-back vibe and easy access to the region’s nine major islands, 52 keys and roughly 200 tiny islands. There are two marinas for those who want to explore this archipelago’s treasures. And reader Dan Cranney reminded us that “this island archipelago off the Caribbean coast of Panama is one of the few hurricane-free places in the Caribbean.”

Everything here revolves around the water and the diversity throughout the islands.  There are so many places to go and different reefs and islands to explore on daytrips or you can drop anchor anywhere and spend the night.

Panamanian Government Now Provides Travel Insurance!

bocas del toro bocas villas panama travel insurance

A new program by the Panamanian government includes travel insurance for all visitors entering the country on tourist visas.  The New York Times recently wrote this article and accompanied the story with a picture of a man in a bikini bottom (I’m not sure if he is in need of medical attention or not).  Regardless, this is a great idea for tourism in Panama and not something I have heard about being done elsewhere.  

The insurance is paid for by a $40 departure tax and the insurance expires 30 days after entry.  The coverage allows $7,000 in treatment for accidents or disease, $2,000 for emergency dental, and $20,000 for accidental death.  Even accidents during adventure activities (horseback riding, white water rafting, fishing, etc.) are covered, which is a good point to make clear to tourists.  Continue reading

2 Free Nights in Bocas del Toro Summer Contest

bocas-del-toro-Starfish-BEach-contestBocas Villas is gearing up for summer by starting a contest to win 2 free nights in Bocas del Toro. This offer is for two people in one of our over-the-water villas. The contest will end July 31st, 2010 and will be redeemable for 6 months. All we need is your full name and email address. Visit the contest sign-up page.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the contest or accommodations. Cheers!

Bocas del Toro – Dolphin Bay Horseback Riding Tours

bocas-del-toro-bocas-villas-dolphin-bay-horseback-riding-tourOne of my favorite activities when I travel is to go horseback riding.  I like the horses and everything, but also its one of the best ways to get back into the countryside and get a unique perspective on the landscape and in most cases you meet people on farms or Indian farmers in the jungle.  On a horse you can cover more territory and also pick your head up and really take a relaxed look around at where you are, where you’ve taken the time to visit.

When I arrived here there were no horseback riding tours readily available, although there are a significant amount of cow farms and horses being used throughout the nearby islands (now there are a couple of horse tours).  We are in the process now of training several new horses for tours in Dolphin Bay for our guests beginning in September.  The tour will be through pasture and private nature reserves as well as farms and will probably include some basic work with the calves, which will be a cool experience for whoever wants to participate: moving them from pastures or helping to wrangle them for vaccinations.  Dolphin Bay is a beautiful setting and I was able to get a couple of great looking, light-weight Criollo horses for a little over $100 a piece and a local partner there to train and keep the horses on pasture, and guide the tours.

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Arenal Volcano – Tabacon Hot Springs Resort Costa Rica

arenal volcano night eruption from tabacon hot springs costa ricaBefore coming to Bocas del Toro I spent a year working in San Jose, Costa Rica and was able to travel a lot on the weekends and see the country.  My radius was not huge because I only had about 60 total hours for the weekend and the roads are terrible, but luckily the country is tiny.  I had a flight a couple of weeks ago to Las Vegas for about $400 and went up by bus from Bocas a few days early to visit Arenal Volcano and stay at the Tabacon Resort and Spa, which I had done about 4 years ago and really enjoyed with my family.

The volcano is usually covered in clouds, but last time I was there we were able to get a great view of the whole cone for the two days we spent and actually saw glowing lava flows at night while we soaked in the thermal pools at Tabacon.  The thermal springs area is very impressive, but man the water is really hot and it seems like every time I leave there I have some kind of rash, that could be from any number of activities though and I would still go back.

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The Proper Way to Produce Video For Over Water Caribbean Villas [VIDEO]

A few months ago I was contacted by Stephanie Johnnidis, who is a travel-blog writer, about a reservation for two villas for a couple of nights in April for herself and cousin Jon Johnnidis. We talked a little about journalist discounts, but initially it was not something I was very interested in. I get these scam requests every once in awhile from backpackers on surf trips, who I don’t hear from again after I ask for their superiors’ email addresses. As it turns out, Stephanie is a professional and will be including Bocas Villas in a blog reviewing different hotels she visited in Bocas and Panama. And Jon, who owns Axios Productions, a New York City based video production company, has produced content for various adventure travel destinations in the past and offered to create something for Bocas Villas for our online marketing campaign, which is something Blake Urmos and I had planned to do. Continue reading