Just returned a few days ago and thought I'd report back on my solo trip to Bocas. I stayed at the Hotel Palma Royale which was GREAT. Service was exceptional. My junior suite was $85/night.
FRIDAY: Arrived 7:30am flight from PC. $1 taxi to hotel (They tried for $2). Hotel had a room available for early check-in so they let me go ahead and get to my room that early which was nice. Changed into swimsuit and headed down the street to catch the 9am collectivo to Boca del Drago / Starfish Beach. Front desk had told me they left every hour on the hour but it was actually every 2 hours, so I didn't leave until 10am. (It was at this time that I met a guy named Luis Archibald who owned 5 tour boats and I signed up for a $25 tour to Zapatillas / snorkeling / dolphin tour the next day). Several stops for locals along the way and after 50 minutes, arrived at Drago. I just started walking along the picturesque shoreline until I reached Starfish Beach 15 minutes later. Beautiful first time viewing of starfish. Don't touch them or try to take them home as they will die! Stayed here til 4pm. Along the beach, there are little local huts where they cook food and have coolers with water and drinks. They even have a little blender out there to make Pina Coladas (with fresh pineapple). For $8 all-inclusive, I was able to rent a chair and have unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. They will also cut coconuts right off the tree to make a coconut water for you -- again included in the price. Very peaceful beach. Browner sand here than in Red Frog and Zapatillas. They also have chairs that float in the water that you can rent too...that was not included in the $8. I think it was an extra $4 maybe? Lunch was either $12 freshly caught snapper, $10 salmon or chicken. Huge meal!!!!! Plaintains and rice were yummy, too. Music plays in the background. Nice beach. That night, I did happy hour at my hotel until about 9 and then retired early, although I had intentions to go out. Never happened.
SATURDAY: Luis came to my hotel to get me for the tour at 9:45am. I was told 9 would be on it, but in the end, there were about 18 people on it and kinda crowded. Aside from beautiful Zapatillas, I wasn't too crazy about this tour. First stop was to see the dolphins and while we did see a few, it was from afar. I also just felt bad that we were disrupting their environment and had heard not too long ago, a baby dolphin was killed by a motor :( I was ready to leave that dolphin area. Next stop - a little waterside restaurant where we ordered our high priced food before snorkeling in Crawl's Cay, which was right out in front of the restaurant kinda but on out some.... after ordering the food, they took us out and I decided I would not go snorkeling after all. Maybe I am spoiled with snorkeling but this wasn't impressive at all so I actually stayed in the boat and read. A girl on the tour with me said she DID end up seeing fish but it wasn't too impressive compared to other snorkeling she'd done. After about an hour out there, back to restaurant where we killed way too much time. Not happy about that. Also, the restaurant didn't get my order right. I ate it so I wouldn't hold anyone up on getting to Zapatillas, but in the end, they charged me for the highest menu item ($19) and were very firm on this. Wasn't a happy camper on that either. FINALLY, after killing too much time, they let us go to Zapatillas, which was BEAUTIFUL. If you can, I would just try to get a tour to Zapatillas and skip all the other stuff. Zapatillas was completely divine. I met a guy that was there the day after I was there and he actually saw them rescue a sea turtle that was missing an arm. Wish I'd seen that. Anyways, we got 3 hours on Zapatillas and I could have stayed longer. I am a beach person though! ON the way back, my boat RAN OUT OF GAS!!!!! No lie. We were stuck out there another 45 mins in the ocean. Ugh.
SATURDAY NIGHT: ate at Bibi's on the Water on Isla Careneros. Took a $1 water taxi there. GREAT place and I've written a review of it on TA recently so check that out if you want more detail. After that, headed to Aqua Lounge on the same island (water taxi again). Young hostel type crowd but worth visiting on Saturday night. Lots of tourists. I heard another good place that locals frequent more is Barco Hundido.
SUNDAY: Bought $10 prepaid round trip to Red Frog Beach. Note: don't buy return trips as Luis never came back and got us at 4pm as scheduled. We waited for him for 30 mins before we just found another $5 water taxi. Anyways, RFB was GREAT!!!!!!! Loved this beach! So pretty! Waves are bigger here and I will say that at one point, I kinda got pulled in to an undertow. I remembered what I'd read as far as recovering from one and was able to but yes, it did feel like an eternity trying to get out of it. Not a good feeling. It happened kinda quickly too. All of a sudden the bigger waves were spaced about 10 seconds apart where before they had been coming about every 30 seconds. Anyways, I was fine as I did not panic....but just note to self for all of you going there. Nice restaurant at Red Frog where I had yummy fish tacos. Chairs are $5 to rent for the day. Stopped at Pickled Parrot happy hour on the way back (Careneros Island) and it was fun!
SUNDAY NIGHT: dinner at El Pecado -- yummy filet with portobello mushroom sauce. Review already written on TA if you care to get more details.
MONDAY: flight was not until 4:45pm so had the whole day to kill. I decided to go to Careneros Island and just lay out in the area right by the Pickled Parrot and Bibi's on the Water. It was safe to do so. This was the beach right in front of the Bucanner Resort and it was so tranquil. Note: The other side of Careneros Beach is the one that is not safe if traveling alone but I didn't venture that far. I stayed there all day, eating at Pickled Parrot. Try the yummy Firecracker Shrimp with "hot mama" sauce. Whew, no lie as it is HOT! Caught a water taxi back at 2:30pm back to my hotel. I just changed in their cafe bathroom and then caught a $1 taxi back to the airport, which was only about 4 minutes away. Airport is extremely laid back so don't hurry to get there. It is NOT like US airports where you need to get there super early at all.
Hope this helps!! :) bocas was great!! Want to return!