History of Bocas del Toro

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At the Northwestern side of Panama is a group of islands that was originally inhabited by the Guaymíes indians, which at the present time, have mixed with afrocaribbeans and Hispanic groups. One of the most interesting cultural characteristic of Bocas is the language, a blend known as Guari-Guari, which mixes West Indian English, Spanish, and indigenous dialects.

The islands, discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502, developed into supply and repair points for the shipping industry. That’s how we explain names like Bastimentos and Carenero which translate to supplies and careening (ships), respectively.

The largest and more important island in the group is Colon Island that houses in its Southern point the city of Bocas del Toro. This city was founded in 1826 and it became the third most important city in the country until the 1920s.  The United Fruit Company, the biggest producer of bananas, known today as Chiquita Brands, was established here as a result of the fierce competition within the banana industry.

Five consulates, three newspapers, a bottling company and the fist lottery of the country are some of the indicators of the prosperity that the islands’ population was enjoying. Along with the bananas, coconuts, turtle shells, “zarzaparrilla” and cocoa in grains, were produced and exported.

Currently, there are huge efforts being made to preserve the charm of its wide streets and wooden houses, vivid memories of the British architectural influence in the islands.

In 1988, the first marine sanctuary in Panama was created, the “National Marine Park of Bastimentos Island” with the purpose to preserve its natural environment. This magnificent beauty has an extension of 28,600 acres , and houses beautiful marine scenery, where you can enjoy diving between splendid coral reefs and marine forests. To the North of Colon Island there is a beautiful bird sanctuary named Swans Cay where you can see a variety of resident and migratory seabirds.

While on vacation here in our island, make sure to enjoy exciting eco-touristy adventures, beautiful beaches and mysterious deep sea life. Because here, in these tropical unexplored islands, with golden sand and crystal clear water; in this, the best kept secret in Panama, you will live memorable  moments.  Get out of the noisy city and come enjoy our Caribbean culture, food and architecture.