Bastimentos: Care-free and Car-free

Bastimentos is magical. It’s a tiny Panamanian island in the Caribbean that can only be reached by boat and is 100% car free. People get around the island entirely on foot, via steep, narrow paths.

Bastimentos, viewed from the water.

My introduction to the region was admittedly jarring. A man tried to get friendly with me on the boat taxi, offered to carry my bag, and ignored when I tried to say no. I should have been more firm… I’ve learned to be a bolder traveler since then. He carried my bag with me desperately trailing in tow all the way to his hostel, where he then tried to pressure me into buying a room. It was nice enough, on a pier above the water, but empty. And I was thoroughly creeped out, as you likely can imagine, I grabbed my bag and gave a firmer NO and walked on to where I could locate more people. I landed at Hostal Bastimentos and was not disappointed.

Hostal Bastimentos. Highly recommend.

The main hostel on the island is fantastic. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Populated by tanned, fascinating, happy travelers who have spent varying times around Central America. And crawling with geckos. I was a happy girl.

The view from the porch.

The next day, a group from the hostel put together a number of custom local tours and I jumped in. We hiked to the beach, ate exotic tropical fruits, spelunked in a bat cave, viewed sloths on an island, boated through the mangroves, saw red poison dart frogs and snorkeled on a tropical reef. I’m very sorry to say I didn’t get photos of most of these adventures. What I have, I’ll share below.

Walking down paths on the interior of the island.
Children on the island collected almonds from the trees. They grew wild, everywhere.
Wizard beach. Worth the hike.
It wouldn’t be a vacation if I didn’t temporarily frighten some local wildlife.
We passed a dugout canoe in our motor boat on the way to the bat cave just before passing sloths!
There’s a sloth in there! I wish I had a better photo for you because these creatures are magnificent.
We headed over to unpopulated cays for some beach and snorkeling time.

I don’t like fish, but this was the tastiest one I’ve ever eaten. It was unfortunately illegally poached in a marine reserve… then it was cleaned (the innards were fed to a shark), and cooked over a fire on the beach. It was a magical, mixed experience.
Red poison dart frogs. This time, I didn’t touch them and then rub my eyes and spend days in pain (like I did that one time in the Amazon). Lessons learned the hard way.
Gorgeous creatures.
We were thirsty, so Titi, ever resourceful, opened us up a coconut.