Bocas Town ATV Tour Review
This week's tour, Bocas Town ATV Tour. Another Real Deal Team Experience brought to you by one of our Activity Specialists in Bocas Del Toro, Panama.
Growing up just outside of Austin, Texas, I am no stranger to ATVs. We had ATVs on our ranch, and I was riding them behind my dad from the time I was 4 years old and driving them myself by age 8. I grew up a tomboy and love getting dirty. When a fellow traveler mentioned that Bocas del Toro has THE BEST ATV tour he has ever experienced, I knew I had to check it out.
The Bocas Town ATV Tour Company
Flying Pirates ATV Tours in Bocas Del Toro are run by a family from California, and the dad, Steve, certainly has the pirate spirit. They’ve lived in Bocas del Toro for several years, and what makes their ATV tour so special is quite simple: you go without a guide. That's right, here is a map, knock yourself out. Of course when I first heard that we’d be completing the tour alone without a guide accompanying us, I was shocked. Every other ATV tour I have ever experienced in any other country make you follow the guide and stay with the group. I believe that is the standard for most ATV tours and actually something some of our clients complain about. Basically, that means you can only go as fast as the slowest person on your ATV tour, which for someone like me with a lot of riding experience, can be a bit frustrating. Well, that was certainly not the case in Bocas Del Toro with Flying Pirates ATVs.
Pre Tour Prep
Of course they do not just hand you the keys and say go for it, they have their investment to protect and some basic rules to follow. My co-worker and I were asked to sign a release and legal agreement stating we agree to pay for any damage that we might cause to the vehicle. They are not trying to rip anyone off either, the prices for each part were listed above the front desk and everything is straight-forward and reasonable.
We were also told repeatedly NOT to drive on the beach. In Bocas Del Toro, sea turtles nest on the beaches that the ATV trail runs along. Aside from not wanting to destroy their nesting grounds, it is illegal, strictly enforced and comes with a hefty fine. Before they would let us gear up, we have to agree to pay the $250 fine if caught driving on the beach. Fair enough, and I appreciate their emphasis on this to protect the sea turtles nesting in Bocas Del Toro.
We were then given a very detailed explanation of the map that outlines the trails of their private off road terrain park by the son of the tour company. He patiently explained which trails were best to go on, what kind of terrain we would encounter, which ones were too dangerous at this time of year (marked with red markers), and where there were nice spots to stop and swim. We received a very thorough explanation of how to operate the manual ATVs, complete with a little quiz at the end to see if we had been listening.
Bocas Del Toro by ATV - Time to Explore On Our Own!
We donned all our safety gear, started up our ATVs and headed out of Bocas Town to the off road park. The guides followed us briefly down the road to make sure we were shifting correctly, then waved “adios.”
The trail runs on the main road outside of Bocas Town then quickly turns into a gravel road. We splashed through puddles and enjoyed the light rain that fell on the bright yellow rain ponchos that the Flying Pirates had given us. We cruised along until we met the gate that marks the property that the Flying Pirates have exclusive rights to use, and shut the gate behind us.
Then it was on!
The ATV trails in the Flying Pirates private off road terrain park are everything one could hope for and more in terms of off-road adventure. We rode over rocks and roots and cruised through sand, mud, streams, and forest. Once you enter the jungle, howler monkeys can be heard all around, and we even spotted two high up in the trees! By revving the engine as our guides taught us, we irked their tempers and they howled back in an attempt to frighten us. With storage boxes that lock on the back of the ATVs that keep everything safe and dry, we could stop and get our cameras out whenever photo ops presented themselves (which was often!).
My co-worker was driving an ATV for the first time, so I helped her through the trickier parts and sometimes drove her ATV through the streams to avoid getting stuck. We both ended getting stuck anyway, but fortunately the guides had already done a great job instructing us exactly how to pull one another out, so we did! There’s no greater satisfaction than getting an ATV stuck in the sand or mud out and running again. Yesss!!! We high-fived each other each time we succeeded!
There are two different beaches to stop at perfect for swimming and snorkeling. You can bring your own snorkel gear if you wish or just take a dip in the natural Caribbean pools and rinse off a bit of the accumulated mud. After the dip, we hopped back on our ATVs and zoomed over puddles, around trees, over logs, and bumped along rocks. By following the instructions and the map that was also printed on the back of our ATVs (great idea!!), we were able to navigate well and find our way back to the main trail.
By the time we got back to the Flying Pirates base of operations, we were covered in mud and smiling ear to ear...which signifies the perfect ATV tour in my book. We were rewarded with warm showers and a cold beer each...the perfect way to top off our incredible beach and jungle ATV adventure.
For those who like to ride on the wild side, the Bocas Town ATV Tour is an absolutely must do in Bocas del Toro!