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Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

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12 Jan 2017

Scuba Diving Bocas Del Toro, Panama

Bocas Del Toro’s Most Popular Dive Sites

The archipelago of Bocas Del Toro is a wonderland of crystal clear Caribbean Sea dotted with vivid coral gardens and a stunning variety of tropical fish to be discovered.  There are so many different dive sites in Bocas Del Toro that it could take you months to explore them all.  Needless to say, scuba diving Bocas Del Toro is sure to be a highlight of your Panama vacation.  Below is a list of some of the most popular dive sites in Bocas Del Toro you may just have the opportunity to dive into.

Bocas Del Toro Diving Sites for ALL Skill Levels

Whether it is your first time diving, or you have logged several dives, the following dive sites in Bocas Del Toro are among the most popular dive sites open for all skill levels.

Airport / Whorehouse

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: This dive is open to all skill levels

Max Depth: 50ft / 14mts

No that is not a typo, and yes it says whorehouse. This dive site is said to be named after an old brothel back in the day, but due to its location near the airport it is also referred to as Airport.  Whichever name you prefer, this site is an excellent dive for beginners and a chill relaxed dive. Probably one of the most protected sites, the Whorehouse is a great place to discover a variety of coral, tropical fish, sea urchins, northern stargazers, rays and other fascinating marine life thriving in this areas tranquil waters.

Buoy Line

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: This dive is open to all skill levels

Avg Depth: 50ft / 14mts

Max Depth: 72ft / 22mts

Buoy Line is named after the buoys that marked the deep water channel used by container ships carrying bananas.  Buoy Line is a gradual slope dive starting with a sandy bottom and gradually descending reef stretching down 65 ft.  The average dive depth is 50ft, however there is a smaller shallow reef on the other side that is great for shallow dives and great photo ops.    Stronger currents bring the larger pelagics, and the varied reef and flora is home to crabs, green moray eels and lots of the invasive lion fish. If you look closely you may get a real treat.  Buoy Line is one of the few places in Panama you can find sea horses.

Coral Cay

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: This dive is open to all skill levels

Max Depth: 60ft / 18mts

The Coral Cay dive site is about a 20 minute boat ride to the southeast side of Isla Bastimentos.  Sometimes referred to as Crawl Cay, the small islet surrounded by mangroves is actually named after a small restaurant there. Although a frequent snorkel spot for many of the popular day trips, there is very little boat traffic there and the actual dive site is protected with a boundary of buoys.  With a maximum depth of 60ft, this is a great dive site for beginner to intermediate divers.  Coral Cay is home to small but vibrant coral and a variety of sea sponge. Here in the shallows you can find small reef fish, giant jellyfish and maybe a barracuda or two.

Coral Garden

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: This dive is open to all skill levels

Avg Depth: 15-60ft / 4-18mts

Max Depth: 100ft / 33mts

The name pretty much sums it up.  Just 10 minutes from Isla Colon by boat, Coral Garden is located on the west side of Isla Solarte and home to some of the healthiest and most vibrant coral in Bocas Del Toro.  Although the Coral Garden dive site reaches depths of up to 100 feet, the shelf known as Grandma’s Garden is shallow enough for snorkelers to enjoy as well. Hidden amongst the colorful coral and vibrant sponges keep your eyes peeled for small ocean dwellers and large schools of tropical fish.  Coral Garden is also a haven for large rays and the endangered Hawksbill turtles visit between April and June. 

Hospital Point

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: This dive is open to all skill levels. Great for beginners and night dives

Avg Depth: 50ft / 14mts

Max Depth: 60ft / 18mts

Located at the north tip of Isla Solarte just 5 minutes from Isla Colon, Hospital Point is great for both snorkelers and divers, Hospital point is one of the most famous dive sites in Bocas Del Toro. Starting at 9 feet and descending down past 50 feet, the vibrant reef is teaming with brain coral and lettuce creating a wall full of caverns and ledges creating a sort of coral condos for the abundant marine life.  

Hospital Point also has a shallow sandy bay just over 6ft deep that is great for beginners to practice their open-water skills.  Hospital Point is also a favorite spot for night dives as the reef comes alive with lobster, hermit crabs, rays and even nurse sharks once the sun goes down.

The Log

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: This dive is open to all skill levels. Great for beginners.

Avg Depth: 20-60ft / 6 to 18mts

Max Depth: 82ft / 25mts

I am sure you can guess how this dive site in Bocas Del Toro got its name…a log of course.  It was actually an ancient tree jutting out over the water’s edge that was first felled by a storm, then eventually sunk to the ocean floor about 30 feet down.  The ancient log’s final resting place is home to a spectacular variety of ancient coral formations stretching over a mile long forming a sort of mini wall.  One of Boca Del Toro’s most popular dive sites for beginners, the Log is a myriad of colorful flora, angel fish, sea cucumbers, barracudas on patrol and the occasional Hawksbill Sea turtle passing through. 

Manuel's Wall

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: With depths up to 114 feet and a free descent, Manuel’s Wall is a great place for advance dive training but open for all Open Water Certified divers. 

Avg Depth: 45-72ft / 20 to 30mts

Max Depth: 114ft / 35mts

Named by the local Divemaster that discovered this dive site deep inside the Isla Solarte channel, Manuel’s Wall is a sensational Panama dive site with 2 wall formations. The free descent of 45 ft drops you to a flat bottom of young reef of soft coral, sponges, and a large colony of damsel fish level with the first wall. As you descend 65ft to the second wall, keep your eyes peeled for a Columbus era ship anchor now thoroughly encrusted and a great area to seek out macro life.  Both walls are home to colorful sea whips (Gargonians), snapper, grouper, various reef fish and a variety of vibrant sea coral.  Manuel’s wall is great for all dive levels, but great for advanced training too.

Marker 19 (San Cristobal)

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: This dive is open to all skill levels and one of our favorite dive spots in Bocas Del Toro for beginners!

Avg Depth: 30 to 45ft / 9 to 20mts

Max Depth: 45ft / 20mts

As you may see a theme involving here, most Bocas Del Toro dive sites are quite literally named.  Just 20 minutes from Colon, Marker 19 was actually a marker along the shipping canal between Isla Colon and Isla San Cristobal.  So sometimes it is referred to as Marker 19 whose fallen beams have helped to create the site and home to a garden of sea anemone, and sometimes the dive site is referred to as San Cristobal.  However you call it, this is a great shallow dive for beginners and has some of the best visibility nearly year-round.  The circular reef is teaming with snappers, a large population of various crustaceans, & sergeant majors. The coral here is made up of a diverse variety of lettuce coral, but beware of the fire coral that tends to thrive here as well.

Playground

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: This dive is open to all skill levels. Shallow dive great for photos.

Avg Depth: 22 to 45ft / 7 to 14mts

Max Depth: 72ft / 22mts

Located less than 5 minutes from the dive shop in the middle of Caranero, Solarte and Isla Colon, the Playground is home to a nearly unrecognizable shipwreck.  The shipwreck is a playground for many colorful fish, colorful mollusks and nudibranchs hiding amongst the coral.  The contrast of bright red sea stars against a background of white sand creates excellent photos, but pay attention to your guides to avoid running into a stinging cauliflower, the largest jellyfish in the Caribbean….ouch! Between April and June you may even be lucky enough to spot a hawksbill sea turtle passing through.  Due to its location, there is lot of boat traffic here so it is very important to follow your divemaster’s instructions when nearing the surface.

Punta Caracol (Seashell Point)

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: This dive is open to all skill levels. 

Avg Depth: 16 to 22ft / 5 to 7mts

Max Depth: 50ft / 14mts

Punta Caracol is located about a 20 minute boat ride from Isla Colon, but the distance is what makes this dive site so special.  Calm water marked by many buoys and very little boat traffic makes Punta Caracol one of the most protected coral reefs in Bocas Del Toro. Rare to spot lobster and squid are numerous here along with vibrantly rich coral sheltering marine life that you will not see in most other dive sites in Bocas Del Toro.  Take a look at the adjacent bungalows built out over the water there, stunning paradise.

Punta Manglar (Mangrove Point)

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: This dive is open to all skill levels offering beginner and intermediate dives as well as a great night dive.

Avg Depth: 16 to 60ft / 5 to 18mts

Max Depth: 60ft / 18mts

The mangroves in Bocas Del Toro are the perfect current free shelter for a variety of marine life.  Hundreds of tropical fish such as puffer fish, stingrays, eels, and more can be spotted among the shallow tropical reef that thrives there. Punta Manglar is a great dive for all skill levels, but it is extremely popular for underwater photographers.  Starting around 15ft, the coral reef gradually slopes down to about 60ft where you may encounter nurse sharks or eagle rays resting at the sandy bottom.  An excellent night dive, however you will want to use caution.  Pay close attention to your divemaster as the traffic from the water taxis are a bit of a hazard.

Intermediate to Advanced Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro

To participate in these dives, it is recommended that you have logged a minimum of 30 to 40 dives of various skills prior.  Currents, caverns & caves make for some amazing underwater topography to explore, however due to the increased hazards these dive spots are not recommended to beginners or resort divers. Diver safety is the most important factor, so many of these dive sites in Bocas Del Toro are only accessible between July and September when the sea is calm.  

Bird Island (AKA Swan Cay)

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: Intermediate / Advanced

Avg Depth: 40 to 72ft / 12 to 22mts

Max Depth: 72ft / 22mts

Originally coined Swan’s Cay, Bird Island is now a protected nesting ground for an incredibly diverse variety of marine birds and the only known nesting ground for the Red-Billed Tropic bird.  Located about an hour boat ride from Colon, Bird Island is a favorite dive spot for more skilled divers. Bird Island consists of fascinating rock formations and walls spanning from 40ft to 72ft deep.  Here you can find large crustaceans such as giant lobsters, brilliant moray eels and a large variety of other tropical fish.  Strong currents and caves make this a challenging dive for the most skilled divers, however this dive spot is best only under the perfect conditions of a calm, flat water day.

Dolphin Rock

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: Intermediate / Advanced

Avg Depth: 62ft / 19mts

Max Depth: 70ft / 21mts

Dolphin Rock should probably be named after the giant blue parrotfish that thrive there rather than after the dolphins that are rarely ever spotted there, but hey who am I to say? Dolphin Rock is an offshore rock formation off the coast of Isla Bastiementos that spires above the surface level. This means that an abundant of marine life can be found from 0ft deep all the way down to 70ft.  Aside from the parrotfish working hard to keep the reef algae free, you can see a large school of jacks, brilliant moray eels, and large pelagic species like nurse sharks.  The incredible rock formations here provide a wonderful playground of caverns and arches to explore, however this site is only safely accessible with the perfect conditions. 

Polo Beach

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: Intermediate / Advanced

Avg Depth: 52ft / 16mts

Max Depth: 65ft / 20mts

Located on the edge of the continental shelf, Polo Beach is only accessible when the conditions are perfect. However if given the opportunity to dive Polo Beach, it is totally worth it! Polo Beach is an extensive network of caverns, caves and underwater tunnels creating a maze to challenge even the most skilled underwater navigators.  The best part is that most of this web of caves is still exposed to the surface, so it is more like a well-lit cave dive. Although coral reef is not that present here, the nooks and crannies of all the rock formations are home to giant morays and a variety of crustaceans hiding out.  With its proximity to the open ocean, Polo Beach is also visited by large pelagics, so keep your eyes peeled.

Shashe (Sachen)

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: Intermediate (Although a shallow dive, the currents make this dive site a bit more challenging so strong swimming skills and previous diving experience necessary)

Avg Depth: 40ft / 12mts

Max Depth: 52ft / 16mts

So, rumor has it that this dive site in Bocas Del Toro was named after a sunken ship.  What ship that was and when it sank is still up for debate.  What is not under debate is that Shashe (aka Sachen) is full of some of the most vibrant and healthy coral reef in Panama. Although difficult to spot between the vibrant pink, red, blue, purple, orange, yellow and lavender coral, Sachen is home to the Sea Goddess Nudibranch, a photographers dream.  Aside from your typical marine species, you can also encounter nurse sharks resting on the sandy bottom alongside some of the biggest and brightest starfish.  Even the boat ride out there tends to offer entertainment as the dolphins love to surf the waves nearby. Sachen is a shallow water dive and also a great spot for night dives, however only accessible when the conditions are perfect as there are strong surges and currents as well as a difficult entry.

Wash Rock

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: Intermediate / Advanced

Avg Depth: 40 to 72ft / 12 to 22mts

Max Depth: 78ft / 24mts

Located just across the bay, Wash Rock is sometimes paired with diving Dolphin Rock.  Diving Wash Rock offers more intricate rock formations and a lager variety of coral than Dolphin Rock, but less of the larger pelagics frequent this dive site.  Wash Rock is a wall dive with rock walls beginning around 40ft and descending down to about 72ft before opening up to a sandy sea floor.  The walls are home to large grouper, crustaceans and the occasional lionfish in addition to the usual subjects. The conditions here tend to be a bit more volatile however with variable currents and surges stirring things up and creating shifts in visibility that can be a bit disorientating.  

Zapatilla Cay

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: Intermediate / Advanced

Avg Depth: 40ft / 12mts

Max Depth: Varies depending which dive site visited

Pristine, that is what comes to mind when trying to describe what is so special about diving Zapatilla Cays.  Located over an hour away at the far end of the Bastimentos National Marine Park, the Zapatilla Cays are one of the least visited islands, therefore the least damaged from human activity. The marine park protects over 28,000 acres below the sea, and nearly 4000 acres on shore. This is a pristine home for over 200 different species of tropical fish nestled between a playground of mangroves, coral and caverns.  

Bonus: Ever picture being stranded on a beautiful deserted island? Most dive shop offer a full day trip with 2 tanks and a break at one of the secluded beaches of the Zapatilla Cays. Of all the dive sites in Bocas Del Toro, this is one of our favorites just for the sheer beauty of the location.

Advanced Certification Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro

For the avid diver who likes a challenge, scuba diving Bocas Del Toro offers some full-day challenging deep dives and some overnight diving trips.  These trips require a minimum of an Advanced Diver Certification and are not for the less experienced divers. Consider that you are diving much further out, meaning a long way to travel to get rescue help if needed.  These dives also require the perfect weather conditions.  If you are planning your scuba diving vacation in Panama, stick to the months between July and October, September being your best chance to experience these incredible dive sites.

Tiger Rock Day Trip

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: Advanced Certification – Nitrox Training

Avg Depth: 60ft / 18mts

Max Depth: 110 ft / 35mts

The tip of a seamount rising less than 7 feet above the ocean surface, Tiger Rock is the favorite dive site for most advanced divers and divemasters in Bocas Del Toro. Located over an hour’s boat journey from Colon, Tiger Rock is a full day dive trip for the most avid scuba divers seeking the best diving in Bocas Del Toro.  The 3 pinnacles that make up seamount descend down over 100 feet deep, however there is something to see on every level. As the dive circles around Tiger Rock, crystal clear water allows incredible visibility and the opportunity to encounter not just one but large schools of pelagics such as black tip reef sharks, nurse sharks, manta rays and even dolphins.  Small tropical fish can be found among the coral and giant groupers & parrotfish are resident.  On occasion you can encounter tiger sharks and even hammerheads. 

The currents here are strong and even with the calmest of sea conditions the entry and exit can be a bit rough. Best time of year to visit Tiger Rock is September and October, however there are chances during February and March as well.

Escudo de Veraguas

Popular Dive Sites in Bocas Del Toro Panama | Scuba Diving in Panama

Skill Level: Advanced Certification 

Avg Depth: Varies

Max Depth: Varies

Home to over 100 of Panama’s indigenous Gnobe Bugle, a scuba diving day trip to the fishing village of Escudo de Veraguas is an unforgettable experience both above and below the water’s surface.  The small island is only 1.3 square miles, but surrounding the island is nearly 250 acres of vibrant coral reef, in fact over 50 different species of reef and over 11,000 marine species. There are several different dive spots to explore around Escudo de Veraguas, and due to the distance from Bocas Del Toro, they are all virtually unharmed by human activity.  

Don’t forget to bring along extra cash as you will not want to miss out on the opportunity to sample some of the fresh seafood prepared by the local fisherman. Ask your guide to assist you with a once in a lifetime opportunity to try to spot the pygmy sloth as this is the ONLY place in the world they have been reported. Escudo de Veraguas can be done in a one day trip, but there are overnight diving trips offered as well with some dive shops in Bocas Del Toro, but be prepared that this is very rustic lodging.

Let’s Go Diving in Bocas Del Toro!!

We hope that all these enticing dive sites inspire you to start planning your Panama vacation soon. With so many dive sites to choose from, you have no excuse not to try scuba diving in Bocas Del Toro. Bocas Del Toro is a great place to try a Discover Scuba course, and an even better place to get your PADI Open Water Certification.  Discover diving in Panama for yourself!

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Last Modified: April 17, 2017 09:49 AM
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