Red Frog Beach Canopy in Bocas Del Toro, Panama
A Real Deal Team Experience
(At The Real Deal tours, we do your homework by scouting out all the best tour operators and the best activities to offer to you and your family on vacation in Panama. This week's review scored an A+ for us and we are proud to now be working with the Bastimentos Sky Zipline Canopy at Red Frog Beach in Bocas Del Toro. Here is one of our Panama Activities Specialist's take on her experience)
I will admit to being pretty jaded when it comes to canopy zip line tours. I lived in Mexico & Costa Rica for nearly a decade and dated a canopy guide for half that time, so for me, canopy tours are the least exciting of all as I’ve done more than I can count. However, knowing that the canopy in Bocas Del Toro was located on Bastimentos Island peeked my interest. Little did I know what a surprise I was in for…this is NOT your average canopy tour!
First of all, of all the canopy tours in Panama, the location of the Bocas Del Toro canopy has the advantage of being located in the heart of Bastimentos Island which is already a destination in itself. There is of course the Red Frog Beach Resort, but more importantly Bastimentos is home to some of Bocas Del Toro's best beaches, excellent surf and extensive nature trails abundant with wildlife. If you are on vacation, and not working as I was, I highly recommend going out there as early as you can muster (water taxi service begins at 7am) and explore the island and enjoy the less crowded beaches before participating in the 2:00pm canopy tour. Unfortunately I did not have that option and I sincerely regret it, but I am here to share my canopy experience, so back the subject at hand.
The Red Frog Beach Canopy has a great office located in Bocas Town on Isla Colon where you check in and wait for the water taxi that will whisk you away to Bastimentos Island. Nothing fancy and a bit bumpy, this 10-15-minute boat ride is actually quite a refreshing change from the humidity on the mainland and offers a great new perspective of Isla Colon, Solarte Island, and the gorgeous mangroves that surround both. We neared a small marina with several sailboats and catamarans docked outside the Red Frog Resort’s private dock. The reception area is spacious and welcoming, with Wi-Fi available and several different tables, chairs, and couches where you comfortably wait for your canopy tour departure.
A bell sounded promptly at 10:00 a.m. and we were led to the equipment area where our harnesses and helmets were adjusted to fit each of us securely and comfortably (do NOT wear short shorts ladies!). We then loaded into a 4x4 open air truck and headed up to the top of Bastimentos Island. The views kept getting increasingly better the higher we climbed, with glimpses of the turquoise Caribbean Sea peeping out from behind the lush green Panamanian Jungle.
Once we reached the top, our canopy guides gave us a detailed briefing on how we would be connected at all times to the canopy line or lines on the platform, demonstrated how to use the hand-brake system, and answered any questions or concerns that we had. (One note, if you think you might chicken out, now is the time. Once you leave the first platform, there is no easy way down...unless you consider rappelling down from the platform and hiking back a better alternative than a fun zip line.) As we started towards the first platform, I caught sight of my first red frog in Panama. No wonder they call this Red Frog Beach! There were many more red frogs spotted throughout the entire treetop trek and the guides carefully picked one up for us so that we could hold it and take pictures. I personally prefer not to bother the wildlife in their habitat, but the guides were very gentle and careful and I realize this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for most of the guests on the tour. After the first introductory zip line the real fun started!
As we arrived to the second platform, I noticed immediately that this treetop trek would be unlike any other canopy tour I had ever experienced. A square hole in the platform with a rappel line headed down signaled that we would not be using the zip line this time. Instead, we were harnessed in and rappelled straight down to the next platform, kicking off of the giant tree with our feet to make sure we didn’t bump into it. My co-worker was a bit anxious at first as it was her first time rappelling, but she loved the experience once her feet touched firmly on the next platform and was ready for the next challenge!
We zipped over to the next platform where we had the choice of taking on the optional ropes challenge courses to get to the following platform, or continue with the standard zip line. As it has just rained a bit (which is very common in Bocas Del Toro, carry a rain poncho), we opted for the easy zip line route, but what an awesome challenge for those who like to push the envelope! There was a child around 7 or 8 who had more courage than we did, and with the assistance of the very patient guide, he was able to tackle the canopy net and the floating log. When he was struggling on the tight rope cable (poor kid was vertically challenged here), the guide simply assisted him to zip line to the next platform.
As our canopy tour continued, there was also a Tarzan Swing from one platform to another. My co-worker was thrilled when the guide pushed her back so that she got to swing two times instead of one. To get to the next platform, we had to navigate a hanging bridge as it swayed back and forth while everyone appeared to be drunk as they were trying to cross. On the other side we encountered the longest zipline they had at the Red Frog Beach canopy tour that takes you to the final platform. Here, the guides let you choose how you want to end your canopy tour in Bocas Del Toro! Feeling brave, both my co-worker and myself hung upside down and zoomed over to the final platform laughing the entire way!
The final vantage point of the canopy tour treats you to a fantastic photo op with stunning views of the vast beaches and several of the small cays dotting Bocas Del Toro. Our guides were more than willing to take pictures and pose with us while we waited for the same 4x4 open-air truck arrived to drive us back down to the Red Frog Beach Welcome Center. The guides at the Bastimentos Sky Canopy really were the key to making this a great experience. They were kind, professional, always smiling and entertaining and genuinely concerned for our safety. We tipped our guides well, and thanked them for an amazing morning!
Unfortunately we had another meeting in Bocas Town at 1:00pm, so the front desk had a panga there waiting and we paid the $7/per person price to return to Isla Colon. If we had had more time, we would have loved to explore more of Red Frog Beach and dine in the restaurant there and sip a beer with our toes in the sand. Overall, this is the most unique canopy tour I have ever experienced, and it is a must-do activity when visiting Bocas del Toro, Panama!