It's 6:37 AM, and I am on a paddleboard, a good half mile from shore. The sun is blearily pulsating from behind the horizon - at any moment it will fully rise. The sky fills with clear, dazzling light, but my eyes are on the undulating tendril-like tentacle of a jellyfish, silently snaking just a few inches below my board. "That's a good sign", I think. "The dolphins couldn't be far behind..."
Such is morning in Dolphin Bay, part of Bocas del Toro, Panama. Bocas, as the locals call it, is an archipelago on the Caribbean side of Panama. Mostly protected from hurricanes, tourists, and, well, civilization, it's the consummate place for a secluded getaway. Authentic (locals live in tribal villages), lush and teeming with wildlife (both jungle and sea), Bocas is also just a little bit Wild West; the few "gringos" around seem...reluctant to return to their home countries. Outside of bumping Bocas Town (a haven for surfers), exist just a handful of tiny eco-resorts, accessible by panga. Even more remote are homes available for vacation rental, like Casa del Mar in Dolphin Bay. Many homes come complete with paddleboards, kayaks, snorkel gear, and even a masseuse or chef! Snorkeling (or, frankly, looking off the deck or through the glass floor) will reveal a multitude of stunning fish, urchins, sea cucumbers, starfish, sea spiders, octopuses, jellyfish and even dolphins. It's an ideal balance of adventure and leisure - kayak all morning, settle in for a book after lunch, then get in a snorkel before dinner. Just keep an eye out for those frolicking dolphins.
Want to learn more about visiting Panama? Check out my previous post on 6 Amazing Places to Eat in Casco Viejo, Panama City, and keep an eye out for an upcoming post spotlighting more of Bocas del Toro!
Shot on location at Casa del Mar in Dolphin Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama COVER UP: Talbots, HAT & SUNGLASSES: Vince Camuto via Zappos