Gay Bocas Del Toro Guide: gay bars, hotels, things to do & safety tips

Stefan Arestis

Two gay boys hanging out on Bluff beach with no one around, except a few friendly Golden Retrievers, the palm trees and the gorgeous backdrop of the Caribbean.

We celebrated Stefan's birthday in Bocas del Toro in Panama, an area with a wide mix of people who do not care about your sexuality. We found it to be very relaxed, with an incredibly tolerant and friendly vibe. Many LGBTQ expats have even chosen Bocas as a place to live or set up a new business, so there's a handful of gay owned places here to check out.

We absolutely loved our holiday at Bluff Beach and definitely recommend it to other LGBTQ travellers looking for a private and very romantic slice of Caribbean paradise.

Pro Tip: if you're looking for a good tour company, we recommend the gay owned Eco Circuitos who offer a variety of trips for LGBTQ travellers, which focus on culinary, cultural, agricultural and volunteering experiences. They are offering an exclusive 5% discount on all their tours to our readers who quote “NOMADIC5“.

Where is Bocas del Toro?

Bocas del Toro province is in northeast Panama on the Caribbean coast and next to the border with Costa Rica. It includes a chain of 9 islands, each with its own unique charm and character. Temperatures here rarely drop below 20 degrees (68 Fahrenheit), and when it rains, it's just a quick tropical burst of showers before it quickly clears.

Bocas is the main town and transport hub into the region, located on Colon Island. You can reach it via daily flights to/from Panama City (45 mins) or overland by bus from Panama City to Almirante (around 11 hrs), followed by a boat from Almirante (30 mins).

Bocas town is popular with backpackers and surfers, which gives it a hippie-like vibe. We chose to base ourselves further up the island at Bluff Beach, away from the all crowds.

Bluff beach paradise gay bocas del toro
Enjoying the peace and serenity of Bluff Beach in Bocas del Toro

Gay hotels in Bocas del Toro

Most hotels in Bocas del Toro are gay friendly and welcoming to all LGBTQ travellers. The following are the two gay owned hotels we found.

Island Plantation: luxury and adult only!

Gay couple Herolf and Chris chose this specific spot on Bluff Beach to set up their hotel and we totally understand why! It's a good 20 minutes drive away from the hustle and bustle of the main town so has fewer crowds. The beach here is completely unspoilt, and its remoteness means you usually have it all to yourself.

The hotel is absolutely stunning. It has 10 Balinese style jungle rooms, each with its private outdoor space. We also loved the outdoor pool, which is perfect for lounging in when the waves at the beach are too rough. Most of the staff are also gay and super cute.

Island Plantation also has one of the best restaurants in the area, especially rated for their yummy thin crust pizzas. We ended up having most of our meals here for this reason. This is a hidden gem worth checking out in your travels in Panama.

Rooms at Island Plantation start from $175/£133 a night.

Get up to $55 off your next Airbnb booking

We've used Airbnb extensively during our travels because you can rent an entire home which usually works out a lot cheaper than a hotel room. It also allows you to have your own space with a kitchen, a living room and more. You can easily find places close to the gay scene by using the map function. If you've never used Airbnb before, simply click the button below to get up to $55 discount off your first booking.

Lula's Bed and Breakfast: excellent budget option in Bocas town

Lula's is another gay owned hotel, located in Bocas town, so handy if you want to be close to all the nightlife. We were really impressed by the all the excellent reviews, which praise the high standard of service from owners Josh and Chad. We didn't stay here though because we preferred a more luxurious romantic beach experience to celebrate Stefan's birthday.

Rooms at Lula's B&B start from $80/£60 a night.

Island Plantation gay friendly hotel in Bocas del Toro
Island Plantation the perfect resort for gay couples in Bocas del Toro

Gay bars in Bocas del Toro

The place where you're likely to find any bars is in Bocas town. However, this is a small town, so don't expect any sort of gay scene here. Nonetheless, most places here cater to the surfer community, so they will have a very tolerant and hippie-like vibe.

During the day, we loved hanging out at Island Plantation's own BomBom beach bar, open from 11am to 6pm. They serve delicious cocktails as well as beers and of course the infamous pizzas straight out of their wood-fired oven.

Another fun spot to hangout during the day at is the gay owned Bocas Beach Club on Carenero island. This is probably the most happening gay hangout in Bocas del Toro – look out for the rainbow flag proudly displayed. Here you can rent a luxurious Ocean Pod suspended over the water for the day, and also book all inclusive food packages for couples, which include massages.

Gay bocas del toro beach club
Beach pods at the super cool gay hangout, Bocas Beach Club

So is Bocas del Toro safe for gay couples?

Short answer, absolutely! On the one hand Panama is indeed a very conservative country with a strong influence from the Catholic Church. So whilst LGBTQ laws are not as progressive as its Latin neighbours, like Colombia or Costa Rica, things are rapidly changing, with civil union legislation well under way.

In Bocas del Toro even more so. There may not be a big gay scene here with circuit parties and pride parades, but it's still a very open minded and tolerant paradise, with a very relaxed vibe. For this reason, we say it truly is ideal and totally safe for gay couples.

Happy travels are safe travels

We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, an activity or your insurance, we’ll earn a small commission. There is never an extra cost to you for using these links and it helps us keep the site going.

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Stefan Arestis

Stefan is the co-founder, editor and author the gay travel blog nomadicboys.com. As a travel nerd, he has explored more than 80 countries across 5 continents. What he loves the most about travelling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends and learning new cultures. His advice about LGBTQ travel has been featured in Gay Times, Gaycities, Pink News, Gay Star News, Attitude and Towleroad. He has also written about gay travel for other non-gay specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Huffington Post. Stefan is also a qualified lawyer, having practised as a commercial property litigator in London for over 10 years. He left his lawyer days behind to work full time on Nomadic Boys with his husband Sebastien. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

12 thoughts on “Gay Bocas Del Toro Guide: gay bars, hotels, things to do & safety tips”

  1. Hey Guys – What’s your assessment for a single gay guy (staying in Boca Town at, say, Lula’s)? Fun place for a single? Any real possibility of meeting local guys?

  2. I like the fact that you mention how the locals accept/tolerate LGBT. Many websites I have read for LGBT safety tend to ignore this factor. Safety for LGBT community is not based on laws (only good for police and courts who enforce them) or same sex marriage equality or any of these things. It is solely based on the personal views and diversity acceptance of the locals and the population in general. Even in the U.S.A where we have all those laws it is still considered a moderately safe place for the LGBT community due to public intolerance and lack of acceptance by more than 50% of the public. This is why most pro LGBT laws have to be mandated by government laws in thr U.S.A and seldom get passed on public ballots.

  3. Now that’s a really hot Bocas beach shot featuring two insanely sexy stud muffins! Which one do I want? No being choosy, I’ll settle for both 😉 😉 😉

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