Bocas del Toro, Panama is a popular tourist destination. It is an archipelago located in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of northeastern Panama.
The Bocas Sustainable Tourism Alliance suggests has the following tips for travelers looking to reduce the impact of their visit:
- Despite the huge amount of rainfall in this region, fresh water is in very short supply. Be aware of your usage when traveling – take short showers, re-use towels and linen at hotels, and team up with other travelers to wash a full laundry load.
- Trash is often dumped or burned, so recycle as much as you possibly can. BSTA's Tourist Information Center has containers for recycling plastic bottles, drink cans and plastic bags, and Wongsa on the waterfront at the northern end of Calle 5 takes cleaned drinks cans and plastic bottles to Panama City for recycling.
- Don't keep buying plastic water bottles – refill your old one at the BSTA Tourist Information Center. It's cheaper, too!
- Do not touch coral or other sea life when diving or snorkeling. It could be harmful to you as well as to the coral! You can report any boat drivers who drop anchor on the coral or chase dolphins to BSTA, as well as any guides who act irresponsibly towards the environment.
- Do not purchase souvenirs made from coral or turtle shell, and avoid restaurants serving turtle meat or eggs. Lobsters are also overfished, so you may want to avoid ordering them too.
- Where possible, buy handicrafts directly from the communities or artisans to ensure your money reaches the craftspeople. If you don't manage to visit a local community, a small selection of handicrafts are on sale at the BSTA Tourist Information Center, and all profits are returned to the craftspeople. Additionally, on the first and third Saturday of every month, local communities sell their own crafts, oils, coconut and cacao products at the Bocas Farmer's Market in the park.
- Give something back! Contact BSTA for information about volunteer opportunities in the region – from installing rainwater catchment systems to working in schools.
- Include a visit to a local community tourism project. You can stay in a cabin or with a family; enjoy a home-cooked meal; learn how medicinal plants are used; see how local crafts are made; and watch traditional dance performances.
- Look for low-impact tour options – hiking, biking, kayaking and snorkeling rather than motorized boats, cars or scooters.
- Do your research! BSTA offers information about the sustainability of local businesses so that you can be sure your hotel or tour provider is doing its best to minimize its environmental impact and support the local community.