What is the best way to get from Puerto Viejo to Bocas del Toro. After traveling for almost 4 weeks by rental car and bus through Costa Rica, we finally went to the idyllic archipelago of Bocas del Toro in Panama. We left the small town of Puerto Viejo on the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, where we spent some relaxing days on the beach. Puerto Viejo is only 15 kilometers from the Panamanian border and is therefore perfect as a last stop in Costa Rica before heading to Panama to the Bocas del Toro.
We spent more than a week on the Bocas del Toro and at the beginning it took us a while to find our way around. How do you get from Puerto Viejo to the Bocas del Toro? How does the border crossing from Costa Rica to Panama work? We want to give you some answers to these and other important questions. Do you want to know what you can do on the Bocas de Toro, on which islands you should stay overnight and what are our highlights on the Bocas del Toro?
Read our separate article:★ Bocas del Toro | All you need to know about the Carbbean Islands in Panama ★
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
How to get to the Bocas del Toro
You will probably, like us, want to visit Bocas del Toro coming from Costa Rica or coming from the direction of Panama City. We have described both ways here.
From Costa Rica / Puerto Viejo to Bocas del Toro
No matter if you come from San Jose or if you are already in Puerto Viejo or Cahuita, the way by bus is exactly the same. The bus route leads from San Jose via Puerto Limon and Puerto Viejo to the border town Sixoala. The bus from San Jose leaves every 2 hours and costs about 7000 Colones per person (about 10,50 € pP) for the 6-hour trip. If you leave from Puerto Viejo, the trip takes only 1.5 hours and costs 1850 Colones (about 2,80 €).
The bus leaves every hour on the half hour. The bus terminal in San Jose is called Terminal Atlantico Norte and can be found here on Google Maps. In Puerto Viejo there is only one bus terminal from which all buses depart. You can find it here on Google Maps.
How to cross the Border in Sixoala
The bus stops just before the border crossing and you have to walk through a total of 4 stations until you are finally in Panama. Directly behind the bus stop you have to pay the exit fee of 9$. Here, the passport is briefly checked and one receives the proof that one has paid the exit fee.
With this you walk a few meters further to have your passport checked again and leave Costa Rica. From here you walk across the border bridge. On the Internet you can find pictures of the old bridge between the two countries, which now exists only as a photo motif and is otherwise closed.
At the end of the bridge you walk around to the right to the next building to fill out the customs declaration. We, as a couple, had to fill out only one declaration, funnily enough.
After customs, it’s back to the bridge and around to the left to a counter to enter Panama and get the next stamp in your passport. Done. With waiting time the whole process took us about 1 hour. This sounds quite complicated now, but we were constantly sent in the right direction by all kinds of people. So you should not get lost.
By the way, there is a lot of construction going on at the border crossing right now (June 2019), including a new bridge, which can then probably also be crossed by car. Therefore, it can be assumed that in a few months the situation at the border will look somewhat different. From the border you can continue your journey by bus or cab. The cheapest way is certainly by public bus. If you want it to be faster and more comfortable, you should take a cab.
How to get from Sixoala to Bocas del Toro
To get from Sixoala to Bocas del Toro, you have to get to the port of Almirante. There are the following 2 possibilities:
Possibility A: By Public Bus
- by bus from Guabito (the border town on the Panamanian side) to Changingula
- Duration approx. 30min
- Cost: 1 $
- from Changingula a bus to the port of Almirante
- Duration: 45min
- Costs about 1.50 $
Possibility B: By Private Shuttle
- by cab to Almirante
- Duration: 1 h
- Cost: 10 $ p.p.(we could bargain it down to 5$),
Continue by cab boat
From Almirante you have to continue by cab boat. If you arrive by cab, you will be let out directly at the cab boat dock. If you arrive by bus, you will have to walk a few meters. For example to the provider Transporte Almirante (Google Maps Link). The cab boat costs $6 one way or $10 round trip. The trip takes about 30 minutes.
How to get back to Costa Rica from Bocas del Toro?
Boats from Isla Colon to Almirante usually leave every 30 minutes and take just under 30 minutes to get there. At the jetty in Almirante the cab drivers are already waiting for you. For 10$ you will be driven to the border within about 1 hour to Sixoala (Alternatively, you can simply follow the bus route described above in reverse order).
At the border you first have to leave Panama at the appropriate counter. Then you have to cross the bridge and at the end on the right side of the road you have to go to the migration counter to re-enter Costa Rica. Since little was going on, we needed about 30 minutes for this. If you want to continue your journey by public bus, you take the first street to the right after the border house and then directly to the left.
There you will find the bus terminal. From Sixoala to San José the bus with the provider Mepe costs 7435 Colones per person (about 11 €).
How to get from Panama City to Bocas del Toro?
From Panama City you travel, because of the long distance, best by night bus directly to Almirante. You have to go to the Albrook bus terminal (Gran Terminal de Transporte), where the buses leave at 6pm, 6:30pm and 7pm and take about 10-11 hours for the trip.
From the bus terminal in Almirante you will have to take a cab for a few dollars to the port. There you can take a cab boat to Colon Island as described above.
Want to know what you can do on Bocas de Toro, which islands you should stay on, and what our highlights are on Bocas del Toro? Read our separate article: