The coral reefs emerging around Cayo Coral are among the most beautiful in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Their particularly calm, clear waters, sheltered from the caprices of the open sea, have led to the development of fine, colorful coral and sponges, attracting varied underwater life.

Graysby in Cayo Coral
Graysby (cephalopholis cruentata, a member of the groupers family) are pretty common at Cayo Coral’s reef (photo taken in Dec. 2019).

How to get to Cayo Coral snorkeling spot?

Cayo Coral is a small island between Isla Bastimentos and Isla Popa, in the central part of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. 300 yards west of the island, the reef that breaks the water surface is the most popular snorkeling spot in the archipelago. You can visit the spot during excursions organised by a large number of local agencies. These excursions generally include stops in other snorkeling spots (including Cayo Zapatilla and Restaurante Alfonso), and sites for observing dolphins and sloths. The price of a full-day excursion is $25 to $35, not including meals. A large number of touts offer places for excursions in the street (sometimes at discount prices), but you should opt for agencies with an office. It takes about 20 minutes (10 miles) by boat from Bocas del Toro to reach Cayo Coral.

Entering the water at Cayo Coral

You enter the water from the boat. Follow the instructions of your tour guide, who will tell you where to go.

Cayo Coral snorkeling map, Bocas del Toro

Cayo Coral snorkeling tips

The area to explore is easy to see. Although it is in the middle of the water, it is shown by buoys, and it is not unusual for 4 or 5 boats to be anchored nearby.

The depth of the water is the same in all the reef area (↕10-12ft/3-4m). In the central part of the spot, small reefs, covered in turquoise, golden yellow or carmine red sponges provide a particularly colorful decor. Cone-shaped groups of coral cling to the walls, and are the favorite shelter of brittle stars, which have colonized the area. Small groups of sergeant major fish seem to mount the guard, without noticing the wrasses and grunt swimming around the reef.

Sponges and coral
Cayo Coral hosts very unusual underwater landscapes, made of colorful sponges and coral (photo taken in Dec. 2019).

If you move a little further away, the underwater landscape is transformed into a field of soft coral and sea fans swaying in the waves. Parrotfish and foureye butterflyfish slip into this coral “forest”, which has a host of suprises in store if you stick around a little. In the sandy parts, try to spot the yellowhead jawfish, which quickly withdraw into their burrows at the first sign of danger.

The water is generally exceptionally calm at this spot. The main danger comes from other snorkelers (this is a very busy spot at certain times of day) and the boats that come and go on the site. Stick to the central part of the spot and stay alert.

French angelfish pair in Cayo Coral
Gray angelfish (pomacanthus arcuatus) often pay a visit to Cayo Coral’s reef (photo taken in Dec. 2019).

Restaurants & accommodation nearby

There are no restaurants on site, since the spot is in a marine park. A restaurant on stilts is located 500m away (most tour guides stop there). The area near the restaurant is also an interesting spot (see spot here). Otherwise, you can take your own picnic. In any case, ask your tour guide what is included in the price. At the least take some water and a snack.

 

  • Level required Intermediary
  • Maximum depth12ft/3.5m
  • Water entranceFrom a boat
  • Potential DangersUsual precautions
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsSnorkeling tour price (from 25$ pp.)
  • Restaurants nearbyNo
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.