Many excursions in the Bocas del Toro archipelago take in a visit to this small restaurant situated at the southern tip of Isla Bastimentos, facing Cayo Coral. Around a few buildings on stilts, at the edge of the mangrove, you can see, in less than 3 feet of water, starfish, coral and many species of fish. It is an ideal spot for beginners.

Red cushion sea star in Bocas del Toro

How to get there?

This spot is at the southern tip of Isla Bastimentos, facing Cayo Coral, in the central part of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Many all-day excursions (especially to Cayo Zapatilla, Cayo Coral or Dolphin Bay) include a visit to the site, where you can have a meal at a restaurant. Count on $30 to 40 per person for a day’s excursion, not including the meal. A large number of touts in the street will offer to reserve your excursion (sometimes at bargain prices), but you should opt for agencies with an office. It takes about twenty minutes (10 miles) by boat from Bocas del Toro to reach the destination.

Water entrance

You will soon spot a small wooden ladder where you can easily enter the water on one of the walkways set up between the restaurant and the picnic areas.

Restaurante Alfonso snorkeling map, Bocas del Toro

Exploration

You can explore the entire area around the buildings, up to the edge of the mangrove.
The depth of the water is the same in all the area (↕2-4ft/0.5-1m).

The moment you are in the water, you will see a whole host of cushion sea star on the seagrass, one of the symbols of Bocas del Toro. Orange, yellow, beige or bright red, the starfish are extremely photogenic and totally harmless. Go to the end of the jetty (on the side opposite the restaurant) and swim towards the mangrove. The seagrass is replaced little by little by young groups of coral. They are very fine and fragile, and the water is very shallow (sometimes less than 2 feet), so be careful you don’t hit them with your swimfins. Here the seabed has the most fish, with, among others, many young parrotfish and foureye butterflyfish.

Mangrove snorkeling in Bocas del Toro

Move closer to the mangrove to discover an atypical and almost disquieting decor: the atmosphere grows darker and the coral gives way to a forest of roots, lightly colonized by small sponges and sea anemone. Given the multitude of fish larva to be seen in this area, you will realize that the mangroves are genuine nurseries for a great many fish. You can only see this spectacle from the edge of the mangrove, since it becomes quickly impenetrable.

The water is shallow and generally calm and clear, which makes it an ideal spot for children and beginners. The shallow depths also result in excellent light for taking photos. Watch out for boats that come and go on this site when you are out to sea. And you should also be careful you don’t hit your head against the wooden stilts as you are swimming (watch where you are going!).

Mangrove snorkeling in Bocas del Toro

Restaurants & accommodation

You can have a meal at a restaurant built on stilts (Restaurante Alfonso). You generally have to order your dish a little in advance. Otherwise, you can take your own picnic. You should take a minimum supply of water and snacks.

Species you may spot while snorkeling Restaurante Alfonso
COMMON NAME SCIENTIFIC NAME ABUNDANCE FISHBASE WIKIPEDIA
Cushion sea star Oreaster reticulatus  
Foureye butterflyfish Chaetodon capistratus  
Sabella Sabella sp.  
  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth4ft/1m
  • Water entranceEasy, from a wooden ladder
  • Potential DangersFire coral, boats
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsSnorkeling tour price (approx. 25$ pp.)
  • Restaurants nearbyYes
  • Public toilets & showersYes

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

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.