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Last updated on March 12, 2023
Isla Bolaños, which along with 24 other protected islands forms Chiriqui Marine Park, bears all the hallmarks of a perfect desert island: white sand, palm trees, blue waters, and beautiful seabed to explore! Although the underwater visibility can be variable in this area, Isla Bolaños coastal waters are home to a diversity and density of sea life. It includes triggerfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, groupers, porkfish, and occasional hawksbill sea turtles.
Bolaños is located in the southeastern part of the Chiriqui Marine Park, which comprises 25 islands and dozens of coral reefs. Boca Chica, on the mainland, is the gateway to the archipelago. You will find there a choice of day and half-day tours to Chiriqui Marine Park, with prices ranging from $20 to $150 per person, depending on the duration and inclusions.
Tours usually include stops at several locations in the Park, the most popular being Bolaños, Gámez and Paridas. Check that Bolaños is included in the itinerary before you book your tour.
The recommended water entrance is the island’s northernmost beach, which is most probably the beach on which you will be landing if you take part in a snorkeling tour. This beach indeed is the closest to the most preserved coral reef on this part of the island. If you are dropped off on a different beach (such as Secret Beach), ask your guide for advice.
Isla Bolaños features a mainly rocky seabed, with a few corals. Between the rocks, large areas are covered with sand and seaweed. If you stay close to the shore, the depth generally does not exceed 6 to 10 ft/2 to 3 meters.
Isla Bolaños coastal waters allow observing a wide range of species. Among the easiest to see are the blacknosed butterflyfish, the king angelfish, several species of pufferfish, and the Mexican hogfish. The area also has large shoals of razor surgeonfish and Panama porkfish.
If you have the opportunity to get down close to the seabed you will find that some of the overhangs and holes in the rocks are occupied by moray eels.
Isla Bolaños is frequently visited by hawksbill sea turtles, which you may encounter at shallow depths. The area is a no-fishing zone since Chiriqui has been listed as a National Park since 1994. As a result, it features a very good density and diversity of fish, and most of them can be easily approached.
The underwater visibility in Chiriqui Marine Park can sometimes drop to nearly zero, especially after heavy rain.
There are no amenities on the island, so it is recommended to bring with you plenty of water and some snacks. Some tours include lunch. Check what is included in your tour before you book it.
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.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
Rocks and coral reef with turtles and colorful fish
Rocky seabed with turtles, sharks and reef fish
Sponges, corals and seagrass with fish and critters
Coral and sponges reef with lots of fish
Shallow seagrass flats with sea stars and juvenile fish
Shallow lagoon with seagrass meadows and hard coral