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Not visited by the boat tours offered in Bocas del Toro, Old Bank is an off-the-beaten-track snorkeling spot in the archipelago. This shallow reef surrounded by seagrass allows snorkelers to observe reef fish, several species of starfish and lobsters in an atypical and colorful environment. If you stay near Old Bank, you can consider snorkeling at this pleasant and almost deserted location.

Pufferfish at Old Bank
The checkered puffer is one of the many fish species living in Old Bank.

How to get to Old Bank snorkeling spot?

This snorkeling spot is located at the southern tip of Old Bank Bay, on the island of Bastimentos.

Typically, Bocas del Toro snorkeling tours do not include a stop at Old Bank, but you may consider getting there by the following means:

  • By taxi boat, knowing that in this case, the water entrance (and exit) will be directly on the reef.
  • By kayak, knowing that there is no mooring buoy on site
  • By snorkeling from the village of Old Bank. From the village, walk south following the seafront. When the street ends, continue walking south through the mangrove towards the Eclypse de Mar hotel and the small guesthouses located at the point, until you find a suitable snorkel entry.
Old Bank snorkeling map
Old Bank snorkeling map.

Water entrance for snorkeling Old Bank

If you reach the spot by boat or kayak, you will enter the water from your boat.

If you snorkel to the spot from the shore, you will need to find a snorkel entry in the mangrove. In the mangrove the seabed is mostly sandy, sometimes a little muddy. Watch out for roots sticking out of the sand.

Old Bank snorkeling exploration tips

By snorkeling towards the reef (if you entered the water from the shore), you will cross seagrass beds with a few rare fish and cushion starfish.

Gorgonian at Old Bank
Old Bank location features a nice underwater environment.

You will then reach the reef (the central part of the spot, where you will be dropped off if you visit the spot by boat), where the bottoms become sandy with scattered corals and sponges. The water height, less than 6 feet/2 meters, makes snorkeling from the surface very pleasant.

The reef supports few corals, but they are healthy and colorful. Sponges, sea fans, sea plumes and algae also dot the seabed, creating a nice decor where starfish and sabella are easy to spot.

Sea star at Old Bank
Comet stars are pretty common at this location.

Snorkeling at Old Bank allows snorkelers to encounter sea life typical of the reefs of Bocas del Toro, influenced by the proximity of mangroves. Butterflyfish and parrotfish are easy to see everywhere, as are grunts, which shelter in small groups near the outcrops.

Less common species, such as the reticulated pufferfish or the cowfish, also visit the area. Lobsters sometimes hide in the shade of rocky overhangs.

Lobsters at Old Bank
Lucky snorkelers may be privileged to see lobsters taking refuge in the cracks and overhangs.

Old Bank is not a busy spot and boats are not used to seeing people snorkeling there. Even if the water level is low, take a diving flag with you.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

You will find many food and accommodation options in the small village of Old Bank.


  • Level required Intermediate
  • Maximum depth6 ft/2 m over the reef
  • Water entranceFrom the shore (mangroves) or from a boat/kayak
  • Potential DangersBoat traffic
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersLow
  • Access costsFree from the shore
  • 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.