Playa Estrella, also known as Starfish Beach, is one of the most well known beaches of Bocas del Toro. A few years ago, hundreds of cushion starfish were found in front of the beach, in only a few inches of water. Despite starfish are rarer than before in the bay, there are still plenty of sealife to spot in Playa Estrella shallow waters. The mangroves lining the beach offer beautiful and colorful underwaterscapes. Here, we can spot many different kinds of fish and invertebrates.

Cushion sea stars at Playa Estrella
Cushion sea stars (oreaster reticulatus) are common at Playa Estrella.

How to get to Starfish Beach snorkeling spot?

Playa Estrella is found on the northwestern coast of Isla Colón, the main island of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. From Bocas Town, the cheapest way to go to Playa Estrella is by bus or taxi until Playa Bocas del Drago. Here, there is a coastal path that lead you to reach the beach on foot (around 15 minutes). Another way is to book a boat tour to the beach in Bocas Town.

Playa Estralla snorkeling map

Water entrance for snorkeling Playa Estrella

Starfish can be seen in front of the beach. If you want to explore the edge of the mangroves, we recommend entering the water at the eastern end of the beach (see map).

Playa Estrella snorkeling exploration

The edge of the mangrove, found east of the beach, is the most recommended place to snorkel at Playa Estrella. If you want to, you can also see cushion starfish in the sandy areas facing the beach. It’s thanks to these starfish that this beach earned its name!

Porcupinefish hidden in mangrove roots
Long-spine porcupinefish (diodon holocanthus) are frequently found hiding between the mangrove roots.

Along the border of the mangrove, you can discover a surprising underwater life. Mangrove roots form underwater “forests”. Here, the seabed is mostly sandy, with a few seagrass paths. Fixed to the roots, we can find several types of invertebrates, like red, purple, and yellow sponges, multiple sabella, and sea anemones. If you search more closely, you can also find small blennie or arrow crabs (stenorhynchus seticornis).

Throughout this area, but especially facing the beach, we can find beautiful cushion starfish, varying in colors of bright red to pale yellow. They have become less numerous however because of overcrowding and disrespectful behavior from visitors. Do not take starfish out from the water!

Sabella worms on mangrove roots
Mangrove roots are colonized by many invertebrate species, notably sabella worms and sponges.

At Playa Estrella, there is an incredible diversity of fish to be observed. The mangrove is definitely a shelter appreciated by juveniles of countless species. While snorkeling, you’ll find small barracudas, grunt, porcupine fish, and yellow tail snappers. Juvenile French angelfish can be spotted between the roots. Lionfish, an invasive species in the Caribbean, can also be seen at Playa Estrella.

Restaurants and accommodation near Starfish Beach

On the island, you can find numerous small restaurants all along the beach. If you want to stay close to Boca del Drago, you can find several cheap lodging options.

 

  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth6ft/2m
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyYes

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.