Level: Free shore access This spot have a free shore access: you can go snorkeling there freely and without having to book a tour or pay an entrance fee.
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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.
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.
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).
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Mangrove and seagrass flats with sea stars and fish
Shallow seagrass flats with sea stars and juvenile fish
Coral and sponges reef with lots of fish
Shallow lagoon with seagrass meadows and hard coral
Shallow rocky beds with colorful fish
Rocks and coral reef with turtles and colorful fish