Bocas Del Toro is one of the best islands to visit in Panama. With plenty of things to do in Bocas Del Toro, you can be spoilt for options. Hence, visiting the stunning Starfish beach (aka Playa Estrella), on the flip side of Isla Colon, should be on top of your Bocas Del Toro itinerary.
Visiting starfish beach had been my sole reason to book my trip to Bocas del toro. From what Mr. Google told me, this beach boasted of an ocean bed dotted with thousands of pretty starfish. Now that seemed too dreamy to miss out on, while I was already in Panama. I mean who can resist a beach with starfish, right?
I am SO glad I made this trip because starfish beach in Panama turned out to be one of the best beaches I have ever stepped foot on (not just the fabled best beach in Bocas Del Toro).
As an “almost” full-time traveler who loves the beach life, I have visited plenty on beaches to give a fair judgement! This Caribbean slice of paradise stole my heart.
Table of Content
- Playa de las Estrellas Bocas Del Toro – What to Expect
- Best Months to Visit Starfish beach
- How to Get to Starfish Beach from Bocas
- Starfish Beach Panama Video
- Where to Stay at Bocas Del Toro?
Playa de las Estrellas Bocas Del Toro – What to Expect
I was traveling to Panama with a Chinese travel mate I met in Mexico. She was under the weather on our second day on the island, which also happened to be our only chance to visit Starfish beach.
Since visiting Playa Estrella was my top reason for making a trip to Bocas Del Toro, I decided to head off for a solo fun beach day. I grabbed a book, my sunscreen, and set off to find the nearest bus to the beach.
I went to the central park of Bocas town which was just a 5 mins walk from the Selina hostel where I was staying. They have hourly buses throughout the day starting from the park, but I had to keep in mind that the last bus back was at 5 pm and it took approx one hour (total) to get there. It was already late noon so I rushed to the park and got lucky right away.
There was a small minibus with no information. I saw a lovely girl waiting at the bus stop so I asked her if this was the bus to Playa Estrella – in my broken Spanish. I was surprised when she replied in English and told me it was and that she was headed there as well.
Welcome – Gigi, my new friend, and companion for the day. We hit it off instantly and chatted the entire 40 mins bus ride to Starfish beach. She happened to be a popular international DJ and our love for music and party called for an instant connection. I found out about some amazing parties in Bocas Del Toro through her but alas a bit too late since it was already my last night on Isla Colon.
Check out Gigi’s awesome music here and stay tuned for parties and events in Panama too.
When the bus stopped at Bocas del Drago, we knew this is where we had to get off. I felt super lucky to have found a companion and that too someone local who could speak fluent Spanish and save me from getting lost or worse – embarrassing myself.
Quickly she found us a boat to go to Starfish beach for $1.
We could’ve walked the 15-20 mins path to the beach but we were already running out of time as it was almost 3:30 pm, which meant we had to be back here in 1.5 hours – just before 5 pm – Eeeks. Bad planning on my part but then, if I had started earlier that day, I wouldn’t have met Gigi. I totally believe everything happens for a reason 🙂
As soon as our boat stopped in the shallow waters, we looked around in amazement at the tranquil blue-green hues and white sands. This was such a pretty sight that we rushed to find a beach chair to dump our bags and get straight into the calm, inviting waters.
Once there, we started looking for starfish – the key pullers for beachgoers there. We also noticed several people with snorkels on, evidently enjoying quite a sight.
It is pretty easy to spot starfish as waters are clear, shallow, and extremely calm. Since the beach is more like a bay, there is no swell, resulting in lagoon-like waters – perfect for both swimming and starfish watching.
To be honest, I was expecting thousands of starfish but only managed to spot a few. With a handful of people snorkeling and swimming in these waters along with a couple of docked boats, I could see how that could be a deterrent for these fish. However, as soon as we saw our first starfish, then two, then three and four – we yelped in excitement like little kids in Disney.
After excitedly taking pictures with these beautiful sea creatures, we decided to head to one of the restaurants onshore for a hearty Panamanian meal and a couple of beers.
By then we had little time on hand so we quickly had our fill, changed into our dry clothes, and started looking for the last boat which is apparently at 5 pm.
With 10 mins to spare, we hurriedly started walking towards the spot where our previous boat had dropped us though we saw no boats in sight.
Needless to say, we panicked a bit and suddenly a local yelled at us and pointed us towards a tree. Unsure of what he was trying to tell us, I looked at Gigi helplessly for a translation – she obliged – the guy was informing us, quite excitedly, that there was a Sloth walking on the beach and that he just climbed a nearby tree. I was so psyched, I totally ignored the fact we might miss our last boat and started looking around for the lazy Sloth.
Ofcourse, I has seen several Sloths on the Bogarin trail in Costa Rica and thereafter but never walking on the ground – that is a rare sight. However, since he had already headed to a treetop and they camouflage well, we gave up and continued focusing on finding a boat.
It was 455 pm and we realized there were no boats around. Gigi spoke to some locals and they told us there were no more boats. We were aghast – We were bang on time, how come there were no boats around?
By now we were panicking in full swing. We started asking several people and waived down a fishing boat we saw. We pleaded to the fisherman to drop us to Drago so that we don’t miss our bus back to Bocas. He smiled and made space for us along with his extensive gear and his cute little daughter onboard. We paid him and thanked him profusely.
We jumped with joy when we saw our minibus at Bocas Del Drago which was apparently almost full and about to head off. With barely 30 seconds to spare we got on the bus and made our way gleefully back to Bocas.
Once there, we went to my hostel Selina and grabbed a few beers whilst dreaming about the pretty starfish we saw and hoping we had more time with them.
Visiting Playa Estrella Bocas Del Toro – Word of Caution
Do NOT touch the starfish or take them out of the water. Be careful not to step on them either while wading through the shallow waters. I was so careful that I was floating throughout just to make sure.
Taking them out of the water can KILL them so please be a responsible tourist when you visit. Before visiting this pristine ecological paradise be sure to read Starfish beach Panama facts so you know what to expect and how to not interfere with nature.
Best Months to Visit Starfish beach
It is a year-round attraction but in November and December, the waters are not so calm and they won’t offer any amazing starfish sightings or swimming opportunities.
The best months to visit Bocas del Toro in general are February – March, and September – October, to avoid rains. We were there in late December and rains ruined a few plans but overall it was still totally worth a visit.
How to Get to Starfish Beach from Bocas
There are hourly buses (costing approx $5 round trip) from the main park in town going towards Bocas del Drago beach which is the stop point for the bus to Starfish beach. From here you can choose to walk 15-20 mins or take a boat (like we did for $1) to Playa Estrella.
Don’t forget that the last Bocas del toro bus to Starfish beach is at 5 pm so ensure you go early to max out on your relaxed beach day.
Bus drive to Bocas del Drago takes around 40 mins and the roads are windy but beautiful. From there, the water taxi takes just around 5 mins to Starfish beach. I would suggest keeping at least 1 hour each way as travel time (more if you haven’t checked the bus schedule, as you might have to wait).
If you don’t want to take the trouble of going by bus, a taxi will set you back around $40 for 4 people and can save you a lot of time. You can even hire a full day private boat to take you straight to the beach.
Starfish Beach Bocas Del Toro on the Map
So if you are self-driving around the crooked roads and wondering ‘Where is Starfish beach‘ then simply follow this google map below 🙂
Starfish Beach Panama Video
Saw this cool vlog of the cute Panama starfish beach and wanted you all to check it out –
Where to Stay at Bocas Del Toro?
Selina Red Frog in Bastimentos, is the perfect place for party lovers and digital nomads set on the stunning Red Frog beach of Bocas Del Toro.
However, we booked the other Selina in Bocas town, on Isla colon (by mistake) and were rewarded with dips in the ocean but sadly no beach (unless we traveled 40 mins by bus to reach one or took a ferry to Red Frog).
Other excellent stay options in Bocas Del Toro are listed below.
Top Rated Stays in Bocas Del Toro
Jungle stay for a unique experience – This tiny home offers a unique jungle experience to visitors. Click here for photos and prices.
Budget hostels in Bocas Del Toro
This list comprises of hostels and stays costing under $30 per day for two people and have a rating over 8 on Booking.com. Click on links below for rates, photos and traveler reviews –
So, if you wish to visit Starfish beach then staying on Isla colon is recommended or you can take a full-day trip from Red Frog and visit all the beaches on Isla colon. Some of these are the top Bocas Del Toro beaches and hence a must visit.
Word of caution for solo female travelers visiting Bocas Del Toro – While we were there, we heard of several incidents in the past of mugging or attacks on tourists, especially whilst on hikes in offbeat parts of Bastimentos. So as with everywhere else really, be street smart and don’t trod off alone in the bush. My personal experience, however, was simply amazing and the few locals I mingled with were generous and helpful but we got lucky. I have heard Bocas isn’t exactly one of the safest islands to visit in the Caribbean.
Tip – While in Panama, do not forget to visit the Panama canal. Here’s how you can visit for free.
What are you waiting for? Head to Bocas Del Toro and check out the stunning Starfish beach while you take in the laid-back Bocas town life.