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Snorkeling from the beach

georgia
Level Contributor
160 posts
Snorkeling from the beach

We have been to STJ a dozen times and are looking for a differant location but similar experience -snorkel from the beaches, natural habitats, laid back feel, exploring by jeep, villas, safety. Have never been to central america, but looks like a place we want to visit. Would love any advise that anyone could provide about locations, experiences or any useful info.

Thanks so much!

Kim

Atlanta, Georgia...
Destination Expert
for Colon, Isla Grande, Portobelo
Level Contributor
5,900 posts
24 reviews
1. Re: Snorkeling from the beach

The viz won't be nearly as clear during most of the year in Panama. But, in Bocas del Toro, you'll find coral and reef populations that make STJ very, very pale by comparison. The catch is, unlike STJ where you can literally walk from the white sandy beach, strap on your fins and snorkel to the reef, here, the beach and the snorkelling reefs are in two different places.

The best beaches and snorkelling are in Bocas del Toro. Honestly, I think the snorkelling is world class. The reefs for snorkelling are all on the protected, leeward side of the islands. The beaches are on the windward sides. Most people stay in Bocas Town or on the island of Bastimentos and take water taxis to the beaches and the reefs. Best idea -- hire a water taxi for the day -- go see the dolphins, then snorkel, have lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon on the beach.

Closest decent snorkelling to Panama is Portobelo. There are two reefs. One of which, La Huerta, comes close to Haul Over and the little cove just past it on STJ. It's a horeshoe cove with a sandy beach, grass and drooping palm at the apex of the cove and a nice snorkelling reef across the mouth of the cove. The way to get there is drive to Portobelo and have a DM or boat captain from Scubapanama take you there.

Forget snorkeling on the beaches on the Pacific. Except for perhaps Contadura in the Pearl Islands. (Haven't been there, yet.) Anywhere else on the Pacific has no coral, very poor viz and nothing to see but sand and gravel.

Beyond the snorkeling, there is a LOT to see in Panama.

Canada
Level Contributor
180 posts
113 reviews
2. Re: Snorkeling from the beach

If you have the opportunity and would like to see good snorkeling, I would recommend bypassing Panama and maybe visiting Roatan and the Bay Islands in Honduras, or perhaps Belize.

Panama has many beautiful things, but snorkeling is typically not the best here, so if that is a priority, you might want to go elsewhere.

Atlanta, Georgia...
Destination Expert
for Colon, Isla Grande, Portobelo
Level Contributor
5,900 posts
24 reviews
3. Re: Snorkeling from the beach

Been to Roatan. Viz is about the same as Bocas. More beautiful coral in Bocas.

LN
Panama City, Panama
Level Contributor
5,784 posts
75 reviews
4. Re: Snorkeling from the beach

I think Bonaire in the Carribean has the best snorkeling. Might want to look into there.

Edited: 11 January 2012, 06:46
CDY
Medellin, Colombia
Destination Expert
for Medellin
Level Contributor
3,994 posts
100 reviews
5. Re: Snorkeling from the beach

Bahamas, St Johns in US Virgin Islands, beuatiful beaches and clear water - but neither offer the culture that Panama does.

Panama is great for combining the two with more of an emphasis on the culture - if you are looking striclty for a beach vacation - an Island in the Caribbean would be a better choice.

Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
1,568 posts
123 reviews
6. Re: Snorkeling from the beach

I haven't been to Panama yet (in 2 months, yeah!) but our reasons for choosing it are similar to what this poster is seeking...when i started exploring online and saw pics and info. about Bocas del Toro, it sounded exactly like the snorkeling + close encounter with nature, with decent food that we were looking for. I think Panam is going to offer a lot more wildlife, birds, frogs, general biodiversity than you find in the Caribbean islands like STJ. We are staying at Tesoro Escondido,outside of Bocas Town. Sounds like a few of the places on Bastimentos Island have easy access to snorkeling in stunning natural settings, so those could be checked out.

Level Contributor
87 posts
7 reviews
7. Re: Snorkeling from the beach

Been to both Roatan, Belize, and Bocas....Bocas the best.

georgia
Level Contributor
160 posts
8. Re: Snorkeling from the beach

Thanks to everyone for your responses and the food for thought. Snorkeling is not our main goal (although do expect to go a few times)-just don't want to do the long, expensive excurtions -leaves little room for other things. More homework needed! Thanks again.

9. Re: Snorkeling from the beach

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