Two gay guys hanging out with absolutely nobody around us–except two friendly Golden Retrievers, the tropical heat, palm trees and the gorgeous backdrop of the Caribbean. And our trusty tripod of course.
This is Bluff Beach in Bocas del Toro in Panama. And it’s one of the most romantic beach getaways we’ve ever had. How could it not be? We had the beach to ourselves.
We came here to celebrate Stefan’s birthday.
Where is Bocas del Toro, you ask…
Bocas del Toro is a province in northeast Panama on the Caribbean coast, close to the Costa Rica border. Temperatures here rarely drop below 68 degrees, and when it rains, it’s just a quick tropical burst, which quickly clears away.
Bocas is the main town and transport hub into the region, located on Colon Island. You can reach it via daily flights to/from Panama City (45 mins) or overland by bus from Panama City to Almirante (around 11 hrs), followed by a boat from Almirante (30 mins).
Panama City is the main transport hub into the country, and definitely a place we recommend checking out for a few days.
Bluff Beach tropical island paradise
We loved Bluff Beach because as well as being that idyllic tropical island image you dream of–it feels like you’re the only person here, despite being vast. The best part begins at the BomBom bar and extends outwards for several miles, with palm trees cutting it off from the main road behind it. As a same-sex couple we felt completely at home here, and even enjoyed a few nude romantic moments together.
The BomBom bar is a great hangout during the day, popular with both straight and gay locals/travelers. They serve delicious rum based cocktails. It’s connected to Island Plantation resort who have their own wood fired oven, so you can order some really tasty pizzas.
We visited during the shoulder season in September, so there were only a few other gay travelers visiting. Peak season is December to March when more gay travelers visit, particularly from the US.
The isolation of the place makes it popular for yoga retreats and nudists.
Is it safe?
Very much so.
Whilst Panama’s LGBTQ reputation doesn’t quite compare with neighboring countries like Costa Rica and Colombia, things are constantly evolving, with civil union legislation on its way. As such there are pockets of gay meccas popping up, like Bocas del Toro.
Bocas del Toro is popular with backpackers and surfers, which has historically given it a very hippie-like, relaxed vibe. More and more gay-friendly businesses are being set up by both locals and expats.
Of course don’t come here expecting circuit-like parties and pride parades. Bocas del Toro is a chill place, which LGBTQ travelers in the region will definitely want to bookmark in their Latin America bucket list. It’s very safe, extremely welcoming for gay couples, and attracts its fair share of pink tourism, largely due to the growing expat community settling here.
Gay friendly hotels in Bocas del Toro
We stayed at the gay owned/managed hotel called Island Plantation, which is located right on Bluff Beach. It has 10 Balinese style jungle rooms, each with its private outdoor space. We also loved the outdoor pool, which is perfect for lounging in when the waves at the beach are too rough. The staff is sweet, comprising a mix of locals and workers from other countries near Panama.
Bocas Beach Club & Suites on nearby Carenero island is another popular gay owned hotel in the region. They have a few luxurious suites to rent, and is also a popular hangout during the day, with rainbow flag flying proud. Here you can rent an Ocean Pod suspended over the water for the day.
Both these options are located a fair drive away from Bocas del Toro main town. For us this was perfect because we wanted to be away from all the noise in Bocas town. However, if you do want to stay in the centre of town and be close to all the bars and restaurants, we recommend Lula’s Bed and Breakfast, which is another gay owned hotel, ideal for budget travelers.
Nomadic Boys are Greek/French couple Stefan and Sebastien, who have been traveling the world since they left their lives and jobs in London in 2014.
Over that period of time, their gay travel blog has become their main project, which allows them to slowly travel in each new destination they visit, to seek out the best places on the globe.