The Music Video That Put Panama on My Travel Bucket List

A boathouse in Bocas del Toro (Photo: Pablo García Saldaña,  Unsplash )

A boathouse in Bocas del Toro (Photo: Pablo García Saldaña, Unsplash)

As humans, we are easily influenced by things we see on the internet — for better, and for worse. Sometimes we’re aware that someone is trying to sell us something; other times it’s much more subliminal. Whether or not it was their intention, the makers of a particular music video that I found a couple years back definitely sold me on traveling to a certain part of Panama.

Now, you really shouldn’t need much inspiration to travel to a place as beautiful as Panama, with its miles and miles of coastline and palm trees as far as the eye can see, but if for some reason you aren’t sure whether or not it’s a country you’d like to visit, the video for “Cold Ain’t For Me” by Oceans could go a long way toward changing your mind. When I first stumbled upon it, sometime back in early 2017, I thought, “Oh my goodness, what is this magical place with waterside huts, beach bonfires, canoeing, waterslides, and wakeboarding?”

After a small amount of digging, I discovered that this wondrous land was in fact Bocas del Toro, an island province in northwestern Panama. Needing to know more, such as how to get there, what there is to do (beyond the obvious option of lounging on the beach with a tropical drink in hand), and all of that other good stuff that goes into traveling, eventually led me to this extensive guide authored by The Blonde Abroad, a very, VERY successful travel blogger (you know, like me).

Kiersten, the California native behind The Blonde Abroad, has been damn near everywhere, and reading through her Bocas del Toro travel guide only further cemented its position in my mind as a destination more than worth going to. As she states in her intro, Bocas del Toro is actually an archipelago, not a single island, and the most well-known portion of the province — the main island, if you will — is Isla Colón. That’s where you’ll find Bocas Town, a tourist resort and the province’s capital.

If you’re looking to retrace the steps of the individuals seen in the “Cold Ain’t For Me” video, though, the place you’re actually in search of is Isla Bastimentos. Whereas Isla Colón and Bocas Town encompass most of Bocas del Toro’s party scene, Isla Bastimentos is their more laid-back cousin. With the National Marine Park and Red Frog Island Resort's Nature Preserve, the island is popular with backpackers — and, evidently, with attractive, young couples that like to star in tantalizing music videos.

To get the full-on music video experience, you’ll want to book your stay at Azul Paradise, an off-the-grid resort located along Bastimentos’ southern shore. The resort has 10 over-the-water bungalows — such as the one seen in the video — each of them featuring a private outdoor shower, an outdoor living area with sofa, a sunken lounge over the water, and a ladder leading from the sundeck straight into the picture-perfect waters of the Caribbean Sea. Did I mention the bungalows also come with their own private docks?

In a place like this, nobody would blame you for simply sitting back and relaxing, but if you aren’t the type that likes to sit still, you’ve got some options. Kayaking, paddle boarding, deep sea fishing, dolphin tours, and surfing are just some of those options. Snorkeling and diving are also very popular activities in these parts, and are indeed the sole reason that some travelers make their way here.

So what’s the easiest way to get to Bocas del Toro? Flying into Panama City or San José, Costa Rica, and then catching another flight to Bocas del Toro Isla Colón International Airport is definitely going to be the most efficient way to get there, but you can also take a bus from Panama City if you’re trying to stretch your dollars a little further. According to Kiersten from The Blonde Abroad, the express bus takes between 10 and 12 hours, and you can catch one either early in the morning or overnight.

Which route you opt for will undoubtedly depend on what kind of time and money you’re working with— but however you arrive, try your best to let your worries wash into the sea.

-LTH