During some months of the year, lucky visitors to Boacs del Toro  may get a chance to see sea turtles laying their eggs. Four species of endangered sea turtles find Bocas as attractive as the tourists do: the hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), green (Chelonia mydas), and loggerhead (Caretta caretta). Most lay their eggs on the beaches between March and October.
Night trips to the beach are popular during nesting season. The most accessible site is Playa Bluff  on the east side of Isla Colón . Other good places are Playa Larga on Isla Bastimentos  and the Cayos Zapatillas .
An important spot on the mainland is the strip of coast between the mouth of the Río Changuinola and Peninsula Soropta, just across from Boca del Drago . Sometimes called Playa Changuinola, it’s part of the protected wetlands of San San Pondsack .
Female turtles lay eggs several times in a season. The incubation period lasts about 60 days. Only one in 1,000–10,000 baby turtles survives to adulthood.
Only the leatherbacks and hawksbill are easy to find. Few greens nest in Bocas; those that do come from about June to August, their numbers peaking in July. Loggerheads rarely nest anywhere in the tropics. When they’re spotted, it’s usually as they’re swimming by.
Bocas  was once the most important nesting ground in the Caribbean for the relatively small hawksbill (about a meter long, up to 80 kilograms), especially on the remote Playa Chiriquí, a vast beach on the mainland east of Peninsula Valiente. They nest from June to October, peaking in August and September. Hawksbills (carey in Spanish) are what first drew traders to Bocas. Because they’re prized for their meat and shell, their populations are critically endangered worldwide. The majority of hawksbills that come to the islands nest on the Cayos Zapatillas .
The enormous leatherbacks, known locally as the baula or canal, are the largest of all sea turtles (up to 2.5 meters and 900 kilograms). They nest from March to June, peaking in April and May. Though most numerous on Playa Chiriquí, believed to be the most important leatherback rookery in Central America, they nest on beaches throughout the archipelago and coast.
Turtles are legally protected, but enforcement is lax and they’re still poached for their meat, eggs, and shells. Even the leatherback, which lacks a valuable hard shell and palatable meat, is hunted for its eggs.
Monitoring teams from the Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation, which has a field station in Boca del Drago , have investigated the annual slaughter of 30–40 leatherbacks on the mainland beach near the mouth of the Río Changuinola. Poachers slit off the flippers of the female turtles to make it easier to turn them over, gut them to remove their eggs, and leave them to die slowly on the beach, which is part of a nominally protected area.
Eating turtle eggs and meat is illegal, as is possessing anything made of tortoiseshell. But there are more subtle ways to harm the turtles.
Pollution is a threat to turtles. Even a floating plastic bag can choke to death a giant leatherback, which can’t distinguish between it and jellyfish, its sole source of food.
Do not use flashlights, take flash photos, or even wear light-colored clothing near nesting spots. This can scare away nesting females or disorient baby turtles trying to make it to the sea.
Stay out of sight while the turtles lay their eggs. Never touch them, which disturbs them and can be dangerous—some have strong jaws and a nasty bite.
Don’t handle eggs or disturb the nests. This can introduce bacteria or damage the eggs.
To ensure a responsible visit and support conservation efforts, go with qualified local guides.