Bocas  is a friendly, mellow place, and reports of violent crime are rare. But the increase in tourism has brought an increase in petty theft. Don’t leave valuables unattended, particularly on the north shore beaches of Bastimentos.
Be alert when using the ATM. Women should also use common sense in dealing with strange men, some of whom can be aggressive in their attentions. Do not tell strangers which hotel you’re staying at, for instance.
Booze-fueled brawls are not uncommon. Treat dive bars in the archipelago with as much caution as you would those back home. Be respectful, and certainly don’t look for a fight.
Land scams are a problem in Bocas. Be skeptical of great deals on beachfront property or get-rich-quick plantation schemes. Legitimate cheap land in Bocas is a thing of the past. Also, establishing land ownership is tricky in Bocas, Panamanian land-use laws are complicated, and tropical forestry is much harder than many think. Do plenty of research and get legal and technical advice from trustworthy sources. As always, if it seems too good to be true, it is.
Placid seas can turn rough quickly, especially on the north side of the islands, and the distances between the islands can be deceptively great. Never go on a boat trip of any length without a life jacket. Avoid long night trips since few boats have lights. Traditional cayucos (traditional dugout canoes) are fun to paddle, but they’re easy to flip so watch out.
Dengue fever is now a problem in hot climates worldwide, but on my most recent Bocas trip I met a surprising number of people who’d recently contracted this serious illness, including three innkeepers. Many first-time visitors worry about malaria, but the risk is significant only in poor and remote regions of the province. These diseases are spread by mosquitoes, not chitras (sand flies). However, chitras can carry leishmaniasis. The best defense for all of these diseases is to minimize insect bites.
These warnings aside, most visitors will only have to worry about too much sun and an impulse to stay in Bocas  forever.