Even with the sudden growth, this area is not exactly crawling with tour operators and recreational facilities. That may change soon; for one thing, there are plans to build a full-service marina. Guests generally arrange excursions through their hotels, some of which offer tours for nonguests as well. There is one dive operator based in the area. Note that there’s a US$5 per-person fee to enter Parque Nacional Marino Golfo de Chiriquí , usually collected by the tour operator.
The best bet for an economical boat tour is Hotel Boca Brava (tel. 851-0017, fax 700-0250 or 676-3244, www.hotelbocabrava.com ), which offers a wide variety of tours to all the attractions in the area. Round-trip excursions to the nearest islands, for instance, are US$4–7 a person. A half-day snorkeling and hiking trip to Isla San José costs US$35 total for up to four people.
The hotel has a more substantial excursion boat it can use for day trips to distant destinations, such as Islas Secas (US$280 for up to six people, including snorkeling gear and lunch). The hotel also rents snorkels and masks for US$2. Single sea kayaks are US$3 an hour or US$15 a day; two-person kayaks are US$4.50 an hour or US$22.50 a day.
Diving in the region is best during the dry season, December–April. Divers should try to make it all the way out to Islas Secas or Islas Ladrones .
Boca Brava Divers (tel. 775-3185, cell 6600-6191, www.scubadiving-panama.com ) is run by Carlos Spragge, who runs a highly professional operation. A full day of diving costs US$150 per diver, including boat, divemaster, tanks, weights, and a picnic lunch. Trips are limited to 4–8 divers.
Carlos converted a 46-foot commercial vessel into a somewhat spartan live-aboard, Miss Bessy, that he uses for day trips to Islas Secas and Islas Ladrones, as well as for “cruises” that last up to seven days. Per-person prices are US$150 for the first day and US$250 for each additional day, including a berth, three daily meals, dive-master, tanks, and weights. Overnight trips are limited to 4–5 people.