Bocas del Toro, Panama

Cayos Zapatillas


Cayos Zapatillas are the islands you have most likely seen on websites and brochures of the Bocas area. These two islands, ringed by golden sand beaches and coral reefs teeming with life.

Photo by Owen Trainor

Cayos Zapatillas, Bocas del Toro

Cayos Zapatillas

Two Paradise Islands of the Bastimentos International Marine Park

These two islands, ringed by golden sand beaches and coral reefs teeming with life, fall inside of the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park. Its famous crystalline waters and golden sands are ideal for snorkeling and diving during the right months. Otherwise, the water may be a bit cloudy and has a current on the seaside. These islands are also essential ecological sites for the critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtles that nest on their shores.

These islands are full of stories- local legends say that the Zapatillas (or slipper) Cays were created by the feet of God as they touched down from the heavens. Other stories tell of pirates hiding their treasures here. One thing is for certain, Cayos Zapatillas is a treasure itself and is a must see destination on your next vacation to Bocas del Toro.


History of Cayos Zapatillas

The Bastimentos National Marine Park was Panama’s first marine park established in 1988. This park protects 13,226-hectares (32,682-acres) of land and sea. It’s best known for the Cayos Zapatillas, two lovely islands with fantastic snorkeling and diving opportunities.

Cayos Zapatillas Culture

The only inhabitants of these cays are the park rangers, which protect the cays and its wildlife. There is minimal infrastructure. The Zapatilla Cays include Cayo Zapatilla Norte & Cayo Zapatilla Sur. Panama’s National Environmental Authority (MIAMBIENTE) manages the Cay. There is a MIAMBIENTE center on the southeastern island, and visitors pay to land on the cays. These fees are usually included on day tours. When visiting, please take any trash you bring with you.

How to Get to Cayos Zapatillas

Usually, the visit to Cayos Zapatillas is combined with another tour. Still, you can also hire a private boat to take you here. We recommend bringing water and something to eat since there are no hotels or restaurants on the islands.

Safety on Cayos Zapatillas

Panama’s Ministry of Environment manages the Zapatillas Cays. There is a center on the southeastern island, and visitors pay to land on the cays. When visiting practice common sense, make sure to not leave your things unattended on the beach. If you go out snorkeling, go out in pairs or groups and be cautious of strong currents on the cays’ seaside.

Cayos Zapatillas Tips & Tricks

Take snacks and beverages, there are no stores on these cays. Usually, day tours here include a stop for lunch at nearby Cayo Coral. Pack a light jacket for the boat ride. It takes about 30 minutes to arrive and if it’s raining it can get a bit chilly. 

Things to Do


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