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Dive Review of Boca Dive Center/Hotel Palma Royale in
Panama/Bocas del Toro

Boca Dive Center/Hotel Palma Royale: "Decent Caribbean Diving", Jan, 2016,

by Sean Bruner, AZ, US (Contributor Contributor 16 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 8804 has 2 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments Bocas del Toro is a run-down town on the Caribbean side of Panama. It looks like some backwater out of a Graham Greene novel. That said, Bocas Dive Center is a professional, well-run operation with top-notch guides and nice boats. We brought our own equipment, but their rental gear seemed above the norm one finds in a third world dive shop. The tank fills were generous, usually over 3000 psi. They did a big certification business and we met divers from Sweeden, China, Switzerland and the U.S. all getting different levels of certification.

The diving isn't great, even by Caribbean standards, but it was easy and fun. The visibility was not good, but the coral was healthy and the dive sites were full of big, healthy sponges. You won't find any pelagics here, and the fish life is not abundant, but we did see some interesting things, including toad fish, a squid which posed nicely for a video, schools of snapper, blenies, butterfly fish, lion fish (numerous, unfortunately), spotted drum, including a juvenile who refused to keep still for a photo, loads of lobster, goat fish, and other typical Caribbean species.

Seeing that we were experienced divers, they split us off from the larger groups and we dove with just the dive guide and one other diver getting his master certification. That was heaven. The one time we had to dive with the group, L got smacked in the head and another diver had to be held down by the guide to avoid popping to the surface. The rest of the dives were leisurely and the guides were very attentive and helpful in pointing out interesting fish. We went to a couple of wrecks which were sunk on purpose to create artificial reefs. Even the one which had only been sunk 6 months before was harboring a lot of life. It was supposedly the home of a resident nurse shark, but it was not evident on our dive.

Overall, this wouldn't be my first pick for a Caribbean destination, but if I were in Panama again, I'd go back. Our hotel was conveniently located just around the corner from the dive center and there was a top notch boutique grocery store next door to the hotel. We had a suite with a full kitchen and prepared most of our own meals, saving the expense of going to some of the seedy restaurants (although another couple we had seen diving told us that the restaurants were actually quite good). Panama is an interesting country, prosperous by Latin American standards, and we enjoyed a wonderful trip to the cloud forest at Mt. Totumas between our diving in the Pacific (see report on Coiba Dive Center) and Bocas.
Websites Boca Dive Center   Hotel Palma Royale

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Indonesia, Galapagos, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Islas Revillagigedo, Hawaii, Cozumel, Roatan, BVI
Closest Airport Bocas del Toro Getting There direct flights from Panama City; otherwise bus and boat

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy, cloudy Seas calm
Water Temp 85-°F / 29-°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 15-30 Ft/ 5-9 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Stick with the dive guide and surface as a group
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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