Enjoying Bocas del Toro! 

While taking part in the CARES program, students will be able to soak up this tropical paradise, and the lively town of Bocas del Toro, aka Bocas Town. It’s colorful Caribbean vibe lends itself to delicious food and amusing night-time entertainment (but don’t stay out too late ;-). The diverse culture is a blend of Afro-Caribbean, Jamaican (who came to work the banana plantations), Panamanian Mestizo, Indigenous, Chinese (from the days of the Panama canal), European and North American backgrounds. Just cruise the streets and listen to the various dialects and languages. The program includes as many fun boat trips we can fit in, including Starfish Beach for snorkeling, the Island of the pygmy sloth, and Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park. When we go to provide veterinary services at the primate sanctuary, it’s pretty amazing fun on that island too, so feel free to jump off the dock at quitting time! Plenty of land activities like yoga, nature hikes, zipline tours, horseback riding, ATV rentals, and more…. For the water lovers, SUP, surf lessons, kayaking, scuba and snorkeling. So learn a lot, enjoy a lot, and sleep when you get home!

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Travel Information...

Now for the exciting part, getting here! You will fly into Tocumen Airport Panama City (PTY) using the most convenient airline from your origin. Once in Panama City, you will take a taxi to Albrook Airport. Often travel itineraries line up and we pair students to share the ride. You’ll fly from Albrook Airport (PAC) to Bocas del Toro Airport (BDT) on Air Panama. We will meet you there! (Allow us to confirm your itinerary before purchasing)

Another option is to fly into San Jose Costa Rica (SJO), and take the shuttle. It’s more time consuming so you will need to account for the additional time to arrive for the start of the program.


Students receive their own beds in a shared room at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), including bed linens, towels, wifi, and cleaning service. STRI is the CARES Project home base campus. Academic meetings, accommodation and dining all take place there. Activities and veterinary services all occur off-campus. Plan to bring your preferred toiletries, stores are readily available if you forget something.


Daily group meals are provided three times per day at CARES Project home base, or off-site during our program activities. You are also welcome to choose to go out on your own, as long as we have the head count one day prior. Plan on the expense of lunch and dinner on one free day, and at least one evening to go into town as a group to take in sunset and dinner at a local restaurant. We can accommodate vegetarian food preferences. However, due the nature of the location, we may not always be able to meet all dietary demands. Please contact us directly to discuss any specific needs.


When you arrive at the Bocas del Toro airport we will be there to greet you and transport you to your accommodations at STRI. During the program, your transportation is provided to all scheduled group activities. Transportation by boats called “pangas” are how we move between locations on the different islands. These are usually fairly short rides, with the exception of a few out islands we may visit. Please inform us if sea sickness could be a problem. Between the accommodations, Bocas Town, and the vet clinic all on Isla Colon, we usually travel by foot or car. Many locations are within walking distance, however taxi rides usually run $1 should you decide to go out on your own outside of program time.


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