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PEOPLE

The people of the province are made up of mainly indigenous tribes, many of which still live in small isolated villages scattered throughout the islands.

Add to this a healthy mix of people originally from Jamaica and you have an atmosphere that is more closely aligned to the islands of the Caribbean.

The pace of life is slow and relaxed with nobody seeming to be in much of a hurry. Locals travel between the islands in dugout canoes, some with motors, but most without.

These canoes, or “pangas” as they are called, are found throughout the waterways and channels, especially in the morning when everybody is either going to the main island or the mainland.

During this “rush hour” of boating, most adults are traveling to the mainland to work in the banana fields and the children are going to the schools on Isla Colon. Located on Isla Colon is the province's capital city, Bocas del Toro.

This was the headquarters for the United Fruit Company, at the turn of the century, and was an important shipping and receiving port.

With the movement of the center of operations to the mainland in the mid- 1950’s, Bocas town faded in importance to what would later become Chiquita Bananas.

It still remained the center of government in the province with the governor's mansion, hospital, schools and church.
The 1991 earthquake that separated many of the old wooden structures from their foundations capped the slow slide into unimportance and decay. By the early nineties Bocas began to feel the effects of the Central America Peace Accord.

With the regions increased stability, the area became more accessible to the adventurous traveler. The first visitors to show up were the backpackers, who came to the area because of its inexpensive lodging and to explore its untouched beaches.

As the years progressed, more and more tourists began to appear and the word of mouth began to spread about this uncut gem. Over the last few years the entire province has seen the beginnings of a tourist boom, with a number of middle range hotels and restaurants being opened in and around Bocas town. The town now boasts of hundreds of businesses including 3 different PADI dive shops, many different styles of restaurants, gourmet supermarket, several internet cafés, law offices, dental & medical doctor offices, mail boxes etc., a deep sea fishing outfit, numerous sailboat and catamaran cruises, mountain bike and moped rentals and a lot of fabulous seafood.

Various half, full and multiple day trips can be arranged that combine different elements of what is available in the region.