The Sea Monkey is located on Isla Bastimentos, a 5-minute boat ride from Bocas Town on Isla Colon, in the Bocas Del Toro province of Panama.
Bocas del Toro connects by plane to Panama City and San Jose, Costa Rica. It also connects by a 30-minute boat ride to Almirante on the mainland. Almirante connects by taxi, shuttle, and bus to the rest of Panama and to Costa Rica.
Depending on where you are coming from, you may want to fly into either San Jose, Costa Rica or Panama City. Just remember when comparing pricing that Costa Rica charges a $28 exit tax if you are in San Jose for more than 12 hours in transit, and that flying into Tocumen International Airport in Panama City requires a taxi ride ($30-40) to Albrook Airport, where flights depart for Bocas del Toro.
How you get to Isla Colon will depend on how much time and/or money you have to spend getting here. Here are the options:
From Costa Rica
Via Puerto Viejo
The easy way (3.5 hours):
Take a shuttle. They'll pick you up at your hotel at either 8 AM or noon, shuttle you to the border, escort you through immigration, get you to the water taxi, and get you to Bocas Town on Isla Colon for about $30 per person plus exit and entry stamps. Several companies offer this service, which can be booked the day before departure in Puerto Viejo.
The adventurous way via bus/taxi/boat (3.5 to 4.5 hours):
Take a bus from Puerto Viejo to Sixaola (approximately one hour; departures at 6:30 AM, 8:30, 9:30, 10:30, 12:30 PM, 1:30, 2:30 -- later departures won't get you to the border before it closes).
Walk across the bridge to Guabito, Panama. The border is open from 7:00 to 17:00 Costa Rica time (8:00 to 18:00 Panama time). Get an exit stamp on the Costa Rica side ($7 by credit card, $10 in cash) and an entry stamp on the Panama side ($3 fee). Then head to immigration to get your documents checked. This process should take about 30 minutes total.
Just in case, make sure you have a copy of your travel reservation out of Panama. A screen shot of your reservation on your mobile phone will suffice. They don't always check for proof of onward travel at the airport, but officials at the land border at Changuinola often do, and they'll make you go to an internet cafe to print it out should you not have anything with you. It's not the end of the world (and it's cheaper than buying a throw-away bus ticket back to Costa Rica), but it's annoying. If one member of your party has proof of a reservation, that will usually suffice if he/she says it includes everyone in the party.
Once you finish immigration proceedings, you will likely be offered a seat in a shared shuttle to the water taxi port in Almirante. This should cost no more than $10 and can often be cheaper. Keep in mind when bargaining that you can take a taxi directly to Almirante for $25 for the whole car. It takes 45 minutes to an hour to get to Almirante via shuttle or taxi. You can take a taxi to the Changuinola bus terminal for $5 and a bus to Almirante for $1.50. Buses leave frequently as they fill up. From the bus station, you can walk or take a $1 taxi to the water taxi dock.
When you arrive in Almirante, take the water taxi to Bocas del Toro for $6 (30 minutes). They leave every half hour on the half hour from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Take Bocas Marine Tours (the first of the two ferry services you will see, the other being Taxi 25) as their dock on Isla Colon is directly next to the water taxi dock to Isla Bastimentos. Follow the directions below from Bocas Town.
Via San Jose
The super-easy way:
Nature Air flies direct from SJO (Juan Santamaria International) to Isla Colon. The flight takes about one hour. Departures vary by season. One-way prices start at about $100.
The easy way:
Take the shuttle (10 hours, $75). They will pick you up at your hotel in San Jose or at a Denny's near the airport (the airport doesn't allow shuttle pick-ups) and get you all the way to Bocas Town on Isla Colon, with a stop for lunch in the lovely beach town of Puerto Viejo.
The cheap/adventurous way:
Take a MEPE bus from Caribe station in San Jose to Sixaola (departs at 6 AM, 6 hours, $12), or a Transportes Bocatoreños bus from in front of the Hotel Cocori near the Coca Cola bus station to Changuinola (departs at 10 AM, also 6 hours, about $14). Then follow the instructions above from the border to Bocas Town.
Via Panama City
The super-easy way:
Air Panama has daily flights from Albrook Airport to Isla Colon. Flights depart at 6:30 AM and 3:30 PM and start at $96 one way. Take note, these flights depart from Albrook Airport, which is a fairly lengthy taxi ride from Tocumen International Airport, so make sure to allow enough time between your international flight and your flight to Bocas.
The cheap way:
Take the overnight bus from Albrook Bus Terminal (about $35 via taxi from Tocumen Airport, $8 or so from most places in central Panama City; depending on where you are coming from, you can also get there via Panama City's new Metro Line 1 for 35 cents – it's cheaper, faster, and a lot more eco-friendly than a taxi). The bus costs about $35 and takes 10 to 11 hours. There are daily departures from 7 PM to 8:30 PM. On Sunday, there is also a 7 AM departure, which will allow you to see the countryside on the way.
If the direct bus schedule doesn't work with your plans, there are buses every hour from Albrook Terminal to David from 5:30 AM to midnight. These take about 6 hours and cost about $15. From David, you can connect to Almirante on any bus headed to Changuinola for $8.45. This route takes about 4 hours.
Follow instructions above to get to Bocas Town from Almirante.
The easy way:
Take a shuttle ($30-35) directly from Boquete to Almirante, then the water taxi to Isla Colon, which is included in the price of the shuttle. Shuttles can be booked at most hotels and hostels and depart daily at 8 AM.
The cheap way:
Take a bus to David ($1.75, about an hour). Buses leave every 45 minutes from the main plaza.
From David, you can connect to Almirante on any bus headed to Changuinola for $8.45. They depart every half hour. This route takes about 4 hours.
From Almirante, follow the instructions above to get to Bocas Town.
FROM BOCAS TOWN ON ISLA COLON TO THE SEA MONKEY
From the airport:
The airport is a 5-minute walk or a 60-cent taxi ride from the water taxi dock, where you will take a 5-minute water taxi to Isla Bastimentos ($3 per person). Ask the boat captain to drop you off at the Pelicano (the old name of the building that houses the Sea Monkey's restaurant) to avoid having to walk from the center of town. If you do get out in the center of town, turn right with your back to the water and follow the sidewalk until it stops following the edge of the water. It's a 5-minute walk and we're just a few meters past that point.
From the Almirante water taxi dock:
On arrival at the Bocas Marine Tours dock in Isla Colon, walk out to the street, turn left, and turn immediately left to the neighboring dock, where you will take a 5-minute water taxi to Isla Bastimentos ($3). If you happen to arrive at a different dock, don't worry. The Taxi 25 dock is also next to a local water taxi dock, and any captain will be happy to drop you at our place in Isla Bastimentos, though the water taxi captains at docks other than the Bastimentos dock will charge $5 instead of $3.
Please let us know if we can assist in planning your route in any way, or if you need recommendations for hotels or restaurants at transit layover points.