Isla Bastimentos is the second-largest island in the archipelago, and it is one of the region's most popular destinations for its outstanding snorkeling and diving. It is also home to Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park, a boomerang-shaped park that protects a species-rich tropical jungle, pristine coral formations, and two tiny Robinson Crusoe-style islands ringed with powdery white sand. There are also a few highly recommended lodges here that put travelers far away from the hustle and bustle of Bocas Town, and closer to the aforementioned attractions.
Taking the island as a whole, Isla Bastimentos is a curious microcosm of ethnicities and income levels, of pristine landscapes and overdeveloped hamlets. There is one town here, the second largest in the Bocas Archipelago, called Bastimentos Town. Locals often refer to the town as Old Bank, and it can be found on the western tip of the island, about a 15-minute boat ride from Bocas Town. The community of 200 is principally Afro-Caribbean (many prefer to be called creole) descendants from the banana plantation days. It's a little like Jamaica in the 1950s, and the poverty here can be equally heartbreaking and frightening: a collapsed pier, piles of garbage, women playing cards, men drinking beer or lurking about. The official industry here is tourism, but you'd have to be an adventurous soul to brave spending a night here, or even visiting the town's restaurant Roots (tel. 6662-1442) for its popular "Blue Mondays" night with cold beer and reggae music. Still, Bocas residents consider Roots the local restaurant in the area, for its Caribbean vibe and inexpensive creole food, arguably the best creole food in the Bocas area. Wizard Beach, also called First Beach, is a popular surf spot for beginners for its smaller waves and absence of rocks; it can be reached by landing in Bastimentos Town and following a short path, but beware of youths who skulk at the path's entrance, demanding bribes to pass. The beach can also be reached by walking west from Playa Segunda, or Second Beach, home of the controversial new Red Frog Beach Club (tel. 757-4559; www.redfrogbeach.com), a luxury resort development whose two-bedroom homes and condos start at $400,000. Both Playa Segunda and Wizard Beach can be reached by walking from Red Frog Beach.
Beyond Afro-Caribbeans and wealthy foreigners, the island is also home to the Ngobe-Buglé indigenous group, who live in two tiny communities in Bahía Honda and Salt Creek Village, the latter located on the southeastern shore and consisting of a cluster of thatched-roof huts, a small school, and a store.