This mangrove-ringed bay on the south side of Isla Bastimentos has become popular in recent years with travelers interested in exploring the long, mysterious jungle cave near its shore.
But there’s more there than that, including the Ngöbe community of Bahía Honda, which totals about 200 people in 40 families and welcomes visitors. It has a few attractions of possible interest, including a new restaurant. You’ll also find the La Loma Jungle Lodge and Chocolate Farm here, which I like a lot.
The Ngöbe’s rustic, thatched-roof Bahía Honda Restaurant (cell 6726-0968, 6619-5364, or 6592-5162; ask for Rutilio Milton) on the shoreline caters to travelers and supports the local community. The restaurant is open for lunch only, and only with advance notice. Call ahead of time or arrange a visit through your hotel. Lunch is US$6.
There is no real “village” as such and the Ngöbe have lost many of their traditional ways, but Ngöbe women can often be seen making traditional nagua dresses, chakara woven bags, and chaquira beaded necklaces. These are for sale. A child’s nagua makes a cute present for young girls (US$10; the adult-sized ones are US$30). Visitors can hike surrounding trails or try their luck in a cayuco (dugout canoe). Good luck—they’re very easy to flip.
The boat trip up the windy creek to the Bahía Honda bat cave is pretty cool, especially if you travel with a boatman who takes it slow and is good at spotting wildlife. Be patient and make sure to douse yourself with insect repellent ahead of time.
On my trip, we saw four three-toed sloths, a huge iguana, and a caiman within a couple meters of the boat. The vegetation is striking as well. Black, red, and white mangroves grow on either side, and where the boat ties up there are enormous stands of bamboo and absolutely massive gnarled old trees. The cave is a short walk away, with its bats, stalactites, and water that in places can come up to one’s neck.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition