What I’m glad I packed for Bocas del Toro and what I’ll pack next time

I have an announcement! I am bringing my younger brother (He’s going to be 15) to volunteer with Give and Surf again this December! I am so excited and very glad that I’ve already gone on this trip so I can give him some pointers. The following is a list of what I brought to Bocas del Toro, Panama that I definitely used, and a list I made of what I wish I had brought.

I’m so glad I brought: 

Backpack not luggage – I highly recommend a backpack or at least a duffel bag you can wear as a backpack as I got on and off numerous boats, went over dirt, docks, etc and luggage would have been difficult to manage.


My trusty sarong – I’ve written about the uses of sarongs before and think that it is probably the one travel piece that I ALWAYS bring with me (see my backpack and sarong with my guide across the border). I used it as a shawl, protection from the sun, coverup, light blanket, at a shield from the pesky chitaras (little moquitos) who ate me to bits! I was SOOO grateful when a man on the shuttle told me that my sarong fell out of my bag – I would’ve been so bummed!

Sandals with back strap (i.e. not flip flops) – the first day volunteering, I promptly mis-stepped and landed almost knee deep in a mud pit. Had I not had sandals with backs on them. Note: if you will spend much time on the islands, don’t bring fancy sandals. The ones I brought were a few years old and I ended up throwing them away – so I don’t advise

headlamp and flashlight/lantern– out in the islands, there are no street lights, as there are no streets and not all houses have many lights, if any at all. My headlight came in useful after the sun went down to navigate through the darkness.


headband If you’re female, I recommend a headband to keep the sun out of your face, plus you can wet it to cool off a bit

Spray on sunscreen – easy to throw in your bag and reapply! enough said!

Quick dry head and body towels – I was so glad I brought my own because not only did my accommodations not provide towels, but the humid weather would have taken days to dry a regular towel.


Journal and extra pens – as always, I took a journal and nearly filled it up, some of the kids even drew in it 🙂

medications – aside from obvious prescription meds and vitamins, I brought ibuprofen, anti-diarrheal

two swimsuits – if one is wet, you can use the other while it dries

light jacket/poncho – since you’re in the rainforest, you want something to keep you dry without the bulk

baby powder and baby wipes – to keep you fresh and clean 🙂

dry shampoo 

hand sanitizer – the island I was on used conserved rainwater so we had to be careful what we used. I didn’t have to worry about having dirty hands with my hand sanitizer.

water bottle – I brought a water bottle and accidentally left it in Costa Rica, so next time I will definitely bring another because hydration is important.

First aid kit and multipurpose tool

Having been on this trip, this December I will also pack:

water sandals with toe covers – I’m investing in some to get down and dirty!


antihistamines! – I had an allergic reaction to the chitaras (mosquitos) – I was bit literally hundreds of times. As soon as I took benadryl, they started being less itchy and the swelling went down

plastic ziploc bags – to keep everything dry and clean

waterproof bags for electronics – considering the amount of time I was on a boat, I am so glad nothing fell in!


lighter – useful for lighting candles, lanterns and mosquito coils

quick-dry underwear – self explanitory 😉

Spanish < > English Dictionary – Although I speak a lot of Spanish, there are some words that I did not know and a dictionary would have been helpful

sleeping aid/pills – If you have trouble sleeping or think you might have trouble acclimated to the time, bring these! You might want to also consider anti-motionsickness medication if you have problems with that


laundry sheets – where I was staying, the closest laundry was on the main island, almost 30 minutes away, so this time I will bring laundry sheets and wash my clothes in the shower to preserve water

Inflatable pillow – if you need neck support like I do, I recommend bringing an inflatable pillow which won’u take up too much space.

 A Water/drop/dust proof case – for my iPhone such as the Otterbox Armor Series or LifeProof case

This entry was published on March 25, 2014 at 20:37. It’s filed under Central America, Costa Rica, Lists, Panama, Tips and Advice and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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