La Gruta Cave – Bocas del Toro, Panama - Atlas Obscura

La Gruta Cave

Bocas del Toro, Panama

This small cave in the center of Isla Colon doubles as a sanctuary. 

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There are very few navigable roads on the islands of Bocas del Toro province, Panama. If one is adventurous enough to skip the bus tours, water taxis, or cab rides, an excellent option is to rent a motor scooter or ATV to explore the beaches and bluffs. Just off the main road that takes you through the center of Isla Colon, the largest of the islands, there is a cave called la Gruta.

La Gruta is considered a religious site for many people on the island. While many caves have tour guides, gift shops, and lights, la Gruta has no such amenities. A simple box at the entrance requests a dollar on the honor system for entry, and that’s it.

Once you have made it past the entrance, you will discover an outdoor church that is still used by locals. Directly to the right of the pulpit, you will find a small statue of Nuestra Señora de la Gruta sitting outside the entrance to the cave. Entering the caves takes you into water that is roughly ankle deep. Further inside, the water easily comes up to your chest. There is minimal light at that point, and a headlamp is highly necessary, especially considering the fact that some of the local caiman (the small ones) like to bathe in the dark waters.

Right next door to la Gruta there is an intentional community. If you are lucky enough to bump into any of the inhabitants, they are lovely people and have coco butter or dried coconut chips for sale (try the pina colada variety!). If they are not busy tending to their farm, they might even give you a tour of the caves, although they are quick to let you know that it is not their land, as the caves belong to the local church.


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May 6, 2022

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