Volunteer Resources

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Volunteer Resources 2017-06-12T03:36:16+00:00

Welcome to our Volunteer Resource Page, where you will find everything you need to know about our volunteer experience! Important pre-trip information can be found here, as well as information about our programs, teaching, and the communities that we serve.

We are excited that you’ve decided to volunteer with us in Panama and want to make sure you are prepared for the ultimate experience and setting expectations. As a non-profit organization that is committed to empowering the indigenous communities of Bocas del Toro, our primary responsibility is to providing educational programs and services to the Ngobe people we serve.  As a volunteer for Give & Surf, you will have the chance to teach, lead activities, and build relationships with the locals.  On our free afternoons, we are happy to help arrange excursions and activities for you so that you can enjoy everything that Bocas has to offer, including surfing, hiking, snorkeling, biking, beach trips, and more!


  • All accommodations are located off the grid and away from regular civilian lifestyle.  This means no grocery stores, nightlife, restaurants, and regular internet during the week. This is a basic and rustic environment for those who seek adventure, living simply, and are here to give back to the community.


  • We host short & long term volunteers in our house on Isla Bastimentos.  The house has 2 bedrooms, a large main room with dorm-style beds, a kitchen, two bathrooms, and a large deck overlooking the Caribbean.  Volunteers will share the main room and/or a bedroom depending on the number of volunteers during your stay.  There is limited, solar-powered electricity and limited running water provided from a rainwater catchment system.  There is no internet.  The house is approximately a 10-minute boat ride from Bocas Town as well as from the communities where we work.
  • When our Volunteer House is filled, volunteers are housed in a dorm room in a nearby hostel.
  • If you prefer more private living quarters with your own room, we can arrange to have you stay at a local hostel, hotel, or B&B for an additional fee.  Just ask the volunteer coordinator!


  • Your volunteer fees cover your accommodations at the Volunteer House, lunches Monday-Friday, and local transportation to & from the communities and town.  Depending on your spending habits, you can spend very little (by making your own food and not doing a lot of tour-guided excursions) or you can spend a lot (on nice restaurants, tours, staying in town on the weekends, etc.). There is one back in town with an ATM to withdrawal money. Please ask a fellow volunteer or coordinator where the ATM is.


The surf conditions are often changing and unpredictable but when they’re good, many of our staff & volunteers love to surf!  We typically arrange a couple of group surf trips to local breaks during the week after our programs.  Volunteers can pay for water taxis to other local breaks and beaches on the weekends or on days when the group isn’t going.

  • For those learning to surf, one 3-hour lesson is provided during your stay by Mono Loco Surf School.
  • We have some surfboards at the Volunteer House for volunteers to use during their stay or you are welcome to bring your own or rent one in town.  Board rentals range from $10-25 per day.

When using the Give & Surf boat to surf any break except Carenero the rates are as follows:

Paunch/Dumpers: $10
Bluff: $15
Wizards: $10
Long Beach: $30


  • Weekly lunches are provided Monday, Wednesday, Thursday in the community by local Ngobe women. Lunches typically consist of chicken or fish with rice, potatoes, a vegetable, and fruit.
  • On Tuesday and Friday we will eat lunch in Bocas town as a group. Give and Surf will cover up to $8 for these days.
  • Breakfast and dinner are the volunteer’s responsibility. Food can be purchased in town upon arrival and during regular trips to town for supplies.  The Volunteer House has a full kitchen, including refrigerator and stove, for you to prepare food.  Often staff & volunteers cook family-style meals together.
  • On Sunday nights we will aim to have a family dinner covered by give and surf. This will be a time for us to reflect on the week past and the week ahead, and come closer as a group. Please plan on attending this dinner each week!


Please take care of all minor cuts and scrapes during your time in Panama. It is common for small cuts to turn into bigger problems if not cleaned and looked after properly. The warm and humid Caribbean climate combined with the rugged lifestyle we enjoy makes our cuts very vulnerable to infection so please do your best to keep your injuries clean!

  • If you need to see a doctor, there is a good private doctor in Bocas town that can be reached by appointment. Have your VC call ahead of time to ensure your spot.
  • There is a hospital in Bocas as well but go early or expect to wait a long time.
  • All other medicinal needs like antibiotics can be purchased from a pharmacy in town.


All transport is done by boat. Volunteers should expect to spend a significant amount of time on boats and waiting for boats. You will often find yourself getting caught in the rain and feeling soggy/muddy, but this can be an awesome part of the experience if you embrace it. Additionally, it is important to note that all volunteers must understand we move and work as a group. We cannot individually accommodate the needs and interests of multiple groups of people.


We recommend that you try your best to “un-plug” during your time with us in Bocas so you can get the most out of your experience! Try reading a book, doing yoga, or studying Spanish instead of browsing social media. When problems arise back home, real or imagined, ask yourself, “Is it here?” “Is it now?” If your answer is “no” to both, then let it go! However:

  • If you decide to get a cheap phone during your stay or have a phone that is unlocked we recommend choosing a SIM card through the company +Movil. It works both in the community and in town. Other carriers may only work on the main island. SIM cards can be purchased in Panama City or in Bocas upon arrival. Ask a volunteer coordinator to help you!
  • The app, “Whatsapp,” is a great tool to use to get in contact with Give and Surf staff. Ask your VC for more information.
  • Internet access will be made available regularly. Ask a staff person if you have an urgent need for internet and we can organize it for you.


  • Laundry can be done in town for a small fee, around $5 per load. Ask a volunteer coordinator about options!

If you plan on using a debit or credit card while abroad, notify your bank of your travel plans and make sure that your debit card has a four digit PIN.


It is important to be culturally sensitive to all children and adults you meet in Panama. The individuals you will meet are part of the largest indigenous population in Panama called Ngäbe-Buglé. The children we work with live isolated lives with very minimal exposure to the outside world therefore they are more timid and shy than the normal student.  They grow up in homes with very simple needs: shelter, food, and water.  The families live in thatched houses over the water and are without electricity, clean water, bathrooms and the luxuries we are used to.  They are soft spoken and kind souls who are very appreciative of the work we do in the community. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ng%9Abe-Bugl%8E_Comarca


Volunteers will have the opportunity to work with the following education programs:


Location: Bahia Roja, Bahia Honda

Times: 9-12, M-F

Panama does not provide public preschool education in many remote areas of the country in spite of a universal acceptance that early childhood education is a critical component to a child’s development. For this reason we chose to open our doors to the preschool aged children of Bahia Honda and Bahia Roja. This was accomplished in collaboration with our partners and friends from La Loma Jungle Lodge. We are incredibly proud and excited to provide both communities daily preschool. In September of 2013 we adopted a Montessori curriculum focused on empowering our students to be independent through interacting with their environments and stimulating their senses. Our days consist of implementing this curriculum, reading, arts and crafts, trips to the playground, and special field trips. This is an amazing opportunity to provide the first generation of future all-stars an awesome and enriching experience. It is also great to practice and learn Spanish as they are very forgiving individuals with huge hearts and smiles.

You can expect to volunteer with our preschool five days a week as well as with the elementary school right next door.  We will need a lot of help with classroom setup, curriculum development, and teaching.



Location: Bahia Roja, Bahia Honda, Old Bank

The after-school program focuses on providing the elementary aged children with an enriching and engaging environment to participate in new activities, learn English, further develop their understanding of the world, and have fun.  This program was initiated as a supplement to the public education provided.  We also give the children the chance to go on field trips outside the local community.  Through our program we hope to provide the educational support needed to reverse the unfortunate trends seen in public education around the archipelago.  Come have a blast enjoying lessons, sports, music, movies, games, and more with our students and other volunteers.


Location: Bahia Roja, Bahia Honda, Old Bank

Much like the after-school program, our aim is to provide education and new experiences to the children of Bahia Honda during their summer break between December and late February.  During this time we develop a schedule (found below) focused on different themes that combine the environment, experiential learning, and self-expression.  The schedule combines multiple 2-5 week courses with one centralized theme.  The lesson plans developed during this program are intended to be engaging and cultivate the students’ creativity.  We invite all volunteers to share and incorporate their personal interests and experiences into this program.


Location: Bahia Roja, Bahia Honda, Bocas

Two days a week we work with 10-15 dedicated adults in the Bahia Honda and Bahia Roja communities.  Learning English is tremendously important for the adults to build confidence and have employment opportunities in the tourist rich area of Bocas del Toro.  We work with students on varying levels of English and aim to engage our students through active learning.


  • Assist teacher with preparing the classroom/activities for the day
  • Cleaning and organizing the classroom after all classes
  • Help take children to the bathroom
  • Wash hands of children after bathroom
  • Prepare snacks or help with making food
  • Organizing the library and card catalog
  • Preparing lesson plans for after-school program


  • Settling the children at the beginning of class
  • Between each activity help reset the focus of the children
  • Helping take the children out of the classroom when they have individual needs (bathroom, misbehaving)


  • During our days at preschool we visit the playground for 20-30 minutes at the end of the day.  Volunteers will be assigned to watch after and engage a few students throughout their time with us.


  • Preparing substantive lesson plans that focus on the current program
  • Assisting in delivering these lesson plans as a teacher
  • Organizing materials necessary for the lesson plan (this could mean buying supplies in town)


Working in Panama with children who have little exposure to formal education and discipline can be very difficult.  Adjusting to the challenge of teaching in a new environment with children who receive less schooling and parenting than you or I can be discouraging, yet rewarding if patient and persistent.  Seeing immediate results of your hard work is not always the case.  The key to working with the children is preparation, flexibility, perseverance, and energy.

  • In the situation that a student is misbehaving the best option is to first regain the focus of that individual and class if this individual is disturbing the flow of the classroom.  In preschool and kindergarten this is best achieved by centering the focus of the group with a breathing, counting, or hand holding exercise.  A calming and soft voice is the best tone to take.
  • For the after-school program/summer school it is best to continue teaching by paying no attention to the misbehaved student.  Engage the other students in your lesson plan with more energy and hope that will focus the other(s).  If this does not prevail it is best to wait for a break to speak with the student.  If it is too distracting and the behavior is unacceptable please help our teachers by asking the child to go outside with you.  Depending on the child we recommend you either address the issue with a simple conversation or leave them alone.  With time the student will grow jealous of the fun his or her friends are having and return to the classroom ready to participate.


The teachers and volunteers are the foundation of the education programs.  Through creative, active lesson plans we aim to develop the education and futures of the children you will work with.  We empower and implore the volunteers to be an integral part of the curricula and education projects during their time with us.  Below you will find resources that will help you tap into ideas for developing a unique yet simple lesson plan that will be useful to the teachers.  You will be part of developing many lesson plans when in Panama for the early childhood and elementary school programs.  This is your opportunity to prepare your own!  It is important to develop lesson plans that are appropriate for the different age groups.  The lesson plans will most certainly be modified with the help of a full time teacher in order to appropriately address the children and topic.  We ask all volunteers to complete this task understanding that the lesson plans and reading through this document will help you prepare for being an asset to the organization.  Your learning and preparation will be most effective on the ground. This serves as a great way to quickly connect with the organization and programs in Panama.

  • All classes are predominantly taught in Spanish, but your lesson plans can be made in your native language.  As the one helping teach the lesson plan it will be helpful to highlight the key vocabulary words in both English and Spanish that you and our teachers will use during the lesson plan.  We focus on incorporating the key vocabulary in English into all of our lesson plans so please outline that which you want to introduce through the lesson plan.
  • Our resources are limited: no printer, school supply store, or arts and crafts so please come prepared with all necessary materials.
  • Incorporating nature, sustainable, and recycled materials into the lesson plan is a great way to work with the environment the children live in and bring the outside world into the classroom.  This also falls in line with the philosophy and practices of our education programs.

Preschool: 3-4 year olds (all lesson plans should follow basic Montessori principles)

Kindergarten: 5-6 year olds (although we do not ask you to prepare a lesson plan for kindergarten long term volunteers should expect to work with this program

After-School Program: 1st-3rd grade and 4th-6th grade

Summer School: 1st-3rd grade and 4th-6th grade

Surf Outreach and Mentorship Program (SOMP)

This program is designed to use surfing as a medium through which we can connect to the at-risk youth of Isla Bastimentos. The normal schedule days will be Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 9-11am. Wednesday is a classroom day where we will help the students with their homework or teach them something applicable to their lives. On Thursday we will take them out surfing! At the end of the 10 week program the students with the best attendance and attitudes will receive surfboards!

Marine Education and Mentorship Program (MEMP)

This program focuses on teaching the students about their local marine environment, conservation efforts, and sustainable fishing practices. Wednesday is a classroom day where we will focus on a new idea and Thursday is the day to go out in the field (or ocean) and study it! The culmination of this program is a half day Discover Scuba Adventure with the kids!

Skateboard Program

Our skateboard program runs almost year-round in Bastimentos and consists of teaching the youth how to safely skateboard! Ages for this class range from 5-15 so it is very important that an attentive teacher be on site to ensure the safety of the young children. This class takes place in the late afternoons in the town of Old Bank.

Soccer Program

Teach basic soccer mechanics to the different communities and organize scrimmages between volunteers and locals. This program can run in both the Ngobe communities and in Old Bank. In the Ngobe communities this class takes place from 12-1. Times vary in Old Bank.

Swim Program

Teach swimming for fun and survival to the different communities of Bastimentos. A large number of Ngobe do not know how to swim which is a big problem for a culture that thrives on the water. Have fun with the kids while building their confidence in and out of the water! This program can run in both the Ngobe communities and in Old Bank. In the Ngobe communities this class takes place from 12-1. Times vary in Old Bank.


There are many different hikes and trails on Bastimentos with varying degrees of difficulty. Ask your volunteer coordinator before venturing off on your own as some of the trails may be too muddy when we’ve had a lot of rain!


Many different types of fishing are available to you here in Bocas. Try hand-line fishing with Edy the Ngobe way or charter a deep sea fishing boat, or you can even try your luck spearfishing and lobster diving. Costs for these trips will vary with deep sea fishing charters being the most expensive. A morning with Edy costs around $25 depending on gas usage.


At Give and Surf, we love to surf! On a normal day it is common for us to venture out to one of the breaks after we finish with our other work. We have a variety of boards for you to use in the Volunteer House. If the Give and Surf boat is busy and is not able to take you out to surf, you can have a staff person call you a water taxi or walking to Wizard Beach is a good option.


BAT CAVE TOUR $15 (Bastimentos)


  • Explore the bat cave in Bahia Honda by the man who discovered it, Rutilio Milton. This tour consists of a relaxing boat ride through Bahia Honda and the mangrove, followed by a short jungle hike, and then to the cave. The tour can take up to 4 hours depending on how far in the cave you go!




  • Explore and taste a rare and exotic fruits farm, hike through the thick jungle and farmlands, and see Red Frog and Polo beach, all in one day! This tour leaves at 11am from Old Bank and takes you to some seldom seen corners of Bastimentos. End the day with dinner and a coconut on the beach cooked by the infamous Mr. Polo!




  • A short hike up the mountain from Old Bank lies Up in the Hill Chocolate Farm. A great place to spend an afternoon tasting the different chocolate treats they have! The chocolate milk and brownie are our favorites.


PADDLE BOARD RENTAL $6-$10 per hour (Bastimentos/Bocas/Carenero)


  • Paddle boards can be rented in town from Salina Hostel or Mama Llena Hostel for a low price per hour. These can also be rented from Bubba’s House in Bastimentos for around $7 per hour.



  • This point on Solarte just across from Old Bank is a favorite for snorkelers and divers, but it also makes for a good afternoon beach day! There are several short trails to be explored here as well but the main attraction is the 40 foot coral wall just a few meters from the beach.

BIKE RENTALS $1-$3 per hour (Bocas)


  • Renting bikes and adventuring around Bocas Isla is one of our favorite afternoon activities. Follow the coast for amazing views and end up at Paki Point, a restaurant/ bar with a prime piece of real-estate looking over Tiger Tails surf break. Watch the surfers and sip a smoothie on one of their outdoor beds.
  • More adventurous volunteers can continue on to Bluff Beach, about an hour outside of Bocas Town.




  • Take a tour of La Loma’s chocolate farm and learn how chocolate is made, from start to finish! After the tour the guests will gather for an unforgettable organic and vegan dining experience. Hosted by our dear friends Henry and Margaret!


ZAPATILLA ISLAND TOUR minimum of $50 (split) +$5 park entrance fee (Bastimentos)


  • Spend the day venturing out to the world famous Zapatilla Islands, where 17 countries have filmed the TV Show, “Survivor.” These idyllic islas are within the Bastimentos Marine National Park, protecting them from large scale fishing, making the surrounding waters some of the most vibrant in Bocas. Pack a lunch and bring a book as these days are meant to be spent relaxing!


BIRD ISLAND TOUR minimum of $50 (split) (Bocas)


  • Leave early and slowly make your way around Bocas Isla. When the waves are small to none, this tour offers many different destinations all in one day including La Piscina, Nurse Shark Cave, Bird Island, and Starfish Beach. Bring a snorkel and pack a lunch, or wait to eat once you arrive at Starfish Beach, where the coast is covered with beach bars and restaurants.


HORSEBACK RIDING pricing varies (Bastimentos)


  • Explore Bastimentos in style on one of TiTi’s horses! Ask VC for more information and availability.




  • Booze cruise anyone? This tour can be either the most relaxing of the bunch or the wildest! Slowly make your way from Bocas Island to many of the favorite snorkel spots including Dolphin Bay, Coral Cay, Blue Coconut, and more. Lunch is included and drinks are cheap. Wear sunscreen!


ATV RENTAL $75-$100 (Bocas)


  • Prepare yourself for one of the best experiences of your life! Start at Flying Pirates in Bocas and travel outwards towards Bluff Beach and beyond. Stop at La Piscina to wash off the mud, learn about Bocas history, and compete with the Howler Monkey’s to see who is loudest. Although this is one of the more expensive tours, it is truly a once in a lifetime experience to ride like this through the very wild Panamanian jungle!


SCUBA DIVING prices vary (Bastimentos/Bocas)


  • Bocas is known for its incredible underwater worlds and the diving here is relatively cheap. We recommend using Scuba 6 Dive Center in Bastimentos or Panama Dive School on Bocas. Say you are with Give and Surf and receive a discount!




  • A variety of yoga classes are available throughout the different islands of Bocas. Ask a staff member which one will be the best fit for you! Classes are usually $5.



  • Feeling sore after that first surf lesson? Ask your VC about Carolina’s Thai massage or see MK at Palmar Beach Lodge to work out the kinks in those muscles!


POLO BEACH minimum of $20 (Bastimentos)


  • Take a boat over to Polo Beach, a lesser known stretch of the coast that sees less tourists but holds more beauty. Snorkeling and spearfishing here are incredible, with shallow reefs and deep channels and caves. Have Polo cook up whatever you catch!
As part of your volunteer experience we insist that you participate in this program as it is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the culture and build relationships and memories. Once a week a workshop is offered to the volunteer. Check out the below workshops/tallers and ask your coordinator about the schedule!


Learn how to make the Bocatoreño classic, johnny cake, with the members of Bahía Honda. Otherwise known as pan de coco, or just brede in Ngöbere, this typical treat is handmade by the women of many Ngöbe communities.


An incredible amount of work goes into making the coconut oil that can be used for just about anything from cooking to keeping away the pesky chitres. During this activity, you’ll partake in the entire process from preparing the coconuts, producing the milk, and eventually making the oil itself.


Spend the afternoon with Rutilio while he teaches you all about his culture. He’ll tell you classic Ngöbe myths, explain to you the history of the island, and, if you’re lucky, even teach you some of the songs and dances his grandparents taught him.


How to get to Bocas del Toro?

You can book your international flight to Panama City, Panama or San Jose, Costa Rica. We recommend flying into Panama City. From either city, you can take a bus or flight to Bocas del Toro.

From Panama City:

Flight: Fly with Air Panama on a short 45 minute direct flight to Bocas del Toro (BOC). Please purchase tickets at www.airpanama.com in advance as they fill up quickly during the high season. Flights leave from Albrook domestic airport (PAC), which is a 30 minute, $25 cab ride from the international airport or a 10 minute, $5 cab ride from most hotels/hostels within the city. The cost is approximately $200-250 roundtrip.

Bus: Direct buses to Almirante (port town near Bocas town) leave at daily in the evening around 8pm from Albrook Mall Terminal in Panama City. The bus arrives around Albrook bus terminal, you can take a $25 taxi ride from Tocumen Airport or a $5 taxi ride from most hotels/hostels within the city. Make sure to wear pants and bring a jacket, as the bus gets cold. The bus will take you to Almirante. You will get off the bus and take a $1 cab ride to Bocas Marine Tours. From here you take a $6 water taxi to Bocas Town. Boats leave every 30 minutes starting at 6 AM. Give & Surf will arrange a time and place to meet you upon your arrival in Bocas Town. The cost is approximately $25-30 one way.

From Costa Rica:

Flight: Fly with Nature Air direct to Bocas del Toro from San Jose.

Bus: The easiest way to travel by bus is with Caribe Shuttle. There is also a public bus that leaves from the Coca Cola Bus Station in San Jose at 9 AM. Purchase the ticket when you get on the bus. You will arrive to the border around 2 PM. At the border you will need to get out and walk across the border to get your passport stamped. *please make sure you bring printed proof that you are leaving the country otherwise they will force you to by a return bus ticket.

The bus will continue to the Almirante bus station. From here take a $1 taxi ride to Bocas Marine Tours and get a water taxi to Bocas Town. The last water taxi leaves at 6 PM. We will arrange to pick you up in Bocas town before dark.

Where do I get picked up?

All volunteers will be picked up in Bocas Town upon arrival at the airport or at a predetermined time/place if traveling by bus/boat.

Do I need a visa? Any other entry requirements?

U.S. & Canadian citizens do not need a visa. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months past your trip dates and you must show your exit ticket (flight ticket to leave Panama; a bus ticket is not sufficient). U.S. & Canadian citizens can stay in Panama for 6 months.

For visa and entry requirements for other countries, please check with your country’s embassy or consulate.

Health & Safety

Is it safe?

Yes, Panama City and Bocas del Toro are both safe areas to visit in Panama and Central America. You should however use common sense when traveling in these areas and stay in the tourist areas of town and Panama City. The most frequent crimes are petty thefts and robberies so don’t carry a lot of cash or flash valuables around especially after dark.

Do I need medical insurance?

Yes. We require all volunteers have medical insurance coverage. A great perk of traveling to Panama is that all visitors receive 30 days of free medical coverage within Panama. Visit here to learn more, http://panama.angloinfo.com/healthcare/health- system/. We also suggest all volunteers check their international coverage with their medical insurance providers and/or buy travel medical insurance.

What vaccinations do I need?

Please visit your primary health care physician to discuss your upcoming trip to Panama and to get all of the necessary shots and medication required for your trip. You will want to have a prescription from your doctor outlining all prescriptions and their purpose. You can also visit the CDC’s website for a list of recommendations of vaccinations by country.

Malaria Pills?

Bocas del Toro is a malaria free area of Panama so malaria pills are not necessary.

Can I drink the water?

Yes and no. We don’t recommend drinking the tap water in town or in the communities we work as your body may not be accustomed to the bacteria in the local water. You can use the water to brush your teeth, shower, etc. Most restaurants serve filtered water if you ask for a glass of water and there is fresh filtered water provided at the Volunteer House.

Panama City Questions

Where to stay in Panama City?

Hostels: Luna’s Castle, Mamallena’s, Panama House, or Casa de Carmen.
Hotels: Principe (downtown), Albrook Inn (next to Albrook Airport), Country Inns, La Estancia, Coconut Lodge

What should I do in Panama City?

If visiting Panama City there are a number of amazing sights to see and our short list includes the Panama Canal, Casco Viejo, Miraflores Locks, The Fish Market, Amador Causeway, Portobelo, Gatun Lake, and Old City.

Room & Board

Where do I stay?

Most individual volunteers stay in our Volunteer House located on Bastimentos Island. This picturesque, off-the-grid house is in the rainforest with a beautiful ocean view and just a 10-minute water taxi ride both from Bocas Town and from the communities where we work. The house has solar-powered electricity and rain-water catchment tanks; there is no WiFi and there is limited cell service depending on your service provider. There is a full kitchen, including a stove and refrigerator, so you can store food and prep your meals.

During our busiest times of year, some volunteers may be housed at Fernando’s hostel in the Bahia Roja community where we work. This rustic, off-the-grid hostel has solar- powered electricity and rain-water catchment tanks and provides a unique insider’s perspective into how the Ngobe communities live.

In both the Volunteer House and the hostel, volunteers are sleeping in dorm-style conditions and sharing a room with other volunteers. If you prefer more private accommodations, we can arrange a private room for you at Bambuda Lodge or another nearby lodge/inn for an additional fee. To arrange this, please email info@giveandsurf.org.

Group trips will be housed at one of the local hostels or lodges that we partner with. The exact location will be determined by the group size, activities planned, budget, and itinerary.

What do I do about food?


Lunches are provided as part of your volunteer fees Monday through Friday in the community or town. If you are staying at the Volunteer House, you are responsible for your own breakfasts and dinners. There is a kitchen for you to use and the staff & volunteers travel to town at least twice a week for groceries and errands. Volunteers often taken turns making group meals or cook together and make family-style dinners. It is expected to that all volunteers share responsibilities cooking and cleaning.

What if I have food allergies or restrictions?

You can purchase your own food for your breakfasts and dinners so that shouldn’t be a problem. There is a specialty grocery store in Bocas Town, Super Gourmet, that does have some gluten-free products and other select items although the selection is much more limited than you may be used to. During the week, the lunches in the community are usually chicken or fish served with rice & beans and plaintains. They are able to make this vegetarian by simply leaving off the chicken or fish, but if you have other allergies/restrictions, we recommend that you pack your own lunch for these days.

Is there internet?

Internet access will be made available regularly (usually Tuesdays & Fridays) in Bocas town for volunteers.


Is there a bank?

Yes. There is one bank in Bocas, Banco Nacional, where you can withdrawal a maximum of $500/day. Please make sure your bank knows you are traveling out of the country otherwise they will cancel your card. American dollars are used as the currency in Panama.

How expensive is it?

Price Breakdowns are as follows
$4-6 cheap meal; comida tipica
$10-16 nice meal
$10-15 hostel dorm bed
$25-30 private hostel room
$35 and up nice hotel room
$1-2 beer, soda, water
*prices at grocery stores are higher in Bocas town because it is a tourist town

and all food travels over by ferry. Fruit and vegetables are inexpensive.

How much extra spending money will I need?

Not including third party activities (such as snorkel tours, diving, and other excursions) budget roughly $70-100/week to be spent on breakfasts, dinners, weekend expenses, etc.

Free Time, Excursions & Weekends

Where to stay in Bocas town?

$10-25/night range: Bocas Surf School and Hostel, Heike Hostel, Tungara Hostel, Mondo Taitu, Hostel Luego, Selina Hostel

$25-60/night range: Cocomo, Lula’s, Tesoro Escondido (outside of town), Pukalani (outside of town)

$80-200/night range: Hotel Bocas del Toro, El Limbo, Palma Royale

What do volunteers do on the weekends?

Many volunteers decide to spend their weekends in Bocas Town for its nightlife, restaurants, Internet access, access to tours & excursions, and change of pace. Your weekends are free to explore the islands without supervision of a volunteer coordinator. If interested in a particular tour or activity, the volunteer coordinators can assist in arranging this for you. It is important for all volunteers to communicate their interests to the volunteer coordinator so we can arrange your free time.

If you choose to visit Bocas Town on the weekends, you can either stay at a hostel in town or take a water taxi to and from the Volunteer House. Either way, you are responsible for the costs for these outings.


Sending things by mail?

Mail can be received in Bocas town if necessary at Mailbox Etc. Mail is EXTREMELY slow to reach Bocas so we recommend avoiding this if possible.

Where can I get laundry done?

There are a number of places in town that clean clothes for $4 or $5 a load. It usually takes at least a half day to complete so we recommend dropping laundry off on a Friday and picking it up on a Saturday.


Bugs and critters are part of life in Bocas. We work and live around mangrove forests and in these mangrove forests live sand flies that enjoy the morning and sunset hours looking to annoy volunteers. Bug repellent or lighting a repellent coil will scare them off.

Do I need a cell phone?

No, you do not unless you would like to stay in touch with people by phone. You can provide your family the cell phone numbers of the volunteer coordinators and they are free to contact us. If you would like your own phone you can purchase a cheap phone in Panama City or Bocas town. If you decide to get a cheap phone during your stay or have a phone that is unlocked we recommend choosing the company Mas Movil. It worksboth in the community and in town. Other carriers may only work on the main island. SIM cards can be purchased in Panama City or in Bocas upon arrival.

Volunteering Questions

What does a volunteer’s typical schedule look like?

Volunteers work in the community Monday through Friday usually from 8:30am-1pm followed by lunch together in the community or in town. On Monday afternoon, the staff & volunteers work on the week’s lesson plans and curriculum. During the remainder of the week, the volunteers after their afternoons free to surf, explore town, go on tours/excursions, relax on the beach, etc. The volunteer coordinator can help you arrange your activities.

What programs will I be helping with as a volunteer?

The main programs you will be working with are our education programs: preschool & kindergarten and the elementary school English program during the school year (March- October), and elementary summer school & camp and preschool during the summer break (December to February). Volunteers also have the opportunity to help with other programs depending on their interests; these programs include our teen surf outreach mentorship program, teen & adult English classes, computer literacy classes, and other recreational activities. You may also work on community development projects in the community mainly construction projects.

Can I bring a friend?

Yes, we encourage you to share this experience with your friends and family.

Is there a minimum stay?

No! We have volunteers join us for as short as a few days up to four or five months.

Can I bring supplies or gifts for the children?

Yes! A list of recommended items will be sent after registering.

When do I surf?

During our free time, a lot of volunteers will surf. We get all level of surfers, from first timers to advanced. This is an activity that we typically do in the late afternoons or weekends. Transportation is provided to the main surf breaks on Carenero. For those learning to surf one lesson is provided per volunteer during their stay. Give & Surf has a few surf boards at the Volunteer House that volunteers are welcome to use during their stay or you can bring your own or rent one in town for $10-20/day.

____ Passport
____ Cash (approx. $150-200 is the average spent per week)
____ Debit/credit card (if desired; make sure you notify your bank of your travel plans!)
____ Rain jacket
____ Day backpack & dry bags
____ Quick drying clothing
____ Reusable water bottle
____ Bathing suits
____ OTC & Prescribed Medications w/ original labels
____ Toiletries
____ 2 towels (bath, beach)
____ Sunscreen
____ Bug repellant
____ Head lamp or flashlight
____ Hiking boots or old sneakers you don’t mind getting muddy
____ Basic first aid supplies (bandaids, antiseptic wipes, Neosporin)
____ Books/Music
____ Travel journal
____ Camera
____ Enough clothes for 1 week (you will only have access to laundry facilities when you’re in town)
And of course, your sense of adventure!!!!
Visitors can trek through exuberant rainforests and sail between pristine tropical islands. The wildlife viewing is astounding – from expected places, like the waters of Isla de Coiba, but also in patches of preserved forest just outside the capital. Panama is a confluence – an explosion of nature, cultures, and beliefs in that messy, musical arrangement that is everyday life in Latin America.

The Panama Canal is a 48-mile long ship canal that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. It greatly reduced the time for ships to travel between the two Oceans, taking about 20-30 hours to pass through the canal. Prior to its construction, trade ships sailed around Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America, a hazardous and lengthy journey. The Panama Canal allowed the U.S. West Coast and nations in and around the Pacific Ocean to become more integrated with the world economy.

France began work on the canal in 1881, but stopped because of engineering problems and high mortality from disease. The United States took over the project in 1904 and took a decade to complete the canal. It is one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken.

The southernmost of the Central American nations, Panama is south of Costa Rica and north of Colombia. The Panama Canal bisects the isthmus at its narrowest and lowest point, allowing passage from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. It is marked by a chain of mountains in the west, moderate hills in the interior, and a low range on the east coast. There are extensive forests along the Caribbean and the Pacific coastlines.

Panamanian cuisine has Spanish, American, Afro-Caribbean, and indigenous influences. The typical Panamanian meal usually consists of meat, coconut rice, and beans which are completed by local fruits and vegetables such as yucca, squash and plantains. A meal on the islands very often comprises fresh seafood with tropical sides such as mango and coconut.

Panama’s economy is based primarily on a well-developed services sector. Services include the Panama Canal, banking, the Colón Free Trade Zone, insurance, container ports, and flagship registry, medical and health, and other business. The country’s industry includes, manufacturing of aircraft spare parts, cements, drinks, adhesives, and textiles. The leading exports for Panama are bananas, shrimp, sugar, coffee, and clothing.

The islands of the Bocas Del Toro Archipelago were formed between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago. As the sea level rose with the melting of the polar caps at the end of the Ice Age the Bocas Del Toro islands were separated from the rest of Central America by the higher water levels of ocean. The archipelago was originally inhabited by native Indians – Ngobe-Bugle, Teribe (Nazo), Bokota and Bri Bri.

In more recent times, Christopher Columbus arrived at Bocas Del Toro in October, 1502 on his fourth and final voyage. His ships had been damaged by storms and he was fortunate to find the sheltered waters round Bocas Del Toro to repair his damaged vessels.

The Spanish, however, did little to settle or establish a real presence in the Bocas Del Toro area. The English were the ones who established settlements like Boca Del Drago, where in 1745 they were raising cattle and chickens. In the beginning of the 19th century, English ships from Jamaica traded with Bocas del Toro for marine turtle shell, live marine turtles, cocoa, mahogany wood and sarsaparilla.

In 1826 Bocas Del Toro town was founded on Isla Colon by wealthy Scottish and English immigrants from Jamaica, San Andreas and Providenci. These citizens of the British Commonwealth came to Bocas Del Toro to avoid the British taxes. They brought with them to Bocas Del Toro thousands of slaves from the Caribbean Islands.

Bocas Del Toro soon grew into a banana boomtown. United Fruit Company, the large banana producer, known for its Chiquita Brands, was based in Bocas Del Toro. Large tracts of land in the Bocas Del Toro area were also dedicated to sugar cane, cocoa, and coconut palms plantations.

At the height of Bocas Del Toro’s prosperity there were five consulates, three newspapers, a bottling plant and the first lottery in Panama located in the Bocas Del Toro area. Coconuts, turtle shells, sarsaparilla and cocoa beans were exported along with bananas from Bocas Del Toro.

Bocas Del Toro’s prosperity ended in the 1920s with the demise of commercial banana production. As the plantations closed many residents left the Bocas Del Toro area.

Today, although the Bocas Del Toro archipelago has over 100 islands and small cays, only six islands are actually inhabited. The town of Bocas del Toro remains the center of the archipelago commerce and is the seat of government for the Bocas Del Toro island region. Today Bocas Del Toro’s main industry is tourism. There are many hotels, hostels, restaurants, bars, dive shops, boat tour companies, water taxis and ferries and an airport with a 5,000 foot runway. The other inhabited islands in the Bocas De Toro Archipelago are Bastimentos (1,500 inhabitants), Solarte, (1,500 inhabitants), Isla Cristobal (700 inhabitants), Isla Popa (600 inhabitants), Isla Caranero(300 inhabitants) & Cayo Agua (600 inhabitants).

The Ngobe People (also spelled Ngäbe or Ngöbe) can be found primarily in the Ngäbe-Buglé comarca in the Western Panamanian provinces of Veraguas, Chiriquí and Bocas del Toro, as well as in the indigenous town of Conte, Costa Rica near the southern tip of the country.

The Ngobe traditionally referred to themselves as the Guaymí- a term that simply means “people” in the Ngäbe language. The term is infrequently used today. More often, the Ngobe are referred to as Ngöbe Buglé—this is a union of the Ngobe (Ngöbe) and the Bokota (Buglé) Peoples who live together in the Ngöbe–Buglé Comarca (an indigenous province that signifies a high degree of administrative autonomy). Although both Indigenous Peoples are closely associated, the Ngäbe and Buglé are two separate linguistic/indigenous groups whose languages are mutually unintelligble.

Historically, Ngobe subsistence relied on crop raising, small-scale livestock production, hunting, and fishing; however, external pressures on the Ngobe’s land has led to a significant decrease in local wildlife, which has forced many Ngobe to take part in a cash economy. As a direct result of this, the Ngobe-Bugle are considered to be the most impoverished of all indigenous Peoples in Panama.

Despite their past and present-day challenges, however, the Ngobe have largely maintained their customs, traditions and language. According to some estimates, there are 250,000 Ngäbere speakers.

Full length video released in BIO tomorrow! 
We cannot be more proud of Marialena Santos and all her accomplishments as a leader and teacher in Bahia Roja! 
This project was made possible thanks to @reef WE HEART program and @tyhaft ! Thank you REEF for coming down to Panama to make a difference in the local communities of Bocas del Toro. We spent an epic week with a crew of REEF employees that contributed not only this story, but a new playground for the Solarte Community! #WEHEART#GIVEANDSURF

Also special thanks to educationispower.net for making Marialena's dream to go to university and be a teacher possible! 🙏🙏🙏Help us ride 🏄 the strong 2017 support momentum into this year! 
Thanks for all you have done to help us and the Bocas community smile, learn and grow! 
LINK: https://www.razoo.com/organization/Give-And-Surf 
#giveandsurf #panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteerabroad #explore #surf #surfing  #travel #grateful #givethanksLooking for internship opportunity? Gain meaningful hands on experience either on on-site in Bocas del Toro or by working remotely. Limited internships available for driven and compassionate leaders! For more info: http://giveandsurf.org/internshipspanama/
#giveandsurf #panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteering #volunteerabroad #explore #boatlife #surf #surfing #travel #grateful #givethanksNo Uber necessary.
📷: @barkerfoto 
#giveandsurf #panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteerabroad #explore #island #islandlife #boat #carefree #soakingupthesun #relaxed #getaway #surf #surfing #travel #grateful #givethanksTake the plunge this year and volunteer!

Learn more: give and surf.org/volunteer/ 📷: @barkerfoto with the @changingtidesfoundation Family!  #giveandsurf #panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteerabroad #volunteerwork #underwaterphotography #visitpanama #explore #surf #surfing #travel #grateful #givethanksJust one of the many small wonders in Bocas that inspire us. Blink and you'll miss it.  #giveandsurf #panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteerabroad #explore #surf #surfing #travel #nature #mindfulness #grateful #givethanksThe great thing about Give & Surf is that it allows us to get to know the community and people we are helping. We want to start introducing you to the kids that you help support on a regular basis  #TinyToroThursdays🐂

Come to Bocas del Toro for the gorgeous sunsets and Edi's smile! 
Join the family: http://giveandsurf.org  #giveandsurf #panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteerabroad #explore #preschool #kindergarten #surf #surfing #travel #grateful #givethanksThe learning and fun never ends when school does in Old Bank thanks to the @sunshineheroesfoundation community center! 
Keeping the kids engaged in mind and body, five days a week!  #giveandsurf #panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteerabroad #explore #surf #surfing #travel #education #grateful #givethanksThere are so many ways to get involved with Give and Surf. Choose your own adventure as a volunteer, intern, gap year student, or as a TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) certified teacher!

Learn more at Giveandsurf.org  #giveandsurf #panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteerabroad #explore #surf #surfing #travel #bluewater #splash #swim #chooseyourownadventure #adventure #grateful #givethanksCross that resolution to live abroad off your list! Get TEFL certified in 2018 and have the opportunity to teach and live abroad!

Apply Today: http://giveandsurf.org/tefl  #giveandsurf #panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteerabroad #explore #surf #surfing #travel #tefl #grateful #givethanksAlert to Friends of San Diego! 
Pave the 🌊 of STOKE and donate that surfboard you didn’t use all 2017 to a very deserving future ripper in Panama! 🏄🏾‍♂️🏄🏾‍♂️🏄🏾‍♂️
Thanks to the king of stoke @yehudabenhamo we are doing a surfboard drive for the next few weeks so leave a comment or DM Yehuda to get the drop off info in Leucadia! #donateaboard #staystoked #pavethestoke #giveandsurfWalk to the other side of the bridge and join us for a gap year in 2018!

Learn more: http://giveandsurf.org/gap-year-programpanama/

#panama #bocasdeltoro #giveback  #nonprofit #nonprofitlife #nonprofitorganization #volunteerlife #volunteer #volunteerabroad #explore #surf #surfing #travel #gapyear #grateful #givethanks

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