In 1502, Christopher Columbus arrived on the shores of Bocas del Toro. He was so taken with the beauty of the area, that during this fourth and final New World Voyage, he chose to name many of the locations in and around the archipelago with his own name including Isla Colon (Columbus Island) as well as Bahia de Almirante (Admiral’s Bay) and Isla Cristobal (Christophers Island).
Due largely to it’s location and the many coves and bays, the archipelago became a haven for pirates during the 17th century. They built and repaired their ships on the islands and fed upon the abudant sea turtles that nested on many of the local beaches. The pirates are said to have buried treasures on many of the islands, but none of this loot has been found, or perhaps, it just has not been reported!
Because Bocas del Toro did not have such a plentiful supply of gold, the Spaniards did not colonize the region with the same cruel efficiency that was unleashed in most other parts of Panama. Following the arrival of the French Huguenots on the coast in the 17th and 18th Centuries, a Spanish malitia was sent to remove the settlers. Most of the indigenous population of Bocas got wiped out by the Spanish swords along with a range of old world diseases.