In Bocas Del Toro, you can absolutely get by if you just spoke English because most people here speak English. The tough part about Spanish is that a lot of people complain that It is harder for them to learn Spanish because there is so much English spoken here in Bocas. You would not have a lot of chances to practice your Spanish as much as you would in places like David or Panama City.
Most store owners and business owners here in Bocas Del Toro speak English. The Chinese own a lot of grocery stores here and a lot of “fereterias”, which is a hardware store. They learned, as time goes on, that it is advantageous to speak English because a big part of their clientele are expats. These are Chinese who have been in Panama for generations or they could be new. Right now, there are 27 grocery stores in our little town of 5,000 people.