Christopher Columbus landed in Bocas del Toro in October 1502, unaware that if he had arrived a few months later, his crew would have had to fight through some decent surf to get to terra firma. Columbus left his name to the main island of this archipelago consisting of nine major islands, 59 smaller islands and a myriad of mangrove cays. Located off Panama's northwest coast, these islands are only 32 km (20mi) south of the Costa Rican border and slightly over 100km (60mi) away from the surf rich Pacific coast. Modern travellers will find much of the medieval natural environment that greeted the explorers, remains intact, however the inexorable march of progress and expansion is becoming more apparent. The city of Bocas del Toro exudes a decidedly Caribbean style and flavour, and is notable as Panama's only city built exclusively using wood. A building boom and accelerating growth are exposing many of the beautiful, virtually deserted beaches to more people than ever before. There are some remarkable surfspots in this zone but the two windows of surf throughout the year are slender.