featherless
software design

Panama: Bocas del Toro
06 Nov 2013

Two weeks in Panama City was quite enough, thank you! I’ve just arrived in Bocas del Toro after an overnight bus trip and am significantly happier with the situation here. Better weather, water nearby, friendly people, and having to get places by water taxi. I feel like I’m at Fisherman’s Horizon (obligatory background music).

Arrival

Nov 6, 2013

from Panama City, Panama

Departure

Nov 25, 2013

to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Weather (Celcius)

Elevation (m)

The Night Bus

The bus from Panama City to Bocas was taxing. You board a bus from Albrook mall at 8PM sharp and then arrive in Bocas 10 hours later, your back sore and the sun peeking over the horizon.

I made the rather dull decision when I boarded to keep my backpack with me on the bus. In my defence, I assumed that I'd be able to put the bag between my legs. Well, now I've learned what it's like to have 30 pounds on your lap for 10 hours.

The bus drops everyone off in Almirante. From here you're shuffled into a nearby taxi who, I swear, was trying to go back to the future. Without the necessary jig-a-watts we merely arrived at the water taxis and paid our cabby $1 each (a common transaction in Bocas).

Inside the water taxi terminal you hand the lady your passport and $5 and she lets you on to the sardine boat that makes its way to the isle of Bocas. I forgot to ask for an open-ended round-trip fare at $7, so I'll likely have to pay $5 to get back.

Isla Colon Adventuring

ATVing

Beyond the city of Bocas on Isla Colon there is a massive expanse of jungle and sand beaches to explore, and explore we did. A buddy I met (Jim) and I rented a 4x4 from Flying Pirates for the day and shared it between us, making the cost $40.

We picked up the 4x4 at about 10am and, after a quick training session at their warehouse, took off up the coast of Isla Colon. Riding the ATV was a blast. When maxed out it feels like you're flying along the road.

Once we reached the jungle trail we had to slow down a bit because many of the trails had just recently been cleared. This part was a really fun challenge. With the ATV kicking and sliding we maneuvered through countless twists and turns through the jungle.

Flying Pirates

Surfing

As part of our ATV trip up the coast we wanted to find some solid breaks to go surfing on because the swell had just arrived at Bocas. I've surfed a few times but in every sense am a beginner, so I was sorely unprepared for what was to come.

After ATVing up the coast we picked a spot that was being surfed already and unloaded the boards. It looked like there were quite a few rocks and reefs to get over before reaching the open water, so we decided to walk down a ways. The reef didn't seem to let up, so Jim led the charge and we headed straight out to the water.

Well, Jim headed straight out to the water. I, not having much awareness, proceeded to step on a sea urchin. This shocked me enough to lift my foot out of the water just as a wave was rolling by my legs. I reached out my hands to stop my fall and found another sea urchin with the palm of my hand.

As one final effort I jumped on my board to attempt to coast out to open water. Not used to such a small board, I jumped straight over it and proceeded to roll on the reef, making sure I had an even covering of urchins and reef cuts all over my body.

I didn't get much surfing done that day, haha.

Gran Kahuna Hostel

I spent about one week at the Gran Kahuna hostel on Isla Caranero and loved it for its tranquil escape from everything. It's a fairly big hostel with dorm beds, a bar, and food to order and the staff are wonderfully friendly.

The sand flies on Isla Carenero, however, make the stay here somewhat frustrating. These tiny little flies (nicknamed "noseeums") will land on your skin, puke on you, and then leave a rash that itches for days. After a few days my legs were covered in marks making it increasingly uncomfortable to sit out at the bar or anywhere near the sand.

Bahia del Sol
Bed and Breakfast

What a surprise this was! From the moment I set foot in Bahia del Sol's ocean-view room I knew it was going to be an unforgettable stay.

The first thing you notice when entering the ocean-front room is the enormous draped bed. From there your eyes sweep to the balcony complete with outdoor shower and jacuzzi, both adjacent to a hammock and reclining chairs for watching the sun set over the water. This place is right out of a romance novel.

To top it off, the owners - Jack and Lee - are the most heart-warming people I've had the privilege of meeting thus far on my travels. They happily sat with us on the porch as the water lazily lapped against the docks and shot the breeze as they shared stories of lives-well-lived and curiously explored our own adventures.

After sleeping in the next morning until noon, we were completely surprised to find that Jack had left portions of the morning breakfast aside for us! We were delighted to enjoy delicious eggs and sausage with slices of fresh fruit and tea. Jack's thoughtfulness was wonderfully appreciated after Laurence's long multi-day trek from Montreal.

We left Bahia del Sol reluctantly, though relaxed and rejuvenated, and fully intend to return may our paths take us through Bocas del Toro again.

For booking Bahia del Sol I highly recommend doing so directly through their website as it will allow Jack and Lee to contact you directly in the event of any changes to their bookings. Photos are from Bahia del Sol's photo album.

Laurence Arrived in Bocas!

Friday, November 15, 2013 12:00

Flew in from Panama City on the local plane :)

Hostal Diamond

Sunday, November 17, 2013 12:00

Dingy and dark.

$30

Hostel Hansi

Monday, November 18, 2013 12:00
  • $28/night for a private room and bathroom
  • Small kitchen but well-stocked and clean.
  • Hot water is on and off with electric shower heads.

Hostel Hansi is owned by an adorable German lady named Heiki. She’s wonderfully friendly and keeps her hostel in amazing shape. While we were there she was making a new rock tile piece for the front of the hostel!

Hostel Hansi doesn’t take reservations, so this is a hostel that might take multiple tries to lock down. Once you’re there though it’s day-to-day, perfect for travelers like us without concrete plans.

First Day of SCUBA Certification

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 12:00

We’re beginning our certification course today to learn how to SCUBA!

Getting Ready

Friday, November 22, 2013 13:42

These were the docks where we prepped for our open-water SCUBA certification.

Gorgeous Clouds + Water

Friday, November 22, 2013 14:00

Loved the way the water and sky looked on our way to one of our dives.

Underwater Wreck

Friday, November 22, 2013 15:00

We explored an underwater wreck for one of our open water dives.

SCUBA Certification Exercises

Friday, November 22, 2013 16:23

We had to practice floating in place.

Stuff We Saw While SCUBA Diving

Friday, November 22, 2013 16:24

Some weird underwater caterpillar thing.

SCUBA Certified!

Friday, November 22, 2013 17:00

After four open-water dives, five campy educational videos and a few multiple-choice tests we’ve earned our PADI certification as Open-Water Divers!

We lucked out and had amazing weather all week for our dives making for a really fun experience as we’d boat out to each of the dive spots. One of our dives took us to a boat wreck which was quite the sight!

We’ll hopefully be putting this to good use in the Galapagos Islands.

Red Frog Beach

Sunday, November 24, 2013 16:00

$7 round trip + $3 entry to the reserve

The bus to Costa Rica

Monday, November 25, 2013 10:00
  • Woke up 7am.
  • Caught the boat to Almirante at 8:30.
  • Found out there was a strike on a bridge. Had to transfer shuttles at the bridge.
  • Customs was straightforward, no docs to present.
  • Arrived at 11:30am.
TotalsTotals
Total bus time3:00

Arrival

Nov 6, 2013

from Panama City, Panama

Departure

Nov 25, 2013

to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica