Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bocas, Balboas, and Beaches

I have a friend who is going to Panama and asked me to write her an e-mail with some travel advice and sites to see. What started as a brief e-mail turned into a novel about my trip to Bocas del Toro, which is a cluster of islands in Panama on the border of Panama and Costa Rica. I knew I couldn't send this to her because it's more narrative than logistically helpful, but I thought anyone who needed a beach vacation for a brief moment in their office would enjoy reading this.

Bocas, balboas, and beaches:
Under the adventurous spirit of "winging it", we didn't book any types of hostels ahead of flying Panama. All we had with us were traveler's packs, a round trip plane ticket and a Fodor's guide. We landed in Panama City and took a an overnight bus that day from Panama City to Almirante (8.5 hours from 11 pm.-7:30 am.) After the exhausting bus ride, we took a one hour water taxi from Almirante to Bocas del Toro.... arriving in Paradise.

Isla Colon, arriving by boat

We stayed on Isla Colon at "Hotel Max" where my girlfriends and I shared a 3 bed room with a private bath for $17 a night. Hotel max was full of island character with a parrot and a dog that wandered around during the day. There were various hammocks placed on the outdoor decks for reading or having a balboa beer.

We took water taxis every day, for around $35 for all of us, to various other islands and beaches. Red Frog Beach is the most popular named for the red frogs in the jungle surrounding the beach. We also went by van one day to the other side of Isla Colon, where lucid turquoise water lapped over bright orange starfish. The sand was white and warm, and there were so few people that you could have space for privacy, swimming, and lounging. Unlike Costa Rica's beaches, there was very little developed tourism so the beaches weren't littered with Popsicle stands and tiki bars. The Hotel we stayed at was in a small community of 4 or 5 other hostels/hotels that had various friendly English speakers. I met a guy who actually took me surfing on the reef for free. I was able to rent a surf board for $20 at a surf shop.

Starfish Beach

There are 3 or 4 local bars with dancing and live music that are fun to go out after a long day on the beach or in the surf. If you want to try something more adventurous, we went spelunking in the caves on one of the islands. There are various Panamanians who lead these trips and someone at your hostel will be able to usher you in the right direction. Cave diving in the jungle was definitely very cool/scary/adventurous. Watch out for the bats!

I'm excited because I'm planning a trip to Costa Rica with my boyfriend in March. Hopefully it will live up to the pristine beauty of the Carribbean that Isla Colon made me accustomed to!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a brief beac vacation jessica while I am sitting here in the great northeast, thinking spring is right around the corner and is january 10th YIKES


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