This past weekend we did a little stopover in Panama in order to renew our tourist visas for Costa Rica. Having already been to the US, the UK and Nicaragua during this year, we wanted to check out what our southern neighbor Panama had to offer. Having heard a lot of good things about the Bocas del Toro archipelago on the Caribbean side of Panama and considering the fairly cheap air tickets that you can get for Bocas with Nature Air, we decided to try it out.
We left the mountain on Friday afternoon to catch the 1pm plane from the smaller Tobias Bolanos airport. I very much liked the smaller size of the airport and the more laid back attitude, even if it did seem a bit too laid back at times. I did find out though that I weigh approximately 128pounds with clothes on. Interesting as that is the first time I have even been weight in pounds! I guess its good to know.
Irazu Volcano - Volcan Irazu, Costa Rica
Anyhow, the flight was just amazing! We were so lucky with the weather; no strong winds made the take off super smooth and the sunshine and clear blue skies for most of the ride meant we got to see loads of this beautiful country. We flew out over Pavas, Escazu, Alajuelita, Cartago and saw incredible sights of the cities, the gorges, the Volcano Irazu etc etc etc..
The Nature Air plane was a two propeller plane with seating for about 25 people. Most of us were foreigners, most likely on a necessary 72hrs long stopover in order to obtain yet another stamp for yet another 3months stint in the beautiful country of Costa Rica.
Anyways, this is about Panama and Bocas del Toro. We had booked ourselves into the Master Suite at a lovely little B&B, Bahia del Sol, located in Saigon Bay, close to the airport but about 10minutes walk from Bocas Town city centre. The B&B along with the cabins next door and the “Koko Resort” (that I never really located or got a good idea about) were all owned by an American couple, Jack and Lee, who had decided to up their lives in Ohio State and take the plunge and try their luck in the Panamanian tourism industry. From what we experienced, how pleased the other guests seemed and from how enthusiastic Lee and Jack were I think they have found a winning formula!
Sunset view of the House that Blew Away from our jacuzzi
The flight from Costa Rica only takes about 50mins so we had the chance to go for a swim as well as see a bit of the town that same afternoon we arrived. Having unpacked and gotten ourselves somewhat familiar with the place with the help of a few maps and the advice of Lee and Jack, we headed out to have a drink at Rip Tide before having a lovely dinner at Casbah next door. But unlike most of the younger crowd in Bocas, we happily headed back to our room following the dinner and a fairly long day of all kinds of activities, we crashed into our wonderful and huge bed to have a long nights sleep so we would have lots of energy for the following day and all the adventures that would bring with it.
One of the many, many starfish we saw in Bocas del Toro
The next day meant an early start and a whole day trip with Jampan to see dolphins, starfish, corals, and beaches while snorkling, taking pictures and enjoying delicious dishes. We had decided to go on the Adventure Tour 1 to see Dolphin Bay for dolphin spotting, Crawl Cay for snorkling, Punta Solarte Jungle Tour for a tour of one of the islands (where we spotted lots of teeny tiny red frogs!) followed by a brief stopover at Slot Island before ending the day at Red Frog Beach. The 9am till 4pm day proved to be an excellent introduction to the Bocas archipelago for $25 per person with a knowledgeable guide and spacious boat with snorkling equipment provided as well.
Sunday started off with yet another of Jack’s massive breakfasts (he used to cook breakfast for about 400 students at one point in his youth, and you could tell he knew what he was doing in the kitchen) before we ventured out in the kayaks that were available for all guests for free. We headed out to”The House that Blew Away” for some snorkling before doing a little tour of the mangroves at the other end of Saigon Bay. All in all we were not away for more than about 1.5hrs I think, but my god did I realize how tiring paddling a kayak is! Christ.. Although, my pilates teacher would have been proud, I tried to focus on keeping my shoulders down and free of any tension while activating my lats for every stroke of the paddle..
The rest of the day we wandered around Bocas Town, had lunch out before heading back to chill out in our new room for a bit. This B&B was so popular that I only managed to book us into the Master bedroom for two nights of the three we were there for, so for the last night we switched over to a room at the front of the house (towards the street instead of overlooking the bay like the Master Suite). I think both rooms were excellent, although the Master Suite was definitely something special with its balcony with jacuzzi along with open air shower next to it. Sinking into the jacuzzi after a long day under the hot Panamanian sun was definitely an experience (that made me agree with J that it would definitely be nice to have a jacuzzi…).
But the last day away always reminds us that these Visa runs are just not really that nice in the end. You start off with the mindset that its a great way to experience something new, a little adventure that you get to have, and trying to make the most of it. But in the end it never really feels like a holiday, you start missing home and your own bed, its a bit uncomfortable and most of all, its compulsory and not actually your choice. Not to mention the fact that it does cost money, money you could have spent on one or two big holiday trips a year instead of four smaller ones.
Then again, as always with J, I had a great time and loved spending some time away from everyday life with Joel, but boy was I ready to head home on Monday afternoon when our 72hrs were up. I was missing Sofia, and as I already mentioned, my bed.. I couldn’t think of anything nothing nicer than cuddling up in my own bed… Mmmm… So for now, I just want to spend time here at home and in Costa Rica. At our house but also down by the beach with J, my mum and my new surfboard! Only a few days to go now!