Tag Archives: bocas

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Before beginning again, I must admit… It’s been quite a while since my last post.  It’s crazy how life can just sweep you up and time flies so fast you forget to keep up with some things… In any event, I am currently getting ready to travel again but must first finish the tales of the last adventure…

After leaving the quaint little town of Boquete, Panama I made my way to Bocas del Toro.  It was quite obvious that the closer we got to Bocas, the more prepared the locals were for lots of travel from tourists back and forth in that area.  Taxis were lined up around the bus terminal waiting and ready to sweep tourists off the bus, into the taxi and whisk them away to the boat terminal.  Honestly I don’t even recall saying much to the locals as the swaps occurred, only “Bocas?” followed by a head shake indicating “yes” and away we were.

It took about 40 minutes by boat to arrive on the island of Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean coast of Panama.  Again, once off the boat and on solid ground I was immediately greeted by a local named Carlos.  He was most eager to shuffle me around and help find me accommodations for the night.  Of course he would be getting a commission for getting me to the “right” place but I first wanted to check out a few places that I had heard about from others on the road.  Carlos was quite determined to get his commission however and literally refused to leave my side as I walked from place to place inquiring about prices of the places that were recommended to me.  They were quite out of my price range however, and Carlos’s efforts to not give up on me were soon rewarded as I finally gave up and told him to take me to the place he recommended.

The place he took me to was right on the main road just across the street from the community park and also right across the street from THE BEST sandwich shop anywhere!!!  The name of the place was called… And this is why I should keep up with my posts more frequently… Los Zapatos… I believe… Anyway, the place wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either.  I felt comfortable enough to stay there for the night.  The place next door honestly enough looked much more inviting, but they were booked.  So for one night I opted to stay at Los Zapatos and paid for a private room.  The one definitely nice thing about the place was it had several floors with a balcony on each floor overlooking the town, so it was great to just sit and watch the traffic and people watch.  Carlos, after collecting his commission from my sale said bye and trotted off back to the boat dock to greet the next arriving boat.  Honestly I recall the lady looking quite bothered by his presence and the fact that he brought me in.  I think mainly because she just didn’t want to pay the commission, but such is how life there works I guess!

In any event, perhaps now is a good time to actually describe Bocas del Toro.  Prior to my arrival I had imagined and envisioned (all due to the descriptions provided to me by other travelers) that Bocas was an island in the Caribbean surrounded by beautiful beaches.  Quite to my disappointment, the reality was absolutely nothing as what I had conjured in my mind!  The water as we came toward the island became increasingly gross.  It was quite apparent that at least the water path we took to get to the island was becoming increasingly polluted from all the boat traffic.  As for beaches, there is no waterfront anywhere on the main portion of town on the island of Bocas.  The waterfront is completely built up with resteraunts, hostels, hotels, docks for boats, bars, etc, etc.  The only beaches on Bocas are at least a 40 minute bus ride to the other side of the island.  Apparently there was one beach 20 minutes by bus, but it was recommended not to go there as the currents for that beach, depending on how they were flowing, tended to wash up all the seaweed or trash from the ocean, etc on to the land making it not quite a nice beach to be on.  The beach 40 minutes away however was the world famous starfish beach.  The sands are literally littered with hundreds of starfish!  Or rather, that is what I’ve been told since I sadly never kicked myself hard enough in the rear to go there!

Honestly, I think just I was just disheartened when I arrived on Bocas that I kind of lost energy or enthusiasm to do anything.  I was hoping to arrive on a beautiful island with beaches nearby to walk to.  Instead I arrived on basically a party island built up to the hilt with beaches only accessible by yet another bus ride or a boat ride to another island nearby!  So, needless to say, I was just bummed!  I didn’t really like the energy of Bocas.  In any event, I was determined to make the best of it so I once again did what I did best and simply wandered the streets getting to know my new surroundings.

As I wandered I found the Spanish school where I once again contemplated taking some courses, but then couldn’t imagine spending weeks on an island with no easily accessible beaches!  I found the local internet shop where I stopped in to check emails.  Then I found a boat tour group called JAMPAN tours (honestly you couldn’t miss them as their front door was the most colorful anywhere on the island!) that offered services to the nearby island of Bastimentos, home of the world famous Red Frog Beach!  On this National Park island there was also a hostel called Bocas Bound which I had seen many advertisements about.  So, since I wasn’t 100% enamored with the island of Bocas, I decided to jump over to Bastimentos and stay in the hostel there for a few nights.  I booked my departing trip with JAMPAN tours for the next day as well as my return to Bocas several days later then continued my wanders.  I was informed by the tour group however that there were no grocery stores on Bastimentos, but that there were community refrigerators at the Bocas Bound hostel, so unless I wanted to eat out the entire time there, I should go to the grocery store and stock up on food for the several days to just bring with me.

The rest of the day went by without any major occurrences.  I ate in the bakery across from my hostel (seriously the biggest and best sandwiches of all kinds and for only $4!!!!!!!) and otherwise sat on the balcony of the hostel people watching and chatting with a guy from Germany about politics and such.  Ok, massive correction here… I wasn’t speaking about politics but rather listened to HIM talk about politics in the US.  And as I listened to him talk it occurred to me how amazing it was that someone who lived in Germany, yet worked in Panama City, Panama knew so much about US politics whereas those FROM the States (sadly including myself) know so little about it… Hmmm…. In any event, I eventually turned in and for the night, got up bright and early the next day, did some grocery shopping for food for the next several days on Bastimentos and headed over to JAMPAN to hitch my ride over to the Red Frog Beach!

 

 

 

 

 

La Fortuna

I arrived in La Fortuna the next afternoon and headed to the hostel I found on the internet called “Sleepers Sleep Cheap”.  The word ‘cheap’ of course caught my eye immediately when searching for somewhere and the reviews seemed good enough.

About 100 meters south of the bus terminal, I arrived at the hostel which was set back a little from town than most of the others.  For $10 a night, I got a private room with a private bath, hot water and breakfast!  I paid for 2 nights and proceeded to get settled in.  Honestly I don’t have any negative words for the hostel.  It was a very basic set-up and nothing fancy by any means, but it was cheap, my room was clean, the staff were very friendly and accommodating, and the breakfast area had one of the best views in my opinion… I will later divulge what that view was;)

Now, I wanted to state my opinion about the hostel before writing about this bit: interestingly enough, weeks later when I was in Bocas Town (Bocas del Toro), Panama, I met a couple who just happened to stay at the hostel at the same time that I was staying there!  But they had a very different opinion of the place… Though they did agree it was cheap, they said they believed they had bed bugs and that their door wouldn’t close all the way so all sorts of critters would come in during the day and night.  Their room wasn’t clean and they weren’t that thrilled with what was served for breakfast (toast, eggs, fruit and coffee).  So, I guess it just goes to show you that not everyone’s experiences are the same!

In any event, after getting settled in it was about time to eat something, so I found a local soda that was recommended and that was just down the street from my hostel and had a fantastic fillet de pollo casado!  I absolutely love those casados!!!

Waiting for my meal to arrive, two guys whom I had met on the bus showed up so we dined together.  I spent that evening wandering the streets of La Fortuna with them, drinking beer in the central park. Since we had all arrived in the late evening, there really wasn’t much time to get our barring of the area, so at this point none of us really knew where the famed volcano was.  Sitting in the park drinking, it became a little bit of a game trying to figure out where the volcano actually was.  If the volcano had been active, it would have been quite obvious, but alas the volcano was dormant while I was there.  And mind you, it had been dark since before dinner, so there wasn’t any way to see around us…

The next morning I rose early determined to check several things off my list.  First off, I wanted to do a tour of the volcano and perhaps the hot springs and second I wanted to go to the famed La Fortuna waterfall and finally, I wanted to get a plan in place on where my next destination would be.  Even though the purpose of my trip to Costa Rica was not to be a tourist, one really can’t help but do a tour or two once here!  They can be pricey, that’s for sure but I did a lot of tour “office hopping” prior to settling on the final place to book at.  And since it was the off-season, there were more deals available than not.

Red Lava, a tour office located at the bus terminal offered the best prices and most unique tours.  Through them I booked a tour of the Arenal volcano that was 5 hours long, including a nature hike to a waterfall (not the La Fortuna waterfall but another one), a history of the Arenal volcano and finishing off with a night dip in a natural hot spring.  I also booked for a Jeep-Boat-Jeep package that would get me from La Fortuna to my next destination of Monteverde via, well you guessed it: a jeep, a boat and a jeep:)

It was mid-morning by the time I got all my bookings complete and since my volcano tour wasn’t going to start until 2pm, I opted to spend my time in between by going to the famous La Fortuna waterfall.  Since my motto on spending money was “the less you spend now, the more you will have later” I decided to walk to the waterfall, located inside a National Park, instead of taking a bus directly to the entrance of the National Park… I really should have just paid the darn $8 for the bus!!!!!  But oh no, I decided to keep that money and hike there myself instead!  Afterall, it was a paved road to the park so I figured a little exercise would do me some good!  I have no idea what the temperature was outside, but the sun was shining and it was definitely humid!  I had my little personal bag with me so I could bring my camera for the trip and take plenty of pictures.  And I was off for my hike…

About 8 kilometers (about 3 of which were straight uphill- the end 3 of course) later I arrived to the park entrance red-faced and completely dripping in sweat.  In fact I was so saturated with sweat that both my t-shirt and breathable pants were completely soaked through!!  My bag, supposedly waterproof, even began to soak in some of my sweat so that the inside contents became damp!  The very first thing I did when I got to the park entrance was go to the bathroom and practically bathe myself in the sink with my clothes still on!  Thankfully I did have along with me my vapur water bottle and therefore was hydrated the entire way, but I still had to refill it twice before ever leaving the bathroom because of my extreme thirst!!  People were looking at me like I was crazy, but all I cared about at that point was that I had made it!!

But then, I glanced at my watch… it was noon… there was NO way I was going to be able to actually get to the waterfall and back down to town by 2:00 for my volcano tour:(  You see, I had made it to the park ENTRANCE but the waterfall itself was still about a kilometer deep into the park.  And tack on the fact that if I wanted to even try to see the waterfall I would have had to pay the $10 entrance fee, well, it just didn’t make much sense at that point to even try for it.  So I decided to simply head back down to the town, perhaps get a bite to eat and make it in time for my tour.

The walk back to town was much nicer!!  All downhill with a little breeze to boot!  The little breeze did wonders to dry my clothing on the walk down and by the time I made it back (about 1) I had just enough time to grab a bite to eat at the soda where I had dinner and get ready to meet my tour.

Oh and I promised I would divulge the breakfast view from my hostel… It was indeed the volcano!!!  I had been staring at it all morning during the first morning while enjoying breakfast yet never realized I what I was looking at, lol!!!

On to Volcan Arenal Tour

Back to Costa Rica