by Tracy Kuyat
When Guy & I first decided to head south, we had visions of imbibing rum drinks on the beach right outside our front door. Plans of mice and men. We now live in a mountain town, Boquete, an hour and a half away from any beach.
Not that we’re complaining or anything. We love the mountains as well, and it’s been perfect for adjusting to living the expat life. Life is wonderful in Boquete.
But the draw of the ocean is always pulling at us. Although we’ve visited a couple beaches on the Pacific side of Panama, they are not our favorites. After the beautiful drama of the California coast, the flat beaches here were rather boring. And the dark, sometimes brown looking water didn’t invite like the sparkling, blue waters of the Caribbean.
Our friends, Josh and Pamela, recently moved over to Bocas del Toro. We had yet to see the Caribbean since moving to Panama, so we headed over the mountains for a little visit and an introduction to life on an island.
Bocas del Toro is an archipelago off the northeast coast of Panama in the Province of Bocas del Toro, right next to Costa Rica. It’s a 3 hour bus ride from Boquete through some beautiful mountains.
The one way bus shuttle tickets, cost $30 per person, include the water taxi fare. The shuttle is run by Hostel Mamallena, a local hostel near the central park here in Boquete. Our bus is a smaller bus, holding 20 passengers or so. It’s fairly comfortable but I was really happy for the chance to get out and stretch about halfway. We stopped at the Enel Fortuna Visitor Center, which is near the Enel Fortuna hydro generator. It’s my understanding that you can get a tour of the facility. For all you hydro generator buffs, click on the link for a brief history of Enel Fortuna, which is, by the way, the second largest hydro generator in Panama.
A bronze sculpture at the visitor center
The hills surrounding the area are really pretty
The dam which we drove over after our stop
A visitor’s center. Not sure what the critter is supposed to be…
Finally we arrived in Almirante, the mainland town where we got dropped off to catch the water taxi. As our luggage was being offloaded, a couple little local boys began to speak with me. I think they thought I was from China. Asians in Panama are not unusual, but most are Chinese. They seemed a bit surprised when I told them I was from California. One of them asked if I needed help with my luggage. When I said no, he sadly said, “Oh S#*t” in perfect English. Rather humorous.
Guy wheeled our suitcase down the road a bit to the taxi building. We waited for about 10 minutes for the boat to arrive. We had a larger suitcase than most, but the guy loading the boat didn’t seem to know what to do with it. He finally put it in the back where there was space for luggage. Hmmm….
Picture of the water taxi building from where the bus parked. It has the large red Digicel sign on it.
Entering the water taxi building
A rather long boat
Dolphin decoration or as my friend, Josh, may imagine, a record of dolphins run over by the owner’s boat.
Two girls just paddling around the inlet.
Everywhere we go, we see these red Claro satellite dishes for tv.
Chiquita has a dock right there in Almirante.
Passing another water taxi
Welcome to Bocas del Toro!
All the waterfront restaurants and hotels have places where boats can pick up and drop off. Travel is all water taxi.
After a 20 minute ride, we arrived on Isla Colón. We stayed at Bocas Paradise Hotel. Our room was on the third floor, which was fine except that Guy had to lug our suitcase up the stairs…no elevators. Initially our room was located on the side of the hotel next to the bar. That night it seemed like the speakers were in our room. But the management moved us to the room next door and the sound was less intrusive. Especially as the music doesn’t quit till 4 in the morning on the weekends. If you ever want to book a king bed room, ask for room 306 (definitely NOT 305.)
From the patio of our hotel. The rusty tin roofs cover the bar next to our hotel. Music was on until 4 in the morning.
A cool panoramic from our hotel patio
Another one of those long boats taking people to another island
Our hotel’s dock
Across the water from our hotel, Isla Carenero
The islands are all pretty close to each other. Water taxis went back and for all day long.
After we got settled in, our friend, Josh, had to meet some clients, so we, along with his dad, Alex, took a drive out to Playa Bluff. It’s a long stretch of sand on the east side of the island. The clients, Harolf and Chris, own Island Plantation Resort. On the property is a beach bar & grill. The BBQ plate was amazing! And we shared several pitchers of Jungle Juice. It was delicious and highly recommended. After lunch, while Josh discussed business, Pamela, Guy & I walked along the beach. It was so cool to be walking along a beautiful, deserted beach with no footprints around but ours.
The Beach Bar is really a bar on a beach. Way cool!
Here’s the BBQ area. Smelled awesome 🙂
The bar from the beach angle
We didn’t check out the hotel, but we could see it from the beach.
I’m always amazed at how plants can grow in sand near salt water.
There was nobody on the beach…
…but critters. This is one big grasshopper
And this is one huge spider. BTW both hands in the shots are Guy’s not mine.
Even though spiders really creep me out, they can be amazingly beautiful…from a distance.
Pamela found a coconut. We could totally survive if this was a deserted island!
So we were told that our found coconuts were too small and old. But then Harolf, one of the hotel owners, gave us pipas (green coconuts hacked so a small hole is produced for a straw.) So refreshing! Then the workers split the coconuts, sliced off a piece for a scoop and we got to eat the flesh. Sooooo yummy!
This is Jungle Juice. So amazingly delish!!! The secret? Blue cheese. Seriously. You’ve got to come here just to try this.
Bocas Town is a small town. There are few cars, mostly pedestrians and bicyclists. The main drag is a small strip of street so getting around on foot is easy. We got to try a few really good restaurants. There’s not a ton to do at night as we don’t frequent bars, but we did get to watch the MMA fight, that is, until the electricity went out. This is, apparently, quite a common occurance here in Bocas.
Lots of people walking around some nights.
Fabulous roast chicken. You order chicken only, chicken & fries or chicken & fried plantains (platanos fritos.) That’s it, nothing else. Guy & I shared a 1/2 chicken & a bottle of water for about $8.
Electricity went out about 30 minutes before the end of the match. Bummer.
A couple of nights we had dinner at the Rip Tide Restaurant.
Rip Tide is at the end of the pier because it’s a boat. Moves a bit with the current and tends to list to one side.
Bocas Blended was our go-to breakfast place. Great food all prepped and served from this remodeled bus.
I always got the french toast. Made with a locally baked bread. Great way to start the day!
One evening we sat out on our room balcony with our friends. This is the view we got to enjoy together.
This sign is painted on a traditional style oar. You can frequently spot one in the taxis.
We came to Lily’s Cafe for breakfast. Our friends, Bruce & Nicole, had requested their special hot sauce, Killin’ Me Man. Food was not great, but the sauce is very tasty.
This dock shows ingenuity and using what’s available to you. Floated with the use of empty 2 liter bottles.
Next post…the Botanical Gardens & Isla Bastimentos!