Panama – Bocas del Toro

Yes, I am in Panama. I came down yesterday from Puerto Viejo after a lot of
traveling. Thursday morning I got up at 4am to catch a 6am flight to San
Jose. Once I got into San Jose, I hopped on a bus and headed straight for
the Carribean. Spent a night in Puerto Viejo. I stayed at this really cool
hostel right on the beach. They have dorms, hammocks, and tents all for
sleeping. They were out of dorms when I arrived, so I camped it out for the
night in my own little tent. The hostel had a bar, a bunch of hammock areas,
a treehouse room that you could stay in and a common area with chairs and
hammocks in another treehouse. It was really unlike any hostel I had ever
been to. The town is really cool at night, but during the day, there´s not
really a lot to (at least when the surf is low like it has been) and the
beaches there are less than great. So, I jumped on a bus the next morning
and headed south.

In order to get to Bocas, I had to walk across the Costa Rica/Panamian
border, which was in essence an extremely old rickety bridge. You have to
walk on planks they´ve laid across it because if not, there´s a good chance
you will fall through the giant holes in the bridge to the river below. Once
you get across, you take a taxi to a nearby Port Town and then jump on a
water taxi which takes you through these beautiful mangroves (similar to the
river safari tour at Disneyland). Bocas is a group of islands just south of
the border. There´s numerous hotels (or botels) that sit right on the waters
edge. Most of the good ones are pretty pricey, and out of my budget.
Instead, I´m staying in what is pretty much a crazy party hostel.

Today we took a tour out to Dolphin Bay and the Zapatillos Islands.
Basically, you hire a boat because that´s the only way to get anywhere. The
area is absolutely beautiful and the ocean water in between the islands is
extremely calm and acts like a mirror to the sky. All you see is islands and
flat water for miles.

The Dolphin Bay was very entertaining as we got to see dolphins in their
natural environment. Some of the boats would come and circle the dolphins
and the dolphins would swim and jump in their wake following the boats for
ten minutes at a time in some cases.

We stopped for lunch out in the middle of nowhere at a restaurant on stilts
next to a small island and then headed over to Zapatillos. Zapatillos is two
islands fairly close together and is far out from Bocas, so the only way to
get there is to go on one of these tours. Luckily, hardly any one was out
there. Most of the people in my group decided to snorkel, but I went on the
far side of the island to swim and lay in the sun. There are no services,
hotels, shops, or anything on the island…so you feel as if you are in the
middle of nowhere. Fortunately for me, no one followed, so it was as if I
had the entire island all to myself. It was so great to just be by myself
relaxing on a beautiful beach. Needless to say, I´m getting a pretty damn
good tan!

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