It’s a hard life in Bocas del Toro

Greetings from paradise, friends!  Thanks to the high demand for hostel reviews here, we’ve spent the last five days chilling the gorgeous Bocas del Toro islands off the coast of western Panamá.  The chain consists of several islands, some big, some small, with endless opportunities for exploring.

We first hit up Isla Colón, the biggest island in the chain.  Bocas Town, the most hoppin’ place in the islands, is there.  Although super touristy, it had a laid-back California-esque vibe which we really enjoyed.  Although there’s tons of snorkeling and surfing spots around the Isla Colón, we wanted to have a more relaxing visit.  The biggest event was taking the bus to Boca del Drago, an isolated beach on the far side of the island.

Boca del Drago

It was pristine, refreshing, and relaxing, until we decided to save $5 by hiking back to town.  18km in the heat and we were about ready to fall over.  At least we had plenty of water this time!  (As longtime readers may know, we kind of suck at hiking readiness and preparation, despite how much we do it!)  Zach deciding to hoot back at an angry monkey proved that the heat may have been getting to us.  Thankfully, despite their heated argument, Zach stayed on the road and the monkey stayed in the tree.  When we finally made it back to Bocas Town, we were rewarded with $.50-beer happy hour at Mondo Taitu, and ice cream bars from the local supermarket.

The next day we headed to another island, Bastimentos, known for having less gringos and more wildlife.  Unfortunately it rained throughout most of our day here, but we still enjoyed wandering through Old Bank, listening to the unique Guari-Guari language spoken by the Afro-Panamánians here.

Swingin’ from trees like a monkey.

Although touristy, Bocas del Toro is still closer to its roots than similar places in Costa Rica (so we’ve heard).  I don’t think there’s any way that a couple days here wouldn’t be a good decision!

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The Passage to Panamá: Part Two

First read this: The Passage to Panamá: Part One

When we walked up to the deck after waking up on Day 3 of our cruise, this is the view that greeted us:

We had reached the Comarca Kuna Yala, otherwise known as the Islas San Blas, a pristine chain of paradisaical islands off the Caribbean coast of Panamá.  Most islands are totally uninhabited, but those that are are occupied by the Kuna people.  The indigenous Kuna have managed to maintain their culture and independence despite over 500 years of outside influence.  Their islands are technically part of Panamá but the group maintains a mostly autonomous government.

And their islands are literally PARADISE.  For the next two days, I felt like I was living inside a postcard!  Fritz cruised us around to several different islands where we lounged on white sand beaches, saw starfish bigger than dinner plates (sadly we didn’t get a picture of one), snorkeled over diverse coral reefs, and caught glimpses of Kuna life.

Absolute paradise!

Kuna huts

Kuna village

This is basically what the last two days of the voyage on Fritz the Cat consisted of: snorkeling, lounging, and taking in the beauty!  Watching the sun set and the stars come out each night as the anchored boat smoothly bobbed in the ocean was a surreal experience.  We also enjoyed lots of fresh seafood bought from the Kuna who would drive up to Fritz the Cat in canoes.  On the fourth day, as we were eating lunch, Zach glimpsed a flash of silver in the sunlight.  A dolphin!  It ended up being three dolphins who swam along side us for several minutes!!!  Watching them dart and jump alongside the sailboat was, I think, the most magical experience of our entire trip.  The rare privilege of visiting the Islas San Blas was definitely what made the whole Colombia-to-Panamá voyage spectacular.

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