Monday, July 2, 2012

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Bocas del Toro is a backpacker's paradise located in the Caribbean sea just south of the Panama-Costa Rica border. The group of islands are surrounded by blue waters and mangrove forests, and on the mainland by Chiquita banana plantations. Most accommodation is located on Isla Colon, and Em and I spent about 4 days there and settled into a laid-back lifestyle under the sun. Sun-soaked days lead slowly into rum and coke and reggae nights spent talking and dancing on platforms over the lit blue water with young travelers and rastafari-like locals. There were free drinks every night at one bar or another.

Our favorite days were spent at Red Frog beach, with white-ish sand and clear-enough water on Isla Bastimentos, only a short boat ride away from Isla Colon. Aptly named, the beach was patrolled by rag-tag local children who displayed the namesake, native animals for a small fee of a bite of food or a few coins. We also spotted a few sleepy sloths in the trees on the island.
Eating here could be done cheaply by either cooking in our open air kitchen in Hostel Hansi, our favorite lodging of the trip, or by ordering a $3 casado plate at a small cafeteria in front of the Iguana bar. Casado literally means married in spanish, and this name comes from the expectations that married men have from their wives at dinner time. (At least that's what wikipedia says. Please... I don't actually know this shit.) All over the country, $3 gets you a plate full of rice, beans, some kind of meat and a small salad side. Basic ingredients could be purchased quite cheaply in all of the Chinese-owned grocery stores, and the main strip boasted everything you could possibly need from woven bracelets, beer t-shirts and fresh fruit smoothies, to laundry and internet cafes.
On beach days, Em and I headed to a nearby bakery without hesitation for huge, $5 and under sandwiches that could be eaten starting at breakfast and finished later for lunch. One morning we enjoyed a cheap, American style breakfast with fresh juice and coffee that was complimented by delicious, warm homemade bread at a small German bakery off the main drag. We returned another night for dinner, which was not nearly as good.
We both quite loved Bocas and were sad to leave the colorful little town. We had the perfect situation in our little German run hostel with a private room, bathroom and balcony for only $12 a night each. However, all of our friends were leaving and it was time to move on. We bought $26 tickets for a three hour bus ride to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, and we set off to the Changuinola-Sixaola border crossing early one Saturday morning.


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