I had now crossed the Panama/Costa Rica border now time to continue on my journey to Bocas del Toro. Once across the border, we took at taxi van for about $10 each and an hour ride to Almirante where they kindly dropped us off at the dock. We then paid $4 each for a half hour water taxi from Almirante to Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro-Panama.
It was a beautiful ride across the water becoming a mirror where sky and sea met. As our boat pulled up to the dock in the sunshine, in the sparkling water below, we spotted a multitude of starfish. This was an exciting start stepping onto Isla Colon and greeted with many smiles and helping hands.
There are always people ready to help you find a nice place to stay. We found such a place in the center of town for $20 a night. After dropping off our luggage, we wanted to explore the area. We started our walk to find the beach realizing we were YES! on an island. Asking the natives, one pointed out a quiet pathway behind the cemetery leading us on a shortcut to the beach. Amazed that we were in Panama, we decided to go for a swim in the warm waters and take in the beauty of the surroundings.
We spent the evening exploring the small town of Bocas, but as we were tired out from our long trip we called it an early night. We awoke to rain the next morning and cooked our breakfast in the hotel kitchen. We spoke to a nice lady, Jessica from Haiti, about how to island hop. While talking with her we met Linda who advised us to go early mornings to visit any islands or take a taxi to Starfish Beach on the other side of the island. She invited to go with her across the water 5 minutes to the tiny Isla Carenaro her home island. She shared as we walked along the waterfront telling us stories and facts of the surrounding area showing us a Noni plant or rock from the mountains used to help prevent erosion.
We stopped at ‘The Pickled Parrot’ for sodas and fries, the local bar right on the water. She invited us to her home, and seeing her large garden filled with a wonderful array of native plants and trees. Visiting with her and her husband we learned about burning coconuts to keep the mosquitos away. We also met their goat Max while learning more about this wonderful area.
On our many walks, we met Senora Gloria who was just opening a new hostel called the South Beach Hostel of which she asked us to tell people about if they were coming to Bocas. Swimming off the dock were many of the local boys in the area. I was laughing and taking photos as they played a game of who was bravest to ride a bike off the edge into the water below. On our adventure we tried to become friends with a parrot, tired cheesecake at a local bakery and met people from around the world.
The next morning early we got a taxi to a small pueblo Drago. After walking down the beach about 10 minutes we arrived at Starfish beach. It was stunning with its blue waters, calm seas and incredible large starfish in the shallow waters. The weather was perfect for swimming and relaxing in the sun. In this atmosphere we passed the entire afternoon, thinking to myself this is paradise. We ran into Linda’s husband William further down the beach on a guided tour and he offered us a ride back to town. It was a beautiful boat ride around the island. W got together with them for dinner of lobster & yucca. We are very grateful for their hospitality welcoming us into their home.
Our trip was not only relaxing in the beauty of Bocas del Toro we also were educated on local customs. We learned how to grate coconut and mix it with water in order to make coconut milk. Also if one lets it sit for a few hours after it settles the coconut oil naturally floats to the top and it can be used in cooking and baking.
Signaling with a flashlight on their back deck, we were able to get a water taxi back to the main island and pack for our trip home. It was so nice and we really didn’t want to leave but work awaited us back in reality. (Also bring American dollars as the banks or people do NOT accept colones/ATM fees are high/ Use your credit card for the big purchases.)
I recommend leaving at 7 am in order to get a water taxi back to the mainland. This will make it easier to make all the transportation connections to arrive in Changuinola, Panama to hop on your direct bus to San Jose, Costa Rica. After an all-day ride, and going back through the border crossing, we happily got back to San Jose. On Starfish Beach we had seen man walking his baby up and down the beach. The couple also was on the bus back with us. I decided to go say hello and wish safe travels to them. They were tired from a long day, and needed a place for the night before heading to their home of Santa Teresa the following day. I invited them to stay with us for the night knowing they and the baby needed to rest as well. It was a wonderful evening, I made lasagna and we shared wine and stories. It was a pleasant surprise to make good friends and I am anxious to go visit them soon. He was told us stories about being a deep sea fisherman and spear fishing while diving.
I would recommend anyone wanting a week adventure to go to Bocas del Toro, Panama for some fun and sun! Just be open and aware things slow paced and don’t be afraid to ask many questions. It is all about learning to go with the flow!
By Rose Wolf