Bocas Del Toro, Panama – Crossing Borders by land in December of 2013. I only had about 5 days to spare, while Alex and Erin had a few weeks.
My first visa run has finally arrived. 3 months already?? Time flies man. Time frickin flies. If you’re living in Costa Rica, the usual choices are Nicaragua or Panama. Although I really really want to go to Nicaragua, it’ll have to wait. Panama won this time around. It’s some ungodly hour of the morning, 4:45 or something of that nature… Alex (the aussie), Erin (the Texan), and myself are getting ready to head to Terminal Caribe in San Jose to catch the 6 am bus to Sixaolo (on the border – Carribean Side).
About 6 hours later, we reach the Carribean side. We weren’t really sure what to do next, as it was just a bus stop in a town we’ve never been to, there weren’t any signs or clues as to where to go. Some dude comes up to us and walks us to the border, he works there. Waiting in line on the Costa Rica side proved to be a sweaty time. It was hot as balls. Once you’re all cleared and checked, you literally just cross this semi-sketch semi-broken down bridge and walk your ass to Panama.
Cross the border with me as you watch my poorly documented video…
Once you cross the bridge, you then pay an entrance fee, and fill out some more forms. Then you have to present your plane ticket (proof of onward travel). Now, my plane ticket reservation wasn’t exactly what you would call “legitimate” or “real”, but there were no questions asked and onward we went. From there you take a shuttle to get to the water. It should cost you about $10-15 depending on how full the van is. Anymore than that and they are ripping you off. We were annoyed with the $15, but in the end there was really no other choice.
One hour, one minor headache, and one shady transaction later we make it to the water. This is the final step of the Bocas process, you pay about $5 and you get on a water taxi that takes you to the main island in Bocas, called Isla Colon.
We stayed at Casa Verde on the first night – amazing view, not so amazing staff, really crowded rooms (if I sat up straight my head would hit the ceiling).
The next day we decide to try our luck somewhere else, and end up down the road at Hostal International (above the synagogue with the crazy party jews). Such hospitable staff! They cooked for us, beached it with us, partied with us, etc etc.
We venture out to another of the Bocas islands: Isla Carenero. First stop is Aqua Lounge! An essential pit stop if you do Bocas. It’s a hostel/lounge/bar built entirely over the water, and it’s fantastic. It’s known for Wednesday night parties (among other things), but we just went during the day to check it out. There’s cheap drinks, lounge chairs, a trampoline, and swings that can dump you right into the water if you so choose.
We continued walking Isla Carenero to find it’s main beach. You walk through a local village… kids running barefoot, stray dogs, yada yada. You eventually come to an area with mainly large houses, condos, and boats docked. Never did find that beach, but we had some nice exercise and views to accompany the time we spent searching.
Isla Colon, the main island, also has some views which we decided to explore. I got a lovely walking tour of some neighborhoods while on my way to a random lady’s house to get a $5 haircut. How’d it come out, you ask? It came out just as good as Supercuts, don’t worry. Ya, I go to Supercuts, and sometimes the hairdresser reaks of cigarettes, but hey, it’s cheap and it’s just a trim. Stop judging. Anyway, we head to a beautiful and tranquil beach. Not too crowded, some Bob Marley playing in the background, a really filling lunch by the water. Couldn’t have asked for a more relaxed time.
It just so happened to be Ms. Texas’ Bday! So obvi, we had to celebrate. At the stroke of midnight we cheered, and had some food at the hostel. We also had our party hats on…
The next night was the real celebration (i think it was the next night anyways?) …stopped at a bumping bar…music, people everywhere dancing and dangling their feet off the edge over the water. Proceeded to go next door where there was literally noone besides the bar staff. We didn’t stay too long.
Finally, the moment I was waiting for…we ended the night at Bar Fundido, which is hands down my most favorite bar in all of Bocas (not that I went to all the bars or anything close to it but still my favorite). LATIN MUSIC. All. Night. Long. Can we say jizz??? because that’s basically my wet dream.
There was bachata, merengue, salsa, and moreeee. There was twirling, and spinning, and so much sweat. There was jumping, and laughing, and shouting (I was “Woooo!!!”ing like a mad woman). It was so much fun, we danced til about 5 am. I’m not joking when I say I was literally DRENCHED in sweat. If I had gone for a quick swim I wouldn’t have looked any different. It was awesome.
We ended up there one more night, and it was equally as jizztastic as the first time. It was my last night on the island. Got home around 4:30, completely soaked again, went straight to bed (ya ya ya), got up a few hours later, showered and head to the water taxi in the pouring rain. I also forgot to pay for my last night at the hostel, woops! I only have one pic from the bar because I was too busy pretending to be Latina. There was one guy from the hostel who took a bunch of pics but unfortunately I never got his last name and we never made our friendship FB official, so those pics are nowhere to be found. womp womp.
If you’re in need of a visa run, head to Bocas! It’s about 8 hours by bus/shuttle/water taxi from San Jose. Take a local bus to the Carribean side of Costa Rica (it’s cheaper like $12), then do the shuttle and water taxi after entering Panama. It’s much closer than going to Panama City, which by bus from San Jose will take you about 16 hours, and will be more expensive (believe TicaBus is around $42 one way). Bocas is a gorgeous set of islands belonging to Panama. I had a great time with 2 of the coolest chicks I’ve met on my trip so far. There was laughter, dancing, good people and some really weird people (aka Keenan!).
Pura Vida Guapos y Guapas!