Caribbean Coast - Bocas del Toro, Panama to Puerto Viajo, Costa Rica

Published: January 5th 2015
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We crossed Panama from the Pacific to Caribbean coast on 23 December and found rainforest, beautiful islands, white sandy beaches, Afro Caribbean culture and food and a vibe that is like no other.

It's Christmas and New Year so there are fiestas and days at the beach, bbqd fish, tropical fruit, reggae music, mojitos, Imperial beers, families on the move, rice and beans, kids and dogs...

First port was Bocas del Toro (mouth of the bull in Spanish), where people live in houses on stilts, on islands in a massive bay close to the Costa Rica border. It's a jewel in the Panama crown.

With boat, taxi, bus, boat and boat to navigate, it took all day to get there from Boca Brava on the Pacific coast. It was a great day of boats, a mountain and Panamanians who are really good to travel with. Lots of smiles on the bus and a conductor with excellent child shuffling skills brought action from knee to knee - there was always room for one more, or two more, and a few bags, a few more... it's just before Christmas and everyone's excited...

On Bocas we walked around islands and along beaches, rode bikes through the coconuts, snorkled with an underwater aquaplane and checked out sloths in the mangroves. Christmas was riding out to a wild beach called Playa Bluff on Isla Colon where the Caribbean swells pound the sand in big thick barrels. There was excellent surf; hollow left handers, on a reef along the way, being carved by a bunch of surfers. Very scenic.

Bocas was where Columbus careened his ship (rolled it on its side and scrubbed off the barnacles) in 1502, at Isla Carenero, and where we stayed in a weatherboard cabin on a boardwalk opposite rowdy Bocas Town. The cabin was tiny and we got around on water taxis, which is the local young fellas with a dingy and outboard. Bocas is a beautiful place, amazing coastal scenery, a string of delightful islands, rainforest and mangroves, sloths and friendly people, but some problems to confront with waste....

From Bocas we took a boat and bus across the border to a cool little town in Costa Rica. Puerto Viejo is laid back ....and.... relaxed..... despite the New Year crowds, it is very gentle.

A German biologist, Rolf Blanke, who owns the place we're staying in, took us to Manzanillo Forest Reserve and showed us some amazing wildife amid massive trees including strangler figs, a lovely lagoon with all sorts of creatures in it, and a rainforest beside pounding surf. We saw a viper, caymans, howler monkeys, lots of birds and....

The most amazing frog called the Red Eyed Leaf frog, who curls up and sleeps during the day, shaped like a nondescript leaf, actually, exactly like a freddo frog - some camouflage. Then at night it comes out as the most beautiful creature imaginable. They are the symbol of Costa Rica and appear everywhere, including on the front cover of the Lonely Plant guide. Its easy to see why..... check the pics, my camera is not traveling well, but I managed to get something from it..... our guide woke up the frogs so we could see their eyes, legs and colours. It was worth the guilt....

Central America is turning out to be fascinating and a great place to travel. We leave tomorrow to go rafting on the Rio Pecuare and on to the central spine of Costa Rica, Volcan Arenal and the cloud forrest at Monteverde.... in biodiversity, Costa Rica packs a punch and continues to delight....

Happy New Year to everyone! I wish you all the best for 2015.

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5th January 2015

Happy new year to both of you
Hi Alan, What an amazing place to have Christmas lunch and a Happy New year to you both. Looks like the adventure has been ace so far and you are both looking well. Stay safe and keep blogging Andy & Caroline

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