Coast to Coast in Panama

Published: June 10th 2012
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We are now getting into the last few days in Boquete, Panama. It’s been a good visit to a small town in the mountains. It is now the rainy season in Central America and if you like rain, Boquete is the place for you.

It rains nearly every day here. A lot of rain; literally 2-3 inches every day. We looked up weather statistics for Boquete and it is common to get 30 to 40 inches of rain in a month here. Every afternoon by 3 the clouds roll over the volcano and up the valley. Because the weather often knocks out internet, TV and even electricity we have spent quite a few nights sitting on our balcony and enjoying the unbelievable lightning storms.

After a week of staying around the house watching the rain we decided we had to get out of town and see what else was around the area. We made our first trip to the Pacific Coast of Panama. We drove through the town of David and down the Pan American highway to Hornocito. From Hornocito we headed toward the coast.

We drove through the hilly, green farmlands. It was quite a change to be out of the coolness of the mountains and valleys and back in the humid flat lands nearer to the coast. We headed toward the small town of Boca Chica. Boca Chica is a fishing town easily reachable along nice roads all the way from the Inter-americana. Boca Chica is the gateway to the Gulf of Chiriqui and the National Marine Park. We parked the car at the town dock and caught a boat out to one of the islands of the park called Isla Boca Brava. The boat took us to the island and dropped us off at the docks of a nice hotel. To be honest, we didn’t do that much more than have a few beers and enjoy the view of the other islands and the warm sea breezes. It was really beautiful and because it was during the week and we seemed to be the only people around.

The following day we stayed in town and went on our last hiking trail. We had an enjoyable hike up a hill for a nice view and then along a river. The trail is called the Waterfall trail but unfortunately we never found the waterfall. Still it was nice to be out and we made it back before the rain started.

We got up early the next morning and decided to head out to the Caribbean coast. While it is only about 60 kilometers straight over the mountains, the road to Bocas del Toro goes across the mountains and takes about 4 hours. The mountains were beautiful and the views were incredible at times. There is a huge manmade lake along the way that made for a nice pit stop before heading down to the coast. It was enjoyable to see the landscape change from high forest with pine trees to the lowlands with bananas and palms. It was exciting to get our first view of the Caribbean from high in the mountains.

We arrived at the town of Almirante and found a safe place to park the car overnight while we went out to Bocas del Toro. Because of the distance from Boquete we decided to make the trip to Bocas an overnight stay instead of our usual day trip. It was kind of exciting to take a vacation from our vacation. We found a boat to take us on the half hour boat ride from Almirante to Bocas. Alrmirante means Admiral and was named that because Christopher Columbus came here on his fourth trip to the Americas. Almirante is the headquarters for Chiquita Bananas and we passed their large shipping facility while leaving Almirante. About ¾ of a million tons of bananas are shipped from here each year.

We arrived in Bocas and found our intended hotel directly across the street from the ferry dock but unfortunately it was closed for renoations. We found another hotel a couple of blocks away. The hotel is located on stilts over the water and was reminiscent of an old wooden boat. Many of the houses in town are similar and have a very Caribbean style which is much different than what we have seen in the primarily colonial towns on most of our trip. The houses are on stilts and made of wood with corrugated metal roofs.

We headed out into town. Bocas del Toro town is located on Isla Colon (again named for Columbus) and is a nice, small, slightly rough looking town that has many decent hotels and restaurants. We got some lunch and spent the rest of the day having a few beers in several of the local pubs. The weather was quite hot and the beers were really cold.

We went back to the room and enjoyed the air conditioner for a couple of hours and then headed out for dinner. The weather in the evening was cooler and the breezes off the water were nice and made our dinner overlooking the water taste all the better.

We slept in and caught a boat before noon back to Almirante and drove back to Boquete. We could tell we were close to Boquete when we reached the rain. The rain added some extra time to our return trip as we had to slow considerably to be safe. All in all, it was a fun 3 days and great to see both the Pacific and the Caribbean in the same week.

We were invited to be on an Internet radio show and discuss our travels so far in Mexico and Central America. We did about a 20 minute segment of the 1 hour show. It made us a little nervous but went very well and actually was quite fun.

We leave for Panama City on Tuesday morning and will have a busy Monday trying to get packed and clean the house. We also have to make our way to David and renew our car permit so we can stay in the country for another month. We hope it goes smoothly. It takes about 7 or 8 hours to drive to Panama City so we will need to get an early start on Tuesday and hope to have everything done prior to leaving.

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