Published: November 2nd 2011
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Costa Rica to Panama

Sixaola, Bocas Del Toro, and Panama City

So I ventured to Panama. And I absolutely loved it. Everything went wonderfully except for Wednesday.. a day of travel hell.

Adele and I decided to take a trip just the two of us to Panama to see both Bocas Del Toro, and Panama City. We left on Wednesday at 9:00am from Heredia to catch a 10:00am bus in San Jose. Well, there was so much traffic on our way to the bus station that we didn't get there until 3 minutes to 10:00. Adele ran to buy tickets and I ran to the bus to try to delay it, but there was only one seat left and they wouldn't let one of us stand. So our bus left without us. I explained to one of the men working that we had to cross the Panama/Costa Rica border that day because we had flights to Panama City from Bocas Del Toro, early Thursday morning. So he told us we could take one bus to Limon, and then a bus from Limon to the border. Perfect. So we take the 10:30 bus to Limon in hopes of catching the 2:00pm bus to the border. Well there was more traffic and we ended up missing the 2:00pm bus. At the station in Limon is where we learned that the border closes at 5:00pm and the next bus was leaving at 3 for a 3 hour ride to the border. SCREWED. So then we talked to this guy who told us the border only closes to cars at 5:00 but that we would be able to cross by foot. So we took the 3:00pm bus to the border, arrived there about 5:30 and got off the bus to be greeted by a guy missing one leg who insisted on helping us. He told us we couldn't cross because the border was closed and we would have to wait until 7:00am the next morning when the border reopened. We confirmed this with one of the border guards and then to our horror realized we were going to miss our flight. Panama is one hour later than Costa Rica, and our flight was from an Island about an hour across the border at 8:45am, (there was no way to make it with the border opening at 7 CR time and 8 Panama time). So then one leg led us to a place where we could use the internet to try to change our flight. The website said we couldn't change our flights within 48 hours of the flight and when I tried to call no one answered. A couple hundred dollars down the drain, screwed again. Then crutch led us to a hotel that we could stay in for the night and I gave him 5 bucks to get rid of him because he was giving Adele the creeps. First of all I would like to explain that Sixaola, the border town, is absolutely sketchy and disgusting. I was slightly fearful for our lives with all of the men looking at Adele and I like pieces of meat. Our hotel room consisted of a room with no windows, a dirty bed, and lots of bugs. The community bathrooms were so bad we didn't shower. Needless to say, by the time we entered our hotel room, I was about to freak the F out. I really couldn't believe everything had gone so poorly. Luckily Adele is a very mellow, positive person, and I am too for the most part, so I took a deep breath, accepted that we couldn't do anything else for the night except get some dinner and try to sleep.

The next morning, I woke up thankful for a new day and Adele and I had an early breakfast and were the first in line to get our passports stamped. We crossed the border by foot and passed pretty easily besides having to buy fake $14.00 bus tickets for our return to Costa Rica. They wouldn't let us cross without return tickets, we found out later they were a sham. We then took a taxi to the docks, and took a water taxi to Bocas Del Toro. Once we arrived to the island we were accompanied to the airport by this guy Carlos, who was hoping that after helping us we would book a boat tour with him. Didn't happen. We didn't really appreciate being followed on a bike after clearly explaining we didn't need help. At the airport, we explained our story to an extremely understanding woman who let us change our flights for that evening at only 10 dollars a person. Adele and I were relieved. Then we went to the bank to exchange some money, and went to Hotel Olas to make a reservation for Saturday night when we would return to Bocas from Panama City. Then we found Casa Verde, a hostel that let us leave our bags for the day and shower for free. AWESOME. One day of travel hell made up for four good ones! We then changed into our suits and took a water taxi to a neighboring island where we hung on the beach for the afternoon and had lunch at the Pickled Parrot. The seafood was delicious. We made sure to be at the airport at 5:00pm, exactly an hour before our flight to Panama City, as we didn't want to miss any form of transportation again. Our flight to the city was only 50 minutes and we got off and took a cab right to our hostel in Casco Viejo called Luna's Castle. Casco Viejo is considered the "old" part of Panama City and I loved it. Casco Viejo was all old beautiful buildings and churches and parks. The town felt culture rich and I felt both at peace there, and excited to explore. Luna's Castle was giant, and very European. The hostel was I think four stories high, had a bar downstairs, a movie theater and a few different living rooms along with private and dorm rooms. Adele and I payed extra for a private room, but still didn't sleep well as this hostel was clearly for people who wanted to party all night. Either way I enjoyed our stay there a lot. The walls were covered in art, people from all over the world were staying there, and the best part was the view of the Panama City skyline from the balcony. After settling in, Adele and I went to the restaurant right next door called Ay Carmela. We shared a salad, panini, and a brownie and ice cream. I also enjoyed a nice glass of Merlot 😊 After dinner we passed out and decided to wake up early as we only had one whole day to enjoy the city.

Friday morning we got up early and took a bus to Panama Viejo to see some ruins. They were really cool. I enjoyed seeing the contrast of the old ruins with the new city built around them. We also checked out a museum that talked about the ruins and Panama City. After exploring the ruins, we took a cab back into Casco Viejo for lunch. I befriended our cab driver Rogelio and asked him to take us to a place for lunch with good, typical Panamanian food. Rogelio then decided to park his cab, and led us into the San Felipe Market, where he took us to a cafeteria type place and ordered us plates. Adele and I were the only gringas in the place and we were both amused and a little shocked that our cab driver felt the need to park the cab and take us to the restaurant by foot haha. Well it turns out Rogelio was hungry and had lunch with us. I payed because I thought he was awesome. A plate full of rice, beans, salad, platanos, and chicken was $3.00. I was stoked and the food was delicious. Lunch with Rogelio was definitely a highlight of the trip for both of us. After lunch Adele and I walked down the main market street in Casco Viejo and enjoyed eating oranges Costa Rica style (by sucking the juice out of them, a skill I have learned thanks to my madre Lorena). On the street we saw these amazing women dressed in bright fabrics and adorned with anklets and bracelets winding all the way up their arms and legs. I did some research and apparently they are Kuna Indians, indigenous people of Panama. They were beautiful. We then headed to the Panama Canal. We payed 8 dollars to enter the lock in Miraflores where we were able to view a film about the building of the canal, check out a museum, and watch ships pass through the lock. It was really awesome to see such an important part of history, as well as the incredible engineering in process. I learned that they are in the process of expanding the canal so that more ships can pass through with ease. After viewing the canal, we headed back to the hostel to get cleaned up for dinner. We showered and walked around Casco Viejo at night to find a good place for dinner. On our walk we saw a progression of people celebrating the saints. Most were wearing green and many had candles. Hundreds of people were walking the streets and celebrating Dia de los Santos. After the observing the progression a bit, we stumbled upon Panama's president's house and chatted with a guard for a while. He recommended a restaurant called Casablanca, and so we ate there. I had seafood presented inside half of a pineapple, it was too good. I also had some more red wine and Adele and I shared a triple chocolate heaven-in-your-mouth desert! We went to bed pretty soon after dinner as we had a flight back to Bocas Del Toro at 6:30am. All in all Panama City was incredible, and I truly hope to return and spend more time there one day.

Saturday morning we flew back to Bocas Del Toro and met up with our girls Nneka, Charis, Anna, and Helen. After sharing stories over breakfast, we took a boat tour around the islands. We saw dolphins in Dolphin Bay, went snorkeling, and checked out an awesome beach called Red Frog. After our tour, we all napped and got ready for one last night in Panama. We went to this little spot with tapas for dinner. Bad choice as it took well over an hour to get our food, but luckily the food was good. We took turns going to get shish kabobs from the guy on the street while we waited because we were all so hungry haha. After dinner we took a boat to Aqua Lounge, a bar that was having a Halloween party. We all danced and had fun, and in general the guys in Panama were pretty good looking. Adele and I were pretty exhausted, so many days on the go really takes it out of you, so we went to bed before the other girls (at 3:00am, I'd say we were troupers haha). The next morning we went to breakfast and Helen and Anna and I did some shopping before we left the Island at 12:30pm. We crossed the border with ease and took the 3:00pm bus from Sixaola all the way to San Jose and arrived home about 9:00pm.

I really loved everything about my trip to Panama, and Panama itself. Bocas Del Toro was a beautiful island with fun, party people. But there was something really special about the city. My time there made the struggles on Wednesday worth the trip. Hope all had a happy Halloween. More soon 😊 xoxo

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