Bocas del Toro, Panama, Part 1 – Getting there.

It was a perfect Saturday afternoon here. The sun was shining and it was about 80 degrees until around 2pm. That’s when the clouds come most afternoons. It’s nice though because everything cools down, and you don’t feel bad about curling up on the couch and watching the most recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy with a warm cup of Cost Rican coffee..Can you tell what I did today? Of course, that was after a morning of picking up, sweeping, mopping, loading the dish washer, starting the 17th load of laundry, and wiping down the counters. It’s been a productive day! I might mention too that we hang dry 98% of our clothes here. Gives the term “doing laundry” a whole new meaning. Although, I do have to admit, it is a practice I plan on continuing after our return to the U.S!

Ok, enough of the day-to-day. I want to tell you all about our AMAZING trip to Bocas del Toro, Panama. Every 90 days, in order to renew your travel VISA, you must leave Costa Rica for 72 hours. Over the last year we have been home to the States twice, and to Granada, Nicaragua once. I wish I had a link to send you to a blog post of mine from the Nicaragua trip, but I wasn’t blogging then! Shame on me! Let’s just say that while eating dinner one night, a poor man came up to our table after we had finished and asked us if he could have the rest of our chips and salsa. Obviously we said yes, and so he helped himself and was on his way. It’s mind-blowing how poor that country is, however, it is extremely beautiful!

It looks like I took another “bunny trail” above. Whoops! We found out about Bocas through this couple that taught at the school I work at. They had been multiple times and raved about how pretty and relaxing it was there, and how cheap the drinks are! $1.00-$1.25 for a beer…yes, please! By the time we left Bocas, Peter and I both agreed that we felt it could be the next travel destination for tourists from all over the world. And not just backpackers! We knew our border run was coming up, and decided that now was the time to make the trip to Bocas and see what all the hooplah was. We also invited our friends, Emily and Josh to come with us. One, they had to leave the country too, and two, we wanted some company, and three, they are just an awesome couple! Also, about half of the pictures are from Emily. She was so good about taking them! Thank you, Emily!!

We decided to take the public bus provided by the great nation of Costa Rica :-). The bus was scheduled to leave the station at 6:30am. Peter went in a few days before to buys our tickets ($14 per person) so that we were guaranteed to have a seat on the bus. We got a cab just before 5am and headed to Escazu to pick up Emily and Josh, then on to the bus station!

On the bus in San Jose, headed for the border!

Josh and Emily, our travel buddies!

The bus station in San Jose

The bus left on time, and we were on our way! Our next stop would be in Limon, about 2 1/2 hours away and the stop was for 10-15 minutes for bathroom or food. We partook in both 🙂 Even better, I bought breakfast (it’s almost 9 by now) that consisted of gallo pinto, eggs, and sweet plantains, YUM! I gave the lady a 5,000 colones bill and she gave me back 2 2,000 bills and a 1,000 bill which all adds up to….5,000 colones! Free breakfast is always a good way to start the day. I should also mention that I was already back on the bus when I was counting my change, so I wasn’t able to be an honest visitor and go back to pay. It was another 3 hours until we got to the border. We stopped twice along the way to let people off. Once in Cahuita (shout out to Catie, John, Jeffrey, and Joshua!) and then in Puerto Viejo, which looked so pretty! Made me wish we could have squeezed a trip in there sometime along this journey. Oh well, can’t see it all, I guess!

We finally made it to the border before noon! It felt so much later than that. It was also beginning to get HOT! San Jose normally stays really cool, especially in the mornings, but along the coast is hot hot HOT! Josh made the unfortunate decision to wear sweat pants. Let’s just say they were doing a good job of making him sweat! The bus dropped us off on the Costa Rica side of the border so we could get out, get our passport stamped, and walk across the bridge to Panama!

The yellow thing is where cars can drive through. This is still the Costa Rica side.

It was here that we met this girl, Lotta, from Germany! She was alone and meeting her family in Almirante, so she asked if she could follow us through customs to make sure she was doing everything right. I’m not sure why she trusted us because we were just walking around asking what to do next. This was a first for us. But, she was really nice and I’m glad we got to get to know her!

Josh and I waiting on our passports to get stamped. This line was SO much shorter going in to Panama than when we left a few days later.

About to walk across the really cool bridge/border to Panama

Had to be careful not to step in between the boards and fall through!

The view while walking across the bridge.

Customs in Panama. Real official. 🙂

Paying our $6 to get in to the country

After finishing with customs, we were ushered into a white bus/van with some other people (including our German friend, Lotta!). This bus was $10 per person and was about a 30 minute ride to Almirante. Almirante is where we catch a water taxi to Bocas town. The bus ride was really cool because I spent the whole time talking to Lotta, who is majoring in Clinical Psychology, about her internship at a psych ward, and the government differences between Germany and the U.S. It was all very interesting and enlightening! One of the perks of travelling is expanding your knowledge. This was a great example!

The boat we took to Bocas town cost $4 per person, $2 if your a local… >:-/

Peter getting his wallet out ready to pay

Apparently, people have a problem with cutting in line, too. Peter and Josh said that like, three people cut in front of them when it was OBVIOUS they were in line…hmph. This is also where we parted with Lotta! She was suppose to meet up with her family somewhere near there and they had no cell phone and knew almost no spanish….not a good combo.

We took a boat similar to this to Bocas Town.

We spent about 30 minutes waiting for our boat to arrive and get ready to leave again, and then it was about a 30 minute boat ride to Bocas Town.

This guy’s life jacket may not save him if he goes overboard..

The waters were so pretty as we got closer to Bocas Town!

First sight of Bocas Town! Almost there!

After we arrived in Bocas town, we had to make our way through the town to get to the Al Natural dock. It is here that we got on another (final) boat that would take us to Isle Bastimentos where the resort is located

Josh carrying is super cute bag through Bocas Town, looking for our dock so we can ride to the resort.

Last stretch of road before we got to the Al Natural Resort dock

Made it to our meeting place, and look how clear and beautiful the water is! Ahhhhh.

We had about 45 minutes until the boat was going to leave, so we went to take advantage of the cheap beer in town and had a drink or two. Panama is an hour ahead of Costa Rica (CR is on Mountain time and Panama on CST) and it was now about 4-4:30 and it was NICE to have a relaxing drink and really just a moment to chill. It felt like we had been going all day! One last leg until we were where we needed to be. We left the dock about 4:30 and we were actually riding with the man who manages the resort, Vincent, his wife and her family who were all “Indian”, but were from Canada. Vincent is from Belgium, and both of them could speak French, Spanish, and English! Wow! The benefits of marrying someone from another country, and then living in a country neither of you are from.

we saw the Coast Guard along the way. Vincent’s wife (I cannot remember her name!) said they stop in about once a month and all the men go to shore to party, lol

Chatting along the way to Al Natural.


The boat ride from Bocas Town to Al Natural took about 45 minutes, and we had to stop for gas along the way!

Gas station!

The whole day was both exciting and exhausting , but when we finally made it to our final destination we realized how worth it the whole thing was. Our rooms/ “nature houses” were incredible, the staff was so nice and helpful, and the food was 5 star quality.However, I will have to get into the rest another night because just getting there was a post in it’s own, obviously!

Stay tuned and by next week I will have the rest of the story posted! My best friend and her husband are flying in tomorrow from Dallas and will be here for a few days, yay! This will keep me pretty busy (while also providing me with more fun blogging stories!) so I might not be posting until they are gone. We are going to Manuel Antonio National Park. Peter and I haven’t been yet and it’s so close to us! Sigh. But we will remedy that by Monday.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check back in over the next week to hear the rest of our Bocas del Toro adventure! Definitely one of mine and Peter’s top destinations to date.

Pura Vida!

Categories: Travel | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Bocas del Toro, Panama, Part 1 – Getting there.

  1. Pingback: Bocas del Toro: Part 2 « ticavida

  2. This is very nice 🙂

  3. Pingback: Bocas del Toro: Part 3, The FINAL segment! « ticavida

  4. sam jones

    There are so many hostels in bocas del Toro and ragged poor kids that nothing is safe in town and the beaches every thing you have will be stolen, stay away from Bocas!!!!

    • Sam, I definitely agree with you that Bocas Town is very run down, and did not look safe at all. However, we were only in Bocas Town as a sort of “layover” to our hotel that was on another island (Bastimentos Island). It’s about a 30-40 minute boat ride out from Bocas del Toro proper. The beach we stayed at was secluded and very safe with a natural atmosphere. I would have to agree with you that I would not have felt safe staying in Bocas Town (Bocas del Toro proper). I should have been more clear that we stayed on a different Island. Sorry for the confusion! Thanks for reading and commenting! I hope your advice is able to help another person looking to visit.

  5. Pingback: Day 17: Close to Other Countries « ticavida

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