Wishing all our family, friends and followers at Happy Easter from Boquete, Panama! We are spending the day relaxing and enjoying the beautiful mountain town.
We arrived here a few days ago from Bocas del Toro. Boquete is a cool mountain town which is much different from the party beach town of Bocas however, it is a pleasant change. The weather is very unpredictable here; one minute sunny and the next raining. We are staying at a fantastic hostel called Mamallena in the center of town. It is an old historic house with a lot character. We have also found some great cheap food at the local spots! The town is very busy because of the holiday and the Flower & Coffee Festival in the park.
Due to Willy's allergy to horses, I went on a horseback ride with some other girls from the hostel. We booked the tour right through our hostel which was very convenient. We rode for about an hour and a half through the beautiful mountain side. We finished up the tour with a stop in the hot springs. These hot springs were much more rustic and different from the previous ones we visited (Baldi Hot Springs in CR). However, they were still very hot and relaxing!
The following day we decided to hike the Quetzal Trail. When we first arrived there was a light mist covering the land. The fence post were glistening with moss and sheep were grazing in the field. It felt as though we had traveled to New Zealand! After some trial and error we reached the actual trail. This trail is famous for the Quetzal bird which is very rare to spot. The trail was full of biodiversity with all sorts of ferns and plants growing everywhere. We hiked for about 2 hours and still no luck with our bird hunt. Our legs were growing tired since there were many hills involved in the hike so we decided to hike back. Even though we did not see this famous bird, the hike was still very enjoyable and a nice escape from town. We hitched hiked our way back into town to save some money. We were lucky enough to be picked up by a friendly couple from Chicago who are working on the expansion project for the Panama Canal! We arrived back at the hostel for their famous BBQ night which was a fun way to unwind!
We made the trek from Costa Rica to Panama via the infamous old bridge that felt like it may have collapsed at any minute. Once through customs we took a bus and then water taxi to Bocas Del Toro. Bocas is an town comprised of many islands. Each island has something different to offer from great restaurants to pristine beaches. Since it is Holy Week we were concerned about finding a room, however, we were lucky enough to get a one at Hostel Hieke on Isla Colon. Isla Colon is one of the main islands with plenty of tasty food options and cute houses built over the water. Our hostel bed was a nice upgrade from the hammocks at Rocking Js! The first day we ventured to Red Frog Beach; about 15 minute water-taxi ride. This beach is known for the poison red dart frogs that inhabit the land. Red Frog Beach is located on Isla Bastimentos and costs $3 to enter. After finding the perfect spot for the hammock we jumped into the crystal clear water. After getting some vitamin d from the strong sun we caught a water taxi back into town to search for some grub. We chowed down on some fish and chips at Rip Tide. This restaurant is actually a converted boat with great views of the ocean.
The next day we booked a tour with Under Sea Adventures to Dolphin Bay, Coral Cay and Isla Zapatilla. We were fortunate to see a dolphin and a sloth in Dolphin Bay. Next we traveled through the mangroves to the national park; Isla Zapatilla. It is hard to even describe in words how pristine and beautiful it is there. The crystal clear water with the white sand looked incredible. We also tried “Coral Boarding” which was a once in a lifetime experience. We held onto clear boards while getting pulled by the boat. With our snorkel gear on we were able to dive down and soar above all the coral and come up whenever we needed some air. We spotted all types of fish, in addition to a Nerf Shark and Sting Ray. We finished up the day snorkeling and enjoying a pasta lunch.
After a fantastic day out at sea we worked up a good appetite. By recommendation we headed to El Ultimo Refugio. This quaint little restaurant over the water is famous throughout Bocas. We started with some fresh Mahi Mahi Ceviche which is raw fish marinated in lime juice and pico de gallo. We also enjoyed our main coarse of tuna steak! By the time we finished eating the place was packed and there was a line out the door to get in!
After a few days in the big city of San Jose, we headed to the town of Puerto Viejo. This beach town with its laid back Caribbean vibe is very welcoming to the young backpacker like ourselves! We chose to stay at Rocking Js Hostel because Willy had stayed there 4 years ago. The hostel is huge and caters to every type of budget offering accommodation ranging from hammocks to the Pimp Suite. We opted to save some money by sleeping in the hammocks. The hostel is full of other travelers from all over the world! It is decorated in mosaics done by guests and has a great beachfront.
We rented bikes to cruise around town and head to the other beaches. We spent one day visiting the Jaguar Rehabilitation Center. This establishment takes in all types of abused and injured animals.
We were able to see baby sloths and play with the young spider and howler monkeys. The whole place is run by volunteers and we would defiantly recommend it!
When we were not lounging in our hammocks we also spent time in the tidal pools near the hostel. Their are a few deep tidal pools that allow for a nice refreshing swim. The tidal pools are also full of life! We saw many small fish, and eel and sea urchins!
The past 2 weeks at Casa Orquidea have flown by! We have finally begun to get into the swing of things and time is cruising along. We wake every morning to the sounds of chattering birds and other animals outside our door. By 9am the sun is high in the sky and beating down on us so we take advantage of any shade that we can get. Our daily chores include weeding, edging and raking. We have also been working with their local caretaker, Alex. Alex only speaks Spanish, so it has been good practice for us! Alex also invited us out on his boat for some fishing. 5 days after the full moon, Needlefish gather by the shore to breed. This freenzy draws locals from all over. Willy tried his luck, and was able to catch 2 fish and he also spotted a sea turtle and dolphin from the boat. The hardest part of it all was learning how to gut the fish.
Our afternoons are spent wandering around the gardens or reading in our hammocks. After reading some of Trudy’s herbal medicine books, we have been experimenting with the local plants. They have spice and medicinal gardens which offer a variety of plants to aid in wounds, headaches and stomach issues. We are also fortunate enough to be able to pick fresh basil and oregano from the garden. There is a giant grapefruit tree and lemon tree next to our house which has provided us with fresh juice in the morning!
View from our porch
We were greeted by our host Ron MacAllister at the docks in the port town of Golfito. He showed us around town ; where the best produce and groceries could be purchased and other important landmarks. It was our duty to plan out what foods we would want to eat and buy all of our supplies for the next week. After a few hours, we met back with Ron and made the 25 minute boat journey to our new home, Casa Orquidea. We were greeted by Trudy and Spike (dog) at the beach. After unloading all our bags and supplies we were showed to our cabin which will be home for the next 3 weeks.
The 70 acre property looks like a scene out of Jarassic Park. There are Scarlett macaws hovering about and lizards running across the grass. There are hundreds of trees and flowers. Casa Orquideas is known for its many species of orchids and heliconias. The property is truly a magical and special place, its hard to describe it. Cruise ships and boats stop for tours almost daily. The tours include a weekly National Geographic tour boat.
By our cabin, we are fortunate to have a grapefruit and lemon tree. We also have access fresh pineapples and a wide array of herbs and spices. The ocean is just a stone throw away from our porch. Instead of trying to sleep with traffic noises, we now just hear the sounds of the crashing waves and the wild jungle outside our door.
Work begins at 7am for us. By this time the heat is starting to rise and the macaws are already squawking and making their presence known. We work for 4 hours. Our daily tasks include weeding, edging and maintaining the gardens. Ron and Trudy are always available to answer any questions and offer suggestions. After work ends at 11pm we are free to do as we please around the gardens and surrounding area. Most of the time we end up reading/sleeping away the afternoons in our hammocks on the beach.