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!
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.
Dominical is a very small and quaint town. There are only three dirt roads and a handful of bars, restaurants, and hostels. On the first day in Dominical we settled into our hostel(Piramys) which was across a dusty road from the beach and took a stroll around town. For dinner/late lunch we followed a fellow travelers advise and went to a sandwich shop in town. The name is Chapys and it’s to die for. The most delicious part of the sandwich may very well be the fresh baked ciabatta bread but the fresh local ingredients and quality deli meat certainly add to the wonderfulness! After dinner we set up our hammocks on the beach and enjoyed a breathtaking sunset.
The next day Amber and I went our separate ways for a few hours. Amber had a massage scheduled for that afternoon so I took advantage of a fellow travelers offer to accompany him on a waterfall hike. After a long hot hike in the heat of the day we reached a good sized river cascading down over the rocks into a deep swimming hole fully equipped with a rope swing and places to jump from. After a activity filled day for me and a relaxing, meditative day for Amber we fell asleep soon after the hostels lights out at 10pm.
We awoke early the following morning and ventured to Marino Ballena National Park only a short bus ride away in Utiva. The park is named after the humpback whales that migrate there every year. Almost too coincidentally there is also a perfectly whale tale shaped piece of land that can be walked out to at low tide. This whale tale is a stretch of sand extending from the beach and fanning out on either side into tide pools and coral. We spent over 6 hours at the park; from lounging in the hammock to floating in the water. We arrived back in Domincal starved and headed back to Chapys for a filling sandwich! Tomorrow we are off to Golfito for the night, before we begin our 3 week volunteer adventure.
Poza Azul Waterfall
Marino Ballena National Park
(Not our picture but wanted to show the whale tail)