posted by Kevin and Mandy
21.02.2011 - 06.03.2011 65 °F
Our first stop in Panama was in the volcanic mountain town of Boquete. The cool dry air was a welcome change from the typical Central American humidity. Upon arrival, we booked a tour at an organic coffee farm, owned and operated by an expat from Berkeley, California.
The intimate tour was informative and entertaining. The owner explained the whole process, from growing to roasting. We even had a tasting and got to take home our own roast. The farm was beautiful, and overlooked the lush green valley of Boquete. The next day we went white water rafting on the Chiriqui Viejo River. We shared a boat with 3 intense guys from San Francisco. Our guide was insane and thought it was hilarious to lead us into dangerous rapids sideways and backwards. Everyone survived and we had a great time. Our last day in Boquete was a leisurely day spent at some natural hot springs. We then headed back to the Caribbean and ended up on the island of Bastimentos, near Bocas del Toro, Panama. We stayed in the tiny town of Old Bank, which had a truly authentic Caribbean vibe.
The town consisted of a single sidewalk, no cars, no grocery stores, no ATMs, but lots of reggae, nice locals, and a crazy language unique to the island, which was a mix of creole and spanish. We found a charming over-the-water hostel for $14 a night, owned by the infamous Jaguar (no, really. When asked his name, his response was simply “The Jaguar”).
We had bad luck with weather, as we were there during the end of their rainy season, but managed to squeeze in a couple of amazing beach days.
The other days were spent drinking tea at a cocoa farm, eating at the only Thai restaurant in Panama, playing Jaguar music and “taking life cool.” We were truly sad to leave this island and hope to return one day. Jaguar gave us good transportation advice and soon we were on an 8 hour bus ride to Panama City. We were eager to check out the “best city in Central America” and excited about the prospects of Carnival. Our first day was full! Activities included morning at the Panama Canal, catching 2 large ships through the Miraflores Locks,
afternoon at the Mercado de Mariscos, eating fresh ceviche and lobster,
and evening strolling the streets in Casco Viejo, the oldest barrio in Panama City.
The following days were spent attempting to walk around the city (which proved to be nearly impossible, as Panama City is not a pedestrian city), eating local and international faire and catching a couple of American movies. We spent one evening at the Carnival festival, watching live musical performances and locals shake their hips, while dodging confetti.
Panama City was a great finale to our Central American adventure.