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Exploring Panama – Panama City, Boquete, Bocas Del Toro

This September, I had the opportunity to explore Panama with H. A few pics, and our trip notes.

Thu Sept 13

  • Flew Denver to Ft. Lauderdale
  • Tight connection
  • Flew Ft. Lauderdale to Panama City
  • Took Uber to Casco Viejo AirBnB
  • Finally got in bed in AirBnB around 3am. Slept!

Fri Sept 14

  • Woke up late in Casco Viejo AirBnB
  • Walked around near our airbnb and found Super Gourmet – got good coffee and tasty breakfast.
  • Did big walk around Casco Viejo and then out to the main shopping street in Panama City
  • Learned about Black Weekend shopping deals
  • Got Uber to Obarrio neighborhood to get Venezuelan empanadas and arepas. Watched huge huge rainstorm
  • Walked Obarrio for a while and then got uber under spiral building back to Casco Viejo
  • Got tacos at Tacos Del Nata
  • Had moment of relaxation at AirBnB
  • Went to Jazz place at American Trade Hotel but decided it was too dead
  • Went across street to casco Casa and had a drink on slippery rooftop bar
  • went down to first floor for gold dusted quarto leches desert
  • Back to AirBnB to sleep

Sat Sept 15

  • Woke up in Casco Viejo AirBnB
  • Had breakfast at SuperGourmet in Casco Viejo
  • Got Uber to Panama Canal Miraflores Locks.
  • Got to locks and realized we were too early to see boats
  • Got back in Uber and took Uber to Metropolitan Park.
  • Did rainforest hike in the metro park to city lookout, and got caught in massive rainstorm.
  • Got scared by roaring animal in trees.
  • Finished hike and got back in Uber to try to get Japanese Ramen for lunch.
  • Got to Ramen restaurant but it was closed.
  • Eventually ended up at Mina Concept store for brunch
  • Got Uber back to Miraflores Locks at Panama Canal
  • Saw lots of boats going through locks
  • Learned a lot about new 2016 mega locks
  • Entertained by boats going through locks.
  • Were unimpressed by museum exhibits.
  • Got Uber back to Casco Viejo.
  • Went for walk around casco viejo and fount sloth chocolate place
  • Went to so-so ramen restaurant for dinner
  • got froyo at super complete froyo place
  • Went back to AirBnB and went to bed.

Sun Sept 16

  • Woke up at AirBnB in Panama City Casco Viejo
  • Packed up and checked out of AirBnB.
  • Walked to American Trade Hotel Cafe for THE BEST Cafe Americanos we’ve ever had .
  • Got cheap Uber to Albrook Airport, on old Air Force base.
  • Flew small Jet from Panama City to David
  • Met other travel couple on our flight. Shared taxi from David Airport to Boquete. Dropped off couple at their AirBnB and then got dropped off at Casa Azul.
  • Checked in to Casa Azul
  • Got lunch and milkshakes and watermelon water and ginger molasses cookies at Sugar and Spice in town.
  • Found the collective bus depot and got bus up the Three Waterfalls trail.
  • Hiked 3 waterfalls trail
  • Encountered newlywed honeymooning Israeli couple swimming at the top of waterfall number 2.
  • Slipped through lots of mud. Finished waterfall hike
  • Waited a bit for the bus which never came. Hitchiked back to town with two kids in a pickup truck,
  • Got dropped off at the Boquete Brewery
  • Had beers and fries at Boquete Brewery.
  • Went back to Casa Azul to shower and change
  • Walked back into town to get dinner at Retro Gusto restaurant after deciding Boulder 54 was too swanky for town
  • Sleep

Mon Sept 17

  • Day in Boquete hiking, coffee tour, and hanging out with Franka
  • Quetzal Trail, Coffee Tour, Panamonte Dinner
  • Woke up at Casa Azul and had homecooked breakfast and played with super great doggie Rusty.
  • Took a Collective bus from the supermarket in Boquete up to the top of the loop to get dropped off at the quetzal trail
  • Hiked for an hour and a half on quetzal trail
  • Saw jungle farms and sheep
  • Checked out deep cloud forest, with lots of epiphytes and other huge plants. No quetzals. Found a cool jungle suspension bridge
  • Got bus back to Casa Azul where we met up with B&B-mate Franka. Lan of Wannan tours picked us all up to take us on coffee tour at Finka Elida – recently won most expensive gesha coffee in the world sale at $803/lb.
  • Learned about coffee making and gesha coffee, did coffee cupping and tasting. Saw lots of cool plants, Learned the different between coffee plants. Saw more beautiful cloud forest.
  • Learned about coffee production process, and saw boxes of beans being packaged for China.
  • Went back to to B&B for shower and change.
  • Walked with Franka to Hotel Panamonte. Got a great table on porch.
  • Selected our own wine from the wine cave, and ordered tasty dinner.
  • Got a printout of Panamonte history and hung out in bar lounge while learning the local history.
  • Went to sleep at Casa Azul.

Tue Sept 18

  • Woke up at Casa Azul B&B
  • Had tasty breakfast with Kathy
  • Discovered Avocado Tree and Mint Bush
  • Got picked up by tall dutchman naturalist Hans in his Isuzu SUV
  • Drove all day from Boquete to Almirante
  • Saw military truss bridges
  • Saw super cool long susupension bridge
  • Saw large hydroelectric dam
  • Learned why we were eating Chinese food lunch at bus stop – Jeffrey had kungpow chicken.
  • Went to Ngobe village family Cacao farm where they had recently slaughtered cows for political campaign
  • Head of Family took us on tour of family cacao plantation
  • Family matriarch showed us how to roast, grind, and process cacao
  • Saved some cacao seeds
  • Crossed windy diablo pass with Hans
  • Had coffee by the river with Hans
  • Tried unsuccessfully to get ATM money in Almiante
  • Went on a lot of backroads that were super twisty and steep and investigated funny cars on street signs.
  • Learnedthat hans is responsible for many amyarilis in bouquet
  • Got dropped off in Almirante by Hans
  • Took fast boat from Almirante to Bocas Town on Isla Colon
  • Walked around Bocas Town
  • Stopped in La Buga for a happy hour drink and booked diving trips
  • Took boat from Bocas Town to Bastimentos
  • Found The Firefly and checked in, watched sunset at The Firefly while sipping rum punch.
  • Unpacked and then headed to dinner in Old Bank, Bastimentos at the Sea Monkey. Served by Keith

Wed Sept 19

  • Woke up at The Firefly
  • Breakfast at The Firefly with passionfruit smoothies
  • Debated about what to do for the day
  • Hung out at the bungalow for a bit and researched stuff to do in the area
  • Met up with Renee and company to go to the docks
  • Got on the bot and went through the mangrove forrest into the rainforest – saw two sloths in the trees!
  • Stopped the boat deep in the Jungle and met up with our barefooted native Ngobe guide.
  • Walked through the jungle to the Nivida Bat Cave
  • Had two puppies following us in the jungle
  • Explored the bat caves
  • Saw a crocodile in the bat cave entrance
  • Saw shrimp
  • Saw a water snake
  • Saw fruit bats
  • Sat insect bats
  • Saw vampire bats
  • Went swimming in a really dark pit of water deeeeeep in the cave, under a beautiful waterfall
  • Hiked back out of the cave and back through the rainforest to the boat. Got bitten by woodcutter ants.
  • Took the boat back out through the mangroves to the Red Frog Beach Dock.
  • Saw another sloth in the tree, saw a boa constrictor in the trees, saw a crocodile
  • Made it red frog beach, had $1 coconuts as a snack
  • Went for a wonderful swim in the waves
  • Got tase tacos at Natcho Mommas
  • Boated back to Bastimentos public dock
  • Hiked up the mountain to the Up The Mountain coco farm
  • sketchy jungle trail descent back to beach and to the Firefly
  • Jeffrey had photo shoot at rock beach and then we watched sunset
  • Finally back at firefly, showered and changed for dinner
  • Had dinner with honeymooning newlyweds Samantha and Adam, from New Jersey. Talked to them about moving to Denver and Israel.

Thu Sept 20

  • Woke up early in the bungalow at The Firefly and had a nice breakfast on the deck.
  • Drank lots of Duran coffee
  • Got our gear together and walked over to the park on Bastimiento dock, passed renee who walked with us to get a boat. Not sure what he was expecting
  • Took boat to Bocas town and checked in at La Buga for snorkeling and scuba diving.
  • Went on La Bugas trimaran dive boat. Jumped off roof of boat into water.
  • Snorkeling on a shallow reef. Saw eel, squid, beautiful blue reef fish, cool coral, and all sorts of fun stuff.
  • went diving on sunken catamaran
  • Got lunch back on the dock at La Buga.
  • Walked around Bocas town to investigate random stuff
  • Caught collectivo bus to Playa de Las Estrella. Passed lots of angry couples
  • Drank juices and coconuts
  • Swam in warm waters and saw lots of starfish
  • Investigated lobsters in a trap
  • Caught collectivo back to Bocas Town, with lots of kids on SIT study abroad trip
  • Walked around bocas town more. Bought Abuelo Rum at grocery store.
  • Found nice dock on the water and had Rum with Pineapple juice
  • Got dinner at Bocas Brewery. Met german friend Ellen.
  • Listened to Jazz on dock
  • Took boat back to The Firefly as a storm rolled into town.
  • Saw sloth on electrical wire as we were walking back to The Firefly. Super cool!

Fri Sept 21

  • Woke up in the Bungalow and had breakfast at The Firefly
  • Freaked out when we heard about impending labor strike that might mess up our departure flight transit
  • Got boat to Bocas Town
  • Met up with Captain Jose for Zapatillas Islands Package tour.
  • Got on package tour boat.
  • Saw Dolphins
  • Saw Starfish
  • Stopped at Sloth Island and saw 2 sloths
  • Went snorkeling
  • Stopped at lunch dock to order expensive lunch
  • Went out to Zapatillas Island, explored abandoned boardwalk into the jungle – saw lots of epiphites and mangroves
  • Swam with tourist Chris and hung out on the beach
  • Took boat back to lunch dock for lunch. Captain Jose drank heavily.
  • Boat back to Bocas town for lunch at the end of the day.
  • Wandered around bocas town, ate a churro, checked out schoo and airport, met new yorker in super gourmet
  • Decided to eat dinner at doghouse pizza, met argentinian girls who liked to party at selinas.
  • Tried to go to Bookstore Bar, but instead went to Coco Hostel to meet up with Ellen again for awkward beers
  • Went back to The Firefly

Sat Sept 22

  • Woke up earlyish at the firefly
  • Debriefed on Firefly issues with Adam and Samantha
  • Got packed up, boated to bocas, and caught our flight to Panama City
  • Forced to land at random airstrip in jungle because of storm in Panama city
  • Finally got back on our flight and made it to Panama city
  • Took Uber to Riande Grand Hotel, dropped bags there.
  • Got lunch at greek food stand recommended by a few prostitutes
  • Ubered to Casco Viejo
  • Realized Canal zone antiques is closed
  • Went to American Trade hotel for tasty coffee
  • Bought Molas from indians on the plaza
  • Walked around Casco Viejo
  • Walked to fish market
  • Walked on the riverfront walk
  • Got uber back to hotel to check in
  • Got bad room at hotel initially, and then changed to better room.
  • Went out for dinner at Hiraku japanese in Sortis Hotel. It was soso.
  • Saw more prostitutes at Sortis
  • Got drink at beer garden
  • Realized we were staying in center of prostitution area
  • Decided against Gamboa

Sun Sept 23

  • Woke up at Riande hotel
  • Ubered to Lung Fung for Sunday morning Dim Sum.
  • Ubered to Canal Administration building but it was closed
  • Hiked up to top of Cerro Ancon for cool views, with all the other families on Sunday morning exercise route
  • Saw cool lookouts and views around panama canal – saw neopanamax locks
  • Ubered to Biomuseo and soaked up AC at Kotowa Cafe
  • Checked out history of panama exhibit, for free
  • Checked out migrating birds exhibit, for free
  • Ubered to San Francisco neighborhood to Russian owned Leto Coffee Shop – chilled there for a bit
  • Walked around to find dinner spots
  • Ubered back to hotel for shower and rest
  • Ubered back to San Francisco neighborhood for super great dinner at Brutto restaurant
  • Went to Fragela for icecream “Bañado en chocolate”
  • Ubered back to hotel and passed out

Mon, Sept 24

  • Woke up at Riande hotel and packed
  • Free breakfast and checked out
  • Ubered to Isla Morada map and chart store – largest chart store in latin america. Bought chart of Panama Canal – printed just for us. Chart CP5
  • Ubered to airport to catch flight home.

Panama Trip Notes and Recommendations

Panama City

  • American Trade hotel is a must stop – coffee in their Cafe Unidos cofee shop, chilling at the bar
  • Papaya Bookstore cafe in Casco Viejo looks nice
  • Explore SanFrancisco neighborhood for restaurants and coffee off the tourist track
  • Walk by the fish market but dont get sucked in
  • Do a hike in the metro park
  • Check canal ship transit schedule before going to miraflores locks – time locks visit with ship transit
  • Strongly consider pre-booking smithsonian gamboa visit ahead of time and staying in Gamboa for 2 nights one full day
  • Check out Brutto in San Francisco
  • Get chocolate dipped icecream at Fragela in San Francisco
  • Don’t stay in El Cangrejo or Obarrio
  • Stay in Casco viejo or San Francisco
  • Use Uber to get around easily and cheaply
  • Don’t pay for Biomueso – check their free exhibits and walk around the facility
  • Get early rooftop drinks at Casa Casco, and order 4 Leches Dessert
  • Buy Molas from indias setup in tents on plaza – they have the best prices and the money goes straight back to the indian tribes

Bocas Del Toro

  • Don’t stay at The Firefly in Bocas del Toro Bastimento
  • Stay at Palomar Hostel private room on Bocas Del Toro Bastimento Red Frog Beach
  • Zapatillas package tour is nice, but bring your own lunch and don’t expect secluded beach to yourself
  • Do the Bat Caves tour, even better if you can do it as a private tour.
  • For scuba, go with La Buga. Ask them to give you good flippers with booties instead of slip ons.
  • Get food at La Buga after diving
  • Get beer at Bocas Brewery. Get pizza at The Doghouse
  • Soak up a/c at SuperGourmet
  • Don’t try to bike to starfish beach. Take the collectivo
  • Keep your eyes open for sloths in the trees
  • Prepare yourself for immersion deep in the backpacker vibe – even if staying at a hotel or nicer resort, you’ll still be deep in backpacker land and island time casual zone

Boquete

  • Stay at Casa Azul b&b for a homey experience
  • If you want an all day hike, find a transfer from David that drops you off in Cero Punto for the quetzal trail and then takes your luggage to your hotel in Boquete, leaving you to do the quetzal trail the whole day
  • Doublecheck the collectivo busses schedule and pickup points if you’re going hiking in the mountains
  • Do the 3 Waterfalls trail and be ready for a refreshing swim
  • Do a coffee plantation tour – Lan at iWanna tours was great.  Ours was at Finca Elida, and was great! Be sure to try a tree tomato.
  • Get lunch snacks and ginger molasse cookies at Sugar and Spice
  • Get tasty beers at Boquete Brewery
  • Don’t go to RetroGusto
  • Get a drink at hotel Panamonte Bar, but don’t stress getting an entire meal there. A relaxed drink would be great there.
  • Try the popsicles on the main street.
  • Consider the gelateria
  • If transiting from Boquete to Bocas, consider an all day tour with transfer, rather than just a bus transfer. There’s lots of cool stuff to check out in between. Hans of Tinamou Cottage/Coffee Adventure Tours

 

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