The only part of Panama I visited was the resort Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean coast near the border with Costa Rica. I went on November 2 with Alexandra, another Intercultura student who needed to make a visa run. Getting to Bocas de Toro was a chore; I had to get up before 4:00 to meet with Alexandra and catch a taxi to Heredia, a bus to the border town of Sixaola, cross the border on foot, take a taxi to the coast and a water taxi to Bocas, arriving around 3:30 in the afternoon. It was worth the hassle; Bocas was nice, with good seafood and a comfortable air conditioned hotel room with TV for ten dollars (Panama has a U.S. dollar economy). Good seafood, cheap, comfortable sleeping, no money changing; I like places like that. A lot of American ex-pats are setting up shop there; I met one, Pete, a retired Air Force NCO living in Bocas. He pointed me towards the best bars in Bocas. I went on a short island hopping cruise, kayaked, and checked out the bars. Alexandra mellowed out on the beach and turned in early (that's her story anyway). For some reason she didn't want to hang out with a guy her fathers age. By the way, if you're in Bocas, the bar to go to is Barco Hundido, so named because it's built on and around a sunken ship. This makes for an interesting floor plan, and the bar is a popular night spot.
On to pictures. During the island hopping I got one poor picture of a school of dolphins, a decent picture of a cute poison frog, and some pictures of Playa Rana Roja (Red Frog Beach). I didn't have a camera while snorkeling, which is a pity. I encountered a barracuda that was close to six feet long. It was the biggest barracuda I've ever seen, and much bigger than I like to swim with.
We didn't know it, but we were visiting on Panama's Independence Day weekend, so we got to see lots of parades, starting very early in the morning. Only a few hours after Barco Hundido closed as a matter of fact. Really loud parades:
This is my composite view of the bay from one of the restaurants in Bocas:
And here's me, next to my rented kayak. Big deal. Sorry, no picture of Alexandra, who was much prettier than me:
By the way, this is how you cross from Sixaola, Costa Rica to Guabito, Panama, and the river that divides the two countries. I don't know if the railroad is still in use. Land border crossings are always more interesting than flying in and out of airports, and usually cheaper:
Returning to Heredia was just a reverse of the trip to Bocas, and started at 5:00 in the morning. We returned on November 5 and were good for another ninety days in Costa Rica.