Friday, February 08, 2013

Bocas del Toro

This is a typical "living fence" that we've seen all over the Panamanian countryside. It appears that a cutting is put into the ground and then begins to grow. These are then strung with barbed wire like a typical fence, but the result is so much more pleasing to the eye, not to mention cost effective!

A glimpse of the Caribbean in the distance. It was neat to be able to see both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in one day!
From Boquete, we drove east and then north to Bocas del Toro province, crossing from the Pacific slope over the mountains to the Caribbean side of the country. The vegetation, while lush on both sides, was very different. I especially liked this tree whose new leaves were a brilliant red.
We parked our rental vehicle in a secure lot in Almirante, a small, rundown, litter-strewn town on the Caribbean sea.  Here the kids were waiting to board the water taxi that would take us to nearby Isla Colon. This area was visited by Christopher Columbus on his last voyage to the New World in 1502. He found the area beautiful, and as such named several places after none other than himself. Thus today we have Amirante (Admiral), Isla Colon (Columbus Island), Isla Cristobal (Christopher Island), and Isla Carinero (Careening), where his ships were careened, or turned on their sides for repair and/or cleaning. Later on this area was a haven for pirates, who are said to have buried treasure here.

The modern "treasure" of Bocas del Toro, apart from tourism, is a thriving banana industry. If you eat Chiquita bananas, there's a good possibility you've had one from here. Now that's a banana boat!
We stayed for three nights in the town of Bocas del Toro on Isla Colon. It had a very Caribbean feel, with many of its brightly painted wooden houses built on stilts over the water, and the requisite Bob Marley playing over bad speakers.  We stayed on the upper floor of this building and enjoyed spending time on this balcony, looking out over the street, and the large front balcony over the water.
Bocas was an interesting little town, a little too touristy for our tastes, although we enjoyed our time there. We found it to be expensive, and if we'd have had more time I think we'd have preferred to stay on one of the smaller, quieter islands. I'm sure we also would have tracked down some less expensive options than we found. We just decided to think of this week visiting Boquete as our "vacation". The town was jam packed with backpackers and travelers, surfers and expats. 
The kids were delighted to count the huge starfish visible in the clear waters. This one was beneath the dock attached to our building, which housed a restaurant on its ground floor. (Is it a ground floor when it's built over the water? Water floor?) 
Looking across the water to Isla Carinero.
There are so many hummingbirds in Panama! I enjoyed watching this one flit about and then rest on plant one morning.
Sunrise as seen from our deck.
Traditional dugout canoes are still widely used in the archipelago. 
I liked this colorful sign.
Some of the small grocery stores known as "mini supers" had beautiful displays of fruit, mostly bananas, pineapple, and papayas, in their front windows.
The house where we stayed is right in the middle of this picture. I was a little hesitant to stay right on the water with the kids, but it was fine. We just watched them very carefully! 
There was a large US Coast Guard ship in the waters off the island. Of course everyone had some speculation as to what they're doing there. 
One day we took a taxi across the island to Bocas del Drago, then walked down the beach to Playa de Estrella (Starfish Beach.) The water was warm and clear and home to many big starfish! 
Our beach meal consisted of whole fried fish, coconut rice, salad, and patacones, which are fried green plantain slices. They taste a lot like french fries. 


  1. What a once-in-a-lifetime voyage for your family!!

    Starfish are so fascinating.

    Don't you love how homeschool can be out of the school room??

  2. Coffee (previous post) and bananas. Breakfast of champions.


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