YOLO! Costa Rica, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano

Costa Rica, Bocas del Toro, and Panama City

August 25 – September 2, 2012

When I was still living in New York early 2012, somehow I agreed to go on a ‘couples vacation’ seven months in advance! How? Well, I met a guy in LA and somehow we started dating. In hindsight, that probably wasn’t the best idea but I will admit, my trip to Central America was one of the best vacations I have ever taken… so, it was well worth it!

“CostaBocaMa” was the first trip I didn’t have to plan myself. All I did was buy my ticket and say yes to everything that was planned for me and it was great! The feeling of not having to worry about where to go, where to stay, and what to do is definitely the way to experience a nine-day vacation abroad.

La Fortuna & Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Days 1-3

Arenal is about a 3-hour bus drive from San Jose’s International airport. We stayed at Magic Mountain Hotel, where all of our rooms had epic views of the volcano – it was right in our backyard! Our time in Costa Rica was jammed packed with an adventurous itinerary, but we started it off right at Tabacon Hot Springs. After a long day of traveling, immersing ourselves in natural hot springs was the perfect remedy for all of our exhausted bodies. Some people spend the entire day here, but I thought the late afternoon into the evening was just perfect.

Over the next two days, we hiked the Arenal Volcano, zip lined through the jungle, went horse back riding, and white water rafting along the Pacuare River! There’s no feeling like flying through the jungle at 60 mph and rafting through Class IV rapids! The thrill and adrenaline rush you get while zipping through the trees with nothing around but clear skies, lush green trees, waterfalls, and maybe monkeys swinging is definitely one to be experienced by all.

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Hike

Arenal Hike

Pacuare River

Pacuare River

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Days 4-7

After 3 days of early mornings and back-to-back adventure, we arrived in beach island paradise, otherwise known as Bocas del Toro. We stayed at The Palma Royale and every morning I woke up to a freshly grounded cup of Costa Rican coffee. After reading in bed, we made our way downstairs to start our day. We filled up a cooler with beer & other beverages, grabbed sandwiches from the deli next door, and had a private water taxi take us to different island beaches. Along the way, we bought lobsters from the local fisherman and stopped at a few beach gems to soak up the Caribbean sun. My favorite beach was Cayos Zapatillas where the sand was white and the water was crystal clear. Zapatillas is probably one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to. Red Frog Beach, known for its poisonous frogs (not to humans), was also a unique beach with its red sand and mile jungle walk to get there. It actually kind of reminded me of Crane Beach in Barbados, just with a “red” tint, because of its rough waves.

Crawl Cay is a great afternoon spot for lunch and to snorkel. El ultimo Refugio is a great restaurant on the main island for dinner and Gringos is a famous spot for lunch known for their ‘laced’ margaritas. For something a little more intimate for dinner, Guari Guari is the place to go. It’s a chef’s menu kind of place and the food is delicious.

While the food was great and beach-hopping from island to island was unreal, the best thing I did in Bocas del Toro was surfing! Bibi’s Surf School are the guys to go to. They literally take you out to the middle of the ocean and will help you every step of the way. It was awesome because I didn’t have to fight the waves to get back out (I’m not great at that) and I got up on my first time too!

Nature Air, Bocas del Toro

Nature Air, Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Palma Royale, Bocas del Toro

Palma Royale, Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro

Water Taxi! Bocas del Toro

Cayos Zapatillas

Cayos Zapatillas

Red Frog Beach, Bocas

Red Frog Beach, Bocas

Red Frog Beach, Bocas

Red Frog Beach, Bocas

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro

Starfish Beach, Bocas del Toro

Starfish Beach, Bocas del Toro

Panama City, Panama

Days 8-9

Our last day was spent in Panama City and our hotels kept getting better and better! We stayed at the Trump Ocean Panama Hotel. The rooms were gorgeous with marble countertops, private balconies, and my favorite, a white bathtub in the middle of the room! Even more exquisite is the infinity pool overlooking the ocean downstairs.

While most of the ‘old city’ was under construction since the city was in the process of restoring it, it did remind me a little of Europe with its old architecture, churches, and colorful buildings. However, the ‘new city’ reminded me of Singapore and Malaysia with the tall skyscraper condominiums. That evening we had dinner at Miraflores, which overlooks the Panama Canal. It was amazing thinking about the history and even more so, the cost to go through it! Cargo ships usually pay more a few hundred thousand dollars to pass. Our time was short in Panama City, but definitely worth the stop.

Overall, my trip to Costa Rica, Bocas del Toro, and Panama City was one of the best vacations I have ever been on. It had a lot to do with the people I was with – shocking because I didn’t even know half of them. Everyone was really nice and despite things not working out with the guy, I’m really glad I went. You have to be willing to take a chance in order to find/or experience greatness. You Only Live Once!

Trump Ocean Club, Panama City

Trump Ocean Club, Panama City

Trump Ocean Club, Panama City

Trump Ocean Club, Panama City

Old Panama City

Old Panama City

Old Panama City

Old Panama City

Panama Canal

Panama Canal

Miraflores, Panama Canal

Miraflores, Panama Canal

Links:

Magic Mountain – Tabacon Hot Springs – Arenal Volcano – Pacuare River Bocas del Toro – The Palma Royale –  Trump Ocean Panama Hotel – Miraflores

7 responses to “YOLO! Costa Rica, Bocas del Toro, Panama

  1. Going to Bocas del Toro in just 2 1/2 weeks! Flying to Panama City with friends and then taking a short flight to Bocas del Toro to spend half the time there and then end the trip in Panama City.

    Wondering if you needed to get any vaccines for your trip? Have been hearing mixed reviews.

    • Hi there! No vaccines needed. I went with a group of 10 and none of us needed special vaccines.

      You are going to have an amazing time! Since you’re going with friends, it should be easy to get a water taxi to drive you to different beaches while in Bocas. Oh and ask them about the lobsters! You can buy them from the local fisherman while boating and then ask your hotel to cook them for you :). Have fun!

      • Thanks for the tips! Relieved to hear no vaccines are needed especially since at this point we don’t have enough time for any immunizations to kick in. Do you have any recommendations on good places to go out at night?

      • Definitely stop by Aqua Lounge. It is a hostel but a fun bar at night as well. Imagine swings and jumping on a trampoline into the water. Of course you don’t have to do that but makes for a fun atmosphere. Barco Hundido is also a famous spot but do be careful if you go. Two of us stumbled upon this place and it was awesome (music, dancing, atmosphere) but we were the only non-locals.

  2. Pingback: 40 Days In Asia: Southern Thailand | Working to Travel·

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