On Tuesday morning we jumped back into the van and took off for the Caribbean coast. Our route took us on a bunch of windy roads through the mountains before finally reaching the coast. Once we arrived at the port we parked the van (affectionately named Berto) and got into a water taxi (a large 20 person boat) with our bags which took us to Bocas del Toro, an island town off the coast of Panama that’s only accessible by boat or airplane. From the water taxi port we then took a regular taxi around the peninsula of the island to our hostel, Skully’s, an awesome beach shack right on the water’s edge including a pool, beach bar, and every beach game you could think of.
After dropping our bags off we grabbed lunch in town and took a water taxi to an adjacent island, Isla Bastimentos, where we planned to spend the afternoon at Red Frog Beach. Once dropped off at the dock we took a foot path through the jungle from one side of the island to the other and arrived at the beach. Though the island is known for them, we saw no red frogs on our walk unfortunately. We spent the afternoon swimming in the ocean and sipping cocktails at a cool beach bar that was set back from the water among the palm trees. The beach bar had a slack line (a strap tied tightly between two trees, a few feet from the ground, where you try to walk from one end to the other without falling), which we all tried with varying levels of success, and plenty of seating to enjoy drinks with a great view of the water.
That evening we took a water taxi back to the main island which included incredible views of the sunset. Once back on land, we found another local place on the water for dinner where we enjoyed some good food and drinks (heavy on the drinks). We spent the evening hanging out on the deck at our hostel overlooking the water, and made friends with a few other hostel guests.
The next morning we had to say goodbye to Clara and Nestor, who embarked on an all-day drive back across the country to catch their flight back to the US. Again, we cannot describe how wonderful it was to see them especially coming out of a 3-day quarantine. HUGGGEEE shout out to Nestor (aka “Papi”) for being our driver and tour guide during their trip! Once they departed we decided to spend the rest of the weekend in Bocas del Toro (one of the perks of long term travel – flexibility).
After checking out of our hostel we took a water taxi back to Isla Bastimentos, this time planning to spend the night at a Selina hostel, a large, well-known hostel chain known for having awesome design a great vibe. After a pretty long walk uphill with all of our bags and a few jugs of water, we checked into our rooms in the middle of the jungle. Our hostel included a pool so we promptly dropped our bags and spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool. On our way to said pool, we spotted a sloth just hanging around (pun intended), seemingly posing for us to snap some photos!
In the evening we walked through the jungle in search of a beach front dinner and saw another four sloths on our way to the beach. I’d like to think I’ve become something of sloth-spotting pro at this point in the trip, searching high and… high for stationary clumps of grey/tan fur nestled in the tree tops. We enjoyed dinner on the water, back at our favorite beach bar from the day before, before returning to the hostel to get some rest before the following day’s all-day excursion.
On Thursday we had scheduled an all day boat tour around the area, which included a complimentary 12 pack and stops at starfish island (tons of starfish), guaranteed dolphin spotting in the bay, snorkeling at a coral reef, and a stop at a smaller island for a few hours of relaxation. We did in fact spot quite a few dolphins, and the snorkeling was fantastic.
Our favorite stop however was the tiny remote island. From the dock where we were dropped off, we carried our cooler a few hundred yards down the beach. Here we sat in the shallow, crystal-clear water just off the edge of the beach and enjoyed our beers in the sun. After a lot of hard work, we also managed to crack open a few fresh coconuts. This afternoon stands out as one of the single best times of our trip, but of course that’s pretty hard to pick and choose.
The second half of the tour included a delicious local seafood lunch and a stop at “sloth island” where we unfortunately saw just one sloth way up in the trees. We weren’t too disappointed though, since we saw quite a few the day before. From here the boat took us back to shore and we walked back up the hill to our hostel, where we spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool.
The next morning we packed up our stuff and took a water taxi back to the main island, specially back to Skully’s since we really enjoyed the first stop so much. Our previous stay was the 6 of us in a 3 bed room that was air conditioned and private, and we were fortunate enough to get the same room again, though our party had been reduced to 4 people. The bad news was, the weather for the next three days was pretty much constant rain. The good news however, was after an eventful week we were happy to relax and had plenty of beach games, card games, drinks, and coconut-cracking to keep us entertained.
In short, the next three days were spent hanging around at Skully’s. We spent time around the pool, played all the yard games we could find (corn hole, ring game, darts, horseshoes, giant jenga, and more), and knocked down coconuts from the trees on the property and enjoyed the fresh coconut water. We also caught up on laundry (which we needed to do, badly). We met some interesting characters who were also staying at the hostel, and a few expats. After a great weekend despite the rain, we were ready to move on to our next stop in Panama as we started making our way back along the Pan-American highway towards Panama City.