Tag Archives: photography

Bocas Del Toro, Panama – Bastimentos

Bocas del Toro, Panama, a group of islands off the western caribbean coast of the country, might be the most popular destination in Panama outside of Panama City. All of the guidebooks will tell you that it is a MUST GO for the beaches and surfing and partying in town on Isla Colon. But, once you start to talk to actual backpackers who have been there, you will hear mixed reviews. Some people love it and want to stay there forever and never leave. Others, myself included, think it is just OK and would rather spend the rest of our lives elsewhere. But, to be fair Bocas is actually a set of islands, each with their own vibe and while Isla Colon, the main island, was not my favorite experience yet, I found Bastimentos, a different island, to be really pretty, much more relaxed, and whole lot more enjoyable.

Bocas del Toro Bastimentos

Bastimentos

My time in Bocas happened to overlap with that of some permanently sailing friends of mine, who were living on their boat in the marina on Bastimentos. I met up with them and headed over to their home to hang out and trade travel stories for a few days. It was really good to see some familiar faces and just relax outside of the main island in Bocas!

Green Butterfly

We did a bit of exploring of the island, played cards on some beaches, had some drinks and came across the one animal that I had yet to spot on my trip- a sloth!

Sloth 1

Sloth 2

Sloth 3

This guy, with the markings on his back and his relatively fast-for-a-sloth pace, is actually a Costa Rican sloth. Not sure how he got to Bocas, but he literally just crossed a path right in front of us, giving me the chance to get these up close shots!

Bastimentos also boasts a population of tiny Strawberry Poison Dart Frogs that one of its beaches, Red Frog Beach, is named for. We looked everywhere as we walked along without seeing any and decided going into the jungle a bit (in flip flops) might lead to better results. We didn´t go in very far before the first one was spotted by one of my friends. Once we saw one, we saw a bunch more. Excited to be able to get some good shots of these little guys I inched slowly forward, camera at the ready and started snapping. The small group of fire ants I happened to step into just then simultaneously starting stinging. Though a few of my toes blistered up to the point that I was limping around Panama for about a week aftward, I came away with these amazing pictures!

Strawberry Poison Dart 1

Strawberry Poison Dart 2

Strawberry Poison Dart 3

And here are the type of ants that I`m pretty sure stung me. These are the very ants that the frogs get their poison from so you can imagine that the sting actually hurts quite a bit for such a small animal.

Bastimentos Ants

In the end, Bocas del Toro has an island vibe for everyone! So, even if you don´t feel like Colon is the one for you, there are a whole host of others that you can spend your time on instead! AND always were closed toed shoes when exploring in the jungle.

 

Mahalo Hawaii

Needless to say, Hawaii was amazing. The weather was perfect everyday: 85 with a slight to moderate breeze and just enough passing cloud to give you an intermittent break from the blazing sun. The beaches were beautiful, especially outside of Waikiki, and the water was warm. Aside from the cost of living, there is almost nothing bad to be said about our 5oth state (except that it is slowly becoming more and more like a 5oth state and little less like the Polynesian paradise its meant to be- think Home Depot and Denny’s). Americanization aside, I love Hawaii, and I only saw O’ahu! Not having seen Maui or The Big Island (Hawaii), Kauai, Lanai, or the others I know I must go back! Hawaii has officially made it to the list of places I shall one day return to.

I stayed at the Waikiki Beach Side Hostel, which I would definitely recommend. I paid about $30 a night to stay in a female small dorm (4 beds- no bunks) that is literally a block away from Waikiki Beach. It is located at the end of the strip, nicely placed near bus stops, the Honolulu Zoo and Aquarium, Diamond Head and all the stores and restaurants in Waikiki. They provide toast and coffee for an hour each morning and have an on site internet cafe, wifi in the whole place, laundry facilities and a change machine (you need exact change to ride the bus). The rooms were pretty clean and the linens were white. I had the opportunity to meet some great people here (in particular, two Swedes and an Irish Kiwi) who helped to make my trip that much better.

Aside from laying on the beach, which I did quite a bit of on some days, I ventured out and made sure to do a few more of the things I had in mind. On my first full day in Hawaii, I met up with my friend and her then fiance, and they showed me around O’ahu. Bearing Malasadas, a Portuguese donut now famous in  Hawaii, they drove me over to the windward side of the island to Lanikai and Kailua Beach where we did some paddle-boarding. While it was a bit too windy to be really successful (think more time in the water than on the board) we had a blast and worked up an appetite. Hungry, we went to pick up some Hawaiin plate lunches to take back to the beach (I had Teri Chicken and some Mochiko Chicken- Yum!) so we could watch the wind surfers while we ate.

Windward side of Oahu

On the way back to Waikiki, we stopped at the Nu’uanu Pali Highway Lookout for a beautiful view of the island. Not only was it great to catch up with my friend, but I got to move around the island a bit more without having to rent a car of my own!

Friday, I spent the day on the beach, working on my tan, quieting my mind and feeling lucky. So naturally I was itching to move around on Saturday- I headed out at dawn to make my way over to the Diamond Head Crater. From where I stayed, it was about a 40 minute walk to the base and another 25-30 minute walk up to the top. I arrived at the entrance to the Park just before 7am where I paid the $1 fee to enter on foot. While there were bus loads of Japanese and Korean tourists already at the site when I arrived, they were on their way down. By the time I got to the top, I was one of about 20 people taking in the view, and what a view it was. From there you can see Waikiki and Honolulu on one side and Coco Head and beyond on the other.

Pretty hungry by this point, I ran into a Saturday farmer’s market on my way back to town and picked up a Ginger Cooler and Banana Spring Roll to eat while I walked, as well as a Lavender Lemonade Lip Balm made from lavender grown on Maui at the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm.

Later, I caught the 42 bus out to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial Park at Pearl Harbor. While this is something that I learned about in school as a kid, it had much more meaning to me as an adult, when I had the opportunity to put everything into context and wrap my head around the number of young people who lost their lives that day. It is free to enter the site where there are exhibits to walk through. There is also a free tour where you watch a 20 minute movie about December 7, 1941 followed by a boat ride out to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial Site. This site is built directly over top of the sunken battleship, still sitting where it fell all those years ago, the final resting place for thousands of people. If you have any interest in U.S. or Military History, I think it’s worth a visit.

On my last full day in Hawaii, after a morning on the beach, I made my way out to the Polynesian Cultural Center for a few hours in the theme park, followed by a Luau and Evening Show, Ha: Breath of Life. This park, which is broken down into different Polynesian cultures, gives you the opportunity to learn more about life in Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, Hawaii and Aotearoa (New Zealand). You see lots of traditional dress, dancing and learn about customs such as tattooing and island survival skills (fire starting, tree climbing, coconut cultivating). Having always been interested in these cultures, the park was a bit disappointing. It was one part educational fun, two parts tourist money trap! The opportunities for you to shell out more cash (and the original fees are steep!) are endless and it feels a little exploitative of everyone involved. That being said, there were some great personalities performing here, and this place would be fun for people with kids. While the Luau was nothing special (and WAYY overpriced), I did thoroughly enjoy the evening show and would recommend at least that experience.

Leaving Hawaii was hard, and I thought several times about just not coming back! In the end, it was the perfect vacation, and allowed me to develop even further insight into myself and my ideas about travel. So, Mahalo (Thank You) Hawaii.