Tag Archives: travel preferences

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.

 

Southern Belize: Dangriga, Hopkins, Placencia and Punta Gorda

I last left you on a ferry dock headed from Corozal to the Cayes. While I undoubtedly enjoyed my time on these islands, the best part was the people I met there; an awesome veterinarian in San Pedro who took a chance and moved to Belize to practice in paradise, the fun bartenders at the hostel there, the super friendly locals in Caye Caulker who would make me ‘go slow’ (my natural pace gave them whiplash), and who would yell New York! every time I walked by, and the two adventurous souls who I spent a few days with before we all headed to separate countries. I won’t bore you any further with stories of full moon watching from the end of docks and some really great snorkeling adventures. Instead, ill tell you about my even more awesome adventures in Southern Belize.

Dangriga sunset

Dangriga: I hadn’t planned to come here at all, but am glad I ended up there somehow. After the craziness of the Cayes, this city is a welcomed breath of real. Dangriga is not a tourist destination, and so people aren’t busy trying to sell you trinkets or tripping over themselves to talk to you. They are just going about their business in a really refreshing way. This is one of the culture capitals of the country and gives off the most urban vibe you’ll find outside of Belize City. As a city dweller, I found the opportunity to be a bit more anonymous for a few days a chance to recharge. Not to mention, Ms. D, the woman who owns the town’s only hostel is great. A fresh Belgian waffle is included with a quiet, clean stay with a view of the ocean. When I wasn’t quietly contemplating, I was visiting the nearby hot sauce factory, doing a short hike to a waterfall, or watching the sun go down from a really cool sandbar with a few Belikin.

Dangriga

Dangriga

Dangriga

Hopkins: Hopkins is still, as I write this, an off the beaten path village. However the road from the highway into Hopkins is currently being paved, so I’m glad I got to visit before this totally laid back town changes too much. In Hopkins, you have no choice but to loosen up and lighten up. The untouched beach goes on for miles with homes, boat docks, hangout huts and a few vacation rentals dotting the shore. A successful day includes a breakfast of fry jacks, Belize’s version of fried dough/biscuits, a stroll up to the Driftwood for a lay on the beach or some volleyball or renting a canoe to spot some crocs if your feeling motivated. As night falls, the sounds of the local watering hole pick up and Garifuna drummers make an appearance. With a small but usually mostly occupied hostel in town, there are just enough people around and with really affordable food and beer, a chill time to be had.

Hopkins

Hopkins 2

Placencia: Placencia was probably the biggest surprise I got in Belize. I’m not sure what I was expecting but whatever it was, Placencia was actually better. Not only did I meet two great Londoners who I hung out with here, but the weather was perfect for all four days we stayed. The beaches were the best in Belize with calm clear water and very few tourists compared to what I was expecting. Definitely not as raw as Hopkins, Placencia was the perfect medium between no tourists and way too many. It had some comforts from home (a yummy fancy ice cream shop) but still had opportunities to eat local and hear local music. In a previous post, my “yesterday” was all about Placencia.

Placencia

Placencia Perfect Sand

Placencia Sunrise

Punta Gorda: Admittedly, a lot of my experience in Punta Gorda had to do with bad timing. I had been hanging out with friends who were moving straight on, and I chose to hang back on my own to try to do a few things I had read about before, including visiting a Maya Village or participating in a Ranger A Day Program. It also happened to be Punta Gorda Day the following day, which meant all the town’s hotels were full or were going to be full for the weekend.  Because of this, it was here in PG that I landed my first really yucky hotel and felt uncomfortable for the first time. Also, the people who were supposed to help you arrange a Maya village visit were beyond unhelpful and basically told me it wouldn’t be possible. So, I decided to high tail it out of PG and on to Guatemala early, and as soon as possible. It’s too bad becuase it seemed like a cool little town with lots of charm and an interesting history. But, I felt like it was time for me to move on after this visit, and so I did. Before I boarded my international boat to Livingston, Guatemala, I managed to get these two shots of the water as viewed from PG town.

Dangriga View 1

Dangriga View 2