Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Panama and Costa Rica in Three Weeks

Playa Grande, Costa Rica

Got three weeks?  Can I squeeze into your suitcase?

We have just returned from 3 weeks in Central America and are in the twilight zone of adapting to real life and processing the amazing journey we have just had.  After strolling at flip flop pace and pedalling at cruiser speed, we feel like we are standing still in our real lives back home.  Peeps are flying by in the grocery isles and we are flip flopping along.  Our bikes seem slower and the wheels won't turn.  We have been relaxing for 3 weeks and are beyond well rested, but it seems that by 1pm I need a nap.  Hee Hee.  I hope I can keep some of this tranquility in my heart for the next 11 months...

We almost didn't go.  Newly hooked on Hawaii, we almost decided to return to the land of easy living this year, but the tragic Canadian dollar gave us incentive to explore elsewhere. And we are so glad that we did!  There is something about Central America that both Brad and I love and it has drawn us back time and again.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Costa Rica: Playa Grande

Pura Vida!  Costa Rica's brand is 'the good life' and we drank up as much as we could during our short visit to this rico country north of Panama.

We heard it was a beautiful and diverse country.  But we were also warned that it would be expensive and the most similar to North America of all the countries in the region.  Because of this, we originally planned to avoid this popular tourist destination and spend our entire holiday in Panama.  However, due to our travel plans, it only made sense to fly out of the capital, San Jose, rather than backtracking to Panama City on our return trip home.  And oh are we ever happy we did so.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Panama Adventures: Bocas Del Toro

Oh dat Caribbean...

After nearly two weeks of daily adventures by bike, bus, boat, plane and surf, we suddenly found ourselves trapped on a remote Caribbean island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago off the Atlantic coast of Panama.  Up until that moment we thought our trip had been pretty relaxing.  We figured we had slipped into Panamanian time.  We guessed we were mucho tranquillo.  HA!

Panama Adventures: Boquete mountain town

On the road again, we packed our wee sacks and said goodbye to sweet Santa Catalina...until we meet again.

It was time to pull up our growing roots and continue to explore this diverse country.  Three days away from the sea.  That is all we could handle.  Up into the mountains we drove, travelling on more fantastic Pan Am highway in a spacious shuttle van.  We used the Hola Panama tourist shuttle service for two of our cross country legs and we very impressed with the vans and the service.  For only a few dollars more than the slow and cramped 'chicken bus', the tourist shuttles travel direct, have comfy seats, plenty of room and spare travellers from the endless (and insanely loud) boom boom of the latest top 40 music videos.  We love us some chicken bus excitement but it is nice to have an alternate choice if and when the novelty wears off.  And for myself, being extremely motion sick, the shortest route on long windy mountain roads is most often my first choice.  

5 hours and $30 each later, we were dropped off directly at our Boquete home, just on the edge of town, Apartments de Los Pinos.  "Best location, great value."  Was the title of my trip advisor review this time.  The kind hotel manager, Emma, asked if we wouldn't mind adding our review to help them start building their online presence.  15 years in business but just a few months in the world of online reviews, Los Pinos has some catching up to do.  But this little gem of a hotel is sure to be booked solid once the word gets out to those looking for spacious and conveniently located, mid-range accommodation in Boquete.  

Our two story suite was outfitted with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a small kitchen and our own little deck overlooking beautifully manicured gardens and the valley beyond.  All for only $65 per night.  It was just like having our very own little Boquete apartment and we have our pals Cale and Vicky to thank for the recommendation.  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Panama Adventures: Santa Catalina

I just wrote my first ever Trip Advisor review.  A glowing report on Santa Catalina and the Hotel of the same name.  But now I am tempted to delete it.

You know those great places you want to share but you also don't want anyone else to know about?  Santa Catalina is one of those places.  Oh the internal battle of a blogger... But I just can't resist.  It is our new favourite place and truely feels like home so I can't help but share it with my friends.  Just don't go and buy up all the land and ruin it, ok?

We found Santa Catalina through our Google searches for surf towns and good diving in Panama. SC has both.  It sounded like a small fishing town, off the beaten path, with a few restaurants and hotels that had been slowly gaining popularity with surfers and divers over the past few years.  And that, is pretty much accurate.  SC is a small fishing town, off the beaten path... What you hear is what you get.  One store.  One Main Street.  No banks or ATMs.  Not many lights.  Even less night life.  Not much to do if you are from the city.  Some people may feel out of place, bored or antsy in these small, one road, Central American towns.  Others, likely surfers and divers like ourselves, will feel right at home.  

Reviews and blogs don't often give you a sense of the 'feeling' of a place.  Let me see if I can try...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Panama Adventures: Panama City

Central America, it has been way too long, amigo.

Brad and I share a love for Latin America and between us we have explored many of its colourful countries.  Beginning with my solo adventure in Honduras to become a Dive Master then visiting Guatemala, Nicaragua and finishing with our last adventure in Ecuador and Peru alongside the Team ELM wild women on the Inca Trail.  There is something about this part of the world that brings us back and makes us feel at home every time.  Maybe it's the tranquillo people, maybe it's the rum but more than likely it's the pura vida spirit.  Sun, surf, beautiful beaches, beautiful language, thick jungles, tall volcanos and the best papayas you have ever tasted.  It really is the good life.