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.

A few memories are floating through my mind and I want to catch and preserve them in case the fade away...

  • Butterflies...dragonflies...sparrows...in mass, catching light and snacks at sunset on the beach.
  • Fireflies in your hair.
  • Crabs in the shower.
  • And the ants...oh the ants.
  • Heated ocean water...Panama had the warmest ocean water I have ever set foot in.  Unreal. 
  • Opening fresh coconuts the local way and devouring the water and meat on the beach.
  • No shoes.  No shirt.  No wi-fi.
  • Rum love right down to the tip of your toes.
  • Endless beach walks, backroad cruisin and hopping in and out of the surf all day long.
  • And that heat.  That warmth that gets into your bones and relaxes your tissues and heals your body and mind.  

Do these sound like moments you'd like to have on your next adventure?  This is just the start!  There are endless adventures to be had, beaches to explore and parks to explore between these two beautiful Central American countries.  They are extremely diverse countries and it can be hard to choose just where to go on a limited vacation.  Here is how we spent our 3 weeks in Panama and Costa Rica to help you dream your own Central American dreams!  Follow the links to read detailed trip reports on each leg of our adventure.  Vamos!

Check out the Panama Canal in Panama City!

Day 1: Fly from Van-Panama City via Houston Texas (would love to avoid the US layover but alas, you'd have to go from Toronto if you wanted to fly direct to Panama).  Overnight in Panama City.
Day 2: Check out the Panama Canal of course! Overnight Panama City.
Day 3: Taxi to the Albrook bus terminal, purchase your ticket to Sona, then transfer to a second bus at that terminal, and purchase a second fare to Santa Catalina.  Settle in for a few days!  We found paradise at Hotel Santa Catalina but there are many great places to stay.

Cruiser pace in Santa Catalina, Panama.

Day 4-Day 8: Explore Santa Catalina by cruiser bike, surf, beach time.  If you like to surf, you will want to spend a few days in this town...or a few weeks!  Be sure to take a day trip to Coiba Island for snorkeling or diving.  OR, go on an overnight trip/multi day kayaking adventure on Coiba with Fluid Adventures.

Pick your adventure in Boquete, Panama!  How about ziplining?!

Day 8: Shuttle (Hola Panama) to Boquete and check in to Los Pinos apartments.
Day 9: Boquete Tree Trek zipline adventure!
Day 10: Choose your tour/adventure via Hola Panama- we went on a lovely coffee tour but you can choose from many other day trips or overnight adventures.

Diving in to Bocas del Toro, Panama!

Day 11-Day 14: Shuttle (Hola Panama) to Bocas del Toro for a Caribean experience!  If you enjoy a little action and night life, you can base out of the main town of Bocas on Isla Colon and do day trips from there.  Or, if you prefer the tranquility of nature, you can book a few nights on another island far away from the hustle of Bocas town.  We chose the latter and stayed 3 peaceful nights at Al Natural on Isla Bastimentos, with nothing but the sound of the ocean waves lapping, monkeys calling and coconuts falling on the beach to sooth our souls.

Day 14: At this point in our trip, we decided to head to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica for a one week surf trip to Playa Grande.  However, if we had it to do again, we would have spent a few days on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica to enjoy more of this diverse country.  If time and interest allows, you could travel from Bocas to Costa Rica by shuttle and head to the towns/beaches of the Puerto Viejo area for a few days before crossing the country.  We wanted to settle into one spot for our last week, but you could easily combine a few days on both sides of Costa Rica and visit a park on the Caribbean side as well.   There are endless flight options with Nature Air to fly to the capitol of San Jose if your budget allows for flights - our schedule didn't allow for all day bus rides so the budget had to work!   We flew from Bocas to the capitol of Costa Rica, San Jose, with Nature Air and then caught a connecting flight to Tamarindo.  Taxi (unmarked, $30) to Playa Grande and unpack your bags for a week of surf and sun and sand!

Chill out in Playa Grande, Costa Rica

Day 15-Day 21: Playa Grande, Costa Rica.  As noted above, you could enjoy a few different adventures by combining the Atlantic and Pacific coasts into a week long adventure.  Or, you could settle in and let the days blur into one long stretch of beach and surf session...

Day 21: Fly from Tamarindo to San Jose...return to the Arctic the same way you came.

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