Exploring Bocas Del Toro

Bocas del Toro Travel Blog

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House on Isla Bastamento

Today Adam and I spent a full day exploring Bocas del Toro. 

The day began with breakfast at our hotel - entertained by the folks at the neighboring house who were STILL on an all-night drinking binge.  We´re not exactly sure when it started, but at some point last night (probably around 2am when the bars closed), the neighbors went out onto their dock with a bunch of booze, hooked up a ghetto-blaster, and partied ALL night long.  The music was so loud, it was like they were in our room.  It´s amazing we actually slept that night.  Albeit poorly.  And amazingly, they were still going strong at 9am the next morning when Adam and I were breakfasting.

We then went into town to do a little internet.  I updated travbuddy; Adam updated his website socketsite.

Kids on Isla Bastamento
com.

By 11am, we were ready to hit the trail, so to speak.  We hired a boat to take us to nearby Isla Bastimento, and the ridiculously small, colorful town of Old Bank.  After walking through "town" once, we stopped for a tasty (salty) fish and beer lunch at Roots restaurant on the water.  This place has a very jamaican or caribbean feel to it.  Not at all like mainland Panama. 

After lunch we took a 1.5 km hike across the island - through a bit of lush jungle and mud - to Wizard Beach.  This was a nice stretch of beach that was pretty isolated, uninhabited, and vacant.  Only a few surfers and their surfer girls, and a couple other hiker tourists like us.

The water was like bathwater, it was so warm.

Adam

After resting here a bit, we then walked southeast along the beach, and found another trailhead.  This would take us to the popular Red Frog beach - after going through a bit more jungle and mud.  (We were slightly nervous that we wouldn´t be able to find (or get a boat from) Red Frog beach - which would be problematic only in the sense that if we were forced to hike back through the jungle at dusk, we´d likely be eaten alive by mosquitos.)

But we found Red Frog beach.  Again, this place WAS popular with the backpacker crowd so there were a lot of people in the water, on the beach, and swinging in the "swing" seats at the beach front bar.  (The way most people get to this beach is from the other direction - boats drop them off at the other side of a different ridge, and visitors then pay $2 to enter the "park" and take the short path to Red Frog beach.

Empty street
)  Since Adam and I went through the "secret entrance" we were able to avoid the $2... lucky us.

We sat at the bar for a couple Cuba Libres and people watching.  Then we took the short walk over to the dock and found a boat that would take us back to Bocas town for a couple bucks.

Back in the main town of Bocas, we cleaned up and Adam did more internet for a while at the nice Hotel Bocas Del Toro.  I nibbled on chicken strips (some of the best we´ve ever had, we agreed), and washed them down with a couple more Cuba Libres - which are $1 each, by the way.

We hit El Pecado again for dinner.  We sat at the bar (on very uncomfortable stools), talked to Stefan (owner) and George (friend/associate of Stefan), and ate a, well, interesting meal.

Our condiments for lunch
  We had coconut curry soup with chicken, tuna and salmon tartar, and beef carpaccio.  Maybe not the safest of choices, but it was good. 

Although it wasn´t fully ready (i.e., fermented yet), Stefan poured us a couple drinks of "El Pecado" - a fruit sangria of sorts - made from rum, sugar, and passion fruit/seeds and fermented for 3 months in a big jug.  Apparently the stuff is pretty potent.  He used to call it "El Matador"  which means "The Killer" - but that didn´t sell very well, so he renamed it.   Anyway, it was also very good.  And I´m happy to report we are both alive and well this morning.

After dinner, Adam, George, and I went to Iguanas, where the bar was celebrating it´s 3rd anniversary.

The shoreline of Isla Bastamento
  So it was a big, crowded, hot, sweaty, stuffy, loud party.  It was about 10pm at this point.

Although this was a good party, Adam and I also wanted to check out Aqua - a bar across the bay on Isla Careneros - which is known to go off in a big way on Wednesday nights (ladies-drink-free night).  George (and Stefan earlier) had mentioned to us that it´s good to go before midnight, as that´s about when the local guys are drunk enough that they start getting more aggressive and fighting (literally) over the american/european women.  They advised us that as soon as we see the first fight break out, we should get the hell out of there - that knives and guns have occasionally been wielded by the combatants.  Wow.

So of course, Adam and I had to check this out.

Where we had lunch
  So we left George at Iguanas (bad timing because we later found out George had just gone to the bar to buy us a second round of beers - he ended up walking around looking for us, carrying 3 beers that he had to give away - sorry George), and Adam and I jumped a boat to Aqua.  Flying across the water in the darkness, with no running lights, only a small LED flashlight was interesting.  We saw another boat whose captain was using his open cell phone as a running light.  

But we made it safely to Aqua and hopped up onto the deck of the waterfront bar.  To our surprise, security was tight here - they even searched us.  But I guess this makes sense given the stories we´ve heard.  We had a beer and sat out on the dock people watching.

The shoreline of Isla Bastamento
  The crowd was mixed with locals and tourists, and we could see how this place could really get going.  I think with the special event at Iguanas, though, some of the normal Wednesday crowd was distracted.

We decided NOT to stick around for the first fight to break out, and instead, just hopped a water taxi back to Bocas.  We had a brief moment of fear when the captain started driving us away, into the darkness, AWAY from Bocas.  But turns out that he just needed to drop off another local customer around the corner, and then he´d take us to Bocas.  Phew.  But this gave us a bit more time to enjoy the boat ride through the darkness. 

We went back to Iguanas and it was even more crowded, more sweaty, more stuffy.

Wizards Beach
  We ran into Stefan and George again.  After another hour or so, we decided to call it a night, and started the walk home.

Oddly, just as we were about to round the final corner to our hotel, we ran into Stefan again!  This time, he was sitting outside the Bar Casbah with a few friends.  Turns out one of the friends was the bar owner, a French chef by the name Christopher.  So we joined this little party for a bit.  Christopher poured us some tasty rum, and brought out cured meats, cheese, crackers, etc. 

After a bit of chit chat, we were ready to call it a night.  We got back to our hotel, and were delighted to see that the all night revelers from the previous night / morning, were NOT out on their dock with music blaring. They were probably fast asleep with wicked hangovers.

 

 

 

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House on Isla Bastamento
House on Isla Bastamento
Kids on Isla Bastamento
Kids on Isla Bastamento
Adam
Adam
Empty street
Empty street
Our condiments for lunch
Our condiments for lunch
The shoreline of Isla Bastamento
The shoreline of Isla Bastamento
Where we had lunch
Where we had lunch
The shoreline of Isla Bastamento
The shoreline of Isla Bastamento
Wizards Beach
Wizards Beach
Wizards Beach
Wizards Beach
Wizards Beach
Wizards Beach
Hiking to Red Frog Beach
Hiking to Red Frog Beach
Hiking to Red Frog Beach
Hiking to Red Frog Beach
Hiking to Red Frog Beach
Hiking to Red Frog Beach
Dudes with surfboards on horses - …
Dudes with surfboards on horses -…
Leaving Red Frog Beach dock
Leaving Red Frog Beach dock
Leaving Red Frog Beach dock
Leaving Red Frog Beach dock
Heading back to Bocas town
Heading back to Bocas town
Heading back to Bocas town
Heading back to Bocas town
Approaching the dock
Approaching the dock
Stefan at El Pecado
Stefan at El Pecado
The ingredients to El Matador no…
The ingredients to "El Matador" n…
Stefan shaking up two drinks for A…
Stefan shaking up two drinks for …
Cheers - El Matador / El Pecado - …
Cheers - El Matador / El Pecado -…
Iguana bar, and flame-throwing bar…
Iguana bar, and flame-throwing ba…
Casbah Bar and french chef Christo…
Casbah Bar and french chef Christ…
Stefan and Dan
Stefan and Dan
Chef Christophers workshop
Chef Christopher's workshop
Chef Christopher pours us some rum
Chef Christopher pours us some rum
La Casbah
La Casbah
Adam and late night group
Adam and late night group
Late night group eating Chef Chris…
Late night group eating Chef Chri…