Travelogue: Panama

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset oh my God. a little late with this post I know. It’s not that I had forgotten or anything.. it’s just like, where do I begin?! I think that’s the hardest thing about travel posts and writing about traveling in general even in a journal, its like where do you start and how do you convey the magic that you experienced into words. well you can’t, plain and simple. But I plan to give it a go and share with you all our bit of time in this absolutely amazing country. Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset So Panama had been on our list for a while, and we missed out on going in 2013, so we figured we’d give it a go for our three-year anniversary last November. I started my research and soon realized there is literally so much to see, there was no way we’d get to do/see everything we wanted, so we picked a few hot spots we really, really wanted to check out and pinky promised to go back again. We usually have to do this regularly, ha! on our must see: Boquete, Bocas Del Toro, and of course Panama City. I think these are three really unique and gorgeous areas of Panama that offer totally different experiences of a country that is so ecologically diverse and HUGE. When we came back and shared our stories with friends and family I think they were surprised to hear about all the different things we did. I think most people have this misconception about Panama like, “oh yea, the Panama Canal, cool”, but there is so so SO much to see and do. Per square foot there is more biodiversity in Panama than any other Latin American country, more so than the Amazon!! IMG_9181 ok so we leave super early and fly into Panama City. First impression, holy jeeze. Panama City is enormous and rivals NYC in population and density, and hotels like the Trump Ocean Club and the Hard Rock put some Las Vegas hotels to shame. It’s all big city which I love, but still has a bit of old world charm in its Casco Viejo district, worthy of checking out for a night of yummy food, wine and dancing. We didn’t stay here very long but one night upon arrival and one night prior to our departure. For our first afternoon/night we hopped in a cab and made our way to the Canal area. The canal is exactly what you’d expect to see, a giant engineering marvel. its neat to see the tankers rolling in and the whole process of raising and lowering the ships, but it is what it is, a huge freaking canal. I would recommend to anyone that wants to see and do more around this area to take a cruise ship down the canal. From what I read it sounds like an amazing experience, we personally didn’t have the time or desire to really do it, but it seems like it would be pretty cool. it takes one cargo ship 11hrs to go through the canal process so that gives you an idea of how big of a water channel this is. It’s amazing and you should see it, whether it’s just giving it a peek, heading to the Panama Canal Museum or scheduling a cruise, it’s an important modern world marvel to experience. The next morning using Panama Air we boarded our flight to Boquete, about an hour and a half total travel time. originally we had looked into renting a car, but when we realized how large Panama is we would end up spending most of our time driving and with our short schedule we wanted to get as much as we could done. Booking flights with Air Panama is super easy and affordable, but schedule any flights in advance, most flights are booked. That sounded commercially, but its true. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset IMG_9275 Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset When we landed in Boquete it was magical. I was instantly in love. It’s so lush and colorful, nestled at the foot of a volcano, and literally surrounded by clouds its everything you imagine a mountain town would be. We stayed in a lovely little bed and breakfast that looked out towards the peaks. we fell asleep to the sound of frogs and birds chirping every night, completely and totally romantic, like a place you imagine but its real. While we were here we did an awesome coffee tour, rented scooters and zoomed all over the town. I will say scooter renting here is not for the light of heart, the elevation here is high, and there were a few times I seriously doubted our scooter would make it up!! I think it was our second day here that we booked the sought after Volcan Baru hike with Hostel Mamaellna. It cost us $10 or so to sign up for the drop off, but it’s just that. They take you at around 11PM to the foot of the Volcano and off you go, for the 11,398 ft the middle of the night. While we are no strangers to hiking, the thought of hiking at night kinda freaked me out a bit, but I wanted to see the sunrise so bad so we just did it. I am glad we did because I would probably have to list this as one of the most epic moments of my life. Everything about climbing at night, with only the light off your head lamp, is stellar. A few times we’d turn off our head lamps and just take in all the darkness. The stars never seemed so bright. We were dropped off at the foot of the mountain with a large group of people who literally took off, Brad and I hiked up with a girl name Julia from Germany, who has climbed quite a few peaks. The hike itself isn’t what I’d call rigorous, but its a straight incline so you get fatigued faster than normal. Not only that but due to the rainforest all around you it gets wet, for a while you’ll be hiking through clouds so layers are super important. Total hike time I’d say is about 5hrs for a moderately active person, we slowed our pace down though because sunrise wouldn’t be until 6 am and we weren’t about to spend 2 or more hours waiting at the top of a volcano in freezing temperatures. The group that took off before us apparently learned the hard way and they were freezing when we made it to the top!! We made it there just in time with about 20 minutes to spare, and it was freezing!! I took a video at the top and I’m shaking so bad from the cold haha, just a little bit of cheek burn up there. Seeing the sunrise at the top of this peak is special because you can see the sun rise over both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at the same time. It is absolutely incredible!! Feeling that warm sun come up shining over your face and siting above the clouds is an experience I just can’t describe, but its a feeling of tremendous gratitude and happiness. Since we hiked through the night it was our anniversary that morning, so it was just that much more special for us! I get chills rembering it and retelling the story, it’s one activity I recommend to anyone in Panama to do. The hike down is another story, sheesh but the amazing tuna burger we had a when we got back made every ounce of ouch go away. Volcan Baru, dooooo it!!!! IMG_9319 IMG_9396 There’s so much hiking to do here in general, there are trails all over the place and for every level, some a mile or two long, others miles long. We spent our last day hiking down a few trails finding amazing basalt formations, waterfalls, and 500-year-old trees. we saw lots of monkeys, birds, frogs, drank amazing coffee, ate delicious street food and met some pretty amazing people. Boquete is awesome, words simply don’t do it justice. on our last day we snagged some fresh fruit and caught our bus ride to Almirante which is the port town that will take you by water taxi to Bocas del Toro. we booked the bus ride through the same hostel for $30 and off we went. The drive is scenic so it doesn’t feel long and then we arrived to Almirante. The water taxi is a few bucks a person and will take you to Bocas Del Toro. IMG_9665 Bocas Del Toro. Ahhhh paradise. Bocas is cool, fun and hip, a total surfer mecca. It has a touristy feel but not in a bad way, the town is very alive, young and full energy. We stayed in a beautiful two-story cabana off the water, owned by some expats who have a fresh breakfast every morning for their guests, pure bliss. Our first full day which was Thanksgiving day actually, we booked a snorkel tour. The tour took us to see dolphins, snorkel some gorgeous reef and then off for lunch at a seaside shack for some Thanksgiving lobster. yuuuuummm!! then we were taken to Red Frog Beach which is amazing and I wish we had booked a night there so badly. I’ve never felt softer sand in my life!! we went on the tour with another couple from Cali, loved them!! it’s always fun when you meet people on trips it makes for even more fun! At Red Frog Beach we of course saw some red frogs, and ate our weight in fresh coconut. The coral life here is so colorful and vibrant, and the water so blue!! It was a perfect day, oh and we saw sloths!! my dream come true! Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset IMG_9681 IMG_9878 The next day we moved on to our a new cabana off another island called Isla Carenero. We hopped on a water taxi for $1 a person that shuttled us directly over to our new hotel. I have to say I enjoyed our stay here a little more. It was removed from the hustle and bustle of touristy Bocas and just felt more private and raw. This area is still kind of untouched which is always nice to experience in another country. We walked around the entire island our first day there, finding new little beaches at every turn. It was romantic and restful, and the food there was soooooo goooooooodd!! The next day we booked a chocolate tour which turns out is back at the port town of Almirante. Though working through all the water taxi schedules and getting there seems daunting, it’s not in the least bit; everyone here is friendly and always helpful! We made it to our chocolate tour and it was incredible!! Chocolate is one of my most favorite things in the world, and getting to see how its made and then eat it, well hot damn, I was just the happiest person in the world! We were given a tour of the chocolate farm by a young Gnoobi man. The Gnoobi people are native to Latin America and are mountain people; they are masters of the chocolate. We ate some traditional Gnoobi food which was delicious and of course bought as much chocolate as we could. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset IMG_9736 Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Our final day in the Bocas Del Toro area was spent at Playa de Estrellas. This is a neat beach that is $5 bus ride away from the center of bocas. Its called this because there are starfish everywhere :)! The water is clear and calm and perfect for an afternoon of snorkeling and beer drinking. We made it make to our cabana sun burned, drowsy and hungry. Our last night here was spent watching the sun set, eating fried plantain and sipping on some cold brews. A perfect end to a perfect stay in paradise. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset IMG_9889 Next morning we took a water taxi back to bocas, boarded our flight to Panama and spent one last glorious night in Panama City at their newly renovated Hard Rock hotel. I’ve stayed at the hard rock in vegas, and oh man is this place ridiculous. There’s even a mall with a casino attached to it. we binged on sushi, martinis and roulette, danced our hearts out (that was more me though I think.)Β at the rooftop bar, made our way back to our room, took one last look at this gorgeous country and said good night to Panama. Not goodbye, because I am totally hoping we make our way back to do all things we still neeeeeeeeed to do! Ciao Panama, till next time!Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset IMG_9984 Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset Thanks for reading! XO MN


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