Bocas del Toro - Panama
Our second country on this trip, Panama. We got a shuttle bus - with Caribe Shuttle - to the border where we paid our exit fee then walked up a hill to a passport checkpoint then across a bridge to another passport checkpoint then up another hill to pay our entry tax. (It sounds more complicated than it is but it's quite funny shuffling around between the various wooden huts to pay your fees and have your documents checked!)
We continued our journey by bus before reaching the boat terminal and transferring to a speedboat - we saw two dolphins on our way - to get to Bocas del Toro. Although there are several islands to choose from, we stayed on Isla Colon which is the biggest and also the most convenient for us as it is home to the Bocas Airport.
Having no idea before our arrival on the island, we exited the boat into a crazy and surreal "carnival" atmosphere. We watched parades of children and teenagers dressed in various costumes with brass bands and impressive drumming. We later found out that we had arrived on Bocas Day - November 16th! An annual day which celebrates the island groups and their discovery...
It was amazing to see and watch and it continued all day through to the early hours of the morning. We watched a lot of the parade but we also decided to do some other things whilst in Bocas. First stop was food, we found a little Caribbean restaurant called Patuà which served delicious fresh food! I had a Dragon Burger which was spicy but yummy.
For the rest of the day we watched some more of the parade because Main Street was closed off and also very busy making it hard to get into anywhere!
In the evening we went to the Cinè Cafe which was a really cool concept. You simply select a film from their catalogue of over 1000 films and pick a time to watch it. We chose "The Visit" as we had never seen it and opted for the $8 combo which included the film, a drink and a Nutella Crepe.
You have your own private screening cinema room complete with comfy beanbags and the snacks are brought to you about 15 minutes in to the film. We loved this idea and it was a good way to spend some time in the bad weather. Trust us to visit in the rainy season...
The Hostel we chose to stay in was Hostel Heike which is a nice place to rest your head and it's in a great location. The kitchen could have been better (cleaner and bigger) but generally the hostel was nice. No air conditioning but there are fans which help combat the heat.
We spent the next day wandering and exploring the main town, as the road had reopened so we walked to the nearby beach which is nice but nothing special. It's used more by locals as the tourists head to the islands or take water taxis to the nicer beaches.
We wandered up and down Main Street, looking in the quirky souvenir shops and the seafront restaurants. The restaurants are built into the sea on stilts so you can sit and have beautiful views. We ate at a restaurant someone had recommended - Hungry Monkey's. It wasn't on the seafront and instead looked over the main park but it's a cool place with a surfer/hippie vibe. We ate the recommended tacos which were pretty good!
Overall Bocas del Toro is another cute, quirky beach town but it's small! We were lucky it was Bocas Day which kept us entertained otherwise we heard the day trips were good. There are some good opportunities for scuba diving and snorkelling tours along with dolphin watching or simply visiting some of the other islands!