12 julio 2010

Bocas del Toro

Imagine an archipelago in the Caribbean sea
Imagine blockhouses and a population with strong indigenous roots
Imagine that all transport is by boats
Imagine a lot of mangrove, crabs and mosquitos
Imagine the sensation of being in the water all the time
Imagine a sea of clear water and pleasant temperatures
Imagine friendly people that like foreigners

Did you imagine?

So... that's Bocas del Toro, a group of islands in Panama, very near Costa Rica's borders...

Wanna go there? Check the tips here:

* How to get there (from San Jose):
- option # 1: take a bus from San Jose to Changuinola (in Panama) [US$ 12]. Bus departs everyday at 9am from Cocorí Hotel in San Jose downtown.
From there you can take a regular bus to Almirante
[US$ 1,50] or you can negotiate with the tourists vans so that they take you by lower price (they started from US$ 10 and we managed to pay US$ 2,50, as we knew there was a regular bus much cheaper)

- option # 2: take a bus from San Jose to Sixaola (the border)
[aprox US$ 10]. Bus departs from Caribeños Bus Terminal (the first one goes at 6am daily).
From the
border there should be a bus to Changuinola for US$ 1. I took a shared taxi and paid US$ 1,20. From Changuinola, just repeat what I said before.
There's also the option of a tourist van from the border directly to Almirante (we took one that started from US$ 10 and we paid US$ 5)

From Almirante, take the boat [US$ 4] to Isla Colón in Bocas del Toro (and to cross to Isla Carenero, where our hostel was, we paid US$ 1)


* Where to sleep:
- Aqualounge: dorms US$ 10 / hammock US$ 5
The hostel is like a deck on the water, with outdoor tables, hammocks and a natural swimming pool! Very nice!
They also have nice parties (saturday and wednesday they have ladies night, with free drinks for girls)... just be aware that on those nights you may find it difficult to sleep due to the noise

- Cayo Zapatilla Hotel (a small simple hotel in front of the main square in Isla Colón, on the top of the chinese supermarket (this is like tico's addresses, right? :P). US$ 15 the room for 2 people and US$ 20 for 3 people (with private bathroom and hot water!)
We changed to this hotel on the party night, so we went to the party but after it we also could sleep!

* What to do:
- Boat tour + beach + snorkel: US$ 15 (normal price) / US$ 10 (discount price for groups) / US$ 6 (price I paid because I'm beautiful, brazilian and I made friends with locals... haha).
There's a tourism cooperative in front of the place where the boats from Almirante arrive. They have all types of tours... also to see dolphins, to surf, to have diving lessons, go to deserted islands, etc). The locals that work there are very nice and if you become their friends you can always bargain!

- Rent a bike and discover Isla Colón. Talk to the old man that sits on the corner of the main street and the street that goes to the boats' place. People there says he has the best bikes
[US$ 10 (normal price) / US$ 6 (what we paid)]

- Starfish beach: you can get there by boat, by bike or by bus (bus costs US$ 2,50 each way). There you can see starfishes, touch them, take pictures with them. And the beach is really beautiful!

- Isla Carenero: the island where the hostel (Aqualounge) is also has a small beach where you can swim. And walking around the island is also beautiful!

* Do not forget: your passport (you're crossing the border)! your return ticket from Costa Rica to your country (they may ask at the border and if you don't have you may have to pay a fine)

* To have in mind: if you go there in the low season [may-sept] (as we did), prices are lower but you have rain almost everyday! (of course you can still enjoy it... but it will rain!)
And if you go on high season, all prices mentioned here can be higher.
Ah, this can be a good trip if you have to do your visa-run (exit Costa Rica beause your visa time here is expiring)... that's why I went there! ;)

Hope you enjoy your trip!

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