Heading further south along the coast, I finally ventured into Bocas del Toro Panama. I was traveling with a friend and attempted to describe what he was about to see. The best phrase I could think of was that it is the happiest place on earth. Yes, that’s right…it’s happier than Disneyland.
The border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama is by far the easiest I have ever done. Quick stamp, walk across the bridge, grab another quick stamp, tell taxi drivers to piss off, buy a tourist card, get another stamp, and then tell more taxi drivers to piss off. While I’m on it…whenever you travel, there are certain phrases you need to pick up. One of those is “piss off.” The more languages you can say that in, the more successful your travels will be.
To get to Bocas del Toro from the border, you jump in a taxi (hopefully not the guy you just told to piss off in Spanish, because if so, he might say he’s willing to give ya a ride, and then tell ya to piss off 30 miles in the middle of nowhere) and then take a water taxi to the island. Water taxis are always enjoyable, especially to Bocas. Most of the canals you go through were created about a hundred years ago when the United Fruit Company came in and decided to monopolize the banana market. Man…they have good bananas. Unlike other boat rides, I didn’t become completely drenched, so upon landing, we headed out instantly to start looking around the main island.
The happiest place on earth is really just a happy place. Made up of numerous islands, Bocas del Toro is home to some pristine beaches, thick jungles, great night life, and excellent breaks for surfers. Don’t worry…I stayed away from the waves (no need to give you my surfing rant again). People come for a few days, only to find themselves leaving weeks or sometimes even months later.
We stayed at a tree house like hostel called Mondo Taitu. This frat like house atmposhpere was a lot for me to handle, but I was able to manage for my three day stay. Thankfully, I never lived in a frat house, but I now know what it’s like. Evenings consisted of hanging in the house bar, which has numerous and very creative drink specialities. The craziest drink I have ever seen was called a tequila suicide, which consists of a snort of salt, squeeze of lime in the eye, and a shot of the worst tequilla they could find. I tried convincing numerous people to take one, but during my stay, everyone had in their possession a brain. Thus, I was unable to find someone interested in this suicidal drink.
After seven in the evening, the only thing to do was kick it in the bar. It was fun, but after a few days, it got really old. Every night, my goal was to not be the first one asleep in my dormitory. I pushed myself, sometimes making it till two in the morning, yet my friend and I were always one of the first to head to bed. Seriously, Bocas is for night owls.
My friend and I rented bikes one day and took off exploring. Thankfully, my pedal didn’t break off this time, so I was actually out and about for a few hours. I encouraged him to stay on the easy trails, but he decided to take one of the hard ass ones over to Bocas del Drago. I did this ride a few years ago, and frankly, it’s miserable and was not interested in joining him. Before attempting this ride back in the day, everyone gave a warning that it was going to be difficult. Me being the cocky prick I am, I shrugged them off and headed out. Ya…they were right…and that taught me to stop being such a cocky prick (never succeeded). Back to present day, my friend took off, I told him see ya, and I headed towards the water. He ended up returning ten minutes later. He realized a lot faster than I did on how hard the ride actually was. Smart cookie.
The water was beautiful and felt great to jump in. Hours were spent reading and sleeping outside, allowing me to take in much Vitamin D. You never realize how the sun makes you so much more cheerful…which is due to the nutrients absorbed from the beautiful sunshine. I now believe that in order to live a healthy lifestyle, you need 6 days of sunshine a week. Period.
Island living was great, but eventually, Panama City made its calling.