exploring, examining, exchanging, expressing
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Bocas Revisited
It was time for my third and final border run. This time, it would be me, my roommate (J), and a new friend (S). We decided to visit Bocas del Toro. Although I'd already been there, I felt I didn't get to enjoy the town during my last trip because of the rain, so I had no problem going back.

Thursday morning, bright and early, we took a taxi to the Caribe bus terminal, where we got tickets for the 6am bus to Sixaola. The bus was rather empty, so we got to stretch out and relax for the journey. At the border, we had no problems getting through migration on either side. As before, I was greeted by a "guide" who took us to a taxi. We arrived at Changuinola's dock in plenty of time to take the 1:30 water taxi to Bocas. Once on the Island, I found my way back to Casa Amarilla, where Dennis had a couple of rooms for us. After a little rest, I showed my companions around Isla Colon, which took about 10 minutes. Along the way, we met up with some fellow travelers, explored a few bars, and shared stories. We retired early in the night, wary from a long day's travel.
Bocas del Toro - 33 Bocas del Toro - 10
Friday, we took the obligatory tour of the islands. Every dock on the island offers the same tour for around $20, lasting from 9:30am till 4:30pm. It consists of zooming around "Dolphin Bay" to try to catching a glimpse of dolphins poking their heads above water. They were fun to watch, but I couldn't help feeling like we were exploiting them a bit, especially when our captain took to driving circles around them, prompting them to jump over the waves. Afterwards, we were taken to a remote dock to order lunch so it could be prepared while the group was taken to do some snorkeling. After lunch, we were herded onto Red Frog Beach, which was the real joy of the tour. It was an absolutely postcard-perfect beach. We lounged for a couple of hours, then were taken to Hospital Point for more snorkeling. Finally, we were returned to the main island.
Bocas del Toro - 04 Bocas del Toro - 07
Saturday was the celebration of Panama's Independence Day, so we were treated to music and parades in town. It was great to watch the student bands march up and down the streets. Throughout the afternoon we did some souvenir shopping. I picked up a colorful hammock for myself. And that night, we enjoyed good food (Shelly's Mexican BBQ - excellent grub) and cheap drinks.
Bocas del Toro - 22 Bocas del Toro - 18 Bocas del Toro - 36
Sunday marked the end of our forced 3-night vacation, so we made the return boat-taxi-bus journey. Well, my companions did, at least. I, being unemployed, had no reason to rush back to Heredia. So from Sixaola I took a local bus to Puerto Viejo, where I caught another bus to Manzanillo. Thus, I have finally explored the full trinity of Southern Carib towns in Costa Rica.

Manzanillo is the smallest of the three, with one restaurant, a few sodas, a couple of cabinas, and nothing else besides a long stretch of lovely beach. It is clearly the hot-spot for Tico families, as they were arriving and leaving by the busload. I enjoyed a lunch of rice and beans, took a nap on the beach, and had an amazing dinner of grilled red snapper.
Manzanillo - 01
Dinner was a bit of an adventure, though. When I arrived at Maxi's, I noticed the lights were out, but the kitchen was lit. Okay, perhaps they're going for a candle-lit thing. I strung together a couple of questions in Spanish and learned that there was a problem with the lights, but everything else was working. As this was the only restaurant in town, I went ahead and ordered. The plate arrived, smelling delicious and looking... well... dark. Candles were impossible to keep lit due to the ocean breeze, so I ate by far-off streetlight. It was delicious, even if I could barely see it.

The next day I returned to Puerto Viejo and located a cheap place in town to stay (Cabinas Larry - oddly missing from the Lonely Planet guide, it's next to "Bread and Chocolate"). It turned out to be perfectly comfortable, with a strong fan inside and a comfy hammock outside, and even a communal kitchen. I had the whole place to myself the first night, and only one other guest arrived the next day. So I spent a couple of days lounging around, swimming off Playa Chiquita, and enjoying a cold beer or two. This is how I know I'm spoiled for beaches forever: When I got to Chiquita and saw there were 5 or 6 other people there, I thought "Oh great, it's already crowded."

Wednesday I headed toward Heredia, back to cool temperatures and construction noise. I miss the Caribbean already. Luckily, I'll be taking my parents to Cahuita in just a few weeks.

The rest of my Bocas del Toro photos are here.

More Manzanillo photos are here.