Before when I thought of Panama, all I could think of was the Panama canal. Now I think of Islands. There are so many little islands off the coast of Panama.
The only way to get around the islands is with boats. The boats are like busses taking you from place to place. The first time I visited Bocas del Torro, I thought the island was the destination. It wasn’t until I spent a little time on the island and I discovered that the adventures are all around you.
- Red Frog Island
- Urraca Private Island
- El Tigre – Native Tribe Island
- Bat Caves
- Scuba Diving for underwater ship, sea horses, and amazing
I wasn’t satisfied just to see a small bit of Panama. I had to come back, so I brought my family. I did some searching and came across Urraca Private Island. It sounded magical. Your own private island, the lady who runs the place has her own monkey, a French Canadian who travelled the Caribbean looking for paradise. She found 2 islands of mangroves and found a way to put a house on stilts. These beautiful places are designed with nature in mind. The electricity comes from the sun, the water in the house comes from the rain.
While I was really hoping to find “utopia,” instead we had a great adventure that tested my wife’s limits. I think over those few days I’d see something in her as an adventure traveler that would make me realize things have changed (at least knowing that there are comfort limits.) My wife didn’t like the cold showers, didn’t like the rain showers that barely let up a couple of days. Even though it wasn’t the rainy season we spent a lot of time in the rain forest and you don’t know how it will effect a person.
I realized we couldn’t do hostels as a family. I tried a couple of different styles and we drew the lines at A/C – required, hot showers – required, and no bugs. We didn’t have screens in the windows and the little fans didn’t do enough to keep the kids and my wife happy. The adventure became too much of one.
It was a little daunting not to be able to be in control. You tell the boat when to come and that’s when it will come. No earlier, no later. When it’s time to eat and you’re on a private island, you don’t have a lot of choices if you didn’t prepare. You likely will eat what is being cooked and if you don’t like it or don’t like the prices… tough. You may not even know the price until the end of the week, and at that point you better be prepared. Ask for a menu and ask for prices, and ask for alternatives. I did come across some places, but easily 30 minutes away and that means gas or it means going to dinner on your way back from an adventure.
Pictured: Left the food places at Bocas are often out on the water with incredible views. Right: The swim up to it table, difficult to get on those seats at low tide, but beautiful to look at. There’s a lot of symbolism in this… It looks better than it feels without knowing and realizing it’s going to be an adventure and that’s what it’s all about.
While it may not have been the ultimate paradise for everyone on those three days on the private island. I really really enjoyed the adventure even though I discovered their comfort limits. Here are just a few things we experienced.
- Capuchin monkey
- Fresh lobster
- Private beaches
- Encounters with natives
- Snorkling and scuba
- Cave spiders that look like scorpions
- Seeing sloths in the wild!
- Bioluminescent waters
Crossing from Costa Rica across a wild train bridge was quite the adventure. It really wasn’t hard to catch a bus from Puerto Viejo or Manzanilla to the border. You can even pay to get all the way to Bocas del Torro which involves crossing the train bridge then riding a van transport to water transport and then on for another hour to Bocas del Torro.
Pictured: Jared with his rodent friend that had a rabbit face on Right my 3 year old and Tutsi the monkey
Pictured: Get your scuba certification in 3 days. Open Water PADI certified. It was the best dive with the worst equipment, but I got what I paid for… it was cheap!
Local breakfast on Bocas del Torro… a local meal of scone and two meatballs. I’m sure there was a local name for it.