Chasing Panama – Bocas del Toro

A few weeks ago, someone asked me why I traveled and without hesitation I had my answer; travelling anywhere for the first time exposes us to new people, cultures and languages, different food and brand new entertainment activities. For some people this is a much needed release from their day to day life and an escape from their reality. For me, travelling encourages my personal growth and introspection, I am constantly able to discover more about myself and what I am capable of accomplishing. Travelling empowers me.

I’d never even heard of Bocas del Toro prior to my Grandfather’s passing a few years ago, then all of a sudden going through his old papers were birth certificates, newspaper clippings, post cards and faded photos. There was my history spread out in front of me, a part of myself I didn’t know existed.

As we boarded the small prop plane leaving Panama City (I needed two Dramamine for this), I was consumed by thoughts of exploring an island that, based on my research had remained mostly unchanged for several generations.

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Isla Colon – Bocas del Toro (img. courtesy of Bocas del Toro Travel)

A few short minutes later and we were landing on Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro, The Bull’s Mouth where we had pre-booked with a bed and breakfast that I had selected after countless hours pouring over the many online options. I couldn’t believe that such a small island could have that many hotel and hostel options but I would soon discover the reason behind this.

It turned out that Bocas Inn was down the road and around a corner from the airport, a fact we discovered after translating our need for a taxi at the airport and then watching the men gesture with each other and shrug before loading us into the bus for the 45 second ride. Joke’s on us. The Inn itself was lush, surrounded by palms, hibiscus trees and one of the only Ackee trees on island, complete with a little informational plaque nailed to the tree giving its story. Could that have been a deciding factor for this Jamaican to book here? Don’t judge me.

We were warmly welcomed, checked in and given a short tour of the small property before being escorted to our room. The room itself was small but clean, with an air conditioning unit and solar powered hot water.

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Bocas Inn: we checked in and happily checked out right here

As I mentioned in my Booking.com review as well as my TripAdvisor review, request one of the two upper balcony rooms if they’re available. We immediately fell in love with the hammocks, the view and well…I will let the pictures do the rest…

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Bocas Inn: img courtesy Booking.com
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Bocas Inn : img courtesy Booking.com 
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Bocas Inn: img. courtesy Booking.com

We took a leisurely walk around the small town where shoes are mostly optional, the best modes of transport were by bicycle or wooden canoe and music was floating from every doorway. Just across the street were a couple of convenience stores and we stocked up on water and snacks for the room and to take with us on our boat excursions the following day. I was instantly charmed by the overall relaxed, beach town feel of Bocas, though clearly a tourist locale with an abundance of craft stalls selling art, beads, towels, t-shirts and pipes, it remained evident that very little had changed in the life of the locals here and the non-natives who were present were very much appreciative of this.

Bocas was largely comprised of visitors there for extended stays; either learning to surf at many of the Bocas Surf Schools or picking up Spanish as another language. There were entire hostels offering packages for either or both learning opportunities and many of the hostel, restaurant and tour operators were foreigners who had come to Bocas years prior on vacation and just never left. We walked, absorbing the sights and sounds of the main street which ran along Simon Bolivar Park, lined completely on both sides with tourist craft shops and restaurants.

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Bocas Inn: Sunset from the upper deck

On our way back to the Inn we were invited to a Full Moon After party by a group of young barefoot Europeans with dreadlocks, our invitations were bits of coloured strings  tied around our wrists.

 

 

7072_10152695372228223_6487513428690549162_nack on property, we walked out onto the upper balcony and I took up my position in the hammock outside our room door as the sounds of Bob Marley floated up to us, coming from a young man on the deck next door as his fingers danced across the strings of his guitar. I felt very comfortable here.

 

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Sunrise and sunset are special times for me and I have a bit of a habit that only comes into effect when I travel. I almost always wake up to watch the sunrise. When I’m at home and in my daily routine I whine incessantly regarding my lack of sleep and getting up for the gym at 5:30 always takes an alarm (or two) but none of that translates into vacation mode. One would think that given the opportunity to sleep in with no obligations or distractions, I would take full advantage of this freedom, but instead  I rise with the dawn to greet the day.

 

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Bocas Inn: Sunrise from the upper deck

The following morning, looking out from our balcony as the fishermen were stringing out their nets and the sea birds went in search of their breakfast,  it truly seemed as if Bocas was greeting me as well. For the remaining 5 days we would be here, none of the following sunrise displays would come anywhere close. In fact, this is my only sunrise capture for that entire trip.

Then again, what more did I need?

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