Trip planning to Panama was a kaleidoscope of many incredible possibilities. I have had ideas rattling around in my mind for 6 months! Although it was no where near like planning the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, this had it’s challenges.With not knowing a country it was a chess board of information with different squares that needed piecing together.The biggest piece missing in the puzzle is transportation. I did stumble across a site called thebusschedules.com which has Panama bus routes. What I do know is Panamanians take the bus often and there is a bus I am told to just about anywhere, as well as shuttles. We will know more about this once we are there.
Originally we wanted to rent a car to journey the country as advised by other expats. I booked a car, which was followed up by a call on my cell from the owner of a Coronado rental business . He advised me against renting a car and to to take the bus due to road construction, and the possibility of getting lost. I thought this was an honest thing to say! We and have decided to use public transportation until we know more about this. We do know how chaotic Costa Rica roads were, so this is our only reference point. We wanted us to follow on our own path and create our own experience not along the footsteps of others. I squinted into the future, winged it, and now this plan is now just beginning to look like it works. We have not been to Panama, but have travelled to Costa Rica and Belize in previous years. As we are travelling around the Christmas season, not having a plan at that time could mean no accommodation in certain areas of the country. After having a list of expat communities that we wanted to experience, I launched into the project. What I did first was join Panama expat groups, and ask questions about their area. A very dynamic and informative group is “All things Coronado” and “Panama Expats” Here my questions were answered in detail, and I was informed of many services. I learned about long term rentals, car rentals, restaurants, cell phones, monkey locations, as well as many other details. I was able to connect with many people who were very welcoming and offered to help us when we were in the Coronado area. The other great resource was our subscription to International Living magazine. The stories of expats and their experiences were very valuable making decisions about places to go. When searching for accommodation, I met Sarah Booth online(Panama Sarah) She was very helpful and patiently guided us through my numerous questions. We are staying in her beautiful accommodations both in Panama City and Coronado.
Dec 2-5 2015 We are flying into Panama City. We are being picked up by one of Panama Sarah’s drivers. He will take us to Sarah Booth’s apartment in Panama City, orientate us, and give us a cell phone for our stay. The plan is to take a tour with Panama Sarah’s driver in the historic part of the city Casco Viejo on Dec 3, then on Dec 4 go for a day trip to a jungle tour recommended on the Facebook group ‘All Things Coronado”. Dec 5 morning we will travel with her driver to Coronado. Sarah told me our driver is a famous horse trainer in Panama.
Dec 5-12 We stay in Panama Sarah’s casitas in Coronado which are close to the beach. She has arranged for us to meet other expats at a barbecue. It feels fantastic to connect easily with like minded people. We will attend a business meeting at the BluWater Bistro in Gorgona Dec 8 where we can introduce ourselves and our business ideas. I am very excited about this and am corresponding with an expat from Gorgona about the details. Panama has been called “the petri dish of entrepreneurial ideas around the world”.This where the fine seeds of possibility turns into reality and fact! We will also be looking at real estate with Panama Sarah and her connections in Coronado and El Valle. I have a list of people I have met online through the expat groups,and we have arranged to meet them. Coronado is a very friendly dynamic expat community.
Dec 12-16 We will be taking a a bus to El Valle, and staying at beautiful casitas called Cabinas Potisa. I discovered these on homeway.com.
Dec16-18 We take a bus from El Valle to Pedasi, and then renting a car at Thrifty Rent a car. We will drive to to Playa Venao where we will be staying at Venao Cove which is a family run hostel on the beach.The accommodations called hostels we found looked very nice and have private bathrooms. We will take a 15 minute boat ride to Isla Canas, and go on a jungle trek there. It is a gorgeous isolated paradise I am told. After having a conversation with expats from Pedasi I found out that there are many howler monkeys are in the Playa Venao area. We will look at real estate in this area also.We were told by one of our connections that we could spend time at La Playita Resort for 5 dollars a day. I noticed that they have yoga classes near the beach that have howler monkeys nearby.
Dec 18-22 After our stay in Playa Venao we travel back to Pedasi where we stay for 4 nights in a country home. It has a king size bed and a full kitchen, and is a bike ride away from the beach and the town. It is on Flip Key, and owned by an expat who lives close by. We will visit Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge, and Cerro Hoya Nature Park.
Dec 22-23 Las Lajas for one night. I started out booking us in David as I thought that was where the bus stopped close to Boca Chica where we are going next. It appears as though that will be an extra hour and a half of travel, so I had us stop at Las Lajas Beach Resort instead of David. It will be great to have a beach day and go snorkelling after our bus ride from Pedasi. This beach location had great reviews.
Dec 23-26 We will take a bus to Boca Chica and then take a ferry over to Isla Boca Brava where we are staying at The Howlers Bay Hotel for Christmas. Did I mention I love the sound of howler monkeys in the morning? I found an extremely good price on Booking.com.
Dec 26 -30 La Puruja Lodge in Golfito, Costa Rica. I know there are guaranteed howler monkey here! We loved our trips to Costa Rica in previous years, and missed the Corcovado Park area and expat communities there. I have no idea how we are going to travel over the border, and I am exploring bus and shuttle options. It appears as though the bus in Panama only costs about 3 dollars US, so traveling this way is going to be a savings.I know the border is going to be busy during Christmas week. I will keep you posted on my experience with this. Accommodation for 4 nights here was 218.00 Canadian for 4 nights, on Booking.com!
Dec 30-Jan 2 From Golfito we will take a ferry to Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica where we are staying at the Osa Lodge. I will meet my co-worker’s sister who is a Canadian expat there. We will be hiking the beautiful rainforest of Corcovado Park.
Jan 2-Jan 7 We will then leave Costa Rica and go back to Panama.I do believe we can take the bus, however I cannot find much information online. We will be travelling to Bouquete. We will stay at Casa Natura de Valle Escondido, which is a beautiful location with lush vegetation and tropical gardens near a river.
Jan 7-12 We will then take the bus to Bocas del Toro, and take a boat to Bastimentos where we will stay at Hotel Ushuaia. This is a beachfront location at excellent price from Booking.com.
Jan 12-17 We will take a ferry over to Bocas and stay in a rustic jungle cabin that is surrounded by howler monkeys.He provides us with a mode of transportation(more on this later!) to explore the island with, as well as kayaks. I found this a great find on homeway.com.
Jan 17-28 We have decided to free range our plans in these last two weeks. On my wish list is to visit the mountain town of Santa Fe and stay at the Coffee Mountain Inn. They do rainforest treks to waterfalls in the Santa Fe National Park. Next on the my list is Gamboa where we can hike the Soberania National Park. We will be sure to hear howler monkeys from this location!
Jan 28 We fly out of Panama City to Vancouver. We will be staying one night in Panama City prior to our flight.
There is something very satisfying and exhilarating about packing for our adventure while it is snowing out! I scraped the ice from my truck windshield this morning in blasting slants of cold wind wearing snow boots and a down Parka.