I didn’t bring my computer to Panamá (because I finally have a nice new one!) so instead I am now back in New York and about to attempt to write about this whole trip in one (hopefully not too long) blog post and remember everything as best I can 🙂
A few weeks ago Aidan and I took the train across NYC to the airport in shorts and T-shirts, getting a lot of stares along the way, and flew to Panamá City. We arrived in the middle of the night and took a cab to a hostel where we woke up the guy working the front desk. It was hot and humid and we were excited to be there. We spent the next few days in the city. I think Panamá City is nice but it is so large and so incredibly spread out that its hard to see it all and really understand this city. I think there are a lot of cool pockets of the city but it’s hard to get anywhere cheaply because the public buses aren’t great and can only be used with a bus card which you can only buy in a few places. We took taxis mostly, which was alright except that drivers always try and overcharge us because they don’t think we will know how much it should cost, which is pretty true. We first stayed in Marabella which is a very nice middle class neighborhood with new apartment high rises, fast food chains, office buildings, malls, and hotels. When we came back to the city at the end of the trip we stayed in Casco Viejo which is the old part of town with beautiful old buildings that are sort of all in the process of being restored. It’s a pricey area with trendy restaurants and cool apartments. We tried to walk around different areas of the city as much as possible but its certainly not the best walking city, too big and sprawled. Panamá City is really modern and I think if you had a car it could be a cool place to live, oh except the traffic is crazy, I think they just need better public transportation.
One day we went up to the canal zone to see the Panamá Canal. The Miraflores lock is the most famous one but I had heard that the next lock down the road was free so we went there. It was honestly super anticlimactic I can’t lie, it just looked like a river. The whole history of it is really interesting of course but it’s not that exciting to look at. We decided to try the Miraflores lock after all and hitchhiked down the road. A nice guy who had lived in Texas for a while and spoke English picked us up. He was with his wife and was really friendly, he pointed out the house he grew up in near the canal along the way. The Miraflores lock was kind of boring too, so we just got a ride back into town to swim in the pool.
We spent New Years Eve in the city which was a lot of fun. Our hostel had a BBQ and we hung out there until a little before midnight and then everyone headed to Casco Viejo. There were firework shows happening all over the city and we had a pretty good view but then suddenly a great 10 minute long show suddenly started right above our heads which was really cool. We went to a nice club for the rest of the night which was open air (had no roof).
Next we decided to head to Santa Catalina which is a small town on the Pacific coast, we took a quick bus there on New Years Day. We had heard it had a nice beach. We arrived just after the new year and the beach was nice but covered in trash! and SO many people. It was literally like Panamá’s Jersey shore, really trashy. We looked crazy with our big bags trekking across the beach trying to find a cabaña that wasn’t full or very overpriced. We eventually ended up staying in a little alojamiento up by the road run by a really sweet family. We ate fried ceviche for dinner, watched the sunset on the beach and decided to head out the next day.
We went to Pedasí another small town on the coast, but Pedasí was awesome. It was our favorite place in all of Panamá. We stayed in a little hospedaje and hitched a ride down to the beach each time we wanted to go. The town was tiny, just a few streets around the main plaza. Everyone hangs out in front of their homes in the shade all day. There was a lot of good food options, and we heard some live music. One day we saw a wedding procession pass us. The beach was great and there is one little place to get fried fish for lunch down at the beach.
After Pedasí we went to Santa Catalina, a well known (among foreigners) surf town with another nice beach and beautiful sunsets. It took us like five different buses to get there and all accommodation was full so we ended up in a strange little hotel above a bar, but it was cheap! We did a lot of reading and there was pretty good food there too. Santa Catalina was nice and probably great if you surf.
When we left we headed for the mountain town of Boquete which is full of American expats which is a bit odd but it’s a really nice town and has good coffee. It is so high up that it is much colder than anywhere we had been so far and rainy. We broke out the pants. We went on a hike one day to some hot springs. We had to get a ride to the start of the trail but not many cars were driving and we couldn’t catch a bus. We ended up getting a ride with a sweet old guy both ways who was working at a hydro dam nearby. The hot springs were small and not very exciting but we had a really nice time hiking.
When we left we took the most beautiful bus ride to Almirante on the Caribbean Coast. There were misty mountains, waterfalls, and houses on stilts. In Almirante we took a boat ride out to Bocas Del Toro which is very touristy but for good reason. The islands are super gorgeous and Caribbean feeling. We stayed in a cheap hostel and ate a lot of good food there. Mostly we chilled on the beautiful beaches. We met some good people and had a really fun night at a hostel club called aqua lounge. It was right on the water and you had to take a boat there from the island we were staying on. One day we decided to take a bus to the middle of the island and see a cave. we literally got a few feet in before we saw a dead bat and a bunch of huge spiders and decided to turn around hahaha.
When we left Bocas we bought tickets for an overnight bus back to Panamá City. There were three buses that night and we were late getting our tickets and on the third one. Even so I asked both the first and second bus if someone hadn’t showed up and they told me no wait for the third one. When it finally came we took our seats and then were approached by a woman and her daughter who said that we were in their seats. I showed her my tickets. She had the same ones it appeared. I told her she must have been on one of the other buses but she insisted she wasn’t and went to get the bus drivers helper. The Ayudante looked really confused, not sure what he was supposed to do, he walked off the bus and talked to the driver then came back on the bus and told me that we were supposed to be on the first bus and we should get off and give the lady the seats. I was furious because I knew for sure (I had asked the first two buses) that I was on this bus and he thought I was just a stupid foreigner and he could solve the problem by kicking us off and not her. Absolutely not I told him, we refuse to move. He awkwardly showed the woman and her daughter to the one seat left in the front of the bus for them to share it. She swore at me under her breath as she walked away. Apparently she complained so much to the driver that he called ahead to the first bus and made them wait for us one town ahead. About an hour later the bus stopped and she came down the aisle and put a manicured hand on my seat and demanded that I get out of her seats or she would call the police. I wanted to laugh because, really as if the Panamanian police would care about this. She was yelling at me like a crazy woman. No I said, I’m sorry this happened to you but I am not giving you MY seats. Finally the ayudante came down the aisle and pointed out the window at the other bus and said he had called them to wait for us and he wanted us to switch. Then I really freaked out on them and was like why can’t this crazy woman switch?! Why is this my problem, is it because you think we are stupid foreigners and you can shove us around? Either your bus company made a mistake or she did, but not us and I know that for sure! The ayudante looked like he didn’t want to be there. No, he assured me it wasn’t because we were foreign it was just that the seats on the other bus weren’t together and he didn’t want to separate the woman from her child. He said it was the bus company’s mistake. I wanted to tell him that no, he was just clearly scared of this crazy nasty woman and that this child of hers was a freaking teenager and at that age I was living in foreign countries by myself. Fine I said because I didn’t want to deal with this anymore, escort me to the other bus. He got our bags out from under the bus and walked us over the other one. The woman followed us and I was thinking what is she doing? Then she got her bags out from under the bus we were moving to and moved them to the third one and then it hit me, she had been assigned the first bus, even put her bags on, then forgotten to get on and didn’t want to admit her mistake. I was pissed off. On our new bus someone moved so we could be together, but it was the last row with the seats that don’t recline, we definitely could not sleep. About an hour later our bus was stopped at a gas station and Aidan and I were talking quietly about how mad and uncomfortable we were. I told Aidan in Spanish what I would tell the woman if we saw her at the end in the bus terminal. I said something along the lines of, listen you gran puta, because you couldn’t admit your own mistake you made us sit in the worst seats ever, I hope your happy Cabrona. Then a woman in the seat in front of Aidan spun around and said, that is so rude and I should not have to sit here and listen to a foreign woman in my country talk like that. If I had thought quickly enough I would have said, I am not a freaking FOREIGN WOMAN! I am just a person, just another person on this bus, what you just said is so much ruder than what I said, and by the way, anyone can have a hushed conversation with their seat mate, maybe I don’t want to hear your stupid voice either, just don’t listen! Instead I weakly hissed back, this is my conversation not yours. I was mad at everyone and very over tired that night.
In the bus terminal I asked a local how much a taxi to where we were going was and was told no more than five dollars. I went out to the taxi stand and was told ten. I threw my hands in the air furiously and told them I was not a stupid foreign woman haha they just shrugged. I waited for the next cab to show up and he took us for five dollars and the poor guy had to listen to me rant about the woman on the bus and how all the cab drivers try to rip us off, he laughed politely.
The next day we took a day trip to the gorgeous Isla Taboga just a ferry ride from Panama city. We saw the second oldest church in the western hemisphere and chilled on the beach all day and drank rum from a coconut. We decided to take a trip the next day to the San Blas which is a group of islands (365 in total!) where the Guna Yala people live in Panama.
The ride to Cartí where we caught a boat to the San Blas was crazy and made me so nauseous but it was definitely worth it. We stayed for two days on the isla Ina in a hut on the beach. It was an hour boat ride out. It was what people picture when they picture a paradise island. You could walk around the island in a few minutes. Just a few families lived there and all there is are huts, palm trees, white sand, clear water, and coral reefs, oh and tons of cute naked kids running around. It was a perfect way to end the trip, gorgeous and with fun people.
Back in Panamá City we had a good last night and day and then flew out the next night at 3 am. The airport didn’t stamp our passports out which I thought was odd, but we are back in the US so I guess it was okay! We had such a fun time and I would certainly recommend a trip to Panamá 🙂 Sadly I am back to work and school for now but stay posted you never know whats to come! xoxo and thanks for reading all that if you made it to the end ❤