Another year has come and gone and it’s another anniversary for us! I feel so grateful that we continue to be able to travel like we do and make such incredible memories along the way. I live for these moments and experiences and am so lucky to have found someone as crazy as I am to tackle the world with!
But enough of that mushy stuff…
This morning we were up early to have breakfast and pack up. Then Randy drove us into town to Hostel Mamallena where we got on the shuttle bus to Almirante.
We debated back and forth on whether we should rent a car for this trip, and I’m glad we didn’t end up going that route. In Boquete we really didn’t need it because, as I’ve said over and over, Randy is awesome and either drove us or coordinated transportation for us everywhere we needed to go. And it turned out that the Mamallena shuttle was pretty sweet, too.
We paid $30/person, which included the boat ride from Almirante to Bocas Town. It was a 3.5 hour drive, but the bus was comfy and this way we were both able to enjoy the scenery, nap, read, whatever. The only downside was that we left over 30 minutes late.
As we drove along, the scenery was really pretty and mostly the same the entire way – flat near the road and mountains in the distance.
There wasn’t much in Almirante; just a few wooden, tin-roofed buildings built over and right near the water. It seems that this place is more of a gateway to the Bocas islands than a destination itself.
We unloaded from the bus in a parking lot, walked down to the water, smashed into a small wooden water taxi and took off for Bocas. They stashed all of our luggage in the front of the boat so it stayed dry and we didn’t have to wrangle it on the trip.
The trip took about 30 min at a pretty good speed. We bumped along on top of the water, pretty rough in some places, creating a crazy wake all around us. A lot of the girls in front of us squealed and complained that they got splashed by the wake, even with the plastic windows rolled down. I personally enjoyed the wind and light mist spray on my face.
In Bocas we unloaded at the water taxi station, grabbed our packs and headed out onto the main street. Our hotel was literally a 2 minute walk from where we landed.
Hotel Bocas del Toro:
We arrived a little after 12:00, and check-in isn’t until 2:00. We went in anyway and asked if we could just drop our packs in the lobby while we went out to explore. We didn’t get a great first impression when the woman behind the desk acted annoyed with us for asking. She told us to wait, walked upstairs and disappeared for 15 minutes or so. When she finally came back, she led us upstairs to our room, pushed the door open for us and turned around and walked away. No intro to the hotel, no welcome, no hospitality. But we got an early check-in.
Despite the woman’s less-than-hospitable welcome, our mood wasn’t dampened too long because the room was awesome! We booked the Luxury Ocean View Room, and it was HUGE. Way too big for what we needed, but it is nice to have the space to spread out. The entire room is gorgeous hardwood with several beds and a bench to lounge on.
The bathroom is a bit odd-shaped, with the ceiling sloping down pretty severely on the toilet side. The shower is not the most luxurious, but it is nice enough. And there is a large dispenser of potable water in the bathroom, which I appreciate so we don’t have to buy bottled water or create plastic bottle waste. The small window in there is open to the outside, too, so no AC in the bathroom.
The room takes up the entire width of the hotel on the water side, so we have a balcony that extends the entire width of the hotel. There are comfy loungers, a table and chairs and a spectacular view over the water.
After settling in to the room for a bit, we set out to explore the island. We quickly found that, during the day, there’s not a lot to do. Most people charter snorkeling or diving boats and leave the island pretty desolate during the day. The charters leave early in the morning, so that ship had already sailed for today. (See what I did there? Hah.)
We wandered the streets for a bit, looking for a place to eat and ended up at a sports bar near Bolívar Park.
This place was open-air and pretty divey – just the kind of place for a couple of classy folks like ourselves! There were only a few people there, and we were the only ones sitting at the bar for quite a while.
They had a decent selection of beer and we were happy to find some local beers other than Balboa to drink.
Food was typical pub fare, and we were both starving so we scarfed it like savages. The chili dog was pretty good and way more food than I could finish on my own.
We hung here for a bit eating and drinking, passing the time until people came back from their day tours and the island livened up a bit. A woman in the bar shared some rambutan with us for a dessert of sorts. Neither of us had ever had one and were intrigued by the hairy shell and the jelly-ish pit inside. It was sweet and yummy.
After we’d had our fill of beer, we walked around the town a bit more to explore. We found a few places to charter tours for tomorrow, scoped out some restaurants for the next couple of days, lounged in the park for a bit and then wound up back at our hotel with a couple of margaritas on the back patio over the water.
We had another less-than-desirable experience with the hotel staff here. We had to order our drinks inside and carry them to the patio when, after sitting for 20 minutes, no one had come to take our orders. After an hour of sitting with empty drinks, no one had come to check on us even once nor offer a check. When we finally went back inside, the staff were watching telenovelas in the bar and couldn’t be bothered to help us with our check. The guy who ended up helping us talked on his cell phone the entire time and didn’t speak one word to us. Nothing about this entire experience felt welcoming or personable.
For dinner, we wound up at a yummy taco place.
I’d found this place online, and had to find it. Mexican food is my absolute favorite. By the time we arrived, they were out of a lot of their food. They cook a certain amount for the night and when it’s gone, it’s gone. So we both ended up with chicken tacos and took them out to the string light-lit patio to eat.
The food was really good, and pretty cheap. Atmosphere and service were good, and portions were pretty good sized. The place wasn’t too busy when we were there, but I can see how it would get extremely busy during high times.
After dinner we came back to the room to unwind. Tomorrow we’ll get up early for a charter trip, so it’s time to get some sleep now.