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  • khdeutmeyer

Bocas Del Toros...Panama's Caribbean Gem!

Updated: Dec 23, 2021


During our second trip to Costa Rica, we decided to cross the border, and travel to Bocas Del Toros, Panama. We traveled seven hours across Costa Rica to the Caribbean side of the country and stayed the night in Puerto Viejo at Villa Lomas del Caribe. The next day a guided van and boat tour from Getko Tours, picked us up at the hotel for the four hour trip across the border. The Carribean side of Costa Rica has turqouise waters but the beaches were not white sand and the water was rough. It was very tropical but not what we had expected.


Bocas Del Toros, Panama is the capital of the province of Bocas del Toros. It is located on the southern tip of Colon Island and in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. I have always wanted to experience staying in an over the water bungalow, so one way to experience it was to stay at Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge in Bocas Del Toros. Someday I will get to Bora Bora in Tahiti to stay in an over the water bunglow suite but for now...the Caracol Lodge will have to suffice!


Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge, Bocas Del Toros

Our trek across the border started with Getko tours picking us up at our hotel in Puerto Viejo. They dropped us at the bridge off the beaten path at Sixaola-Guabito. Tourists and nationals use an old rail bridge made of tracks and wooden planks to walk across the bridge that was built in 1908. Imagine both pedestrians and motor vehicles crossing over the same rickety wooden bridge! We walked across hopping over missing wooden planks with our

luggage and it was an adventure in itself. Not to mention that a local from Panama approached us at the immigration station to help us bring our luggage across indicating he was part of Getko tours. We didn't believe that but let the man help us since we thought have a local crossing with us would be safer!

“While we thought it would be a good idea and an adventure to travel across the border from Costa Rica to Panama, it was a little sketchy to say the least and probably someting I would NEVER do again."

After making it across the border and into Panama, we stopped at the immigration office on the Panama side and found our way to the Getko tours again and to Bocos Town and to our water taxi to the Acqua Lodge. I was never so happy to see our hotel!


Puntas Caracol Aqua Lodge is a four star hotel with modest accommodations. We stayed there for the gorgeous turquoise water, snorkeling, quiet and remote location, and to experience and over the water accommodation. There are 10 over the water bungalows all connected by an over the water walkway. The location is breathtaking and the views are amazing. The bungalows are modest with no air conditioning and limited outlets. If you like internet and t.v., this is not a place for you! We could only get interent at the bar/restaurant on site and I had to blow dry my hair at the bar! Not exactly what I am used to but for three nights, I could rough it. The king size beds were protected by mosquito nets since the entire bugalow was open air. The snorkeling was amazing as we just climbed off our porch into the cldear turquoise water and could see star fish, sting ray, conch shells, and sand dollars. The water was warm and calm! The hotel had its own bar and restaruant with excellent food. The only thing that really bugged me were the getkos hanging out on the ceilings as we ate and on the unoccupied tables. I was a little freaked out by that. But overall, the Acqua Lodge was a true highlight and definitely an experience I will treasure and never foget!


While in Bocas del Toros, our hotel provided water taxi transportation back to Bocas Town for shopping and sightseeing. This area of Panama is not lined with five star hotels and resorts and has maintained its third world country appeal. We also did a day tour to Starfish beach, which was very rustic and beautiful! We love to snorkel and see the fish such as starfish and the sand dollars. I had never seen such large sand dollars until our stay at Aqua Lodge! We enjoy diving under the water, picking them up, taking a quick photo, and dropping them back into the water. The journey across the Panama border was worth the stay at the awesoem Caracol Acqua Lodge!




We reversed our trek back across the border using Getko tours again getting us back to the border to cross the wooden bridge and back to our hotel in Puerto Veijo to pick up our car and drive to San Jose, Costa Rica to depart for home. Since we knew what to expect from our trip across the border jsut a few short days ago, we were not as tense and crossed back to Costa Rica with less anxiety and nerves!



COSTA RICA/BOCAS DEL TORO, PANAMA ITINERARY


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HOW TO TRAVEL ECONOMICALLY AND GET THE MOST FOR YOUR TIME AND MONEY

I also get asked many times, "How do you travel so often and keep it affordable?" A few tips are below:

  • For me, planning and researching is part of the excitement of the trip! Visioning is so much fun!!!

  • I plan all of my own trips and research, research, research on the internet. I utilize TripAdvisor, Frommer's, and blogs from other travelers to find the information I need for my trip. I do ALOT of reading and researching. It takes patience to plan a good affordable trip!

  • I have a budget in mind for each trip and challenge myself to stay in the budget. Depending on the location, I typically start planning and booking hotels, cars, etc., approximately 9 months out. Hotel prices usually get more expensive the closer to the trip unless you are willing to do a last minute internet deal. Car rental and airline prices also go up the closer it is to your trip. Occasionally you can get a last minute deal but something else may be more expensive and you are really not saving. I like to plan!

  • For hotels, I use Booking.com, or Priceline.com. I look for hotels with good reviews, pay when you stay, and free cancellation in advance. We look for smaller boutique hotels with good amenities and great locations.

  • We have done all-inclusive in a couple of tropical locations years and years ago but found that we do not eat and drink enough to make it worth the extra expense. We like to go off site from the hotel and experience the local cuisine and traditions. We have not done all-inclusive in the last 15 years. However, all-inclusive is wonderful if you want to stay at the resort for all meals, not rent a car, and have the hotel shuttle you to your destinations. That has worked for us in Jamaica and it was very relaxing! But I would not drive in Jamaica so all-inclusive was the smartest option! If you enjoy all-inclusive, the earlier you book the trip the lower the price. Unless you are game and are not a planner, and are willing to travel where the last minute deal is advertised. Then you could get a great all-inclusive deal!

  • If we are flying, I use the Skyscanner app to check airfare prices and I try not to buy until about 60 to 75 days out. There are times where I will by earlier if the price is super reasonable. I usually do not book on Skyscanner. It will tell me the site that is the most affordable to purchase the tickets and if it is a more well known trust site, I go directly to the site to purchase the tickets. Many times Skyscanner will take you right to the airline website. Skyscanner will search all airlines and will sort by price, times, shortest trip, etc.

  • Have a credit card that gives you miles or hotel points. We will use points for many of our trips. We are American Advantage members and have an Advantage credit card. We try to fly American as often as we can to earn points and then use those points for future airline tickets. Our credit card is tied to our Advantage numbers and awards points as well.

  • We drive if the location is in the United States and we can drive and sightsee along the way. If we need to rent a car, we reserve online using Booking.com, Orbitz.com, or Priceline.com. They are usually the most reasonable. I watch for specials and never book a luxury vehicle! We also have a credit card with a low limit that we use for vehicle rentals that provides insurance as a credit card benefit. We always decline the insurance when we are in the United States. If we are traveling out of the United States, we check with the credit card if the insurance is valid internationally. We have found it is valid in Europe, Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands, but in other locations, we are forced to purchase the liability insurance from the rental car company.

  • While there are free maps online for most destinations, I always go onto Amazon and buy a map of my destination, especially if it is international. I do not buy maps for tropical Caribbean islands. I just get one when we arrive. But for countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, England, Canada, Germany, France, etc., I always purchase a good map. As you do you research, you can use the map to highlight the places you want to visit and the sites you want to see. I have it as a reference later for putting my memories and photos into a photobook!


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