Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro, Panama
The heat enveloped me as I stepped out onto the windy tarmac to board the tiny plane from Panama City to Bocas Town on Isla Colon on the archipelago Bocas del Toro, but the sense of adventure and freedom of taking off to a new place made it feel like a blanket wrapping me up a like a baby instead of like the oppressive heat it really was. I love nothing more than a new adventure to a faraway place and the paradise and exoticism awaiting me in Bocas called me like a child to a parent waiting to be found.
Isla Colon, Bocas™ most inhabited island feels like a stark contrast to bustling Panama City. The air and the people moving at a slow tortuous pace. The dusty streets lined with ramshackle colored buildings in various states of construction line a sea so clear that you can see fish swimming from the breakfast table.
Not a McDonalds or a Holiday Inn in sight, Bocas is a lover of all things local. As I prefer adventure with a twist of fancy, we settled in at the sleekest boutique hotel in town-Tropical Suites. The white washed hotel is perched over the Caribbean and boasts the only hotel with an elevator in town. I could care less about the elevator, but the air conditioning was a welcome relief after exploring the steamy streets. The rooms were spacious and best of all the staff was incredibly welcoming and helpful. They helped us arrange tours via local boats that were incomparable.
Front yard Tropical Suites[/caption] Beyond imagination, Starfish beach was littered with bright red starfish in water that was clearer than my bath water at home.
Our boat captains, a weathered looking little man and his son, found us the perfect beachside restaurants where we devoured the freshest fish around. The meal though made in a shack that would certainly be reported by the health commission in the U.S., has etched a permanent place in my mind as one of the best of my life. It may have been the perfect combination of sunshine and salty air and fish freshly picked from the sea!
At night we nestled in at a local Asian restaurant where an eclectic mix of a band was playing. We had curry, sipped Panamas and swayed to the beats. One of the songs from that night still plays in my psyche-again a perfect combination of all things -food, tank tops, and barefoot musicians.
During the day we explored the streets stopping at little beach side locations for lunch and shopping for souvenirs. Another incredible boat trip took us out into the sea to Dolphin Bay, where we literally we turning our heads side to side as the constant motion of dolphins danced around us. One word-Incredible.
If you are looking for a little break from the sun and surf, head out to Finca los Monos, an expansive botanical garden Just a short taxi away. Finca Los monos feels like a different planet from Bocas Town. The mountain air is definitively cooler and the diverse vegetation is colorfully lush. Monkeys hide in the trees above and if you're lucky, you will be greeted by the founder, Lin Gillingham with whom coconuts and stories abound. She founded the finca in 1998 with her husband, and she is just as fascinating as the plants and trees she imported from all over the world.
The perfect combination of flip flop wearing hippies, sunshine, and world class tours and meals, Bocas del Toro is still calling me. I am pretty sure I hear, "Come Back".
Believe me. I will. Be back.
*Stay tuned for more on our Bocas Chocolate Jungle adventure. Really-There is such a dreamy combination.