North of the Canal

To date we have only written about Panama City but there is more to the Country.  We stopped at a few more places as we heading back up to Costa Rica.  Below is a summary of what we experienced in the rest of Panama.

El Valle de Anton

2 and half hours outside of Panama City (on what can only be described as a very speedy shuttle bus) we arrived in El Valle De Anton.  Despite the speed, the ride from the main pan-american highway to El Valle offered amazing views as we dipped down into the crater.

For the duration of our time in El Valle we stayed at the Windmill Hostel located about 200m from the main bus stop from the village.  The hostel is clean, has a pool and a large games room.  The hostel has a mix of dorms and private rooms so can cater for most peoples budget.

Activities in El Valle:

  • Hiking Indian’s Noise – this takes about 4 hours and is a loop track which offers stunning views back across the valley/ crater.  The hike also takes you to a waterfall which is a great place to have lunch.
  • Hot Springs – About 30 mins walks from the centre of the village are some natural hot springs.  It costs about 4 USD to get in.  You can pay extra for a small tub of mud to cover your body in.  The water is not as warm as expected but is still a pleasant temperature to sit in.  We really enjoyed the Hot Springs and our skin felt great afterwards.

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David

The second city of Panama (but feels more like a large town) is about half an hour from the boarder with Costa Rica.  For most backpackers David is a one night town as it a main transport hub.  We stayed in David a couple of times to catch buses to Lost and Found, Bocas Del Toros and Costa Rica.

There is no specific reasons to stop in David however, it does have a pleasant central square as well as a number of large supermarkets which are useful to stock up in the essentials before heading off.

The most popular hostel in David seems to be Bambu.  It is a $2-3 taxi ride from the bus terminal, but does have a pool as well as a bar ($1 dollar beers anyone?) with a good cheap eat across the road.

Lost and Found

Lost and Found Hostel is a must for anyone visiting northern Panama.  It is located in the middle of nowhere on the main highway between David and Bocas Del Toro.  The bus from David will drop you off, but it is a 2o minute hike uphill from the highway, but it is worth it, although it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

We spent 2 nights here and  we could have stayed for longer.  The hostel offers amazing views and has a friendly atmosphere.  The hostel offers a number of free and paid activities in the surrounding areas as well.  The most popular free activity is to hike up over the hill to the nearby river for a swim.  The hostel also provides a treasure hunt to do in the forest and if you finish you get a free drink!

Lost and Found also provides everything you would need to eat and drink at competitive prices.  We thought it would be over priced, but found it to be as affordable as the supermarket which is great!

Lost and Found also has its own bar, with $1USD beers on offered during happy hour!

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The view from the top of the hill behind Lost and Found.

Bocas Del Toros

A 4 hour bus ride away from David is Bocas Del Toros, and there is only one highway connecting it to the rest of the country.  The main reason people come here is to visit the islands of Bocas, which is a 30 mins boat ride from the mainland.  The boat to the Islands leaves from Almirante and departs about every half hour.

The main island is called Colon and is home to Bocas Town.  From Bocas Town all the other Islands can be easily reached.  We stayed in Chalet Tio Juan Hostel about a 2km walk from the centre of town.  This was further away from the action that we would have liked but it was clean and slightly cheaper than more popular hostels in town, it also had a kitchen which was good!

Things to do in Bocas Del Toros:

  • Visit Red Frog Beach – meant to be the nicest beach in the area but it does cost $15pp to get to (water taxi plus entry fee)
  • Cycle to Buffs Beach and enjoy the surf
  • Have a swim and a drink at Aqua Lounge (top party spot in Bocas, especially Wed and Sat)
  • Visit the Bocas Brewery for a taste of the local brew and some foreign brews.  The Brewery is about 2 and half kms from the centre of town.
  • We don’t dive but we hear it is a great spot to learn.
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Katie jumping in at Aqua Lounge

Overview

Panama is a cool country and it is more than just the city.  We really like the variety of places and activities on offer in this country.  It is not the cheapest country in Central America but it easy to keep track of money as everything is in USD.

If we every go back we would like to venture further sound and see what is on offer beyond the canal.


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