I was in Panama for thirty beautiful days, swimming with sharks, touring coffee farms and exploring the San Blas Islands.
This is what my itinerary looked like:
I came into Panama from Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. My shuttle was $25 and it included helping us get across the border (which is really confusing) and getting us straight to the "port" where you take a water taxi to Bambuda Lodge.
My first stop was the infamous Bocas Del Toro.
Accommodation: Bambuda Lodge ($20USD/night)
Things to do: Swim in the pool, daily excursions (that can be booked through the hostel), visit other islands (like Starfish Island) via water taxi, grab a drink at The Blue Coconut, partake in the epic party of Filthy Friday.
Highlights: Bambuda Lodge family dinner ($8-$12) but SO good. There's no kitchen to cook your own food here so you'll have to luckily settle for family dinner.
Second stop was Boquete. In-between Bocas and Boquete is a hostel called Lost and Found. I didn't stay here but I've heard amazing things about it and you can have the Bocas to Boquete shuttle drop you off there. The shuttle cost $20.
Accommodation: Boquete Castle (Same owners as Bambuda Lodge) ($13USD/night)
Things to do: Tour a coffee farm (book through the hostel), go on the Lost Waterfalls Hike (take a taxi to the entrance and then pay a small fee to get in), hike Volcan Baru (tour starts at 12AM and you hike up until 5AM to watch the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea).
From Boquete, I went to my favorite destination in Panama, Coiba Island-or more so Santa Catalina. The hostel has the bus instructions as to how to get to Santa Catalina.
Accommodation: Hostel Villa Vento Surf ($13USD/night)
Things to do: Snorkel and scuba dive at Coiba Island and surfing at the beach
Highlights: Day trips to Coiba! It's $60 for a day ($20 for park entrance fee, gear, lunch and tour guide). With the snorkeling trip we went to three different islands and saw dolphins while on our boat. I swam with White Tip Reef Sharks, sea turtles, schools of fish and manta rays. It was so, friggin cool.
I stayed in Santa Catalina for two nights then took the bus to Panama City. A friend recommended a hostel to me so I stayed there for about a week working from coffee shops and walking around the city.
Accommodation: Magnolia Inn $16USD/night for a room with AC about $13 for a room without.
Things to do: See the Panama Canal, huge night life, museums and walking around and enjoying the city.
Highlights: I spent most of my time in Panama City working (because I was low on money) so I didn't get to see all of the sights but I was able to go to the Panama Canal and meet a friend (from Belgium that I happened to bump into while at a coffee shop) for drinks on the water.
My last adventure in Panama was going to San Blas Islands. If you're looking to go to San Blas and need to get your questions answered, this blog post covers everything from packages, pricing, excursions, food, what to bring, how to get there, where to stay, etc.
Accommodation: Included in your tour package. I stayed on Aroma Island in a hut with sand floors with everybody else on my tour. It was SO COOL.
Things to do: Your tour will be set up with excursions like visiting Shipwreck Island, touring the smaller islands or having a chill day on your home island.
Highlights: Being woken up to somebody using a shell as a trumpet.
So far, Panama has been my favorite Central American country to visit. The sea was stunning and snorkeling on Coiba Island was the time of my life.
Put it on your bucket list!