If you are looking for some sun, waterfalls and surfing in Panama and don’t mind roughing it in buses or hostels then you will have a blast! After escaping Panama cities hustle and bustle, we instantly fell in love with the beautiful beaches, tonnes of surf and very chilled out culture!
Panama’s Main Destinations
Playa Venao (Surf and snorkelling)
Our favourite destination was a surf beach on the Pacific coast called Playa Venao. It has a lovely beach, surf, waterfalls and tonnes of wildlife! Being one of our first destinations in Panama, this was where we saw plenty of new animals we had never seen before – including fireflies, toads, howling monkeys and a 9ft snake!
We also loved our hostel which was right on the beach with awesome owners and a great chilled out atmosphere. We highly recommend staying at Venao Cove Beach Hostel if you are on a budget, or you can investigate the private rooms they have available.
Santa Catalina (Surf Beach)
Not too much further around the coast is Santa Catalina which is also known for its surf! Most of the accommodation is a 15 minute walk over the hill via the road to the main surf spot. Unfortunately, Moss found it extremely difficult to find anywhere that rented a 6 foot surf board as most companies only hire long and learner boards. Therefore, if you are a serious surfer, make sure you either take your own board, or befriend a local that’s willing to lend you one like we did.
Bocas del Toro (Surf and diving/snorkelling)
It is a long drive to Bocas del Toro! Add on a detour to find a beach and a very foggy drive over the hills, and it took us a total of 12 hours to drive from El Valle to the car ferry at Almirante. We decided to sleep in the boot of our tiny car that night, and as uncomfortable as it was, we heard that we made the right decision because the hostel was pretty gruesome. After an uncomfortable night’s sleep we found the car ferry which costs US$25 to transport a car, or US$1 per person (one way). So, deciding to leave the car behind we jumped on the ferry, which after getting a closer look had far too many coats of paint and was a rust bucket that we half expected to sink at any moment! Note: there are also water taxis available which are much faster than the 2 hour car ferry. However, as you can expect, they cost a lot more than US$1!
Without even realising it, we arrived in Bocas del Toro right as the biggest swell in years was hitting the coastline and this attracted pro surfers including Kelly Slater and Sunny Garcier. It also meant that there was rain, rain and more RAIN! So, putting on our togs (bathers) and hiring bikes costing $2 per hour, we headed off along the road. What we didn’t realise was that the beach was also classed as road in some areas, therefore we were swamped by waves as we attempted to push our bikes through the surf and coral rocks.
It was a neat adventure, with talented/daring surfers to watch, cows with massive ears, moss breaking his jandals that had survived 8 months of travel and having to fix a broken bike chain in the middle of no where. Moss even snapped this awesome shot as a wave hit a log on the beach!!
Due to the stormy surf stirring everything up, diving was restricted to the sheltered areas and visibility wasn’t amazing, so we befriended one of the scuba diving companies and jumped on board their day trip with our snorkelling gear. We also caught a water taxi to Red Frog Beach. It cost US$3 per person to enter the beach and even though we saw no frogs, it is a lovely beach!
About 2 hour’s drive from Panama City, is a small town called El Valle which is built within an old volcanoes crater. We went on a Sunday to make the most of their market and even got sucked into purchasing two hammocks! Aside from the market, we didn’t really like El Valle. Yes you can walk or drive to the top of the hill for a great view of the crater but to be honest everything else was a bit of a disappointment. There are a few waterfalls in the area, including Puente Mama Chea which was far too overpriced costing about US$7 pp. We saw better waterfalls on the side of the road while driving to Bocas del Toro and its natural pool was nice for a cool down, but certainly was not ‘natural’.
Unfortnately due to me getting sick over new year’s, we couldn’t explore both Bocas del Toro and San Blas, so we will have to explore San Blas another day. From our research the tours look pricey but everyone says that it is beautiful!
The Panama Canal
It is just over 100 years since the Panama Canal was officially opened on August 15th 1914. We couldn’t leave Panama City without learning more about the Panama Canal. The Miraflores visitor center contains a museum which is pricey (US$15pp) but very well set up and we found it very interesting. Moss enjoyed driving a ship in the virtual simulation, and I enjoyed looking up my surname in the database of workers.
Panama’s currency and accommodation costs
We were surprised to discover Panama used US currency. In general, we were able to find accommodation for US$15 per person per night. We found cheap hotels for this price in Panama City, and stayed in hostels (with kitchens) for the same price while exploring the rest of Panama. You don’t need to book far in advance either. We generally booked 2 nights in advance (during the new year’s period). However, it may pay to book in advance if you have a specific hostel in mind. But for Bocas del Toro, there is so much accommodation available, we just wandered the streets and found accommodation upon arrival.
Hiring a car versus public transport in Panama
We didn’t realise how good public transport would be in Panama. We were one of few people travelling who hired our own car, costing US$25 day with insurance (as third party insurance is mandatory in Panama). To be honest, if we went to Panama again, I would just use public transport. For the amount of little side of the road stops and drama that we experienced with an immobiliser stalling our car for over 24 hours, it wasn’t really worth it!
Food in Panama
The side of the road stalls/small outdoor restaurants with food in cabinets are worth stopping at. Most places are likely to serve chicken with rice and beans, but take a look in the cabinet and be daring. I discovered what seemed to be a deep fried sweet corn fritter and they were AMAZING!! Not to mention the road side stalls are super cheap – one dinner we had with a drink of coke cost $7 for the two of us.
Extra advice for Panama
- You do not need a yellow fever vaccination to visit Panama
- We recommend carrying insect repellent with you
- While in Panama City, do not walk the streets with jewellery or expensive items. We did not have any trouble, but we were warned
- Christmas Eve is much more of a big deal than Christmas day itself! We flew in to Panama at 2am on Christmas morning and the view from the plane was incredible with fireworks in every direction
- Keep an eye out for the butterflies!
- If you do hire a car, petrol is extremely cheap! It cost us about US$30 to fill the tank of our car
Explore Auckland’s Coasts With One Exquisite Walking Hike
There is a wonderful place found in the far southwest of the Pacific Ocean. It is a place called Auckland, and it is found in the amazing terrain of New Zealand. It is a place that commands the attention of over 1 million people who prefer to live and reside in this majestic city.
Did you know that Auckland claims the top spot in New Zealand with its wide range of people and the most concentrated number of people within a city in New Zealand?
But why do so many people come to Auckland, New Zealand, and live there? What do they appreciate the most?
The truth is that the answer may vary, and it may differ from person to person, but it is hard to deny that nature is not a crucial part of their decision making. The beautiful city has fantastic places that offer great adventure and recreational activity.
You can take advantage of the diverse coasts, hidden coves, and more of the northern area in the North Island. It is known for its various boats, and some believe that it has more ships than any other city in the entire world.
It is a city that resides between two large fantastic natural harbors.
Let us find out more about how you can explore this majestic city with one fantastic walking hike.
For those who want to stay near to Auckland’s city and travel well, it is necessary to start your journey with the Auckland Coast’s breathtaking area.
Did you know that Auckland’s coast ranges over 15km, will take over four hours to traverse, and is somewhat challenging to navigate? But the truth is that it is worth it. Why is it worth it? Well, you can seemingly walk the length of an entire nation within the span of a few hours. If you wake up early in the morning and go on this journey, you can finish your hike by noon or an hour past noon.
But in that brief timeframe, you can experience several oceans, notice a slew of volcanoes, and have a glimpse into people’s regular lives in the New Zealand area.
This fantastic walk is excellent because of its duration and because you are able to experience lush greenery and park settings over 30% of the time. It is a great way to clear your head, get to know more about the people you are traveling with, and experience the refreshing Auckland air.
Experts suggest beginning your journey at the less intriguing Onehunga area and then moving forward with public transportation at the Britomart stop. You will find that you can travel east to take in the water sights with a bit of work.
When your walk is over, you can grab a fresh beverage at the Waitemata Harbour, a premium harbor.
You will want to make sure to bring some healthy snacks along for the walk because you may not notice different places to eat as you go on this part of the hike.
It is best to ensure that you understand that you must input the Ferry Building into your mobile device or ensure to use the local municipal iSITE for further guidance.
If you are limited on time, I would suggest that you go on this route because it lets you take in the entire area and understand this excellent place.
Hammock vs Tent Camping
Camping with a hammock is slowly but surely becoming more popular in recent years with new and improved hammock designs being preferred by some campers, compared to the traditional tent.
In this article we will discuss some of the key benefits and drawbacks of sleeping without a tent, and analyze key criteria so that you can choose your preferred shelter choice!
Most tents work well in the rain; however, you’ll need to bring a tarp if you’re using a hammock. Traditional hammocks are not waterproof, and are generally open at the top, allowing water to find itself inside if you don’t have an adequate tarp. Moreover, a decent under quilt is also a good idea so that you can stay warm and cozy during cold and stormy nights.
Packing up your hammock after a long night of rain isn’t too bad, whereas packing up a soaking wet tent is always annoying. You almost always get wet in the process.
For first time campers, pop-up tents are the simplest to setup. All you need to do is find flat ground, and bam, your setup is complete! The beauty of pop-up tents is that you don’t need to worry about figuring out where to insert the poles and erect the tent. Although, traditional tents are usually more robust, and have a longer life span.
Essentially, a tent is simple, but a hammock can become a little more complicated for first timers. You’ll need to find 2 trees facing a good direction and tie each end of the hammock to them. If your hammock setup is too tight, you will generally wake up with sore ancles, but if it’s too loose, you run the risk of the hammock touching the floor, and insects crawling in with you.
If your campground doesn’t have many trees, or if the trees are dead (they could break and injure you), hammock stands come to the rescue! Basically, hammock stands allow you to pitch a hammock if there are no trees nearby. They are portable, adjustable, and are easy to setup. The only drawback is that the ground should be relatively flat, whereas if you were to hang a hammock between 2 trees, there won’t be any stands touching the ground, so a rocky floor wouldn’t be a problem.
One of the main reasons for choosing a hammock is the comfort that it provides you! It has a basically has in-built seat which is arguably more comfortable than a standard blow up mattress. You need to pick your tree’s wisely though! You don’t want a pinecone falling on your face mid-sleep.
If you have constant back pain and find it hard to sleep inside tents, you should give hammocks a try as they cause you to sleep sideways, similar to a banana shape, which a lot people find much more comfortable.
Hammocks are usually lighter and don’t include a wealth of poles and gear that tents do. Depending on the type of hammock that you purchase, they are usually quite similar to tents. You can however, find very cheap tents <$60, but they most likely won’t last long.
A good tent or hammock can cost between $200-500 without accessories. If you need a hammock stand, that will add to your cost, just like a mattress and other tent necessities will to its cost.
Yacht Charter Destination Of The Month: The Middle East
Mysterious and exotic, the Middle East is full of surprises, blending fascinating cultural heritage with stunning contemporary architecture. What’s more, with guaranteed sunshine and warmth, the winter months of November and April are the perfect time to visit. That’s why we’ve made the Middle East our yacht charter destination of the month.
An ideal starting point for your luxury yacht charter, Dubai is famous for its tax-free designer shopping, five-star resorts and world-class gastronomy. Thrill seekers can head into its vast desert for four-wheel-drive adventures across the dunes, while families will love the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, Legoland, or the magnificent water park at Atlantis on The Palm.
Neighbouring Abu Dhabi offers a more relaxed yacht charter destination – here, lovers of art and architecture will appreciate the iconic Louvre Abu Dhabi, which boasts some 9,200 m2 of galleries within its striking contemporary design.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the world’s largest, and its open-door policy encourages visitors from around the world. The elegant Qasr Al Hosn museum, former home of the ruling family, is Abu Dhabi’s oldest standing structure, and displays artefacts dating back to 6000BC.
The understated, hidden gem of the Middle East, yacht charter destination Oman has an abundance of natural beauty, from spectacular mountains and wind-blown deserts to a pristine coastline.
At its northernmost tip, visit the red-hued fjords of the Musandam Peninsula. Action-seekers can admire the rugged Al Hajar mountain range by microlight, while land-based activities include desert sand-boarding, jeep rides and quad biking.
Capital city Muscat is steeped in history, with centuries-old souks where you can pick up fine pashminas, spices and frankincense, or even dazzling jewellery in the Gold Souk.
It is said that diving was invented in Bahrain, and pearl diving is considered the quintessential Bahraini experience. Expect to find up to 30 types of coral and over 200 species of fish, too, making this yacht charter destination ideal for underwater enthusiasts.
Bahrain’s rich trading history is palpable in the Qalat al-Bahrain fort and museum, a registered UNESCO world heritage site. The Bahrain National Museum, found next to the Art and Cultural Centres, blends cultural heritage with contemporary ambience. Or, to indulge in some retail therapy, enjoy a traditional shopping experience at the Manama Souk, selling natural-oil perfumes and incense, fabrics and handicrafts.
The Red Sea is another popular Middle Eastern yacht charter destination due to its year-round sunshine, warm water, coral reefs and incredible dive sites, including one of the world’s best wreck dives, the WWII British cargo ship SS Thistlegorm. In the south, the relatively undiscovered Marsa’ Alam promises incredible shore or beach diving around its natural fringing reef.
Mysterious, timeless and alluring, the Middle East is a yacht charter destination full of contrasts and surprises. Better still, it’s best visited in winter. What are you waiting for?
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
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- Explore Auckland’s Coasts With One Exquisite Walking Hike February 27, 2021
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