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Waterfalls and surfing in Panama

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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!

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro

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!

Howling Monkey

Howling Monkey

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.

At a waterfall with our Venezuelan friends that is walking distance from Venao Cove Hostel

At a waterfall with our Venezuelan friends that is walking distance from Venao Cove Hostel

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.

Point break at Santa Catalina

Point break at Santa Catalina

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!

Car ferry arriving at Bocas del Toro

Car ferry arriving at Bocas del Toro

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.

The large swell was creating mini islands on the beach/road at Bocas del Toro

The large swell was creating mini islands on the beach/road at Bocas del Toro

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!!

Panama - Bocas del Toro storm

Sand went everywhere!!

Stormy swells during January 2015 in Bocas del Toro

Stormy swells during January 2015 in Bocas del Toro

Panama - Bocas del Toro ow with large ears

Biggest ears on a cow we’ve ever seen!

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!

Large starfish at Bocas del Toro

Large starfish at Bocas del Toro

El Valle

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’.

El Valle - Punte Mama Chea natural pool

El Valle – Punte Mama Chea natural pool

San Blas

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.

View of Panama Canal from the Miraflores Visitor Center

View of Panama Canal from the Miraflores Visitor Center

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!

Sunset while watching the surfers at Santa Catalina

Sunset while watching the surfers at Santa Catalina

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.

Butterfly in Santa Catalina

Butterfly in Santa Catlina

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

 

Since May 2014, Rebecca has been wearing out her jandals. She loves anything that involves the ocean whether it be scuba diving, wakeboarding, jet skiing or more recently - sailing! Consider following her via RSS Feed, Twitter and Facebook.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Erika

    February 10, 2015 at 8:10 AM

    We loved Panama too, and found it a very rewarding and beautiful destination. Too bad you didn’t make it to San Blas, but at least it leaves something for next time…!

    • Rebecca Barlow

      February 11, 2015 at 11:40 AM

      Wow your blog post about San Blas Islands makes me regret not going there. But yes, it certainly leaves a reason to go back to Panama!

  2. Saiful Islam Khan

    February 11, 2015 at 11:36 PM

    What can I say 🙂 I just fascinated seeing whose I didn’t find anywhere else. Especially I liked El Valle – Punte Mama Chea Natural Pool, it was just awesome! 🙂 And yes, it was my first too seeing biggest ears cow though I wish if I could see in real glance 🙂 Thanks Rebecca Barlow for writing & sharing such this huge post!

    Best regards,
    Saiful

  3. arvind

    February 12, 2015 at 1:04 AM

    Waterfalls is realy the natural entertainment.

  4. Katie Featherstone

    February 20, 2015 at 12:16 AM

    Panama sounds like such a beautiful country- I’d really love to get back to Central America one day! Bocas del Toro looks amazing. 🙂

    • Rebecca Barlow

      February 20, 2015 at 10:56 AM

      Hi Katie,

      Yes Bocas del Toro is very beautiful! You will have to go one day 🙂

  5. Amy

    May 21, 2015 at 9:45 PM

    I love Panama. It really a beautiful place. Thank you for your blog.

  6. Sam

    May 22, 2015 at 7:13 PM

    Panama seems to be a cool place to be and being a surfer I am sure I will enjoy its beaches. Thanks for the advice tough I will carry my board.

    • Rebecca Barlow

      May 26, 2015 at 6:56 AM

      Hi Sam, you will have a great time surfing there. Apparently Costa Rica is great for surfing too

  7. Johannes

    May 23, 2015 at 2:37 AM

    There are some beautiful places in the world and again panama is added to my list i will defiantly put it under my top 15 .. Great post love the phots.

    • Rebecca Barlow

      May 26, 2015 at 6:53 AM

      Thanks Johannes, it is certainly an amazing place to visit 🙂

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Adventure Travel

Yacht Charter Destination Of The Month: The Middle East

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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.

What makes the Middle East such an exciting yacht charter destination?

Dubai: Glamour and shopping

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.

Abu Dhabi: Art and architecture

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.

Oman: An understated gem

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.

The Kingdom of Bahrain: Home of diving

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: Reefs, diving and beaches

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?

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Adventure Travel

Hiking Adventures in Bryce Canyon National Park

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If you are on the lookout for the perfect environment for an adventurous and challenging hike, look no further. Located in the Southern Utah region is the best park that is most suitable for your hiking adventure, the Bryce Canyon National Park. This is a great option to relaxed after you are through playing in $5 minimum deposit casinos.

This park hosts hike lovers from time to time and people even come from other countries in the world to experience the wonder of this park. The landscape and beautiful trails make this a choice venue. There is a rental service at this location if you love to stay behind.

You can enjoy the priceless glimpse of the sunrise and sunset from the different landscape. The part also permits visitors to create traditional camps at different locations for a more adventurous experience.

There are a couple of trails that you can choose from for your hiking adventure, and no matter your level of experience in hiking, you will find a track that matches your taste. Even if you are totally new to hiking, there is something for you at the Bryce Canyon National Park . Below is a list of some of the trails to try when you take a trip to this park.

The Rim Trail

This is the most accessible trail at Bryce Canyon National Park. It is suitable for those who just want to have a good time walking around and savoring the magnificent scenery of the park. From any part of the park, you can connect to this trail as it goes all the way around the park.

When lodging at the Bryce Canyon Lodge, it is a good idea to start your hike from the place known as the sunrise point. Just as the name implies, if you wake up early to start your walk, you’ll be able to watch the sunrise. If you have a camera with you, you’ll take some fantastic pictures.

Also, you’ll get a clear view of the Bryce amphitheater from this point. Just like in an adventure movie, you have to find a way to link up to boat Mesa, and on your way, you walk through some sites like the Mormon temple and Queen garden. This hiking trail is easy, and all you have to deal with is a total of approximately 200 feet elevation. You will surely have a nice time on this trail.

Navajo Loop Trail

On the order of difficulty, this trail comes next after the rim trail. The starting point of this trail begins from the sunset point around the southern area of the Bryce Canyon Lodge. Just like for the rim trail, the trail presents a nice view of the sunset, and with a good camera, you’ll be able to take exciting photo shoots.

Walking this route involves a visit to the Silent City, which is an aesthetic combination of limestone and urban expansion. During the hike, you will also walk through Wall Street, which happens to be a distinctive attraction at the Bryce Canyon park. You won’t ever want to miss the narrow walls. From this point, you may decide to go back to the sunset point or take other shorter hikes like the Peekaboo loop trail and Queen garden trail. Both routes are challenging and adventurous, but you will enjoy every bit of the challenge. After you have done this, you can then go ahead to have some fun in a $5 minimum deposit casino.

Mossy Cave Trail

This Trail presents an entirely different sight than the one that we have previously mentioned. From this trail, you will be able to catch the view of the towers in the park nearby without descending to the amphitheater. This hiking course begins at approximately 4 miles from the entrance to the Bryce Canyon park. However, if you visit this park and would like to enjoy something completely different from the other common tracks, then this is an exciting hiking trail for you to try.

Hiking is more than a walk, it is a fun and adventurous experience. All trails at the Bryce Canyon National Park are worth trying on your next visit. Whether you seek to have some fun or you just want to catch some beautiful scenery and feel close to nature, you will find the right place that suits you. Get ready to have an amazing hiking experience.

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Adventure Travel

Tips Before Sending Christmas Photo Cards

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Finally, it is that time of the year! You are excited that you can gift shop for your family and friends, and maybe even spend time with them. Sending them a Mixbook Christmas photocard is a unique way of letting them know how much you value and care for them, especially with the Christmas spirit.

Below are some tips to keep in mind before mailing them the photo cards.

Take a Photo-shoot

Nothing beats the joy of a casual and fun family photo-shoot in matching outfits for the holiday season. You can also play around with different fun themes and ideas for your family photo card. For instance, you can have a matching pajama party theme and take amazing photos.

On the other hand, you can also try out a Santa theme photo-shoot, with matching red trousers, complete with the white beard, black boots, and red hats. Have fun while at it! Remember, a high-quality photo with happy faces can spruce up your holiday cards. Plan the shoot in advance to avoid the last-minute rush trying to capture a perfect angle.

Confirm Addresses

It will be sad to go the extra mile, customizing holiday photo cards only for your friends and family not to receive them. Before mailing the photo cards, kindly ensure you have the right address on the envelopes.

Additionally, you can include a mail-back address for your recipients if they need to send one to you. Seal up your envelopes and also include holiday stamps to add a unique style.

Find Your Design

Your Christmas card design plays a significant role in the general outcome of the card. The plan includes different aspects such as size, colors, format, and foil options. You can also play around with different trim options and photo orientations before settling on the final outlook. Mixbook photo cards can help you create suitable, fun, and engaging designs for your loved ones. Plus, you can experiment with different designs.

Return Favors

Have The Joneses been sending you holiday photo cards for the last three years and you haven’t mailed them one? Now it will be a perfect time to return the favor. It’s courteous and mindful of people who appreciate you and your family. Let them know that you also love and think about them.

Be Unique

Many people will send out holiday photo cards. However, what will make yours stand out? Select your photos and incorporate a unique design to complete the look. Additionally, you can also hand write the address of the envelopes with your recipient’s names.

You can also include a special event that happened during the year. Share the moment with your family. Moreover, let every personality in your family stand out in the photo.

Additionally, think of the personalized messages you can send to your family. Think outside the box and let your photo card express what you feel. However, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, ignoring limits of your budget. Be you: that is all that counts in the end.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe 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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