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Panama Questions

KelownaKid18

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  • Added on: July 4th, 2010
Hello,

A buddy and I (both 23 year old males) will be starting off our trip in Panama, and then heading south. Would like a few suggestions on what we should see while there and hostel rec's. Also, has anyone traveled by sail boat from Panama to Colombia?
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" and as for traveling alone, f*** it; if that's the way it has to be, then that's the way it is.."

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: July 6th, 2010
KelownaKid18 wrote:Hello,

A buddy and I (both 23 year old males) will be starting off our trip in Panama, and then heading south. Would like a few suggestions on what we should see while there and hostel rec's. Also, has anyone traveled by sail boat from Panama to Colombia?


What are your interests? Some of the highlights are Bocas del Toro (beaches and surfing), Boquete (highland coffee town), Volcan Baru (hiking), Chiriqui coast (beaches), Azuero Peninsula (small towns with strong Iberian feel), Panama City (cosmopolitan city with great restaurants and nightlife), Kuna Yala (gorgeous archipelago with strong indigenous culture) ... Panama is great.

Mamallena Hostel in Panama City has all kinds of recommendations for sailboats to Capurgana and Cartagena. Plan on $350-500 one way. You can also do it by lanchas for about $100, arriving in Capurgana. Do a search on this forum for Puerto Obaldia - I've written about that method of crossing between South and Central America.

KelownaKid18

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  • Added on: July 14th, 2010
Hi,

Our interests are mostly spending time at the beach, maybe a little hiking, surfing, and then partying/enjoying the night life. What would you suggest would be a good route for us to take? We arrive in Panama at the beginning of October, and then head south and need to be in Lima for the the 31st. We'd like to catch a boat to Colombia if the price is right.
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" and as for traveling alone, f*** it; if that's the way it has to be, then that's the way it is.."

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: July 15th, 2010
KelownaKid18 wrote:Hi,

Our interests are mostly spending time at the beach, maybe a little hiking, surfing, and then partying/enjoying the night life. What would you suggest would be a good route for us to take? We arrive in Panama at the beginning of October, and then head south and need to be in Lima for the the 31st. We'd like to catch a boat to Colombia if the price is right.


Assuming you're flying into PTY, how about this: Spend a couple of days in Panama City at the beginning. Nightlife is good here. I'd stay at Luna's Castle, in Casco Viejo, and take taxis out to Calle Uruguay at night. Luna's is a really lively hostel with a popular bar downstairs. I had a great time there in March. Panama City is the only city in all of Central America worth visiting on its own right, and a lot of fun.

From there, you could fly into Bocas del Toro on a cheap domestic flight, and make your way back to Panama City. Bocas is an archipelago on the Caribbean, near the border with Costa Rica. It's quite popular with Panamanians on vacation, as well as foreign surfers. There are a handful of good reef breaks, good scuba diving when visibility is good (not in rainy season), and lots of islands to explore. From Bocas, you could head south to Boquete (highland coffee-growing town with cooler climate) and Volcan Baru (hiking). Then you could check out the Chiriqui coast, which has some excellent beaches, and move on to the Azuero Peninsula, where you'll find cozy Iberian-style villages. Eventually you'll wind up in Panama City again. Check around hostels like Luna's and especially Mamallena for boats taking backpackers to Cartagena. Another option is to head to Colon or Miramar, on the Caribbean, and find a lancha destined for Kuna Yala and Puerto Obaldia. Alternatively, you could take a Aeroperlas flight to Mulatupo, catch a lancha to Puerto Obaldia, and then another to Capurgana, across the border in Colombia. From Capurgana, there are boats leaving every day for Turbo, across the Gulf of Uraba, where the road begins again. From Turbo, it's about 7 hours by road to Medellin.

KelownaKid18

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  • Added on: July 16th, 2010
Thanks Felix, that's a lot of info! Is getting around Panama fairly easy? Ultimately we are going to go with the easiest and least expensive choice when going to Colombia from Panama, I have just heard taking a sailboat is an amazing experience.
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Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: July 16th, 2010
KelownaKid18 wrote:Thanks Felix, that's a lot of info! Is getting around Panama fairly easy? Ultimately we are going to go with the easiest and least expensive choice when going to Colombia from Panama, I have just heard taking a sailboat is an amazing experience.


Getting around Panama is extremely easy, and inexpensive. As for getting from Panama to Colombia, the least expensive is definitely not the easiest. Flying is by far the easiest method - you can get from Panama City to Cartagena or Medellin for $100-150. Look into Aires for the cheapest fares. Sailboats from Colon to Cartagena are $300-500. Lanchas from Miramar or Carti to Puerto Obaldia, via several stops in Kuna Yala (on the border with Colombia), are as little as $50, but this is a brutal and often dangerous 10-hour ride in an open boat.

Piecar

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  • Added on: July 16th, 2010
Unless the prices have changed drastically from when I was there eight months ago, the prices going the OTHER direction from Cartagena, are holding at 250 to 300 dollars. That IS far more expensive than the flight. If the destination is more important than the journey, I'd fly. On the other hand, sailing through the San Blas is a pretty great experience, if you are a "journey" type.

My take on PTY is very different from the Hat's. You can go clubbing on Calle Uruguay and get laid with some other travellers. The rest of PTY is not pretty at all. If you came all this way to go to the Hard Rock Cafe in the American part, you're in luck. Casco Viejo is attractively decrepit, though they're refurbishing fast...And that's good for an afternoon.....You can go to the Canal and that's good for.....shit, it a wonder of engineering, but you're basically watching boats get higher or lower.....an hour. Then you've shot your wad in PTY. I'll never understand what the Hat sees in the place. Two days is about all I can handle in the place.

But I like Panama alot. Great people, beautiful country, cheap beer...(with ice in it though...weird)

GLOT

D
Good Luck Out There.

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: July 16th, 2010
Piecar wrote:I'll never understand what the Hat sees in the place. Two days is about all I can handle in the place.


SUSHI!!!!!!!!!!!!! Both times I've been to PTY have been after days/weeks in the wilderness, and arriving in a real city like PTY after wandering bum-bassackward-sticksville is heaven. In March, I staggered into PTY after an eight-day odyssey from Medellin, via Turbo, Capurgana, Sapzurro, Puerto Obaldia (awful!), Mulatupo, Playon Chico, El Porvenir, Miramar, and Colon. Seeing the skyscrapers on the horizon made me happier than you can believe.

Face it, all other cities in Central America suck, and suck hard. San Jose is a distant number two as far as cities on the isthmus. San Jose only moderately sucks hard, instead of being a terrible horrible awful no-good very bad shithole like San Salvador or San Pedro Sula or Managua. PTY has a nice buzz about it, the skyline is great to look at, and feels like civilization. Granted, it doesn't hold a candle to an awesome outstanding loveable want-to-live-there city like Medellin, but that's not Central America any more.

KelownaKid18

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  • Added on: July 17th, 2010
Thanks for all the info, you've been a huge help. I've read that it can take several days to catch a boat from PTY to Colombia, and if that's the case we may have to fly instead due to time constraints. I guess we will wait and see what happens once we arrive. I am assuming if one had to choose between the San Blas islands and Bocas del Toro, the latter would be the better choice? I am looking for the typical blue waters and white sand beaches you picture when thinking of the Caribbean, possibly some diving but mostly relaxing.
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" and as for traveling alone, f*** it; if that's the way it has to be, then that's the way it is.."

Piecar

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  • Added on: July 17th, 2010
Felix, I do agree. That skyline is pretty good. And some of my greatest pics come from the Casco. I will also allow that, for capital cities, (and I never looked at this way) it's the best in all of CA. Too true. San Jose really IS the distant second. And a REALLY distant second.

Still. To me, I'd prefer PTY over SJO the same way I'd prefer a cold sore over chlamydia.

But again, it's better than David...which is similar to gonorrhea in this scale.

Now. Bocas.....Well, Bocas is a nice place. The beaches on the far side of the island (and you need a bus to get there.) are nice. If you like scuba diving, you're pretty good there. (over in CR, in Viejo, it really ain't that great), but I gotta think the Hat agrees that the San Blas is FAR better than Bocas for beaches and beauty. Bocas tries to style itself an upscale Utila....But I think it's far more affluent than that.

But if you're looking to save money. Take Bocas, (substantially out of the way, on your route. You ain't just popping up there. Look at a Panama map) and then fly.
Good Luck Out There.

busman7

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  • Added on: July 19th, 2010
Tend to agree with Felix, don't think piecar has been to the same PTY, maybe one in another dimension LOL. as for San Jose, it's even worse than Guate or Belize City & that's really bad. Only better city than PTY is BKK IMO!!
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Piecar

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  • Added on: July 19th, 2010
busman, seriously. Guat is a hole. And BZE looks like it's been in a war for thirty years. I gotta think you're the one from another dimension. San Jose is pretty modern compared to those lousy areas.

(And, original poster, I love both Guat and Belize. But those cities are awful. There are many great places in Belize. You won't get that report from the Hat)

All the time I've had the discussion with the Hat about PTY, the thing he brings up is Calle Uruguay. What is it you saw in PTY, busman, that makes you want to spend time there?

Seriously? You equate Panama City to Bangkok? You're really gonna have to explain yourself there, fellow traveller.
Good Luck Out There.

busman7

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  • Added on: July 19th, 2010
On my first trip back (other than 2-3 week vacation) that started in Oct 08 I was looking for a place to retire where there was NO snow, so I did a 6 month exploration trip (by bus)from Puerto Vallarta Mexico to Panama City. Including a couple months in Cuba, followed by another couple months in Antigua Guatemala.

My original thoughts were CR or Panama were at the top of my list. However 2 days in Liberia CR proved 1 too many & when waiting in San Jose a couple hrs to catch my bus to Panama there was a bar next door to the bus stop & the carryings on there at noon were such that I declined to enter it to get lunch. Kind of wanted to be alive when the Panama bus arrived. IMO San Jose is the biggest $hithole in CA, which is going some because as Felix the Hat continually says, ALL the capitol cities in CA are $hitholes, with the exception of PTY where I stayed near Calle Argentia which was also a very nice area with an international array of restaurants in a community setting.

BKK was just voted the best city in the world by one of the travel magazines so no need to comment further on that & IMO PTY is the runner up!!! 8-)
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Piecar

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  • Added on: July 19th, 2010
I would have to say that your explanation for your love of PTY is somewhat lacking. Even the Hat gives better reasons than that they have nice restaurants on one street. I've been there seven times , and have actually gone out of my way to search out things the Hat has mentioned to try to warm to the city. Failed every time.

Which magazine rated Bangkok the best traveller destination? I'd like to read that article.

Listen, OP. If you go into the core of PTY, it's a beat up city full of shops selling low quality goods, gambling bars, and casinos. The community is downtrodden. On your way to the Casco, you have to pass through the original core of the city. It is a grim spectacle. All around (and look up often) are reminders of how beautiful the city was ONCE. But it's on par with San Jose now, down there.

The areas that the Hat and busman are talkin about are in the American section. Malls, and restaurants styled in the American vein. Clubs designed in the American vein. The area is not indicative of life in Panama. The places are filled with young tourists, or the spawn of American businessmen. The prices aren't Latin American prices, they're US prices. Yeah, you can get a Wendy's burger, or some sushi, but SHIT! Is that why you went there? If you went all the way down there to live American, you should have gone to Cancun.

Hey, everybody travels different. I make an effort to talk to local people over other travellers, when I can. I know lots of other travellers who seek out fellow travellers to spend time with while they look around in various places. They congratulate each other on their gravitas for travelling to this far off land. They talk to each other, and so never have to feel the embarrassment of struggling through the local language. I don't see the point of it, but perhaps you do. If you want that kind of travelling experience, go to PTY and hang out in the American section. Take a cab through the blown out downtown and walk through the Casco. Because, between the American clubs and restaurants on one side of town and the Casco, there is nothing but folks trying to get along.

Also, Twain was wrong. Adventures don't find you. The man was an adventurous spirit and so his experience perhaps led him to believe that. You have to be looking for adventure to find it. People with no adventure in their heart can turn away from the opportunity easily...and often without even knowing it was there for them in the first place.
Good Luck Out There.

busman7

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  • Added on: July 19th, 2010
Well I guess I, like Mark Twain must be lucky then as adventures seem to find me, can't speak for Mark as he passed on before I (Or you) were around---yes I struggle with Spanish but at least I manage to communicate, also with Russian, Thai, Indonesian etc---the link you requested is; http://www.travelandleisure.com/worlds/2010/cities

It's really a good thing we all don't think alike as there is no danger of my ever meeting you in San Jose (the absolute worst $hithole in the world or Bangkok, the worlds best city!!
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