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Must sees, experiences, places to stay... Advice!

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Portland
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Must sees, experiences, places to stay... Advice!

My mom and I will be traveling to Panama City mid October. We are taking the first flight from there to Bocas Del Toro, thinking of staying a couple nights on the islands and then working our way back via bus to Panama City for our flight home 8 days later.

We are looking for suggestions on things to see and places to stop along the way from Bocas to Panama City. We are interested in unique (but safe-because it's just us two girls) places to stay, we adore the coast lines so any beautiful little towns that offer cute hotels/hostels and local food and shopping would be awesome!

Any advice you can offer for traveling around by bus would be appreciated. How to get from big towns to little coast towns. We have a few different books on Panama we are reading right now, but would so appreciate advice and ideas from real people that have been and know where to go!

Any other important advice is very welcome too!

Thanks in advance!

Central America
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1. Re: Must sees, experiences, places to stay... Advice!

Its a long haul from Bocas to PC by road (about 12 hours!). Have you considered flying into Bocas? Direct, short, and scenic flights from San Jose CR (which has lots of USA connections).

Panama is generally quite safe. I would not worry much about that, just use common sense.

Bus transport in Panama is very good. Mini buses in good condition with AC service most local routes. Larger buses service major routes like David to PC. Big modern transport terminal in PC.

Edited: 04 August 2014, 01:40
Portland
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2. Re: Must sees, experiences, places to stay... Advice!

Yeah we are flying from PC to bocas the morning after we get into PC and then wanting to bus it back over the course of the rest of our week..

We are wanting to travel 3-4 hours (in the direction of PC) and find somewhere to stop for a night or two, travel 3-4 (again in the same direction) and stop for a night or two and spend the last couple nights in PC.. So we are trying to figure out where to stop along the way back. Wanting things that aren't super touristy but of course safe. This is actually our first fully backpacking trip and we heard panama is pretty generally safe, and that's why we chose it!

Thanks for the info on buses :)

Edited: 04 August 2014, 02:32
Central America
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3. Re: Must sees, experiences, places to stay... Advice!

Lots of options: Boca Chica, Las Lajas, Pedasi area, Santa Fe... Check guide books to see which interest you.

On the bigger buses that run David to PC get a seat on the upper level. Much better view from there.

You will need a combination of local buses and taxis to visit some of these places. Taxis are reasonable in Panama too, but they will try to "gringo" you sometimes so agree on fares up front. Hows your Spanish?

For 3-4 hour travel days you could water taxi/bus from Bocas to Boquete first day. Almarante, where you will depart the water taxi, is a dump, but not dangerous. Beautiful drive over the mountains though so try to get seat w a view. Mini buses and less frequent larger buses run this route. Boquete is a good place to spend some time.

Next on to David (via local mini bus) to catch a bus toward PC. Its a short trip to David from Boquete. David is definately not a tourist town, but a good place to spend the night if your schedule works out that way. Also gives you a chance to see a typical working Central America town. From David you could arrange transport to Boca Chica if that interests you. In October you are likely to see whales in the waters off Boca Chica. We saw dozens when we camped on an island there last year.

Santiago is the next major stop for the larger buses. They usually stop there for a lunch break. From there you could arrange transport to Sante Fe or somewhere on the Pedasi Peninsula. From Santiago its about 3.5 hours to PC.

Google Maps is accurate for Panama so you can investgate routes with it.

We just spent a few days in Casco Viejo...highly recommend it.

Edited: 04 August 2014, 04:20
Portland
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4. Re: Must sees, experiences, places to stay... Advice!

Wow thank you so much for the info. I will check out all those places you mentioned.

Our Spanish is pretty much nonexistent, we can ask for a bathroom, hotel and where to find food but that's about it. I was planning on taking my smartphone with a translator on it, do you think that's a good idea? It does have me a bit nervous though. We traveled through Costa Rica however when we did that my sister came along too who knows a bit of Spanish which helped us a ton.

Central America
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5. Re: Must sees, experiences, places to stay... Advice!

You are reasonably likely to find English speakers in the more popular areas of Panama.

Translators aren't much use on the fly, but are good for checking vocabulary beforehand and practicing your Spanish. Many for phones require Internet connection.

Portland
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6. Re: Must sees, experiences, places to stay... Advice!

Yeah I wasn't too sure about my phone working. Was a bit worried about that, had planned on going to my carrier to talk to them more about that soon.

Thanks again for all the information :) do you know anything about Coronado? Seems expensive and touristy, so I'm not sure if that's a good stop for us. But if it's a great place we may want to check it out for a night?

Atlanta, Georgia...
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7. Re: Must sees, experiences, places to stay... Advice!

Coronado is more of a retirement/weekend community than a tourist location. There are quite a few expats living there. On the weekends, Corornado fills up with Panamanians from the city. Beyond the golf course the high rise condos, the beach club and the strip malls, there isn't much in Coronado.

The lodging will be more expensive than Bocas and Boquete. That's because there are more options and price points in Bocas and Boquete.

As an alternative to Coronado, you might consider El Valle de Anton, which is in the mountains, nearby. El Valle offers hiking trails with beautiful vistas, a small zoo, a botanical garden, zip line, water falls, an ancient pictoglyph and therapeutic mud bath/warm spring.

Portland
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8. Re: Must sees, experiences, places to stay... Advice!

El Valle sounds amazing! Will look into that more :)

Central America
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9. Re: Must sees, experiences, places to stay... Advice!

Re your phone. SIM chips are cheap and readily available here if your phone is unlocked and will be much less expensive than USA roaming. Same chip supports both phone and Internet service.

Portland
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10. Re: Must sees, experiences, places to stay... Advice!

I don't believe it's unlocked, but then again I have no idea.. And I don't know how to check!