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Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro, Panama with kids

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So. Cal.
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Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro, Panama with kids

My husband and I did the Central/Fortuna/Monteverde/Tamarindo route spring 2006 (no luggage, just a backpack and duffle bag). Spring 2007 we're taking our 9 and (will be) 15 year-old; this time to the Caribbean side(Puerto Viejo, Cahuita). We also want to go to Bocas del Toro. Any suggested routes or where to start and end? We have 9 nights and stuffed backpacks. We really want to get a feel for the way the locals live and nature, wild life (especially sloths and monkeys), beautiful beaches...no fancy resorts...Somewhere nicer then a tent, but NOT Four Seasons. :) Lonely Planet is helpful, but I need more details.

So. Cal.
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21. Re: Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro, Panama with kids

I left this question in a similar forum. To all seasoned CR and Bocas travelers:

Our trip is coming up in March; me, husband, 14 year-old daughter, and 9 year-old son. I'm getting more and more concerned with sand flies, but mainly our neccesities.

We will each have only one backpack per person. Any suggestions on must-haves for 10 days? 3 nights in PV, 3 in Bocas, 3 in Cahuita.



Sacramento, CA
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22. Re: Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro, Panama with kids

I've traveled back and forth from Cahuita to Bocas several times over the past 4 years. As of August, 2005 by Costa Rican immigration law, you must have a copy of your departing ticket from Costa Rica to be granted entry into the country. The only place I've been asked for this is on the Costa Rican border with Panama in Sixaola. You also may be asked to produce proof in the form of cash or credit cards that you have at least $500 per person to spend while in Costa Rica. It's absolutely essential that you cross the border back into Costa Rica before 5PM Costa Rican time when the border closes. There's an hour difference between Panama and Costa Rican time.

On one occasion while traveling with three friends, our taxi boat back from Bocas left late and overheated its motor causing us to arrive on the mainland even later. When we finally arrived at the Panama-CR border, I ran across the train trestle bridge over the crocodile infested Sixaola River back to Costa Rica(you'll soon see why it is very dangerous to do so), and I tried to cross the border at exactly 5:00 PM. I was denied entry into Costa Rica and told I would have to return to Panama or stay in Sixaola overnight. I had the gate to the immigration office shut in my face when I tried to bribe the official. The official yelled at me that he would not accept "ni un cinco" (not a nickle). Costa Rica is not Mexico!

I attempted to drive back through the Fuerza Publica checkpoint anyway, and was threatened with arrest and turned back. I figured it was worth a try. I had to stay the night in Sixaola with my traveling companions. We were eaten alive by mosquitoes!

So, the moral to the story is:

Give the whole travel/border crossing process plenty of time,

Don't try to bribe Costa Rican officials,

Carry a copy of your return plane ticket,

And stock up on mosquito repellent! I suggest the all-natural sprays that double as sunscreen from Avon. Apply it 3X a day, BEFORE going out for breakfast, afternoon, and before going to bed at night especially on the ankles.

As far as where to stay in Cahuita, the Kelley Creek Hotel is right on the beach at the entrance to the park, but there are a lot of cheap cabinas available also. Tell the owner Don Andres a day ahead if you want his famous paella espanola. I highly recommend it. And I would recommend you do the opposite of what one of the previous respondents suggested. Rather than spending every night in Puerto Viejo, and making Cahuita a day trip, I'd make day trips to do things around Puerto Viejo and stay overnight mostly in Cahuita. Puerto Viejo is too touristy for my tastes.

Suggested itinerary:

Day 1 San Jose-Cahuita

Day 2 Cahuita (Sloth Rescue Center & Aviarios tour by boat)

Day 3 Cahuita (Bri Bri Indian Tour or Yorkin Chocolate tour)

Day 4 Cahuita-Bocas

Day 5 Bocas

Day 6 Bocas

Day 7 Bocas-Puerto Viejo

Day 8 Cahuita (Gondoca dolphin tour in morning before leaving for Cahuita)

Day 9 Cahuita-San Jose (stay at Gran Hotel Costa Rica across from National Theatre and see Museo de Oro)

Day 10 Flight to U.S.

Regarding money, I used to go to the bank before leaving the U.S. and ask for $500-$1000 in crisp new 20's, 10's, 5's, and 1's. Costa Ricans automatically suspect the bill as counterfeit if it is old or torn. I say "used to" because you could count on an exact exchange rate being given to you everywhere, but that is no longer the case as of August of 2006. There is no longer an official exchange rate, and a lot of shop owners, taxistias, etc are taking this to mean they can give you any exchange rate they want. I would suggest you bring travelers checks and exchange them in major banks a couple of times. Do not exchange money at the airport. It's by far the worst exchange rate in the country (466 colones per $1 as opposed to 514-518 colones per $! anywhere else in the country as of today). You can use your dollars in Panama because, to my surprise the first time I went there, that's all they use in Panama.

Oh, and finally I can't warn you enough that you must be in San Jose the night before your flight. The weather and road conditions are always unpredictable. The spring may heat up as a big political showdown between the Arias government that wants to pass the Central American Free Trade Association (CAFTA or TLC in Spanish) and the labor unions that have shut down the whole country in past disputes. The Moin dockworkers near Limon have a history of blockading the only road connecting the Caribbean to San Jose. Although it is unlikely this will coincide precisely with your visit, you should keep aware of political developments. Fortunately, Costa Rica is generally a very peaceful, non-violent country where government and labor unions can disagree vehemently and still not shed a drop of blood. Don't worry about violence or unrest; just worry about inconvenience and your only road home being blocked.

And enjoy Costa Rica, the best place in the world for your money!

Jay Redden, Sacramento, California & Cahuita, Limon


Boulder, CO
3 posts
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23. Re: Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro, Panama with kids

look up casa cayuco on the internet. it's a fabulous eco-resort owned by a good friend of mine. they cater to families like you. Jen

24. Re: Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro, Panama with kids

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