After spending a whirlwind of a day on December 8th, we were taking the 6:30 AM Panama Air flight out of PC to Bocas del Toro the next morning. We had hired Benny once again to pick us up from our hotel at 5:30 AM to bring us to the Allbrook Airport and as usual, he was right on time :). At this point, D and I are pretty sure we do not want to make Bocas our permanent home but we had read so many wonderful things about Bocas that curiosity got the best of us, and we just had to check it out. If nothing else, it would be three days of R & R.
We booked our three night stay at the Bluff Beach Retreat on the main island of Isla Colon and this place did not disappoint. It is about a 20 minute taxi right from the main town. The road starts out fine, with good pavement, then gradually starts to decline, turning into beach, then sand gravel, then pebble, then sand/gravel again but in the end we arrived safe and sound. We had breakfast ready for us when we arrived which was a nice touch.
Our first day we decided just to stay put and enjoy the pool/beach and relax – we were ready for some R & R and that is what we did! On our second day we decided (or should I say I decided, D wanted to take a cab) to use the bikes that were supplied by the B & B and take a ride into Bocas town for the day. We were told that this ride would take about 1/2 hour. So we picked two bikes from the choice of 10 or so that they had, grabbed a lock and headed out. The first part of the road/trail is nice sand so the ride was pretty smooth. However, when we hit the pebbly part of the path, things got pretty rough and my chain fell off, not once, not twice, but three times! By the third time, we had been biking for about 20 minutes and hadn’t even hit the beach part of the road, so we knew we had a ways to go yet. My hands were getting pretty oily at this point from always having to replace the chain and D, well let’s just say he wasn’t happy but I wanted to keep going – we had come this far already hadn’t we, we couldn’t turn back now!?! I won that discussion again and onward we went. After a few more minutes of biking I happen to look down into my basket and notice that the key had fallen out of the lock that we were supposed to use to lock the bikes up in town! Uh oh – D is not gonna be happy about this! Needless to say, we did turn back at this point (and found the key along the way I might add!!) and decided to just stay put for another day at the B&B. It was a beautiful spot after all!
On day three we decided to do a horseback ride. The owner of the B&B also has a farm and does trail rides and his horses needed to be ridden so we were offered a half-price deal. We were told we would most likely see sloths and howler monkeys. The ride in total took about 2 1/2 hours and we had a great time. At the end of the ride before we headed back we took a swim in a lagoon and on the way back saw a sloth (we had seen a couple already during our stay here but this one was in plain view). Unfortunately, we didn’t see any howler monkeys. After talking to the B&B owner he said that he hadn’t seen them in over two months which was very unusual – hmmm :(.
Now you may be wondering where we had lunch and dinner during our three day stay. Glad you asked. About a five minute walk down the beach there are two beach bars. The 2nd one came highly recommended so this is where we headed! We loved this little beach bar, so much that we ended up having all of our lunches and suppers here (although I have to admit I was ready for a change of cuisine after three days – lol). Every one of our meals ran in the range of 20 dollars which included a menu item for both of us along with 3 drinks each.
As our three day excursion to Bocas del Toro was coming to a close, we thought we would not be seeing howler monkeys after all (oh well at least we got to see a few sloths) when low-and-behold, the B&B owner started calling us and wouldn’t you know it, a troop of howler monkeys made their way to the Bluff Beach Retreat! There were literally dozens of them right over our heads. We watched with fascination as they made their way from tree to tree but were warned not to stand right under them, for they will literally put their hand up their butt and throw their feces down at you for fun – thankfully they weren’t in a “playful” mood while we watched.
The next morning was checkout day. At about 5:00 AM we heard this “awful, screeching kind of roar from literally right outside our door”. The best way to describe it would be the sound of a lion in pain. As it turns out, these were the howler monkeys!!! Yikes – now I know why they are called howler monkeys. What a perfect way to end our stay in Bocas, not only seeing the monkeys but waking up to them as our alarm before we headed out!
Our next destination was to Boca Chica. There are no flights from Bocas to David yet (although we were told that they are going to start these flights in January), so we had two options – take a local bus (which is about 5$ each) or hire a private taxi ($120). We decided to take a taxi and had the owner of the B&B set us up. We had to take a taxi back into Bocas town where we had to then board a water taxi to Almirante where our final chariot awaited us. The drive from Almirante to David was about 3 1/2 hours and it is a beautiful scenic drive through the mountains and it was nice having our own personal tour guide. We had the driver drop us off at the David Airport where we had a rental car waiting for us. Next stop – Rincon Beach Estates beach house in Boca Chica.