I arrived in Bocas Del Toro after a ten-hour bus trip with the air conditioning firmly set to a crisp 12 degrees, 5am taxi ride, half hour wait for the ferry to start up and finally a 20 minute, sunrise boat trip. Despite all this I could immediately tell that I would like it here. Even at 6:30am the laid back Caribbean beach town vibes were unmissable.
The town’s characteristic colourful, clapboard style houses are courtesy of the old United Fruit Company,which originally set up their Panamanian base in Bocas. Incidentally this is the American company responsible for the term ‘banana republic’ – the great wealth and power they gained from growing bananas in several Central American countries led to controversial and benign relationships with governments in the early 20th Century.
Today it’s all about tourism. But, while there are plenty of beach-style activities on offer, I’ve found it’s managed to retain a relaxed, warm atmosphere (all though I did heard a tour guide chasing up some dolphins in his speed boat, which isn’t cool at all).
I spent my mornings at surf lessons, which has been too much even though my arms are now completely stiff and I’ve managed to sunburn my behind. And then of course there are more beaches to explore by taking water taxi’s to adjacent islands. This is Red Frog Beach, framed by tropical forest and the obligatory Caribbean palm fronds and with wild-looking waves and rip tides.