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The Long Haul

Making your way from Bocas del Toro to Panama City (Panamá) is a long journey, and one we thought was best to be broken up. We decided to break in Boquete for two days and enjoy a bit of down time, relaxing at a local hostel. It’s a mountainous area with lush landscapes, waterfalls, hiking trails, and Barú Volcano. At 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) above sea level, the climate in Boquete is quite cool, making it a popular destination for retirees and tourists alike. The residents of the small town are so polite and friendly, that spending even just a short amount of time amongst them, makes you intensely appreciate their way of community. Wandering the streets day or night, is entirely safe and very quiet. Though we didn’t get up to much, there are some seemingly exciting tours on offer in town. There is a hike up the volcano that begins in the earliest hours of the day and ends with watching the sunrise from the top. If you’re a big spender, there are jeep tours of the volcano available as well. We did consider the “forgotten waterfalls tour” that includes three waterfalls along a hiking trail that boasts major bird watching opportunities. And if you’re up for a bit of a journey, there are hot springs nearby for ultra relaxation. If you’re making this same trek from Bocas to Panama City, and would prefer a little bit more of a lively stay, nearby David offers nightlife and far more tourists with higher chances of meeting locals that speak English. With a 7 hour bus ride ahead of us to Panama City, we decided on the quieter of the two in an effort to re-charge after our diving adventures in Bocas, aka we’re super old.

After our lengthy transport into the Capital City, we were delighted to find ourselves still quite familiar with it, from our two day stop over in December of last year. With it’s recreationally charged waterfront trail, to it’s skyscrapers, subway line, financial hub, nightlife, restaurants, and marina, it is by far the most developed city in Central America. The waterfront trail is double-laned for walking/jogging and cycling/skating etc., and is surrounded by enclosed soccer fields, mini parks, attractions like the Panama sign, and a fantastic view of the skyline. It’s quite romantic for a lovebird stroll as well. The subway line, the first in Central America, was completed in 2014 and the city is now working on Line 2. It's almost impossibly cheap fare, makes it the perfect way to get around the city, paired with a bus here and there; after purchasing a $2 metrocard, you can load it for use on both. The subway costs .35 cents per ride and the bus costs .25 cents; such a bargain! The Marina, though incredibly also very ugly. The grossly polluted seafoam that sits at the surface of the water and surrounds the boats was a real turn off from an otherwise perfectly scenic area.

After exploring for several days, we came to the conclusion that if Toronto, Ontario and Miami, Florida met and had a beautiful lovechild its name would be Panamá. The Panama Canal, it’s most famous attraction, really is something you should see in your lifetime. The monstrosities that are ocean liners seen up close and personal, can leave one awestruck at the marvel that is this major man made achievement. It’s complex and torrid history is equally impressive. The Miraflores locks gives you a great look at both. You can enter the museum, and watch a 3D film as well as watch the locks in action from the viewing deck for $15 USD per person. Orrrr you can do what we did and get free tickets to enter the restaurant (you don’t actually have to go to the resto) and just waltz over to the viewing deck with your packed lunch. The announcer there gives you free information on the history, and a quick google search can quench any remaining curiosities. The deck does get very busy, and ships pass through on a staggered schedule, so do leave yourself plenty of time as you may have to wait patiently to get a good view. We managed to capture the entire process from start to finish, which you can view below.

Panama City is a great place to break up beach stays and get a little luxury going, maybe even hit up some casinos, do a little shopping, and stop for some otherworldly cuisine like sushi! It’s a reprieve of sorts when doing a long haul trip, ironic as that may be. When you live in a major city, getting to the beach is sometimes all you think about, but in the reverse, it’s often nice to take a break from extremes of small town/beach town living. Considering it was our last stop in Central America, it was the perfect way to wrap, and left us fully recharged before starting our South American adventure. Colombia, here we come!

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