Into Panama and Bocas del Toro

We were excited to move onto Panama and get closer to the canal!  Panama is a little bit cheaper than Costa Rica, but not by much.  Panama has a great economy with the canal and it’s cities and towns were a treat to visit.

Our first stop was Bocas del Toro, a collection of islands in the northwestern part of the country.  We had to drive to a small town called Almirante, leave our car parked securely, and then hitch a water taxi over to the islands.  Bocas del Toro has some great beaches, surfing, yummy food, and cheap drinks.  What more could you ask for?!

I loved hopping from island to island with water taxis, it’s always a unique experience.  We ended up visiting Red Frog Beach on the island of Bastimentos and had a wonderful beach day.  Not crowded at all and enjoyed some awesome surf, swimming, and lounging.

The island is also home to the poisonous red dart frog which lived in the jungles.  We didn’t see any in the wild while we were there, but there were little kids roaming around the beach with pouches made of big leaves with little red frogs in them.  They were walking around trying to get money from tourists for pictures of the red frogs.

Bocas del Toro was beautiful and friendly.  Definitely a must see in Panama for sure.

Pura Vida en Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

We were happy to roll into Puerto Viejo after a long few days of driving through Costa Rica. We had meant to stop at Volcán Arenal for some lava exploration, but unfortunately the volcano has been inactive for 2 years, about the time our guide book was written. Darn.

So we breezed through the country and made it to the opposite Caribbean coast to Puerto Viejo. We had heard lots of great things about Puerto Viejo including reading about it in a book our great friend from back home, Ryan, gave us called “In Search of Captain Zero” so we were excited to stop in and check out the small surf town.

We stayed in a unique hostel called Rocking J’s and were warmly welcomed by the owner of the attached bar, Gabriel. We had a blast the first night there partying, playing pool, and chatting with other travelers.  The entire hostel was covered with mosaic artwork and paintings and had a hammock hotel just feet away from the surf and sand.

Here is a cool dragon sculpture eating a snake sculpture they had guarding the front gate.

Unfortunately, during the first evening, we ventured out into town to get a snack and ended up getting food poisoning from it. We were out of commission for 2 days and still weren’t back to 100% by the time we finally left later on. After we felt better, we managed to have a really great time checking out the town, going to the beach which was only a few hundred feet away, and being artistic while I painted a mandala mural above the reception area.

Puerto Viejo is also home to the famous “Salsa Brava” surf spot.  It’s notoriously dangerous and for expert surfers only.  The locals name it the “Cheese Grater” as a wipe out here could result in getting badly scrapped up by the reef below the waves.  We decided to leave Salsa Brava to the experts and enjoyed some beach combing at the reefs near the hostel instead.

It was fun to stop over in Puerto Viejo for a few days and if you love the Pura Vida surfer bum vibe, definitely check out Puerto Viejo.


More Mandala Painting, Costa Rica Style

Pura Vida!

After getting into Puerto Viejo, we noticed that Rocking J’s was covered in mosaic and painted art so we inquired about doing another painting somewhere in the hostel in exchange for them letting us pitch our tent for free.  The bar owner, Gabriel was excited to have another artist contribute to the hostel and invited us in with open arms.

We stayed for 5 or so nights while I painted a large mandala mural just above and to the right of the main reception area.  I was thrilled to be painting such a large area that I knew a lot of people would be able to see and enjoy the work.

Everyone there loved it and I had a great time painting it.  Here is the finished mural.

And here are some work in progress pictures.  Behind the white is a sun that was painted by two separate artists that never finished their work.  3rd time’s a charm!  And yes, I had to sit and stand on top of a refrigerator while I painted :)  Steve also helped me paint the upper left corner as I couldn’t reach.

Lake Arenel and Volcano Brewing Company, Costa Rica

We were sad to finally leave San Juan del Sur, but were excited to move on with our adventures.  Our next stop was of course Costa Rica.  We had heard and read of a few good things to do in Costa Rica, but upon entering we discovered the prices were extremely high compared to what we had been used to for so long in Nicaragua and El Salvador.  Costa Rica really started to break our bank so to speak and we decided to do what we wanted as fast as we could and get the heck out of the country and onto Panama before we spent too much.

One of the first stops we made was Lake Arenal near the famous Volcán Arenal which was supposedly still an active volcano with lava flows and everything.  On the drive there we drove around beautiful Lake Arenal and ended up seeing a really inviting sign along the road “Volcano Brewery: Microbrewery of Costa Rica 100 meters ahead”


We pulled the car into Volcano Brewing and raced in mouths watering for some great tasting beers.  We were not disappointed.  They had a great small selection of various beers and each one was really good.  I preferred the Witch’s Rock Pale Ae myself, and Steve favored the Gato Malo Dark Ale.  We discovered they had a great deal with an all you can drink and all you can eat for $89 per person if you stayed in the hotel for the night and after a few beers we caved and treated ourselves.  So much for saving money in Costa Rica!  We enjoyed the Jacuzzi, Foosball table, and pool table all night while drinking some delicious beer with a beautiful view of Lake Arenal.

Volcano Brewing Company and Hotel is highly recommended if you have some extra bucks to spare and you love some good beer.   Cheers!

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