© 2012 . Alle Rechte vorbehalten. Iguana - San Blas

Panama / Costa Rica / Caymans

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My days in Cuba came to an end and I was about to meet Alida and Amrei for our four week trip through Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. We would start in Panama City and work our way north. Since the direct flight was twice as expensive I booked a flight via the Cayman Islands with an overnight stay. Should not be too hard to find a cheap bed for the night, right? WRONG! Even with a lot of help from Max I was not able to find anything cheaper than $100 a night. Screw this I thought and messaged a couple of people on Couchsurfing to find a place to crash last minute. Unfortunately no one replied and I would the plane not knowing where I could spend the night. My last resort was just staying at the airport but not having slept that much after the crazy salsa party with Isnoel I was not keen on this.  I took a private cab to the airport (it’s max 15 CUC from central Havana to the airport if anyone charges you more, they screw you over!) since public transport to the airport is horrible and I don’t like bringing all my belongings on those buses. But as always when you are in a hurry you get stopped by police and we had to wait for what felt like forever but was actually more like 15 minutes before we could continue. The driver did not trust my information on which terminal I would depart from nor did he trust the confirmation emails I got from the airline so he literally walked me into the terminal until he saw the flight number and destination on the screen.

Grand Cayman Airport

At the airport I still had a couple of CUCs left which I decided not to change to US dollars but to spend on Havana Club and cigars. After a pretty uneventful flight I landed on Grand Cayman an hour later. Seeing all the other people on the plane I was quite sure this was not a backpacker destination. So when I walked up to immigration I asked the immigration officer the closing time of the airport. Around 9 o’clock. Fuck. Overnight on a bench in front of the airport it is then. In a momentary laps  of genius I ask him if he knew anyone who is on couch surfing and would host a stranded backpacker. He looks at me with that ‘is that guy serious?’ look on his face, thinks for a second, smiles and says: I guess you could crash at my place, I just have to check with my girlfriend, but it should be alright. So four hours later when he got off work I am at his place, have this huge couch to sleep on, they serve me pizza, coke and we watch a movie. The next morning gets even better since his girlfriend has to go to work about the same time I have to go to the airport he picks the two of us up and I have a ride to the airport as well. Good times and thank you so much, Dave!


On my way to Panama

The two-hour flight to Panama City was bumpy. But still, even when your plane drops like 100m in a split second and people start screaming, even then you DON’T CLAP FOR THE CAPTAIN! You should send a long thank you email to the friggin genius engineers at Boeing, Airbus and to the heirs of the Lloyd brothers for all their hard work to keep you safe! Most people, including me, probably don’t know this but as a tourist who comes to Panama you get 30 days of free health insurance. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me! If they had this in every country I would save a lot of money :) Amrei, Alida and Ricardo pick me up from the airport. Ricardo is a Panamanian who Amrei met on couchsurfing. He lived in Germany for a couple of years, speaks great German, even better English and Spanish of course. From the airport we go straight to the Panama Canal. Reading this blog you must think I am in love with engineers but wow the did a great job especially considering the time it was build. The guys at the canal love it, too. When the gate opens and the ship passes through you have a commentator on speaker who gets really excited about the entire project and you just hope they don’t start playing “We are the champions”.


Alida, Amrei and me at the panama canal

Afterwards we go to Ricarco’s parents place who are incredibly nice and give us our own room with our own bathroom. His mom even cooked for us. We really get the executive treatment on this trip! Also we meet Ross. Ross is the family dog who, as Ricarco’s dad puts it, is ‘special’. Not just because he likes to be fed by spoon or hides in the shower when it rains, he also has the biggest balls in the world. Literally. He developed his own zick-zack way up the stairs so his balls would not constantly clash against the stone. Can’t be the nicest feeling in the world. The next morning at 5:00h Ricardo drops us off at Luna’s hostel where we are being picked up for our trip to San Blas. Did I mention Ricardo is awesome like that? Thanks again dude! What we did not know is that they would basically not start driving to San Blas until about 9am. Sucks. In the car we meet an English couple who wants to go to the same island as us and a Canadian guy who tells us a story about a dutch/german couple from the hostel who had to spend a night in jail because they were kissing in the park in front of the president’s residence. Sucks to be in love in Panama I guess.


Iguana – San Blas

The gods were good to us in Iguana which is the name of our island in San Blas. Two days without any rain during the day, lots of sun and some minor clouds to cool you down every once in a while. Which is exactly what you need on an island about the size of a football field with nothing to do but relax on the beach, snorkel, swim, crack coconuts and get burned. This is paradise. For two days. Then it it probably hell on earth because there is only so much coconut in the world you can take. But those two days we had our perfect Robinson Crusoe get-away experience. If I ever go back to San Blas I will take food though. Breakfast was a slice of bread with an egg, lunch two spoons of rice and half a fish, dinner the same. Good thing we brought the rum from Cuba. But we did not even need it. Everyone is still sitting down for dinner when a Kuna (the tribe that lives on the islands) sits down and asks us if we are interested in some Kuna stories. Of course we are! Since he does not speak English, a Spanish couple translates everything he says. First thing he does is give away beer. Which is very confusing for everyone since all the owners of the island try to do is rip us off. After he is done with his stories and most people have gone to bed it is just Pacifico (we think that is his name), the English couple and us. While we are having this really great Spanglish conversation he continues to just give us beer and we ask him again if he is sure that the beer is free. Yes, Yes, he has never done this before but really likes it and he wants us all to be drunk. Perfect. Suddenly he turns to Amrei, whose name he pronounces ‘Ama-rey’, and asks her if her name really is ‘Ama-rey’. He giggles, apologizes and explains by showing with his fingers that ‘Ama’ in the Kuna language means ‘vagina’. Everyone starts laughing, he keeps apologizing and it does not take long before Amrei’s new nickname ‘vagina-king’(Rey = king) is born.

Sunset @ Iguana (San Blas)


The next day we basically spend like the first one. Sun, beach and coconuts. But we decide to go on the snorkeling trip with the English couple and a german/dutch couple who later turn out to be the couple from the hostel. Also it turns out they did not just kiss. Maybe Panama is not so bad after all. The snorkeling trip takes us to a shipwreck which was really nice but the amazing part is the island where it is located. It is called ‘Isla del perro’ which means dog island. We thought our island was paradise. We were wrong. This is what dreams are made of. Unfortunately I did not bring my camera so this piece of magic I cannot show you. Dog island can only accommodate self-caterer but it definitely is possible to stay there! We spend way too much time on dog island and the tour ends up not going to the other places we were supposed to but in perfect Spanglish everyone gets at least a free drink at the bar. Unfortunately, although he promised to be there again, Pacifico is a no-show. The probably don’t let him on the island ever again since he stole all their beer and ruined their bar business.

On our way to Boquete


Back in Panama City Ricardo picks us up at the hostel again and we drive to the bus terminal to get overnight tickets to Boquete. Before we later board the bus we already know from stories that you should always bring a sweater and maybe a blanket on those air conditioned buses. But we still did not expect temperatures of 5°. Why do they do it? Noone seems to like it. Everyone is shivering, using thick blankets or in Amrei and Alida’s case a sleeping bag. It was not just the temperature in the bus though. I really hit the jackpot. Leg room basically non-existent, a pregnant woman behind me who refuses my right to recline my seat, and two heavily overweight ladies in front and next to me. For every centimeter that I cannot move my seat the lady in front of me magically pushes her three close to me so that I am able to smell her hair. A truly magnificent six hour bus ride, I can tell you. Worst thing about it is that I somehow manage to lose my sleeping mask and can’t find it anymore.


Bocas del Toro

There is not much to say about Boquete. We go to the shittiest hot springs ever, hitchhike our way back and find out that you should only go up the volcano for the sunrise which we refuse to do because of our lack of sleep. So after only one day in Boquete we leave town for Bocas del Toro, a group of islands again at the Caribbean side of Panama. The 4h bus ride takes us to the ferry and half an hour on the boat later we arrive on Bocas Island. We booked our hostel in advanced and find our way to “Hosteluego”, a very nice and cozy hostel off the main road. Here you can relax on a big couch or just chill in the hammocks. If you ever go to Bocas, make sure you stay here. Very close to the action but yet totally quite with the most awesome host, Alex, from Washington D.C. Every Wednesday and Saturday there is a big party at a place called “Aqua” which is a 1 minute boat ride from the main island. It is a hostel which is built right at the waterfront with water swings and pools. We got there around midnight and the party was already going crazy. After a couple of rum cola I was dared by a girl to go swimming. As a fellow klasher I could not refuse, took of my pants (why didn’t I go in my swimsuit?) and my shirt and put in on the table. Five minutes later we come back and gone are my shorts. Since the party wasn’t over yet the ‘I don’t give a ****’ phase kicked in and I continued partying in my shirt and underwear. The next two days consisted of going to beaches, snorkeling and relaxing before we left Bocas for Costa Rica. The border itself is worth a travel since it consists of an old railroad bridge. Especially if you are afraid of heights (like me) and realize that you can look all the way down to the bottom :)

Crossing to Costa Rica


Our first (and basically only) destination in Costa Rica was Cahuita, a laidback town in the south-eastern part of the country. Some might even call it boring. We did. Our hostel was one of the shittiest places I have ever seen. Recommended in Lonely Planet we thought it would be a good choice. The kitchen was disgusting, the matraces barely existing, two fans for a 5 bed dorm but they had some nice hammocks in the garden. What was even worse than the hostel were the prices in Costa Rica. We spent $18 on some water, insect repellent and bread. After this shock we decided to just spend one night in Cahuita and then actually head off to Nicaragua and skip the country entirely. So the next morning we packed our bags, stored them at the hostel and went to Cahuita National Park. On our 3h hike we saw monkeys, snakes, tons of land crabs, spiders and a sloth! We left Cahuita for San Jose, almost got tricked by our cab driver to the hostel (the hostel ended up paying extra for us though) and left for San Juan Del Sur in Nicaragua early the next morning.

Cahuita National Park