Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fall Break

For Fall Break, the both of us and one more student on the trip went to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and Bocas del Toro in Panama. I was really excited leading up to the trip because I had never been to the Caribbean side of the country before and I heard that it was especially beautiful. Everyone who spoke of Puerto Viejo gave it raving reviews despite its less savoury reputation. The plan was to stay in Puerto Viejo for 3 nights, spend 2 days in Bocas del Toro, and then return to Puerto Viejo for 2 more nights, but stay a little further outside of town near Playa Cocles. The first few nights in Puerto Viejo were a little less comfortable than I had hoped, and our ´bungalow´ felt more like a sauna, but despite the poor living situation we managed to have a lot of fun. There is a lot of reef near Puerto Viejo, but not the live kind, just the rocky and obnoxious king. We were able to find Playa Negra fairly close to our hotel, which is without reef, thanks to the help of a friendly local. Puerto Viejo was extremely laid back with a good mix between locals and tourists, and everyone was willing to lend a helping hand. Also, the food was spectacular.

Our third day in Puerto Viejo, Maggie and I decided to take a day-long snorkelling trip to Cahuita, a national park about 30 minutes away from Puerto Viejo. Cahuita is known as the national park that is home to the live coral reef, and I was very excited to get a chance to go snorkelling for the first time, especially in a coral reef. We took a brief hike through the national park to get to the point where the boat would pick us up, and along the way our guide stopped to show us some of the different animals that inhabit the park. The snorkelling was beautiful and amazing with tons of different fish to see and different types of coral, even though we were particularly close to some coral at different times. Overall, the Cahuita was a beautiful park and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys marine life. We also had the chance to eat at a local restaurant and have ´Carribean style´ rice and beans, which surprisingly tastes a lot different from the food in San Jose because the rice was cooked with coconut milk.
(Nicole Olavarria)

After spending three in Puerto Viejo, we traveled to Bocas Del Toro a grouping of hundreds of tiny islands, for two days and three nights. We rode in a van for three hours which part of the way drove one a gravel road along side a banana plantation. Afterwards we boarded a speedboat that took us to the largest inhabited island of Isla Colon. The small island of Isla Colon mainly caters to tourists and booms during the night. During our second day there we went out on a 40 ft catamaran that took us all around the islands. We went snorkeling of the boat in several locations. The snorkeling in Panama was great. The water was crystal clear and at one point we were able to see meters deep below. We also saw a family of dolphins and our catamaran captain caught a barracuda.

When we returned to Puerto Viejo for the last few days of our vacation we stayed in a lovely bungalow a little outside of town. We were right across from Playa Cocles, one of the more prestigious beaches in the area. It was such a picturesque scene, the sand was white and the water was clear and warm. We spent most of our time lounging on the beach or reading near our hotel pool. Although, we were planning on leaving Saturday, we decided to stay one extra day. Since we only booked our hotel until Saturday we checked ourselves into a popular hostel called “Rocking J’s”. For five dollars we were able to sleep in hammocks at a relaxed environment near the beach that caters to young backpackers. All in all it was a great experience, very different than San Jose. We loved the Caribbean and thoroughly enjoyed our Fall Break.

Maggie and Nicole

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