Costa Rica (first entry) & Bocas del Toro, Panama

The classic view of Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica.

Monteverde Cloud Forest. It is also home to the famous Monteverde Canopy Zipline, one of the longest and highest in the world. Photos of RJ zipping through the trees to follow.

Crossing Lake Arenal to get to La Fortuna.

A classic view of the beach at Manuel Antonio.

Costa Rica’s charming southern Caribbean coastline at Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. We caught the MEPE bus for 4,5 hours from San Jose to get there and it is a comfortable, if rather sweaty, ride with no A/C. A massive plug must go to the fabulous restaurants Stashus con Fusion and Koki Beach which provided some of the best meals we’ve eaten anywhere!

Buttercup the sloth, the original sloth at the Cahuita sloth sanctuary (more cute pics of sloths to follow). Definitely worth the taxi out of town to visit this place!

The beach at Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. It also has one of the gnarliest surf breaks around (apparently).

Bocas del Toro is a common stop given it’s only a few hours’ south of Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast. It’s a pleasant but uninspiring location for a cheap beach break. We spent three nights in Playa Tortuga Beach Hotel & Resort then three nights in town at the lovely Tropical Suites. To our dismay, however, there are no beaches within walking distance of the town and you are stuck getting water taxis (which can add up quite quickly) to the ‘nearby’ beaches like Starfish beach and Red Frog, neither of which are particularly pretty or pleasant by international standards. Still, it’s a laid-back vibe and you can easily wile away some time playing cards with a few beers or watching the world go by.

The windswept and rather sea-weed strewn Red Frog Beach. Better to try the narrow, slightly muddy-looking Starfish Beach instead, where at least, there are starfish to spot under the water.

Another of Bocas’s ‘beaches’. Though it looks quite pretty in the photograph, this was the siltiest beach I’ve ever ‘swum in’. It’s also very shallow which means you are literally squatting under the water whilst your swimming togs get filled up with mud! Be prepared to be left feeling slightly, erm, itchy afterwards.

To get back to San Jose, we caught a nineteen seater Nature Air flight from Bocas International Airport. It’s the only ‘international’ airport I’ve ever walked to from my hotel (under five mins from the town centre!). Generally, only westerners take these flights and there were only eight of us travelling that day on the rather bumpy journey over the mountains back to Costa Rica. The plane itself was in superb condition – nearly new with massive windows, not traditional portholes. But this short hop may not be for those who suffer motion sickness, the small plane was very much at the mercy of the updrafts over the mountains and it does get a little hairy. How lucky, then, that I have another of these tiny planes to catch across to the Nicoya Peninsula tomorrow. Gulp.

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