If you follow me on Instagram, then you probably saw that I just got back from visiting PANAMA earlier this week!!! My best friend Morgan (who I also traveled to Greece and Argentina with in the last two years) has been serving in the Peace Corps in Bocas del Toro for a little over a year. I knew as soon as she left that I would visit her at some point during her two years of service…and we finally made it happen!! This was only my second time traveling internationally all by myself…and it’s such a crazy feeling to me! As someone with anxiety who used to not even be able to ask for a table at a restaurant by herself…this felt major!! I speak very little Spanish…but somehow managed to navigate my way to Morgan without getting lost! Haha!!
When I posted some of these pictures on my Instagram stories I got a LOT of questions about the logistics of this trip. My hope is to answer as many of them as I can in this blog post…but Morgan is by FAR the travel expert for Bocas del Toro! I’m going to outline how I got there, where we stayed, etc…but in full transparency I would NOT have been able to do this trip without Morgan (who is a local that speaks fluent Spanish and could help us navigate within the islands). If you are looking at booking a trip to Bocas, just know it is a very small Spanish-speaking community and it would likely be helpful to have a travel guide or someone to help guide you to your final destination (like Morgan was for me – haha!)
DAY ONE: I flew from Charleston to Miami, Miami to Panama City and then Panama City to Bocas del Toro’s small airport. I had to transfer airports when I landed in Panama City from the large international airport to the small, domestic airport (PTY to Albrook airport). My phone worked on normal data and I chose to call an Uber instead of taking a taxi – it was about a 35 minute ride from one airport to the other! The two domestic airports are SMALL – but it was super easy getting through security and on my domestic flight!
When I landed in Bocas, Morgan met me and we walked just a few blocks to Selina – the hostel we stayed at for the first two nights! We knew we’d be spending very little time at the actual hotel, and we chose to wait and splurge financially on the next two locations. Selina was super centrally located, air conditioned and everyone was super friendly – it was perfect for us! On the first evening we went to a super yummy dinner a placed called Octo (the fish sandwich and jerk chicken were phenomenal!) and then headed home for a good night’s sleep – we were exhausted!
DAY TWO: Morgan had planned this day for us far in advance and I was SO excited! Each Friday, there is a local island-hopping party that you can buy tickets for in advance. You get to visit 3 different islands and party on each one (dancing, drinks, food, swimming, jumping off diving boards, fireworks, etc.) and it was a BLAST! It was all-day long (12pm-10pm) and we weren’t sure if we’d last all day…but somehow we did!!
DAY THREE: This was the day we left the main island! We took a 15 minute boat rude to our next resort called Bambuda Lodge. Guys…I wasn’t ready for how beautiful this place was!! Morgan wanted me to get to experience all of the different areas Bocas had to offer…so this destination was right in the middle of the jungle. It was GORGEOUS. We stayed in a private bungalow tucked in the trees and it was SUCH a neat experience. The resort has a gorgeous infinity pool overlooking the ocean, hammocks and nets for relaxing, a full bar and restaurant and an amazing water slide that goes from the top of the property all the way down to the ocean! This lodge is also known for their amazing food: they have a community dinner every night at the same time with two courses that change each day. It was DELICIOUS and such a treat!!! Our night here included some very interested sounds from inside the jungle (LOL) but it was so much fun.
DAY FOUR: This is the day that I had been looking MOST forward to!!! When I planned to visit Morgan, we planned the entire trip around getting to stay in an over-the-water bungalow. The kind that you normally see in Bali and the Maldives!!! Morgan told me that there were resorts that offered a similar experience in Bocas, and I had dreamed of getting to stay in one for as long as I can remember. It’s been at the top of my bucket list for AWHILE!! This booking was my responsibility, so I did tons of research and stumbled upon Azul Paradise. The reviews were wonderful, the bungalows had the aesthetic I had always dreamed of and I was SOLD. I decided to splurge and booked us the Deluxe bungalow because we were only staying here one night…but it was still only $500!!! For comparison, bungalows like this are typically THOUSANDS per night in destinations that also cost thousands to get to. We were BLOWN AWAY by our entire experience here and the room was GORGEOUS, air conditioned, and by far the comfiest bed we slept in our entire trip.
To get to Azul Paradise, we simply took a boat from Bambuda back to the main island. There is another branch of the Azul Paradise brand on the main island, and you meet there to take a boat from the main island about 45 minutes to the location where the over-the-water bungalows are. It was super simple, we felt so safe the whole time and everyone at the property (including our boat driver) spoke English!
At Azul Paradise, we were greeted with free drinks (a full coconut – it was so cool!!!) and amazing service from the very beginning. There is a tiki bar on the property that serves lunch daily, as well as a more “formal” upstairs restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner each day. The resort isn’t all-inclusive, but the food and drink prices were SUPER manageable (I got a full filet steak dinner with wine for $25) and everyone was so friendly. The resort feels SO private and secluded – it backs up to the jungle and you feel like you’re the only people on the entire island. There is a beautiful beach (which most of the over-the-water bungalow resorts in Bocas don’t have) as well as day beds, paddle boards, kayaks, boat tours, hammocks and trails to hike. We could have easily spent 2-3 days here relaxing and not gotten board! The marine life is also AMAZING and they have snorkeling gear that you can use for free on the property. Overall, it just felt like the most relaxing and peaceful atmosphere. We both LOVED it!!! I still can’t even believe it was real life.
DAY FIVE: My last day in paradise – so bittersweet!!! We stayed at Azul Paradise until 1:30pm (they have free boats twice a day that will take you back to the main island) and we headed back to stay at Selina again the last night because it was so close to the airport. We decided to take one last day trip to a beautiful beach off the main island (which included a 45 min bus ride + 20 min hike) but it was GORGEOUS!!! We finished our trip with an embarrassing amount of sushi and a Netflix movie cuddled up in bed. I already miss Morgan so much!!!
Below is a recap of our trip in the form of iPhone photos!!! I couldn’t include all of the videos I took…but they are on my Instagram story highlights HERE!!!
Ya’ll, I had to get up at 3:30am to catch my first flight to Miami. I was coming off of having bronchitis and SO tired…but so stinking excited!!!
Stop 1: Miami! Starbucks = necessary.
Landed in Panama!!! We ate at Octo for night one and it was so, so yummy!!
Kicked off the first morning with just a smidge of work…and a GORGEOUS view!!!
All of my bathing suits from this trip (including the pink below) are from Las Olas here in Charleston!!
Check out the bruise on my leg in this pic…I ran straight into the corner of a table in Charleston before I left town. Haha!!
Day 3: Headed on a boat to Bambuda Lodge!!!
This is what the backyard of our bungalow looked like!!! Gorgeous!
Day four….Azul Paradise!!! I still cannot believe this place was even real!!!
I think this is the coolest picture of myself I will ever have in the history of ever.
Featuring the bruise round two.
One of my favorite features about myself that no one really gets to see is my freckles!!! I barely wore makeup the entire time I was in Panama…and the sun on my face brought them out so clearly!
You could order a Pina Colada IN a pineapple…….dreams coming true.
We got dressed up on our night here to take pics at sunset (they’re at the bottom of this post!!!)
The happiest little sunburnt nugget! Haha!!!
These beautiful day beds were literally RIGHT outside our bungalow door!!
The “deluxe” bungalow we booked had walls for windows…and we didn’t know it until we arrived. We literally woke up to this view of the open ocean!!!
These are the views from breakfast…
This is the gorgeous beach we hiked to when we got back to the main island!
Our last night…a sushi feast!!! We were so hungry after our long walk!!!
We ordered slightly too much…LOL
The next day was a LONNNGGG day of travel home. I got unlucky with the flight times and had one 6 hour layover and another 4 hour layover. I traveled nonstop from 6am to 1am the next morning! I was dead tired. But then I found this family size bag of mini m&ms at the airport and everything was okay again. HAHA!
Here are some of the pics we took on my camera!!! As always, I tend to leave my camera away the majority of my trips just so it truly feels like a break from work…but we had to snap a few!!!
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