Happy New Year! This blog post is a little different since it has very little to do with food and home decor and a lot to do with travel! I’ve had a few people ask about the trip so I wanted to do a post where I could share some photos as well as the places that we stayed in case you were thinking of planning a trip to Panama.
Trevor and I had the best time! We were a little bit sad to be missing Christmas with our families but we got together the two weekends before the trip to celebrate. Once we got to Panama, it was easy to forget that it was the holidays. There was the odd decoration here and there but for the most part, Christmas was definitely downplayed compared to back home.
The first place that we stayed was the American Trade Hotel in Panama City. Trevor and I agree that it’s definitely once of the coolest hotels that we’ve ever stayed in. It’s located in Casco Viejo, which is Panama City’s old town and also a Unesco world heritage site. The building opened in 2013 after being restored. Part of the old city’s charm is how one building can be fixed up and look modern, and the one beside it is completely falling apart!
As soon as we got there after a long day of flying, we quickly toured around the hotel before hopping in the pool. The hotel has a jazz bar, library and a restaurant and after only staying one night, we wished that we could’ve stayed at that hotel longer.
The next stop on our trip was the island, Bocas del Toro (a 35 minute flight from Panama City). We stayed in a little cabin over the water called Koko cabins. This was a great spot to stay because it was off the beaten path but still a ten minute walk to Bocas town. Before we booked the accommodations for this place, we had read through the website and it stated that this WAS NOT a resort! It was also very clear that it was not a typical hotel and many locals lived in a very close proximity. Even after reading all of that I’ll admit, when we first pulled up to our accommodations I was a little bit leery. We had to walk down a small narrow path that practically walked through people’s properties. There were children running everywhere, the odd garbage bag strewn about and chickens casually walking around. After about five minutes of cultural shock, I started to warm up to the place after pouring a glass of wine and checking out the cabin. We felt so safe the whole time that we were there and it was nice to be outside of the town but within walking distance. We stayed here for three nights and filled the days with zip lining through the rain forest at red frog beach, hanging out with starfish on Christmas day and spent a lot of time in the hammock reading books and drinking wine (me) and Panama beer (Trevor). The owners, Lee and Jack, made us an excellent breakfast every morning before we headed off for the day and were extremely helpful with booking tours and giving recommendations for restaurants and bars.
After three days at the Koko resort, we ventured off into what turned out to be my favourite place of the trip, although getting there was a bit of an adventure. We were told to be at the dock to be picked up by a boat at 12:00 and after waiting for about four hours, the boat driver of the very small boat was ready to go. Unfortunately at this point, it was pouring rain. We covered our luggage with tarps and headed out but after about 2 minutes into the journey, we were completely soaked. The boat driver had a few extra rain jackets so I just covered my head and hung on for dear life as we hit gigantic waves and got pelted by rain. I had my head tucked under a tarp so I was a little bit oblivious to how close our luggage was to going overboard, which Trevor mentioned to me after we safely reached land after about 45 minutes.We quickly scrambled out of the boat and was welcomed by Francine, the owner of the coolest place ever! I have no idea if there’s a place like this anywhere else in the world, but I think that Urraca Private Island is one of a kind! There isn’t any land, just huts above the ocean and paths that connect them to each other. It is built around a mangrove island and this place also happens to host 12 monkeys and 1 kinkajou! Francine was so accommodating and helpful. After our very wet boat ride, she wasted no time in getting cold margaritas in our hands and a warm meal in our bellies. Since the island is so far from anything else, we decided ahead of time that we would eat all of our meals there and we didn’t regret it once. All of the meals were either based around lobster of fish (which was caught that day), and each dinner we had so was delicious and fresh.
During the days that we stayed there, we filled our time by going to a nearby beach, snorkelling around the mangrove, reading in the hammocks and playing with the monkeys and kinkajous.
The last part of our trip was spent back in Panama City and we stayed at the Tantalo hotel, also located in Casco Viejo. This hotel didn’t have the same charm that the American Trade hotel had, but it was in a great location and had a rooftop bar, which is where we celebrated New Years Eve. We got to see the canal and really explore the city during the last few days. Trevor and I mentioned numerous times to each other how safe and clean the city was and would love to go back sometime in the future! Trevor got some major home inspiration when we were in Casco Viejo and after eating so many amazing meals, I am inspired to get back into the kitchen and try to re-create some of the delicious things that we ate. Speaking of food, it wouldn’t be a post by me without mentioning food at some point! Here’s a list of our favourite restaurants/meals throughout the trip:
El Ultimo Refugio in Bocas town- Trevor had seared tuna and I had snapper fish on a sweet potato puree, and both dishes were amazing!
Raw Fusion in Bocas town- We ate here on Christmas Eve and it was so good.
Casa Sucre Coffee House in Panama City- we got our caffeine fix here every morning when we were back in the city. The almond croissants were pretty tasty too!
Tantalo Kitchen- We were staying at this hotel so it was convenient to eat here, and we loved our meal on New Years Eve.
I did not intend on making this blog post so long, but we had so many adventures that it was hard to leave anything out! I would highly recommend Panama for anyone who wants to try something different than an all inclusive resort. It was a bit more expensive than we thought but Trevor and I both agreed that it was definitely worth it to have all the experiences (and mojitos) that we had!!