Tag Archives: Vacation

North…to Nicaragua…

Though we have been in Panama for a while, we are still catching up on our blog. After our wonderful tour in Costa Rica, we found the Nicabus terminal in San Jose and headed to new adventures in Nicaragua. The bus ride was pleasant with the windows opened there was a pleasant breeze and, even though there was no a/c, the bus was equipped with wifi. Go figure! We were headed to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua and were dropped off in some small town somewhere and told we could get a bus there. We had, fortunately for us, made friends with a young couple from England on the bus who were also headed to San Juan Del Sur and who spoke Spanish!! A taxi driver immediately approached us and said he would take us to our destination for $25/person. Our Spanish speaking friend looked into finding a bus but ended up negotiating with the taxi driver to take us to San Juan Del Sur for $25 for all four of us. It was a small taxi, but somehow we all got in with our luggage for the 30 minute ride ahead.

We arrived at our home for the next week and immediately fell in love with the view.

The bay and surrounding area...
The bay and surrounding area…

San Juan Del Sur is a quiet little town on a bay with a statue of Christ overlooking the area

Jesus watching over San Juan del Sur...
Jesus watching over San Juan del Sur…

and sunsets that everyone in town stops whatever they are doing to watch.

Amazing sunsets...
Amazing sunsets…

The beach is lined with restaurants

Restaurants along the beach...
Restaurants along the beach…

and with the spectacular sunsets as wallpaper, we enjoyed some wonderful seafood meals along the beach.

Another beautiful sunset...
Another beautiful sunset…

Nicaragua is a poor country and children follow tourists begging and selling little trinkets, chicklet gum, or things they have made from palm leaves. They assemble these so quickly and perfectly and will make whatever you want if they don’t have it made. Flowers, bugs, hearts, you name it.

Street boy weaving palm leaves...
Street boy weaving palm leaves…

And, of course, new country, new money. We were busy learning how many Córdoba Oros make $1. It’s somewhere over 25 Cordobas to the dollar, so confusing. So much money for $1.

We rented a car for a couple of days so we could look around and drove to the base of the Christ statue. We still had a hike up to the statue but it was worth the effort as the view was amazing.

Stairway to Jesus...
Stairway to Jesus…
From the feet of Jesus...
From the feet of Jesus…
Tiny chapel under Jesus...
Tiny chapel under Jesus…
San Juan del Sur as Jesus see's it...
San Juan del Sur as Jesus sees it…

Our time in SJDS came to an end and we found a shuttle service to take us to our next adventure, Granada.

Volcanos on the island of Ometepe...
Volcanos on the island of Ometepe…

Granada was a very welcoming city and we immediately felt a good vibe there.

Overlooking part of Granada...
Overlooking our hotel and part of Granada…

Our hotel, home for the next several days, was in a great location far enough away from the center of town to escape the noise yet close enough to walk or take a horse and buggy

Carriages in waiting...
Carriages in waiting…

or taxi to the many wonderful restaurants in the tourist area. We took advantage of all of these.

La Merced Church...
La Merced Church…
One of the sanctuaries...
One of the sanctuaries…

We climbed the stairs, including the narrow spiral staircase near the top

Suzi heading up into the steeple...
Suzi heading up into the steeple…

of the La Merced Church across from our hotel for a wonderful view of the entire city.

Inside the steeple...
Inside the steeple…

Taking a break at the top for Suzi to recover the climb, we welcomed people from Texas, France, Germany, California and other places we don’t recall.
We walked to Lake Nicaragua

Walking to Lake Nicaragua...
Walking to Lake Nicaragua…

and even took a boat ride for a wonderful view of many beautiful homes on the numerous islands in the lake. Most of them are seldom occupied and are vacation getaways.

Vacation home on Lake Nicaragua...
Vacation home on Lake Nicaragua…
Another lake vacation home...
Another lake vacation home…

After the tour,

Our bi-linguil tour guide...
Our bi-linguil tour guide…

our guide accompanied us to a local restaurant in the city park

Lunch in the park...
Lunch in the park…

and we enjoyed a typical Nicaraguan lunch.

Our lunch...
Our lunch…

We heard there was a Chocolate Museum in Granada so we set out to discover the nuances of making chocolate.

Making chocolate by hand...
Making chocolate by hand…

We skipped the chocolate massage but did splurge on a treat at the restaurant in the museum.

Our chocolate "lunch"...
Our chocolate “lunch”…
Inside the chocolate store...
Inside the chocolate store…
Painting on the wall of the museum...
Mural on the wall of the museum…

Many of the restaurants and hotels are built around a center courtyard

Inside courtyards...
Inside courtyards…
Our hotel pool...
Our hotel pool…

as was our hotel with the swimming pool in the courtyard. There was a beautiful marble staircase up to the second floor and our room.

Through the lobby to the stairs to the rooms...
Through the lobby to the stairs to the rooms…

When our time in Nicaragua came to a close, we found the Tica bus depot and bought our ticket to take the bus to Jaco, Costa Rica.

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The Tour Continues…

Monteverde is a beautiful small town with old world charm

1 horse power or 100 horse power...
1 horse power or 100 horse power…

and a modern life style with lots of shops and tourist adventures like zip lining, rock climbing, and hiking the nine hanging bridges. We opted to take the morning off and just walk around town.

Remember these Kodak signs...
Remember these Kodak signs…

We went in and out of the many souvenir shops and looked at the unique items.

Souvenirs abound...
Souvenirs abound…
Butterflies of Costa Rica...
Butterflies of Costa Rica…

There is a lot of beautiful hand crafted wood furniture available in this area and they will make to order if you know what you want.

Wood table tops...
Wood table tops…
Mango wood vases...
Mango wood vases…

Suzi loved these hand carved mango wood vases.

In the afternoon we joined our other tour mates for a tour of the Don Juan Coffee plantation.

Don Juan Coffee, Monteverde, Costa Rica...
Don Juan Coffee, Monteverde, Costa Rica…

We saw the coffee plants

In the coffee fields...
In the coffee fields…

and Cacao trees growing and learned about harvest techniques,

Coffee & chocolate drying...
Coffee & chocolate drying…

drying, grading,

The coffee roaster...
The coffee roaster…

roasting and finally

Which roast do you like...
Which roast do you like…

drinking and eating.

Fresh ground chocolate...
Fresh ground chocolate…
Suzi meets Don Juan...
Suzi meets Don Juan…

We also got to see the process used to turn sugar cane

Hand grinding sugar cane...
Hand grinding sugar cane…
More grinding...
More grinding…

into brown and white sugar,

The syrup of their labor...
The syrup of their labor…

molasses and Costa Rican moonshine known as “Guaro”.

Our "chariot' arrives...
Our “chariot’ arrives…

One final treat was a ride in a true Ox cart.

Twin ox boost...
Twin ox boost…
The view from behind the tails...
The view from behind the tails…
Seating for as many as you can pack in...
Seating for as many as you can pack in…

Who knew ox carts have no suspension?

Our hotel in Monteverde...
Our hotel in Monteverde…

Our last day on the tour was a travel day back to San Jose, Costa Rica. We checked out of our hotel in Monteverde and boarded our bus back to the big city.

On the bus again...
On the bus again…

Along the way, we saw beautiful vistas,

Costa Rica countryside...
Costa Rica countryside…

and even some wild life just hanging out in the trees.

Howler Monkey...
Howler Monkey…
Just hangin around...
Just hangin around…

Up next, we head north again to Nicaragua…

Hiking the Volcano…

We awoke the next morning with the Arenal Volcano as our daily wallpaper.

Arenal Volcano...
Arenal Volcano…

After breakfast, we checked out of our hotel, boarded our trusty bus and took the short drive to the trailhead up the side of the volcano to the lava flow.

We were there...
We were there…

Positioned within Costa Rica’s fertile northern lowlands, the Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica’s best known volcano, is an unavoidable presence while traveling within this part of the country. It is tall and imposing and has a reputation that precedes itself. Arenal’s perfectly symmetrical shape makes it a sightseer’s dream. Until 2010, it was Costa Rica’s most active volcano. Much to the enjoyment of its visitors, Arenal spewed enormous amounts of lava, gas and ash on a regular basis. That eruptive cycle – which began with the infamous eruption of 1968 – ended recently. In October 2010, Arenal entered into an indeterminate resting phase. For the time being, visitors will be unable to watch the much-loved explosions, although that could easily change anytime.

The trail...
The trail…
Blueberries, NOT for eating...
Blueberries, NOT for eating…
Natural grasses...
Natural grasses…
Lizard...
Whip Tail Lizard…
Beautiful wildflowers...
Beautiful wildflowers…
Blue tail lizard...
Another Whip Tail lizard…
Tour friends walking the trail...
Tour friends walking the trail…
Stairway to lava...
Stairway to lava…
Lake Arenal...
Lake Arenal…
Still that far to the top...
Top of the trail, still that far to the top…

We then boarded our bus for the trip to Monteverde, Costa Rica, home to the Monteverde Cloud Forrest Reserve and one of Costa Rica’s major ecotourism destinations.

Just a short note here. On the way to Monteverde, our bus had a cooling issue.

Losing water...
Losing water…

Ricardo and our driver, Jose, tried everything they could think of to nurse the bus to the next stop. Finally, when it was to no avail, Ricardo called the Don Juan Coffee plantation

Don Juan Coffee...
Don Juan Coffee…

and they arrived shortly with vans to take us on into Monteverde. A big thumbs up to Ricardo and our driver for all their efforts and a “thanks” to Don Juan Coffee for providing rides for us, NOT in the ox cart.

Next, the tour continues…

Costa Rica Bound

As our time in Boquete came to an end, we grabbed a school bus to David

Our "decked out" school bus...
Our “decked out” school bus…

and then, with a little help, found the Tracopa ticket office

Walked right by it...
Walked right by it…

and purchased two tickets to San Jose, Costa Rica. One note here, Tracopa buses are not air conditioned but they DO have internet,

Our big bus...
Our big bus…

but since we were heading to Costa Rica, we didn’t think it would be a big problem and it wasn’t. We hit the crowded border check point and got stamped out of Panama and then walked, with our suitcase and backpacks, to the entry check point of Costa Rica. We got our entry stamps and then were herded into a cage with our luggage and told to wait.

Yes, really a cage...
Yes, really a cage…
Cage entertainment...
Cage entertainment…

About 45 minutes later, 2 guys from immigration came into the cage and did a search of our bags. Then, we were back on the bus and headed to San Jose.

Just because the timing was right and the price was good, we signed up for an 8 day tour by Gate 1 around part of Costa Rica. We got to San Jose a few days before the start of the tour to give us a chance to look around. San Jose has many museums and we were able to visit two of them, The Gold Museum which contains a lot of pre Columbian era gold and was a fascinating place.

Exhibits at the Gold Museum...
Exhibits at the Gold Museum…
Yes there was gold too...
Yes there was gold too…
Lots of it...
Lots of it…
Very pretty...
Very pretty…

We also went to The National Museum

The National Museum...
The National Museum…

and had a wonderful time visiting the exhibits

Ancient Artifacts...
Ancient Artifacts…
The Spheres...
The Spheres…
Lots of Spheres...
Lots of Spheres…

and learning more about the fascinating history of Costa Rica.

We visited the market in downtown San Jose one day

The Central Market...
The Central Market…

where one can buy anything from chicken feet

mmmm Chicken feet...
mmmm Chicken feet…

to hand crafted items

Wooden ox and carts...
Wooden ox and carts…

in rows and rows of vendors

Tight aisle's...
Tight aisles…

selling food,

Fish for sale...
Fish for sale…

clothing and miscellaneous.

There is one avenue that is opened to

Lots of foot traffic...
Lots of foot traffic…

pedestrian traffic only

Someone dropping of products...
Someone dropping of products…

and is lined with stores of every kind and many restaurants.

Surf Shop...
Surf Shop…

Great place for people watching too.

 

Day Trippin’ In Boquete

Boquete offers a lot of fun day trips and hiking, rock climbing, zip lining, and more.

There are several loop trips one can take in the hills around Boquete.

Boquete loops...
Boquete loops…

One of our favorites is the Bajo Mono loop. There are many fun stops and sights to be seen without hiking. There is a magnificent climbing wall

The climbing wall...
The climbing wall…

and various tour companies in Boquete have the equipment to take folks on a fun filled adventure.

My Beautiful wife at the climbing wall...
My Beautiful wife at the climbing wall…

For us, viewing the formation was very satisfying.

Climbing guides...
Climbing guides…

We did see several metal hooks in the wall that are permanent and can run ropes for the adventurous at heart.

Crimp-ons...
Crimp-ons…

A little farther along the loop is a wonderful waterfall

The waterfall...
The waterfall…

that we visited several times both as tourists then as tour guides.

Friends at the waterfall...
Friends at the waterfall…

Even farther is a castle that was being built by someone for his wife. Legend has it that his wife died and the castle has been abandoned

The castle...
The castle…

and just sitting vacant since then.

The castle...
The castle…

Then near the top of the loop is Finca Lerida

Finca Lerida...
Finca Lerida…

where there is a B&B and a wonderful restaurant with a relaxing, peaceful view.

Herb garden....
Herb garden….

There are herb gardens outside the restaurant where they grow their own herbs used in the preparation of the delicious meals served there.

Inside the resturant...
Inside the resturant…
Lunch with friends...
Lunch with friends…

We were so glad to have a wonderful lunch there one day.

One day we went to El Explorador.

El Explorador...
El Explorador…

This is a whimsical garden full of characters and scenes with inspirational quotes along the way.

IMG_3430 B

We had fun with our translators since none of the quotes were in English.

IMG_3415 B

We also took three different day trips to check out the beach areas within driving distance. One was a tour by Explora Ya, a local business whose motto is “We don’t sell tours, we provide experiences.” We took a van to Boca Chica then hopped on a boat for whale watching

Whale on the surface...
Whale on the surface…

and lunch on Volano Island where we swam, snorkeled and had a wonderful time.

 beautiful beach...
beautiful beach…

Another day we did about a 2-1/2 hour tour to Las Lajas beach which is a beautiful beach and had lunch at the very nice resort there.

Lunch at the beach...
Lunch at the beach…

Our last beach trip was to Los Olas

Las Olas...
Las Olas…

which is about 60-90 minutes away where we enjoyed a walk on the beach and a wonderful lunch at the resort. There is a gated community along the beach

Hi-rises coming...
Hi-rises coming…

and the start of phase one of a three tower condo development, phase one of which is anticipated to be complete in 2-3 years. This is certainly an area we will keep an eye on. It is only 30-40 minutes to all the shopping one could want in David. The only drawback is that it’s not a good swimming beach

Beautiful but dangerous...
Beautiful but dangerous…

as there are very dangerous riptides and the waves can be quite threatening. We were warned by many locals that this beach can kill you.

There is another castle just outside Boquete

For Sale...
For Sale…

that overlooks a beautiful hillside of coffee beans growing. We heard this castle is for sale for $1.5 million.

$1.5 Mil...
$1.5 Mil..

Here’s an opportunity for you.

We really enjoyed our time in Boquete and made many friends we will surely see again but the temps there were a little too cool for our taste and we really missed the beach.

Next stop, Costa Rica, coming soon!!!!

A Month In Boquete

We know there are many folks who think Panama is all thatched roofs and small concrete homes. Well, we are here to tell you it’s not true. One of the things we enjoy about being senior nomads is that every so often we have new surroundings, new furniture and new neighbors and friends. We are currently living in Valle Escondido which is a gated community in the valley of Boquete, Panama.

Valle Escondido...
Valle Escondido…

We are in a three bedroom home with all the amenities found in any home in the US. We have an LG front-loading washer and dryer, a two door refrigerator with freezer drawer on the bottom, vaulted ceilings and a large screen TV.

Living room, dining room and laundry room...
Living room, dining room and laundry room…

The master suite has a double sink and both guest bedrooms have queen size beds and lots of space.

Bedrooms & bathroom...
Bedrooms & bathroom…

The kitchen counter is beautiful granite and the back patio has a propane grill. Yes, we are roughing it!!!

Kitchen & Patio...
Kitchen & Patio…

The gated community of Valle Escondido has single family homes, duplexes, four plexes, condos, a hotel, a chapel, an amphitheater, two restaurants, an indoor pool, an organic garden, a labyrinth, a miniature golf course, a stocked trout pond, waterfalls, streams, a driving range, a golf course and an exercise room.

Valle Escondidto...
Valle Escondidto…

We reside in a duplex and our living space is all on one level with covered parking outside for two cars.

Our house...
Our house…

The grounds here are meticulously manicured and very beautiful. One of our neighbors has a pet coatimundi named Holly who stops by sometimes when out walking with her mom doggie pal, Riko.

Holly & Riko...
Holly & Riko…

Coatimundis are not usually pets but Holly was orphaned as a baby and bottle nursed by our friends here who decided she would be better in their home than being put back into the wild. She is spayed, her canine teeth are filed for (human) safety and she is a very friendly little girl. We have another coatimundi that comes to the back door looking for food. This is a wild coatimundi, so we have only interacted with this one through the screen door.

Back porch coatimundi...
Back porch coatimundi…

The city of Boquete has a mix of US expats, Canadians, Panamanians, Venezuelans, and a mixing bowl of other people just enjoying the cool temps and eternal spring weather here. Neither air conditioning nor heat are needed in Boquete though many homes (as well as this one) have gas fireplaces for ambiance and to take the occasional chill out of the air.

City Views...
City Views…

There are many restaurants in Boquete with choices of Italian, French, seafood, burgers, pizza or whatever your heart desires. We even played Trivia at Mike’s Global Grill last week.

Just a few of the selections to be found...
Just a few of the selections to be found…

There is a large grocery store in town called Romero’s and in the city of David (Dah-VEED) which is approximately 30 minutes away, there are two very large modern grocery stores and a PriceSmart membership store (Panama’s equivalent to Costco) which even carries the Kirkland brand and many items just as one would find in Costco together with lots of other shopping opportunities.

Romero's...
Romero’s…

We are here during what is called the green or rainy season and we get a lot of afternoon showers, ok downpours. They last for a while, stop, then sometimes start again.

Yes, it rains here once in a while...
Yes, it rains here once in a while…

This time of year, the best time for touring or sightseeing in this area is early morning until about mid-afternoon when the skies open and provide nourishment for all the greenery and the wide variety of flowers that flourish here. There are several day trips and there will be blogs about them coming up.

Bocas Bound

After 4 months of living on the beach in a condo, and waiting on the FBI, we wanted to head to the other side of Panama and see what Bocas Town is all about. So we packed up our belongings…

Our worldly possessions...
Our worldly possessions…

and got a friend to drive us into Panama City to the bus terminal. Once there, we went to the Bocas del Toro ticket window and said “dos por favor” and the lady said “no,no,no,no.”  The bus was full for tonight. So, we purchased a ticket for the next night’s bus and got a room at the Tryp Hotel at Albrook Mall. Spending the night at the mall is not so bad. Stuff to do, food to eat, people to watch. Plus it was good to get a good night’s sleep before our bus ride to Bocas. The next night, we checked out and about 6pm went down to the waiting room at the bus depot. Another great place to people watch.

A busy place...
A busy place…

We watched people come and go until at last, our bus pulled up.

Our "ride" awaits...
Our “ride” awaits…
Larger than what we normally ride...
Larger than what we normally ride…

This is the larger of the buses that we see. More comfortable and it has a bathroom on board. We took our assigned seats and got ready for our trip. This is an overnight bus ride, which is probably a good thing. There is less traffic on the roads at night and the driver can go faster. We made 3 stops, the second one was in Santiago where I did get off the bus and have pasta at a outdoor buffet. Kind of like a truck stop with no walls 🙂 I love Panama. We also changed drivers here. After a half hour, we were back on the bus, hurtling down the highway at breakneck speed. Once again, good thing it’s dark so we can’t really tell how fast we are going or how treacherous the hilly winding roads really are.  As the sun came up, we were on a 2 lane, winding road, still driving fast and being buffeted by high winds. At 6am, we pulled into the quiet coastal town of  Almirante. Here, we get off the bus and take a short taxi ride to the water taxi that will take us to Bocas Town.

Ready to set sail...
Ready to set sail…
Calm waters...
Calm waters…
Another water taxi heading out...
Another water taxi heading out…
We boarded our water taxi and headed out for the half hour ride to Bocas Town on Isla Colón.
Our "Capitan"...
Our “Capitan”…
Bocas Town...
Bocas Town…

We pulled into a taxi dock and got off the water taxi and into a regular taxi and rode out to our new home for a month at Cabana Beach.

Our view from the porch...
Our view from the front porch…

And yes, that is the Caribbean Sea just across the way…