Panama Part III-Contadora

Contadora is located in the Islas Perlas, or Pearl Islands, roughly 40 miles south of Panama City.  Legend has it this was the place where Spanish conquistadors would come and count their pearls, hence, the name Contadora.

Contadora is a short 20-minute flight away from Albrook airport in Panama, with multiple flights daily by Air Panama and Aeroperlas, but if you are lucky enough to have your own boat (or know someone with one) the way to go is by sea!  There are loads of beaches and islands around to explore. Most of the beaches have rich reefs that are great for diving and snorkeling. This is the time of the year that whales migrate, and we were even lucky enough to see a few from the boat.

leaving Flamenco, and the ever expanding Panama skyline in the background
ships awaiting their turn to cross the canal
Thank you Christine and Tito for having us on board!

One of the islands off Contadora. Looks like something out of Jurassic Park.
dropping anchor

Matthew and I later explored the island on a golf cart, checking out hotels and finding secret beaches.  One of my favorite discoveries was the old abandoned Hotel Contadora, which, in its heyday, was the place to go on the island.  All that remains are the giant skeletons of buildings, which have been stripped of all walls, doors, and windows. Many of the shacks are still covered in mosaics of seashells, which I fell in love with.  I got a bit carried away, dreaming of buying it and turning it into my own luxurious resort, until I later found out it has been sold already... womp womp.

Our first choice of hotels was the kitschy Villa Romantica (we heard they had water beds!) but they were totally booked.  We wound up staying at Hotel Punta Galeon, one of the larger hotels on the island, right next to the airport. Really, within steps of the runway... It was a charming hotel with simple rooms, all overlooking the ocean with a private balcony. The staff was very sweet and accommodating (we showed up for breakfast at lunch time, and they still served us our eggs).

Hotel Contadora

can't help it... I'm a cancer

Hotel Punta Galeon

Plane arriving right over Hotel Punta Galeon
Yep! THAT close.
Fiesta Island... not a typical island of the Perlas archipelago.

 Hasta luego, Contadora!!


Panama Part II-Chiriqui

What if I told you there was a magical land with ponies and strawberries and hummingbirds and flowers and rainbows? Would you believe me? 

Welcome to Chiriqui, that enchanted place you dream of.  Chiriqui is the mountainous western province of Panama, bordering Costa Rica. We came here for Matthew's birthday in March and stayed at yet another eco-lodge, Los Quetzales in Guadalupe. It's a big bird-watching spot, if you're into that.

The website states that "the reserve has the highest lodging facilities in the country, and lies inside the primary cloud forest of Volcan Baru National Park..." Primary cloud forest? How ridiculous does that sound?

The cabins are scattered up the mountain. Ours required a 20-minute bumpy ride in a jeep and a 10-minute hike to get there (which was real fun when we arrived at night, with big bags, in the rain), but once you arrive you realize that its all worth it.

the hike
our view...
our cabin!

 The cabins don't have electricity, but they do have gas and hot water, which allowed for romantic meals cooked by candlelight

We sampled all the treats we could find by the side of the road and bought fresh berries which grow everywhere around here.

centurion... this horse was MASSIVE
succulents at Jardin Mary
I have a thing for succulents...

big ass bugs too!

Panama Part I-San Blas

Around this time last year, my boyfriend Matthew and I were sitting on his couch at home in Panama. It was roughly 10 pm and we decided to head off to San Blas the next day, so we booked our tickets right then and were on a plane the next morning at 5.

San Blas is a chain of islands on the northeast coast of Panama, home to the Kuna indians. The Kuna are the second shortest race of people on the planet. It was funny being around them, seeing as we are 6'1 and 6'5... They also have the highest rate of albinism and they see it as a gift. They call the albino kids 'moon children.'

landing in Playon Chico

our island... Sapibenega resort

 We didn't book any accommodations, but the locals were some of the friendliest and most helpful people I've ever encountered. They found us a place to stay at this incredible eco-resort called Sapibenega. We pretty much had the place to ourselves.  They gave us our own charming wooden bohio over the water, with a private balcony, a hammock... What more could you need?

our bohio overlooking the ocean
locals on a hand made sailboat

The locals would free dive around the islands and catch us fresh lobster and crab for dinner (but bring your own butter! you cant find any there!) The hotel has cayucos (dug-out canoes) that you can use to explore the nearby islands.

tried to fish, but I caught the thatched roof.
Bridge of the Americas. flying back into the city over the Canal.