There is a lot to do here in Bocas town even if it is the perfect place to do nothing. I watch the hammock hanging under the palapa get smaller and smaller as I start my day paddling out into the bay on my kayak early in the morning. The sea is smooth a glass and the air is fresh and cool. No speed boats this early. I go about a mile offshore where there is another smaller island, Solarte. At the close tip of the island of Solarte is a place called hospital point. It is where the hospital actually used to be back in the Chiquita banana days. For many years now it has been a private residence, however in the small bay off the coast is one of the best nearby snorkel spots. I brought my mask and snorkel so I tie up on shore and take a short swim for a peak at the myriads of fish and sea life that live on this incredible underwater wall. I dry in the sun, then paddle back to go to work in my “office.” This means connecting my laptop to the wireless connection on the dock looking out over the clear blue Caribbean water and doing my “online dues” that allows me to live this incredible life. It is Tuesday so I take a break around mid day to ride my bike to the vegetable stand and grocery store. It is not very far and my bike has a basket on it to carry the groceries. At the meat and fish markets , I pick up fresh chicken breast for $1.35 a pound, or a filete of the fresh fish of the day, usually Corvina for $2 a pound or mahi or tuna for around $4 a pound. Then on to the fresh fruit and vegetable stand where I fill my sack with my favorites for around $5. It always includes ripe papaya or pineapple a couple of avocados as well as delicious sweet peppers, potatoes, onion, tomatoes and cilantro, Panama’s version of cilantro. Some weeks the passion fruit is irresistible whether we make delicious smoothies or mix it with our favorite local rum, Abuelo. I always take time to chat if I see someone I know in the street (and I always do), then in the afternoon there is laundry and cleaning to supervise at the guest houses we run to be ready for the soon to be arriving guests. This week they are a couple from Maine on their first visit and some students vacationing from Holland. The evening could prove to be very interesting when we chat with them. Bocas also boast some of the most well prepared fish I have ever eaten. The options are plentiful but we choose El Refugio tonight, a charming restaurant on the water run by Catherine a long time expat, where a meal of fresh tuna, local vegetables and rice with a good glass of wine or great margarita will set you back about $20 per person. Or we could go to the local place, Don Chichos on the main street and eat a heaping plate of chicken or pork, rice, beans and petacones (delicious fried plantains) for $2.75.
When you want to do some bigger shopping, a trip to David (Panama’s second largest city) is called for. The water taxi to the mainland is $4 and leaves every half an hour. There waiting is our pre-arranged taxi driver (holds 4 people for $20 each) and a three hours ride through the cool mountains. We usually spend the night in David so we don’t have to rush shopping for our clothes, bedding, home improvement items or furniture. A nice clean hotel downtown is $37.40 ( Hotel Acala). The next day we pick up some snacks at the supermarket, El Rey, for the ride home. We arrive around 5 pm arms filled with our booty and tired but happy.
If you love the tropics and the sea, Panama’s Caribbean coast could be for you.