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A Journey to the Crystal Clear Waters of Panama's Red Frog Beach

One of the many thrills of traveling is the spontaneity and flexibility it requires of your mindset

By: AG Shotz + Save to a List

As our trip through Central America had been up and running for quite a few days now, we decided to depart Jacó, Costa Rica and head for Panama. That morning, we rose at 6AM, packed up our things, paid for the room, and were off. We took a cab to San Jóse. Upon arrival, we paid the driver and began walking to the bus station (in 95-degree weather at 9AM). When we got there, no employees, busses, nor cabs were to be found, but only people hiding away in the shade to avoid the scalding heat of the sun. We were promptly told that the biggest strike of the year had just started, and that there wouldn’t be any public transportation for the next 8 days. We were screwed. Not only that, but my friend had become ill during the cab ride to the capital, and by now he was feeling very nauseus. Not exactly the best start to a 560 mile trip.

Luckily, a local man stopped his car and asked us where we were heading. “To Panama," we responded. He shook his head and started to make the same frustrated face you make when your finger gets jammed in a door. He said that we had no chance of getting to Panama because of the strike. As we stood there, sweaty with the weight of our backpacks, we hit a strike of luck - this man offered to give us a ride himself to Limón (on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica,) and from there, we could take a bus to Sixaola, a town situated right at the border to Panama - exactly where we needed to be. We negotiated a price and hit the road.

After a good 3-hour drive, we arrived in Limón. The kind man helped us find the correct bus to Sixaola, and insisted on paying for our tickets. Thirty minutes later we were up and rolling again. 

Road to sixaola

Once we safely crossed the border, we headed to Almirante, a village located at the waterfront in the province of Bocas del Toro, an area known for its water taxi services. Maybe water taxis don't sound that thrilling, but I was a huge fan of the adventurous atmosphere it created.

We bought our tickets and began the last stretch of travel to our destination: Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos. This "Isla" is one of the mangrove islands in the northern part of the country. As we slowly sailed towards the island, I turned my back and saw the dramatic clouds piling upon the horizon, covering almost the entire sunset. A storm was coming, and you could feel it in the air so clearly. 

An unexpected storm was brewing

I had read on the internet that it wasn't a good idea to arrive on the island after 5 pm, as predators came out after dark. Believe it or not, we had to cross swamps that were marked with signs reading, "Beware, Alligators!" Luckily, I had at least packed a flashlight. It was pitch black when we arrived, and we had to walk 20 minutes through the mangroves, following almost exclusively the sound of music, which we were told would lead us to the beach. As the music's volume increased, we realized that we were getting closer, and finally, we emerged from the darkness and stumbled upon a beautiful golden beach. There we found people laughing, singing and enjoying bonfires. 

After getting out our tent, we too joined in on the relaxed atmosphere - a perfect ending to a long, hot day of travel.

The next morning, I woke up early and began exploring the island. I found myself standing in the shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea for the first time in my life. Crystal clear water, a vibrantly blue sky, and only one cloud. It was a perfect first experience of Panama.

Standing in the waters of the Caribbean Sea for the first time ever

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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