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Trip Report CR to Panama and back

Old Mar 26th, 2005, 07:33 AM
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Trip Report CR to Panama and back

Departure day has finally arrived! All goes well until we arrive. Took us about 1 1/2hrs to get through customs etc. Can’t believe it but there was actually someone who got all the way there without a passport! After a good wait, they finally pulled the woman away from the booth and we got moving again. Finally got out the door and it sure was nice to see Orlando’s friendly face waiting.

On the road finally….Orlando decided to drive us down the Pacific coast to get to Dominical. We were heading through Atenas and the guys were talking and I was looking and bam there was a sloth just hanging over the road. I knew I was in CR then. We stopped for a quick drink in Atenas and headed on. Tarcoles bridge up ahead. We aren’t stopping for the crocs but we do want to stop and hopefully see our first Scarlet. Our stop was worth it. Within 15 mins we finally saw what we stopped for. Heard them way before we saw them. Enjoyed looking at lots of little birds while we waited.

Continued on towards Dominical. Of course several more quick stops for birds. Evidence of the fairly recent earthquake was very visible on the road. Made it over the wonderful bridges and made a swing behind Quepos to head down to Dominical. This road is where you see why driving at night can be difficult. There were people, kids, and animals all over the road. Not to mention the unpaved road itself being a challenge. Drove through some little towns with interesting names.

Arrived in Dominical finally, had a relaxing dinner at the San Clemente while watching the Costa Rica-Mexico soccer game. Food okay. Orlando called the number for the place we were staying to get directions. We were told to turn on the dirt road by a Century 21 sign. Those signs are everywhere! After about 30 minutes of driving back and forth on the road to San Isidro, he called the guy one more time and was able to narrow it down. There was absolutely no sign indicating there was a place to stay but we finally found it. He had one building with 2 rooms in it for guests plus his own home. Comfortable enough for just one night. Next morning went birding for a little while and then had breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs and gallo pinto before heading on to our next adventure.

We headed down the coastal road passing through Uvita, Palmar Sur, as well has several other little towns. Got a quick peek at the Bellena Marine Park. Met up with the Pan Am Hwy and headed down to Esquinas Rainforest Lodge on the Golfito side of the Gulfo Dulce. I really enjoyed it here. And for those gals who can’t live without hairdryers and curling irons….they have full electric with outlets in the bathrooms. The rooms were in duplexes, nice sized and very clean. Lovely little porch area with table and 2 chairs as well as two rockers. There is a smallish but pretty pool to cool off in as well as a caiman pond right by the dining area. Great birding. There is a waterfall to hike to also. We didn’t do it but there was a German group who did and one of the guys decided to head back to the lodge by himself. He was dressed only in a speedo with no shoes or other clothes. He went the wrong way and got lost. The guide at the lodge finally went out to find him and they finally got back at 11pm. He gave the man his hiking shoes because the man’s feet were torn up. This is an Austrian owned lodge and other than one other woman we were the only non Germans (other than my very distant ancestry) there.
Food very good, beds… comfortable but double size. Spent 2 nights here before starting on the next adventure.

Stopped in Ciudad Nielly for beer…had heard Panama had terrible beer which we found to be very true and were glad we had loaded up. Headed for the border town of Paso Canoas. This is a typical border town but we found it to be even more confusing than some. There are lots of people who you can pay to help you get through all the running around. You get an exit stamp ($1) in one place, get your passport looked at in another place, have papers looked at in another place that only those in the know have a clue where it is. You go into a door that is hidden behind the million trucks trying to get through. This door had no sign. We never would have found it if it hadn’t been for our trusty little friend that we paid to help. Cost was $20 for his assistance. You then go back to the second place you had been for your final okay to cross. We were crisscrossing with other people for 1 1/2hrs trying to get all the paperwork done. It was almost humorous. Orlando had extra paperwork to get okayed because he was taking his van across the border. Unfortunately, one minor piece of paper was missing…….the first of several palms meeting. Our border guide took care of several others. Final greasing costs were another $20. This did come back to haunt him though on the way back in. A little more hand shaking took care of that after a little scare. We even got out of having his van disinfected on the way down with a little help from our new “friend”.

Panama at last! We weren’t exactly sure at which point we were finally okayed but no one stopped us at the road stops. What a difference in the roads, much better on this side of the border. They were working on the Pan Am and it was hard to tell exactly where we were supposed to be but everyone else was confused and we all made it through until the road construction ended. Passed by David and headed on to Boquete. It was an interesting drive. Road was excellent. Some very pretty homes along the way but they were out in fields that were dry as a bone and full of volcanic rocks. What a job to clear a place for the house that must be. It was very flat also. After about 1/2hr we started to head uphill and could see Volcan Baru up ahead. Volcan Baru is Panama’s only volcano. Finally some green. Boquete is a darling little town.

Our home for the next 5 nights was Coffee Estates Inn. Jane and Barry were wonderful hosts. They have 3 good sized cabins with separate bedroom plus a living room kitchen combo. At least 2 also have direct tv. The grounds are beautiful with all kinds of beautiful plants in among the coffee plants. All the coffee you can drink and fresh roasted daily! My kind of heaven. They also have lots of orange trees and keep a basket of oranges for you to help yourself to. My husband was in heaven with fresh orange juice every day. They have a juicer in the kitchen for you to use. Dinner, if you want them to fix it, has to be ordered by 11am. We had dinner twice at the Inn and had dinner twice at the Panamonte Hotel. The Panamonte is nice looking from outside but inside is like a country cottage and just darling. There is a beautiful bar with a huge open fireplace. Food excellent at both places. Jane and Barry came over and put linens and candles on your table and then hand deliver the food at a prearranged time. Fresh flowers are always around. They go all out for you.

Excursions for us were mainly hiking on the trails around there and birding. Palo Alto, Los Sendero de Los Quetzales and the Boquete version of the pipeline trail. Other options for things to do in that area are white water rafting/kayaking and a day trip over to Caldera to enjoy the hot springs. We did neither of these although we did do a day trip to the continental divide which was pretty interesting to see so many different types of environments on the way. Also took a very quick trip to David and lasted less than 10 minutes there. It is a horribly hot and oppressive area. Temps in the Boquete area were spring like with highs in the 70’s and lows quite a bit cooler. We used fleece for the mornings and evenings.

On back to David and around the Volcano to the other side. This is part of the La Amistad park that also goes up into Costa Rica. Just a note, you can hike on the Los Sendero de Los Quetzales trail between the two places and we ran into many people who had done it and or were there to do it. We decided not to do it because we had Orlando and the van but might think about it for a future trip. The part that we did hike on was very nice. Driving time between the two…about 2hrs. Once you turn off the Pan Am Hwy to head up to the Volcano, the road and scenery are beautiful.

Stayed in one of the Los Quetzales lodge chalets up in the park. The park is so dense and wonderfully natural…except for the chalets. There are 4x4’s that travel up and down the road frequently so if you need to get into town you can. It is about a 1/2hr walk otherwise. There are 4 chalets. 2 and 3 are in the best location although a hike up to get to. 4 is located near some educational buildings and a dome tent where you can also stay. Not the prettiest location but the birding was fantastic. We were in chalet 1 on the first floor. 2 floors as best that we could tell in each chalet. It was very dark in our rooms which consisted of two bedrooms, one bath, a living area with a fireplace, a large eating area, and a good sized fully equipped kitchen. You can cook for yourselves or for dinner..have the lodge send a pre-ordered dinner up or, for just a little more, they will send someone up to cook for you. We took care of breakfast and lunch and had them come up to cook dinner. No electricity so the hot water, and stove are propane powered. Otherwise there are lanterns to use.

The trails are not for the casual hiker. Unmarked and very slippery. We had brought our hiking poles and were glad we had them. I though for sure that my husband and I were going to do a Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas ride down the mountain. The soil had a lot of clay and was very slippery. The path was as wide as the largest shoe that had gone through and, in some places, about 6 inches deep. Everything is very damp and dense. It is like being in another world sometimes. Next day, went out for a hike and spent a good bit of time around chalet 4. Lots of mixed flocks kept coming through and we had a lot of fun watching them. Back getting a little angry so I stayed in for the afternoon and caught up on some reading rather than risk being down for the count for the rest of our trip. Glad I did, it started raining later that afternoon……it rained and it rained and it rained. All night and into the next day. We had been wishing we had the upper rooms because they were much lighter. Went up to give the people our unused food because we were leaving that day and it was so loud up there from the rain hitting the roof that we could hardly talk. All in all, the chalet was not the best experience. We could hear every foot fall as well as every word the people upstairs made/said. The floor boards were spread out enough that we even had dirt falling down on us. At 7,000ft it was very cool and damp and we kept the fire going full blast the whole time. Would consider going back only if we could get chalet 2 or 3.
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Old Mar 26th, 2005, 07:34 AM
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We were going to stay another couple of nights down the road at a B&B but Orlando had an emergency at home so we decided to just head on back across the border to CR. Went fairly quickly except for the above mentioned piece of missing paperwork. We had planned on staying at Bosque del Rio Tigre for a couple of nights but surprised them 2 days early. Fortunately, they had guests leave that morning and the cabin was available. We really like this little place. It is literally at the end of the road and then some. The road ends and you have to cross the river in two places. It is small, 4 large rooms upstairs with half walls on 2 sides and no windows and one toilet. There is a very nice open sitting area dividing the upstairs in half that has wonderful breezes. Hot showers are outside in the bathhouse. There is another toilet down on the first floor. The little cabin that we stayed in has half walls and a full bathroom with cold water shower. You can use the bathhouse for a hot shower. I stayed in the next morning to rest my back from the long drive. My husband went out with the other guests to Rincon which is a wonderful area to bird in on the road to Puerto Jimenez. It is back towards the Pan Am. He saw lots of great birds. We also spent an afternoon with the other guests down at Escondido Trex where we did a mangrove tour and then headed out to the Gulfo Dulce. My third time in the mangroves but I love it there. We had dolphins swimming around us out in the Gulf and saw several huge green sea turtles. This is a great way to spend a few hours. Time is tide dependent because you can only go into the mangroves via kayak during high tide. Food at Bosque del Rio Tigre, as always, was absolutely wonderful. We spent one day hiking around looking at a piece of property that Abrahams brother is selling. It is a little over 100 acres and is part of the Penas Blancas reserve. No commercial building allowed which is just what we are looking for. We are looking more for preservation than owning a business. There are two ridges and one has a mirador that overlooks the whole Gulfo Dulce. The hiking is tough so the next morning we saddled up and toured areas we hadn’t been able to get to. There is a great area of the Rio Tigre that is part of the property although it is considered public. It is like a natural air conditioner down there and would be a great place to build. While exploring we saw our first Tayra (sp?). It was about 4ft long and climbing straight down a large smooth barked tree. It looked like a black squirrel on steroids! Finally got the nerve up to go on a night hike but was close behind hubby ready to jump on at the first sight of a terciopelo. Other guests had seen quite a few a couple of nights previously. Fortunately, we only saw the false ones so my husband was spared a rider. Looking forward to our 3rd trip back next year.

On to our last stop….4nights at Bosque del Cabo. So much has been said about this place that it would be hard to add anything new. We were floored when we saw the new entrance, gift shop, dinning area, library, kitchen. It is beautiful. We had the Mariposa cabina which is at the very end. A large beautiful cabin with the ever present outdoor shower that Bosque is so famous for as well as a lovely tiled bathtub. While showering for dinner on our last night I had quite an audience of spider monkeys passing through overhead. We also had an unexpected guest for dinner….a coral snake decided to slither on into the dinning area. This was the first poisonous snake on this trip and our last night fortunately. We had seen 2 neotropical bird snakes on our hikes on the Bosque trails as well as a racer. 1 neotropical on our own and the others were while out hiking with Philip. Our last morning and time to leave L, we stopped at Casa Miramar to pick up some other people leaving and got a quick tour. Wow! I could easily live there. On our way up the driveway we stopped to watch one of the most active sloths I have seen. He/she was eating leaves. What a finish. Due to a mix up (hubby decided he wanted to try making some of the arrangements this year) we ended up having to charter a plane back to San Jose. We only had a pilot but he was a great guy. He offered to let my hubby sit up front with him but being the intelligent man that he is….he sat in back with me. He gave us an aerial tour of Chirripo and the Punta Uvita Whale tale as well as other places. It was one of the smoothest flights we have ever taken.

Departure procedures took all of 2 hrs to get through. We were flying on a Delta wide body. Departure tax was quick and even though the line was long so was the security check. It was the actual check in that took forever. By the time we got to the gate we had 1/2hr to take a bathroom break and get something to eat before boarding.

One last note. While at Bosque we finally looked up a long lost cousin very far removed of my husbands. We knew she lived in that area but hadn’t figured out where until this year. She is the owner of Milagro de Tierro lodge. It started out as a commune but is now a yoga retreat. Nikki was very nice and gave us a tour. It is amazing how much she has done in just 10 years. Beautiful plants and trees with stone lined paths some with stone water features. She has been asking family to come visit for years. Maybe after seeing our pics they will realize she isn’t in some wild, dangerous jungle.

We have spent over 1 years time in CR over the years with our shortest trip being our first for 10days. My longest was 5 weeks. Our son stayed for almost 6months. No all inclusives for us although they are fine for some people. We spend our time getting into the nitty gritty of all of the countries we visit. We have traveled extensively and hope to continue to do so but Costa Rica has captured our hearts as it has many others and we look forward to many more years traveling and, soon hopefully, living down there while continuing to investigate the rest of this amazing world we live in.
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Old Mar 26th, 2005, 08:08 AM
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oops...cousins place is Tierra de Milagro if anyone is interested.
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Old Mar 26th, 2005, 03:39 PM
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What a great trip report Jessie. Esquinas looks beautiful. Hope you post some of your pics!

Oh and about the coral snake at BdC....I did not read that, I did not read that! 52 days & definitely counting
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Old Mar 27th, 2005, 07:15 AM
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Thanks for the trip report, Jessie.
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 05:47 AM
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Jessie - just ran across your report!

Sounds like you had a very interesting trip this year.

Glad to read your info on both the Coffee Estates and Panamonte, both were on my choices for the Boquete area. Another I had considered is Hotel Los Establos, happen to see it?

All the fresh roasted coffee you can drink - Ahhh! heaven!

The guy that got lost, is so very fortunate. When we were at BDC this year, while headed back to PJ, we ran across a couple of ladies that had seperated hoping to find the right direction back to the lodge. Fortunately we saw them, Kevin radioed the lodge and told them to stay put till someone arrived!

Sure am glad we didn't see a coral at dinner while at BDC, I would have flipped!

Once again thanks for all your valuable advice. I have printed this one for future reference.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 09:56 AM
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Jessie if you still have your aol e-mail, please check it. Thx!
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