Thursday, April 14, 2011

Visa Run, or an excellent excuse to visit Panamá...

 Isla Perro, San Blas, Panamá

February flew by before I had even gotten used to the fact that it was 2011, and suddenly I was looking at my calendar and realized that I was almost in the middle of March. Dios mio! It was almost time to do a visa run...and the calendar was filling up FAST.

My girlfriend Terri left on March 4th and another set of friends arrived about a week later. Laura and Eric have been my friends for years and they came for an almost two week vaca in Santa Teresa. It was great to see them, and they stayed on a really nice, secluded part of the beach close to the Hermosa side of town. We did a few meals together and some beach time as well as some sunset cocktails, and on one of their last nights here they got engaged on the beach under a full moon! Congratulations you guys!!! 

Laura and Eric at Koji's Sushi in Playa Hermosa

While they were here I realized that my time was running out to do a visa run. I needed to leave the country before my 90 days ran out on March 30th, but I also had plans to hang out with another friend and my four awesome cousins who were all arriving before the end of March. So after throwing around a few ideas with my new man who luckily also needed to go on a visa run trip, we decided to take a cheap flight to Panama City, Panamá, and from there make a sidetrek to the San Blas islands which we had both heard was unbelievably beautiful. I've always wanted to see both the city and the islands, and we both have friend who live in the city who we planned to visit. 
Concrete Jungle

About four days later, we were off. SJO to PTY. Quick one hour flight. We got a hotel in the city and spent the first weekend there, saw our friends and did some marathon shopping. Compared to the prices in Costa Rica which are tourist/US prices, everything is way cheaper in Panama. Asaf (that's my boyfriend, he's Israeli but he lives in CR) needed to get stock for the surf shop he runs with his brother back here in Santa, and I just wanted to shop for some cheap clothes and a dress for a wedding. It was fun to be in the big city for a weekend - after living on the beach for so long it came as a welcome change of pace. And it's a tropical kind of city, where the juxtaposition of palm trees and skyscrapers keeps you feeling just a little bit beachy. 
My girl Amanda who teaches English in Panama City

On Monday morning, we made the trek from the city to the islands. San Blas is an archipelago of tiny islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama, and I would NOT recommend getting there by car/boat. We tried to fly, but our last minute timing didn't work out so well, so we got a taxi to Miramar where we waited for the boat. An hour later we realized we were supposed to board a tiny fishing boat, and ride across the choppiest seas I've ever seen in my life for an hour and a half. There was no other we took the WORST BOAT RIDE ever. No joke. At first I thought it was funny, how the biggest waves I've ever seen were rocking our little boat and not breaking overhead like it seemed they were going to...but after about 10 minutes of slamming over waves and hitting my ass on the hard wooden seat, I realized this ride was going to be hell. We were all freaking out. One girl puked. I fell off the seat into the row behind me at one point. We thought we would never get there...

The island where we stayed in San Blas...EPIC!

But finally we arrived at our little island in paradise. It was a small island near El Porvenir (that's the bigger island where the airport is). It only had about 5 or 6 straw huts on it, one of which would be ours for the next few days. 

Our little shack in San Blas

The lodging was muy rustico, sand floor and palm leaf walls and roof...but on the most beautiful secluded island surrounded by the most blue and green crystal clear waters I've ever seen in my life. Everywhere we turned looked like a postcard...I couldn't stop taking pictures. Food was provided by the local kuna people and it wasn't bad - fresh fish and potatoes, salads, fruits and the occasional lobster. On the second day we did a tour to some of the other islands nearby - including Isla Perro, or dog island, which is famous for it's shipwreck snorkeling spot. 


Luckily we were able to get a flight back out to Panama City, and we spent the last day relaxing in the air conditioning and eating good city food. Flew back to Costa Rica with our bellies full and our hearts content. Visa run success! :)

More to come soon...pura vida!