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Caribbean

Cuba Travel

Havana, Cuba

-When I asked travelers previously what they thought of Cuba the story was usually the same. The beaches are great, the food is terrible, the people are amazing and the rum is almost free..-

The second that you land in Cuba and step a foot into the customs line you feel like you have been transported into the 50s. Looking around at the dark cream walls with burgundy accent colors. Airport employees walk past with uniforms that look like they haven’t changed style in 50 years either. If you come from the states, Immigration will see your US passport and ask you if you would like them to stamp your passport. A lot of people think that because Obama visited Cuba that it’s open for travel. That is definitely not the case. You may travel to Cuba from the US now and not be considered a spy as you were previously if you have proper plans and documents. You can book a tour through an agency for thousands of dollars or you can go on the account that you are volunteering. If not you have to be there on educational purposes only. No wandering beaches and exploring the islands of Cuba. Wellllll that wasn’t going to work for me. The only other loop hole is to fly from Canada or Cancun. Which was my choice… Before leaving cancun I had a 2 hour delay. I messaged a friend that was in Havana at the airport on his way back and told him I had a two hour delay. He sent me this photo of Obama in Air Force One preparing for takeoff.

After exiting the airport I hired a cabby to take me to Old Havana in a 1955 Cadillac. The first thing that I learned is in Cuba unless you have a large travel budget you don’t stay in a hotel. You sleep in a Casa. A house that is usually divided into private rooms with a bathroom that you can rent for an average of $20-$35. The owner of the house sometimes sells beers and may offer to cook you meals for a small fee. After finding a Casa (at 11pm) we dropped off our bags and walked next door to a small one table restaurant where a Cuba gent was cleaning up. He offered to make us chicken and rice for dinner. After two hours of being in Havana I was sitting at a table with three girls traveling Cuba, me, the older gentlemen that owned the small resultant, his much younger women, the owner of the Casa, and a few security guys from a hotel down the street drinking rum talking about the history and the future of Cuba as if we knew each other for years! I was amazed at how quickly I was welcomed by the Cuban people.

It was a long night of talking history and discussing the new beginnings in the making. For a guy like myself, I have traveled all over the world. I have seen a lot of things, so it really does take a lot to get me worked up about something. But when I woke up and walked out of the Casa, I couldn’t believe where I was. Streets filled with Cuban people on foot walking around. Fruit and vegetable carts on the corner. I walked the streets as 50s Chevy Bel Airs and Ford Thunderbirds passed me.

I have lots of tattoos, have a beard, and walked the streets in a straw hat from Guatemala. It was no secret that I was not from Cuba. But the local people would walk up to me and ask me where I am from. After I said the USA they would shake my had. I had complete strangers give me hugs. One guy told me his president is no good. My president is very good. Obama coming to Cuba has given these people hope they haven’t had in many years! The Cuban people have had it pretty rough compared to today’s standard of living. One friend of mine I met in Havana told me that he has seen more change in Cuba in the last 7 months then his people have seen in the last 57 years! They just got access to Internet! It’s an interesting system. You walk to a park and pay a guy $3. He gives you a pull tab like a lottery ticket. One tab has your internet link and other has the password. And that will buy you one hour of Internet. Keeping in mind this is in a country where the basic salary is $30 USD per month.

I met another guy sitting on the river walk that asked me if he could practice his English with new. I was on the verge of passing out from not eating all day and had no water in the 100 degree heat but no problem I told him. Alex was his name and his English was about as terrible as my Spanish but we sat on the side of that River for over an hour. He told me that he worked at the oil refinery along the river in the distance. It was his day off so he takes the bus to the city to come to this place and get peace. He told me that he makes $30 per month and that has to feed himself and both of his retired parents and his younger siblings. He said that he will take a bit of his pay from time to time and buy a book. He has to read it very quickly because he then has to sell it on the black market to get the money back to buy food. He does the same with CDs. Alex decided two years ago that he wanted to learn English. So he bought a dictionary and for two years he taught himself English. Pretty impressive. He told me that the working man in Cuba is poor. And that the teachers might only make $50 a month and the doctor can make $60. But the cab driver on the other hand is rich! They can make a months salary of the average man multiple times in one day!

You must have a permit to work in tourism. Alex told me that he had been waiting for years in line for that permit. The truth is he will probably never get that dream server job he wants because the cards aren’t dealt that way now in Cuba. But we can both hope things will change for the people!

The people of Cuba are great. The culture is amazing! The music is everywhere. But the food really is terrible. They lack options, spices and flavor. So if you take one thing from this, let me tell you where to eat!

My first day in Havana I walked a few blocks from the Casa looking for food and ended up at Sloppy Joes. (Not to be confused with the Sloppy Joes in Key West) The bar that the Los Angeles Times called “One of the most famous bars of all time!” The bar opened in the 30s by immigrant Jose Garcia. During prohibition American tourists would come to Havana for the night life, gambling and the booze they couldn’t get in the states. It was visited by everyone from John Wayne, Ernest Hemingway, Clark Gable and Frank Sinatra. After the revolution in 1959 and the embargo from the United States denied US travelers. Sloppy Joes shut down soon after.. After a long renovation they recently reopened the bar back to its old glory!

 (Photographer unknown)

Bodeguita del Medio opened its doors in 1942. The walls are covered with signatures and quotes from people ever since. Salvador Allende, Pablo Neruda and Ernest Hemingway all frequented the Bodeguita Del Medio. Hemingway wrote on the wall “My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita.” They make claim to have invented the Mojito in this building in the 1942 soon after they opened..

La Floridita- It opened in 1817 with the name “La Piña de Plata”. (The Silver Pineapple) Over 100 years later, tourists from North America started frequenting the bar and convinced the owner to change the name to La Florida, which over time is now La Floridita. In 1914, an immigrant by the name of Constantino began tending bar at La Floridita and by 1918 he owned the bar. Constante as they call him was credited in the early 30s for inventing the frozen daiquiri. The bar became a school of highly skilled bartenders specializing in cocktails made with fresh fruit juices and rum. Today the traditions are still preserved by the disciples of this Mr. Constante. The bar was also frequented in the 1930’s by Ernest Hemingway who occupied a hotel room near by for years..

So you can possibly pay visit to the home of the sloppy joe, the mojito and the daquri all in one day!

My first night in Havana I asked what was a must see. An older gentlemen told me I must ride in a 57 Chevy, dance the tango and smoke a Cuban cigar. Pay a visit to the house of rum and Cuban tobacco pictured below.

I had plans to come to Havana no matter what while traveling this year. But when I was in Nicaragua I caught wind of the Rolling Stones coming to Cuba to play a free show! I actually skipped a large part of the Yucatan in Mexico just to make it for this concert. This was set to be the biggest concert in Cuba since the Revolution in 59! They denied the biggest acts in the world such as the Beetles and Elvis and the rest of the invasion of Rock and Roll.

I read about history every day. I write about it as often as I can but to see it happen in front of my eyes was something else. Forget about witnessing history for a second. To see the look on these peoples faces. No matter if they were 15 or 50 to be with them to see the first concert of their lives was pretty cool. The Rolling Stones have played a million shows but I promise never one like this. One show, 5 hunnnnndred thousand people, and not one single fight, drunk guy sleeping on the grass and probably the first Rolling Stones concert in history where there was no alcohol or pot smoke in the air. Only Cuban cigars. I’m just glad to see Keith Richards is 153 years old and still had girls pulling their hair out..

The following day I took a city tour on a double decker bus around Havana. In previous days I could see whenever I would talk about the government people seemed to get a bit uncomfortable. No one wants to talk much about old history. I saw this first hand on the city tour. I thought they would take me to sights that Che Guavara made grand speeches and show me places where Batista was overthrown. I saw no such thing on the city tour. They told me where the hospital and supermarkets were. I did get a look at the monument of Che and Fidel and saw the newly opened US embassy though!

Old Havana is definitely worth a visit. You can walk from the capital through Central Park to La Floridita to the walking street. Lots of little shops and restaurants. If you see a churro cart do yourself a favor and stop..
At the end near the river is the fort and Old Havana. People selling amazing political posters and books. Some art and old trinkets.

After a few days of wandering Havana I hired a cab to take me for the two and a half hour drive down the coast of Cuba to the beach town of Varadero.

Varadero is a nice change of pace from Havana. People are a bit more pleasant and much less pushy as they are in Havana. Either way the Cuban people are expressly welcoming and helpful! I was walking down the streets of Varadero looking for a Casa to rest my head. A women stopped me and told me that her place was full. She then called every friend she had for nearly 25 minutes until she found me a place to stay. I told her I was from the United States and she gave me a hug and told me welcome!

I have seen beaches in North and South America as well as Asia and I have to believe the beaches of Cuba will give the best beaches anywhere a run for their money! The water was perfect!

If you have plans to travel to Cuba there are a few things you should know. ATM machines are few and far between and your credit or debit card doesn’t work in cuba. You need to bring cash! Also at this moment US dollars have a bad exchange rate. The Euro is better and the Mexican peso is much better then the other currency’s. Also while in Cuba do not exchange money in the streets. You are garonteed to get taken advantage of. Go to the bank, take a number, wait in line and exchange your money there. Or go to a deca deca currency exchange office. I got a better rate here. Last thing to know about currency in cuba. There is two money system so. One is meant for tourists (CUC), and the other for local people. (Peso) The CUC is equivalent to USD. 1=1. The local peso is not really worth the money it is printed on but you may revive some of this in change from street vendors. It used to be illegal to have local money or for them to have tourist money but I don’t think anyone seems to care any more.

 (photo-www.bu.edu)

So a bit of history of Cuba.. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara lead the revolution. It took from 1953-1959 to overthrow Cuban government and president Batista to a revolutionary socialist state. Batista antagonized the population by forming lucrative links to organized crime and allowing American companies to dominate the Cuban economy. The people also only had very limited sources for clean drinking water. That was the first promise made by Castro to the people. The promise of clean drinking water.

Fidel and brother Raul once tried to overthrow the government and were imprisoned. Fidel was sentenced to 15 years in prison. His brother Raul got a 13 year sentence. However in 1955 under broad political pressure Batista freed all political prisoners in Cuba. Soon after the brothers met other exiles in Mexico to prepare the overthrow of Batistas government. In Mexico young lawyer Fidel met a young Argentinian doctor by the name of Che Guevara. They had lunch in Holbox, Mexico (where I began writing this post) and then sailed to Cuba to fight the present government and start the revolution.

Soon after the United States placed an embargo on Cuba weakening the government. Batista lost support from most Cuban people. Either to join the revolution or distance themselves. Support for Batista was mainly from US businessmen and the Mafia. After the embargo the Cuban Air Force couldn’t get parts to repair planes. Fidel with a group of men sometimes as fewer then 200 took on the Cuban military and police force of over 37,000 people and almost every time there was a military strike, they had to retreat. Once the government sent 12,000 soldiers and they were defeated by Fidel’s men. Once they took on a 500 men battalion. The revolution captured 240 men and only lost three of their own! After words of all the defeat Batista panicked and took flight for the Dominican Republic.

Fidel soon came from the mountains to the capital and appointed the new president.

Over 75% of the best land in Cuba was owned by US companies. One of the first policies of the newly formed Cuban revolution was eliminating illiteracy and the second being land reforms.

In 1959 all land and property owned by upper and middle class people was nationalized. Basically if you lived in Cuba and you lived in an apartment complex, you now own your apartment. It’s your house now. The farms owned by the wealthy companies from the states were taken over by the government.

Eisenhower froze all assets of Cubans on US soil and tightened the embargo. The American Embargo against Cuba is the longest lasting single foreign policy in American history!


During the first decade of Castro in power they improved rights for black Cubans, women, better health care, better housing, medical facilities and education. By the end of the 60s all children were reviving education. Previous to 1959 less then 40% of children in Cuba were educated.

Without getting any more political about the history of Cuba, read about the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis.

Where to stay- 

In Havana stay at Casa Idania Obispo! Obispo No. 517 email-idaniaobispo@gmail.com Great location! Rooftop patio. Near restaurants and old Havana. $30 per night.

In Veradero most of the casas are very nice! Full apartments with bathroom, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom for $30-$35 per night.

What to eat-

In Havana pizza at Don Saluatore. Owner is Italian from NYC. Best pizza in Cuba!

Sloppy Joes has a good sloppy joe sandwich.

Cafe Paris has a good ropa viejo.

Getting to and from-

I had lots of problems booking flight for Cuba. So I went to Savanah travel agency and they booked flight for me from Cancun to Cuba with three days notice for $260. Make sure that includes your entrance and exit taxes. Also be sure you do not get your passport stamped if you are from the states!

(Black and white photos-photographer unknown)

Belize

Caye Caulker, Belize

When you get off the boat at Caye Caulker you are greeted “Welcome to paradise!” And it sure was true. I don’t know that I have met a nicer people then the ones of Belize!

Mayan people lived here 2,500 years bc until Spanish explorers made their way here in the 1500s. In the 1600s the English, Scottish and the Pirates made their way. In the 1780s British took rule and brought slaves and slave bosses from Jamaica and other Caribbean islands to log mahogany woods. In 1833 slavery was abolished in the British empire. The country was named British Honduras until 1981 when Belize got its independence.


Caye Caulker is a magical place!
You can tell it has been discovered. It is no longer a secret. But it is far from a Cancun or a Cozumel down the road. You will not see a franchise of any kind. Local people either operate a restaurant, store, or are tour operators for the most part. There is a fruit guy, there is a bread guy. “Banana bread, HOT frrreesh out de oven!”

There are a hand full of roads on the island but there aren’t any cars! Everyone drives a golf cart. Even the taxis are golf carts! What’s not to like about that.
I was walking down the road the other day and a guy said “hey man you have to slow down!” I said ok. He said “no man, slower. Slower. Ok now you got it!” Haha the people of Belize are great!

We got a room at Raul’s Place. $30 US a night for a private room with bathroom and a refrigerator and coffee maker. The couple that own the two story apartment have been on the island all of their lives. They told me tales of the many hurricanes they have survived or how the two islands that make up Caye Caulker used to be one before a hurricane in the 50s. Now the area between the two islands is about 100 feet across! It’s called The Split..

After meeting many locals and discussing property in Belize and the way it has changed for the good and the bad over the years I heard some tales about “The Split”. It once was a place the local people would come for birthday parties, celebrations and holidays to relax with their families. There was a small bar there. The bar was bought not long ago and turned into an obnoxiously loud party spot with overpriced drinks and food geared towards partying tourists. But the owners told the local people that they do not want them there. They are no longer welcome at the split! The place they have been coming with their families for many years! So I chose to not spend a dime at The Lazy Lizzard and if you have respect to the local people of Caye Caulker you wouldn’t either. But enough about that. There are plenty of great local bars on the island with tons of amazing views! I went to Maggie’s Sunset Kitchen one night for amazing chicken kabobs and a sunset cocktail.

(Maggie’s Sunset Kitchen)

My days were usually started at Meldys. A small bright little shack a coupe back from front street. The price is good and the food is amazing! French toast, eggs, fruit and bacon. The Belizian breakfast, which is fry jacks (fried fluffy dough) refried beans and a chicken wing soup. It’s amazing! Food for two and all for $9. This is sure to cure any hang over! Just in time to go to Ragamuffins for a snorkeling tour. I chose them be because they have a fleet of four sail boats to take you out on!

A day spent sailing the Caribbean, snorkeling the largest reef on this half of the planet and eating fresh out of the ocean sea food. It was an amazing day! The first stop on the tour was Shark-Ray Alley.  The second I entered the water I was surrounded by 7-8 sharks and could see 4 big stingrays. There were some fish around as well.

The second spot was snorkeling around the reef. Lots of coral, small tropical fish and a few caves.

The tour ended with some time to wander on your own around the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Lots of little bright colored tropical fish and a few golden rays.

There is an hour sail back to the island wile listening to reggae music and drinking rum punch. One of the best tours I had in Central America.


And every single night that we were on the island we had dinner at Reina’s. The best jerked chicken I have ever had in my life! Jerked chicken with grilled pineapple, rice, seasoned cooked vegetables, and more pinapple on the side. And it comes with a free rum punch! You won’t find a better meal on Caye Caulker as far as I am concerned.

Where to stay-

Raul’s Place-60 blz ($30USD) Good breeze, refrigerator and coffee maker in room. Quiet

Getting there and away-

Belize City- The ferry boat from Belize City will get you to Caye Caulker in 45 minutes. I payed for a round trip ticked which for a traveling man is no good. If you are traveling north to Mexico buy a one way boat ticked and you can take the ferry to Mexico from the islands. I paid 28 blz ($14us) round trip.

To Mexico you can book a ferry boat from Caye Caulker to Chetumal. Two hour boat ride that stops in San Pedro for immigration. Cost-120 blz ($60us)

Nicaragua

The Corn Islands, Nicaragua

From Pirates to Paradise! The Corn Islands.. It was once called the Skeleton Islands inhibited by a local tribe of cannibals. The current local people are descendants of British prospectors and freed slaves. (I think Jamaican) These islands were a haven for Pirates in the 1600s. There is an untold number of shipwrecks that scatter the shores of both islands. There was a 99 year lease signed on the islands by the United States in 1914 but the lease was eventually terminated because of lack of interest by the States. (Dummies) Tropical water, tropical sunsets, no cars, no roads and a bungalow on the ocean. The best kept secret in the Caribbean!

I have been hearing stories since I was in Costa Rica about the panga (ferry boat) going from Little Corn Island to Big Corn Island capsizing a few weeks ago and 12 people drowning. I later heard that the coast guard said no boats were aloud to leave but was told the people bribed the driver to take them anyways so they could catch their flight. The engine failed and a wave came from the side and flipped the boat. There weren’t life jackets and many of the people couldn’t swim. (Not sure if that’s all facts) So I have been a bit uneasy about this boat ride for the last month. After the flight arrived to the Big island we went to the docks and boarded a tug boat delivering goods to the little island. We paid them $6 each to tag along. This was the slowest boat ever! This thing was putting over 8-10 foot waves for an hour before we arrived. But in one piece I was!

When we arrived to the docks on the main side of the island. None of the rooms looked to appealing so we walked down the shore and found a trail leading into the jungle. We followed that trail through a couple zig zags to the other side of the island. After a 15 minute walk I started to hear the waves crashing. I turned a corner and saw the most turquoise water ever! I have arrived..

This was the paradise! Tropical waters, nice beaches, a cool ocean breeze and not a person in site. We rented a bungalow with two beds and private bathroom on the ocean at Elsas place for $30 a night. (You can get smaller rooms with no bathroom for less.)

 Photo-bigcornisland.com

Every morning I woke up to a huge breakfast on the jungle at Rosas. A fruit bowl as big as your ass, home made coconut bread toast with jam, home made tea and juice for about $3.50. After breakfast we would take the two mile stroll around the island, sitting on the beaches of Yemaya. (Speaking of food you can find lobster dinners around the island for $8.)

Yemaya though, this place is not for the light pockets. A room starts at $330 a night but that’s the name of the game for a guy like me. I sleep with the poor people and spend my day living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Infinity pools, hammocks on private beaches, beers on penthouse balconies. Those are the things that get me goin wile traveling. And other then the beers, I prefer not to pay for any of it.

During happy hour from 1-4 at Yemaya the beers are $2 and they have lobster tacos for $4! Boom, that’s how you get it done.

Every bar should have swings for bar stools..

Sunsets and nights were usually spent at Tranquilo Cafe. (Buy one get one drinks from 5-7) Listening to the white stripes, eating smoked pulled pork sandwiches, drinking beer and eating homemade cookie ice cream sandwiches!


FTW! Life is good here.

After 6 nights of living the dream we packed up and took the actual little panga boat this time to the big island. 40 people on an oversized canoe. Half way through a storm kicked up some wicked winds and rain started coming down in buckets! There was a huge piece of plastic in the boat we covered up with as I am thinking about how they told me the plastic could have been part to blame for the others drowning. Now my concern was covering my passport and camera.  But after 30 minutes or so we reached solid ground. The boat ride wasn’t so bad I guess.

On to Big Corn island. We took a taxi to LuLu’s Place. Owned by a real nice retired guy from the states. You can get a private room with shared bathroom for $30. It also is next to Big Fish Cafe. One of the best places to eat on the island. There is also a little bakery shack a few doors down that has the best banana bread for .50 cents! We only spent two nights on big corn but did manage to do some snorkeling.

There is a dive shop Dos Tiburones is on the North End of the island very close to LuLu’s that has a $20 snorkel tour a few times a day.

Blue fish as far as you could see!

This was a random Mary statue we wondered across.

These are the anchors and cannons from a Spanish pirate ship from the 1600s. Most of the ships wood rotted away long ago but the heart is still here.

I think there are 6 cannons in this photo.

We snorkeled three spots. The 1600s pirate ship wreck, a reef and Steam Ship that wrecked into the shallows of Big Corn around 1946ish. This is part of the engine compartment above water.

Part of the prop from the steam ship.

The next morning we woke up with the sun to make the 2 hour early check in for our 20 person domestic 8 am flight. (Why) We scheduled a cab to pic is up but at 6am there was no one so we started walking. This was the sunrise on our walk to the airport.

We walked for about 15 minutes and looked down a dirt path and found the runway. Through the a hole in the fence and then we march. Those things are much bigger then they look! But 15 minutes down the runway and we neared the airport. Children on their way to school lined both sides of the runway.



Where to stay-

Little Corn- Elsa’s Place. $25-$45 per night.

Big Corn- LuLu’s. $30 per night.

Getting to and away-

Flight from Managua with no notice- $174 round trip.

Ferry to Little Corn- $6 each way.

Panama

Bocas Del Toro, Panama

In 1510 the Spanish settled in Bocas Del Toro, Panama as a port to stop between shipping Peruvian gold and treasures from Peru to Spain. Pirates were attracted to what was called the most dangerous waters in the sea, The Caribbean. The Spanish began rounding Cape Horn straight to Spain to avoid being sacked by pirates. Fast forward to the 1800s. Scottish and English families brought slaves from Jamaica and the Colombian islands of San Andreas to the archipelago of Bocas Del Toro to evade taxes. They came to harvest sugar cane, cocoa, and coconut palms. It is also the base of the banana boom for Chiquita Bananas. There was a tortuous shell and live turtle trade as well. Today islands are inhabited by some of the original Indian families as well as the Caribbean Creole. There are no cars on the islands but the walking streets are full of English speaking Rastafari accents and Jamaican music plays all day long. I haven’t made it to Jamaica yet but I assume it would feel a lot like this… 
I personally wasn’t much impressed by the main Island so I booked 4 nights on Isla Salarte. The island has only one hostel, The Bambuta Lodge.

  

 I can tell you what kids you won’t find a better place to sleep in Bocas!

   

Dorm rooms are $17 a night or there is very nice private rooms out back for quite a bit more. Complete with a beautiful pool overlooking the Ocean, full bar and a great breakfast and lunch menu. Dinner differs every night but it is always 5 star. You can book tours here or take a canoe from here to the Blue Coconut..   

Not a bad view I had on the way  either.. 

 

The Blue Coconut is a little tiki bar on stilts around the corner of the island a bit. They have lobster burgers, tropical cocktails, free snorkel gear and hammocks to use. 

  

Getting here is only possible by boat or canoe but worth every second! 

  

Where to stay-

Bambuda Lodge-$17 per night. Breakfast and lunch from $3-$8ish. Dinner options-$8-$12 Beers-$2 (Blue Coconut prices are similar) I also stayed one night on Basimentos Island at Bubbas House but not much to see there. 

Getting there and away-

-From the south. I took the chicken bus from El Valle to David for a night and then a bus from David to Bocas. It took 6 busses from Panama City total to go to el Valle for a night. Not worth it in my opinion. This trip was miserable and really confusing. I would highly suggest to anyone to take the night bus from Panama City direct to Almirante (the port city of Bocas). From the port you take a taxi boat to Bocas main island for $6. From there you another taxi boat to Isla Solarte to Bambuda Lodge for $5.

-Getting to Costa Rica. This can be arranged by any of the hostels. You taxi to the main island and your taxi boat to the mainland is included in your ticket. There will be a shuttle bus waiting that will take you to the border. Get your exit and entrance stamp and on the other side there will be another bus waiting that will take you to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica all included in the $22 shuttle ticket. 

Panama Travel

San Blas Islands, Panama

The archipelago of San Blas is off the coast of Panama. It’s made up of 365 islands that stretch about 100 miles. It was once a hideout for pirates and explorers.

 

We arranged the trip through El Machico Hostel in Panama City. There are a few options of islands to stay on but they told me Diablo Island was a bit more money but that it was the best. The next morning at 5am a guy in a land cruiser picked us up. After a pit stop at a 24 hour grocery store for supplies we hit the road for a couple hour jeep ride. From Panama City through the jungle from the Pacific to the Atlantic it took about two hours. We drove through the hills and farm land of Panama to the Kuna Reservation. The Kuna have rule of the islands and some of the jungle of the mainland Panama since Spanish conquest. They have their own borders, checkpoints and police. A few “taxes” paid and they welcomed us with open arms to their islands. They picked us up at the shore in basically a motorized canoe. We were taken to Diablo island. If you are backpacking for many months and want the best for less, this is the island for you!

  (the proper ratio)

 When we arrived we were greater and set up with a bamboo and palm leaf bungalow on the water for a few nights to stay.

San Blas like many places can be done on many different budgets. There are over water bungalows on stilts and many islands have 10 or so 40 foot catamarans moored in the waters surrounding them. It is also an option if you are traveling to Colombia to book a 4 day sailing trip. Three nights sailing around San Blas and one final passage from Panama to Cartagena, Colombia. All meals included plus transportation for $400. Next time I will give it a go..

 

The Kuna people fed us fresh sea food every day for lunch and dinner. I didn’t think a fish with the head still on it looking at me was my kinda thing. Boy was I wrong! These little guys were amazing!

Coconuts were available and snorkeling gear was there for the taking. Next to Diablo is Pero Island. It’s about a 10 minute swim across a really short, really deep channel to the other island. There you will be greeted by hundreds of tropical fish and a huge steel ship wreck!

 

Much of the ship as rotted away over the years about I bet about 100 foot of it still stands.

The evenings on the island were spend having a group dinner. Usually some kind of white fish, Latin music and many many beers. They also sold bottles of rum for $15 which as a bit of a problem. Watching the sunset in a hammock with a beer in had. This is what dreams are made of..

 

Waking up to breakfast and to start it all over again..

 

They also offer a free your every day. Every day it is different. One day they took us to a sand bar with star fish on the bottom. One day they took us on an hour boat ride to the last of the islands in the archipelago Isla Tortuga.

 

It was the finest paradise I have ever seen!

Where to stay- Isla Diablo (Devil Island) $40 per night per person. All meals, snorkeling gear and tours included. Beers $2.

Getting there- You need to organize your tour in Panama City. They will arrange for your jeep to take you from the Pacific through the jungle to the port on the Caribbean side. Cost-$70. There is also a $20 tax to enter the Kuna Yala land. It does add up but it’s worth every penny! Book through El Machico Hostel. They are very helpful!

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