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Things to Do & Places to Visit with a Baby in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Posted by | April 1st, 2013

My daughter Lian is now 18 months. We live here since she was 3 months old. First I thought: what can I do with a baby here in Bocas del Toro, this is the party and beach destination of Panama – surely not a good destination for a baby. But I was wrong =)

I am Swiss and my husband is Panamanian... our daughter is the ultimate mix. I as a Swiss person had to learn to relax, calm down and take everything very slow and easy here in Panama.

Life by the sea is definitively slower anywhere in the world, but I believe more even so in Latin America. I'm glad that my baby is growing up in this place completely free from the everyday stress of modern life... it doesn't hurt to have a bunch of beaches to our own either!
Life by the sea is definitively slower anywhere in the world, but I believe more even so in Latin America. I'm glad that my baby is growing up in this place completely free from the everyday stress of modern life... it doesn't hurt to have a bunch of beaches to our own either!

In Switzerland everything is organized for you and your baby: you have different playgroups, you have consultants that you can visit every week to ask them all kind of questions about your day-to-day life with your baby, as well as measure and weigh them. First I felt a bit lost here and missed the "consultants". But I slowly learned to listen to my instincts, not needing a consultant to ask. Here I learned to look at my baby and try to understand her needs whereas in more developed countries everything is taken care of for you. The challenge has definitively been refreshing and I feel I know my baby a lot better and have been able to bond more closely with her.

When we first got here, my husband and I often took her to the beach. She was in her little comfortable chair in the shade, listening to the sound of the ocean, watching her dad surf. On the beach she did not need her toys, she was just observing everything around her. Now as she is older she loves to play in the sand and get completely full of it (and also eat it unfortunately!!!). Yes, my beach days are much more sandy these days.

Baby can play, mommy can have drinks with the girls and daddy can surf (if you look hard you can see a tiny dot in the surf, that is my husband)... how great is that?!
Baby can play, mommy can have drinks with the girls and daddy can surf (if you look hard you can see a tiny dot in the surf, that is my husband)... how great is that?!

Which beaches in Bocas del Toro are great for families with kids? Starfish Beach is perfect for little kids because the water is shallow and they can just sit there and play. Also we often go to Carenero beach because it is so close to town (only a 5 min boat ride) and you can just go for a quick dip in the water without all the fuss of a long journey.

When Lian was about 4 months old we went to baby swimming class every week. This was great because she was with other babies and quickly got accustomed to being in the water. The sooner a baby gets in the water the better, because they still have the instinct of holding their breath under-water from the time in the womb. So Lian learned very early to dive and to use her floaters and float on her back.

The baby swimming classes were a great way to get to know other moms as well
The baby swimming classes were a great way to get to know other moms as well

As soon as Lian could sit by herself, we started a new adventure - I took her on my bike and she loved it from the first day! Everyday we cruise along the beaches, sometimes into the jungle. We stop somewhere and watch the waves and surfers while drinking a delicious fruit smoothie. If my daughter has a very grumpy day, I just put her on the bike and her world is fine again.

Baby crying? I just put her on my bike, go out for a ride and she is suddenly a little angel again!
Baby crying? I just put her on my bike, go out for a ride and she is suddenly a little angel again!

In the late afternoon we often go to the park, which has a playground and is surrounded by beautiful trees and is located in the center of Bocas town. There she meets a lot of her friends and I meet a lot of my friends as well. We just hang out there for a while.

When Lian was smaller and lighter I just put her into the baby backpack and walked everywhere with her. I did some hikes on Isla Basimentos, visited Up in the Hill Organic Chocolate Farm and had a delicious brownie up there, or I visited Finca Los Monoso Botanical Garden and discovered the beautiful nature I am surrounded of, while my baby was sleeping.

Luckily there are a lot of babies in Bocas of same age, so Lian has a lot of friends around her. The moms often meet and do fun things together, like play dates at home or we go to the beach and on weekends we have BBQs all together. Also there are several birthday parties, which are always a lot of fun too. We even have a Bocas Moms & Babies Club on Facebook. There we post several things such as: what we do today, or any other tips.

Social skills for kids are so important. It makes me so happy that Bocas has a good group of babies like my own
Social skills for kids are so important. It makes me so happy that Bocas has a good group of babies like my own

Sometimes I miss the organized Swiss world but when I am on my bike with Lian, riding along the ocean, passing palm trees, beaches and jungle I am so happy and I feel it’s the right place for her. She can discover another totally different world and can grow up in paradise!

It took some convincing, but Bocas is certainly an amazing place for a young family. Here's my husband doing his part...
It took some convincing, but Bocas is certainly an amazing place for a young family. Here's my husband doing his part...

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OUR FAMILY SPANISH LEARNING VACATION PROGRAM... »


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Posted in Bastimentos, Beaches, Bluff Beach, Boca del Drago, Bocas del Toro, Carenero, Experience, Habla Ya, Panama Destinations, Panama Travel, Starfish Beach, Starfish Beach

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2013 Calendar of Trips & Excursions to Panama’s Top Natural Attractions

Posted by | January 14th, 2013

Looking for where to learn Spanish in Latin America? As of late, Panama is one of the hottest travel destinations!

So to help you experience Panama's top natural attractions, during each weekend of 2013's high season (January - August), we'll be exploring different parts of our country (click here to check out our calendar of weekend trips).

Get to know our culture, learn our language, meet our people, discover our beaches and explore our mountains: EXPERIENCE PANAMA AT ITS BEST with Habla Ya, Central America's most and best reviewed Spanish program!

With Spanish schools in Bocas del Toro (by the beach) and in Boquete (in the mountains), Habla Ya offers you the opportunity to fully immerse yourself into the Spanish language and experience Panama's most exciting eco-adventure destinations.

As an Habla Ya student you will have access to a plethora of tours and excursions at discounted rates (from surfing and rafting to hiking and ziplining), as well as an active program of social-cultural activities (dinners, movies, parties, dance lessons, etc.).

And after an intense week of Spanish learning, socializing and outdoor exploration, we'll make sure that during the weekend you really get to discover Panama at its VERY BEST!

We will be offering weekend trips to different parts of Panama:

Trips departing from Boquete, Panama


Trips departing from Bocas del Toro, Panama

Specific itineraries and details about what is included in each trip will be published during the following weeks.

We've made sure to include mountains, rivers, beach, culture and ecotourism... something for everybody to enjoy. So if you want to learn Spanish and discover Panama, what are you waiting for? Sign Up & Register TODAY!

You can find more information about our lodging options and Spanish courses by exploring our website.

So what do you think? Are you ready for an intense vacation of Spanish learning and Panama exploration? Feel free to leave a comment!

Habla Ya Spanish students at Isla Gamez, Chiriqui Gulf National Marine Park, Panama
Habla Ya Spanish students at Isla Gamez, Chiriqui Gulf National Marine Park, Panama

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OUR SPANISH PROGRAMS ABROAD IN LATIN AMERICA... »


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Posted in Adventure Travel, Bastimentos, Beaches, Bluff Beach, Boca del Drago, Bocas del Toro, Boquete, Chiriqui, Chiriqui Gulf, Chorcha, Ecotourism, Experience, Habla Ya, Panama Destinations, Panama Road Trips, Panama Travel, Rafting, San San Pond Sak, Soloy, Starfish Beach, Vacations, Volcan Baru, Ziplining

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Day Trip #2: Visit Boca del Drago and Starfish Beach

Posted by | November 6th, 2012

This is the second post of a series of 10 things to do in Bocas del Toro, Panama for less than $25. So let’s get straight into it!

It is inadmissible to come to Bocas del Toro without visiting Starfish Beach! Starfish Beach is by far one of the most spectacular beaches in Bocas del Toro. Its water is crystal clear and certainly very calm during most of the year (the exception being some northerly swells we receive in November and December).

Starfish Beach received its name due to the fact that many starfish come and gather there to feed. You will be tempted to touch them, take them out of the water and take pictures, but please do not do it! It would be totally uncool if someone randomly picked you up just for the sake of taking a photo, wouldn't it? Unless you really liked that person... but Starfish obviously don't know you... so...

We love our Starfish: appreciate the wildlife but don't interfere with it!
We love our Starfish: appreciate the wildlife but don't interfere with it!

Leaving aside the eco-tip, there are several ways to get to Starfish Beach. If you are brave and in good shape, you can cycle to Boca del Drago by renting a bike in town ($7 – $10 per day). It should take you about 1 - 2 hours depending on your speed. It's about 18 kilometers (11 miles) from town and there are several hilly places where you would certainly benefit from riding a bike with gears (instead of a beach cruiser).

If you are not in your best shape, don’t have much time or just feel lazy, we recommend taking the bus (nice and cheap with air conditioning), or a taxi (more expensive).

Cycling to Boca del Drago

Once you get to Starfish Beach, make sure to lock up and secure your bike!
Once you get to Starfish Beach, make sure to lock up and secure your bike!

If you decide to cycle, you have to:

  1. ride north up Third Street until it merges into G Avenue and ride along until you pass Habla Ya Bocas Spanish School
  2. afterwards the road will bend towards your right and you’ll start cycling along Playa El Istmito, where the Sea Fair takes place each year
  3. once you pass the Smithsonian Institute, you’ll reach a fork that if you take a left you’ll go through the island towards Boca del Drago (Starfish Beach)
  4. contiue on that road for 1 - 2 hours until you reach the sea, turn left and ride on a sandy road for about 5 - 10 minutes until you reach the end of it

The bike ride to Drago is a rather long one, especially if you cycle, so make sure to bring water with you. Don’t be discouraged by the time it takes to get there however - you will enjoy beautiful nature, get some exercise, and it is certainly worth your time and effort to visit this side of Isla Colon!

Taking the bus or a taxi to Boca del Drago

Starfish Beach in Bocas del Toro is simply one of Panama's most stunning beaches
Starfish Beach in Bocas del Toro is simply one of Panama's most stunning beaches

If you go to the Central Park, there will be a "colectivo" (30 passenger bus) waiting to leave once it fills up. It's scheduled times to leave Bocas are 5 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 pm., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. The bus journey roughly takes 30 minutes and it heads back into town an hour after it leaves town. They charge $2.50 one way, or you can ask for a return and they will charge $5 and that saves you a seat for on the way back. But be careful, the last bus is scheduled to go back to town at 6 p.m. but if it fills up it will leave before.

If you decide to take a taxi, it will charge you $15 for each journey. Make sure to agree a time for pickup (and don't get your hopes too high for him to be totally punctual and never pay in advance).

Once you get to Boca del Drago, either by bike, bus or taxi, you will eventually reach a couple of local restaurants that serve superb-fresh sea food. Stop for a nice ceviche (raw fish marinated with lemon) and a cold beer, or stay for a beautifully fried whole fresh fish, which is absolutely succulent... YUM!

From these restaurants in Boca del Drago to Starfish Beach it's only a 15 minute walk, or a $1, one minute boat ride. Make a plan to spend the whole day out here to truly enjoy it!

If you can walk, there really isn't a need to take a boat to Starfish Beach... enjoy it!
If you can walk, there really isn't a need to take a boat to Starfish Beach... enjoy it!

A word of advice

Unfortunately during the last year, a couple of random restaurants have made their appearance at Starfish Beach taking away some of its peaceful tranquility and pristine charm. With diesel powered generators and pumping music they are polluting the area in more than one way. Complaints have been made to the authorities but nothing has been done. Our advice: stay away from them and make sure to take your business elsewhere. Apart from that, Starfish Beach remains one of the most stunning beaches of Bocas del Toro.

You can also reach Starfish Beach via a boat tour from Bocas Town, and from Bocas del Drago you can also hire a boat to Bird Island.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT TOURS IN BOCAS DEL TORO... »


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Posted in Boca del Drago, Bocas del Toro, Experience, Habla Ya, Panama Destinations, Starfish Beach

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Boca del Drago, Mimitimbi, Bird Island & Starfish Beach Weekend Trip

Posted by | May 4th, 2012

Click here for a complete calendar of events during May, June, July and August of 2012.

The Archipelago of Bocas del Toro has many wonders but the Boca del Drago area on Isla Colon is certainly one of those places in the Caribbean that you can't miss!

We'll be heading out to Planet Drago (its breathtaking scenery is out of this world) during the following weekends of 2012:

  • Saturday May 26th - Sunday May 27th
  • Saturday July 7th - Sunday July 8th
  • Saturday August 18th - Sunday Sunday August 19th

Boca del Drago in Bocas del Toro, Panama
Boca del Drago in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Our itinerary will be as follows:

Mimitimbi on Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro

Saturday

  • 10 a.m. - Depart to Drago from Habla Ya
  • 10:20 a.m. - Arrival to La Gruta Bat Cave, in the middle of Colon Island
  • 10:25 a.m. - Explore the Cave
  • 11:00 a.m. - Continue to Drago
  • 11:15 a.m. - Arrival to Drago and Check-in at the Hotel
  • 12:00 p.m. - Lunch at Restaurant in Drago
  • 1:30 p.m. - Boat Ride to Mimitimbi (or 1.5 hour hike if you are up for it!)
  • 2:00 p.m. - Arrival to Mimitimbi. Beach, River and Exploration Time!
  • 5:00 p.m. - Boat Ride back to Boca del Drago
  • 5:30 p.m. - Arrival back to Hotel in Boca del Drago
  • 6:30 p.m. - Dinner at Restaurant
  • 8:00 p.m. - Bonfire and Party Time

Bird Island, also known as Swans Cay in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Sunday

  • 8:30 a.m. - Breakfast at Restaurant
  • 9:30 a.m. - Boat trip to Bird Island (Swans Cay)
  • 9:45 a.m. - Arrival to Bird Island, observe the birds, and if sea conditions allow, snorkel a bit
  • 10:45 a.m. Head back to Drago
  • 11:00 a.m. - Arrival to Drago, and check out at the hotel
  • 11:30 a.m. - Lunch at Restaurant
  • 1:00 p.m. - Take boat to Starfish Beach
  • 1:05 p.m. - Enjoy the entire afternoon at Starfish Beach
  • 5:00 p.m. - Head back to Drago
  • 5:30 p.m. - Bus back to Bocas town

For Habla Ya Spanish students this trip will cost $75 per person (and $95 per person for non students).

Price includes:

  • Roundtrip transportation Bocas Town - Boca del Drago
  • Boat Trip to and back from Mimitimbi, Bird Island (Swans Cay) and Starfish Beach
  • 1 night lodging at Hotel in Boca del Drago (rustic cabins)

CONTACT US FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT TRIPS TO BOCA DEL DRAGO IN BOCAS DEL TORO... »

What to bring? Towel, swimwear, change of cloths, mosquito repellent (plenty of it, at dusk there are lots of chitras), passport or copy of it, camera, extra water, and a back-pack. If you want to keep your expenses low, you can also bring your own food and drinks from Bocas town so that you don't spend too much at the local restaurant.

Make the most out of your Spanish learning vacation and book this trip before you arrive to Panama... spaces are limited!

Starfish Beach in Bocas del Toro, Panama
Starfish Beach in Bocas del Toro, Panama

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR SUMMER SPANISH IMMERSION PROGRAM IN CENTRAL AMERICA... »


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Posted in Adventure Travel, Beaches, Boca del Drago, Bocas del Toro, Experience, Habla Ya, Panama Destinations, Panama Road Trips

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