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We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years. So search our blog to plan your vacation. From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss. You'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while on vacation!


What to expect during your first week at Habla Ya in Bocas del Toro?

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After landing in Bocas, I made the short walk to the school and was met at reception by Ludo. I’ll admit to feeling a little apprehensive ahead of my arrival. I’d read so much about the school’s Caribbean base and I was eager to begin my Spanish adventure. I was welcomed aboard and Ludo talked me through an extensive four-page map of the surrounding islands filled with handy tips, such as the locations of cheap local restaurants, where to find the best beaches, and the cost of the water taxis to get you there.

Habla Ya Spanish school in Bocas del Toro

As I arrived on a Saturday, the next day I had a relaxed five-minute oral test at the school to check how my language skills matched up with the written test I’d completed online before I arrived. Although it’s a test, it’s just a relaxed conversation about yourself. All students, except for complete beginners, will go through the same process.

The day before I arrived in Bocas was Separation Day – a national holiday. I was in Panama City and enjoyed the celebratory atmosphere as the country marked its separation from Colombia in 1903. The following day was another holiday, marking national Flag Day. Panama’s white, blue and red flag was designed in the days running up to the nation’s separation and the flag was officially adopted in 1925. Flag Day is marked across the country by large processions of marching bands and organisations carrying their own flags. As a consequence of these consecutive national holidays, the following week was unusual at the school. Classes didn’t start until Tuesday, with the lost hours made up later in the week. You can check out Panama's holidays here...

Prior to the start of lessons at the school, I visited Playa Bluff and Isla Carenero. Playa Bluff is a beautiful, long stretch of sand where it’s easy to find large swathes of sand all to yourself. A few metres inland, running parallel, and then beyond the beach, is the Jungle Highway. Here you can spot monkeys and pelicans as you walk towards the underwater caverns found in the Blue Lagoon.

Stroll across the sand at Bluff Beach

Habla Ya school is based in Bocas Town and the nearest island is Isla Carenero. It’s another must-see sight. Not only does it have picturesque beaches such as Black Rock Beach, where the turquoise water shimmers in the bay, but it’s also possible to explore the headland by walking along the palm-fringed shoreline. From the headland you can look out to some of Carnero’s neighbouring islands.

Looking towards the headland at Black Rock Beach

Once you’ve built up an appetite, head to the locally renown Bibi’s restaurant and enjoy a post lunch dip in the water before drying off again on the sun loungers on the deck.

Bibi's restaurant and bar on Isla Carenero

Classes began in earnest the next day. Lesson start at 8am and last until midday with a short interval around the halfway point. The relatively early start gives students the freedom to visit local beaches in the afternoon. Alternatively, if they’re feeling studious, they may work while sitting on the school’s balcony or at a waterfront bar.

The balcony at Habla Ya school

I was put in the school’s B2 level class which was challenging and rewarding as I found myself absorbing and applying new information in conversations as the week progressed. The class size varied over the course of the week but never rose to higher than four, which meant everyone received an intensive learning experience. I was predominantly taught by Tonis, who conversed to us only in Spanish. This was great as I was immersed in the language and it forced my brain to work hard to keep up! The lessons involved the explanation of grammar points (in my case the different uses of the subjunctive) and the use of card games to learn new vocabulary.

There is so much to do in Bocas and there is no better way to apply what you have learned in class than by speaking Spanish to residents while exploring the archipelago.

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We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years. So search our blog to plan your vacation. From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss. You'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while on vacation!


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