Panama

I’m so excited to share Panama stories! Panama is a vibrant country with so much biodiversity, it will blow your mind! My favorite part about Panama is the wildlife. I’ve flown in and out of Panama on my way to Bolivia for a few years now and stare out from the airplane window looking down at the jungle, the ocean, and the ships waiting for their turn to transfer through the canal. On occasion I’ve seen birds flying. I have been wanting to get on the ground and explore because looking from the airplane window, Panama has created such an intrigue for me.

Day 1: I arrived before my travel partner so had some time to explore solo in the city and chillax at my hotel. I stayed at the Aloft Panama City which is part of the W chain. I picked this hotel because it looked trendy, fun and it had a pool. I paid around $100 for the room. The bar had rad lights that were like giant flowers and kept changing colors.

After some pool time and a nap I headed out to explore the area. I found a vegan restaurant, Purolove and had a light snack that was really delicious. Then I went across the street and indulged in my first cuppa in Panama at Leto coffee bar. The staff was so sweet there. They started to speak English to me and I told them I was in Panama to practice Spanish and they helped me order in Spanish. The coffee was perfect and the atmosphere was hip. They had many styles of coffee, pour over, slow drip, iced, espresso, etc. The best part was they use beans from Boquete, my next destination! I was so excited to be in Panama because of these first two experiences!

Lisa finally arrived early evening and we headed out to dinner. We wanted to walk and stay close to the hotel because we had to get up early to leave the next day so we went to Nacion Sushi.

Day 2: We jumped in a cab and sped off to the airport to catch our flight to David and start our adventure in Boquete. I love to take pictures of phone booths to put on my Facebook page @aphonebooth, airports are a great place to get some good shots.

We hired the most amazing tour guide ever, Jason from Jason Lara Tours. Jason seriously has it all. If there was a reality show in Panama about the dreamiest man, I think Jason would win! Jason is handsome, bilingual, smart, and knows his birds! I knew that he was going to be a great guide based on online reviews but once I met him and got to experience birding with him I knew he was an expert! In our communication before I arrived I told Jason that I wanted to see the infamous Resplendent Quetzal and a sloth. That was an easy task for Jason as he is used to avid birders that come with really long lists of birds that they want to see. I only had two things on my list, and quickly realized that I was an easy customer but it leads to more fun, in my opinion!

Panama has over 1000 species of birds, so birding is the thing to do, even if you’re not a birder. I promise you, you will enjoy the hike, the sounds and the cute birds and animals that you will spot along your tour.

Before we started birding Jason took us on a quick car tour around Boquete. He has lived his whole life in this area so he’s very knowledgeable and a wonderful guide. We started our birding in the afternoon on the Escondido trail. Jason brought his birding tools which were a scope and binoculars, I had my own binoculars (packing binoculars is a must if you’re going to go look for animals in Panama!)

After checking in at the trailhead and paying five dollars, we started on the birding extravaganza! We heard many birds calling out to each other that gringos were on the trail. All Jason had to do was listen to the bird call, he was able to name the bird then he knew which bird to look for. He would then scan the trees and the sky until he found the bird! We found hummingbirds, elegant euphonia , yellow-faced grassquit, we heard toucanets. I stopped writing the names of the birds that we heard and saw because I didn’t want to be a lister! I wanted to enjoy the experience and take it all in. I was leaving the bird list to the avid birders. I quickly realized that birds are either considered ‘common’ or ‘not common’. It was fascinating to listen to Jason name the birds so quickly and get excited when we heard or saw a bird that was not common.

After we crossed three bridges, Jason finally heard the call of the resplendent quetzal, oh the resplendent quetzal. It’s the bird to spot in Boquete! It has stunning, bright feathers. Luckily, we were with Jason who recognized their call. He knew where they were building a nest in a tree because he is on the trail almost daily, he knows it! We were also fortunate enough to be in Boquete when it was mating season. We were able to see a male making a nest as well as its female partner. We took great pictures using Jason’s scope. After watching and listening to the birds for about a half hour we went back down the trail and sure enough Jason heard another resplendent quetzal! This one had beautiful long tail feathers! We were all so excited to have seen three resplendent quetzals!

My favorite animal from Central America is the sloth. I don’t care if it has two toes or three toes, or if it’s infested with fleas! It is just so cute. I’ve already gone on and on about our guide Jason, but he truly is an animal whisperer. He was able to find a sloth in the trees so I was able to check off the second animal on my short, short list.

I had read about an animal rescue place that was an hour away in Vulcan. But after talking to Jason about it, we decided we weren’t going to go there. I have such a desire to hold animals but know that they are wild and I respect that. I will just use Google images to get up close and personal to sloths.

We ended our hike at Finca Lerida, a coffee plantation. We had a passion fruit cake and watched the afternoon rain and a few more birds!

Day 3: Jason helped us choose a coffee tour, he recommended Carlos at Casa Ruiz. We totally lucked out with our privado tour! We were the only ones on the tour! This day was another favorite activity on this trip. Coffee is the second largest traded commodity in the world! Fact check coffee I loved learning about the entire process of growing, harvesting, selling and roasting coffee. Carlos was a great guide, he has such a good sense of humor and we got to hear all of his jokes! The coffee process reminded me a lot of the wine making process. I have a new respect for my coffee and the entire process, most importantly to the farmers working so hard to get the world their beans. This day was a perfect day to use my colorful parasol to protect my skin from the sun. It’s sunny in Panama everyday, so protection is a must. I love to use my parasol and always pack it when I travel. My parasol company, Parasols in Paradise has a great selection of styles, check it out!

During the tour, I got to learn about the different levels of the quality of coffee. The reject coffee is sold to brands such as Folgers and made into k cups. With my new knowledge of coffee I know that it’s worth it to investigate where your coffee is grown and where the roasters are purchasing from. I am now a fan of coffee from Panama. The fourth picture are the reject beans being sold to k cups. The stick is ground up as well, ewww! Stop the k cups and Keurigs! /

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