Our Trip to Panama: The Ugly Side of Travel
This photo basically sums up our trip to Panama.
I may be exaggerating, but only slightly. We have come to the realization that we will not always like every place we visit and more importantly, things don’t always work out if you just wing it. Our travel style is generally to go with the flow and not make reservations ahead of time. We have found this gives us more freedom and often leaves room for spontaneity.
This time we were not so lucky.
To make a long story short, we did have accommodation booked in Panama months ahead of time since this was supposed to be a relaxing surf trip. We didn’t want to be traveling around trying to see all of Panama in a week, so we instead found an island with a bunch of nearby surf breaks. It wasn’t until we found this “amazing” island that we made the decision to book flights to Panama.
Three days before we embarked on our trip to Panama, we got a surprising email informing us that we could no longer stay on the island. We will go into details about this in a later post entitled, Morro Negrito Surf Camp Review.
This threw a bit of a wrench in our plans, but we decided that instead of canceling our trip, we would just find another beach town to spend our lazy, surf-filled days.
Upon researching a new town to stay in, we realized we would be visiting during a huge Panamanian Holiday. A few of the hotels/surf camps that we emailed before we left said it would be extremely crowded from November 3rd through the 6th. Our flight wasn’t scheduled to leave Panama until November 5th.
I told Scott that we could just figure things out once we got there. We had a couple of tentative accommodation options in the town of San Carlos and one in Playa Venao for the first few days of our trip.
Once we made it to San Carlos we found that those tentative places only had accommodation up until the 2nd of November. We spent the rest of our first day in Panama, after a red eye flight from the States and a two hour bus ride, in our room – Skyping, emailing and researching where we would stay the last two nights of our trip.
Our current accommodation wasn’t exactly ideal either. The ocean was as flat as it gets and we were paying $60 US per night. For most of the three days we spent in San Carlos, the town had no running water, which means all of the restaurants in town were not cooking food and our toilet looked like a porta potty.
Our only savior was the owner of this apartment complex who turned out to be a really cool hippie from San Diego.
After two days of plugging away on the computer, trying to find a place to stay and figuring out if we would even be able to catch a bus back to the city during the holiday rush, we decided to throw in the towel. We were exhausted, not having fun and didn’t want to spend any more time on the computer when this was supposed to be a vacation.
Now, if we didn’t have time constraints, this wouldn’t have been a big problem. We could have hopped on a bus to Costa Rica to get away from the holiday crowds in Panama. But the way our life is now, we value time way more than the money we spent changing our flight to come home early.
We already live in a spectacular place and we were lucky enough to come home to seventy degree weather and some really fun waves. We normally don’t get to surf during the day unless it’s on the weekend, so we took advantage and spent time relaxing at home, surfing with friends and eating Mexican food that I had been craving the whole time I was in Panama. Something about speaking Spanish makes me want Mexican food.
We were a little disappointed in ourselves for coming home early, but it’s the best choice we could make when faced with crappy circumstances.
Maybe this was a really expensive lesson for me to learn about researching holidays before I book a trip. For some reason, I always book trips on huge holidays without even realizing it. This isn’t the first time I have made this mistake, but hopefully it will be the last.
If you want to find out more about our staycation in San Diego, you may be interested in this How to Take a Staycation post.