Following a Costa Rica trip, I took the opportunity of the nearby border and spent another 5 days in Panama. From Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica you can book a transport including border crossing to Bocas with several tour providers. From there you can easily get to the islands of Bocas del Toro with small speedboats. I chose Isla Bastimento, where I spent 3 days in a beautiful Eco Camping.
After that I went by plane to Panama City - I couldn't miss to see the famous Panama Canal live once. The old town is also interesting and so different from any other old town I have visited. Since I was there during the pre-Christmas season, the city was nicely decorated in a kitschy way - with oversized plastic Santas.
Even though I could only get a brief impression of the country, I was fascinated by nature and culture. The climate is a bit hotter and more uncomfortable than in Costa Rica and I also found the people in Costa Rica to be more open and relaxed. Nevertheless, it was great to have been there once!
Q & A
What would you have changed?
The expensive Ocean to ocean tour was not worth the money - to visit the dock close to Panama City should be enough to get an impression of the canals hugeness.
What tips would you give a friend?
Stay at Palmar Beach Lodge and go with the flow ;)
Bring a high sunblocker and - the sun's rays are very intense in this part of the world.
To go to Islas Bastimento you have to take a "collectivo boat", which means that it runs when it's full. So look for people with the same route on your bus and go together.
In Palmar Beach Lodge we had a visit from a sloth every evening - i didn't know these animals could be so trusting ;)