We had a little extra time to burn before the sail so we decided to head down to Puerto Jiménez for a couple of days. It’s a very small coastal town on the southern peninsula of Costa Rica surrounded by national parks and Pavon bay popular for observing marine life.
We stayed at a lodge in the jungle with the monkeys and caymans. The mosquitoes feasted on imported blood while we were hanging out in the hammocks.
We went dolphin spotting the next day. It took over an hour to find these guys but they were waiting to show off their synchronized swimming skills.
It’s incredible how high they can jump out of the water. Sometimes they shoot across between waves like torpedoes.
The boat took us to some nearby islands afterwards
We spotted a couple of macaws in the wild on the way back to the lodge. It’s strange not seeing them behind a cage.
We crossed into Panama the next day. It was both exciting to finish Central America and a relief not having to deal with another border crossing for a couple of weeks.
Exiting Costa Rica
- Park on the left side next to the immigration building and go across the street to a yellow building to pay $8 USD exit fee
- Take Passport and exit fee receipt to immigration to stamp out
- Go to Aduana behind the immigration building and fill out a Departure Form; submit the Departure Form and Vehicle Import Permit to the person at the desk
- Drive into the canopy on the right of the building and park in the left lane
- Stamp in at immigration at the far end of the staircase and have fingerprints taken
- Purchase vehicle insurance across the street for $15 USD (Passport & Registration)
- Go to Aduana by the staircase in front of the Panama sign to apply for Vehicle Importation document then find an officer wearing a white polo to sign off the Vehicle Importation document
- Ride to fumigation shed and park in front of the gate on the right. Fumigate the bike for $1 and receive Quarantine Form. Find another border agent to stamp/sign the Quarantine Form and record plate number
- Ride 100 m down the road to a checkpoint and present Vehicle Importation document
Pan-American Highway through Panama is so boring it was putting me to sleep…
So boring I started seeing clowns…
So boring Jules started doing yoga
It almost felt like back home pulling into a service center. Food is way cheaper than Costa Rica so I’ve been stuffing my face whenever I get a chance.
Crossing the Bridge of the Americas that span the Panama Canal
We finally reached the urban jungle of Panama City two days after crossing the border. It’s a hub for international banking and commerce but at the same time a tax haven for affluent Latin Americans seeking refuge. Like any other metropolitan area, skyscrapers and high-rise condos compete for views while high end automobiles sit idling in dense traffic. As Joe puts it, Panama City is the Caribbean New York City.
Rooftop view from the hotel during the day…
We went to visit the historic district of Casco Viejo (Old Town) the following day. The city was founded in 1673 after the original Panamá City was attacked by pirate Sir Henry Morgan (to which the rum was named after) and burnt down in 1671. This city was built on a peninsula completely isolated by the sea and a defensive system of walls.
Bridge of the Americas in the distance
Skyline of Panama City
Metro is the faster and cheaper way to get around Panama City unless you enjoy idling in traffic in 90 degree weather, all for 35 cents.
This just goes to show how laid back things are here in Panama City. We were on our way out and the elevator reeked of burnt plastic. Only after we got out of the hotel did we find out there was a car on fire in the parking garage and smoke was billowing out a few levels below our living quarters. Fire engines filled the street but there was no evacuation of any sort and people were casually coming in and out of the hotel. We quickly ran back to the room and grabbed our essentials just in case.
Special thanks for Andrea who got us tickets to an international food festival to fill our time in Panama.
No trip to Panama is complete without a tour of the Panama Canal locks, especially for the nerdy engineer. Miraflores locks is one of the three locks in the Panama Canal that transport vessels between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Ships are either raised or lowered 54 feet through a two-step flight at Miraflores. It’s an incredibly slow process but very entertaining to watch nonetheless.
One week was spent in Panama City while waiting for some repair work to be done on our sailboat ‘Stahlratte’ before crossing into Colombia.