Updated on August 16, 2017
Boca Chica is not what we expected.
Right near Panama’s second-largest city of David, Boca Chica has a rep for being a sport fishing center for this side of Panama. As such, we expected to find pretty substantial boating infrastructure. We did find more tourist-orientated facilities than anywhere outside of Panama City on the Pacific side, but the town itself is still one gas station and a couple of tiny tiendas. Most of the visitors stay in the resorts, which range from extra-fancy to scrappy surf hostels.
After filling up on diesel via two jerry-jug relays from the rickety marina, and a big provision to David, we were eager to head out to Isla Parida and spend a few days relaxing before pushing on to Costa Rica. Instead: our old friend, Pacific Swell, chased us down.
Unable to find a comfortable anchorage anywhere on the island, we beat a hasty retreat to the protected lagoon of Boca Chica. Even our well-protected anchorage was pretty rolly, and we found ourselves spending extra time on shore, sipping in-house juices and indulging in french fries for the first time in two months. Most of our schoolwork was cafe-based. We splurged on fluff-and-fold laundry, figuring it had to be cheaper than Costa Rica, and stymied in our bucket-laundry attempts by the rain.
Steps up to our favorite cafe…and the view from the top.
The final check-out place in Panama is in Puerto Armuelles, which is sadly open to all these big Pacific waves. Pedregal, just outside of David, is an ok spot to check out, but we can’t get our boat there–it takes two days of timing the tides to wind your way up the shallow, twisting river to the port. As we were a bit stuck in Boca Chica, we decided to head to Pedregal over land and try to check out at the Port Capatin’s office. This mostly worked; we had to pay an additional fee to have customs and immigration travel to Boca Chica, although they didn’t bother to come aboard our boat. For an extra $25, we can skip Puerto and head directly to Costa Rica, regardless of the wave situation.
By the time we exit, we will have spent over four and a half months in Panama. That’s an entire semester of study-abroad! Of course, we’ve spent more time snorkeling and whale-watching than studying Panama’s political system or doing daily Spanish grammar, but I think we’ve gotten a pretty good sense of the country. Time to move on to the next one.