Creepy Crawlies-Spiders in Costa Rica

If you like spiders, you’ve come to the right place. Costa Rica is crawling with them. In fact, the world’s most venomous spider, the Brazilian wandering spider, has indeed ‘wandered’ out of Brazil and hangs around Costa Rica.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one of this species, but I’ll never forget the spider I heard in the shower. Yes, heard. Thankfully I wasn’t in the shower, but it was, and it was so large it actually made noise climbing up the plastic shower curtain. This caused me to make an even louder noise, which caused someone else to rescue me. I was informed that spider was harmless. I’m still not convinced. After all, heart attacks are not harmless. Read more


Driving in Panama

Getting behind the wheel in a foreign country can be a dilemma. The promise of independence is tempting, but the fear of getting into an accident, getting lost, getting ripped off, getting robbed, getting arrested and getting dead understandably put many people off.

These are all valid fears for those that have traveled through other parts of Latin America where terrible road conditions and equally terrible driving practices regularly terrify new visitors.

But the story in Panama is pleasingly different.

Driving in Panama is pretty safe and as close to driving in the US or Canada as you can experience south of Texas.

The roads are in good condition, the signposting is logical and the traffic laws are regularly enforced Read more


Hiking Panama Sendero

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It’s easy to spend all your time in Panama in the capital. But a huge diversity of natural treasures awaits those willing to pull on some hiking boots and make excursions into the more rural west of the country.

One place definitely worth the effort is the Sendero los Quetzales near the Volcan Baru National Park in the province of Chiriqui. This 8km hiking trail meanders through pristine cloud forest between the mountain towns of Boquete and Cerro Punta.

The trail is named after the Quetzal birds that live here and whose resplendent feathers were coveted by the Maya and Aztecs for use in their headdresses. Catching a glimpse of these stunningly beautiful, but near endangered birds in their natural Read more


The Best Coffee in Panama?

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If you’re anything like me, the day doesn’t start until you’ve had your first coffee. The first scent of delicious aroma, the warmth of the steaming cup in your hands and the jolt of caffeine as the first sip goes down aren’t so much a daily habit as a sacred ritual.

Unfortunately, not all coffee is created equal and it can sometimes be a challenge to find a cup of Joe that meets your exacting standards when you’re a thousand miles from home.  Sure, it’s easy to find something that’s called coffee just about anywhere, but all too often what you get falls far short of the standard. And it’s not just the coffee but the atmosphere you have to Read more


Panama Canal Economics

The Panama Canal celebrated its hundredth year in business last month and what was once considered one of the Engineering Seven Wonders of the Modern World is now under question as to its future.

Panamax

Panamax is a term used to designate the maximum size ship that will fit in the Panama Canal. But in the economic mindset of “bigger is better,” larger ships are being constructed that will hold more shipping containers to transfer goods faster. More, bigger, faster. The time has come to max out the Panamax limit, and this will be accomplished with the new channel currently under construction and scheduled for completion in 2016. Not only with the new channel accommodate larger ships, but having two Read more


Bocas del Toro Province

The Bocas del Toro Province in the northwest of Panama is a lovely bay dotted with islands covered with sandy beaches. The city of Bocas del Toro is at the southern end of Colón Island, which is just a short flight from either Panama City or San José, perfect for a weekend getaway.

Once on Colón Island, water taxis are available to take you to other islands. There are a total of nine major islands and hundreds of small islets to explore.

Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park, or Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos, is just southeast of the city of Bocas del Toro, and provides protection for the natural habitat of many plants and animals. The National Marine Park extends Read more


Traditional Art – Panama City

What’s so unique about Carpio Arte? Everything. Each piece is handmade according to the traditions of their Wounaan ancestors. Their specialties include hand woven baskets and masks, and carvings from vegetable ivory and Cocobolo wood.

Cocobolo is a dark reddish colored hardwood with a lovely unique grain pattern running through each piece. Thus even two similar carvings will have their own unique design. The wood itself is oily, lending a highly-polished glassy look to the finished artwork. The subjects of their craft are usually inspired by the natural world. You will find flowers, birds and animals that simply beg you to take them home. The Wounaan tribes have been hand carving Cocobolo for generations, each one teaching the next. The Read more


Panama City Nightlife

Looking for something hot to do tonight in Panama City? Well, maybe not actually tonight, a Monday night, but maybe Monday night, especially if you’re a gringo or gringa living in Panama City. Are you on vacation? Retired? If so, Monday night is the same as any other night, and that means it’s a night to have fun. If you’re working in Panama City, maybe it was one of those Mondays and you just need to get out and forget it’s Monday. Either way, there’s plenty to do, see and experience any night of the week.

The National Theater of Panama is more than a hundred years old, but has been renovated in the past ten years and provides a Read more


Pesky Mosquitoes – Mosquito-Borne Diseases

If you are concerned about mosquito-borne diseases while in Panama, keep in mind this isn’t the 1930’s, or even the 1950’s. To be infected from a mosquito isn’t as easy as it was back then. First of all, you must be bitten by the same mosquito that previously bit a person infected with a transmittable disease such as malaria or dengue fever. With the high quality of health care in Panama, it is rare to find a person currently infected with these diseases.

Mosquito-Borne Diseases

If by remote chance that pesky mosquito does happen to find someone carrying such a disease, and the mosquito then becomes a carrier, its range of potential harm is limited in two ways. First, the Read more


Sunburn – How bad is it?

When we were kids everybody got sunburn at one time or another. Noxema was a popular remedy, rub it on your shoulders and back, put on a soft white t-shirt and hope it wouldn’t blister and peel too badly. Even if we didn’t burn, we were proud to show off our tan lines as souvenirs from a day of fun.

But that was in the days before reports of a thinning ozone layer and increased reports of skin cancer, sometimes deadly. And here, closer to the equator, no matter how light or dark your skin is, you’ll want to take extra precautions to protect it.

Start with a hat, brim wide enough to protect your face and the back of Read more