Panama

Bocas del Toro:

Where we stayed:
•Loved this!! It’s a group of islands so you can island hop around for a good week!
• We stayed in Selina (Bocas Town – Isla Colon). 11/10 recommend. So nice again and great craic. If you see a Selina’s anywhere defo stay in them. There are loads around central America and they are all v safe and fun.
• Isla Colon: this is the main island where most of the parties are and airport also here. You can walk everywhere  and has nice restaurants too.

What we did:

  • We rented a bike to cycle to bluff beach which is a huge isolated beach. It was amazing and had huge waves too!
  • You can do boat snorkel tours here, rent quads, paddle boards, but mostly drink so fun!
  • Red Frog beach: a beach on Bastimentos  island which is much more chilled and relaxing. There is a Selina hostel there too which is gorgeous.
  • The other islands are up you if you want to go. There are some gorgeous, isolated hostels on The Solarte island if you want.
  • Be there for a Friday! – Filthy friday’s are an all day drinking party which is a pub crawl on a few islands and ends in Selina in Bocas town. Unreal

We flew from Bocas town to Panama City – highly recommend. Cost €109 for 45 mins versus 13 hour bus (unsure of price).

Panama City:

Where to stay:

We stayed in Occidental hotel which was very nice and modern. It had a very nice buffet breakfast and a very cool sushi bar inside. It was a good location and I would recommend a hotel here for more of a safe experience.

*Disclaimer – I was given a discounted rate for us to stay at the Occidental however all views and opinions are my own.*

What we did:

  • Shopping! Multiplaza mall for a spot of shopping (Zara, forever 21,Nike, Gucci etc).
  • We did the hop on hop off bus tour for a day to see the Panama Canal, Old town and whole city really. I would recommend. If you have time spend a while at the canal museum – very impressive.

Where we ate:

  • If you like Thai food – P.F. Chang’s is a restaurant here which was delicious!
  • Hard Rock Hotel has a very nice restaurant and an unreal rooftop bar! We went here on our last night.
  • For breakfast we were given access to the buffet in the restaurant and it was delicious!

Other tips:

More places to go:
• the main other go to place which I didn’t do was San Blas islands. It’s very difficult to get there and it was either Bocas or that, you wouldn’t need to do both.
• San Blas looks very idyllic but the logistics were better for Bocas and also more nightlife in Bocas. Choice of which set of islands to do is up to you!

$$$ :
• Panama uses American dollar.
• It was more expensive than some Central American countries but not extortionate.
Costa Rica was by far the most expensive country but it is fine if you don’t eat in the fancy restaurants and make rolls for lunch and do public buses.

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Costa Rica

La Fortuna

How we got there:

We flew from Antigua, Guatemala to San Juan international Airport in San Jose. No visa required. Don’t stay in the city it’s v dodge especially for girls. Look up the public buses as any private transfers in this country are extremely overpriced!!

We got a taxi once we got OUTSIDE the airport as we missed the public bus to La Fortuna. Haggle, haggle haggle! La Fortuna is the town to stay in for Arenal Volcano.

What we did:

  • Hiking an adjacent volcano for a beautiful view of volcano and of Arenal lake.
  • Ziplining.
  • Baldi hot springs/ Los Lagos hot springs are nicest to swim in.
  • Quad biking.
  • Horseback riding.
  • White water rafting. (Activities can be expensive here so just choose your fav tour and enjoy!)

Where we stayed:

We stayed in Arenal backpackers hostel which was very nice. If you want to splash out you can stay in the hotels with the hot springs (named above). They’re a bit out of town but town isn’t that nice anyway.

Monteverde:

How we got there:

We organised a shuttle to Monteverde through our hostel in La Fortuna. It cost $25 usd.

What we did:

So Monteverde is a little town in the middle of the mountains that has beautiful national parks and reserves with hanging bridges, sloths, cloud forests and general nice walks through the dense jungle.At the start of the walk along the hanging bridges is a hummingbird location where we saw dozens of hummingbirds. We did amazing zip lining in Selvatura park! The lines were very long – some over a kilometer. Included in the zip lining was a Tarzan swing which was scary but so so fun. You end the tour with the longest zip line in Costa Rica and you go so fast over the forest it was very very cool.

Where we stayed:

We stayed in a private room in sloth backpackers, it was actually fine and was approx 15$/night.

Manuel Antonio:

My favorite place in Costa Rica!

Where we stayed:

Stay in Selina hostel Manuel Antonio. It is literally the go to spot at night, has three pools, private deluxe areas if you want to splash out or nice enough dorms. Really nice food to – get the Penne Rosa. We had so much fun in this hostel – except for my bed getting stolen by this crazy girl one of the nights (snapfam knows..)

What to do:

  • Main beach is great for surfing if you want to try it.
  • We found a beach called Playa Biesanz which is a smaller beach with way less waves, more like a bay. Very relaxing, we preferred it.

Getting around Costa Rica:

  • Public buses are so grand and so much cheaper. E.g. From Monteverde to Manuel cost us $8 on public buses or $50 if we got a shuttle bus. Took us 7 hours was so fine.
  • The order of places is up to you but I would advise if you’re flying to more countries e.g. Panama some towns have airports you can fly from eg Quepos (Manuel Antonio). The local airline to Panama is Nature Air. We took the Caribe bus to Bocas del Toro which I would recommend at $75 and 10 hours or so.

    I’ve tagged all the places above in my Instagram if you want to look up locations.

    Other places you could visit:
    • Peurto Viejo (Caribbean side) beachy town before border of Panama.

 

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Guatemala

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Flores

How we got there:

We travelled from Caye Caulker, Belize to Flores, Guatemala via bus.
The bus company we used was called Marlin Espadas – you can book a bus from Belize city to Flores at their office at the water taxi terminal in Belize city. The bus cost USD25 pp.

We took the 10:30am ferry. Arrived at 11:30am in Belize city. Bought the bus tickets and waited in the terminal until 1pm.

The bus company we ended up using was called Marlin espadas which was literally in the ferry terminus, ignore people offering you taxis you probably won’t need one… The bus had good AC, wi-fi that doesn’t work, and a “toilet”. Decent enough journey if you have something to watch/read.

The border was so fine. Just have 40BZ per person to pay the exit fee and you’re fine. Remember to get your passport stamped in Guatemala before getting on the bus again. The remainder of the journey took no more than 2 hours and we arrived at the bus station in Flores at 550pm, a 3 minute walk to los amigos (not ideal paths for wheely bags but not a trek either). We got dropped at linea dorada bus station on Flores island.

Where we stayed:

We stayed at a hostel called Los Amigos. Nice room and very cool decor. Would have gone out here if we had time as it looked really fun and was full of other people travelling.

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What we did: (Tikal Sunrise Tour)

So our main reason for coming to Flores was to see Tikal. We went on the sunrise tour that left at 3am from our hostel. If you arrive in Flores in the evening you have to organise your Tikal sunrise tour asap, because officially Tikal isn’t open until 9am or something there are additional fees for sunrise and sunset tours. To pay the fee in advance you need to go to the bank. The bank closes at 19:00 so we needed to sprint across the bridge to the bank (banrural), in the shopping centre near Burger King. 250Q per person for this sunrise tour (extra fee as it’s outside the park’s opening hours.)

FX rate June 2017 is like €1:8Q

On top of that the English-speaking tour guide and transport is 100Q pp

On the day of the tour we left at 3am from our hostel (Los amigos) and took the shuttle to Tikal. Got there about 415/430am and then did a 30 minute walk to the main ruin (Loads of toads and Spiders everywhere but still v cool.) We sat on top of the main ruin (210ft tall) for sunrise and then a bit after until maybe 615am and then began the proper tour of the Mayan village. The tour took about 3 hours or so, all through english and got to go up a couple of the temples and pyramids which was cool. Then after the tour we had about 2 hours to wander around ourselves, it started to get quite warm around then and the shops selling water don’t open until 9am so bring food and water(!!) and wear comfortable runners, flip-flops are asking for trouble, mostly rocky and slippery.
– all in all, definitely worth doing, the only reason we went to Flores was to do this and it lived up to expectations. Try to do the sunrise one, it gets really hot if you go later and we had the entire park to ourselves which was cool.

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Lanquin

How we got there:

Flores to Lanquin (Zephyr lodge)
We organised it through our hostel (Los amigos) for 100Q pp (€8) for the 8-10 hour bus journey. It was in a minibus with 15 passengers. Wasn’t actually too bad to be honest, stopped 3 times (5,15,30 mins for lunch in a relatively decent spot, burgers pizza sandwiches etc. For 40Q pp kind of prices). The ride is quite bumpy but few Spotify playlists or podcasts to listen to and it’s grand.

The entire journey took us 10 hours and we arrived at Zephyr by 18:30 (Zephyr has a complimentary shuttle from drop off in Lanquin)

Where we stayed:

We stayed in a very cool hostel called Zephyr. It had an infinity pool in the middle of the jungle, nice food and very good night life. You can check it out here.

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What we did:

  • Our main reason for coming to Laquin was to visit this place called Semuc Champey. Semuc Champey has these 6 clear water turquoise pools that you swim in and it was incredible. We organised a tour with the hostel that left at 8:30am and you got back around 5:30pm (It cost 125Q). The tour involved a cave tour (you swim through caves with a candle lighting the way. Quite an extreme tour and you’d need to be able to swim but very enjoyable.) A rope jump and bridge jump into the river (if you do this close your mouth and nose as we have heard of people getting sick from the water,) a view-point over Semuc Champey and then an hour and a half to swim in the pools. It was a very enjoyable day and one of the highlights of our Central America Trip.
  • We spent one full day chilling at the pool in Zephyr. There isn’t much of a town in Lanquin so you have to eat at the Hostel but the food there is lovely and it’s very lively at night.

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Antigua

How we got there:

We organised a bus from Laquin to Antigua with Zephyr. It took about 8 hours and we arrived in Antigua in the evening. Antigua is a town at the bottom of a volcano and was absolutely beautiful. Our main reason for coming to Antigua was to hike to the top of Volcan Acatenango – The highlight of our entire summer.

Where we stayed:

We stayed in a hostel called Matiox. It was very cool and was the most modern hostel we had been in. You can check it out here.

Volcano Hike:

Who we did it with:

We organised our hike with a company run by a man called Gilmur. I could not recommend them enough! They were amazing! It was so well organised and the guides were great.

If you want to do the hike with Gilmur email sologui5630@gmail.com.

What exactly happens on the hike:

So we arrived at Gilmur’s house at about 8 am to get all our stuff ready. We rented some bits off him and then some other stuff we had to provide ourselves:

What we rented:

  • Tents
  • Matts
  • Warm Jacket
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Gilmur’s team also gave the option to have a porter to carry our big bags (2 porters for 3 of us – cost an extra 400 Q but was SO worth it.)
  • Lunch, dinner and a small breakfast was also provided but definitely bring a good few snacks with you because you will defo need them throughout the day.

What we brought with us:

  • 2 pairs of long pants (it does tend to rain so make sure you have 2 of each thing so you have something dry to change into.)
  • Waterproof gear.
  • LOADS of warm fleeces and socks – it gets so cold at night and in the morning when you hike to the summit.
  • 5 Liters of water each.
  • Good runners or hiking boots.
  • Portable charger.
  • Torch.
  • Snacks.
  • If you don’t have large backpacks you can rent them in the town.

So the hike is for 1 and a half days. You hike up to base camp and arrive about 4:30pm, eat dinner and stay the night there and then get up at 4am to hike to the summit of the volcano to see the sunrise (the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen.)

We set off around 9am, when you arrive at the starting point there are a bunch of women selling these walking sticks – BUY ONE! They are literally a life saver as the terrain can be very sloppy at some points.

The first hour and a half is tough. It’s steep and you’re like is this gonna last forever but it does flatten out and get easier. It was very sunny at the bottom and got much colder as you go up so make sure you arrive with a fleece and jacket somewhere easily accessible and wearing long pants – I climbed Kilimanjaro when I was 16 so I kind of knew what to expect but it didn’t make it any less difficult . The guides are good to take frequent breaks anyway so you don’t have to push yourself too hard just go at your own pace.

When you get to base camp the guides set up a camp fire and all the tents. They make dinner and you can see the active volcano called Fuego from base camp – It erupts every 20 minutes and is very very cool to see. You sleep in the tents at base camp and the guides wake you around 4am to hike to the summit.

For the hike in the morning make sure you dress in very warm clothes. It’s dark at the start and you do start getting hot but the top of the volcano is very windy and absolutely freezing. It takes about an hour and a half to get the top. Reaching the summit is honestly the best feeling in the world! Here are some photos of us at the top!

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If you go to Guatemala you need to do this hike. I think the girls will agree with me in saying that this experience was the best part of our entire summer. The hike was incredibly tough, but once you got the top it was honestly the best feeling in the world. Standing on top of that volcano with 2 of my best friends and the most beautiful sunrise we had ever seen, words can’t even begin to describe how amazing it was.

Guatemala probably does get a bit of a bad rep for being a dangerous country to visit but it honestly was one of the countries that we enjoyed the most. We met the nicest people and had the did the most amazing activities there. Just have your wits about when you’re there, don’t be too trusting and be sensible (I probably sound like your mam lol) and you will have the most amazing time ever!

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Belize

Caye Caulker

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Such a fab island, honestly felt so relaxed here just a totally slowed down pace of life. The slogan of the island is “go slow.” All the locals here were so nice and friendly. Real Caribbean feel to the place and it was a very different experience to the rest of Central America. We liked this place so much that we stayed an extra night!

How we got there:

So we went from Mexico to Belize. We got the Ado bus from Cancun at 8am – really nice bus and grand journey. Needed to arrive in Chetumal around 2pm in order to be there for 3pm.

Ferry you need to book 72 hours in advance. That’s because you’re leaving Mexico and going to Belize and they need it for customs information.
– Chetumal to Caye caulker USD60 pp
– Caye Caulker to Belize city USD12.50pp
– all booking agents had good English as Belize was colonised by the British. Different ferries run on different days. One is called Belize water taxis and the other is called Belize water jets international. The shops are next to each other and offer similar prices. But be careful when booking not to mess up your dates.
– bring food with you, we ended up not eating like all day. You stop off in San Pedro to go through immigration. It states that you should arrive at Caye Caulker by 6pm but we didn’t arrive until around 8pm.

Where we stayed:

We stayed in a hostel called Dirty McNastys. We had heard good things about it from other people but I personally wouldn’t recommend it. The staff at reception didn’t really have a clue what they were doing and it seemed quite badly run. The rooms were an absolute sweat box and there was a rooster that would kick off at 5am and not stop for the day (I dreamed of killing that rooster by the end haha) There are loads of other hostels on the Island and AirBnbs so you could defo find somewhere much better.

What we did:

  • Firstly you have to do the Raga Muffin snorkeling day tour – best boat trip of my life! The snorkelling is incredible (we saw giant turtles, nurse sharks, sting rays and loads of other wildlife.) The guides and captain were so nice and gave an amazing tour and everyone gets locked on rum punch on the way back! They have a stall on the way to the split, just keep an eye out for a small office with Raga Muffin on it.
  • Coco island at the split is also fab for a day trip.

Where we ate:

  • Ice and Beans for breakfast is amazing!!! Most delicious bagels and ice coffee. We genuinely went 6 mornings in a row. The owner was lovely too.
  • All the restaurants have amazing lobster so would definitely recommend getting that if it’s still lobster season!
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Mexico

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Welcome all to the most beautiful country of our trip (in my opinion.) If you are heading to Mexico then you better be ready for some white sandy beaches, the clearest water ever and AMAZING mexican food. For Mexico we flew into Cancun then did Tulum the first for 2 nights, Isla Holbox for 3 nights (my favourite stop), Cancun for 2 nights and Isla Mujeres for the final 2 nights.

How we got there:

We flew from Havana to Cancun. The flight was about an hour and cost €92. We booked all our flights through Skyscanner.com. When getting from place to place in Mexico we got taxis for most of it as there were four of us to split the cost. All trips from place to place ranged between 2/3 hours by car.

Tulum

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Where we stayed:

We stayed in the most amazing AirBnb in Tulum! The apartment was so nice and in a great location. You can check out our AirBnb here. It was called Prana Condos – so beautiful – around 35 Euro each a night so pricey but very spacious and modern. Avoid the beach hotels here as they are cool but they are literally huts on the beach with no aircon and it is v v hot here. Our friends found out about this the hard way. I would suggest getting an AirBnb then going to the beach.

What to do:

  • Cenote’s here are fab. We went to the Gran Cenote and it was really nice. You’ll see nicer water on the islands but really cool cause you can swim inside the cave and rent snorkels. This one also had hammocks so we chilled there for another hour and was really nice!
  • The beach in Tulum is so beautiful. Definitely go if you can as there are some fabe beach clubs and bars.

Where we ate/drank:

  • There’s one main street in the town where we went both nights and it’s quite small but was very fun. Can’t remember the name of the street but the restaurant we ate in both nights is La Malquerida and was on that street and was one of the nicest Mexican meals we had!
  • Then we went to a bar called The Mojito Bar – you’ll defo find it it’s the one with the hippy van outside with all the sugar canes! The mojitos were unreal.

Isla Holbox

This was my favourite place we went to in Mexico – literal paradise!

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How we got there:

We got a taxi from Tulum to Chicquila and it wasn’t too expensive when we split it out! We then got the ferry from Chicquila across to the island (it took about 25 minutes.)

Where we stayed:

We stayed in a small casa called Casa Frida. It was a good price and very good location. The aircon wasn’t working so it got very hot at night but other than that it was fine. You can check it out here. Any of them with good reviews should be perf cause the Island is so small.

What we did:

  • Sit on the beach and watch the sun go down. The sunsets were the nicest I’ve ever seen!!
  • We went swimming with Whale Sharks while we were here which was so amazing and really authentic – they genuinely go deep into the middle of the ocean to find them. I was so scared at the start and didn’t think I was gonna do it but I did in the end and it was an amazing experience. Definitely do this!
  • We had a lot of beach days while we were here to just chill out. It was honestly the most beautiful beach I have ever been on.
  • You can also rent a golf buggy and drive around the island but unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to do this.

Where we ate:

  • Restaurante Viva Zapata – Good mexican and seafood.
  • Also the Hot Corner is supposed to be good for drinks but we never actually went.

Cancun

So Cancun was a party stop for us. We went to Coco Bongos and got a VIP table which was so worth it! It as such a fun night. Would definitely say get the VIP tickets which are about $20 more expensive but you get a table and your drink at it which means no queuing for the night and you can enjoy the show and just dance at your table! Honestly one of the coolest nights of the holiday!

We only spent 2 nights in Cancun and one full day was spent booking the rest of or trip so we didn’t get to explore it that much. We stayed at Ocean Beach which was such a nice hotel – don’t get the room service though it was not good at all. You can check out the hotel here. Definitely stay in that general area when you are in Cancun as it is closest to the strip so you can walk everywhere. Try get an ocean view as the views are absolutely stunning!

Isla Mujeres

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Isla Mujeres is another amazing island just 30 minutes from Cancun. Most people do day trips here but we had heard it was worth staying on and were delighted we did.

Where we stayed:

We stayed in an Airbnb and  it was a perfect location – Lily house, host Carlos Daniel. You can check it out here.

What we did:
We chilled at the beach here mostly and really stunning sets here too.

Where to eat/drink:

  • Poc Na Hostel really fun for nights out!
  • The bartender in Coco Nuts also gave us loads of free shots so worth popping in.
  • Mamma Rosa was one of the nicest Italian Restaurants of the trip!
  • There is a place called Mango Cafe that looks really cool but unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to go to.
  • You will have no problem finding nice restaurants here, everywhere looks delicious.

Mexico is such a beautiful country and I would highly recommend visiting here! I know I’ll definitely be going back!

Emmanoodle xoxo

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