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Archive for the ‘Activities’ Category

The New Cinta Costera in Panama City

The New Cinta Costera in Panama City

Check it out when you have time. A super new area to walk, run, or bike along Panama Bay (Pacific Ocean side of Panama). The traffic is much improved with a beautiful new bypass for Avenida Balboa in Panama City. Nicely designed and much needed additions to Panama City – more green space, more parking, and a bypass through Chorillo and Cinco de Mayo direct to Amador and the Bridge of the Americas, and reverse – direct to the highway to the Tocumen Airport (Corredor Sur).

Walkways and Bike Paths

Walkways and Bike Paths

Parking lots

Parking lots

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Taboga Island, Playa Honda

Taboga Island, Playa Honda

03-07-2009 | ROB KIRCHER
rob@robkircher.com

Taboga, the garden paradise only a few kilometers offshore and less than an hour ferry away.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “So close, but yet so far away”; which by the way originated during the US Civil War between the States when bales of cotton would be stacked close together, so the enemy would face a seemingly impregnable barrier.

Well, that phrase couldn’t be any more accurate than describing quaint little Isla Taboga; which I’ve heard much about and finally visited a short time ago. To me, it was always an intriguing place, but unfortunately more than a taxi drive away. So therefore, it wasn’t a realistic destination that fit with my hectic schedule.

It wasn’t until I met a new friend of mine, Monarch, that the thought of traveling to the close but seemingly far away island became a real desire. As we were sitting last month in the Café Havana in Casco Antiguo enjoying one of the best mojitos on this planet, she enthusiastically introduced me to the finer aspects of the garden paradise only 20km offshore and less than an hour ferry away.

But, being a previous New Yorker with an engrained mentality that whatever someone needs should be attainable within a 5-block area of where they reside, the thought of traveling over an hour by boat just to see some pretty flowers was becoming a tough sell. And, oh by the way, that was just one way. Another hour would be needed for the return trip. My mind started to race. What if I get bored because there are not enough things to keep my interest? What if there are no quality restaurants? What if it rains? What if I miss the last ferry back and I have to stay the night? Will there be an available hotel room? What then? Should I make reservations just in case? No. The whole notion of visiting this seemingly far away island was becoming a big hassle.

Being the clever person she is and knowing how much I enjoy historical places such as Casco Viejo, Monarch ordered another round of mojitos and started to relieve my concerns by filling me in on the fascinating past of the scenic island? a place she was very passionate about.

Over the next half-hour I learned that Taboga was founded in the XVI Century by the Spaniard Sancho Clavija and that the island’s original name was “Aboga”, which means “an abundance of fish”. She also told me that Taboga is surrounded by several other islands, including Isla Taboguilla, Isla Urava, and Isla El Morro and that they were a small group of more than a thousand islands found within the Gulf of Panama. Then with a big smile Monarch began to enlighten me about the picturesque pueblo of San Pedro and how small eateries and shops line its main street and continue down some of its constricted paths too narrow for automobiles.

With my concern about finding adequate restaurants successfully satisfied, Monarch launched herself onto the main reason why Taboga is known as “The Island of Flowers” by reciting a list of floral species that are abundant throughout much of the island, such as lianas, bromeliads, orchids and ferns; along with a host of fruit trees that include nisperos, mameyes, nance, mango, tamarind and pineapple.

Finally, she appealed to my love of fishing and expounded upon the fact that Isla Taboga is world famous for its sport fishing and that the majority of its roughly 1000 inhabitants make their living from the sea. Some of the prized trophy fish caught off its shores are Amberjack, Pacific Sailfish, Black Marlin, Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Cubera Snapper, Blue Marlin, Corvina and Roosterfish.
Then with a twinkle in her eye, Monarch added that the dazzling skyline of Panama City can be easily observed at night anywhere on the island and when there is a full moon the island lights up with a special air of romance. As things happen, it rained the day I visited the island, so I never got to experience what she described. However, blooming flowers were everywhere and the food was very tasty.

Rob Kircher is marketing and advertising specialist, writer and filmmaker

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Carnival Queen

Carnival Queen

Carnival 2009 promises to be another exciting event on enchanting Taboga. Carnival is safe and fun on this little island of beaches, quaint candy-colored homes and lush green hilltops. So close to Panama City you can see it, but so far away in terms of hustle and bustle.

SCHEDULE: Friday February 20th will be a warming up to the year´s biggest party, Carnival. The celebration lasts from the 21 – 24 Feb 2009 and ends day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of lent. Lent in 2009 will start on Wednesday, the 25th of February and will continue for 46 days until Saturday, the 11th of April, the day before Easter which falls on April 12th this year.

SOME BACKGROUND:
Because of its excellent harbor, Isla Taboga was founded even before Panama City by the Spaniards, and prior to that there were numerous races represented on at least a transient basis: it was a favorite pirate port hosting such infamous pirates as Captains Morgan and Drake, and it is said that Asian and Pacific island fisherman would travel to Taboga after crossing the ocean in search of the big catch, or caught in a Pacific storm. Evidence of indigenous people can be found in several caves on the island. Its rich history gives it a depth and traditions that many communities don’t possess. Carnival, among several other holidays during the year is very important to this small island of less than 1000 inhabitants.

I have been told that Taboga Island hosted the first Carnival ever in Panama. Panama City and Las Tablas host the biggest, wildest events while Taboga is popular because it is much more laid back. The music pipes out until the wee hours of the morning so luckily our B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical is set far several streets away from the main drag.

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO: The festive spirit on Taboga seems to last for days. Music and dancing on the streets, and daily carnival parades. I cannot forget to mention the daily water fights… as passers by walk along the streets buckets of water are thrown, kids spray water from their pistols or throw water balloons, trucks pass by with more buckets! So expect to get wet. Many people come to simply get away from the city carnival to relax at the beach with their family and friends.

The different days of the carnival often have their own themes but Taboga is a small village so parades are in proportion and except for the costume changes, one is not greatly distinct from the other, but all are enjoyable and FULL of great photo ops. There are parades scheduled at day and night. Since Taboga is a laid back island visitors cannot rely on the schedules or starting times much. When it happens, it happens.

MUSIC ON THE STREETS: There will be a typical Panamanian folkloric band (a Murga) and that is always fun. A Murga has been compared to a Dixieland street band with followers… they often compete against each other… groups from Calle Arriba y Calle Abajo…basically up town and down town…with brass and drums; Murgas are often followed by a truck with water as well, hosing the party-goers.

CARNIVAL ON THE WATER: There is a tradition of people taking their boats in a parade around the island, always a cool way to spend some time and take a break from the street party!

THE GRAND FINALLY: As Ash Wednesday dawns, the celebrations draw to an end, with the symbolic burial of sardines at the beach (and many partygoers who are still in the festive mood, jump in the sea as well).

Look forward to latin dancing, cold beer, parades, and relaxing at the beach during Taboga Island Carnival.

For rooms during Carnival, contact B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical. Email: info@cerritotropicalpanama.com, Tel: 6489-0074

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Snorkeling on Taboga Island

Two weeks ago we booked a “round-the-island” snorkeling trip to scout locations for our guests.

Parrotfish

Parrotfish

I am a retired PADI instructor and have taught and guided excursions in Australia, Canada, the Caribbean Islands, and wrote a dive guide book for the Tourism Bureau of Curacao N.A. — I am critical of dive and snorkel sites for my guests, and don´t impress easily. Here is what we found.

Pacific snorkeling is quite a different than the Caribbean. Expect more current, less coral, and lower visibility. Don´t attempt offshore snorkeling unless you are a strong swimmer with your own fins, a buddy, and a guide.

Snorkeling by Panga, Playa Hobo Taboga Panama

Snorkeling by Panga, Playa Hobo Taboga Panama

We set off 8 am on a sunny day with a local guide in his panga, accompanied by a friend and guest from Australia. Conditions were almost perfect, visibility good at 15-20 feet with plenty of tropical fish around to entertain us including a very large parrot fish. We spotted a number of large brain coral and plate coral. Find an excellent coral guide at this link: http://coralpedia.bio.warwick.ac.uk/.

Snorkeling Buddies Taboga, Panama

Snorkeling Buddies Taboga, Panama

Because of the strong current present the panga drifted with us as we snorkeled; “drift snorkeling” we dubbed it. We then headed off in the panga to the wild back of Taboga past the Brown Pelican Preserve and afterward to snorkel a shallow hull from a wreck by Isla Uraba. On the way back to Taboga our guide slowed and followed a large green sea turtle. We were thrilled, and strained to see the big guy who surfaced to check us out. A brown pelican was following so the turtle didn´t stay up long, giving us just enough time to snap a couple of photos. Almost back to the beach I asked to see the coral gardens nearby. There was a large area of coral, some clean but other parts unfortunately covered with algae or bleached due to the changing conditions in the area.

Sea Turtle Underwater, Taboga Panama

Sea Turtle Underwater, Taboga Panama

Back at the beach settling up, the trip took a total of 2 hours and we all agreed worth the effort of getting up early on a Sunday morning. $50 plus tip for 4 people without snorkel gear.

While Taboga is not the best area I have experienced, it was entertaining, at times challenging, and we enjoyed snorkeling amongst the island´s thriving ocean life.

To enjoy snorkeling by boat around Taboga island, Panama, contact B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical. We organize trips for our guests with local guides.
Email: info@cerritotropicalpanama.com
Tel: 507-6489-0074

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Calypso King Ferry to the Taboga Island Beach for Vacationers in Panama

Calypso King Ferry to the Taboga Island Beach for Vacationers in Panama

Day trippers heading to the beach, or vacationers heading to Taboga Island on the Pacific side of Panama for a few days to de stress, hike, lay on the island beach, go fishing, take a boat tour, eat fresh fish, sleep in the hammock… Now can enjoy the convenience of the Calypso King ferry, a reconditioned larger ferry now sailing from Panama to Taboga Island. The trip was 1 hour in the Queen, but in the King we were back in the city in 30 minutes yesterday. The lower deck is air conditioned, while on the upper deck travelers can watch the ships waiting to pass into or out of the Panama Canal while they travel to Taboga.

The ferry leaves from Amador Causeway. Check the FERRY schedule on our Bed and Breakfast website B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical: http://www.cerritotropicalpanama.com Telephone for Calypso Ferries: 314-1730, 390-2403

We do not yet have the permanent schedule for the King which holds over 200 passengers. It will probably run on weekends and National Holidays-they will not likely send it when there are not enough people to fill it.

On a personal note: I still love the other open air ferries, they are slower and lull me into a relaxed state of mind coming from the crazy city to the much slower paced Taboga Island.

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Playa Honda, Taboga

Playa Honda, Taboga

Taboga Island. Beach, hiking, fishing, de stress and relax in the hammock after a fresh fish lunch.

Cannot find a hotel in Panama City?

B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical has just 1 room left today November 1, and Monday / Tuesday, 2 rooms. We can offer lunches in Ranchito del Cerrito for Day Trippers by Private Chef Aristedes, call us in advance 6489-0074.

Our neighbor has advised me that they have 2 quiet Condo Apartments left to rent, 1 bedroom, suitable for 2 people; call us if you are interested for this weekend or another date.

If you are looking for last minute accommodation to get out of Panama City, try Taboga. Just 1 hour by ferry from Amador Causeway. Calypso Ferries are busy this weekend so get there very early.

B&B INN CERRITO TROPICAL PANAMA

Call to reserve, or send a text message: 6489-0074

cerrito view

cerrito view

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Whale Watching in Panama

Whale Watching in Panama

Yesterday while on the way back from Taboga to Panama City on the ferry we spotted two enormous whales, perhaps 30´ long, alongside our boat. They were not too active, lazing in the water side by side. Absolutely beautiful.

Just over a month ago our neighbor on Taboga Island spotted two large humpbacks playing in front of my friend´s oceanfront home.

It´s one of those grand nature events that we sometimes take for granted here in Panama.

If you are interested in whale watching, they are migrating now. You can sometimes spot whales and dolphins (along with the endangered Brown Pelicans and other large seabirds) from the Calypso Queen ferry to Taboga Island, or get in touch with Dos Mares.

Whale Watching by Taboga Island:
Dos Mares Tours, www.panamadosmares.blogspot.com, Cell: 6687-8189, email: panamadosmares@hotmail.com, Capt. Alex Peña

If you simply want to take a boat around Taboga Island, let us know and Cerrito Tropical can arrange it with a local fisherman. While we cannot promise whales, the trip around the island to see the brown pelican reserve and the formidable rock formations on the uninhabited windward side of Taboga is full of great photo opportunities, and many of our guests compare the landscape to “Jurassic Park”.

If you want to stay over, give us a call to book your reservation at Cerrito Tropical.www.cerritotropicalpanama.com Tel: 6489-0074

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