Panama V. Costa Rica V. Nicaragua

It’s been a couple weeks since I updated this blog. In my defense… I just didn’t feel like writing anything.  I’ve been traveling in Central America since August 22nd and I’ve spent a week in Panama, a week in Costa Rica and a couple days so far in Nicaragua, where I’m writing this.  The three countries have been very different experiences. Panama I was only in two locations, Panama City and Bocas del Toro. In Costa Rica I met up with John and Brian, two friends from DC and rented a car, in only a week we visited four cities. Since leaving those malcontents I took a bus up to Nicaragua, crossed the border and have been hanging out in San Juan del Sur since then.  Rather then sum up each country, which would take a long time and probably be boring, I thought I would pit the three countries together in a battle royal of my opinions on visiting each.

Highlights

Panama: Visiting the canal was more interesting then I thought, I kind of went out of obligation for one of the greatest engineering feats in history but I did enjoy seeing those ships go up and down.  Bocas del Toro was great, reminded me of Thailand, how everythings built over the water and you travel everywhere on longboats. I traveled the whole time with a Canadian trio, we stayed in a hostel called aqualounge, which bills itself as an “adult playground”. There were big areas in the patio deck you could just jump into the sea from. Swings, things to jump off, ping pong tables, Indio boards, I broke out my poi and people liked that. I was definitely in my element.

Tried SUP for the first time and really enjoyed it, easier then I thought it would be. Great snorkeling.

Costa Rica: Hanging out with John and Brian. Met Laura, a German backpacker who travelled with us for a while and was cool. Playa Hermosa near Santa Theresa, which was the easiest swell to surf that I’ve seen so far in Central America.  Zip Lining in Monteverde (see video)

Our hotel manager taking us out to this crazy giant Ficus that was like a natural ladder you could climb up the middle of.

The Baldi hotsprings, with pools up to 120 fahrenheit, super fast waterslides, unlimited delicious buffet and views of Arenal Volcano with smoke emitting from the cone was amazing.

Nica: I’ve only been here a couple days but the surfing has been fun.

Winner: Costa Rica!

Cost

Panama: Medium.

Costa Rica: The most expensive place I’ve been outside of the States and Europe.

Nicaragua: By far the cheapest of the three, very nice

Winner: Nica!

Animal Life

Panama: Wild sloth, rescue preserve Jaguar, a giant ray gliding under my pier late at night in illuminated light, lots of amazing fish snorkeling.

Costa Rica: Howler Monkeys, Capuchians, Coatamundi,

Nicaragua: Humpback whale jumping only 30ft from our boat while launching for surfing. Sea turtles

Winner: To close to call between all three

Strange interactions

Panama: Me: “Do you guys hear the Van Halen song Panama every time you see the word in print, and then imagine David Lee Roth doing high kicks to it?” One of the Canadian trio: “ummm… I do now”.

Costa Rica: Me: “oh,  I’m from Washington DC, how about you?” Guy showing us rooms at the Malpais Surf School: “I’m from San Jose”. Me: “Really?  I lived in Redwood City for a couple years!” Guy (looking confused):  “California? I’m from San Jose Costa Rica”  Me: “Ohhhh, that makes sense”.

Nica: Met an overweight middle aged Austrian women who spoke four languages fluently, carried mace and a butterfly knife in her giant bra, and warned me to watch out for local women who would “get pregnant just by looking at them” because then “I’d be bringing home a living souvineer.”

Winner: Nicaragua!

Song I listened to the most in each

Panama:”Can I get a…” Jay Z

Costa Rica: “From the mouth of Gabriel” Sufjan Stevens

Nicaragua: “Carry the zero” Built to Spill

Winner: CR! (I know this has nothing to do with the counties but I never said this was a valid, accurate or justifiable competition).

Food

Pretty similar in all three. Can’t go wrong with Rice, beans, chicken, or if you’re on the coast fish. Nothing mindblowing but lots of tasty, cheap (except for CR) food.  The coffee, despite the area supposedly sending off their best beans to developed countries, is pretty good and extremely plentiful.

Winner: Me

Overall

Despite the high costs and mixed company (just kidding, it was great having John and Brian (and Laura!) along) I have to give it to Costa Rica so far.  Caveat, it’s not really fair to Nica since I’m just starting off here. I can see why so many people vacation in CR, it seems safe, people are friendly and there really is something for everybody.

Lots more pics coming soon.

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