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Bocas Del Toro Diving

Discussion in 'Central America' started by Gdog, Sep 1, 2019.

  1. flyboy08

    flyboy08 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: NYC
    3,061
    1,915
    113
    We rented a driver and car...hit the east coast for lunch then the canal and back to PC for dinner...don’t recall cost, but it was cheap. You must visit the canal...and new one too!
     
  2. MrBigfins

    MrBigfins Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Pittsburgh Pa
    369
    171
    43
    We have a rental car for the entire trip, so getting around will be as easy as the traffic in Panama will allow. Forgot about hitting the canal and canal museum, it's on the itinerary. Thankfully we have my sister as a semi local guide, as well as her team from the mission work to help direct us where to go and where not to go
     
    chillyinCanada likes this.
  3. gb_williams

    gb_williams Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Smyrna, Georgia
    223
    123
    43
    I hope you're not planning to drive in Panama City, unless you're with someone who knows the city well and can guide you. Street signs are few and far between. You have to know the safe route from A to B, and that's where GPS, especially one that is based on Google Maps, will get you into trouble. Casco Viejo is a maze of very narrow, one-way streets and parking is very difficult to find. I once waited for over 45 minutes while one of my Panamanian friends circled the area trying to find a parking spot. Drivers in the city are extremely aggressive and you have to know when to be aggressive and when to be defensive. Take Uber, the Metro or taxis. In the central city, traffic is so bad I usually walk from place to place because it's faster.

    On the other hand, having a car to go to Portobelo and El Valle is the best way to get around those areas. If you haven't made reservations for a place to stay in Portobelo, Rey has a two-bedroom house he rents for $150 per night. It's very nice, about 15 minutes from Golden Frog Scuba (at El Bongo hotel), and the pool in the backyard is the Caribbean.

    If you need driving directions or restaurant recommendations let me know.
     
  4. MrBigfins

    MrBigfins Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Pittsburgh Pa
    369
    171
    43
    We got back this week from Panama. We did rent a vehicle (ended up being a stick which was interesting since I hadn't drove one in a decade) and driving in Panama City was adventurous to say the least.

    Rey was a consumate professional. We went diving for 3 dives at Drake's island while 3 non divers hit the beach and snorkeled. The rental gear was in good shape for my wife and son. Rey filled my pony at no charge. The dives were average with reduced visibility due to recent rains. The reefs were fairly healthy, albiet with a bit of algae build up. Fish were varied and moderately concentrated. He helped my sister get her first taste of scuba in the shallows at the beach during surface intervals. Now she is wanting to try a discover scuba dive.

    Returned 2 days later to dive two sisters and saliminda. These sites had healthier reefs, less algae, and significantly more fish. Again Rey was great as was the rest of the crew. If in the area I would dive with Rey in a heartbeat. Next trip down will definitely include Coiba.
     
    RyanT and Snoweman like this.
  5. MrBigfins

    MrBigfins Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Pittsburgh Pa
    369
    171
    43
    This is accurate advice for driving. We did opt to drive, although we had some help as my sister lives in Panama City. Waze works much better gps. We were based in Amador which is close to downtown but far enough out to skirt the worst of the traffic. Driver's (especially taxis) are extremely aggressive, but it's not my first rodeo driving in large cities. The part I wasn't really prepared for was the conditions of the roads and those crazy roundabouts. 6 lanes wide (lane is just a measurement unit here as noone actually follows lanes) with 6 exits and absolutely no rules. Casco Viejo was a blast, there is a parking garage near the square that is easiest for parking in the area although they close sometimes for special events. But the area is a must visit location if you go to Panama City. Another issue to watch out for is missing manhole covers.
     
  6. Gdog

    Gdog Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Lacey, Washington
    1,065
    217
    63
    I have heard rumors about those missing manhole covers!
     
  7. MrBigfins

    MrBigfins Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Pittsburgh Pa
    369
    171
    43
    I can verify that they aren't just rumors lol
     
  8. Snoweman

    Snoweman Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Atlanta, GA
    1,688
    674
    113
    The only time I rented a car was from David to Boquete. We met a couple in Boquete that had rented a car for their entire trip. They blew out one tire and jacked up the rim on the bad roads. I wish I had kept in touch with them just to find out what the damage was to his wallet from the rental car company. BTW, the road from David to Boquete is flawless.

    I want to go back to Panama and visit Bocas now that Delta has reasonable flight times. When we went, the flight got in at night and left early in the morning. If you wanted to fly to a destination, you needed to spend nights in Panama on the front and back ends of the trip. Now, I think it is possible to get to/from Bocas the same day as the international flights.

    We Ubered while in Panama City. The last night we were there, we had an awesome Uber driver. I made private arrangements with him to take us to the airport the next morning for a discounted rate.
     
  9. MrBigfins

    MrBigfins Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Pittsburgh Pa
    369
    171
    43
    We bounced around all over central Panama so an Uber wasn't practical for our needs this trip. If staying more central to Panama City then I strongly recommend that a visitor use Uber over renting a car. My son and i used an Uber to go from Amador to downtown one night to view the Christmas lights and it was like $3. We put on just shy of 3k kilometers while there for 11 days though. I got tire insurance, collision insurance, liability insurance, roadside insurance on the rental car. The insurance bill was twice the cost of the car rental all told. That being said, I would do it again. Feel we got a truer experience of Panamanian life driving through the city, through the countryside, and even to San Blas. You want to talk about bad roads, take the drive to San Blas in a standard when you haven't driven a stick in over a decade. I thought it was adventurous, my wife just thought it stressful.
     
    RyanT likes this.

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