20211207_101453-2 Play Bonita Dreams Resort, Panama

I don't know why it took me so long to write this up, but Connie and I spent a week in Panama last December. Panama is a country on the isthmus linking Central and South America. The Panama Canal, a famous feat of human engineering, cuts through its center, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to create an essential shipping route.

We flew into Panama City and stayed at an "all-inclusive" resort, the Playa Bonita Dreams. It was a long flight from Phoeniz, AZ to Miamai, FL, then on to Panama City. The resort was nice, but not as nice as we had hoped for. My main complaint was there was no "hot tub"! The food was good, but not great. Regardless, it was a nice way to spend the week and use as a base of "operations".

Panama City isn't that huge. Due to limited space most of the buildings are high-rise. It's the only direction that they can build -up! Luckily, our resort was a few miles out of town, away for the hustle and noise of a city. We overlooked the Panama Bay in the Gulf of Panama. We were near the Western entrance to the Panama Canal and could see several ships waiting in the bay to enter the canal and locks. We later learned that ships have a scheduled date and time to enter the locks, with hefty fines if they don't meet their appointment. Many ships arrive days early and wait in the bay for their appointed time. We also thought it was funny that we didn't see a single cruise ship the entire week. Of course, they don't wait in the bay and plan it to enter directly into the canal upon arrival.

We spent most of our time in Panama lounging around the pool, relaxing, and reading. It was hot and humid during our visit. We periodically cooled off in the resort pool. Around the grounds were large iguanas. They were not afraid of us! During one lunch outside, this iguana insisted on sharing our meal. He climbed up Connie's leg looking for a free meal. 

Panama is a small country with Costa Rica to the North and Columbia to the South. Of course, the main tourist attraction is the Panama Canal. We took a tour of the canal by bus and boat. We started on the West side of the country at Panama City, driving the 70 miles across country to Colon on the East side of Panama. Along the route, we detoured to the town of Gamboa. From here, we boarded a small boat and cruised the canal to Gatun Lake. The Panama Canal starts with the Mirraflores Locks on the western end, leading into a wide, dirt canal, with Gatun Lake in the center, then another short canal and the Aqua Clara and Gatun Locks on the Eastern end. The Panama Canal then flows into Limon Bay, out to the Caribbean Sea. 

 While cruising along the canal, we passed several container ships traversing the canal. We visited the "Monkey Islands", seeing a variety of wildlife in the jungle from the safety of our boat. However, we did get close to shore to let the Capuchin Monkeys climb aboard our boat. Real cute and curious monkeys looking for a handout. But they came up empty handed from our crew. These monkeys are fed too much as it is.

Monkey Island
Monkey Island
Monkey Island

Continuing on our tour, we entered Colon and stopped at the Aqua Clara Locks. It was interesting and educational to learn about the old and new locks. Our timing was great, as we got to watch a large container ship enter and leave the first level of the locks. From here, it was lunch time. We headed over to the original canal dug out by the French, which was a failed attempt. The tour company provided us with a picnic lunch as we sat along the shore of the Chagres River. Moving on, we headed for the old Fort San Lorenzo.

 Fort San Lorenzo is a historic site featuring 18th-century remnants of a Spanish fortification & sweeping water views. The old fort is being re-constructed to help preserve it. I'm not sure how I feel about the restoration.... the original stone and ancient history that is so clearly visible is important, but so is protecting it. Although it was very hot and humid to be walking among the ruined fort, I'm glad we got to see some of this part of history.

Fort San Lorenzo
Fort San Lorenzo
Fort San Lorenzo
Fort San Lorenzo
Fort San Lorenzo
Huge Crocodile

During our drive from Fort San Lorenzo, we spotted a HUGE crocodile. Of course, we had to stop and get the photos!

Later in the week, we thought we were taking a free shuttle from the resort to the old historic part of Panama City. We weren't very happy when we learned the shuttle was to the Albrook Shopping Mall. Oh well, we walked around this huge mall and had lunch. Connie bought a few souvenirs of our Panama trip. The only other excitement was during the taxi ride to the airport for our return trip home.

It was a very early morning taxi ride along the very potholed road form the resort. The taxi driver hit a huge pothole going at a fair speed Sure enough, he now had a flat tire. I was worried we wouldn't make it to the airport in time. Surprisingly, the driver drove for several miles on the flat tire. Eventually, he pulled over to change the tire. Whoops! Although he had a spare tire, he didn't have a jack for the car. A nice passer-by stopped and loaned him their jack. Almost an hour later, we were back on the road. Whew! We caught our flight on time.