Isla Grande Day Trip

There is something so satisfying about a refreshing shower after a day spent beaching. I’m sitting here as I write this feeling cleaner than I ever have in my life and it’s really only because of the contrast. After spending the day in salt water, feeling salt in the breeze, and generally without tons of great bathrooms and hand washing opportunities being able to just wash that all off is The Best. It’s like a spa treatment.

But I digress. We started out the day earlier than most of our days here. We wanted to visit my friend Olinda’s food stand at the market in Sabanitas, just on the turn into the road to Portobelo and Isla Grande. We made it there by 9 and she gave us some yummy road snacks for the rest of our journey. Have I mentioned how amazing the pineapples are right now? Goodness! They are like candy.

After chatting with Olinda we headed on down the road to Isla Grande. Mostly without mishap, we did see some Carnavalesque dancers and mud covered folks in the road asking for money. I would have taken a picture but it made me nervous.

We finally got to the boat dock for the tide to the island after about an hour. It’s been years since I’ve been out there so I had no idea what to expect and al and the kids were seeing it all for the first time. There were a lot more people there than we expected. Likely due to the holidays. There was a little bit of a line but it didn’t take long. There were military officers there searching bags. just a cursory glance, nothing major and they were generally cheerful. I chatted up one of the officers a bit about prices and the process.

The attendant put us on a boat all by ourselves for some unknown reason. There was room for at least 10 more people. And the boat had a canopy which seemed a rarity. That was a stroke of luck for our poor burning skin.

He dropped us off near the hotel beach and we spent a couple hours on this amazing stretch of beach. It was like a swimming pool. Light swells, no waves, and clear as a bell to the bottom.

This boat ride was a heck of a deal because at exactly the time our boat driver said he would get us, his assistant was wandering around looking for us, and off we went. We had about a 5 minute wait  near the dock during which the assistant quizzed us about where we were visiting from. It’s always fun saying, “New Mexico” and then having to explain that no, that’s not in Mexico 😀

Once back on the mainland we got our car out of the parking lot. This was another lovely experience. There was none of the intense salesmanship of the Portobelo area or Bocas area that I expected. The parking attendant and his buddies guided us in to a lot with space, took our money, wrote us a receipt and chattily sent us on our way. When we returned they asked us how our day went, really! And then they wished us well. Beautiful.

We stopped at a couple reedy spots on the route back. Here’s the first:

And the second:

Our last stop on the road was Maria Chiquita for a short jump in the waves.

By then the sun was behind clouds and the wind picked up and we were a bit cold so we headed back on the road toward home. With one last stop for pizza. Really good pizza too!


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