Seasoned travelers know that if you want to know where the next hotspots on earth will be, you ask the backpackers, fishermen and surfers. They are the first to sniff out the deals and find untouched beaches and cultures.Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua are increasingly popular and it’s easier than ever to travel between countries.
Rob Harper, Director of based in Panama City has followed the surfers in Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua to find the beaches, eco resorts and jungle adventures for nine years. In a recent interview with Rob, he shared his best finds with us.
Costa Rica will continue to appeal to eco travelers, so if you’re going to Costa Rica, why not add another country? “Now travelers who want to experience multiple countries with diverse cultures –in one short trip– can fly between Central American countries seamlessly,” he explains.
Island Hopping in Panama
Off the mainland, floating in endless expanses of deep blue sea, Rob suggests these islands that are practically perfect for escapists, adventurers, and vacationers who simply don’t want the usual tour.
Gulf of Chiriqui Islands and Parida National Park are beautiful and no one ever goes there. Rob likes Isla Gamez in particular.
Bocas del Toro
Bocas is an archipelago of hundreds of tiny islands, so the neat thing to do is either stay on an island hotel (away from Bocas Town) or island hop during the day. The most upscale island accommodations can be found at The best island day trips are to Zapatilla and also to Bastimentos for a visit to Red Frog Beach.
Bocas Town is very bohemian — think board short and flips flops — with a very Jamaican vibe. In town, the best place to stay is Tropical Suites.
Nicaragua holds a natural world so rich it will take your breath away with lush forests, gorgeous beaches and islands perfect for an unplugged getaway.
“Experience two different coasts (and two completely different vibes) of the same country,” Rob says.
The Corn Islands are two up-spoilt gems lying in azure waters 40 miles east of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. The islands charm visitors with Old Caribbean scenery and way of life – turquoise waters, white sand, excellent fishing, some of the best coral reefs in the hemisphere, and an unhurried pace.
Rob recommends , an exclusive boutique property located on the southwestern coast of Nicaragua known as the Pacific Riviera. The spectacular beachfront setting is nestled amidst the quaint, authentic fishing village. At the Hotel Punta Teonoste, relax by an outdoor pool or hit the private white sand beach where you can enjoy surfing/boogie boarding, snorkeling, or relaxing under a coconut palm.
Travelers who want to experience multiple countries with diverse cultures –in one short trip– can now hop between Central American countries seamlessly,” explains Rob.
Nicaragua to Costa Rica
The flight from Managua, Nicaragua to San Jose, Costa Rica is about an hour. Both Copa, Lacsa and Nature Air (a local Costa Rican airline) operate this nonstop flight.
Costa Rica to Panama
There are many ways to travel in between these two countries. A flight between the two capital cities is about 45 minutes. You can fly nonstop with Copa, Avianca, Air Panama (local Panamanian airline).
Copa also operates a nonstop from Panama City to the Liberia International Airport in Costa Rica (located in the popular Guanacaste province). Nature Air flies from San Jose, Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro, Panama (the most popular Caribbean beach town in Panama). Air Panama also operates a direct flight from David, Panama to San Jose, Costa Rica.
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Costa Rica appeals to eco travelers.
Family Friendly Packages
“Families who vacations in Costa Rica discover a winning mix of eco/wildlife adventures with beach time and at upscale, uniquely local, boutique hotels.”
When I pressed Rob for specifics, he recommended:
Arenas del Mar, an upscale resort perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by rainforest . It is just a one minute walk from Playitas Beach and about a mile from Manuel Antonio Nature Reserve & Wildlife.
Equally attractive is , with open air bungalows set amid a tropical rainforest on the Osa Peninsula. This ecolodge overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is a short walk from the beaches at Playa Pan Dulce.
For more about Family Friendly Tours and Activities in Costa Rica