Category Archives: Culture

Panama Flag - Can't miss it on Flag Day

Panama is the Best Place for Your Well-Being

For the Life that You Will Feel Good About: Move to Panama

Should we credit it to our seco, over-the-top holidays, or our multi-cultural heritage? In a recent study where the United States, England, Japan or France didn’t rank in the top 10, Panama tops all countries as the best for your well-rounded physical and emotional well-being. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index shows that Panama is the most likely place for you to enjoy living your life.

The poll evaluates worldwide responses from five general areas:

  • Purpose
  • Social
  • Financial
  • Community
  • Physical

Not only does Panama have the best overall scores, but it also has a significant margin over runner-ups Costa Rica and Denmark for the percentage of people who are thriving in at least 3 categories, according to the poll.

Here are the top 10 results:

  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Denmark
  4. Austria
  5. Brazil
  6. El Salvador
  7. Sweden
  8. Guatemala
  9. Canada

USA Today broke down the numbers from the poll here.

This means that we would be happy to have you as our neighbors, and you wouldn’t regret it either.  If you aren’t ready to move to Panama, at least come visit as often as you can.  It is, after all, for your own good.

Celebrate Carnival 2014 with Panama!

Celebrate Carnival 2014 with Panama!

It is a 5-day event unlike any other in the country, and Panama City hosts the 2nd-largest Carnival celebration in the world.  Think you can dance party non-stop with the best of them? Keeping pace with this crowd would be proof.

Like to party non-stop? Join us for Carnival 2014 in Panama

Like to party non-stop? Join us for Carnival 2014 in Panama

Doing business in Panama?  Don’t think about it for another week while locals are donning costumes, turning up their speakers, dancing and dancing some more–then recovering from Carnival.

Hotels and restaurants host musicians and special events in order to draw the crowd their direction; check your favorite spots for what they have scheduled through the weekend.

History of Carnival

With its roots in Catholicism, the premise of Carnival is getting rid of your sins and preparing to start the Lent period.  Through time it has evolved to an opportunity to indulge before Lent and then just an excuse to let loose like never before.  Panamanians and visitors dancing in the streets have little worry about anyone’s religious practices through the modern Carnival festival.

Carnival 2014 Schedule in Panama

Panamanians in every city will be celebrating.  Panama City hosts the largest Carnival in the country, and each region loosely follows the same schedule.

FRIDAY: Carnival starts the Friday before Ash Wednesday, which for 2014 Carnival is February 28.  Friday night, expect an opening ceremony of sorts.  In Panama City there will be a Carnival queen and attendants presented to symbolically look over the following days’ parades and parties.  Dancing in the streets begins!

SATURDAY: By afternoon, people begin to join the street festival again.  There is a small parade and all day and night you’ll find pockets of various music and crowds moving from one stereo to another.  Vendors set up early with goods from crafts to food, drinks and water balloons.

SUNDAY: Traditionally, the Sunday festival and parades honor Panama’s colorful national costume called pollera.

MONDAY:  Ready for more parades, music and dancing?

TUESDAY:  March 4 will offer the biggest party of all.  Over-the-top parade entries show the competitive spirit within the town to put on the most elaborate show.  Spectators from all backgrounds wander through town with festive costumes, masks, tossing confetti of their own and drink and dance all through the night.  The festival is symbolically over when someone burns a sardine on the beach on the morning of Ash Wednesday.

Expect the Carnival vigor to last until sunrise on Wednesday, even if you don’t.

Best of 2013 at Red Frog Beach Resort, Panama

Best of 2013 at the Best place in the Caribbean!

What a year it has been for Red Frog Beach Resort in 2013! By looking deeper into our connection with the island, its pristine beauty and rich history, we were motivated in many areas of growth.  Here are some of our highlights, all benchmarking the way to creating a more valuable guest experience.

JOIN THE 2013 MEMORIES!

Highlights of the Resort and Guests at Red Frog Beach, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Highlights of the Resort and Guests at Red Frog Beach, Bocas del Toro, Panama

We have shared these times and lifetime experiences with so many of you!  If you have a travel photo of these or another favorite moment from Bocas del Toro, Panama, please share it with us to add to the Best of 2013 album on Facebook!  We are collecting photos to remember what we all have shared, learned, and experienced this year.  Look up those photos on your phone, camera or computer file and put them to work—the more the merrier!

Without further paragraph, the Best of 2013 list!

  • Featured On Mundo Social TV show and Viajando en Pareja, among other TV shows & movies!
  • Finished hillside construction in Villa neighborhood!
  • El Susurro Spa opening!
  • Redesigned Resort Entrance!
  • Marine Fuel Station at the Marina!
  • Grand Open House celebration!
  • Opened our Bocas Airport office!
  • New management and menus at Punta Lava Beach Bar & Grill!
  • Facebook reaches 1000+ Likes! (how long ‘till 5000?)
  • New English & Spanish Websites!
  • Redesigned All-Inclusive Vacation Packages!

 Don’t forget to join our Best of 2013 Celebration with your travel photos and comments!

7 Things to Keep a Beginning Surfer from Looking Like a Greenie

It is a legendary sport for all ages.  But, just how do you break into surfing?  A little hesitant to try?

With December approaching and bringing the surfing season to Bocas del Toro, this is for those who want to learn to surf in the Caribbean this winter.  You can be a beginner surfer without standing out for the wrong reasons.

7 things to keep a beginner surfer from looking like a “greenie”

More than a dozen waves in Bocas del Toro, Panama challenge surfers of all levels

More than a dozen waves in Bocas del Toro, Panama challenge surfers of all levels

1.      Apprenticeship  Taking a lesson isn’t the same as the mentality of openly investing in the sport as an apprentice with a trustworthy, experienced tutor.  They will teach you that this sport is as much about culture as it is about technique, and will hopefully keep you just as much from getting in a fight with other surfers as from getting held in a riptide.

2.      Rashguard Don’t dress for the pool or a regular beach day.  Men and women wear rash guards with their swimsuits to protect their skin from rubbing on the board.  Sun protection is a secondary bonus.

3.      Study  This is homework you do from the beach.  Study the waves before you put your toes in.  Watch for patterns, get to know the wave tendencies and plan your route.

4.      Respect  Respect the locals, respect your realistic ability, and respect the right-of-way to the first person on the wave.  If you have a mentor, show respect for them too.

5.      Location  Call it a “spot.” Prepare with updated surf reports and your mentor, or advice from a local board shop, to find the right current and weather for your experience.  You’ll have more success, and fun, with beginner-friendly waves, a beach break, and a lot of space to yourself.

6.      Endurance  Surfing requires a lot of shoulder and arm strength, core strength and balance, plus the mental stamina to miss the wave or tumble and then paddle back out.  Have patient endurance learning to catch a wave before pushing out too far.  It’s easier to do this at a secluded beginner spot than getting in the way of other surfers already cruising the wave.

With the right waves and coach, you can learn how to surf in Panama

With the right waves and coach, you can learn how to surf in Panama

7.      Vocab  You probably understand a barrel or tube when it comes to describing a wave, but could you identify a cutback move or a duck dive?  While you could ask the locals to explain every other sentence, this is another reason to go with a knowledgeable surfer the first few times you hit the waves.

Enjoy the day, the water, and the company, regardless of how you are able to ride.  Everyone can have a good time and promote positive vibes on the water.

And for the rest of you who have to look out for the beginners on the water, any other tips that should be on this list? What do you recommend for the folks learning to surf?

Red Frog Beach Resort has surfing lessons and excursions available with experienced guides.  Access more than a dozen waves in breathtaking, untouched areas of the Caribbean in Bocas del Toro.

 

 

 

Holiday Month in Panama! 6 National Holidays in November

Panama is at Holiday for the Month of November

Or it can feel that way, at least.

Spend the holiday watching your soccer team with good food and drinks in Bocas del Toro

Spend the holiday watching your soccer team with good food and drinks in Bocas del Toro

If you’re doing business in, through, or about Panama, this is need-to-know information.  You have 11 months to accomplish what you need.  Panamanians are taking off in November.

While a lot of people in Panama are hard at work, with 6 national holidays, and several other provincial holidays, November is a notoriously slow month-to say the least.  Locals often escape the hubbub of Panama City and head to visit family and friends in country towns or make way to the beaches.  If you want parades, dancing in the streets, and lots of Panama’s red, white and blue, this is the time to come.

Plan ahead for ATM’s running out of money and some restrictions on alcohol sales 24-48 hours around the holiday.

Here is the November Holiday rundown:

November 2:   Dia de los Muertos  Celebrated in Panama with reverence for ancestors, this is opposite of the parades and fiestas in Mexico.  Panamanians typically visit cemeteries and are restrained from loud music or buying alcohol.

November 3: Separation Day  This is the beginning of the Fiestas Patrias in November.  Separation Day commemorates Panama’s Civil War and separation from Columbia in 1903

Panama Flag - Can't miss it on Flag Day

Panama Flag – Can’t miss it on Flag Day

November 4: Flag Day  National pride will be at its peak with flags, colors, and décor on about any place possible.

November 5:  Colon Day  Panamanians remember Christopher Columbus who traveled all down the Eastern coast of Panama on his fourth voyage (and rested near Red Frog Beach for a week).  It was also in Colon that Panama’s forces stood against the Columbian army to victory in the separation.

November 10: The Uprising in the Villa de Los Santos  When Panama was under rule of the Spanish Empire, villagers in Los Santos wrote a letter to activist Simon Bolivar for aid in a revolt against the Spanish. The holiday marks the first step towards independence.

November 28:  Independence Day  This is the anniversary from 1821 when Panama declared full independence from Spain and joined the Columbian government (Gran Columbia) for another 80 or so years.

Snorkeling in Panama for the holidays

Snorkeling in Panama for the holidays

This year Panama’s Independence Day falls on Thanksgiving Day as celebrated in the USA.  What are your plans for the November 28th holiday?

 

Swap the Taxi for… Water Taxi!

In Bocas del Toro, there are a few paved roads and even fewer cars.  At the same time, there are thriving communities on the main Isla Colon and out on several other surrounding islands.  From daily tasks including the job commute and household shopping to surfing and excursions, the regular way around the Bocas del Toro archipelago is best done by boat.

Water Taxi is the local way to travel in Bocas del Toro

Water Taxi is the local way to travel in Bocas del Toro

Along the waterfront in Bocas Town on Isla Colon there are many water taxi options.  Jampan Tours is one that runs regular routes back and forth to Isla Bastimentos, as well as other places on demand.  The Red Frog Resort also can help arrange water travel around the islands as you need it.

Top 6 Reasons to Appreciate The Panga*

*Panga= Bocas del Toro term for the typically fiberglass motorboat; most common transportation choice of locals and used for water taxi.  Parks on a beach or at a dock.Appreciate the Panga: Water Taxi in Bocas del Toro
  1. Sightseeing every minute.  Bocas del Toro is no place to have your nose in a smartphone (or newspaper?).  Keep your eyes open and on the wonderland around you and you’ll spot starfish in the water underneath your ride or even dolphins playing alongside.
  2. Schedule? It’s a fluid term.  Account for the laid-back Island Time Zone that you enter in Bocas del Toro.  Also, some water taxis have covered tops, but weather can still be an influence in water conditions.  Embrace the easy going vibes as an unexpected opportunity.
  3. Anyway you like it.  Go from Isla Bastimentos to uninhabited Zapatilla Cay for postcard-worthy snorkeling, out to a local favorite surf spot, a restaurant on another island, or anywhere else in the region for just a few dollars.  No traffic, no honking, just open air and your adventure ahead.
  4. It’s Local.  Panga is the transportation of choice for most locals, including water taxi service.  These small boats might serve for groceries one day and be your coach to paradise the next.  They are crucial to local culture and economy.
  5. Early to Bed.  Sunset around here is about
    Water Taxi access beats having a Rental Car any day.

    Water Taxi access beats having a Rental Car any day.

    7pm year-round, so most of the regularly scheduled services will end with the last ride at 6:30.  Arrange later services as necessary with reputable companies that have well-lit boats.  Or, pick up drinks in the afternoon and take them back to party at your villa poolside at night.

  6. Language Lessons.  Water Taxi drivers will be bi-lingual in English and Spanish.  Practice your phrases and learn some new ones on the ride!

Have you taken a water taxi?  What would you add to the list?  What favorite memories do you have from your ride or the driver?

Columbus’s Discovery of Bocas del Toro

In 1500, Bocas del Toro was a quiet island group in the Caribbean.  Indigenous groups had lived on the mainland and among these islands for thousands of years.

Ageless scenery around Isla Bastimentos

Ageless scenery around Isla Bastimentos

The Ngöbe-Buglé people didn’t know they were about to receive their most famous visitor: Christopher Columbus.

Ancient towns and indigenous artifacts throughout mainland Panama have now largely been claimed by the thick rainforest in an ambiguity that continues to tempt historians and archaeologists.

Spanish Discovery of Bocas del Toro

Map of the Caribbean

Map of the Caribbean

With 140 crewmen and 4 vessels, a worn Columbus set sail in May 1502 on his 4th and final journey to find a strait that connected the Atlantic Ocean with the Indian Ocean.  He ventured from the port of Cadiz to Jamaica and soon to Central America.  Traveling south looking for a waterway to take him to the Orient, Columbus and his crew skimmed the rims of Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  Soon they found the islands we call home.

On October 6, 1502, Columbus sailed the channels around then-Caribaro, which was renamed Almirante or Boca del Almirante meaning Mouth of the Admiral.

He noted the deep, rock-free channels and the fragrance that came from fruits and flowers on the islands.  When Columbus anchored, the men were able to refill their provisions, which had been damaged from recent storms, and refresh their spirits.  With this, their island base was named Isla Bastimentos, meaning Provisions.

Refuge on Isla Bastimentos

For ten days the explorers took refuge on Isla Bastimentos, making friends with the native people through offering gifts and hiring translators to communicate. Columbus learned that the mainland was just a narrow isthmus, and over the mountains there was another large ocean.  This reassured his goal of finding passage to the Far East, which he never accomplished.  The people also told of rich gold mines far to the south which diverted later Spanish explorers away from these islands.

Sunset on Isla Bastimentos

Sunset on Isla Bastimentos

In the following weeks and months in 1502, Columbus led his crew south to other points along the banks of Panama and Central America, and the mainland later fell under Spanish rule in a conquest for gold and influence. In 1503, the ships had seen their share of traveling.  The Vizcaino sunk along this part of the trip, yet to be found, and Columbus retreated to Jamaica to await repairs and new ships before returning to Spain in 1504.

Columbus spent significant time of this 4th journey in Bocas del Toro relaxing, learning, and naming his favorite places, including Isla Colon, Isla Cristobal, and Bahia de Almirante.  While this is only one page in the rich layers of history and culture here, October is the month to remember this famous explorer’s visit to our favorite island retreat.

 

Bocas del Toro’s Feria del Mar–The Fair of the Sea

As the Caribbean Fall approaches, the waters around Bocas del Toro turn a calm, clear crystal blue. The boat captains tune their engines as the local community of Bocas Town gears up to celebrate the festival of the season.

Bocas Town, just a 10 minute ride from Red Frog Marina, is bustling for the 5-day Feria del Mar festivities.

Bocas Town, just a 10 minute ride from Red Frog Marina, is bustling for the 5-day Feria del Mar festivities

 Get ready for Feria del Mar, The Fair of the Sea.

During this uniquely original Bocas event, Isla Colon and the waters around her turn into a place for fun, great food, and a community in action. Feira del Mar is a festival for everyone. Thousands of people from the surrounding islands and region come together on the beaches as the Bocas streets transform into a fairground.

The festival is a 50-year tradition showing appreciation to the local fisherman and boatsmen in a celebration of the sea.

The festival starts on Wednesday, September 11, and culminates five days later on Sunday, September 15 with the Bocas Boat Races, which showcase the motorized pangas and the classic wooden Cayukos (canoes), hand-built from large local trees.

 Music and dancing is a key draw for the locals who grew up coming to this festival. From salsa, calypso, reggae and Panamanian rock, there is a little something for everyone, including local folk dances performed by area children in traditional costume.

 Food brings more flavor to the fair as local venders prepare and sell tasty Panamanian treats; a few of the highlights are fresh local fish, the Torrejitas, a sweat and salty corn fried dough and Sancocho soup.

 The children and families are a centerpiece of the day time festivities, enjoying the great selection of games, carnival rides and prizes, as well as arts and crafts. A queen of the fair is chosen, “La Reina,” and then everyone comes to Playa Ismito beach on Sunday for the excitement of the boat races.

Residents of the Bocas Archipelago still prefer traditional Cayukos transportation.

Residents of the Bocas Archipelago still prefer traditional Cayukos as daily transportation

 The Archipelago of Bocas del Toro with all of the beautiful natural wonders, the islands, seascapes and the tropical rain forests; Feria del Mar stands out in the September breeze as a don’t-miss special occasion.

Global Interest in Nature-Based Travel is Increasing: Why We Are Designed by Nature

Designed by Nature Part 1: Resort Community & Villas

There is a movement in current resort design to be green and show visitors a good time without taking down the natural environment that inspired us in the first place.  Some of the most forward-thinking designers and developers are helping make the most, while leaving the most, of the best nature has to offer.

Bocas Del Toro Mangroves environment

Mangroves sprawling near Isla Bastimentos

Research from Cambridge confirms increasing interest in nature-based tourism.  For some travelers this brings images of packing your tent and needs on your back, trekking from hostel to hostel.  Couples, individuals and families all want to discover the natural world, but having modern comforts alongside the authentic environment enables more people to actually be able to, or want to, do it.  Sometimes called eco-tourism, this includes accommodations that are conscious of leaving a small local footprint.

In approaching the Red Frog Beach Resort project, the goal was to respect the values making Isla Bastimentos a World Heritage site while allowing worldwide visitors to savor the authentic culture, the clear and bountiful seawater, and the natural, inspiring wildlife all around.

Here is what they did that adds meaning for the island, the native communities, and the visitors.

Local Isla Bastimentos, Bocas Del Toro residents

Children from Bastimentos having fun at the dock

First, the Rana Roja Foundation became a primary partner/overseer to represent the interest of the natural ecosystem and the local people.  With more than a dozen environmental and community interest points, including improving education systems in two island villages, the Foundation keeps the Red Frog Beach Island Resort in close touch with what really matters most locally.

Red Frog Beach Island Resort proudly says that their community resort was Designed by Nature.  To them, this means that a multi-million dollar lobby was less important than natural rainforest and ocean views and the prevailing habitat.  Instead of constructing over-stacked hotel buildings, a modest network of private luxury villas is tucked into the natural landscape sloping towards the beach.

The Foundation and resort developers established eco-standards including setting buildings at least 150’ back from the beach to preserve the beach habitat and vistas, employing more than 500 local residents, as well as creating a protected turtle nesting area

Why the emphasis on nature?  After being there, it’s easy to imagine the developers working with community members to create the kind of vacation getaway that they would put their own work down for.  It’s the kind of authentic experience to dream of and take advantage of.  Luckily there are enough villas for the rest of us to enjoy it too.