This post is part of a Panama Trip series.


And…from here…La Coralina looks…Quite Inviting!

La Coralina Deck Bocas del Toro

From the vantage point of the driveway we see only a large, open deck overlooking the road and ocean, dotted with random, festive lamps.  Stacy greets us warmly, like we’re old friends. Jack had spoken with her when he booked his reservation and discovered that she had grown up in a small town in Minnesota just like he and I.

We follow Stacy to her enormous deck, where she offers to buy us a rum punch. I opt for a beer instead, and she hands me a frosty Panama in a bottle. Beats Atlas. Reading our minds, she produces lunch menus: Jack orders fish tacos and I choose the nachos. Stacy keeps us company as the food arrives, not five minutes later, perfectly prepared (my nacho chips are homemade, on-site, and the mahi-mahi was caught locally).

Stacy tells us about the staff/family at La Coralina: there’s Rick (handyman, driver, bellman, front desk clerk, and all-around-nice-guy), Roberto (driver), Sugar (dog), Lola (dog), and Edgar (baby, orphaned monkey that they rescued).

On cue, Lola (with impish Edgar riding on her back) trots out to say hello. Edgar — a bug-infested, little hellion —  jumps from Lola to Jack to me. He gazes up at me with his imploring brown eyes and smears soggy banana into my new, white shorts. Adorable!

The moment is perfect: by far the best to date, this trip.


The deck at La Coralina welcomes all sorts of strays: monkeys, dogs, Minnesotans, children. Two native little boys sit across the bar from us, swinging their legs and swigging endless Cokes in between games of pool. I gesture with my camera, and they’re eager to be photographed, but they both adopt such serious expressions when I snap their picture you’d think I’m taking a mugshot.

Cute Serious Kid at La Carolina

Stacy (proprieter, reservationist, comptroller, bartender, server, concierge and marketer) dishes on our fellow guests as she shakes, muddles, and blends their drinks with pride. We learn that we are staying with a band of frog photographers from The Netherlands, sisters (but are they?) from Germany and a couple from Spain. We dub them The Froggers, The Freuleins and The Spaniards. Everyone staying at La Coralina ends up on the deck sooner or later because no one can tolerate the trip into town twice in a day.

As Jack and I analyze and deconstruct our co-lodgers, I catch a flutter slightly behind me out of the corner of my eye and hear a Slap! on the deck floor. I turn around, look down.

“HOLY. SHIT!” I shout, flying off my barstool. The biggest, most badass bug I’ve ever seen crawls along the boards at our feet. I take a minute to recover, throw down a dime next to it for scale, and snap a photo of the creature. It’s going to be an Ambien night.

Big Bug

Read the entire Panama Trip series.


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