So looking back at my previous advice on the trip I promised to tell you were to stay, what to bring, and how to make friends.

 I’ll start with the easy one.  I’d never traveled alone before, and I’m not the most outgoing guy in the world, so constantly making new friends came with a little bit of pressure for me, didn’t turn out to be a problem.  The most important thing is to find a social place to stay, if you get a room at a place full of honeymooners or families, you might want to try a new spot the next day.  Now that you have a home base, you might make friends right off, keep an eye out for somebody else who looks like a little lonely and/or desperate for conversation.  If that doesn’t work, go buy some beer and sit in the common area.  Soon you will have friends.

For places to stay, I’ll throw out the spots that I enjoyed.  I don’t want to hate, so some towns I stayed in will get no mention. 

  • Montazuma: Luna Llena.   Nice clean place with a great view.  Its back up the road to Cobano when you get off the bus in town.
  • Monteverde: Monteverde Backpackers.  I think this place is new, it isn’t in the guidebooks (2006 ones anyway).  Kind of small, free internet and breakfast.  One of the owners, Diego spoke excellent English and bent over backwards to help you have a good time in Monteverde.  They also had a really nice tv with direct tv.  Normally this wouldn’t be much of a draw for me when traveling, but I got pretty bored in Monteverde.
  • Jaco: Hotel Kangaroo, I didn’t stay here, theres a story behind that.  In the time I did spend there, the staff was super friendly and helpful.  They had a pool, free internet and its on the edge of town, which I liked.  I met an Aussie who’d traveled with the owner and had good things to say about the guy.
  • Manuel Antonio/Quepos:  The Widemouth Frog.  In Quepos, which isn’t all that nice, but right next to the bus, which can take you to the Manuel Antonio park every half-hour for about 20 cents.  They have a pool, free internet, free breakfast, tv with free dvd rentals and one of the best book exchanges I saw.  The owners were nice too.
  • Bocas Del Toro (Panama): Hotel Hiejke.  One of the two really popular hostels.  I stayed at the other one, Mando Taitu which was a lot of fun.  But if I went back, I’d stay at the cleaner and slightly quieter Hiejke and go to happy hour at Mando.
  • Puerto Viejo:  Everybody under 30 seems to stay at Rockin J’s.  It was fun, bar on site with an entertaning British bartender who seemed to enjoy passing out free drinks to the prettier girls.  Choose between a hammock and tent for sleeping (they give you a backpack sized locker).  I also spent a few nights at Hotel Puerto Viejo, which was nice and not too spendy, but not all that social.
  • Cahuita:  There was nothing that I would consider to be a good place to stay and the cheap places the guidebooks recommended weren’t up to my standards, but after looking around we settled on a spot that was a house converted into a hotel/hostel ran by some friendly locals with limited English.  Unfortuanetely, I don’t remember the name.  To find it go to Restaurant Tipico Cahuita walk down the side street going south (towards the national park) and I think its on the right.

What to bring?  I sure didn’t need my jeans.  If I went back I’d take board shorts and find some light cargo shorts (mine were heavy and got pretty hot).  In Monteverde I could’ve used a sweatshirt, but otherwise t-shirts are great.  I’d probably only take two if I went back and buy some for souvenirs to complete my traveling wardrobe (figure $5 each).  I never used my bug spray.  I took pepto bismo tablets but only used them after nights of heavy drinking.  The food didn’t bother me, but I talked to people who it did.  Flip flops and running shoes took care of my feet (and I only wore the shoes a couple times).  The one time I would have used the bug spray I took I’d left it in the room, definitely isn’t a necessity.

One item I got a lot of use out of was my REI Flash bag.  Its a little backpack made of light material, cost about $20.  Its useful cause you can stuff it inside your bag and it takes up no space when traveling, but gives you a nice small day pack for the beach or hikes.  I used it so much that I think it only ended up in my other bag three or four times.