I had a fun week-long vacation the week of April the 13th, spending my required 72 hours in Costa Rica and then heading back over the border to the Bocas del Toro archipelago in Panama for 3 nights. I had no problems crossing the border to Costa Rica luckily, although the 11 hour bus ride to get there definitely wasn't fun. Once getting stamped out of Panama at the tiny immigrations window, I walked across the rickety old train bridge separating the two countries and got stamped into Costa Rica. You can watch all of the locals just walking back and forth between the two countries to go to school, conduct business, etc with apparently no acknowledgment that they're crossing a border.
From there I hopped a bus 2 hours up the Caribbean coast to the Rasta beach side town of Puerto Viejo. I met two girls (French and Italian) who were headed the same direction and we ended up finding a hostel together and hanging out for the next couple of days. They are both working in really rural indigenous communities in Costa Rica and were trying to make the most of their vacation from work. The hostel was huge and located right on the beach, so I didn't leave much except for trips to the internet café in town and to buy the paper in the morning. Two guys (British and Australian) who my new friends had met in Bocas del Toro in Panama the days before, ended up joining us and we spent one night cook up a really impressive barbecue. They left the next day for San Jose, Costa Rica and I spent one more night before leaving early the next morning to cross the border again. Back on the Panama side I found a ride to the water taxi port for the islands and thought I was golden. Of course little did we know that the retirees would be protesting on the bridge that leads to the water taxi and would have it blocked off for 5 hours. I ended up hanging out with our driver and a German guy while we were waiting for the bridge to open and had all sorts of hilarious conversations. When I finally made it to Isla Colon I was exhausted but so excited because I was staying with my host family from study abroad when I studied mangroves. I was welcomed into their home like I had never left and spent 3 packed days visiting people and enjoying the beach and biking around the island. I stopped by the Smithsonian research station where I did my mangrove study and went out on the water with my project adviser as their boat hand as he and another scientist I know did some diving for lobster larvae. It was a really great visit, too short, but I got to spend some good bonding time with my host family there and hope I get to go back and visit them soon. As a treat, I capped of my vacation week by flying back to Panama City..one hour on a plane definitely beats 12 hours on a bus.