Playa Estrella and the Starfish

I don’t know what the story is with these early rising roosters, but they did get going around 9:30PM last night. Regardless, the sound of our room fan kind of drowned out the voices of our noisy poultry neighbors and we slept soundly until 8AM.

During our breakfast of some fancier oats, these ones with cinnamon, I was checking out some excursions for the day. After our excellent beach day yesterday, we figured we should spend a bit more time checking out some of the more well travelled tourist spots around Bocas del Toro. Colectivos departed from the park between 10 and 11AM…so if we wanted to try and make one of those, it would be best if we speedily got our crap together.

We made it out the door just before 10 to a grey and overcast sky. Maybe not the best day to make our way out to Playa Estrella, so we kept our options open. Playa Carenero was just a 2 dollar water taxi ride away…so maybe we opt for that. We headed over to the park anyways and sat for a moment to get a feel for when these minibuses rolled by. With no traffic, we instead headed to the Coconut Hostel to ask them instead…as well about a full day tour. Suddenly a minibus showed up and instead of just asking the price and walking away…we hopped in. Apparently, regardless of the weather, we were headed to Playa Estrella.

The bus loaded fast and we were off. 15km is what the signs told us for this ride and i read somewhere about 30 minutes. Yep, 30 minutes of being tossed and turned in the back of the van with the loud talking of eager Germans throughout and AC overscented with some likely toxic Febreeze knockoff keeping us cool for the ride. The road was full of potholes and broken pavement, and the driver careful to navigate each hole with plenty of braking and swerving. We arrived in Boca del Drago in about 25 minutes with queasy stomachs and smelling dryer fresh.

Drago is not all that exciting. A tiny town of just a few structures and a spot to dump tourists looking to make their way to Estrella. The beach is narrow, the water crystal clear and the people friendly. We started the trek through what looked like a couple backyards and followed the waters edge past a dock to some jungley looking trail. Sandy, palm fronds littering the ground drying in the sun. We followed the well marked path all the way along to Playa Estrella. I hadn’t done any research on the place, so all I knew is there were starfish there. As we approached the start of the beach…you could see about 3 of the orangey yellow creatures in the shallow water. Starfish are here.

We ventured down the very narrow strip of sand, ducking in and out of little restaurant stands all stacked up side by side. Beach chairs were parked in their traditional spots, however this beach was so narrow that half of the chair was positioned in the water. Sure there was still a good 10 inches of clearance between the top of the chair and water surface, but anything that resembled a wave coming in would likely soak everyone. This side only had waves from the police boat patrolling the area and water taxis lucky enough to extract a few more dollars from the tourists not interested in doing the walk.

We made our way down to the end of the beach, without actually finding beach. Playa Bluff had some beach…really nice beach. Maybe the water was a bit rough, but that was a fantastic beach. I was expecting the same today with maybe a few more restaurants and shops. Nope…not here. We found a spot at one of the restaurants and plunked our stuff down. We both needed to get in the water to cool down.

After getting in the water, swimming a little with the starfish littering the sandy bottom around our feet helped ease our way into Playa Estrella. Our ride wasn’t returning for another 5 hours, so we might as well relax and enjoy. Melanie made some friends with the fishes. As she stood posing for pictures between a couple of starfish in the water below, the fishes started nipping at her feet. No fear with these guys. They decided to nip and taste my feet as well. We don’t know if these were the skin eating fish that seem to be popular in spa treatments, but the friendly little guys definitely clarified our discomfort of having anything nibble at our toes.

We lunched at the place, had a few beer and a Malibu with fresh squeezed orange juice. The clouds dissipated and sky turned blue. The time slipped by and after a few very long swims it was time to head back to our pickup point. We made our way back along the trail, stopping for a few more pics of the rain in the mountains on the mainland…and to our spot in front of a blue house.

4:30 pickup. We were all there, which was surprising because it seemed a little disorganized and maybe confusing when we departed the van. The Germans were very punctual though, even a few minutes early. We could get used to a German lifestyle methinks. A shuttle showed up and those of our group smart enough to only do a one way trip hopped in that bus for $2.50 each. Four of us waited for our ride. A larger colectivo came by, filled up, and departed. 5:00, still no ride. The cabbie we had yesterday that took us to Bluff was parked nearby, so that could always be a backup plan…assuming no one scoops the ride before us. 5:10 and our guy shows up, apologizing profusely. Mechanical issues is what he claimed, which is understandable considering the road conditions.

We piled in and made our way back to town. Our driver was kind enough to not turn the potpourri scented AC on for our ride back, which had us arrive with a little less quease and more appetite. The chicken rice lunch we split was long burned off with the hours of swimming and we needed some dinner. The driver was kind enough to drop us at our place to freshen up a little before heading out for dinner.

Quite a lot of sun for us. We changed out of our suits and headed into town for something hearty. Tonight, I was craving a burger…something that would fill my gut with familiarity. We went to Munchies, found out they had beer for a dollar each as part of their happy hour and $4.50 for a passion fruit margarita…so drinks were instantly a win. A chicken burger for the lady and bacon cheeseburger with yucca fries for me. The drinks were tasty…burgers, meh. Yucca fries…more like yuck than yucca. We were full enough with the OK food, and headed for home.

This must have been just enough time for our skin to register pinkness. Maybe it is the compact fluorescents that really make those red hues stand out, but both of us are a fair shade pinker than this morning. A cold shower did not seem to rinse off the redness and now as I write this…there might be a little discomfort settling in.

Tomorrow is a new day, probably with less beach time and much more sunscreen.