A Beach Vacation Totaling $405? Yes, Please!

A Beach Vacation Totaling $405? Yes, Please!

Who doesn’t love a good beach vacation?!

The magnificence of the ocean in both sound and sight is something I could just take in forever.  Throw in some sand, palm trees, and a couple of drinks and it’s hard to beat that tropical atmosphere!

I’m used to going on a beach vacation every year or two with family or friends.  It’s an awesome, but expensive trip to look forward to that I’m sure many of you are familiar with doing.

One thing I hadn’t really given too much thought to though is that once you move to a place like Panama, you ARE the vacation spot.

I mean, we moved to the mountains, which is beautiful all around, but it’s not the beach.  And we moved to this area on purpose to enjoy the more moderate climate.

Our plan was that we could relish the day-to-day temperature of 75° F (around 24° C).  Not having to live in air-conditioning every day was a big deal for me.  I wanted to be able to enjoy being outdoors instead of sheltering away from it.

Then when we wanted to, we could head down from the mountains and be to a beach in an hour and a half.  As you go down the mountain, the temperature suddenly becomes 85 or 90 degrees for some good beach weather.

That’s been in the back of my mind, but I hadn’t really thought too much about it.  Planning a beach vacation is something that my wife, Lisa, is better at than I am.

So when she booked a trip to the beach for us to take last month, my Spidey sense started tingling.  We just got done with a cruise two months ago.  Do we really need to spend more money on a vacation?

But when all was said and done, my Spidey sense proved to be off-kilter.

The total for the entire 3-day beach trip was $403.93 – and that also includes the cost of transportation to and from!

Why take a beach vacation?

Um, did you just ask “why take a beach vacation”?  The question should be “why not take more beach vacations.”  After all, we’re technically retired and should be enjoying the beaches and not just the mountains!

But in the 6+ months that we’ve been here, life has found a way to keep us a little preoccupied.  Between Faith’s homeschooling and me finding what seems like endless ways to keep busy, we haven’t been able to squeeze it in yet.  We did go whale-watching when we first got here, but that’s been about it.

Lisa wasn’t thrilled that we didn’t get any beach time on our cruise in December because of a change in the itinerary that clashed with our plans.  The girls claimed they needed some ocean-swimming time!  And Faith also needed some time to build sandcastles and dig a hole.

That’s fair.  I’m not a lay-out-in-the-sun kind of guy, but I do love playing in the ocean – especially if the ocean water’s nice and warm!

Although there are several beaches here, this was going to just be a shorter trip.  Lisa decided that we’d go to Playa La Barqueta in Guarumal for this one.  She booked us a hotel at Las Olas Beach Resort.

How do you make a beach vacation less expensive?

Move to a place near the beach.  Weird enough, that’s what we did without me even thinking about it.

In the U.S., most hotels or resorts on the beach are going to be ridiculously expensive.  Even discounting your travel, you’re probably looking at a massive figure for most of the places you’d be lodging.

Rates are much cheaper in Central American countries or the Caribbean.  But then you usually have the flight price which jacks up your total price anyway.

That’s why a lot of folks in the U.S. opt for their beach vacations to simply be on the east or west coast.  It saves the international flight and you could just drive there if needed.

When you have kids, the total cost for flights for a family can jump real quickly.  Our routine with friends and family used to be to drive from Ohio to the Outer Banks in North Carolina or somewhere similar.  A 10-12 hour drive each way sucked, but it sure saved us some good money!

But now we’re here in Boquete, Panama and we have beaches throughout the country.  This beach (Las Olas) is only about 1½ hours away (though longer by bus).

Well… how was it?

Ok, let’s get this straight right off the bat – this was NOT a 5-star resort somewhere.  It was a pretty basic hotel with a couple of pools, restaurants, and a bar.  It also wasn’t all-inclusive.  The highlight was that every room was oceanfront.

And it was.  Our room was on the second floor and facing the ocean.  An oddity was that they had planted trees and let other vegetation grow along that side of the whole building.  So yes, we could see the ocean, but why obstruct the very thing people are likely coming there to see?

The room didn’t have a refrigerator or microwave.  And although we brought a cooler, there were no ice machines to keep everything ice cold for our few days there.

In other words, this was basically just a place to sleep.  At $75/night though, I wasn’t expecting anything too elegant anyway.

Just to add to it, we had unknowingly booked our stay during Panama Carnival.  It wasn’t crazy busy, but because that’s considered somewhat of a holiday here, there were a lot of people there taking advantage of their time off work.

Now with all that said, any trip is what you make of it.  It drives me nuts when people go on vacation and then complain about the stupidest little things.  Stop being a wuss and just have fun!

And that’s exactly what we do.

We did a little swimming in the pool and enjoyed some meals in the restaurants, but we were there for the ocean.  And the ocean is what we did best!

The resort is on the Pacific side of the country and in that particular area, you have to be extremely careful about the strong rip current there.  This is not the place to go for surfing or someone wanting to swim out far into the ocean.

We knew that going in, however, and that wasn’t a big deal for our beach vacation.  We have a nine-year-old so our plans were to be playing on the beach and staying shallow in the ocean.

And that’s what we did.  The ocean water was really warm – with me being a freeze baby, that’s a good thing!  We had a blast going about waist deep, playing games, and jumping waves.

The beach was all sand and even though it wasn’t the pretty white sand people love, we didn’t have a rocky beach to worry about hurting our feet on.

Faith did get her chance to dig a hole – a giant hole.  It was big enough that we had to fill it when we left or someone could have gotten hurt.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it… oops!

The total cost breakdown

Ok, let’s break down the cost of this beach vacation…

CostThe Expense
$174.10Las Olas Beach Resort (2-night hotel stay)
$5.25Bus from Boquete to David
$7.20Bus from David to Las Olas
$39.27Lunch on Monday
$51.35Dinner on Monday
$26.47Breakfast on Tuesday
$2.00Drink for Faith
$11.78Lunch on Tuesday
$40.14Dinner on Tuesday
$17.02Breakfast on Wednesday
$5.00Taxi from Las Olas to a different bus stop
$3.00Bus from middle of nowhere to David
$5.25Bus from David to Boquete

Barely over $400 for a three-day vacation ain’t too bad when you consider that it includes all our costs.

Now, bear in mind that we also brought a 12-pack of beer from home for the room so you’re welcome to throw that in if you want… around $5 or $6.  Gotta love Panama!

There are several add-on sales you can enjoy while there:

  • Horseback riding
  • Massages
  • Kayaking in the mangroves
  • Boating/ Fishing
  • Tennis lessons
  • Guided tours

But here’s the great thing… the ocean is free!!  We stuck with the wondrous bounty from mother nature for the low cost of $0 during that time and had a ton of fun!

Travel to and from the beach vacation

Our travel to the resort wasn’t too bad either.  Remember that we don’t have a car here.  We could have rented a car, but what’s the fun in that?!

Instead, we walked a half-mile to town carrying our bags, which was a little tough with our backpack cooler on my back.  But then we just jumped on the bus from Boquete to David.  A 45-minute drive that cost us $1.75 each.

Right from the bus terminal, we then hopped on another bus that took us to Las Olas for about an hour… $2.40 each.  They dropped us off just outside of the hotel property.

All good, but the trip back from our beach vacation wasn’t as smooth.

I asked the hotel receptionist that morning where to catch the bus to go back.  He told me he’d contact the driver and have him pick us up.  He confirmed that the driver would get us at the hotel around 12:15 pm… perfect!

We played a little more in the ocean, got cleaned up, and checked out at noon.  Then we waited.

Well, as it got close to 1:00 pm, the receptionist told us that the bus driver was having mechanical problems.  He said it would be a pricey cab to David but then suggested we take a cab for $5 to another bus stop down the road where a different bus would take us to David for $1 each.  That works for me!

The taxi showed up and the driver took us about 20 minutes into the middle of nowhere… seriously, I had no idea where we were and there was really nothing around.  He pulled up at the bus station to let us off.  He didn’t speak any English, but being in nowhere’s land, I wanted to verify everything.  I pulled out Google Translate and he confirmed we were good.

Ok, stuck in the middle of nowhere with only hopes of a bus pulling up… no anxiety there!

Eventually, the bus showed up to take us to David.  This one wasn’t so fun because unlike all the other busses for this trip, this one had no A/C.  And down near David… it’s hot, like super hot.  But, we managed to survive.

After that bus trip of an hour or so, we made it to the main bus terminal and hopped on the bus we know and love that took us back to Boquete.

We walked back home from there, but it was much easier since that backpack cooler wasn’t filled with a case of beer, juice, and frozen water bottles anymore.

I’ve never lived anywhere where people actually go to as a destination for vacation so that’s a little different for us.  Throughout the rest of the year, we have a bunch of family and friends planning to visit.  Some will want to head to the beach and others won’t.

Regardless, it’s cool that we can enjoy these kinds of getaways for much cheaper now.  We plan to head to the Show Pony Beach Resort in Las Lajas next.  Although a little further away (closer to two hours drive), we’ve heard some great things about it.

It’ll be a little more expensive, but it sounds like it’ll be a little bit nicer of a place.  We’re talking about a small apartment there with a kitchen for maybe $100/night… that sounds about right for my price range!

Overall, I think a $400 total price tag for our small beach vacation was a steal.  What do you think?

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

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18 thoughts on “A Beach Vacation Totaling $405? Yes, Please!”

  1. What a vacation! Sounds amazing and $400 is surreal for 3 people! Just shows you that the best things in life are probably free.

    Hope you enjoy many more getaways like this. Nothing’s beats a good beach vacation.


  2. Richard Engelhardt

    Sounds like a great trip! When I was a tiny kid – we used to go to Cape May NJ for two weeks every June. My dad used to dig a big hole in the sand & stick me in it while he and my mom and older brother & sister went in the ocean…..People used to walk past, see me in the hole & laugh! 😀 😀

    I have a soft spot for big deep holes in the sand ;).

    1. After a handful of drinks next time we get together, I’ll try to bury you somewhere. I’m guessing it’s not as fun once you reach a certain age! I’d also venture to guess that you and I would be the only ones laughing at that train wreck! 😉

  3. Seems like a pretty cheap vacation Jim! Congrats to you guys for living in such a fun location! Even just a short trip like this is a big adventure! 🙂

  4. It is always nice to see a new post. You guys are having a great time. I know so much about Panama after reading your blog. Thank you for fixing the minor issue with the social media links. Appreciate it.

  5. Great post! Great low cost getaway. It seems you’ve adjusted nicely to not having a car. Just think of all the exercise you’re getting hoofing it. Gotta love those low bus fares. Here you can’t go one mile for $1.75 let alone 45 minutes from Boquete to David! Next time you must take a pic of Faith in a big hole on the beach!

    1. It really is great to have such low costs for public transportation (not to mention taxis and even Uber to a degree). It adds a little more planning in each day, but hey, when you’re retired, that’s not really much of a nuisance… especially for the cost savings it provides over owning a car! 🙂

  6. That’s great. It’s nice to live near the beach. We usually go camping near the beach once per year. It’s fun and economical. Oregon beaches are super cold, though. Even in the summer, the water is around 50 degrees. (I think) Brr…

    1. We love camping but have never done that near the beach (unless you count lakes). That sounds like it would be awesome! I’m with you on the water temp, but probably even worse – I’d love it at bath temperatures! 🙂

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