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Since I decided to travel -at least- once a year just for starting, I can say that the small part I met of Central America has it all; I met a lot of backpackers doing the same trip: from Mexico to Costa Rica. I only visited Costa Rica for one week and fell in love with it, cities like Alajuela and San José seem small and very antiques but you can get surprised sometimes because they have a modern quality attached to them.
In San José I stayed at Hostal Pangea, very comfortable and colorful, usually the people staying there is very nice and they are regular customers at that place. Nice drinks, nice weather and nice rooms. People from CR itself used to tell me that hostal was located in a risky place but I never had a bad experience being around, so i have a beautiful memory on Hostal Pangea. If you want to check that place please click this link.
Streets, parks and nightlife in Costa Rica are very relaxed places to be in. La calle de la Amargura, a San Pedro street very famous for its nightlife however has a lot of options depending on what's your mood. I went to a place near San Pedro mall called Roots Bar, so fresh, cool and calm as their slogan says. This is the link on the Facebook fanpage, the only website i can provide you from them.
Other than nightlife and nice places, there is nature. Costa Rica has started the road to become an eco-friendly country, you can see it elsewhere in their clean streets, recycling bins and artists that make all kinds of handcraft recycled accessories. They have also my number one recommendation for you: Parque La Sabana. Is an artificial park, a quiet beautiful place in the middle of San José. I cannot describe it for you, just visit.
Costa Rica and Panamá are very close and you can go by bus, but from San José to Panamá City is a 17 hours trip. When returning, I decided to stop at Bocas Del Toro, an archipielago on the caribbean just 5 hours from the border with Costa Rica.
In this zone of Panama we could find Kuna communities, you can see them on the road with their characteristic type of architecture or Kuna women making bracelets or other ornaments for tourists, made under amazing techniques and totally worth to have! If you are planning to visit and want to see the best of this place, call Eduardo, he lives and works in Bocas helping tourists to get transportation, find interesting tours around the archipelago, surfing beaches, nightlife recommendations and anything else you will need, I contacted him and helped me to get the best of Bocas in just 2 days.
If you feel like staying in a hotel go for Hotel Playa Tortuga, next to Playa Bluff, a little outside the main zone but still a comfortable place to be; it has a lobby, 2 restaurants and a pool area next to the beach, and main rooms have a balcony. Sweet.
This trip made me see just a few things of what Central America has to offer and my road was always on TicaBus. If you have better recommendations on other company where road trips are comfortable, I will happily receive your comment.
By the way, the rest of y days in Panamá City I didn't spend them visiting lots of places, i will leave it for the next time i go, in fact the rest of my trip i spent it SHOPPING.