Playa Pie de Gigante Nicaragua

Gigante is a sleepy fishing / surf village north of San Juan Del Sur on the Rivas bus line.  If arriving by bus, beware that the bus stop is 7km away from the village.  The bus drops you off at a dirt road with no taxis and little traffic but if you are lucky enough to see a vehicle going your way they will most likely give you a ride.

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San Jose Costa Rica

Many of our trips to Central America start and end in San Jose.  Jet Blue offers a direct flight from MCO to SJO.  It is a short 2.5 hour flight and usually has space available.  Comfort Inns and Suites is our favorite hotel in the area.  They have complimentary airport shuttle and a free breakfast buffet too.  At $90 per night, it is a good hotel for the price.  There may be cheaper or more expensive but none that offer as much for the price.  The rooms are clean and the staff is wonderful.

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Panama City Panama

Panama was always a country I wanted to visit.  Internet articles claimed that a retiree could live like a king with their Social Security check of about $1,000 per month.  With the lure of modern amenities, inexpensive prices and great surfing year-round too; I had to see for myself.  In November of 2012, my girlfriend and I made the trip.  We flew from Orlando International (MCO) to Panama City Panama (PTY) on Copa Airlines.  The flight was non-stop and took less than 4 hours.  We decided to take our surfboards on this trip and Copa only charged $100 for both since they were in one board bag.  Once there, we rented a car and asked the rental agent for hotel advice.  After a couple of calls we had reservations and a destination for the GPS.  Getting to Panama City from the airport was pretty easy but the GPS got us lost several times once in town.  It just couldn’t keep up with the streets and kept sending us around in circles.  We finally gave up and just started asking hotel rates and availability in the area.  I’m not sure what part of town the rental agent sent us to but it wasn’t exactly the high-rent district.  We were pretty specific about wanting value accommodations but we ended up in the pay by the hour prostitute section of town.  One hotel where we checked the rates actually had light switches in the manager’s office with room numbers and keys on hooks underneath.  I suppose this was a true by-the-hour hotel.  We ended up finding a place that seemed pretty clean.  I don’t remember the name or exact price but they had secure parking, a hooker posted on the corner in front of the place and free porn on the TV.

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Dinner was a bit expensive too.  I had an $8 burger at a diner near our hotel.  The prices on the menu were very similar to restaurants in Florida.  Maybe I missed something but this was not turning out to be the budget friendly trip I had hoped for.