One day while staying on Bastimentos Island in the Bocas del Toro area of Panamà, Julie and I set out in search of a local legend. We’d heard about a man named Polo who had staked out an area now know as Polo Beach for 65 years. He lived alone but welcomed company and would prepare a meal for anyone who happened to be by (and had $5 to spare). The hike from our tent lodge was pleasant though long and scorching hot. We traipsed along the beach and through jungly brush not really knowing if we’d find anything, until we spotted a sun-bleached sign tacked to a coconut tree “polo bihe [sic] / agua de coco / comida / cerveza”. Yes.
Once we arrived we were in for an experience. Polo ranted in a thick Patois and waved us over with a smile. He showed us his make-shift beach kitchen, wooden hut, lime-soaked sanitation system and huge pile of coconuts. In no time we were licking our fingers, nibbling on freshly caught blue-boned needlefish and sipping coconut water with a straw.
Stories about Polo swirl—he left civilization behind when he was 10—he sold part of the island for $1.5 million—but all I can be sure of is that it doesn’t take much to be happy on an island as beautiful and plentiful as this.
FYI: We subsequently found out that the walk from Red Frog Beach to Polo’s can be dangerous, particularly for women alone. Tourists have been mugged by thugs, though no one was seriously hurt. I’d say go, but be cautious and leave anything worth stealing behind.