We just got back from the Freedom cruise (November 22nd) that did Costa Rica and Colon.
It was the first time we had been to those two ports.
We are not able to do excursions since we have a special needs son...but I have to say that I really enjoyed Costa Rica and Colon now has a few shops right there at the port (inside the white fence) so we did not "stay on the ship".
Here are some pictures...the first 3 are of Costa Rica and the next 5 are Colon.
We walked about downtown Costa Rica without feeling uncomfortable.
Of course, we used some basic common sense. We left our Rolexs in the Ship's safe and I had my Samsonite (cut proof) travel bag across my body with about $20 in it...which is all we spent.
Don't wear anything (necklaces etc) that can be yanked off and be mindful of pick pockets.
We walked 2 blocks deep and about 6 blocks wide without hesistation.
I found a karaoke bar and we tried the local beer. So now I can say I have sung from Halifax to Costa Rica!!!
In Colon, Panama...you get off the ship, go into a building, up an escalator...across a sky walk....down an escalator into an H shaped strip mall. There were about 6 shops that sold the usual tourist stuff. 3 bars/restaurants. one LARGE grocery store called Supra that had good prices on liquor. one LARGE electronic store that had everything from cameras to laptops. And while this area inside the white fence is NOT restricted....we never felt uncomfortabe. There were locals in the grocery store doing their weekly shopping. One of the locals let me go ahead of her since she had a whole basket and I only had one item.
They were very nice. I walked around by myself for about an hour. Then Hubby and I went to Cafe Iguana for a local beer. You do have to walk upstairs to this bar/restaurant but it was kinda neat. I will warn you that this is a local place...not a tourist place. We sat at the bar for about 15 minutes being totally ignored...until I caught the attention of one of the waitresses and asked for 2 Imperial beers for 4 dollars in Spanish...then she was nice as she could be in serving us...so either they don't speak English or they don't want to serve folks who don't speak Spanish..not sure. Of course that is just about all the Spanish I know....which was enough.
Again felt very safe as long as we stayed inside the white fence. They will ask if you want a taxi.
Another lady I got to know in karaoke on the ship (passenger) went off on a taxi ride with 5 other people (of them spoke Spanish). They got a nice tour for $40 each...BUT they did come across a roadblock (locals with a tree truck across the road) that cost them another $20 to pass.
Now I would not say they were robbed...but they definately had to pay more to go where they wanted to go...and it could have just as easily been a robbery. So I would only go with a Ship Excursion in Colon if you are leaving the confinds of the white fence.
There is another group that walked from the Trade Free Zone (several blocks) on their own to the ship...but they were a LARGE LARGE group.
They did not have any problems.