The coconut craze is here! Well, it’s always been here (Bocas and the Caribbean in general), but now you can find the magical coconut water in gas stations, supermarkets and on billboards with famous athletes and celebrities around the world. It’s one of the new health trends in the US and Europe, being marketed as a sports drink; “Mother Nature’s Gatorade” if you will, but is the almighty coco as healthy as the nut’s cracked up to be? Is coconut water really that good for you? Of course it is! I’m not even going to doubt it for another sentence.
Here are some quick nutritional highlights for coconut water:
– Low in calories
– Fat and cholesterol free
– Rich in potassium (4x more than banana according to WebMD)
– Good source of B Vitamins
– Tons of electrolytes
Coconut water or “agua de pipa” as it’s known locally, is the sweet clear liquid harvested from young green coconuts. This is not to be confused with coconut milk, which is made from boiling the flesh of a ripe mature coconut (the white fruit that comes from the hairy brown coconut). It’s best to consume your agua de pipa when it’s at its absolute freshest; whether you slice the coconut open with a machete or you drink it very recently bottled, the vitamins and minerals are best absorbed by the body at this stage in the coconut game. I visited two of my favorite vendors for their respective coconut philosophies.
Machuca had led a life of crime before coming to the island 7 years ago. He began selling coconut water in an effort to change his life around. The great news is- he succeeded! He gets up every morning, grabs his ladder and scales palm trees looking for only the freshest of coconuts. He serves the pipas up cold, right on 3rd street, between the park and Hostel Heike. For $1 he will personally machete your coconut and provide you with your very own straw. For no additional charge, he will even split the coconut completely after you’re done drinking the water, so you can spoon out the jelly often found in the center of the young green coconuts. Many locals have told me that the jelly is the most nutritious part and works wonders for preventing stomach parasites. Everyone seems to agree that agua de pipa is elemental in cleansing your kidneys.
If you prefer yours fresh but in a bottle, Juan has got what you need on 6th street, right in front of 3rd base of the baseball field. His product is also a dollar and also equipped with complimentary straw. Juan is a retired policeman, working 25 years for the National Police. He sells agua de pipa to entertain himself during his retirement and because, as he puts it, “there is always something that’s profitable.” He started slanging cocos back in 1999. At first he sold them traditionally (machete-style), but now prefers bottles because he didn’t have a great place to throw all the coconut husks. Juan uses recycled water bottles that he buys at 5 cents a bottle from people that save their empty plastic water bottles for him. Once you open it, keep it cold and keep the cap on tight if you’re not going to finish it all at once because if not, it will go bad and give you quite the tummy ache when you drink it later.
There you have it- reasons to drink agua de pipa and where to get it in Bocas. Just don’t overdo it. A few agua de pipas throughout the day can be refreshing, but if you drink too much, the coconut water becomes a very potent laxative…