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Boquete

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Hostel Mamallena
Hostel Mamallena - dream vacation

In Front of Parque CentralBoquete

Boquete Casa Romero
Boquete Casa Romero - dream vacation

Boquete Main Street Los NaranjosBoquete

Hotel Ladera
Hotel Ladera - dream vacation

Via Palo Alto, Calle Buenos AiresBoquete

Hotel Rebequet
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Calle 7a Sur Belisario PorrasBoquete

Villa San Miguel Boquete
Villa San Miguel Boquete - dream vacation

Cabanas Villa San Miguel, 17 Alto BoqueteBoquete

Hotel Palo Alto
Hotel Palo Alto - dream vacation

Avenida Buenos Aires, Palo AltoBoquete

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Boquete is a cozy mountain town in Chiriqui province, in the Pacific West of Panama. It is famous for its coffee planations and the world famous geisha coffee—so wake up and smell the coffee!

Understand

For some information, there is the Official Authority of Tourism, Panama (ATP) located a few minutes drive up the road back towards David, next to the Kotowa Coffee Shop, not in downtown Boquete. They have a small museum including some old photos of Boquete, as well as a beautiful view of the valley of Boquete.

The main features of Boquete include:

  • A year-round temperature in the low seventies Fahrenheit.
  • A significant North American expat community and tourist destination, which brings with it a wide range of amenities from which to choose, ranging from hostels to luxury, health spas, reliable infrastructure, with English very widely spoken.
  • Fresh mountain air.
  • A small town, with a small town atmosphere, surrounded by relatively untouched natural beauty.
  • The ability, if you choose to venture away from the town, to visit rural, traditional Panama.
  • An abundance of outdoor activities, including zip lining, bird watching, rafting (certain times of year), hiking, and limited golf.
  • World famous coffee plantations.

Up until the early 2000s, Boquete was a sleepy, almost completely unknown and unremarkable agriculture-based mountain village with almost zero tourism and very few people living in the area whose families hadn’t been there for generations. That changed with a series of events starting with the creation of Valle Escondido, a large residential development aimed at expats. Right around the same time, several magazines devoted to people considering becoming expats began to flourish, with one of the most popular very regularly touting Boquete as “the land of eternal springtime”.

As a result of the publicity and the natural beauty and temperate climate of Boquete, it became, arguably, the best-known North American expat destination in the world, as a large expat community developed. That community now dominates the town, which, depending on what you’re looking for, could be good or bad. A most comprehensive, organized treatment of Boquete can be found in Best Places in the World to Retire: Boquete.

Because of its temperate climate, moderate prices and relaxed living, it has also become a favorite with expats and retirees.

Get in

By bus

  • From David: there are regular big white and several refurbished school buses leaving roughly every 45 min until 9:45PM. Travel time is a little over 1 hr and cost is $1.75 which you pay when getting off.
  • From San Jose in Costa Rica: there is one morning bus leaving from the Tracopa terminal at 7:30AM ($21). It takes about 8 hours to get to David, including the Costa Rica-Panama border crossing, and arrives at the David Bus Terminal. Panama immigration officers can be strict, and tourists must often provide proof of onward ticket out of Panama, at least $500 cash or bank statements, and credit cards. From David see above.
  • From Panama City by bus: There are regular buses from the Albrook Bus Terminal, run by at least three companies (Panafrom, Padafront, and Terminales David); between them, there is a bus leaving about every hour. Daytime fares (as of February 2011) are $15; there are also nighttime express buses for $18.50. It is an air conditioned bus and gets very very cold. The bus makes one 30-min meal and bathroom stop in Santiago, halfway in between Panama City and David. It takes roughly eight hours to get there, as there is construction on the Pan-American Highway between Santiago and David as they are widening it to 4 lanes. Construction can sometimes delay traffic.
  • From Bocas del Toro: Take a boat to Almirante ($4-6), a bus from there to David ($8.45), and another bus from David to Boquete ($1.75). 5-6 hr. Many connections. Takes about 1 hr longer than the private shuttle.

By private shuttle

Also, from Bocas del Toro there is a twice-daily, $30-35 private shuttle (including water taxi to Almirante), 4 hr. The shuttle is way overpriced for Panama standards, and you are better off spending 1 hr more, just paying $15 and experience the real Panama.

By plane

  • From Panama City by airplane: AirPanama has daily flights from the Albrook Domestic Airport in Panama City to the David Airport. The flight takes about 40-50 min, prices range from $100 (retired discount) to $150 each way.

Get around

On foot

Boquete is a very cosy mountain village so you won't have problems exploring the city on foot. The central plaza, in the middle of town on Main Street, is where the David-Boquete bus drops off incoming visitors and locals.

By taxi or bus

In the surroundings you can also use taxi (one dollar brings you quite far) or the local area vans/buses which leave from the La Bruna Super Market 200 m up the main road from the bus stop. Each local van/bus has written on the front window the areas that they cover, which are normally large loops up in the mountains in areas of Bajo Mono, Alto Quiel, Arco Iris, or Volcancito.

By car

But if you want to rent a car and explore the area around Boquete, a four wheel drive may be safer, because the mountain roads do get washed out. Also be aware that there are no safe shoulders and no place for pedestrians to walk but the highway, so take caution traveling at night.

By organized tour

There are also many tour companies that offer guided trips through the mountains to see waterfalls, coffee plantations, the cloud forest, white water rafting, and the Volcan Baru National Park.

By scooter

For the smell and feel of the area there are scooter rentals at $25 for 4 hr as your means of transportation.

See

Boquete is known as the Valley of the Flowers. Nestled in the western highlands of Panama, near the border to Costa Rica, Boquete shares some of the same mountain ranges and some of the incredible wildlife and rain forests. However, because it is not as well known, and a 'road less traveled', prices are lower, and it is not as commercial.

You can hike for 1/2 a day, or all day, and still have a rare chance to see the resplendent quetzal, or a howler monkey in the wild.

  • 1 Los Ladrillos. A beautiful huge wall with volcanic tubes. Great for some pictures and to actually understand that you are on top of a volcano.

Do

  • White-water Rafting. The Chiriquí (Viejo) River has the best white-water kayaking and rafting in the country. Luckily for enthusiasts, the spot is relatively undiscovered, so no fighting over space here. Several rafting companies in the area offer Class II-V tours with rides ranging from 2-6 hr. The river offers continuous rapids on a jungle run with warm water. A few companies offer full day rafting excursions or (when the conditions are right) whitewater kayaking and inflatable kayaking for all levels on several rivers around Boquete. The full day trip leaves in the morning and returns in the afternoon, with lunch and drinks usually included at the river. Because of the many rivers running off the volcano, the river kayaking can be very fast, Class V. But it also has beginner level, if you are trying it for the first time. As of June 2010 there are at least 11 hydroelectric projects being planned or in the process of bring built on the Chiriqui Viejo river. Rafting ranges from $65-90, kayak $85-100.
  • Rock climbing. The best rock climbing is in the Chiriqui Province, in the highlands of Boquete. The Basaltic Rock was formed after the last volcano eruption. Cesar Melendez has developed over 30 routes, from beginner to advanced. He is also pioneering 'bouldering'; climbing rocks while suspended over the river. Check out Los Ladrillos (see above) for places to climb.
  • Coffee plantation tours. Panama has become synonymous with some of the best coffee in the world. It has always been a coffee producing region. Boquete is known for the excellent coffee-growing conditions. You can visit a coffee estate for a tasting and explanation of the coffee process. You can visit a single estate or a tour of multiple estates, like a wine tour. Even if you aren't an avid coffee fan, a coffee tour is a great way to understand the culture and recent history of Boquete. Many small and large coffee producers in the region offer tours, just ask around or stop while driving by. Cost for most coffee tours around town is usually $30 per person and take 2 to 4 hr.
  • Boquete Tree Trek. A zip line experience in the cloud forest with 12 lines of over 5 km in total. It is located on a coffee farm, with beautiful views of Boquete, and an adrenaline rush from soaring through the cloud forest. The office is located in the Kotowa Coffee Shop in Plaza Los Establos. Cost $65 pp which can be combined with a whitewater rafting trip for $99 pp for both activities.
  • Horseback riding in the mountains. Horses are a way of life in Panama. It is not unusual to look out the window of your casita, and have a horse looking back. Horseback riding in Panama is mostly Western horses and Western saddles. Privately owned horses can vary from Quarter Horse to a mix of Columbian or Peruvian Paso. By breeding the two, you get a larger horse, than the traditional Paso Fino, with the smooth and lovely gait of the Paso.
    Most horseback riding tours are located in Caldera, 20 min drive back down toward David from Boquete. It is best for beginners up to experienced riders, and offers a nice trail ride with beautiful views of Volcan Baru. This tour is normally $35, but can usually be combined with the Caldera Hot Springs for a $55 half-day activity.
  • Golf. Take advantage of the year-round spring-like weather and golf at the two golf courses at any time of the day. Lucero Golf and Country Club and Quebrada Grande Golf Course are open to the public.

Hiking

There are many hiking trails in Boquete; some in the National Parks, and some off the beaten path. Most are accessible and easy enough to traverse without a guide. However, due to the density of some of the rainforests, staying on the designated trail is recommended, if you don’t have a guide. To increase your chance of actually seeing wildlife, birds, or Quetzal’s, hiring a guide is recommended.

  • 1 Boquete Viewpoint. A nice and not too long hike of 20-30 min for a good view of the town.
  • 2 Pianista Trail. Try this uncommercial trail if you fed up with paying for even a little trail. However, you should bring a proper map and GPS not to get lost. Free.

The following three trails can be reached via minibus from Boquete to Bajo Mono, $1.50-2.50—tourist prices, bargain if you can.

  • 3 The Quetzal Trail (Along the northern slopes of the volcano. From Volcan get off at the Bajo Grande junction beyond Cerro Punta.). Hike the Quetzal Trail, so named because it is one of the homes of the rare resplendent quetzal. You can hike from Boquete to Cerro Punta (4 hr one-way gradual elevation gain), or the reverse. Most hikers will hike from Boquete to the "Mirador Las Rocas" and then return to avoid the more than 3-hr return by bus from Cerro Punta back down through David, and then back to Boquete. It is about a 4-5 hr one way hike (8 hr out and back), so it can be completed in one day. Nevertheless, it is best to go from David to Cerro Punta, and from there hike to Boquete. Otherwise from Boquete to Cerro Punta you climb from 1,800 m to 2,500 m and back to 2,100 m (the range hut at the end). Also, walking from Cerro Punta, you might be even luckier, arriving late on the Boquete side when no guard is there anymore. The trail is perhaps the most famous hiking trail in all of Panama. Visitors come from all over the world to have an opportunity to see the Resplendent Quetzal. Although the trail is easy enough to hike by yourself, unless you are an experienced birder, it is difficult to spot a Quetzal, and a guide is almost necessary in helping to locate a nest. But between December and May you might be out of luck either way. Generally $5 on the Boquete side, but not charge consequently, maybe just during weekends.
  • 4 Pipeline Trail. A nice and huge waterfall at the end of this trail, but only worth it during wet season. $3.
  • 5 The Lost Waterfalls Trail. A little overpriced. $7.
  • Volcan Baru National Park. Panama's highest point, is literally the easiest place in the world to see both of the world's great oceans, on a clear day. The park is 14,325 ha in size, and Panama's highest peak at 3,475 m. The Volcano has been dormant for over 600 years; but with the bubbling Hot Springs and frequent seismic activity, it might not be entirely extinct. You can climb the Baru from the Boquete side, which is an all day event; or you can camp overnight near the ranger station, and watch the sunrise. Dress in layers, as the higher you go, temperatures will change dramatically. It's a tough climb that can be done by hiking or jeep tour. The is a camping place near the park entrance. $5.
    • Jeep tour to the top of Volcan Baru. There are a number of companies in the Boquete area capable of providing jeep transport to the top of the local volcano, including A1 Private Tours which provides a 4x4 driving tour to the top of the volcano for the sunrise, for $150 per adult, $75 per child. Levels of service vary from one to the next and so does their ideals about environmental impact. It is possible to book a jeep through tour operators in town.
    • Hiking to the top of the Volcan Baru. Though there are other options, but ANAM (Panama's Environmental Protection Organization) has encouraged local tour guides to recommend the more environmentally friendly method of hiking to the top of Panama's highest point. Expert guides can be found by stopping by the offices of many tour operators in town. If you prefer to go without a guide, Hola Panama Travel, located in the Mamallena Hostel has a cheap daily shuttle (minimum 3 people) to the Volcan Baru trailhead at around 11PM, so hikers can get to the top of the Volcano by the morning sunrise. The hike is around 6 hr, strenuous, one-way hike to the top up a steep dusty dirt road. Then 6 hr back down, which is challenging on the knees. The climb is very difficult because of the length and steepness of the trail.
      Take into consideration the dramatic change in climates as you summit and be prepared with warm clothes, food, and water. This is the only place in Panama that temperatures occasionally drop below freezing and two people have died on the top due to hypothermia. A guide is not necessary for hikers in groups as it is difficult to get lost on the road to the top, however Panama has been enforcing guided-only hikes in National Parks for the safety and prevention of lost tourists. At that time in the night no one will check or sell you a ticket. And back out, also no one will do so. Note, there is also a trail from the western side of the volcano, checkout OpenStreetMap (used with Osmand and MapsMe).
      Given the above mentioned time of transport, many people arrive two hours before sunset at the top. Considering the freezing temperature, be prepared—either walk slow, start late or bring enough warm cloths.

Around Boquete

Checkout the other sights around the region, which can be reached from Boquete or David.

Annual events

  • There are two fairs to celebrate Boquete's floral culture. The Festival of Flowers and Coffee is for 2 weeks between January 12th and the 22nd (the dates change sometimes by a few days) and the Expos Orchid Fair in March.
  • Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival, ☏ +507-6519-7876. February.

Buy

  • 1 Market Stalls. A fairly new covered market is right next to the central square. Not all stalls are open yet. Most of the existing stalls sell vegetables and fruits.
  • 2 Plaza Los Establos (located on main street just south of the Main Square). A nice shopping area with lots of little stores to browse through. Boquete Outdoor Adventures, Kotowa Coffee Shop, Habla Ya Spanish School, and the Transport Company (to Bocas), as well as several small family shops with eclectic souvenirs and great deals are all located in the Plaza.
  • The Boquete Valley is rich with agriculture as well; strawberries, oranges, and coffee come from this region. Boquete is known as a prime coffee-growing region, with many farms exporting high-end coffee to Europe and Asia. The famous geisha coffee that was sold at auction for $130 a pound can be found growing on the rich volcanic slopes.

Eat

This is the bread basket of the country, so the food that is served in the restaurants is very fresh, and quite varied, reflecting its early European beginning and its gaining international popularity. [1]

  • Bistro Boquete (On the main drag, several blocks up from the square on the left). This bar and restaurant which is run by Panamanians has an excellent chef and gives great value. The tortilla soup, watercress salad, and pesto salad are nice starters (each for around $4), and the salads can be turned into a meal by adding an accompaniment of trout for less than $3. The flavors here are interesting but not overpowering. $8-13 for a meal plus tip.
  • Fonda de la Merry (Walk South from the town square one block--at the corner near bridge, where Duran Coffee is), ☏ +507-6519-3209. 7AM to 7PM. For a real local experience, this bright green restaurant is the place. Don't be put off by the spartan atmosphere. The warmth of the owner/server Maria, and the quick serving of excellent local food capture one's focus. The hojaldres, deep-fried pancakes, are a nice accompaniment to the vegetarian scrambled eggs, and the papaya, pineapple, and banana fruit salad is enough for two people. As a bonus, Maria speaks Spanish slowly and clearly, and cheerfully helps those who are learning. $3 for breakfast, $4-5 for lunch.
  • El Casona Mexicana (Walk South from the town square for about 8 minutes.). Very good Mexican food and large portion sizes. Various Mexican folk tunes play in the background. Good value. $5-8 main.
  • The Rock, Ave. 11 de Abril Palo Alto, ☏ +507-720-2516. noon - 9:30PM. Because of the climate and dedication of its producers, Boquete offers an incredible collection of fresh food products. With the use of these top quality products and contemporary technical knowledge, the Rock is a higher-priced restaurant with exquisite food including pastas and a very rich suckling pork dish. Stimulating your senses every day is fundamental to provide an incomparable experience at THE ROCK. International food. from $9.
  • Big Daddy's Grill (freshest fish tacos in boquete), Main Street (1 minute walk down from Main Plaza). Tu-Su noon-9PM. Home of Boquete's original grilled fish taco, Big Daddy's prides itself on serving only the freshest fish which was swimming yesterday, as well as a killer margarita, delicious buffalo wings, and organic salads. Good service. One of the favorite restaurants with both locals and tourists in Boquete. $7.95.

Drink

  • Zanzibar. This chilled bar offers live music at weekends, and is extremely popular.
    La Cabaña Late night bar, open Fridays and Saturdays only.
  • Madre Tierra Restaurant at Rancho de Caldera Eco-Resort, Caldera, Boquete, Panama (On site at Rancho de Caldera Eco-Resort (see separate listing)), ☏ +507 720-4225. Wine and beer are served, as well as delicious healthy beverages prepared with local fruits and herbs and sweetened with honey - instead of refined sugar.

Sleep

There are several inexpensive hostels around and within a few blocks the central park.

  • Hostal Palacio, right opposite the bus station and the central park. It is a bit noisy since it's right on the street, and it's important to mind your belongings. Be aware about the owners and the hostel as many tourists have had some troubles. 20 US for dorm. Across from the main plaza, but there are many much better places to stay. 8.50 US for dorm.
  • Hostal Nomba (Adventure Backpackers), Primera calle oeste, arriba escuela Josefa Montero de Vazquez (One block north and one block west of central park), ☏ +507 720-2864, +507 6497-5672, ✉ ryan@miradoradventures.com. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. Cheap, friendly micro-hostel just off the main street. Run by an extremely welcoming young couple. Poker nights, table football, and comfy hammocks in the common area. They also rent a full range of outdoor equipment for local expeditions, and organize a wide range of adventure tours in the region. WiFi, Free breakfast, backpacker bar with happy hour, two kitchens and 3 baths over just a few rooms. Adjacent is the office of Mirador Adventures Dorm rooms starting $8, privates starting $18.
  • Rancho de Caldera (Eco-resort), Caldera (25 minutes from downtown Boquete, 40 minutes from David). Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. A serene and gorgeous eco-resort (completely off the grid, on renewable energy year round) nestled in the mountains of Chiriqui; accommodations include large, spacious rooms, each with a glasswall overlooking the mountains to the east, A/C, iPod docking station, TV, mini-refrigerator and free Internet. Activities include horseback riding, hiking and swimming in a beautiful infinity-edge pool. Hot springs nearby. Rancho de Caldera's on-site Madre Tierra Gourmet Restaurant under the care of internationally acclaimed Chef Craig Miller is a popular new fine dining choice in western Panama. Rancho de Caldera, a leader in innovative, clean energy hospitality, has been recognized by Green Globe International, Rain Forest Alliance and Sustainable Travel International.
  • Hostal Gaia, Boquete (On main street across from Roxane´s restaurant, next to Sugar & Spice.), ☏ +507 7201952. Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. Here at our hostel you will find a pleasant atmosphere, a fully equipped kitchen and a dining room, WiFi, camping area, and laundry facilities. from $10.
  • Boquete Paradise, ☏ +507-720-2278. Next to a roaring mountain stream and walking out with a view of the 11,500 ft. Volcan Baru right out of your front door. Each unit has a two bedrooms suite with full kitchen, that sleeps eight people. Breakfast is served in the morning $60-189.
  • 1 Hostel Mamallena, Parque Central (Right on the Central Park, 30 metres from the bus stop), ☏ +507 720 1260. This new hostel (sister to the established Mamallena in Panama City) is already extremely popular with travellers.Free breakfast, WiFi internet, lounge, patio, laundry. Also has private rooms with private bathrooms.Information and tours are available.
  • Panamonte Inn & Spa, Ave 11 de Abril, Boquete, ☏ +507-720-1327. Famous for its gracious hospitality, charm and exquisite cuisine, The Panamonte is the true definition of a country inn: a warm and friendly place for travelers seeking a pleasurable ambiance and personalized attention, a home away from home. Located at the foot of Barú Volcano, the Panamonte is the perfect base for exploring the Chiriquí Highlands, and it is the only full-service lodging option in Boquete, offering a deluxe spa, fireside lounge, excursion planning, and a regionally renowned gourmet restaurant.
  • Valle Primavera (8 min, walking, heading South from the central square), ☏ +507 6674-5761. Check-out: 11AM. Offers bed-and-breakfast style accommodations in a tranquil atmosphere. Rooms are comfortable and include private entrance, private bathrooms with hot water, cable television and WiFi. Breakfast included. Ideal for families, though it becomes noisy around 8AM every morning, so do not expect to lie-in. $38 (inc taxes) for 1-3 person room.
  • Hotel Isla Verde, Calle 5a Sure (Behind the School Josefa Vasquez), ☏ +507 720-2533. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. Isla Verde offers six roundhouse cabins and four suites, all fully equipped, next to the river in a tropical garden with mountain views. Walking distance to town but peaceful. On-Site massage available. $80-100.
  • Bambuda castle. the only castle in central america is open for lodging with terrific vista views and has a hot tub.

Go next

  • David – Even though David is not particular interesting, it is an excellent transport hub for trips to Boca Chica, the western side of the volcano, and other smaller but equally interesting destinations in the region. Take one of the frequent (hourly) buses to David from the Boquete Main Plaza, near the old train car and next to Baru Restaurant.
  • Boca Chica – Swimming, sport fishing, sea kayaking, and island snorkeling in the cool, aqua-marine clear waters of the Gulf of Chiriqui, a National Marine Park just an hour and a half drive away from Boquete. Go for a day trip or stay overnight in the charming fishing village of Boca Chica, or on one of the island resorts on Boca Brava or Isla Palenque.
  • Bocas del Toro – The biggest town on Isla Colon and party and tourist capital of the region. Bocas del Toro offers diving, beach horseback riding, starfish safari and lots of beaches on the other islands around.
  • Panama City – From the David bus station (see how to get to David above), there are buses hourly providing the 8 hr transport to Panama City for $15-20, with a 30-min meal and bathroom break in Santiago. The David Airport offers flights with Air Panama to Panama City for around $150+ one-way.
  • San Jose, Costa Rica – If you are at the end of your trip to Panama, there are a few buses a day for direct transport to San José. But you might just head to the border and start you trip of Costa Rica there, because there are already many interesting destinations directly beyond the border.



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