(bo – Ket- te) is a small town on the western side of Panama that is nestled up against Volcan Baru, an extinct volcano. At an altitude of 1200 meters, the weather is distinctly cooler than the rest of the country. It is also the best city within all of Panama. Here you will find a multitude of outdoor experiences including hiking, exploring coffee plantations, and bird watching. To top it all off Boquete has an amazing expat community. See previous posts here as to Where to Stay and Where to Eat.
Hiking in Boquete
There are three hikes that I would suggest with the third being directed to the advanced hiker. Boquete’s placement on the side of a volcano allows for some excellent hiking trails up into the clouds. No matter if you are after rainforest scenery, waterfalls, or just that Instagram pic overlooking the city, you will not be disappointed with your hiking options.
First up, are two waterfall hikes. You need a car to drive to the starting points of these hikes or you will be adding in about 10 -15 km of road hiking to get to the start. If you don’t have a car, the cabs can get you there. These are the same hikes that many of the tours will take you to. If taking a cab – ask the driver to return for you at a predetermined time.
The Lost Waterfalls hike is a series of three waterfalls. This is a challenging hike in that the ground is almost always wet from rain making your way a bit squishy. The owners of the land have attempted to put up banisters in places to assist you, but their upkeep is in question. If you choose to visit all three waterfalls – give yourself 3-4 hours. Entrance fee is $7.00 a person. You will pay the fee at a small cabin before the trail begins, but after you’ve hiked 20 minutes on private property. Take a photo of his map to help you remember your way. Even if you only make it to waterfall number 1. It is worth your time. The second waterfall hike is shorter in distance and just as fine called the Cascada Escondido (Hidden Waterfall). There and back in under 2 hours still gives you time to enjoy the sights.
Sendero los Quetzals is the hike that is for seasoned hikers. You are basically walking up the side of Volcan Baru, the highest point in the country. What makes it special is that you are walking through a Quetzal sanctuary. Start early. Bring snacks, water, a water Straw if you have one, and your camera. You will be rewarded for your efforts with glimpses of these great birds. It is my personal suggestion that you do not do this hike alone but rather in small groups for safety.
Coffee Plantation tours in Boquete
Coffee plantations are numerous in Boquete. They range from the very small, to the very large name branded. The coffee estates or “Fincas” run right up to the side of town. I was a little amazed at the locations some of these plants were growing. No space was left unused even if to me it looked like the plant was on a vertical incline.
Every tour company has a coffee plantation tour on offer, and I suggest that you go on one or like me you create your own. I opted to stay a night high up on the mountain at the Hotel Finca Lerida. At Hotel Finca Lerida, you have the world at your fingertips. Not only is it a working coffee farm, it hosts its own coffee shop and many of the town’s tours. When you stay at Finca Lerida, you will be offered a complimentary tour of the estate as well as the ability to walk through it at your own pace. Hotel Finca Lerida even grows the world famous Geisha coffee that was discovered by another Boquete Finca – Esmerelda. Geisha is one of the most expensive beans out there running over $100.00 USD a pound – non-roasted.
Bird Watching in Boquete
Bird watching is another common activity to do in Boquete. From your hotel or hostel room, you will see various birds flying about. Depending on the timing of your visit, you might even catch some birds in migration. The sought after bird though is the Quetzel. The Quetzal is a beautiful bird that I would describe as a long tailed parrot, but would be correct if I told you it was part of the trogon family of birds. They are elusive, and I wasn’t able to capture one on camera. Most tours will take you on a tour to Finca Lerida for a Quetzal watching party, or you can do the all day hike up in the sanctuary along the Sendero los Quetzals to see these magnificent birds.
After all of that, you will still have time to stroll through town, relax in the town square, meet some locals or some expats and enjoy the weather in Boquete.
Getting There and Away
Boquete does not have its own airport. You can either fly into Panama City and drive the 8 hours across country to Boquete. Fly from Panama City to David (second largest city in Panama) and then get a rental or taxi to Boquete (one hour away – should be about $30.00 USD.) Your third and most unappealing prospect is to fly into Bocas del Toro and either drive to David (3.5 hours) or fly into David and taxi up like before.