Destinations - Things to Do
Boquete (Chiriqui Province)
With an elevation of 3,600 ft. (1,200 m), and just 45 minutes from David, Boquete is nestled between the Caldera River to the east and Baru Volcano to the west, the latter of which is Panama’s highest peak at 11,400 ft. (3,475 m). While small when compared to David, Boquete is Chiriqui’s most populated and developed highlands community, with a very stable population and an ever increasing number of ex-pats.
Surrounded by steep, lush mountains to the north, east and west, and situated only 3.3 miles (7.3 km) south of Bocas del Toro province, Boquete’s combination of cool, brisk temperatures and rich, fertile soil serves as an ideal setting for coffee growing - all three of Panama's largest and most famous coffee manufacturers have operations in the region. As well, the comfortable climate is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy rafting, hiking, mountain biking and birding.
Complete with a wide variety of hotels and restaurants, Boquete can satisfy both backpackers and more demanding, upscale travelers alike. Near to the Costa Rican border, and less than one hour from the provincal capital of David, Boquete is well worth a visit!
The Boquete tourism office resides just outside of town, on top of the ridge before you descend the town - off to the right side.
- Tel: 720-4060
- Hours: Tues. & Wed. 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. | Mon., Thurs. & Fri. 8:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. | Sat. & Sun. 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m
At 14,400 feet, Baru Volcano is Panama's highest point. The trip to the top of this volcano is an adventure for the fit and reckless only, as the road to the top is anything but a road; it is steep, muddy and relentless. The portion of the road that departs Boquete is paved, or mostly so, and then changes to a dirt, rocky road at the entrance to the park. There is no fee to enter the park, and camping is permitted in designated areas, with no limit on the amount of time you spend in the park. Temperatures at the top are very cool, particularly during the dry season months (December - March) when the cool temperatures are accompanied by high winds. Sweaters, jackets, and long pants are highly suggested, in not mandatory. If you plan to spend the night you would be foolish not to bring cold weather gear - people have died on Baru because they weren't properly prepared. Some trails exist on the top, leading to either side of the crater. Other trails to smaller craters also exist, however, it is recommended that you make any attempt with the assistance of a guide.
Just north of Boquete lies a privately funded botanical garden, which resides on a private estate. The trails are very well maintained and crisscross throughout the front and backyard, offering terrific photographic opportunities. Virtually all of the local plant species are represented here, very neatly arranged for pleasant viewing. Well worth a visit.
- Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
- Cost: Free
Hidden Waterfall (La Casacada Escondida)
Reaching 200-300 ft. in height, this beautiful waterfall is located just north of Boquete and well worth a visit. The trail leading up to the waterfall is lined with lush folliage, which makes for a wonderful 1/2 day hike. Off to the right side, there are large boulders you can climb to get an elevated view.
Los Quetzales Trail
The Los Quetzales trail unites the two communities of Boquete and Cerro Punta, and is one of Panama's most popular hikes. Cerro Punta resides on the western slope of Baru Volcano, whereas Boquete is situated on the volcano's eastern side. The trail cuts through some of the province's most pristine, protected forest, offering spectacular views of the surrounding valley. On both ends of the trail there is a National Park's office, where you'll be asked to sign in and pay $3.00 per person to enter. The overwhelming majority of those who complete the hike depart from Cerro Punta and not Boquete. Departing from Cerro Punta The road leading from Cerro Punta to the ranger station begins as a paved road and later turns into a dirt/gravel road. The paved section gradually climbs as it passes through private agricultural farms, whereas the dirt/gravel portion is steep and winding. There are few signs along the main road pointing to the Los Quetzales trail entrance, just one that is situated right at the entrance point. In spite of this, the trail should be easy to find, as locals should have no problem pointing you in the right direction. There are no public buses that service the Los Quetzales trail, rather you'll either have to walk or take a taxi to the ranger station. The walk from the trails entrance to the ranger station could take anywhere from 1.5 - 2 hours. There are taxis for hire that can take you to where the paved road ends, leaving to walk the remainder. As well, there are some 4x4 taxis that can take you right to the ranger station. For those who prefer to conserve their energy for the trail the latter might be your best option.
The hike begins with a relatively flat section as it heads to the lookout ledge (mirador), which is approximately 35-50 minutes from the ranger station - just prior to reaching the mirador trail there is a short, relatively steep section. The trail to the mirador breaks off the principal trail on the left side, and proceeds for a very short distance before reaching its end. Here you'll find a stable, wooden platform, from which you'll enjoy spectacular views looking east towards Boquete.
From here you'll have to retract back to the principal trail before continuing. From this point the trail generally heads lower, with some steep sections along the way. Most of the steep sections have secure, wooden staircases with handrails to assist you. After approximately 40-50 minutes of walking you'll come across what appears to be a camp ground. It's a rather large open area with open views to both sides, with benches and tables. It's a good spot for a break.
The trail continues to descend, offering some stunning views of the valley below. There are some very steep sections along the way, cutting through the dense jungle and rock face. In the steeper sections you'll once again find wooden staircases with handrails. As well, to ensure proper footing, round wooden steps have been placed along the trail's path. At some point, as the trail nears Boquete, the trail runs into the Caldera River, which will run alongside the trail right to its very end. Depending on your physical condition and interest in the local flora and fauna, it might take anywhere from 2.5 - 4 hours to descend from the lookout to the park headquarters in Boquete. The trail departs the forest and continues for approximately 30-50 minutes along a dirt road, which handles vehicle traffic. This road descends and ascends as it winds through several privately owned farms.
Upon departing the National Park Headquarters you'll have to walk to the principal road that services the town of Boquete, which should take approximately 50-70 minutes. Since the park headquarters has no telephone service, it's virtually impossible to arrange for transportation from the park itself. Once you reach the primary road, turn left and continue walking (At the point where the trail reaches primary road there is no public bus service available. However, if you walk along the main road for about 15-20 minutes, you'll reach a point where bus service begins, and from that point it will cost about $1.00 to return to Boquete.) You could also get lucky and hire a taxi that happens to be passing by.
Departing from Boquete If you enter the park from Boquete you can hire a 4x4 taxi to take you to the park headquarters, thus eliminating this portion of the hike.
1) Warning: before leaning on the handrails we highly recommend you first grab it and test its sturdiness. Several of the handrails on the trail are weak and unable to support excessive weight. This is particularly true of the steep portion between the lookout and Boquete.
2) The trail itself is very well marked and one should have no difficulty staying on the trail. Several of the signs cite distances, which appear to be erroneous, so don't pay any attention to them.
3) An ample supply of water is highly recommended, particularly if you plan to hike your way to either of the park's two headquarters rather than take a taxi.
Throughout the trail there various resting stops, complete with tables and benches. We ask that you kindly take out all that you bring in. In spite of the fact that there are garbage bins in select areas, it's very difficult for the park system to retrieve any garbage that is left inside the park. Please bring out what you bring in!
San Ramon Waterfall
Approximately 150 ft. (50 m) high, and in two different parts, the San Ramon waterfall sits just off to the right side of the Caldera River, a short distance out of town. During the rainy season its quite impressive and well worth the trip.
Resding on private property just north of Boquete, these thundering waterfalls reside on private property, so special permission and an entrance fee is required - $10 p/p. Several of the local tour operators in Boquete offer organized tours to the falls, we suggest that you consult with them.
Rafting & Kayaking
Due to its mountainous topography and abundance of rainfall, Chiriqui's western most province offers visitors class III and IV commercial whitewater rafting and kayaking along its Chiriqui Viejo and Chiriqui Rivers. There are three major outfitters that offer rafting and whitewater rafting excursions.