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.
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 provincial capital of David, Boquete is well worth a visit!
The Boquete tourism office, managed by CEFATI, resides on top of the ridge just before you descend into town.
Hours: 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. 7/days a week
Buses depart from the main bus terminal in David every 25-30 minutes, between the hours of 6:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m. Upon arriving Boquete, the bus will stop just in front of the park, which is centrally located and within walking distance to just about everything. If you wish to be dropped off at the tourism office you'll have to notify the driver, but keep in mind that it's quite a long way from the center of town.
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, as the road to the top is anything but a road. 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. 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, if not mandatory. Most of the local tour operators in Boquete offer organized tours to Baru Volcano, we suggest that you consult with them.
Just north of Boquete lies a privately funded botanical garden, which resides on a private estate. The trails are very well maintained and crisscross through 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. The gardens are free to visit, and are open between the hours of 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Continue north on the same road that passes through the center of town, the gardens will be off to the right side. If you're walking, it shouldn't take anymore than 20-30 minutes.
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 foliage, 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.
You will need to get on the bus that reads "Alto Quiel", which departs from the center of town. The bus ride lasts approx. 15 minutes and will drop you off at the trail's entrance.
From here, proceed along the dirt/gravel road and not the paved road, the latter being the start of the Los Quetzales Trail. Relatively flat, the trail narrows as it enters into the forest but remains very easy to follow, with just a few gradual hills along the way. The trail hugs the river from beginning to end, and you'll need to crisscross back and forth over it a few times before reaching the waterfall. Most of the crossings are narrow and some have bridges in place to help you get across. Along the trail you'll find many short paths that lead to the river's edge.
The end of the trail opens up into a large basin where you'll find the towering waterfall off to the left. The entire hike takes approx. 1 - 1-1/2 hours each way, depending on how fast you walk.
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.
(Note: If you wish to make the hike and hire a taxi to take you only to the trail entrance it's important that you take the proper trail. The trail sign that's situated along the roadside actually directs you to the wrong trail. Off the main road there are two trails that lead to the right. You HAVE to take the first trail and not the second. The correct trail will have a long, steel tube that runs along its left side, that will continue for some time until you reach a sign that reads "Proyecto de Riego". At that point stay left and continue walking. If you find yourself walking along the initial stages of the trail and don't see the metal tube you have selected the wrong trail.)
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!
Approximately 150 ft. (50 m) in height, 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.
If you're walking, continue north along the principal road that passes through Boquete - you will see the church off to the right side as you exit town. At the first intersection make a left, and follow the sign for Bajo Lino/Bajo Alto. When you reach the next intersection make another left - there will be a sign pointing to Los Naranjos. At the following intersection, where you will see a bus stop, make a right and follow the sign for Bajo Mano. Shortly thereafter, you will cross a large, steel bridge. Continue on this road and when you reach the next intersection turn left - you will see a sign pointing to the waterfall, which is just a bit further up the road off to the right side. The walk takes about 1 hour, and the scenery along the way is quite beautiful is beautiful.
Residing on private property just north of Boquete, these thundering waterfalls reside on private property, so special permission and an entrance fee is required. Most of the local tour operators in Boquete offer organized tours to the falls, we suggest that you consult with them.
To reach this waterfall you'll need to take the same bus (Alto Quiel) as mentioned above (see Hidden Waterfall). From the bus stop, proceed along the paved road as though you were starting out on the "Los Quetzales Trail". Walk for about 20 minutes until you see a small house off to the right, and just behind it a steel bridge. After crossing the bridge, stay to the right and follow the trail uphill. The path soon turns into cement and the climb becomes rather steep. Upon reaching the top, proceed through the gate and you'll find yourself on an open plateau. The trail first turns downhill, bending to the left behind the small house, and then quickly heads uphill en route to the first of the three waterfalls.
Due to its mountainous topography and abundance of rainfall, Boquete 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.