On to Boquete Panama: With a rain-filled week on Bocas del Toro behind me, I moved on to Boquete, a hillside village in Panama’s Chiriqui province that is popular for its stunning hiking trails and scenic vistas. This tiny town sits aside Volcan Baru and is a haven for retiring American expats who are snapping up real estate opportunities. And for good reason. I intended to only pass through Boquete to hike for two or three days, but I ended up staying…and staying…and staying.
I found a lovely, nearly empty hostel (Hostel Gaia), unpacked my bag, unrolled my yoga mat, and luxuriated in fresh, mountain air for an entire week. Boquete, also known as the “Valley of the Flowers,” was just adorable; a cozy mountain village easy to explore by foot with a lively central plaza, delicious coffee, kind locals, and amazing views.
Unfortunately, I tore a calf muscle while running in Bocas, and though I thought it would only take a few days to heal, I was unable to do much of the hiking or rock climbing that I originally planned. It turns out that a torn calf muscle is a pretty serious thing! So, I wrapped it up and let myself pout for a few minutes about all of the missed opportunities and gorgeous hikes that I couldn’t check off my list on this visit.
And it is a shame because along with sharing some of Costa Rica’s mountain ranges, it also shares an incredible array of wildlife, rain forests, and beautiful flowers. While hiking (or just looking out a backdoor really), one can see the Resplendent Quetzal, howler monkeys, toucans, and birds of every shape, size, and color.
Though I probably shouldn’t have, I did manage to hike some relatively flat shorter trails. The Lost Waterfalls and the Pipeline hikes were both lovely and easy. These two hikes were certainly not the 8-hour-day, intense, heart pumping thrills I was hoping for, but the scenery was gorgeous and who doesn’t love lunching near a waterfall?
Volcan Baru, Panama’s highest point, sits just a few kilometers outside of Boquete. On a clear day, one can see both of the world’s great oceans at the summit. It is a weary, but ultimately rewarding 10 hour return hike. But, torn calf muscle…no climbing…I will tackle Baru next time, I guess!
Boquete was just a picture perfect village. Rainbows arch over the countryside, horses and cattle roam in lush fields, waterfalls and rivers thunder through canyons, Springy smells freshen the air, merry birds tra-la-la outside windows… I felt that Maria should be singing, “The Hills are Alive” in the background.Though we did have rain showers nearly every day, the sun always came out to play. And this time, the rain did not dampen my mood. The “earthy” smells and misty environment was actually enjoyable!
Besides resting my leg (i.e. no climbing stairs or mountains), I did plenty of yoga on my hostel’s veranda, wrote, read, walked through town, sat in the Central Plaza, took plenty of pictures, and chatted with wonderful visitors also staying at Hostel Gaia. Beth, a girl from North Carolina, became my best buddy for the week, and we spent our evening cooking vegetarian meals together and trading “life experience” stories.
Boquete was full of cafes, restaurants, and bakeries with fresh, tasty bread-muffins-croissants-bagles-cakes-and-more carb-lover delights. Sugar and Spice Cafe had a mouthwatering selection of huge, $1 muffins…..so I had a few…..and then a few more. Banana, chocolate, red-raspberry, pumpkin, linseed, oatmeal, double chocolate – the list goes on.
I followed roads outside of town and lost myself in sublime mountain landscapes, took sneaky photos of the locals, and breathed in the cool mountain air. After three months in a hot, humid climate, I seized the opportunity to wear long sleeves and a jumper!
A week in Boquete was a perfect way to end my trip in Panama. I can’t say that I was very adventurous or that I tackled several miles on the hiking trails, but Boquete was certainly a highlight of my Central American trip.
If you happen to not have a torn calf muscle, I encourage you to try the many hikes around Boquete. Or, if hiking is not your thing, here are a few other things to do in Boquete:
- Horseback Riding – Ride a stead through the trails surrounding Volcan Baru. Ask about local operators at the tourist agency in town. The cost is about $35 for a three hour ride.
- Hot Springs Caldera – Spend an afternoon dipping in the Caldera Hot Springs. Take a taxi, an organized tour, or a bus from Boquete to Caldera. If you take a bus, be advised that it is another hours walk to the hot springs. There is a $3 entrance fee.
- Try out your Rock Climbing skills – Spend an afternoon scaling rock walls with local guide, Cesar. He accommodates all skill levels and has different priced packages.
I hope you enjoy Boquete as much as I did!