Boquete is a charming little mountain town that has captured the imagination of expats and tourists alike. It’s located in the province of Chiriqui about 60 kilometres from the border of Costa Rica. If you’ve been suffering in the heat in the rest of Panama, you might enjoy spending some time cooling off in Boquete as it situated 1,200 metres above sea level. I really enjoyed my time there and suggest a stay of at least two or three days. Read on to discover some of the activities and sights available as well as travel directions how to get there.
Adventure companies abound in Boquete, so you will have your pick of outfitters. I chose Boquete Outdoor Adventures for my time in Boquete as they offered packaged tours over several days that saved me some money. If you’re travelling in the low season feel free to negotiate.
Coffee farm tours
There are a few different coffee farms that you can visit, but I really enjoyed Finca Dos Jefes. At this farm you get a great appreciation of coffee history, farming and process. Towards the end of the tour you get to enjoy a tasting session and also get to grind and roast a batch of beans! I really enjoyed the variety of content and the staff were very friendly.
Rafting Rio Chiriqui
I had a great time rafting with Boquete Outdoor Adventures. They did a great job keeping everyone safe and made sure we a fun day. Most companies provide a riverside lunch in the trip which is served buffet style. It was surprisingly one of the best meals I had in Panama with fresh fruit and lots of veges and snacks. It took a bit of willpower to not fill up so much I couldn’t get back into the raft.
Climbing in Boquete is quite interesting as you get to experience rock climbing on natural basalt rock formations. Accessible to both beginners and advanced climbers, you will find companies who can guide you to an appropriate spot and provide you with all the gear you need.
There are a few hiking trails not too far away that you can do both with and without a guide. If you an avid birder you can specify that you would like a guide trained in spotting the local wildlife and hopefully spot a Quetzal!
There are some hot springs located about half an hour away towards the town of Caldera. The local bus goes infrequently, but if you ask at your hotel they should be able to provide you with the times and directions. If you’re happy to spend a little bit more money, you could include this as a side trip in one of your tours or take a taxi there.
Mi Jardin es su Jardin
For a nice free outing you can visit this impressive garden on the outskirts of town. It is located in private property, but left open to the public to enjoy, thus the name - “my garden is your garden”. Even if you’re not that into flowers I would suggest spending an hour just wandering around this enormous space. Every corner you turn you will encounter another interesting statue or water feature.
Island Trip to Boca Chica
One of the most popular trips available is the island trip to Boca Chica. This was probably one of my least favourite adventure activities but still very enjoyable. If you go at the right time of year (June - October) the trip also includes whale watching. Once you get to the main town, you get into a boat bound for a small island with nothing but sun, sand and the water to amuse you. The company I went with provided snorkel equipment, towels and a huge lunch buffet for you to nibble on during the day. I wasn’t the biggest fan of this trip mostly because I felt the water was a bit rough to really allow for proper relaxation and the lack of facilities both on the island (understandable) and back at the main dock was a bit annoying.
I would suggest this trip for anyone not planning to spend any real time on either the Pacific or Caribbean coasts and want to have a nice day out at a secluded beach and see some whales at the same time.
You can choose to do this either by hiking 6-7 hours to the summit and a 3-4 hour back down or by taking a highly-modified jeep to the top. Both options usually have you leaving in the early morning hours (from 1am onwards) so you can be at the summit for the sunrise.
On a clear day you should be able to see both oceans, Panama and Costa Rica quite clearly. It is a spectacular sight.
Where to eat
The town has a variety of cafes and restaurants to match your budget. Some of my favourite places to grab a bite were:
Sugar and Spice
- Breakfast with coffee from $5
- Lunches from $4.50
This place serves some great meals that include their fresh bread baked in-house. Besides the breakfasts and lunches you will find different baked treats that you can take away to help sustain you as you explore the town. There’s also some fresh fruit water located inside, so no need to purchase any drinks if you’re counting your pennies.
Big Daddy’s Grill
American style food including fish (and vege) tacos, burgers and pastas as well as margaritas. Food is actually quite good, but takes you into the $6-$10 price range.
Pallet style pizza sold by the slice (from $1) or you can get a whole pizza if you have some mates to share with or want to pack some away in the hostel kitchen for another meal.
Getting there and away
To get to Boquete from most places you will usually have to change buses in David. It is about an hour trip.
There are also several shuttle operators that can take you to and from other popular tourist destinations, including Santa Catalina and Bocas Del Toro.