Set in the Pacific West area of Panama is the "Napa Valley of coffee," the mountainous area of Boquete. While it is the coffee heartland of Panama, this region is also wildly popular because of its remarkably pleasant weather. The Republic of Panama is near the equator and known as a tropical destination, but Boquete sits in the mountains and has a cooler and more appealing climate than many other areas.
It is one of the most protected locations, meaning that a majority of the area is natural and pristine. It is popular with growers who produce citrus, flowers, vegetables and fruits. It is also popular with those who love the outdoors and there are many ways to explore and interact with this setting while visiting the region.
There are only a few towns in the region - Bajo Boquete (capital), Caldera, Palmira, Alto Boquete, Jaramillo and Los Naranjos. Additionally, this region served as the only refuge of the Ngobe Bugle Indians, and they still live in the Chiriqui highlands as well.
What to Do in Boquete
Whether alone, as a family, or with a group of any kind, there is a lot to do in this remote and peaceful part of Panama. Options include canopy tours, climbing, hiking, rafting, volunteering at farms, or enjoying some of the local hot springs. Naturally, the "foodies" of the world have discovered Boquete and are arriving in greater numbers each year. This has created a niche for tourism, but that is not the only reason that so many houses, hostels, hotels, and subtle and discreet gated communities are appearing.
Perhaps it is the combination of the good climate, the natural setting, and the excellent local produce that made it one of the AARP's recommended places for retirement. Whatever the ultimate reasoning, Boquete is now one of the top choices for expats from around the globe.
Set in the Chiriqui province (Pacific West region) of Panama, it is accessible by bus or by air. Once in town it is simple and fun to travel entirely on foot, though scooters are a popular rental option. Taxis also take visitors to local destinations too. In the small towns or villages you can walk to your chosen destinations, but many of the hikes are difficult, some roads wash out from time to time, and it is best to have a four-wheel-drive vehicle to take you any longer distances.
Climbing and hiking can range very widely too, with some trails taking a full four or more hours to navigate, and often with the help of local guides. So, although it is beautiful and appealing, it is not to be seen as a place where you can freely wander on your own.
The most popular spots for travelers tend to be:
- Volcan Baru - the highest spot in Panama and the destination of many hikes. Most trails take a full day to traverse, and most require guides.
- Quetzal Trail - one of the few places you may encounter the Resplendent Quetzal bird and howler monkeys.
- Chiriqui Viejo - rafting excursions are a common past time here.
- Cloud Forest - this is a top spot for zip line adventures.
- Hot Springs Caldera - natural pools appear alongside the Caldera River.
- The Festival of Flowers and Coffee - hosted every January.
- The Expos Orchid Fair - hosted every March.
- Visiting with a small group of Ngobe Bugle Indians while enjoying a "coffee adventure". (Coffee Adventures, 2014)
Of course, many people travel to the "Valley of the Flowers" simply to enjoy the scenic beauty, fine food, and the excellent prices. Bordering on Costa Rica, Boquete shares some of the same mountains and rain forests as its neighboring country, but costs only a fraction of what Costa Rican travel tends to cost.
As indicated, accommodations are plentiful and range from low-cost hostels to luxury spas. All tend to have the basic amenities - hot water showers, meals, etc. If you want an idyllic location full of the very best things that life has to offer, you need look no farther than beautiful Boquete.
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