Posted on 07 June 2010
With its verdant mountains topped with fluffy white clouds that seem close enough to touch and year-round spring-like climate, Boquete is one of the most interesting and magical places in all of Panama. Because of its location just over an hour from both the Pacific and the Caribbean, Boquete is home to an extensive array of flora and fauna which flourish in the area’s many micro-climates. This tropical mountain paradise is one of Panama’s prime attractions, thanks to Amistad International Park (which it also shares with the Bocas del Toro and Costa Rica) and Volcan Baru, which overlooks Boquete and is Panama’s highest mountain at over 11,000 feet. Plus, some of the world’s best coffee is grown right outside of town. So whether you’re a birdwatcher, hiker adventure-seeker, coffee aficionado or you just want a picturesque place to sit back, relax and watch the sunset, there’s likely something you’ll like about Boquete.
There are plenty of charming, high-quality lodging options in Boquete. I recommend staying outside of town for the best views and wildlife-spotting opportunities. I stayed at the Coffee Estate Inn (www.coffeeestateinn.com), a short drive uphill from mainstreet, which is owned and operated by Jane and Barry, a friendly and helpful Canadian couple who go above and beyond when it comes to making guests feel at home on their property. The Coffee Estate functions as both an inn and a small coffee farm, and there are three, elegant, secluded bungalows, all suite-style with seperate sleeping and sitting areas, and all guests are greeted with Barry’s tasty, homemade breads. At $145 a night, the Coffee Estate is a great deal: The owners don’t cut any corners when it comes to services or amenities and the views are breath-taking. Plus, all guests can go on Barry’s private coffee farm tour and have an opportunity to purchase coffee, freshly roasted however you like it. Some of my other Boquete lodging favorites are the Riverside Inn (riversideinnboquete.com), the Panamonte (www.panamonte.com) and the Boquete Garden Inn (www.boquetegardeninn.com). If you’re looking for a larger, more chain-like option, I recommend the Hotel Valle del Rio (www.valledelrioboquete.com).
Now that you’ve got your lodging under control, you’re probably looking for a bit of adventure. If you’re a birdwatcher, I recommend contacting Coffee Adventure Tours (coffeeadventures.net) , owned and operated by Terry and Hans. Terry is an avid, experienced birder who leads private groups in and around Boquete. Chago (6626-2200) is Boquete’s best-known birding guide and is famous for his near perfect record when it comes to quetzal-spotting. Coffee Adventure Tours also offers coffee tours and hiking excursions, as does Boquete Mountain Safari Tours (www.boquetemountainsafaritours.com). Hans from Coffee Adventure Tours gives a spirited and entertaining tour of Kotowa Coffee Farm and is my favorite coffee tour guide. For rafting excursions, contact Chiriqui River Rafters (www.boquetemountainsafaritours.com) or Boquete Outdoor Adventure (boqueteoutdooradventure.com), which also offers other, non-rafting excursions to Boca Brava and Isla Coiba. Lastly, adreneline junkies won’t want to miss Boquete Tree Trek’s (720-1635) canopy zipline adventure. Your hotel should be able to provide your with hiking trail information if you’d rather head out on your own.
When it comes food, Boquete isn’t exactly Panama City, but a large expat community means there’s much more variety than you’d expect from a town the size of this size. Jane from the Coffee Estate Inn recommended I head over to Tammy’s at the edge of town (behind Roxanne’s) for the vegetarian platter. Run by Israeli chef Tamara, the restaurant is low-key and unassuming, but their vegetarian platter was amazing — perhaps the best I’ve had in Latin America. Machu Picchu (264-9308) is a long-time favorite off of mainstreet serving up Peruvian specialties. For Italian, head to Il Pianista, a cozy, family-oriented spot with a great Italian wine list and a friendly Italian chef. Sabroson on mainstreet is a good, cheap spot for typical Panamanian fare, Art Cafe el Crepe a good choice for a light meal, and the newly remodeled, renamed and reopened The Rock (www.therockboquete.com) is the best choice in town for international cuisine.
If you’re going to visit Boquete, don’t come in a rush. There’s so much to do that there’s no way you can do the town and the surrounding area justice by staying just a day or two. I STRONGLY recommend renting a car, preferably and 4-wheel drive. Attractions are a bit spaced out and some roads are a bit rough and unpaved, making getting around much easier with a 4-wheel drive.