Today we did the Pianista – one of the hiking trails on our “Faves List” – with friends and the pups.

Susan cracks me up. Every time we do a hike, she says, “This is my favorite trail!” Well, today she said it again, but this time I tend to agree with her. The Pianista really is a knockout, winding through meadows with stunning mountain vistas along the rushing Rio Pianista, and with an abundance of lush cloud forest vegetation. This trail goes up to the Continental Divide (a more ambitious hike that we did with a group last year), and if you’re especially adventurous, it can take you all the way to Bocas Del Toro on Panama’s Caribbean coast. (CAUTION: no one should EVER go beyond the Continental Divide without an experienced guide. Just Google “Dutch Girls in Panama.”)  

Today we had something much more mellow in mind – we wanted to get to the “secret” waterfall that Susan and I had not seen yet, but the others in our group had been raving about. The trail begins at the Il Pianista Ristorante (outstanding Italian food, BTW) in the Alto Lino area just north of Boquete. You need to wade across the Rio Pianista after 200m, but then it’s a steady, leisurely incline for 2km before you start to climb a steeper, narrow path. Today, we were accompanied by two young guides, Jefferson and Miguel (as it happens, these cousins are nephews of our gardener, Sergio) – and it was a good thing, because finding the waterfall required us to get off the trail and take another cow path that leads into the cloud forest. We could not have found it on our own. Since we’re right in the middle of rainy season, it was a pretty muddy slog – but not too bad.

Map of Sendero El Pianista, Los Naranjos, Panama

20 Comments

  1. Gina Rolsten Reply

    Wow what a beautiful hike, I think it would be on my favorite list too. Thanks for sharing.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Our pleasure – glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. Wonderful! Great day for the dogs too. (Lucky dogs!) Super hike … I always wonder, what does one do with muddy and wet hiking boots in the midst of s hike? Keep plodding along? (I’m a newbee hiker, and haven’t had the pleasure of hiking through mud and streams yet, hence the question (pardon my ignorance).

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Yep, you kinda keep on plodding. On this hike we had to cross the stream several times, which washed off the mud. It wasn’t too bad.

  3. We heard about the Dutch girls when we were in town, but I still have to wonder what happened. Wikipedia leaves many questions open. The hike that you describe sounds absolutely wonderful. Great post!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you! I think the general consensus is that those poor girls got in over their heads in the wilderness and there was some sort of terrible accident. It was an awful tragedy that really rocked this community. The biggest lesson is that there are still some really wild places in this part of Panama and one should also be extra careful when going off the beaten path.

  4. I can see why Susan would say, “This is my favorite trail” each time you hike as so many places in Panama are stunning. I love the fact that a ‘secret’ waterfall is your reward! I remember reading about the Dutch girls in Panama who disappeared when we were, coincidentally, in Bocas del Toro in 2015. It’s hard to convey to people that there really are no-man’s lands that still exist in the world today and that Panama has a lot of them! Anita

  5. John and Susan Pazera Reply

    So true, Anita. Panama has a relatively low population and lots of wild places. Always best to stay on established trails and take a guide, when in doubt.

  6. I love trails with picturesque scenery and this one is just like that. Thanks for the suggestion and motivation, John and Susan. Any tips I should know before hiking there?

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      You are welcome! Our biggest tip – if you’re going off the trail, make sure you take a guide. There is no way would have found that waterfall on our own 🙂

  7. Looks like a fun hike! I can see why Susan claimed that this was her favorite trail. Walking in nature and breathing clean, fresh air are such a luxury for me who live in a big city like Jakarta. But at least your photos manage to refresh my mind a little bit.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Bama – glad we were able to give you a few moments of nature 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Indeed – doggy heaven! Not all of the trails are great for dogs – too many chickens, other dogs, etc. but that one’s golden.

  8. What a fun hike and what a wonderful waterfall! Thanks for sharing.
    How would you describe the other cow path? How far from the main path is this waterfall? (km? m?) Can you recommend a specific guide for this hike or would any local guide know how to find this waterfall? How do they call this waterfall?

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      I doubt we could even find that cow path again by ourselves! The two boys – Jefferson and his younger cousin Miguel – are pretty much available anytime to guide people to the falls. One or both of them live in the house on the lefthand side of the trail just beyond the trailhead. They’re good kids but they don’t speak English – I think if you just said “La cascada, por favor?” they’d understand you want them to take you there. We tipped them $5 apiece at the end. I don’t think the falls have a name but they’re the only ones accessible by that part of the Pianista. You could also ask in one of the local tour companies – Boquete Outdoor Adventures is a great one – to see if there’s a guide available that could take you there.

      Good luck! It’s worth the hike.

      • Great, thanks. How many hours walk from the trailhead to the waterfall?

        • John and Susan Pazera Reply

          It probably took us close to 1.5 hours to get to the waterfall.

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