It’s been over a year since we first posted our listing of Boquete favorites, so here’s an update for folks planning a visit here. Usual caveat: this is strictly subjective. Apologies in advance to anyone or anything we might have left out! And sorry, they’re in no particular order (although you can see where our priorities lie – outdoor adventures are first!).
FAVE OUTDOOR ADVENTURES
- Hiking, hiking, and more hiking. The cloud forests above Boquete are a hiking wonderland. We especially love the LostWaterfalls, Pipeline, Los Quetzales, and El Pianista trails. We recently completed the round trip on the Los Quetzales trail to Cerro Punta and back, and it was spectacular. Here’s the story.
- El Tatica Waterfall. This one is simply breathtaking, especially during rainy season, and it’s relatively easy to hike to (about three miles round-trip).
- Kiki Falls. This spectacular cascada is not easy to get to since it’s on the Nöbe-Buglé comarca, but it’s well worth the trip. Our friend Oscar Peña led our group to the cascada and can probably put together a tour. Just ask around town – he’s famous!
- The Lost Waterfalls of Boquete. This hike is every bit as exotic as it sounds. I could go on and on about how amazing this place is, but I’ll let our blogging friends at Above Us Only Skies (great blog, BTW) describe their experience.
The “secret” swimming hole on the Chiriqui Nuevo river. It’s pup heaven for our dogs and a wonderful place to cool off on a warm day. It’s not easy to find, but we can tell you all about it if you’re interested.
- JaWakTa. No words can describe the fabulosity of this bi-level swimming hole/waterfall just a short drive from Boquete.
- Los Cangilones de Gualaca. OK, so we STILL haven’t been here yet! But we’ll call this our “fave spot that our friends all love that’s high on our list to check out.” Near the town of Gualaca south of Boquete, this natural swimming hole was created when the Rio Esti carved deep, vertical walls in the surrounding rock. We’ll make it there one of these days!
- The canopy tour/zipline or the hanging bridges hike at Boquete Tree Trek.
- Hiking Volcan Baru. It’s a very tough hike up a rugged mountain road. But if you time it to get to the summit by sunrise, you can be treated to spectacular views of both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. And you get reminder that Panama really is a skinny isthmus! NOTE: Arriving at sunrise means you should start the hike by midnight or so. Not for the faint-of-heart or the out-of-shape. It’s about 17 miles round-trip (Susan did it as an overnight trek in early 2017).
- Hire a 4×4 and ride to the top of Volcan Baru. We’ve never done it, but it’s an alternative if you’re not up for the steep 17-mile hike. There are several tour companies in town that offer this expedition.
- Whitewater rafting on the Chiriqui Viejo river. Check out Boquete Outdoor Adventures for great service and reasonable prices.
- Finca Dos Jefes Coffee Tour. Host Richard Lipner not only knows his coffee, but he’s committed to sustainable growing practices that most benefit the land and the people working on it.
- The Boquete Bees tour. This beautiful property is a haven for bees and also a working coffee finca. You’ll learn amazing but true facts about bees and how critical they are to our lives, and the medicinal properties of raw honey. Of course you can buy honey and estate-grown coffee right on the premises. You can also visit the butterfly house, which we understand is spectacular.
FAVE AFTERNOON CHILL SPOT
Rio Encantado. This fantastic nature preserve/eco lodge on the Caldera River, south of Boquete, offers a wealth of activities. You can hike, zipline, or marvel at the stunning flora and whimsical tree house that’s part of the overnight accommodations. But our favorite thing is to gather up a group of friends and spend an afternoon lounging and lazing by the beautiful pool. The owner, Frank, is very accommodating and last time allowed us to bring in our own pot-luck lunch if we would mind purchasing a few drinks from the bar (we didn’t mind). Hmm, I think I’m due for a RE fix about now . . .
FAVE EXERCISE FIX
Muzz Laverty’s bi-weekly FIT (Fun Interval Training) class, held at the Amigos de Animales building in Alto Boquete. It’s a seriously challenging workout, but Muzz’s signature positivity and encouragement make the hour fly by! You can follow up her class (Mondays and Fridays) with Joy Alexander’s Gentle Hatha Yoga class, also in the Animales building. Muzz’s class is Monday and Friday at 8:00, and Joy’s is MWF at 9:30.
Also, check out the Haven for more yoga by Joy and Pilates classes. And if you’re into tai chi, there’s a class for you. Here’s more info.
FAVE HORSEY HANGOUT
The Boquete Equestrian Centre, just a stone’s throw from our neighhhh-borhood (sorry, bad joke!). Jess Schrock and her family have created an outstanding facility for equestrians of all skill levels. There are both covered and open riding arenas, a main house and casita, and plenty of enclosed pastures on a large, historically significant piece of property in Alto Boquete. Early this year we sat down with Jess and interviewed her about her background and how the center came to be. Here’s the post.
FAVE VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
- Los Amigos de Animales. Not that long ago, packs of street dogs and feral cats roamed the streets of Boquete, and there were hardly any resources or information for sterilization of animals. That all changed in 2005 with the founding of this organization, whose primary purpose is to conduct monthly spay/neuter clinics on a sliding scale. A completely volunteer-run operation, the “Animales Clinic,” as it’s popularly known, has sterilized literally tens of thousands of cats and dogs over the years. Check it out on the last Sunday of every month. It’s a marvel.
- Salvadores de Animales and Boquete Dog Camp. Both of these groups are devoted to rescuing dogs and cats and finding them forever homes. Even if you can’t adopt a pet, you can help by fostering an animal donating money, food, and other supplies.
- Fundacion Pro-Integracion Boquete. A wonderful organization committed to improving life for people with all types of
disabilities. The Fundacion hosts an open house every Saturday along with numerous outings and activities for its clients, all staffed with volunteers.
- Boquete Knitters and Quilters. These talented volunteers knit, quilt, and crochet blankets, caps, booties, sweaters, and other cozy items for the babies and toddlers of Ngöbe-Buglé familiies.
FAVE PET-FRIENDLY PLACE TO LAND FOR A FEW WEEKS WHILE YOU GET YOUR BEARINGS
Casa Valhalla. This cozy house is perfectly located just a short walk from downtown Boquete and consists of four apartments of varying sizes. We lived here for a month when we first arrived in Boquete, and it had everything we and our dogs needed to get our feet on the ground and find a more permanent home. It’s also a great place to meet other pet-owning “newbies.” Some of our best friends today are people we met at CV. Warning: it books far in advance, especially during high season.
The showpiece Biblioteca de Boquete is much more than a lending library. Since its opening in 2012, the library has become a hub for many different types of community events ranging from education programs for children to art openings to classical music concerts. At any day of the week, it’s a beehive of activity and always worth a visit. We have especially enjoyed the concerts; we blogged here and here about them.
FAVE COZY BAR IN A HISTORIC HOTEL
The Hotel Panamonte. Hands-down the best place to enjoy an adult beverage in front of the roaring fire on a grey, rainy cloud forest afternoon.
- The Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival. Scheduled for Feb. 21-24 in 2019, and returning to its former venue, the Valle Escondido amphitheatre.
- The Boquete Flower and Coffee Fair, closely followed by the Orchid Fair. It’s the closest thing I’ve found to the State Fair in my home turf of Texas, but in an alternate universe (the walk-up rum bars, for instance). Such a kick, and it draws HUGE crowds to this little burg every January. We blogged about it back in January 2016.
November. It’s chock full of important holidays for Panamanians, together with parade after parade. And the drumming . . . (ask anyone who lives near downtown about the drumming!). The biggest holidays include Panama Independence Day (Separation from Colombia), Flag Day, and Independence Day (this time, independence from Spain).
- The Mil Polleras Parade. OK, so this isn’t a Boquete event, but seriously – you must experience it! It’s held every year in Las Tablas on the Azuero Peninsula, about a six-hour drive from here. In a nutshell, it’s a national celebration of the pollera, the beautiful dress that’s become such a powerful symbol of Panama. And there are a lot more than a thousand polleras in that parade, trust us. Here’s our post about our trip and experience.
FAVE SPECIAL-OCCASION RESTAURANTS
Three-way tie: RetroGusto (oh, the pork chop!), Boulder 54, The Rock. And check out The Rock’s live jazz happy hour on Monday nights. Runners-up: Butcher Chophouse next door to RetroGusto, Palo Cortao in the Hotel Ladera, Il Pianista (lovely creekside setting), Colibrí.
You can’t go wrong with Boquete Sandwich Shop – excellent all-day breakfast at a very reasonable price, and they have been known to serve up a mean Bloody Mary. Runners up: Sugar and Spice, Olga’s (at Punto de Encuentra), La Karetta, and Gluten-Free Gold.
Chop Sticks. OK, it’s the only Chinese restaurant in Boquete that we know of! But the food and service are consistently good. Susan’s fave is the dinner-sized won ton soup. One serving’s enough for a meal there and a take-out meal later.
Apizza, from the same folks who brought us RetroGusto. Crispy wood-fired crust and just the right amount of topping, at a very reasonable price. Runner-up: Il Pianista
Lots of good burgers in town, but our current fave is a two-way tie: the Sandwich Shop and the Clubhouse at the BCP. Runners-up are the Fish House, Malú (the trailer park place), and Unplugged Gastrobar in David (worth the trip, and also for its selection of Dutch and Belgian brews).
Boquete Brewing Company. Also the only game in town (so far), but it’s a fun place to meet up with friends and then hop across the street to Apizza or RetroGusto.
FAVE “TIPICO” RESTAURANTS
El Sabrosón #3. Basic Panamanian fare, served up generously at rock-bottom prices. Runners-up: Restaurante Las Orquideas, KM 35, El Sabrosito in Dolega between Boquete and David.
FAVE CASUAL RESTAURANTS
Boquete Fish House, Tree Trek restaurant (what a view!), Big Daddy’s (greatly expanded menu and now a happening night spot), La Posada Boqueteña, OTTO.
FAVE DAVID RESTAURANTS
Boca Chica for seafood, Unplugged Gastrobar (see Fave Burger), O Toro Ramen (sushi and other Japanese delights), Mezcla Gourmet for yummy wraps and natural juices (they also do a mean burger), El Fogon, Restaurante Beef.
FAVE JEWISH RYE FIX
Morton’s Bakehouse. Other great bakeries: Sugar and Spice, La Ceiba
FAVE SWEET TREAT
Gelateria La Ghiotta for authentic and fanstastic gelato.
FAVE SELECTION FOR WINOS
Yes, we admit it – we love our vino. One of the first things we do when we visit a new city or town is to scope out the best wine selection. In Boquete, it’s the Alto Dorado market in Alto Boquete, and now their shiny new location, Dorado Plus. What was that great wine you had for dinner last night? The proprietor, Melissa, will track down the label for you and then order it by the case, if you so choose. Runners-up: Supermercado Baru, Felipe Motta Wine Store and Deli in David (with other locations throughout Panama).
FAVE LOCAL SHOP FOR SPECIALTY FOOD ITEMS
Casa de Jamon, with its huge selection of meats, cheeses, wines, and many other yummies from Spain and Italy. Runners-
up: Boquete’s Supermercado Baru, Spanish wine place,
- Boquete’s Mercado Público (public market), which opened to much fanfare a couple of years ago.
- The Tuesday Market (also known as the “gringo market.”) It’s held every Tuesday morning in the BCP building. You’ll find a huge selection of gourmet food items, fresh produce, and arts and crafts. BCP, by the way, stands for Boquete Community Players, a local theatre group that sponsors the market and also puts on a regular schedule of plays and musical shows.
FAVE ONLINE RESOURCES
Check out Chiriqui Life and Boquete Ning, two online forums that offer a wealth of information about pretty much everything that goes on here. On Facebook, visit Boquete News, Boquete Community Group, and Expats in Boquete.
FAVE WAY TO SPEND A LAZY MORNING
Start your day at the Boquete Visitor Center (also known by its Spanish abbreviation, the CEFATI). It’s the large yellow building at the top of the hill across from the Volcancito Road turnoff, and the colorful “Boquete” sign is a popular photo opp for locals and visitors alike. Sip a Kotowa coffee and enjoy the panoramic view of the Caldera River and Boquete town.
Walk around downtown Boquete and poke into the shops. Get another coffee at Central Park, sit in the Parque Domingo Médica (the main plaza) and people-watch. Boquete and the parque come alive especially on Sunday mornings, when the Ngäbe indigenous families and other folk who live in the highlands come to town for church and shopping. Check out the Mercado Público just off the Parque.
Walk across the bridge over the Caldera (just past the Parque). If it’s a weekend, check out the plant and crafts stands on the left, just before you get to the bridge. If it’s Tuesday, visit the BCP market. Have a yummy lunch at the BCP’s Clubhouse, or possibly El Sabrosón #3, Sandwich Shop, or Big Daddy’s. Treat yourself to a gelato at La Ghiotta.
OK, Boquete peeps, your turn. What are your faves, and what did we miss?
FAVE Blog – Latitude Adjustment, A Tale of Two Travelers!
Yay – thanks 🙂
So much has changed since we were last in Boquete! We need to come visit when we become nomadic again. Great post!
Please do! We’d love to finally meet you – and you have a place to stay!
Awsome guide ! Congrats keep them coming it helps us during our PAINFULL waite to move there !
Robbin & Tom
Thanks, Robbin and Tom! I remember that waiting period – it seemed like forever. But you’ll be here and settled before you know it!
U guys make me envious.Great write Susan
Thanks, Cap’n! Hugs to you and Karen.
It seems like forever when we visited Boquete in 2014 and clearly, we missed all the good stuff! I love that so many of the outings are around the water and in such beautiful surroundings. And like all good communities, the friends you make are the glue that keep you there and living happily. We may have to come back for a visit sometime! Anita
Super post – makes me want to wave a magic wand (if I only had one) and find myself in Boquette, right away! Thank you.
You’ll be here before you know it!
Hopefully we will be there soon. Just waiting for our home to sell. Fingers crossed. Do you know of a rental agency that helps people find temporary (6 mo) housing. We have a dog and would like to take our time finding our perfect home. Hopefully we will be there in less than 6 months:))
Well. . . there are a few real estate companies in town that also help with rentals. Good call to wait six months and figure out your favorite area (we have lots of microclimates, for instance). Word of mouth is the best way to find a good rental. When we first moved to Boquete we landed with our dogs at Casa Valhalla, mentioned in this blog post. There are other good online resources for rentals: Chiriqui Life (www.chiriqui.life) and the Boquete News and Boquete Community groups on Facebook. The good news for you is that the rental market seems pretty soft right now – there are plenty of rentals on the market. Good luck!
So glad for the recommendation of Casa Valhalla. We have a three month rental there from Jan-Mar 2018 to give us time to really look around the area and make sure Boquete is for us! Hope to meet you both when we are there!
Fantastic! You’ll love CV – it’s a great place to land and get your bearings. Please let us know when you’re here and we’ll meet up.
Will do and thanks!
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Thanks John & Susan for this great list of Boquete “faves”. I’ve got 2 weeks left to be here and will try to check them out and write about them. It was great to meet you at the Fish House last week. I’ve been traveling for many years but just recently started my own blog. You can read what I wrote about the Boquete Tuesday Market (I love it!) at: http://over60nomad.com/panama/boquete-panama-tuesday-market-bliss/
It was so great to meet you, Suzann – I hope our paths cross again before you leave Boquete. And your blog is great; you really captured the whole gourmet experience of the Tuesday market. We’re headed to Ecuador in a week and a half and I definitely want to dig into your Ecuador articles for some tips.
I was in Cuenca this past January. Due to a family emergency I had to cut my trip very short. So no time to see much at all. But I intend to go back in November this year. I’d love to spend at least 2-3 months in Ecuador. So by the time I get there, I’ll be reading YOUR articles for Ecuador tips! Enjoy!
an odd question perhaps, but since you live in Boquete area, I thought I’d ask. I’ve read that wearing shorts in Panama is frowned upon as the country has a more formal dress code than here in the US. We’re getting ready to make the move and my hubby is wondering what to bring for shorts/pants to wear in Boquete. I realize that tourists often have their own dress code, but since we will be living there, we want to make sure we present the right impression.
thanks for any advice on this question!
Hi Sara – it’s a good question. I would say that, in general, we aren’t comfortable wearing shorts when we go to town to shop or conduct business in banks or with our lawyer. You’ll always see the odd gringo going into the bank with shorts and flip flops, but it seems disrespectful to us. You will never see Panamanians conducting business in shorts. And furthermore, you aren’t even allowed to enter government buildings – say to conduct visa business – if you’re wearing shorts or sandals. But of course we wear shorts to hike, walk our dogs, or for other outdoor activities.
thanks for the info. It will help us in planning what to bring.