Hey! Welcome to another guide! Again, this is in no way a full guide to Boquete, but we wanted to bring you a concise page of the highlights of our visit and some suggestions too. This is an honest guide with some transportation, food, activity, and sightseeing tips.
Where to Eat and Drink
Sugar and Spice—This café and bakery offers a simple sandwich and salad combination that can be veganized (sin queso), but you may endure an odd look (SIN queso?? Si, sin queso.) This bakery is quite popular with both locals and tourists.
Mike’s Global Grill—The expats bar! The “hummus” in the falafel sandwich has a strange taste, but other vegan options do exist. Really, you come here for the drinks, seeing expats socialize, 70’s music, and the local live band that seems to make their rounds in Boquete bars.
Jenny’s Restaurant—We went here as a part of our rock climbing day trip. This is a chance to eat the local fare—we opted for the vegetarian option of course, which happened to be vegan. Have your meal with a fresh smoothie, which changes based on what fruit the kitchen has available at that very minute. We grabbed the last strawberry ones of the day.
The Perfect Pair—Coffee and chocolate are popular in this mountain town, but Panama itself is still trying to make a name for themselves in these products. The perfect pair offers costumers both. Come in for a carafe of Chemex coffee. The barista will share with you where the beans come from and what to expect when sipping your carefully brewed coffee. Pair it with some in-house crafted chocolates.
Boquete Brewery Company—We enjoyed a few locally brewed beers while listening to a live rock band. Our favorite brew? The Agua Selva, a brown ale with a ton of flavor. If you're bold enough, try the coconut flavored pilsner, Hammock Time.
Fruit and vegetable market—This permanent structure in the middle of town has several fresh produce stands to choose from. We wish we had taken more advantage of this market as they had the best tasting passion fruit we had during our stay in Costa Rica and Panama. Get your fill of tropical fruit and local veggies. If you’re super adventurous find a young green jackfruit and prepare these pulled BBQ sandwiches back in your kitchen.
Where to Grocery Shop—Romero and Super Baru. Between these two grocery stores and the Fruit/Veg Market you should have everything you need for a fantastic meal!
Things to Do and See
You can’t fully experience the beauty of Boquete without hiking! All of our hikes started out the same way: walking to Calle 1a Sur and hopping on a mini bus going towards our hike of choice. Go early, and don’t be surprised if it takes 20 minutes to leave. They don’t usually leave until the bus is full. At the end of your hike, go back to the dropoff point. 1 out of the 3 hikes we waited for a bus (again could be up to a 20-minute wait—you’re on Panamanian time after all). The third hike we walked along the road until we came across a bus to take us back. Our 2nd hike we just walked back.
Lost Waterfalls Hike (aka Tres Cascades Caminata)
This was our first and perhaps our favorite hike in Boquete, which you can read about on our Bouete Hiking blog post. Take a minibus towards Bajo Mono ($2 per person), telling the driver you want to be dropped off at Tres Cascades Caminata. You have to hike a little bit before getting to the entrance, where you will be greeted by a man who will show you a map of the hike (take a picture with your phone), have you sign in, and pay the entrance fee. There are three waterfalls to see on this hike. They are beautiful! You can swim in one but be prepared for freezing cold water! Also, bring a rain jacket, as you will likely get rained on. There is a chance to see some wildlife—I saw the back of a Quetzal bird, but we went with expectations of not seeing much wildlife.
Cost: $7 per person
Difficulty: Moderately Difficult. There are steep sections and areas where you had to climb using an anchored rope. What made this hike more difficult than most however was how incredibly muddy the trail was. Don’t where your nice new tennis shoes on this hike. Where hiking boots that you don’t mind getting muddy and that will stay on when you inevitably step in ankle-deep mud accidentally!
Time to Hike: Approx. 3 hours
La Piedra de Lino Hike
This out-and-back hike was the shortest we did (about 1 mile). But it was also the steepest. We started to walk in a zig-zag up the narrow trail to climb it easier. You see the path is this really cushy loose volcanic soil. This feels great on your feet compared to big steps of rocks, but with how steep the path was the looseness of the soil made it all that much easier to slip! It did not get us on the way up, but on the way down both of us had some hilarious sliding falls. At the top you’re rewarded with the best 360-degree view of Boquete and surrounding area. The best part of this hike? We did not come across another hiker—the trail and view were all to ourselves. We ended up taking a taxi for $4 total. We walked about 3 miles back to town afterwards. There's also a map of the hike on our Boquete Hiking blog post.
Difficulty: Moderate. The trail is short, but extremely steep!
Time to Hike: About 1 hour.
Sendero Los Quetzals Hike
This out-and-back hike was the longest one we did! You can make it as long or short as you want (as in a full-day one-way hike!), but we opted for hiking to the viewpoint Mirador La Roca and back. It took us about 5 hours to hike almost 7 miles. You will get a chance to hear, if not see, howler monkeys. You may also see the elusive quetzal bird, but we had no such luck! The hike itself is better than the view, as you get to see quite a few different landscapes while hiking, ranging from rolling pastures to stream crossings to the muddy rainforest. Start as early as possible in the day to try and avoid rain and allow yourself time to catch the last bus back to town. We again caught the minibus going toward Bajo Mono ($4 per person) at Calle 1a Sur. Once dropped off, you will be asked to sign in at the entrance and shown a map. Take a picture of the map with your phone. We almost made a wrong turn but having the map on hand saved us. Check out more including video footage on our Boquete Hiking blog post.
Cost: Free. You will be asked to sign in at the entrance. Some people at our hostel told us the guard at the entrance requested a donation, but that did not happen to us.
Difficulty: Moderately Difficult. There is a section of really steep stair steps. Also, when the trail is muddy, you have to navigate your way sometimes by jumping from dry spot to dry spot on the trail. There is one stream crossing. Bring your water resistant hiking boots. Because this hike is longer, bring some snacks and plenty of water!
Time to Hike: approx. 5 hours if you turn around at Mirador La Roca
Other Trails We Would Suggest
The Pipeline Trail
This is apparently the best trail to see the Quetzal Bird. It’s a gently sloped trail, but you still get to see some nature, including the waterfall at the end. If you’re not really a hiker, but you still want to see some nature, we would suggest this hike for sure! Take the minibus towards Bajo Mono. The minibus fee should be less than $2 per person. You will be asked to sign in and pay a trail maintenance fee at the entrance of the hike.
Cost: $3 per person
Time to Hike: approx. 3 hours
Volcan Baru Sunrise Hike
Volcan Baru’s peak is at 11,398 feet. It is said on a clear day you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans from the peak, which in our minds, must be an incredible view! The hike from Boquete to the summit of Volcan Baru is not for the faint of heart. The town of Boquete sits at an elevation of around 3,900 feet, so during the hike you gain 7,498 feet of elevation! As I learned hiking on the Inca Trail in Peru, I’m prone to altitude sickness, so we skipped this hike. This is the only hike we would strongly recommend you go with a guide and a group of people. The length of the hike is 16.77 miles round trip. The hike begins at 11:00 pm, and you hike throughout the night to reach the summit of Volcan Baru at sunrise!
Cost: depends on the hiking tour you go with
Time to Hike: about 11-12 hours
Other Things to Do and See in Boquete
Boquete Rock Climbing School—We cannot recommend this company enough! Rock climbing in Boquete is becoming more and more popular, as they have a fantastic natural rock formation that just screams, “Climb me!” You can read about our climbing adventure here. The climbing school offers various tours, from half-day to full-day adventures. We ended up doing bouldering and slacklining at "The Canyon" (Los Cangilones de Gualaca) in the morning, having lunch in town, and finally spent the afternoon climbing the Basalt formations just outside of town. Tours range from $45 to $65 per person. The guide will pick you up and drop you off at your hostel/hotel.
Caldera Hot Springs—While we did not have time to partake, we heard from others staying at our hostel that this was a worthwhile adventure for some relaxation. This is not in a spa setting, but described to us as more of a rustic vibe. You can catch a minibus at Calle La Sur to Caldera. Tell the driver you want to go to the hot springs. You have to walk about 40 minutes from where the bus drops you off. The hot springs are on farmland, so there is a $2 fee to enter. There is a smaller pool that is the warmest, and if you want to cool off there is a river nearby that is still lukewarm. Be sure to give yourself enough time to catch the last bus back to Boquete (5 pm!).
Boquete is such a small town that you can walk everywhere you need to go within the town. For almost all of your adventures however, you will need to take some sort of transportation to get to the various hikes outside of town. Minibuses were our main form of transportation, also called colectivos. The main hub for these minibuses is on Sur 1a Calle in Boquete, shown on the map below.
Do some research on which bus you need to take. We asked our hostel, and we have provided some direction for you in the various adventure descriptions. Once you find the appropriate bus, tell the driver your destination and ask the price. We knew which price to expect from asking the hostel employees, and surprisingly we were told each time the exact price we were expecting.
If you have a group of 3-4 people, it may be worth just taking a taxi to your various hikes/adventures. For La Piedra de Lino hike, we bartered the taxi ride down to $4, which would be the same price as both of us taking the minibus (which would have been $2 each).
Be aware that these minibuses stop running at 5 pm. Plan to start your adventures early, and be aware of the time while hiking. Some hikes are easier to walk back to town than others! You do not want to be stranded on the side of the road for the night. On the Sendero Los Quetzals hike, we walked down the road towards the Tres Cascades Hike drop-off point where we finally caught the last minibus heading back into town!
Where We Stayed
Hostal Garden by Refugio del Rio—We really enjoyed our hostel. The kitchen was large and clean, and they offered coffee and tea each morning. The atmosphere was sociable, but not a loud party hostel. There is a large outdoor area to hang out with a garden where you can gather some food for your meals! They do have dogs and cats around the hostel, so be aware for those with pet allergies. They are extremely friendly but leave you alone for the most part. We especially thought Luke was quite a fashionable pup as he wore a different colored handkerchief each day. The internet is spotty, but that’s life in Boquete. You’re not there to surf the web anyways. The employees there were extremely helpful in answering our questions and gave some great local tips. We would certainly stay there again!
How to Get to Bocas Del Toro from Boquete
There are two options we looked at for getting to Bocas del Toro from Boquete—local public transportation and a semi-private shuttle. We opted for the latter option as the price was not that much higher than the public transportation and we got there quicker with less transfers and had air conditioning!
We booked our shuttle in person, through Hello Travel Panama, but you can book ahead of time on their website, found here. You simply show up a half an hour before departure and they load the bags on top of the shuttle. They cover the luggage with a tarp in case of rain. On the way to Almirante there is 1 rest stop to grab food and use the restroom. Once in Almirante, you hop onto the boat taxi (price is included with shuttle service), and ride to Bocas del Toro! The boat taxi drops you off in Bocas Town in Isla Colon, where you either take a taxi to your hostel/hotel or a water taxi to whatever island you’re staying on.