There are plenty of destinations in Central America with gorgeous Caribbean and Pacific beaches. But, if you’re looking for something a little different — like a quaint mountain town with some amazing restaurants and some awesome hiking and adventure opportunities — then you should make a stop by Boquete, Panama on your Central American journey.
Nestled among the mountains of Panama’s Chiriqui province, Boquete is a popular destination for people traveling to or from Bocas del Toro or The Lost and Found Hostel. The small city has a very welcoming and homey vibe to it with its friendly locals, myriad of small eateries, and beautiful surrounding mountain ranges that make you feel like you’re hidden away from the world.
If you’re planning a trip to Panama, or to Central America in general, make sure you add the city of Boquete to your itinerary. There are plenty of hikes to do not far from the metropolitan area or, if you’re looking for some rest and relaxation, there are plenty of awesome hotels and hostels in the area where you can just chill out. If you’re backpacking on a budget but still looking for a cool place to stay, book a bed at Bambuda Castle, a hostel sitting on a hill overlooking the town that features a pool and jacuzzi. And, yes, it’s actually a castle.
Other than the items on this list, the best things to do in Boquete include walking around, talking to locals and other travelers, and enjoying the magnificent scenery. All over this gorgeous mountain city, there are signs coaxing you to do this activity or that, so it’s pretty difficult to get bored. However, if you need some ideas to plan your trip around, here are the top five things to do in Boquete, Panama.
Hiking Volcan Baru
Not far outside of the city of Boquete is the twelfth highest peak in Central America and the tallest point in the entire nation of Panama: Volcan Baru. This active volcano (don’t worry; it’s not spewing lava) offers an absolutely stunning view of the surrounding area. In fact, on an especially clear day, you can see both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Panama from the peak. In what other place in the world can you see two different oceans at the same time?
Volcan Baru is a truly special experience, but it’s not for the faint of heart. The hike itself can take around 10 or 11 hours, depending on what kind of pace you hike at, and the top of the volcano can be rather cold and buggy at times.
However, if you make the hike up there at sunset, which many people choose to do, you’ll be treated to the finest view in all of Panama and a sense of accomplishment that comes with hiking to the highest point in an entire country. If you want to get to Baru from Boquete, you’ll have to take a taxi from the city to the base of the volcano. Bring plenty of water, snacks, and some warm clothing.
Whitewater Rafting at Chiriqui Viejo River
If you’re feeling adventurous during your stay in Boquete, one of the best ways to scratch that itch is by going whitewater rafting in the nearby Chiriqui Viejo River. Not far from the city, this river offers the ultimate rafting experience for people of all skill levels.
Never gone whitewater rafting before? Not a problem. There are experienced local guides who will walk you through the process and make sure that you have an amazing time. For more seasoned rafters, there are difficult parts of the river that will put your skills to the test.
The river isn’t the only attraction on the Chiriqui Viejo River, though. There are plenty of wildlife and natural landscapes to look at as you’re floating down the river. If you’re interested in doing some whitewater rafting in Boquete, take a walk over to the Boquete Outdoor Adventures in the middle of the town and talk to them about the details.
Hike to the Lost Waterfalls
If you want to do some hiking in Boquete but aren’t feeling up to the massive endeavor that is Volcan Baru, there are plenty of easier hikes around Boquete, one of which is the Lost Waterfalls hike. This trail is hidden on the slopes of Baru and only takes about 3 hours if you make it the whole way. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to swim in three different waterfalls, all of which are absolutely gorgeous (but rather cold if you decide to go swimming).
Apart from the waterfalls, this hiking trail offers some incredibly beautiful nature and some great opportunities to see wildlife. If you’re a birdwatcher, the Lost Waterfalls trail might just be your best bet to see the elusive resplendent quetzal, one of the rarest and most beautiful birds to see in the area. To get to the trailhead, you’ll have to take a taxi about 20 minutes out of the Boquete town center. But, trust me, it’s totally worth it.
Eat Breakfast at Sugar & Spice
Among the best things to do in Boquete is, quite simply, eat. There are plenty of restaurants in the area offering all sorts of different cuisines from steakhouses to Italian restaurants to Panamanian-style cafes. However, if you plan on going out for breakfast during your stay in Boquete, there’s one cafe that you should check out before any other: Sugar & Spice. This spot is a local favorite for good reason. Everything on the menu is absolutely delicious and will give you the jumpstart you need to have a fun day of activities.
If you need a loaf of bread to hold you over on your travels, Sugar & Spice has just what you need. They have a full bakery at the restaurant with a selection of different breads (all of them delicious), including special bread each day of the week. Sugar & Spice is located right outside the center of Boquete. Ask any local shop owner and they’ll tell you exactly where it is.
Tour a Coffee Plantation
One of the biggest things that draw people to Boquete is the world-famous coffee. The volcanic soil of the region combined with the altitude and cooler temperatures creates the perfect conditions for growing some of the most prestigious coffee varieties on Earth.
Quite simply, if you go to Boquete, you can’t leave without sampling the region’s famous geisha coffee. Geisha is also one of the most expensive varieties of coffee in the world, but you can get yourself a cup for cheap at one of Boquete’s many coffee farms or cafes.
If you’re interested in taking a coffee tour, one of the best places to do so is at Finca Dos Jefes. The seven-acre farm is located on an absolutely gorgeous hillside that sits 1,450 meters above sea level. They personalize the tour to your liking and take you through their plantation, showing you every step of the coffee-making process.
You’ll get to enjoy the views, learn about coffee production, and, of course, sample some of the delicious java. Plus, by supporting Finca Dos Jefes and their philanthropic efforts, you’ll be helping to support children from the local communities.