Green mountain views, world renowned coffee plantations and cafes that just sell strawberries, it’s no wonder that we loved Boquete, Panama.
When we realised we had a spare six weeks to explore Panama over Christmas, we set about looking for a house sit in Boquete so that we’d have a place to call home over the festive season. As it turns out, the sun was shining on us and we found a lovely home to look after. We had wonderful mountain views, local dark roast coffee and three goldens to keep us occupied.
Things to Do in Boquete, Panama
Boquete is a quiet mountain town that’s received a lot of attention for its beautiful scenery and world class coffee. There’s enough backpackers and expats in town to warrant a number of tour agencies. Nature remains the big attraction, so if you’re into dance floors and bass lines, Boquete might not be your thing.
If Greek yoghurt, organic herbs and locally-grown coffee are up your street, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better market in Central America. Boquete’s Tuesday market, which is located in the Boquete Community Players Centre, hosts stalls from local farmers and enterprising expats. You can get a few delights like organic kale, non-bitter spinach and honey, that are really hard to come by. Get there early, snack on some queso tortillas, pick up second-hand books for $2 and buy as many herbs as you can cook with.
If you love coffee, then you’ll love Boquete. Coffee tours are being offered on chalkboards all over town but make sure to enquire as to which particular finca that tour guide visits if you have a preference between seeing industrial or independent farms. We opted to tour an independent finca called Finca La Milagrosa with Explora Ya Eco-Tours, and would totally recommend.
Plant & Animal Tour at Jardin Encantado
If we hadn’t been house sitting, we probably wouldn’t have found this beautiful botanical garden. In addition to an impressive orchid collection, the garden also home to a number of animals in need from parrots to monkeys – and we were incredibly amazed to see the most beautiful ocelot there too. Jardin Encantado is located up on the Volcancito Road near to Fresas Mary and costs $10 per person.
Things We Missed Out on in Boquete, Panama
As any of you who also follow me on Facebook will know, Luke sustained a leg injury while we were in Boquete which meant we couldn’t indulge in the incredible hikes that the area has to offer. If we were ever to return, these activities would definitely be on our list.
Boquete is a great spot for hiking trails and we were struck by total indecision in our first week when trying to figure out which ones we wanted to go on (and whether they were worth the money). Local guides are recommended for all the hikes in the area as there have been some not so great stories in the news about hikers getting lost and worse. Our first thought was the hike Volcan Baru, which is a full-day hike or a two day camping trip, but the $175 price tag put us off. The other popular hike is the Quetzal Trail that Luke was desperate to go on in the hope of spotting some of the beautiful birds and found that local guides go cheaper than the tour offices who were charging $90.
Caldera Hot Springs
Since living in Taiwan, we’re complete hot spring junkies. Any opportunity to rent a scooter and head up to the local hot springs and we’ll take it. Boquete has some springs next to the Caldera River and apparently they are worth the hour hike.
Where to Eat in Boquete, Panama
While in Boquete, we cooked in most of the time with great local produce from the fruit and veg stalls near Central Park, some organic goodies from the Tuesday market and a few speciality items from Super Baru. Though this was awesome, it meant we didn’t get to try a lot of the local eateries that we usually enjoy and instead went off for coffee and snacks. Nonetheless, there are some gems.
A little outside of town, on the Volcancito Road, this is the best spot for getting afternoon strawberries. The fences and building are adorned with paintings of happy strawberries all over, so there’s no way you can miss it. Our absolute favourite was fresh strawberries without yoghurt, which cost $2.50 per pot.
Ask anyone in town and they will tell you this is the best ice cream shop for miles. This places combines Italian style ice cream with local flavours like lemon and guanabana. On a sunny day, we would definitely recommend the passion fruit and yoghurt.
Definitely a gringo favourite, though I did also see some Panamanians eating here too. This bakery come cafe has everything from wholegrain loaves to lemon muffins. It’s a little pricey but not insane. The bread rolls are super soft and freshly baked, and the New York cheesecake is nothing short of divine.
When the home owners of our house sit returned, they treated us to dinner here. What really stands out about this place is the owner, who is enthusiastic about the food and loves a table chat. Vegetarians can choose between a lentil stew, aubergine parmigiana and a couple of soups and salads. The ginger and carrot soup was nice enough, but I wouldn’t write home about it. That said, I would definitely stop here again for a glass of wine and a dessert because the arty interior makes you want to stay for hours.
Where to Stay in Boquete, Panama
As we were house sitting in Boquete, we didn’t spend much time in hostels, though there were plenty around the Central Park and dotted along the streets just off of the main road. On our last two nights in the town though, we stayed in a hostel before taking the bus to David.
Refugio del Rio Hostel, $36 for private room with bathroom
Refugio del Rio was a little bit of a splurge for us as we usually look for accommodation that’s around the $20 mark. However, having saved up quite a chunk from house sitting and because Luke has injured his leg and couldn’t walk too well (read: not really at all), we wanted to stay somewhere comfortable. Refugio del Rio is hands down the loveliest hostel we’ve stayed in during our whole 7 months in Central America. It’s located off the main road next to the river, there’s lots of greenery and some quirky art too. Our room was clean, comfortable and quite beautiful. Highly recommend this place.
If you love partying and city life, then this probably isn’t a small town that you would to spend too much time in. But if you appreciate green mountains, delicious coffee and taking it easy, Boquete is definitely worth exploring.