Volcan is a very small but very pretty town in Panama. It’s not exactly a tourist hotspot – and really, that’s what’s so lovely about it.
We never intended to visit Volcan. After we finished house sitting in Boquete we were going to whizz on down to Panama City, except Luke injured his leg and there was no way that he was going to survive that 9 hour bus ride. With only a week before we were returning to Costa Rica, we decided to loop round to a small town on the other side of the volcano so Luke could rest up. For this, Volcan was the perfect choice.
Things to Do in Volcan, Panama
I’m not going to lie to you, there’s very little to do in Volcan. While the Baru volcano is clearly the main draw for coming here, there don’t seem to be any tour guides in town. I actually met a guy who was looking for someone to take him up but having no success. It seems all the treks leave from Boquete. If you want to take it really easy though, then this isn’t a bad place for it.
Amble through the Market
Volcan doesn’t have a town centre as such. It’s a vertical town laid out along one road, but at the junction where all the supermarkets and the bus top from David are, there’s also a local market. It’s open everyday, but only around a quarter of the stalls inside are actually trading – the rest are shut up. One stall holder said that there just aren’t enough customers coming in to make them worth opening. Nonetheless, there’s some gorgeous art on the walls, some stalls selling material bags and trinkets, and a couple of fruit and veg sellers. We bought twelve bananas for $1.
Take a Trip to Cerro Punta
If you’re in Volcan, you definitely have to take a trip up the winding road toward the volcano to visit Cerro Punta. The road is dotted with strawberry stands where you can stop for fresh strawberries with yoghurt or cream. Cerro Punta is very much a farm town with gorgeous countryside views and a lot of labourers in the area. It’s a nice place for some photography and a local meal of rice and lentils.
Where to Eat in Volcan, Panama
The vast majority of eateries in Volcan are locals joints, which suits me and Luke very well. We never paid more than $3 for a meal here, and even got rice and beans at one place for just $1.50.
By far our favourite eating place in Volcan, Restaurante Corina is friendly, charming and cheap. For vegetarians, breakfast is definitely the best meal. You have about five choices as to how you want your eggs (torte de huevos is best) and can mix-and-match anything you like from the menu, including local fried bread, corn tortillas, and chips. Lunch is a simple affair consisting of guandu (piegon peas) and white rice. On average, a meal here costs around $3.
In neighbouring Cerro Punta, we were starving by the time we got off the bus and ran into the first eatery we could find. Restaurante Nelson was packed with lunching locals tucking into meaty soups. It still turned out pretty well for us vegetarians who were served a hearty, highly salty plate of rice, lentils and a 6-egg omelette. A plate here is also only $3.
Where to Sleep in Volcan, Panama
As you’ve gathered by now, you don’t have all that much choice about it. We decided to stay at the very lovely and really friendly Hostal Brisas del Volcan. A private room here set us back only $25, wifi was decent and there is a very compact outside kitchen with a camping stove for cooking. It’s also right next door to a Restaurante Corina, across the road from a supermarket and near to a good vegetable stand.
If you want something a little more up market then there are a reasonable amount of cabanas in the area going for around $80, though Dr Esquivels Cabanas are going for around the $40 mark.
While Volcan certainly isn’t a must-see travel destination, if you’re in the area and looking for a place to kick back and leave all your stresses (and the other backpackers) behind, then there’s no better place to do it. Staying in Volcan feels like a real locals experience and the town is home to some of the friendliest Panamanians we met.