Boquete is in the mountains of the Chiriqui Provence in the Republic of Panama. It is home to many European, American, and Canadian expats and the place my husband chose to invest in our future by building long-term rental homes in the downtown. Boquete is a small town with a big heart, where community and helping others is as important as the beautiful nature surrounding it. The temperatures hover between 65-75 year- round and it is bustling with tourism and outdoor activities. Boquete coffee is to die for and friendships are the most important part of belonging in this environment.
My most recent 3 week trip to Panama was the longest one of my life, which is nothing to the nomadic types of people, but for me, it is a really long time. I am also not typical expat retirement age so the lack of things to do in Boquete, culturally speaking, had me worried. I should never have doubted these things as my 21 days turned into nothing but fun, fellowship, and learning new things about the people of Panama and myself along the way.
My first day of waking up in Boquete began with Sante Fe Ranchero omelets at Boquete’s most popular restaurant, Sugar and Spice. We then went to the local cellular company to add minutes to my international cell phone, which will save loads of money in the long run.
My husband, Eddie and I made several trips to our property, known as Boquete Gardens, to watch the progress of the builders on our three homes. Our parcel of land will eventually hold nine long-term rental houses. I took part in a Birdwatching Tour with Boquete Outdoor Adventures which proved to be a big hit as I saw the almighty quetzal, eight of them!
Boquete does not have certain things so often we have to make trips to David, Panama’s second largest city, which is 45 minutes away. They have a Price Smart, similar to Sam’s Club in the USA, which is great for buying supplies in bulk. David also has nicer grocery stores including Super Baru, Romero, and Super 99. A trip to David would not be complete without visiting the local McDonalds and having a juicy cheeseburger (there are 2). Now you may think I am kidding, but unlike the beef at the USA McDonalds, these burgers are made of angus beef with no pesticides/growth hormones and are absolutely mouth-watering! Take my word for it, it is not easy for a food snob to admit getting so excited over McDonalds. Whats more, they have free WIFI!
In Boquete, we mostly invite friends over for dinner or go to dinner parties where invited. This is great as I love cooking and hosting people or trying out food prepared by others. Often times, we just go out. Los Molinos, a beautiful subdivision with a country club feel, has a killer Friday evening happy hour, often with live music. The bar features $6 entrees on their dinner menu, including chicken quesadillas. Panamonte is a great place for a nightcap, though mine is usually dessert rather than liquor. Their strawberries & cream is sublime; picture me with eyes rolling in the back of my head. Panamonte is also one of my favorite spots for breakfast.
The highlight of my first week was driving to the city of David to pick up friends visiting from Florida and have Valentine’s brunch at Hotel Cuidad’s restaurant. We shopped and explored the many shops and markets in downtown David. A stop by the chic Felipe Motta wine and liquor store is a cool place to stock up on beer and wine.
Week two of my trip started off with howling winds, in excess of 40 MPH at times, and a tree being blown down in our neighborhood which caused major problems for the neighbors. Boquete is not a place where you can just call the local repairman and things are fixed in minutes. Eddie, my husband, and I ventured out to a new place, Hotel Ladera for al fresco lunch, where I had tasty pollo flautas. We then walked through town area to pass out some small trinkets to the indigenous children.
One afternoon, I was invited to join a friend for “Girls Movie Day” at a locals house. My friend and I arrived with homemade snacks in hand and had a fun day watching “Theory of Everything”, which was still playing in theater in the states. The ladies enjoyed a kitchen full of snacks, including splendid basil lemonade and smoked salmon spread rolled in kale leaves, of which I had to ask for the recipes. Later that night Eddie and I met the Florida friends for dinner at George’s Fireside Grill, a restaurant I had been wanting to try.
The best thing we did on my trip took Eddie and I plus two friends on a 2 hour adventure over crazy, windy, and bumpy roads across the countryside to the Caribbean seaside town of Chiriqui Grande, where we visited the local indigenous Indians. We hired a guide to take us by boat across the sea and sandbar to Man Creek, an area accessible by boat only, where the Ngäbe-Buglé Indians live. Our favorite part was passing out candy and toys to the native children. It was eye-opening to see how they live so primitively in this area. The children were so cute and receptive to our being there. The family we hired to take us and their adorable daughter Edy, our boat captain, also prepared a fresh Panamanian seafood lunch for us which was a great ending to a perfect day.
Near our casita in the Volcancito area is La Jungle, an animal refuge center that Eddie and I drove over to visit one afternoon. Dorothy, the lady in charge, was kind enough to take us on a tour of the place. The restaurant is has now closed and the place needs major work, but we enjoyed petting and interacting with a parrot, monkey, injured owl, bunny, chicks, and many goats. One goat was pregnant and looked like she was going to bust! We dropped by Fresa Mary on our way home for fresh strawberries and cream. Dinner was with a friend at Hotel Valle del Rio, just outside the gate of Valle Escondido, which features a Wednesday night pasta bar. The bar was stocked with several choice of pastas, sauces, and toppings prepared as ordered. Our entrees included a salad, Italian bread, a glass of sangria and a piece of banana cake for dessert, all for $15 per person. The restaurant provided impressive service and the outdoor terrace was fun and festive.
Outside of visiting Chiriqui Grande, the highlights of week two in Boquete were meeting a group of friends for dinner at Big Daddy’s and a visiting my friends Terry and Manzar’s gorgeous bed & breakfast, Casa de Montaña. If you like the B&B feel, or just plain being spoiled, this is the place for you. Casa de Montaña offers spectacular views, amazing food items, and stylishly decorated rooms and common space.
For the last week of my trip, we had many details to take care of with our property and shopping for custom furniture and landscaping. For fun, one day we stumbled upon a flower festival at the fairgrounds in the center of town. It was during a Panamanian holiday so town was extremely crowded. We strolled through the gardens, admiring the beautiful flower beds and bright, vibrant colors. Later, I took a few hours to wander into town, browsing in the shops and making a few purchases of handmade clothing and jewelry.
For dining in Boquete, Mango’s, is a great spot for pricey, but tasty and fresh food. After lunch there one day, I walked next door to the Isla Verde Hotel and booked myself a massage, which was top notch. Another day I opted for typical Panamanian food at Central Park in the middle of town, literally right off the park. For $4, I had a satisfying and tasty meal of rice, beans, stewed chicken and pasta salad.
Tuesdays in Boquete bring the Tuesday Market, known also as “gringo corner” by locals, at the BCP building in town. Artisans set up tables and you can find a little bit of everything: holistic oils, fresh vegetables, herbs, and meats, jewelry, local art, books, and more. It seems to be the social event of the week. Amigos de Animales feature pets that can be adopted on the spot during the Tuesday Market. Again, on that day, I chose to stroll through town to pick up some postcards to mail to my readers. Aside from shipping items through Mailbox Etc., there is no postal service in Boquete. Locals bring their mail to the BCP Tuesday Market for someone to take back to the states and mail since there are always people coming and going.
The second best thing about my entire trip to Boquete was working yet another Amigos de Animales spay and neuter clinic, this time at our own new facility. We spayed around 175 dogs and cats between 5 veterinarians and 40+ volunteers. This is usually my favorite thing to do in Panama hands down, so it is never to be missed. Working the clinic is such a rewarding pleasure plus I fall in love with every dog I help wake from anesthesia. Please note that we have hardly any stray pets running around town, most are pets brought in by owners or by collectors within an hour outside of Boquete, to help control local pet populations as well.
Between the camaraderie, beautiful flowers, sweet sounding birds, gorgeous Volcan Baru mountain views, daily rainbows, and evolving relationship between gringos, indigenous, and Panamanians, Boquete is the real deal for my husband and I. We treasure every minute in this lovely setting and hope you will get a chance to visit here one day.