The Ultimate Guide to Boquete, Panama
Boquete is a small town located in the Chiriqui Highlands on the western side of Panama. Situated on Baru Volcano National Park’s slopes, Panama’s highest point, Boquete is about 40 miles from the Costa Rican border. Boquete is known for its coffee plantations, eternal spring climate, and International Living Magazine has listed it as a top ex-pat retirement community for several years.
How Do I Get to Boquete?
The best way to travel to Boquete, Panama, is a quick 45-minute flight from Panama City to David, then a beautiful 40-minute drive up into the mountains. The other option is a six 1/2-hour picturesque drive from Panama City on the Pan-American Highway by car or bus. The comfortable bus ride is less than $30.
What Do You Eat in Boquete?
Once in Boquete, food choices abound. Big Daddy’s Grill offers American food and is best-known for burgers and margaritas. Located on Avenue Central, it is an excellent location for people-watching. Venture to the rear patio for the welcoming fire pit and to mingle with the locals. Chef Chris Young has done a great job with the menu and often creates daily specials.
One of my favorite local breakfast comes from Restaurante Olga’s in Alto Boquete. Huevos Rancheros, made-to-order omelets, or any other breakfast items are delicious and always served with a smile. Make sure to try at least one of Olga’s hojaldras, as they are the best in town! Hojaldras are Panamanian fry bread and very tasty. She even takes them a step further and offers them dusted with cinnamon and sugar.
Sugar & Spice is an excellent choice for breakfast or lunch. Everything there is delicious. Richard Meyer, the owner, specializes in artisan bread, cakes, muffins, and pies and will even make special desserts with a day or two’s advance notice.
Otto Gastronomia Italiana is an authentic Italian deli, featuring premium meats and cheeses, pasta, pizza, salad, and paninis. Pair any of these with a glass of wine and it’s a perfect meal with a comfortable ambiance. Tre Scalini serves excellent soups, salads, and pasta. The open-air restaurant, with a bar on Avenue Central, is beautiful and has attentive service.
Boquete Brewing Company is an independent micro-brewery with several craft beers and a large terrace for live entertainment. It is a popular spot for beer lovers, young and old.
Lastly, the 100-year-old Panamonte Hotel has gourmet dining with white table linens in the Dining Room, or for a more relaxed feel, try the Fireside Lounge. With two large fireplaces, the lounge makes a lovely setting for dessert and a nightcap.
What is There to Do in Boquete?
Boquete promotes a healthy lifestyle. Depending on one’s mood, there are numerous hiking trails, bird-watching opportunities, zip-lining, rock climbing, and waterfalls. Many prefer to just wander around downtown Boquete admiring the blooming flowers. Because of the fertile soil and cool mountain air, Boquete is the perfect location for growing coffee. Many offer coffee tours and tastings. Finca Dos Jefes does an excellent coffee tour, and even if you aren’t a coffee drinker, you may be after.
Valle Escondido Resort offers a full-service spa and an executive nine-hole golf course. If you prefer 18 holes, the Lucero Golf and Country Club (25-minute drive outside of Boquete) is well worth the trip. Some of the Lucero golf course views are nothing short of spectacular, encompassing the mountains around Boquete, a canyon, and the Gulf of Chiriqui.
It is also relatively easy to find some form of exercise, such as yoga, Zumba, or a pilates class around town.
During the dry season, an early morning adventure is to go to the top of Volcano Baru and witness the sunrise. The mountaintop experience affords the early risers a bucket list experience of seeing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans’ views.
One of the most popular things to do in Boquete is to attend the Tuesday Morning Market. Every Tuesday (9 AM to noon), vendors are open and ready for business. The vendors sell organic oils, fresh herbs, vegetables, bread, cheeses, prepared foods, clothing, jewelry, and more. It is also a great time to meet other ex-pats and locals alike.
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Boquete’s Weather and Local Events
Boquete has two seasons; the rainy and dry season. Rainy season runs from mid-April to mid-December, while the dry season runs from mid-December to mid-April. The dry season is equivalent to summer in Panama, so this is the high tourist season. January and February are hectic months in Boquete.
In addition to the Panamanians enjoying summer vacation, it is also the Boquete Flower and Coffee Festival. This includes over 30 garden designs, coffee producers, and local artists. The music starts after dark and runs to the wee hours of the morning.
Another significant event in town is the Boquete Jazz and Blues Festival, a star-studded festival with three days of outdoor concerts, held in February. Each festival day ends with a jam session at an intimate venue. Past artists include Spyro Gyra, Malamanya, Dwayne Dopsie, Marshall Keys, Joe Louis Walker, Deanna Bogart, and Lance Anderson. It is one of the most enjoyable times in Boquete.
Shopping and Staying
Avenue Central is the popular shopping area in Boquete. Here, you will find specialty items by local artists, clothing, and souvenirs. While in the heart of downtown, walk towards the bridge and you will pass even more local artists and a couple of shops selling pastries and ice cream. Don’t miss the incredible photo ops of the Caldera River from the bridge.
There are several small hotels and hostels in Boquete, all within walking distance of downtown. The Panamonte Hotel is Panama’s ONLY registered member of the prestigious and exclusive Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Nearby, Valle Escondido Resort, inside a gated community with beautiful landscaping, offers luxury rooms and suites with everything one needs for a perfect vacation. It has a spa, a large indoor heated pool, fitness center, tennis and racquetball courts, and an on-site restaurant.
The Haven is a small, modern, adults-only boutique hotel. It is set in a peaceful, tranquil garden setting and offers quality spa treatments, a gym, exercise pool, hot tub, and saunas. They sometimes have exercise classes held on the property for an additional fee. Hotel Isla Verde is a downtown hotel with beautiful gardens. All rooms feature a kitchenette, and they, too, have an on-site restaurant.
Located 10 km uphill from downtown Boquete is another gem of Panama, the Hotel Finca Lerida Coffee Estate. Set on a stunning working coffee plantation, this boutique hotel offers standard rooms, deluxe rooms with a porch hammock overlooking the property, and suites. Their trails are ecological paths that meander through the coffee plantation and tropical forest; therefore, bird watching is an incredible opportunity. Enjoy freshly roasted coffee in the hotel’s coffee shop or eat a delicious meal in La Brulerie.
Boquete is a unique and special place. One noteworthy component is the quality of people. Boquete’s active ex-pat community truly cares and gives either time, talent, or money back to the community they love. Should you be lucky enough to decide to take an extended vacation in Boquete, many groups welcome new volunteers. This can allow you to meet some of the locals.
One group near and dear to my heart, and that I am proud to be a part of is Amigos de Animales. This is a spay and neuter clinic held on the last Sunday of the month. Amigos de Animales started in 2005 and, as of December 2019, had sterilized over 17,000 dogs and cats. They are an entire volunteer, self-funded organization, and dedicated animal lovers who help the community by eliminating future generations of homeless and starving dogs and cats.
Boquete Knitters and Quilters is a multi-cultural group that meets weekly to knit, crochet, and quilt baby things. They donate their finished items to clinics, hospitals, and other organizations that serve those in need in Boquete, David, and the Chiriqui region. Don’t know how to knit? No worries, they will teach you.
Buenos Vecinos (Good Neighbors) de Boquete is a small, all-volunteer committee that provides non-perishable food every month to over 120 needy clients. The majority of the clients are elderly, single moms, handicapped or struggling to support a disabled family member.
Additionally, Boquete has many other volunteer opportunities, such as the Rotary Club and Boquete Health & Hospice, to name a few.
Beautiful Boquete: A Special Place in My Heart
I am partial to Boquete, Panama, and have loved it since the first time I visited. With the proximity to the ocean, lower cost of living, feel of a small town, and close-knit community, Boquete appealed to me so much that I bought a parcel of property and built homes there. Thus, Boquete Gardens, a luxury rental community with five homes evolved, and I am happy to call Boquete my second home.
Article written by Eddie Pittman.
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