Boquete (Backpackers) Travel Guide
Boquete seems to be on every traveler’s itinerary to Panama. The village itself is small but has a booming tourist industry, and many retirees from Europe and America. The main reason travelers visit Boquete is for the outdoor activities in the surrounding valley. Due to its location in the highlands, temperatures in Boquete are much lower than in Panama City all year round. Most restaurants, hotels and hostels are located on the main road or around the small square in the center of town.
5 x things to do in Boquete
Hike the Lost Waterfalls Trail (Sendero de las Tres Cascadas)
This hike is relatively easy to do by yourself. The trail starts at a private property where you will have to pay $7 entrance fee. The path leading to the first and second waterfall is relatively easy, and the rainforest provides plenty of shade. The last part to the third waterfall can be very slippery (wear appropriate shoes), but the view is rewarding. This easy to moderate hike take about 3 hours in total and is easy to reach by colectivo (minibus) from Boquete.
Bath in the Caldera Hot Spring (Agua Termales de Caldera)
About 40 minutes by minibus from Boquete lies the town of Caldera. If you tell the bus driver that you are going to “termales”, he will drop you off at the entrance of a unpaved road leading to the hot springs. It is about one hour walking to the hot springs, but when I went there I was lucky a four-wheel drive passed by and gave me a ride on the way back. The hot springs are located on private property of which the owner charges a $3 entrance fee. Honestly I had more fun swimming in the rivier next to the hot springs than the actual hot springs due to the hot weather. Still, a very nice outing if you want to have a not-so-active day in Boquete.
Go Horseback Riding
Various tour agencies in Boquete offer horse riding tours for about $40. The horse riding itself is not in Boquete, but in the much warmer Caldera Valley. A minimum of two participants is required for this tour, but don’t worry if your are alone! The tour agency will just sign you up and let you know once someone else signed up too.
Visit a Coffee Plantation
There are countless coffee plantations in and around Boquete. The tour I did was not via a hostel or tour agency (they did not offer me an afternoon option the day I arrived from Panama City), but one I found online instead. Finca Dos Jefes is a small coffee plantation just outside of Boquete. The owner is an American retiree who (without any prior specialist knowledge of coffee) ended up an buying an abandoned coffee plantation instead of a normal home for his retirement. The tour around his coffee plantation is fun, and features interesting stories about the (word-)coffee industry, his business, wages local for workers and business ethics. As a former international business student I loved this tour. At the end of the tour you get the chance to brew your own coffee, which you can take home as a souvenir (included). The tour costs $30 including pick up and drop off in Boquete.
Hike the Pipeline trail (Cascada Escondida)
Probably the most easy hiking trail in Boquete. As always, take a minubus and ask the driver to drop you off at “Cascada Escondida”. At the entrance of the trail you will have to pay $3, from here simply follow the pipeline. The trail goes over several small mountain streams and ends at a waterfall. I never got to see the waterfall though, as I decided to go back after one hour of hiking since the sun was almost setting. I did hear monkeys all around in the late afternoon! The trail is supposed to take 1.5 hour back and forth, maybe I was just slow? Or missed the waterfall. This trail is very easy as there is almost no difference in elevation and the trail is relatively short.
Other things to do in Boquete
Besides the five things I listed here, there are countless other outdoor activities to do in Boquete. Many people climb the Barú Volcan, though I heard it is not as spectacular as other volcanoes in Central America and mainly just very intense. Other things to do include wildwater rafting and countless other hikes for which a guide is often recommended.
Transportation in Boquete
How to get to Boquete?
From Panama City or Bocas del Toro to David by bus
There are plenty of buses going from Albrook Terminal in Panama City to David, which is the capital of Chiriqui province. The buses air airconditioned and extremely cold (especially at night), make sure to bring warm clothes. It is possible to take overnight express buses too. At night the bus ride takes about 6 hours. Price depending on bus service: $15 to $18
From Bocas del Toro there are minibuses that go from Almirante to David.
From David to Boquete
Once in David, there is an hourly bus service going to Boquete. It takes 45 minutes to one hour to get from David to Boquete. Just look for the sign of Boquete in the David bus terminal. This bus is usually operated in an old American style school bus.
Shuttle buses from Santa Catalina or Bocas del Toro and Costa Rica
HelloTravel Panama operates a shuttle bus between Santa Catalina and Boquete ($35), which eliminates the need of transferring in Sona, Santiago and David. There is also a shuttle service between Boquete and Bocas del Toro for $25 (if you book in Mamallena Hostel, otherwise $30). I did not find the shuttle justifying the price, as I spent about half of that amount by traveling to Bocas Del Toro via David. There is also a shuttle going all the way to Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica ($55), but I heard a transfer is required in Almirante (Bocas Del Toro).
Getting around in Boquete
There is a bunch of colectivos (minibuses) in front of the Bruña supermarket, just north of the public market (see map below). These colectivos bring you to nearly anywhere in the area (less services on Sunday though!). Just tell one of the drivers where you are going and he will point you at the right bus. Easy as that.
Where to eat in Boquete?
There are tons of places to have international (Western) cuisine in Boquete, including numerous restaurants run by expats such as Italian ice cream or American BBQ. However, if you are on a budget and like to eat with locals, go to Restaurante El Sabrosón on the main road just past the minibus station (in northern direction). The place is full of locals and you will be able to eat a decent meal here for $5. Their inexpensive but oh-so-sweet deserts are also quite addictive.
Where to stay in Boquete?
I stayed at Mamallena Hostel, which is right in front of the bus stop for buses going to and from David. In fact every hostel around Parque Domingo Médica (see below map), which is Boquete’s central square, would be a good location. Personally I found Mamallena Hostel a bit on the pricy side for the value it had to offer, however the vibe in the hostel was pleasant.
I did not check out any other hostels in Boquete (it seems almost everyone I met in Panama City just went to Mamallena too), so I cannot compare. El Machico Hostel just opened a new branch 3km outside of Boquete in December 2016, for those who like to stay outside of town this might be an option too.
Video of my visit to Boquete
Visited in December 2016