For some information, there is the Official Authority of Tourism, Panama (ATP) located a few minutes drive up the road back towards David, next to the Kotowa Coffee Shop, not in downtown Boquete. They have a small museum including some old photos of Boquete, as well as a beautiful view of the valley of Boquete.
The main features of Boquete include:
- A year-round temperature in the low seventies Fahrenheit.
- A significant North American expat community and tourist destination, which brings with it a wide range of amenities from which to choose, ranging from hostels to luxury, health spas, reliable infrastructure, with English very widely spoken.
- Fresh mountain air.
- A small town, with a small town atmosphere, surrounded by relatively untouched natural beauty.
- The ability, if you choose to venture away from the town, to visit rural, traditional Panama.
- An abundance of outdoor activities, including zip lining, bird watching, rafting (certain times of year), hiking, and limited golf.
- World famous coffee plantations.
Up until the early 2000’s, Boquete was a sleepy, almost completely unknown and unremarkable agriculture-based mountain village with almost zero tourism and very few people living in the area whose families hadn’t been there for generations. That changed with a series of events starting with the creation of Valle Escondido, a large residential development aimed at expats. Right around the same time, several magazines devoted to people considering becoming expats began to flourish, with one of the most popular very regularly touting Boquete as “the land of eternal springtime”.
As a result of the publicity and the natural beauty and temperate climate of Boquete, it became, arguably, the best-known North American expat destination in the world, as a large expat community developed. That community now dominates the town, which, depending on what you’re looking for, could be good or bad. A most comprehensive, organized treatment of Boquete can be found in Best Places in the World to Retire: Boquete.
- From David: there are several refurbished school buses leaving roughly every 45 minutes until 9:45 PM. Travel time is a little over 1 hour and cost is $1.75 which you pay when getting off. Look for the old USA school buses with the biggest line and a big "Boquete" sign painted across the top front.
- From San Jose in Costa Rica: there is one morning bus leaving from the Tracopa terminal at 7:30AM ($21). It takes about 8 hours to get to David, including the Costa Rica-Panama border crossing, and arrives at the David Bus Terminal. Panama immigration officers can be strict, and tourists must often provide proof of onward ticket out of Panama, at least $500 cash or bank statements, and credit cards. From David see above.
- From Panama City by airplane: AirPanama has daily flights from the Albrook Domestic Airport in Panama City to the David Airport. The flight takes about 40-50 minutes, prices range from $100 (retired discount) to $150 each way.
- From Panama City by bus: There are regular buses from the Albrook Bus Terminal, run by at least three companies (Panafrom, Padafront, and Terminales David); between them, there is a bus leaving about every hour. Daytime fares (as of February 2011) are $15.00; there are also nighttime express buses for $18.50. It is an air conditioned bus and gets very very cold. The bus makes one 30-minute meal and bathroom stop in Santiago, halfway in between Panama City and David. It takes roughly eight hours to get there, as there is construction on the Pan-American Highway between Santiago and David as they are widening it to 4 lanes. Construction can sometimes delay traffic.
- From Bocas del Toro: There is a twice-daily, $30-35 private shuttle (including water taxi to Almirante) between Bocas del Toro and Boquete 4 hours, as well as several daily public buses between David and Bocas, which are cheaper but take quite a bit longer 5-6 hours. Call or e-mail tour operators in Boquete for details.
Boquete is a very cozy mountain village so you won't have problems exploring the city on foot. The central plaza, in the middle of town on Main Street, is where the David-Boquete bus drops off incoming visitors and locals. For the smell and feel of the area there are scooter rentals at $25.0US for 4 hours as your means of transportation. In the surroundings you can also use taxi (one dollar brings you quite far) or the local area vans/buses which leave from the La Bruna Super Market 200 meters up the main road from the bus stop. Each local van/bus has written on the front window the areas that they cover, which are normally large loops up in the mountains in areas of Bajo Mono, Alto Quiel, Arco Iris, or Volcancito. There are also many tour companies that offer guided trips through the mountains to see waterfalls, coffee plantations, the cloud forest, white water rafting, and the Volcan Baru National Park. But if you want to rent a car and explore the area around Boquete, a four wheel drive may be safer, because the mountain roads do get washed out. Also be aware that there are no safe shoulders and no place for pedestrians to walk but the highway, so take caution traveling at night.
Boquete is known as the "Valley of the Flowers". Nestled in the western highlands of Panama, near the border to Costa Rica, Boquete shares some of the same mountain ranges and some of the incredible wildlife and rain forests. However, because it is not as well known, and a 'road less traveled', prices are lower, and it is not as commercial. You can hike for 1/2 a day, or all day, and still have a rare chance to see the resplendent quetzal, or a howler monkey in the wild.
The Boquete Valley is rich with agriculture as well; strawberries, oranges, and coffee come from this region. There are two fairs to celebrate its floral culture. The Festival of Flowers and Coffee is for 2 weeks between January 12th and the 22th (the dates change sometimes by a few days) and the Expos Orchid Fair in March.
Adventure travel, which includes whitewater rafting, zip lining, ATV and jeep tours, cloud forest trekking, horseback riding, rock climbing and deep water soloing, is a key reason that Boquete, a fairly small town, is growing in popularity for European, American, Latino, and Asian travelers.
Boquete is known as a prime coffee-growing region, with many farms exporting high-end coffee to Europe and Asia. The famous 'geisha' coffee that was sold at auction for $130 a pound can be found growing on the rich volcanic slopes.
Volcan Baru, Panama's highest point, is literally the easiest place in the world to see both of the world's great oceans, on a clear day. It's a tough climb that can be done by hiking or jeep tour.
Plaza Los Establos, located on main street just south of the Main Square, is a nice shopping area with lots of little stores to browse through. Boquete Outdoor Adventures, Kotowa Coffee Shop, Habla Ya Spanish School, and the Transport Company (to Bocas), as well as several small family shops with eclectic souvenirs and great deals are all located in the Plaza.
Because of its temperate climate, moderate prices and relaxed living, it has also become a favorite with expats and retirees.
- Whitewater River Rafting on the Chiriquí Viejo River--Whitewater rafting in Boquete is some of the best in the world. The Chiriqui Viejo River offers a super fun day of continuous class 3 rapids on a jungle run with nice warm water. A few companies offer full day rafting excursions or (when the conditions are right) whitewater kayaking and inflatable kayaking for all levels on several rivers around Boquete. It's a full day trip leaving in the morning and returning in the afternoon, with lunch and drinks usually included at the river. Rafting ranges from $65-$90, kayak $85-$100. The only verified rafting operators in Boquete include:
- Visit a coffee plantation-- 2 to 4 hours: Boquete is known for the excellent coffee-growing conditions that make for some of the best in the world. Even if you aren't an avid coffee fan, a coffee tour is a great way to understand the culture and recent history of Boquete. Cafe Ruiz or Kotowa for a larger and more industrial form of coffee tour. For a more intimate small-farm experience visit Finca Dos Jefes, which also offers an in-depth roasting and tasting, and can be booked at Boquete Outdoor Adventures. Cost for most coffee tours around town is usually $30 pp.
- Zip Line through the canopy of the Cloud Forest -- Boquete Tree Trek offers a zip line experience in the cloud forest with 12 lines of over 5 kilometers in total. It is located on a coffee farm, with beautiful views of Boquete, as well as an adrenaline-rush like no other, soaring through the cloud forest. Office is located in the Kotowa Coffee Shop in Plaza Los Establos. Cost $65 pp., which can also be combined with a Boquete Outdoor Adventures's whitewater rafting trip for $99 pp. plus tax for both activities.
- Jeep tour to the top of Volcan Baru 4x4 Boquete There are a number of companies in the Boquete area capable of providing jeep transport to the top of the local volcano, including A1 Private Tours which provides an action-packed 4x4 driving tour to the top of the volcano for the sunrise, for $150 per adult, $75 per child. Levels of service vary from one to the next and so does their ideals about environmental impact. It is possible to book a jeep through tour operators in town.
- Hiking to the Top of the Volcan Baru - Though there are other options, but ANAM (Panama's Environmental Protection Organization) has encouraged local tour guides to recommend the more environmentally friendly method of hiking to the top of Panama's highest point. Expert guides can be found by stopping by the offices of many tour operators in town. If you prefer to go without a guide, Hola Panama Travel, located in the Mamallena Hostel has a cheap daily shuttle (minimum 3 people) to the Volcan Baru trailhead at around 11:00 pm, so hikers can get to the top of the Volcano by the morning sunrise. The hike is around 6 hours, strenuous, one-way hike to the top up a steep dusty dirt road. Then 6 hours back down, which is challenging on the knees. The climb is very difficult because of the length and steepness of the trail. Take into consideration the dramatic change in climates as you summit and be prepared with warm clothes, food, and water. This is the only place in Panama that temperatures occasionally drop below freezing and sadly two people have died on the top due to hypothermia. A guide is not necessary for hikers in groups as it is difficult to get lost on the road to the top, however Panama has recently been enforcing guided-only hikes in National Parks for the safety and prevention of lost tourists.
- Hike the Quetzal Trail, so named because it is one of the homes of the rare resplendent quetzal. You can hike from Boquete to Cerro Punta (4 hours one-way gradual elevation gain), or the reverse. Most hikers will hike from Boquete to the "Mirador Las Rocas" and then return to avoid the more than 3 hour return by bus from Cerro Punta back down through David, and then back to Boquete. It is about a 4-5 hour one way hike (8 hours out and back), so it can be completed in one day. An experienced hiking guide is highly recommended as the recently repaired trail is extremely hard to follow, and often forks off into the cloud forest. Especially if you hope for any chance of spotting a quetzal bird, a guide is almost necessary in helping to locate a nest.
- Golf Take advantage of the year-round spring-like weather and golf at the two golf courses at any time of the day. Both Lucero Golf and Country Club and Quebrada Grande Golf Course are open to the public.
- Hot Springs Caldera - Hot and bubbly mineral water right next to the Caldera River. Take a dip in both hot and cold. Taxis currently charge $30 to $36 for the round-trip journey. There are also a few inconsistent buses between Boquete and Caldera - from the bus stop in Caldera it's about an hour walk to the hot springs. After the bridge over the river, the real hot springs are to the left. Tourists that book a tour with a tour operator in town are taken to the hot springs with some daily departures for fun evenings soaking in hot water and sharing stories over the sunset. The Hot Springs entrance is difficult to find to on your own and is on private property which has a $3 entrance fee. Going with a group is recommended.
- Horseback Riding in The Mountains of Boquete -- Most horseback riding tours are located in Caldera, 20 minutes drive back down toward David from Boquete. It is best for beginners up to experienced riders, and offers a nice trail ride with beautiful views of Volcan Baru. This tour is normally $35, but can usually be combined with the Caldera Hot Springs for a $55 half-day activity. An excellent horseback riding tour can be booked with Boquete Outdoor Adventures, Boquete Mountain Safari, or a few other operators in town.
Boquete tour operators:
- Boquete Outdoor Adventures (BOA), Main Street, Boquete (Los Establos Plaza), ☎ +507 720-2284. 8:00am-7:30pm. Boquete Outdoor Adventures Whitewater rafting, sea kayaking, zipline-rafting combo tours, guided hiking, expert birding guides, full day island trips, coffee tours, multi-sport and family adventure vacations with unlimited affordable combo packages. They really do it all and it's a great idea to book all your activities with them so you can get some great combo package savings. Shuttle Service available to Bocas del Toro (Caribbean) and Boca Chica (Pacific). Located in Plaza Los Establos with Habla Ya Spanish School and the Kotowa Coffee Shop.
- Finca dos Jefes, Boquete, ☎ +507 6677 7748. Visit Finca dos Jefes and experience the only hands-on roasting tour in Panama. The owner, Rich, provides an incredible experience focusing on the history, and current industry of coffee, as well as tastings of various roasts, all set in a beautiful mountain setting on the slopes of Volcan Baru. Tours can be booked directly or in the Boquete Outdoor Adventures office in Plaza Los Establos on Main Street.
- Boquete Rock Climbing, ☎ +50767647918. Expert rock climber Cesar takes prospective scalers to an unusual Basalt volcanic rock face just outside of town. There is one 5.6 path, several 5.9 paths, and even several harder routes. $45 for 3 hours, with harnesses and ropes provided. All you can climb, which makes for an excellent half-day activity for beginners to experienced climbers. For experienced climbers, deep water soloing is also offered in Caldera at the Cangilones water canyon, which can be booked with tour operators in town.
- Boquete Mountain Safari Tours (The Famous 4 x 4 Yellow Jeeps), Main Street (Center of Town right next to Banco General), ☎ +507-720-1147. Ride in the yellow open air jeeps; Cloud Forest safaris; horseback riding; hiking; Caldera Hot Springs; coffee tastings. Also, trips up the Volcan Baru; either hiking or 4x4 driving. Shuttle service to Bocas from Boquete, or Boquete to Bocas del Toro.
- Beyond Adventure Tours, Central Ave. (Main street), ☎ +507 61301414. 7am - 7pm. Hiking, 4x4 tours, panoramic, cloud forest, coffee tasting tours, hot springs, horseback riding, hidden pools and transfers to your destination. hikes from $25.
- Mirador Adventures (Boquete), Located within Hostal Nomba (Los Naranjos), ☎ +507 720-2864. 07:00-20:00. Located a 5-minute drive up the road from Boquete in Hostal Nomba. Specializing in mountain biking, hiking, and multi-day excursions. Nightly hot springs tours and professional equipment rentals.
This is the bread basket of the country, so the food that is served in the restaurants is very fresh, and quite varied, reflecting its early European beginning and its gaining international popularity.
- Bistro Boquete (On the main drag, several blocks up from the square on the left). This bar and restaurant which is run by Panamanians has an excellent chef and gives great value. The tortilla soup, watercress salad, and pesto salad are nice starters (each for around $4), and the salads can be turned into a meal by adding an accompaniment of trout for less than $3. The flavors here are interesting but not overpowering. US$8-$13 for a meal plus tip.
- Fonda de la Merry (Walk South from the town square one block--at the corner near bridge, where Duran Coffee is), ☎ +507-6519-3209. 7 am to 7 pm. For a real local experience, this bright green restaurant is the place. Don't be put off by the spartan atmosphere. The warmth of the owner/server Maria, and the quick serving of excellent local food capture one's focus. The hojaldres, deep-fried pancakes, are a nice accompaniment to the vegetarian scrambled eggs, and the papaya, pineapple, and banana fruit salad is enough for two people. As a bonus, Maria speaks Spanish slowly and clearly, and cheerfully helps those who are learning. US$3 for breakfast, US$4-$5 for lunch.
- El Casona Mexicana (Walk South from the town square for about 8 minutes.). Very good Mexican food and large portion sizes. Various Mexican folk tunes play in the background. Good value. US$5 - 8 main.
- The Rock, Ave. 11 de Abril Palo Alto, ☎ +507-720-2516. 12:00 md - 9:30 pm. Because of the climate and dedication of its producers, Boquete offers an incredible collection of fresh food products. With the use of these top quality products and contemporary technical knowledge, the Rock is a higher-priced restaurant with exquisite food including pastas and a very rich suckling pork dish. Stimulating your senses every day is fundamental to provide an incomparable experience at THE ROCK. International food. from $9.00.
- Boquete Artisan Baking Seminars (BABS), Bajo Boquete, ☎ +507 6557-1279. Learn to make artisan breads in beautiful Boquete. Designed for the beginner as well as more advanced student, you can learn the secrets of creating amazing bread in one day to three day seminars. Hands on learning with talented teachers who are passionate about artisan bread.
- Big Daddy's Grill (freshest fish tacos in boquete), Main Street (1 minute walk down from Main Plaza). 12:00-9:00 pm Tues-Sun.. Home of Boquete's original grilled fish taco, Big Daddy's prides itself on serving only the freshest fish which was swimming yesterday, as well as a killer margarita, delicious buffalo wings, and organic salads. Good service. One of the favorite restaurants with both locals and tourists in Boquete. $7.95.
- Zanzibar. This chilled bar offers live music at weekends, and is extremely popular.
- La Cabaña Late night bar, open Fridays and Saturdays only.
- Madre Tierra Restaurant at Rancho de Caldera Eco-Resort, Caldera, Boquete, Panama (On site at Rancho de Caldera Eco-Resort (see separate listing)), ☎ +507 720-4225. Wine and beer are served, as well as delicious healthy beverages prepared with local fruits and herbs and sweetened with honey - instead of refined sugar.
- Boquete Jazz&Blues Festival, Boquete/Chiriqui, ☎ +507-6519-7876. The open-air Boquete Jazz&Blues Festival 2013 will take place on February 28 - March 3, 2013. It will feature world-class Blues as well as Latin Jazz on the fairgrounds of the Feria de Las Flores in Boquete. Admission is $20/day or $30 for a festival pass.
There are several inexpensive hostels around and within a few blocks the central park.
- Hostal Palacio, right opposite the bus station and the central park. It is a bit noisy since it's right on the street, and it's important to mind your belongings. Be aware about the owners and the hostel as many tourists have had some troubles. 20 US for dorm. Across from the main plaza, but there are many much better places to stay. 8.50 US for dorm.
- Hostal Nomba (Adventure Backpackers), Primera calle oeste, arriba escuela Josefa Montero de Vazquez (One block north and one block west of central park), ☎ +507 720-2864, +507 6497-5672, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 11:00. Cheap, friendly micro-hostel just off the main street. Run by an extremely welcoming young couple. Poker nights, table football, and comfy hammocks in the common area. They also rent a full range of outdoor equipment for local expeditions, and organize a wide range of adventure tours in the region. WiFi, Free breakfast, backpacker bar with happy hour, two kitchens and 3 baths over just a few rooms. Adjacent is the office of Mirador Adventures Dorm rooms starting $8, privates starting $18.
- Rancho de Caldera (Eco-resort), Caldera (25 minutes from downtown Boquete, 40 minutes from David). Check-in: 2:00, check-out: 11:00. A serene and gorgeous eco-resort (completely off the grid, on renewable energy year round) nestled in the mountains of Chiriqui; accommodations include large, spacious rooms, each with a glasswall overlooking the mountains to the east, A/C, iPod docking station, TV, mini-refrigerator and free Internet. Activities include horseback riding, hiking and swimming in a beautiful infinity-edge pool. Hot springs nearby. Rancho de Caldera's on-site Madre Tierra Gourmet Restaurant under the care of internationally acclaimed Chef Craig Miller is a popular new fine dining choice in western Panama. Rancho de Caldera, a leader in innovative, clean energy hospitality, has been recognized by Green Globe International, Rain Forest Alliance and Sustainable Travel International.
- Boquete Mountain Casitas, Boquete, Chiriqui (Boquete is a 30 minute drive from David), ☎ +507 6613-1472. Check-in: 2:00, check-out: 11:00. Some of the casitas are located within walking distance to the village while others are on private estates in the mountains. Has one 2 bedroom, 2 bath in the middle of an Organic Coffee Farm.
- Hostal Gaia, Boquete (On main street across from Roxane´s restaurant, next to Sugar & Spice.), ☎ +507 7201952. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. Here at our hostel you will find a pleasant atmosphere, a fully equipped kitchen and a dining room, WiFi, camping area, and laundry facilities. from $10.
- Boquete Paradise, ☎ +507-720-2278. Next to a roaring mountain stream and walking out with a view of the 11,500 ft. Volcan Baru right out of your front door. Each unit has a two bedrooms suite with full kitchen, that sleeps eight people. Breakfast is served in the morning $60-189.
- Hostel Mamallena, Parque Central (Right on the Central Park, 30 metres from the bus stop), ☎ +507 720 1260. This new hostel (sister to the established Mamallena in Panama City) is already extremely popular with travellers.Free breakfast, WiFi internet, lounge, patio, laundry. Also has private rooms with private bathrooms.Information and tours are available.
- Panamonte Inn & Spa, Ave 11 de Abril, Boquete, ☎ +507-720-1327. Famous for its gracious hospitality, charm and exquisite cuisine, The Panamonte is the true definition of a country inn: a warm and friendly place for travelers seeking a pleasurable ambiance and personalized attention, a home away from home. Located at the foot of Barú Volcano, the Panamonte is the perfect base for exploring the Chiriquí Highlands, and it is the only full-service lodging option in Boquete, offering a deluxe spa, fireside lounge, excursion planning, and a regionally renowned gourmet restaurant.
- Valle Primavera (8 minutes, walking, heading South from the central square), ☎ +507 6674-5761. Check-out: 11:00. Offers bed-and-breakfast style accommodations in a tranquil atmosphere. Rooms are comfortable and include private entrance, private bathrooms with hot water, cable television and WiFi. Breakfast included. Ideal for families, though it becomes noisy around 8AM every morning, so do not expect to lie-in. US $38 (inc taxes) for 1-3 person room.
- Hotel Isla Verde, Calle 5a Sure (Behind the School Josefa Vasquez), ☎ +507 720-2533. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. Isla Verde offers six roundhouse cabins and four suites, all fully equipped, next to the river in a tropical garden with mountain views. Walking distance to town but peaceful. On-Site massage available. $80-100.
- Momentum Panama (momentum panama), Alto Boquete (Left side of road going towards Boquete in alto b oquete), ☎ +507 7204385. Check-in: 10, check-out: 2. Momentum's fully-equipped cabins and B&B are set on a green plateau, perched on the edge of a valley alongside the rambling Rio Cochea. There’s plenty of room to wander for you and your family. Small groups welcome. (Maximum capacity 26). At 800 mt. (2,625 ft.), the temperature and distinct lack of humidity is always refreshing.
Enjoy the peace, privacy and serenity of our unique location. Better yet, it all comes with spectacular ‘straight-on’ views of Volcan Baru, at 3,475 mt. (10,750 ft.), Panama’s highest peak. 49.
- David - Take one of the frequent buses to David (Panama). The old school buses depart hourly from the Boquete Main Plaza, near the old train car and next to Baru Restaurant. Just look for the old school bus that is parked there, and if there isn't one, you won't have to wait long for the next one to pull up. $1.75 to get down to David.
- Boca Chica - Swim, sport fish, sea kayak, and snorkel in the cool, aqua-marine clear waters of the Gulf of Chiriqui, a National Marine Park just an hour and a half drive away from Boquete. Go for a day trip or stay overnight in the charming fishing village of Boca Chica, or on one of the island resorts on Boca Brava or Isla Palenque. An excellent Island Tour can be arranged with Boquete Outdoor Adventures, who will explain and arrange all of the details and transport you to Boca Chica for an island snorkeling day trip or hotel overnight with sea kayaking. You can choose to return to Boquete with the tour, or continue traveling to Santa Catalina or Panama City on your own.
- Bocas del Toro - Take a private shuttle for the 4 hour journey to Almirante, and then the water taxi, which is included in the ticket price, to Bocas del Toro. Two companies in town offer the daily shuttle: 8:00 am departure ($30) from Hola Panama in the Mamallena Hostel. 9:00 am departure (with hotel pickup) ($35) from the Transport Company in Plaza Los Establos on Main Street. Advanced reservations are highly recommended as the shuttles fill up quickly.
- Panama City - From the David bus station (see how to get to David above), there are buses hourly providing the 8 hour transport to Panama City for $15-20, with a 30-minute meal and bathroom break in Santiago. The David Airport offers flights with Air Panama to Panama City for around $150+ one-way.
- San Jose, Costa Rica - There are a few buses a day that leave from David (see how to get to David above) to San Jose. The bus is about $20 and takes around 8 hours, which includes the border crossing at Paso Canoas. At the border, you will get off the bus, have your luggage inspected, get your Panama exit stamp, walk across the border to the Costa Rica immigration, and get your entrance stamp, luggage inspected again, and wait for the bus to get back on. Costa Rica immigration can be strict, and tourists will usually need to provide some sort of confirmation of an onward ticket out of Costa Rica within 90 days of entering. Onward tickets can include a flight out of San Jose, or a bus ticket coming back to Panama.