Boquete is a lovely mountain town in the western portion of Panama. It’s a popular destination for hiking, coffee plantation food, retirees, chilling out, and having some of the best intentional restaurants in the country. A lot of people (mostly Americans) retire to here for the temperate air. Here, you’ll find a city filled with OMG food (I had the best meals of my trip here), some amazing mountain hikes, a strawberry ice cream shop, a couple of waterfalls, and cheap local cuisine. Boquete might be touristy and international but it’s not overrated!
Note: Panama uses both PAB and USD. There’s no real need to carry the local currency, the Panamanian Balboa, unless you paying for really small things on the street. For the most part, use USD (which has the same value as PAB).
Hostel prices – Hostels in the city costs between 10-16 USD for a dorm room. Private rooms in hostels begin at 35 USD per night for a single or double room. Free WiFi is common, and a few hostels also offer free breakfast. If you plan on cooking your own food, most hostels have kitchens.
Budget hotel prices – Budget hotels cost between 35-90 USD per night for a double room with A/C, hot water, and private bathroom. Free WiFi is available at most budget hotels, and many also include free breakfast. If you need a hotel with a kitchen, expect to pay closer to 50 USD per night. Airbnb is widespread and prices begin around 12 USD per night for a shared room and 40 USD for entire home or apartment.
Average cost of food – Local stalls will cost under 5 USD for you chicken, rice, and beans. For a nice meal with wine, expect to pay around 30-40 USD. Top restaurants include The Rock, Sugar and Spice, and Panamonte. Domestic beer at the bar will cost under 2 USD, while a bottle of water will cost around 1 USD. If you plan to cook your own meals, expect to pay between 30-50 USD per week on groceries.
Transportation costs – Taxis in the city cost about 5 USD. Buses around the area cost 1 USD. The city is small so you should be able to walk everywhere. Bike rentals are available, and cost around 12 USD per day (less if you rent more than one bike). For a bus to Panama City you’ll pay around 20 USD each way.
Suggested daily budget – $35-45 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating cheap, keeping your drinking to a minimum, and using local transportation.)
Money Saving Tips
- Eat at the local stands – Meals at local food stalls cost between 3-4 USD. You’ll get rice, chicken, beans, and maybe another side, plus a drink. I don’t love the food in Panama but you can’t go wrong at these prices.
- Walk around town – The town is so small that everything is walkable. Avoid taking the taxis unless you are in a rush somewhere.
Top Things to See and Do
- Visit Mi Jardín Es Su Jardín – This garden is a private garden made for everyone so it’s free to enter. There are a lot of plants here and the place has a funky design. There’s an impressive view of the valley and surrounding mountains, which you can look at through the observation tower.
- Take a Coffee Plantation Tour – Most of the coffee in Panama is grown here and throughout the mountains there are tons of coffee plantations. Take a tour of one and see how coffee is grown and processed. Most tours are half day and cost around 25 USD, but can cost as little as 10 PAB. Here’s a video of my tour:
- Go Hiking – This area is filled with jungles, mountains, waterfalls, and animals. Plus, since it’s in the mountains it stays relatively cool. All of this is the perfect recipe for great hiking. Wander through the many marked trails around the city and just enjoy the outdoors.
- Hike the Sendero Los Quetzales Trail – This 12km trail begins about 8km out of town and ends in Cerro Punta. If you start from Boquete, you go uphill and Cerro Punta, downhill. Some people think the uphill hike is actually easier than hiking downhill since the downhill part is very hard on your knees. The trail takes a whole day to walk so it’s best to leave early in the morning. While you won’t see a lot of animals here, you’ll find lots of birds and great views and waterfalls along the path.
- Climb Volcán Barú – This volcano is one of the biggest attractions for travelers here. You hike up to the summit of the dormant volcano for great views of the area, the caldera, and good exercise. While it is possible to do it in a very long day hike, most people hike this volcano over two days. That way you can spend the night at the top and witness the spectacular sunrise in the morning. You can hike this by yourself or go on an overnight tour with a guide for around 50 USD.
- Traverse Chiriquí Viejo River – If you are looking for a bit of a thrill in this quiet mountain area, a number of tour companies offer half and full-day whitewater rafting tours on the Chiriquí Viejo River. Expect to pay around 100 USD.
- Go on a trail ride – It’s possible to arrange a horseback ride through the mountains around Boquete, and if you’d like, you can even combine this with a visit to a coffee plantation for a mere 10 USD extra. For a four-hour ride, expect to pay around 40 USD per person.
- Soak in the Caldera Hot Springs – Next to the Caldera River, lie the Caldera Hot Springs, which are a wonderful way to unwind after your hike up the volcano. Keep in mind that it’s a bit tricky to get to these springs. You can either take a bus (which doesn’t run on a reliable schedule) and then hike for 45 minutes, or you can pay around 40 USD to arrange a taxi.
- Do a zip-line tour – For a fun afternoon, arrange a zip-lining tour of the Cloud Forest canopy. The zip-line system in the area consists of twelve different lines. Expect to pay around 65 USD for the activity, which usually lasts around four hours.
- Go rock climbing – The first rock climbing company in Panama was founded here in Boquete. Climbers of all levels can do a bouldering or rock climbing tour here, or can opt for a climbing course. You will pay around 45 USD for a day tour.
- Tour the Gulf Islands – An hour and a half’s drive from Boquete will grant you access to the Chiriqui’s gulf islands. Tours leave from Boquete, and give you a day of swimming, snorkeling, and relaxing around these gorgeous tropical islands. Tour prices start at 75 USD per person.
- Eat some ice cream – The strawberry ice cream shop, Fresas Mary, will leave a lasting impression. Go there for an ice cream or a bowl of strawberries with whipped cream. It’s the perfect way to finish off a long day of exploring!