Boquete is a lovely mountain town located in the western portion of Panama. It’s a popular destination for hiking, coffee, and good restaurants. Lots of people retire to here for the temperate air, and you’ll find a city filled with great food. I ate the best meals of my trip in this town. Throw in some amazing mountain hikes, a strawberry ice cream shop, and cheap local food, and, well, Boquete might be touristy but it’s not overrated.
- Hostel prices – Hostels in the city costs between $10-15 USD for a dorm room. Private rooms in hostels begin at $35 USD per night for a single or double room.
- Budget hotel prices – Budget hotels cost between $40-60 USD per night for a double room with A/C, hot water, and private bathroom.
- Average cost of food – Local stalls will cost around $2-3 USD and will get 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 the Panamonte.
- Transportation costs – Taxis in the city cost about $5 USD. Buses around the area cost $1 USD.
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 didn’t love the food in Panama but at the price they had, it made eating very cheap.
- 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
- Spot wildlife in the Paradise Gardens – This wildlife sanctuary is great for those interested in Panama’s flora and fauna. Paradise Gardens features tamarins, howler monkeys, white-faced capuchins, a margay, parrots, a striking variety of macaws, kinkajous, and more. What also makes this place great is that it is solely run by volunteers.
- Visit Mi Jardín Es Su Jardín – This garden is a private garden made for everyone, and 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 USD. 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 8 mile trail begins about 5 miles out of town and ends in Cerro Punta. If you start from Boquete, you go uphill. From Cerro Punta, downhill. However, 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 $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. Prices tend to range from $65-90 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.
- Soak in the Caldera Hot Springs – Next to the Caldera River, lie the Caldera Hot Springs, which are 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 $35 USD to arrange a round-trip 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.
- 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 $40-45 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 range from $75-100 USD.
- 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.