Tucked away in the green highlands of Panama, Boquete is a small mountain town near the Costa Rican border. It is a popular destination for hiking, coffee plantation tours, and just relaxing in the mountains.
It also has some of the best international restaurants in the country. A lot of people (mostly Americans) retire here due to its moderate year-round temperatures.
Despite its popularity, the town has been able to maintain its laid-back, small-town atmosphere. The city attracts visitors ranging from young backpackers to wealthy retirees, which is why you’ll find budget hostels next to luxury hotels and spas.
Visiting Boquete was a highlight of my time in Panama. You go hiking right from town, there is plentiful fresh fruit to indulge in, the food is amazing, and I loved the slow pace of life. It lives up to all the hype and is perfect for chilling out and enjoying the views.
Use this travel guide to Boquete to plan your trip, save money, and make the most of your visit to this highland getaway!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Boquete
1. Climb Volcán Barú
Volcán Barú is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Boquete for good reason. It’s the highest point in Panama, located in the province of Chiriqui, with breathtaking panoramic views of both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. While it is possible to do it in a very long day hike, most people hike this volcano over two days to witness the spectacular sunrise in the morning. If you’re really fit and want a challenge, expect to pay around $75-85 for a very long full-day hike to reach the summit at 3,474 meters (11,398 feet). For $120 -$150, you can take a bumpy 4×4 ride up to the summit at the crack of dawn.
2. Tour a Coffee Plantation
Panama is widely known for its geisha coffee beans from which their expensive Arabica coffee is brewed. This mountain highland region is perfect for the arabica plant and most of the coffee in Panama is grown here. There are several coffee plantations in the area that offer tours. Most tours last 2.5-3 hours and cost around $30 USD for a basic tasting and $35 USD for an extended experience that includes 4 different kinds of coffee. Finca Dos Jefes and Finca Casanga both offer excellent tours.
3. Go bird watching
Boquete is a birdwatcher’s paradise. There are over 500 species of birds here, including parakeets, toucanets, a dozen different kinds of hummingbirds, and, most famously, the resplendent quetzal (a small bird with beautiful red and turquoise colors). Check out the Boquete cloud forest jungle, Caldera, or Finca Lerida eco trails into Parque Nacional La Amistad for the best birdwatching. Coffee Adventures offers half-day tours starting at $75 USD for two people as well as full-day tours for $195 USD.
4. Hike the Los Quetzales Trail
This 9.6-kilometer (6-mile) adventure trail begins in Boquete and ends in nearby Cerro Punta. This stunning mountain rainforest offers rare flora and fauna and if you’re lucky, a sighting of the resplendent quetzal, whom the trail is named after. It is considered one of the Top 10 birds to see in your lifetime if you’re a bird-watching aficionado. You don’t need a tour for the trail but you’ll have better chances at bird watching if you hire a local guide. A minibus or cab from Boquete to the trailhead costs $3 USD. For the “out and back” option, hike halfway to the lookout point of Mirador la Roca, and then go back the way you came. Bring enough food and water for the day as well as layered clothes and rain gear as the weather can change quickly.
5. Swim in a natural canyon slot
Los Cangilones de Gualaca is a canyon slot (a narrow, walled-in canyon formed by tropical blue rushing water) in Chiriqui, about 45 minutes from Boquete by car. This truly unique and picturesque spot is a fun place to swim, cliff jump, and relax by the river. There are no facilities here outside the parking lot so pack a picnic, share a ride with friends or other travelers, and lounge the day away. If you’re on a budget, you can take the bus from Boquete to David and then to Guanaco for only a few dollars, but it will take around two hours.
Other Things to See and Do in Boquete
1. Hike the Pianista Trail
This trail is a fantastic 3-hour in-and-out hike that includes a river crossing. Half of the hike is through a rainforest and half through an open valley. You’ll see quetzals, howler monkeys, and snakes along the way. It’s an 8-kilometer (5-mile) hike that starts 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) outside of town. With more than 2,000 feet of elevation, you’ll likely be enveloped in clouds for much of your hike so bring a light jacket and suitable footwear.
2. Go horseback riding
There are several horseback riding tours (such as Franklin’s Horseback Riding Tours) around Boquete. You’ll get to cross streams and enjoy the views over Volcan Baru. No riding experience is necessary. Expect to pay $35-40 USD for a 4-hour tour. Or combine it with a visit to the Caldera Hot Springs for $65 USD.
3. Soak in the Caldera Hot Springs
These natural hot springs are 45 minutes away by car. There is a $3 USD entry fee, and you can also take a tour of the hot springs for $25-$35 USD (or if you would like to include seeing the nearby petroglyphs, tours are $45 USD), with time set aside to enjoy the hot springs for 2-3 hours. It’s a relaxing way to spend a few hours after you’ve been out hiking.
4. Go rafting on the Viejo River
If you are looking to get your adrenaline pumping, book a full-day whitewater rafting tour on the Chiriquí Viejo River. It has class 3 rapids (suitable for ages 12 and up) and the rapids are accessible all year around. Organized tours from Boquete cost between $65-100 USD and include lunch, gear, and transportation. Check out tours with Adventures Panama, Boquete Outdoors Adventures, or Keteka.
5. Zipline through the cloud forest
For a fun afternoon in the treetops, visit Boquete Tree Trek Eco-Adventure Park. They have 12 different zip lines spanning over 5 kilometers (3 miles). It takes around four hours to finish the course. Tours cost $65 USD. If ziplining isn’t your thing, you can also explore the treetops via hanging bridges. There are six suspension bridges covering a 4.5-kilometer (2.7-mile) route through the tropical treetops. Bridge tickets are $30 USD for a 3.5-hour tour.
6. Hike to the “Lost Waterfalls”
This 3-4-hour hike takes you through lush cloud forests and passes three waterfalls. The trailhead is 25 minutes from town and if you are lucky, you’ll spot sloths, monkeys, birds, and other wildlife along the way. Pack your bathing suit (after the second waterfall on the trail, there is a cave where you can swim), water, some food, and cash for the entrance fee ($10 USD). The hike is around 8 kilometers (5 miles). There are some steep sections (and lots of mud) so wear suitable footwear.
7. Tour the Gulf Islands
A 1.5-hour drive from Boquete is Boca Chica, a small village on the Pacific Coast. From there, you can take a boat tour to the islands of the Laguna de Chiriqui. There are 25 uninhabited islands where you can see lots of wildlife: howler monkeys, turtles, exotic birds, and fish. You can spend the day swimming, snorkeling, and relaxing around these gorgeous tropical islands. This is best done by an organized tour from Boquete. Expect to pay around $75 USD per person.
8. Try some of Panama’s best ice cream
If you have a sweet tooth, try the strawberry ice cream from Fresas Mary. It’s delicious and a great way to cool down (they also have bowls of strawberries with whipped cream). If you prefer gelato, head to Gelateria La Ghiotta, which has the best gelato in all of Panama, with dairy-free options available too.
9. Hike the Pipeline Trail
This accessible trail is close to town, relatively flat, and well maintained so it’s a good option for novice hikers or anyone just looking to stretch their legs (it’s kid-friendly too). It’s just 1 mile each way and takes around 1-1.5 hours (plus time spent at the waterfall at the end) there’s even a tree that’s 1,000 years old! It costs $5 USD.
For information about other destinations in Panama, check out these guides:
Boquete Travel Costs
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 – Boquete has several hostels with 5-8-bed dorms ranging from $12-18 USD per night. Private rooms start at $35 USD. Free Wi-Fi and hot showers are standard, with some hostels also offering free breakfast or free coffee/tea. Most have self-catering facilities as well.
Hotel prices – There are plenty of three-star budget hotels in Boquete where you can find rooms for $65-80 USD per night.
On Airbnb, you can find private rooms starting at $35-60 USD, and entire apartments starting at around $60-90 USD. Expect to pay double those prices unless you book early as there isn’t an overabundance of options here.
Average cost of food – Like its neighbors, Panamanian cuisine features rice, black beans, yuca (a starchy vegetable similar to the potato), plantains, beef, chicken, and seafood. Common dishes include empanadas, chicken and rice, fried fish, and ceviche (a raw fish dish with lemon).
Traditional meals at a sit-down restaurant cost around $5 USD. These usually include rice, beans, some meat, and fried plantains.
Fast food (think burgers or pizza) cost around $6 USD. Expect to pay around $30-35 USD for a nicer dinner and drinks (or for a western meal, as there are lots of places that cater to the expat crowd).
A cappuccino costs around $3 USD while a domestic beer will be around $2 USD. Bottled water costs around $1 USD.
Some suggested places to eat are The Rock, Boquete Fish House, The Panamonte Inn, and RetroGusto.
If you want to cook for yourself, expect to pay between $30-50 USD for a week’s worth of groceries including staples like fruit, veggies, pasta, and bread.
Backpacking Boquete Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker budget, expect to spend around $45 USD per day. This includes staying in a hostel dorm, cooking most of your meals, drinking a few local beers, taking shared buses to get around, and doing cheap activities like hiking.
On a mid-range budget of $120 USD per day, you can stay in a guesthouse or Airbnb room, eat out more, enjoy a few drinks, take the occasional taxi, and do more paid activities like coffee plantation tours.
On a “luxury” budget of $235 USD per day or more, you can stay at a hotel, eat out at nicer restaurants, take cabs everywhere (or rent a car), drink more, and do whatever paid activities you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
Boquete Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
It’s pretty easy to save money in Boquete. There’s not a lot of nightlife, all the hiking is free, and there are plenty of affordable restaurants in town. That said, here are some ways to save money in Boquete:
- Stick to local cuisine – There are plenty of Western restaurants and fancy coffee shops in Boquete. If you want to save money, stick to local restaurants with a set lunch menu.
- Enjoy cheap hikes – Hiking is the cheapest way to have fun in Boquete and there are tons of trails around the city. Ask your hostel/hotel staff for suggestions. It’s the best way to explore the region on a budget!
- Don’t take taxis – Buses are only $1.60 USD so skip the taxis. They add up!
- Bring a reusable water bottle – The tap water here is safe to drink so avoid buying water. Just use a filter like LifeStraw to ensure your water is safe. You’ll save money and the environment!
Where to Stay in Boquete
There are a few budget-friendly hostels in Boquete. Here are my favorite ones in town:
How to Get Around Boquete
The center of Boquete is compact so can easily walk from your hotel/hostel to restaurants, cafes, and shops. With a population of just 20,000, it’s very easy to get around.
Bus – Many of Boquete’s bus and minibus routes are loops that start in the center of Boquete (“El Bajo”), make a loop into the neighborhood or nearby village they are going to, and then loop back into Boquete. There a designated bus stops, but you can also wave down a bus by putting up your hand to signal the driver you’d like to get on. The same goes for getting off the bus. The destinations are written on the front of the bus. There aren’t proper timetables – the drivers wait for the bus to fill up and then leave.
Fares are usually less than $1.60 USD. Note that most buses stop running for the day around 6pm-8pm. If you’re heading further afield, ask the driver when the last bus goes back to Boquete.
Bicycle – Bike rentals are available here, but they aren’t cheap. You can rent bikes for around $30 USD with companies like Soul Planet Cycle.
Taxi – Taxis are widely available in Boquete and cost around $1.50 USD for most short trips around the city. If you want to travel to a destination outside of town, negotiate the fare before you start the trip. Ask your hostel/hotel staff what you should expect to pay.
Expect to pay around $8 USD for a taxi to the Pipeline and Lost Waterfall’s trailheads.
Uber is not available here.
Scooter rental – If you are comfortable riding a scooter, there are a couple of places that offer scooter rentals. You’ll pay around $40 USD for a full-day rental.
Car rental – Car rentals can be found here for as little as $20 USD per day for a multi-day rental. Most rental agencies require drivers to be at least 25, though some will accept drivers at 21 if they have a credit card. That said, you don’t really need a car here unless you’re heading out to explore the region.
For the best car rental prices, use Discover Cars.
When to Go to Boquete
Boquete can be visited year-round. Thanks to the cooler climate in the mountains, temperatures are pretty much the same year-round, hovering around 22°C (72°f) and rarely dropping below 11°C (53°F).
March and February are the warmest months. Boquete gets rain in the afternoon during the rainy season (May-December), but the weather is still nice the rest of the day, albeit it can be overcast. The rains get gradually more intense from July to November. If you visit during the rainy season, plan all your hikes and other outdoorsy activities for the morning, and use the rainy afternoon to relax.
If you want to experience Boquete’s famous Coffee & Flower Festival, La Feria de las Flores y del Café, visit in the middle of January. The festival lasts ten days and thousands of visitors descend on the small town for this occasion, so make sure to book your accommodation ahead. At any other time of year, you won’t have problems finding accommodation upon arrival.
How to Stay Safe in Boquete
Boquete is known to be very safe, which is why so many North Americans choose to retire here. Violent crime here is very rare. And even petty crime is rarer than in other parts of Panama!
That said, you’ll want to use common sense just in case. Don’t leave valuables unattended in restaurants and public spaces and don’t flash expensive jewelry. Only take as much cash with you as you’re planning to spend and don’t have all of your credit cards on you.
Solo female travelers should generally feel safe here. However, the standard precautions apply (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, never walk home alone intoxicated, etc.).
In general, it’s best to avoid walking around alone at night.
Scams here are rare but you can read about common travel scams to avoid here.
If you experience an emergency, dial 911 for emergency services.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.
Boquete Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
- SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
- LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
- Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
- Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!
Panama Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Central America and continue planning your trip: