In the middle of the cloud forest lies the small town of Boquete. A cute village that has nice and fine restaurants and bars and feels like a mountain village in the Alps. A nice place to be and great for walking through beautiful surroundings. There are some wonderful hikes to do around Boquete. But you don’t have to go to Boquete just for the hikes. What is there to do in Boquete?
In Boquete, you can do a lot of hiking. The best hikes are The 3 waterfalls and The pipeline trail. Another famous hike is the El Pianista trail, more on that later.
The 3 waterfall hike (Las 3 cascadas)
This is a cool hike that takes you to 3 waterfalls. You are dropped off on the side of the road and then you have to walk to the entrance first. It is well marked with signs. First you walk across a slightly rickety suspension bridge over the river and from there you walk up. It’s a lot of climbing, so this stretch you can prepare for. Once at the mountain hut (where you can also stay overnight), after about 20 minutes, you pay $10 per person and can continue on your way. Basically, you can decide which waterfalls to visit first, but it is recommended to walk to waterfall 3 first, so you have had the farthest and you make a few more stops at the other two waterfalls on the way back. The path is quite steep at times and you climb up a lot. The last stretch to waterfall 3 is steep and there are ropes hanging here and there to help you. Keep in mind that during the rainy season the trail is passable but wet and muddy.
The road to waterfall 1 and 2 is less steep. You can also swim the falls, so if you want you can bring swimwear. The water is cold, though. The waterfalls are beautiful and all three are different. The environment is very green and you also have a chance to hear and see several animals.
The Pipeline trail
The pipeline trail is relatively flat and leads you along a water pipe. It is a well-maintained path where you sometimes cross rivers by means of a bridge made by pipes. Upon arrival, walk to the left at the gate first to register and pay $5 per person. When you get back from the hike, again write down the time so they know you came back. You walk the trail back and forth on the same path, passing through the woods in a green and wilder environment. In the rainy season, you can see the clouds dancing around the tops of the mountains for an extra mysterious effect.
The hike ends at a waterfall, which can only be reached by crossing a small river. There is no bridge here, so depending on the conditions it is advisable to do or not. There is a sign that it is dangerous to go further (peligroso), but it is the only way to get to the waterfall. The last bit is about another 5 minutes.
How do you get there and back?
For both hikes, you can take the minibus from the center (Calle 1 a Sur) to the hikes. This is a street off the main road where several white minibuses wait. Each bus has its own destination. For these hikes you can take the bus to Bajo el Mono or Alto Quiel. The Bus to Bajo el Mono takes about 30 minutes, the shortest route. Both cost $2.50 per person, per ride. A cab to the hikes costs about $10 per ride. There is no schedule of departure times, but they leave about every 30 minutes.
The 3 waterfall and The Pipeline trail are both close to each other. So you might choose to hike them in 1 day, as both hikes require about 3 hours.
El Pianista hike
The El Pianista hike is a much acclaimed hike to the Del Pianista mountain peak and viewpoint . Most people rave about the hike where you walk through the green forest and really find yourself in the middle of nature. This is indeed true, but we also had a different experience.
Before we went on the hike we read up. In 2014, two Dutch girls Kris Kremer and Lisanne Froon started the hike, but never returned due to a tragic accident. However, since then many people have done the walk and we decided it was possible. If you are not sure if you want to walk the hike alone, you can ask a guide to walk with you. You walk up to the lookout point and then the same route back. Walking further into the jungle is not recommended, as the path gets worse there.
It is not an easy hike, especially in the rainy season. Count on about 4 kilometers out and an altitude difference of 605 meters. We walked in the rainy season and then you can count on a lot of mud, slippery stones and wet feet, as you cross several streams and rivers. It is also not a paved path, where you walk over boulders and stones. If you continue walking you can be at the top of the lookout point in 1.5 hours. Expect about 2 hours to walk down (in rainy season).
Good to know that the hike starts in the open field. There are no signs, but the path is pretty clear. At some point the path splits, then turn left into the woods. Once in the forest, there will be another fork in the road. At this fork it doesn’t matter if you go left or right, eventually the path will converge again. Turn left and you will pass a few houses where locals live. If you go right you will first cross a small river. On our instagram page, at highlights of Panama, there are photos and detailed information of the hike (in English).
How do you get there and back?
The hike starts on the left next to the Italian restaurant Il Pianista. You get to the restaurant by catching a minibus from the main street, next to Calle 1a Sur, that goes to Arcoiris el Bajo. The bus costs $2 and takes about 15 minutes.
In Boquete you will find several souvenir stores to buy the nicest memories of Panama. A more authentic spot is the souvenir market across the river from Caldera. Cross the bridge Puente Sobre el Rio Caldera and you walk straight into the market. You’ll find lots of clothing and blankets from Peru and Bolivia, among others, as well as many handmade items. Handmade by the various Indian tribes still living in Panama, the Embera Puru, Kuna and Guaymi Indians. If you speak a little Spanish or just in English it is very interesting to ask about the origin of the items. In this way, an initially plain embroidered dress still takes on more meaning.
In Boquete, you can do more than just hike. Tree Trek Boquete has a hotel, as well as 12 ziplines and 6 suspension bridges built into the mountains. A cool way to discover the area in a different way. For both activities, the ziplines and the suspension bridges, you will go on a guided tour. And learn more about the flora and fauna of the area. The cost of the activities is between $30 and $60 per person. You can book and reserve online. Don’t have transportation? Then you can use their transportation that leaves from downtown Boquete (from Kotowa Coffee House) for free.
Boquete is also a coffee region where much coffee is grown. Consequently, there are many coffee tours offered in the village. The most famous coffee is the Geisha coffee and is famous for the way it is made. It is therefore also called the “most luxurious coffee in the world. And it shows, a cup of coffee in the adjacent cafe quickly costs $10.
Food and drink
Boquete has many nice restaurants and cafes. Can’t choose? At RetroGusto and Daddy’s Grill, you can eat delicious food. And at Boquete Brewing Company, you’ll drink delicious home-brewed beer while listening to live music (at least Thursday through Sunday).
Good to know for Boquete
If you visit Boquete during the rainy season, it is good to know that in all likelihood it rains every day. The rainy season begins in April and ends approximately in October. Bring a raincoat and plan the activities in the morning. Often it starts raining at the beginning of the afternoon (or even at the end of the morning) and it can rain (hard) for the rest of the day. Outside of the wetness, the clouds do give a wonderful mysterious effect.
How do you get there and back?
You get to the Boquete by bus from David. The bus leaves every 30 minutes from the central bus station Terminal David (air-conditioned coach). You pay $1.75 for a one-hour ride.
Do you want to travel on from David? From the terminal, buses leave fairly regularly for Almirante (for Bocas del Toro, 4.5 hours and $10), the border with Costa Rica (Paso Canoas), Santiago and Panama City.