A more unknown destination and an absolute off the beaten track destination in Panama is Santa Fe. Santa Fe is located north of Santiago. Santiago is also not the most interesting city to be in, but a great base to go to Santa Fé. What to do in Santa Fe. Mainly hiking. The area is in the middle of the mountains and has some great hikes to (hidden) waterfalls. You can also stay in Santa Fe. Then keep in mind that it is a small village, with only a few restaurants.
To determine which hike you want to hike, you can use the Footpath app and the website www.santafevipservices.shoplinks.to/activitiesblog. On it, the author lists over 10 activities to do in the area. There are also clearly described hikes, each with a route that is displayed in the app Footpath. All you have to do is download the app and using the username and password on the site you can log in. Once logged in, you can use the website to view multiple hikes in the app. You can see the distance, number of altimeters and the route clearly displayed. An ideal way to keep an eye on your route while hiking.
The most famous hikes are El Salto de Bermejo waterfall (10.5 km from the center) and is a circular walk. Another is the El Salto hike to the waterfall. It has the difficulty level of medium to difficult and takes between 6 and 7 hours to walk. Alto de Piedra is a hike to a waterfall, where the first part can be done by cab. The route is 13 kilometers (there and back). The Golondrina Falls are located somewhat outside of Santa Fe and are best reached by private transportation. If you go by bus, get dropped off at Parada en el Bongo. It is a well-maintained trail over private property, with an entrance fee of $5.
All hikes are free. You may choose to shorten certain hikes by doing the first part by cab, since this involves walking on the road instead of a hiking trail. We chose the Bermejo Waterfall and found it a very cool hike. The waterfall is large and a bit hidden, but that’s what makes it so cool to be there.
Good to know that during the rainy season the trails can be muddy and slippery. Mainly the large rocks around the falls can be slippery. It is good to look at the weather conditions each day and decide which hike is possible.
How do you get there and back?
You get to Santiago by taking the bus from David. The bus to Santiago leaves from a different place that the fixed bus station. Walk toward the north east, and then across the road, at the exit, the buses to Santiago leave. Maps.me shows the location (bus to Santiago). The bus costs $9 and takes 3 hours. From Panama City/ Valle de Anton or Soná, buses also leave for Santiago. All fairly regular (about every half hour).
Santiago itself has a relatively large bus station. You can go in all directions here, closer and further afield. You can transfer to a bus to Panama City, Soná (to Santa Catalina), Valle de Anton and David. If you want to go to Santa Fé, take and white minibus that leaves every 30 minutes. It takes some searching, but on the pillars next to the buses are the destinations and on the wall are the schedules with when the bus leaves. You’ll probably find the bus to Santa Fé at the back of the line. The ride takes about 1.5 hours through beautiful mountain scenery and costs $2.90 per person. You arrive in the small town of Santa Fe. Visa versa, the same applies.