My wife and I embarked on a journey from Panama City to Boquete, and from the moment we set foot in this charming highland town, it felt like we had stepped into a cool, refreshing pool on a sweltering 90-degree day. Boquete’s unique appeal lies not only in its pleasant climate but also in the way it slows down time, embracing a more relaxed way of life. The oppressive humidity of the lowlands dissipates, and you are greeted by the lush, vibrant jungle that envelops the town.
Boquete is divided primarily into two areas, Alto Boquete (upper) and Bajo Boquete (lower). Most of the town’s shops and restaurants are nestled in Bajo Boquete. The main street, Via Boquete, is perfect for leisurely strolls and is lined with lovely shops and restaurants. As we explored the culinary scene, we discovered a delightful mix of cuisines, including Italian, American, Mexican, and, of course, authentic Panamanian dishes featuring rice, beans, plantains, and meats. We savored Italian flavors with a local twist at Retro Gusto and enjoyed a memorable dining experience at Christopher’s. What stood out at every restaurant was the excellent service. While the sidewalks may not resemble what we’re used to back in the States, walking the streets is a unique adventure, especially if you’re in no hurry. Some locals opt for flip-flops, but I preferred sandals to avoid any unwanted toe-stubbing incidents.
Driving around Boquete is not particularly challenging, as long as you are patient and can decipher the non-verbal cues. In many intersections, you won’t find signs or traffic signals, so I learned to slow down and wait to see if any oncoming cars were approaching or if the driver ahead was going too fast. When attempting to merge onto a busy street, I initially waited for a gap in traffic, mimicking the American way, but much to my surprise, often, cars would halt and graciously allow me to merge. In Boquete, it’s more of a gentle trickle of traffic than a chaotic stream.
A short drive from the town, you’ll find several Finca Cafes, or coffee farms, which are absolutely worth a visit. One such gem is Finca Lerida, offering not only a resort but also a delightful restaurant and hiking trails. The hike through the farm and into the jungle provides breathtaking views and relatively easy walking, though some uphill terrain awaits you. If you decide to take the branch leading to the waterfall, be prepared for a bit more challenging, but entirely rewarding, 35-minute trek. We also signed up for a finca tour at the Don Pepe Estate, which included a coffee tasting. It felt much like savoring different wines at a winery. Rows of freshly roasted coffee were presented before us, each inviting us to explore their unique aromas, followed by the rich taste and comparisons.
English is Widely Spoken
The language barrier was hardly a concern in Boquete, as many locals in shops, restaurants, and hotels spoke English, much more than we had encountered in Panama City. Our feeble attempts at Spanish were met with patience and friendly guidance on improving our pronunciation. I had initially anticipated a degree of resentment from the locals towards us “gringos,” given the substantial number of Canadians, Americans, and Europeans who have made Boquete their home. However, contrary to my expectations, we felt genuinely welcome, and our overall experience in Boquete was, in nearly every way, “gringo amistoso” – friendly to foreigners.
Boquete, Panama, boasts a charming array of hotels that offer an unforgettable stay amidst the country’s lush highland beauty. Nestled in the picturesque Chiriquí Province, these accommodations cater to a diverse range of travelers, from cozy boutique inns to upscale resorts, each providing a comfortable and serene base for exploring the region’s coffee farms, cloud forests, and outdoor adventures. Whether you seek relaxation or adventure, Boquete’s hotels are sure to enhance your visit to this enchanting Panamanian destination.
Villa Alejandro – Boquete – Price: Starting at $54 per night.
Hotel Central Boquete – Price: Starting at $49 per night. No-frills rooms in a relaxed hotel offering free breakfast, a restaurant & a hot tub.
The Inn at Palo Alto – Price: Starting at $109 per night. Relaxed riverside hotel offering free breakfast & a lounge, plus an outdoor pool & tropical gardens
Hotel Valle del Rio – Casual rooms with balconies in an informal riverfront hotel offering a casino & a restaurant. Price: Starting at $61 per night.
Villa Alejandro – Boquete – Price: Starting at $51 per night.
Valle Escondido Resort Golf & Spa – Genteel property offering a restaurant, a spa & an indoor pool, plus a golf course & tennis. Price: Starting at $171 per night.
Panamonte Inn & Spa – Unpretentious option offering plush rooms & suites, plus a spa, a refined restaurant & a formal bar. Price: Starting at $148 per night.
Beyond coffee, Boquete boasts a diverse culinary landscape, featuring a mix of international and local flavors. From farm-to-table restaurants serving freshly harvested ingredients to charming bistros offering homemade pastries, and street vendors dishing out traditional Panamanian treats, Boquete’s dining scene is a flavorful journey for every palate.
Big Daddy’s Grill: Known for its delicious seafood and friendly atmosphere, Big Daddy’s Grill offers a variety of fresh seafood dishes, including ceviche and grilled fish. It’s a favorite among both locals and tourists.
The Rock: The Rock is famous for its wood-fired pizzas and an extensive wine list. It’s a cozy restaurant with a beautiful mountain view, making it a popular choice for a romantic dinner.
Il Pianista: If you’re in the mood for Italian cuisine, Il Pianista is a great choice. They serve authentic Italian dishes in a charming setting. Their pasta and pizza are particularly well-loved.
Finca Lerida Café & Restaurant: Set in a coffee plantation, this restaurant offers a unique dining experience. You can enjoy a farm-to-table meal with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. They also have a great selection of coffee.
Sugar and Spice: If you have a sweet tooth, Sugar and Spice is a lovely bakery and cafe to visit. They offer a variety of pastries, cakes, and baked goods, along with coffee and light meals
Boquete, with its cool climate, lush landscapes, and warm-hearted residents, turned out to be an unexpected delight. The journey from Panama City to this idyllic town was a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle, a journey filled with culinary delights, enchanting hikes, and warm encounters that left us eager to return and explore even more of what this enchanting corner of Panama has to offer.
Contributed by Eric Nisley