When I was packing for my trip to Panama, I asked Alexa, “what is the weather in Boquete Panama” and she informed me she hadn’t heard of that place before. That is because I wasn’t saying it right! It’s pronounced “bow-ket-tay”. That is the first of many things I got wrong about this cute little Panama town. I want to give you a few Boquete travel tips so you know the general info about the place but also a list of the top things to do in Boquete, Panama so you can see which ones you’re most interested in.
Boquete has a lot to do. Some of the things to do in Boquete are awesome and hardcore adventure and others are a very slow easy adventure. So, you can decide yourself which ones suit your travel style and budget. You certainly don’t need to do it all and really taking time to just enjoy the town is also important.
We had just 3 days/2nights here so not a lot of time to try all the activities but for me, it was enough time overall and we chose what was important to us. You can read my whole Panama 2.5 week itinerary next week when I post it! I’m going to start this Boquete travel guide by sharing an intro to the town, how to get there, where to eat, and where to stay, followed by a list of the top things to do.
Boquete Travel Guide
Intro to Boquete Panama
The first thing I think I need to mention about Boquete is that it’s the “expat” place in Panama. Of course, Americans come into Panama City for work, but Boquete is where Americans come to retire. This means that some of the cute cafes and top restaurants are owned by Americans and full of retirees. This isn’t a bad thing – but it’s worth mentioning in case you think this is a very “off-the-grid” super local type of place. It’s definitely an easy place to travel, has good food, and is set up well for tourism. I was told that the AARP mentioned Boquete as a top place to retire due to it’s clean air, green grass, nice people, cost of living, and more – and I can definitely see it.
The other thing to note is that this is a tiny town. You will want to look at it on a map, the town sits in a valley and you can easily walk around the whole place. You won’t need taxis at all while here unless you are switching hotels. You can rent a scooter or 4-wheeler to get around quicker which would actually be a lot of fun! While we were there, they were fixing up the roads so it wasn’t a possibility. You would need a taxi or bus if you wanted to leave town and there are some cool places outside town worth leaving for.
In terms of safety, it seems to be very safe however it’s worth noting that two girls did go missing (either they got lost and feel or some say they were murdered) while hiking on their own around the volcano. You DO need to take a guide when you go hiking! The area has flash floods, is a dense forest, and is rough to hike. But in terms of crime, overall, it does seem very safe and I would imagine that was a one-off type of thing.
Boquete is known for its adventure activities, hiking the Baru volcano, coffee, and just being a new type of region to explore. You have the Caribbean with Bocas Del Toro and San Blas, the Pacific with Gulf of Chiriqui, and the city life in Panama City – so Boquete is the place to go int he mountains (hills) to have a new side of Panama. It’s 100% worth going to and I think the small-town charm just sets it apart from anywhere else we visited. It really rounded out the trip. Definitely, make time for at least two days here. Don’t let the expat scene put you off – I just think it’s worth noting – it’s really a cute charming little place.
How to get to Boquete
Panama is a pretty small country so overall you really don’t need to stress about transportation. There are tourist shuttles that you can book in any town for usually around $30 between all these places. They are not that enjoyable though and basically for backpackers – just FYI! There are also local buses but they take a bit longer and are just a few dollars.
If you are coming from Panama City, I highly recommend flying from the small domestic Albook Airport with Air Panama to David Airport. This is around $100. You can then take a taxi to Boquete or ask your Boquete hotel to come to pick you up. If you’re on a budget, there is a local bus that charges $3 for the 45-minute ride.
Where to stay in Boquete
This is by far the most famous hotel in Boquete. I know I write about loving hotels a lot and really not even just the luxury or the rooms – I have never walked into a property and just been so in love with it. I kept saying to Silvia “I love it here!”. The hotel is in a little cottage like home, painted light blue with white shutters. The garden is pure magic (not surprised they have weddings here). The rooms are huge with patios, fireplaces, and hammocks outside and a big bathroom with a jacuzzi. The rooms are huge with a king size bed and day-bed. I just adored this place. It was so cozy. Panamonte also has a popular little jazz bar and the most famous restaurant/chef in the town here at the hotel restaurant.
Check availability, rates, and book here. You’ll see prices around $150/night which includes breakfast.
We also stayed at Casa Azul which was located a little more toward the center of town, but like I said you can walk from anywhere here. This is the most adorable B&B and the family that run it are so sweet. It’s a bright blue house with rooms that are so authenticly decorated and without even trying could be in a design magazine. It’s very old-fashioned and breakfast is served out on the back garden patio with other guests. The dog, Rusty, is the cutest and you even get Netflix in your room. You can book a room in the house or the cabin which is outside for a whole family or group of friends. Prices for one room are around $70-100 per night and the cabin would be a good deal for friends to split (maybe cheaper than a hostel).
If you want a budget option, check out the listing on Hostelworld for dorms under $15.
Where to eat in Boquete
The Panamonte – This is the hotel that I mentioned above and we had an amazing dinner here. Highly recommend. Come early and have a drink by the fireplace at the bar.
Boulder 54 – This is a fine-dining place down by the river that has amazing food – please try the potato soup! It’s run by an expat and has live music, a cool chill romantic scene. Come for a drink, too!
Sugar and Spice – If you want a quick Western lunch, pop in here. It’s run by an expat as well and has a Mexican menu with burritos, tacos, etc or a sandwich menu like a classic turkey ciabatta.
La Pousada – We had pretty tasty pizza here and really tasty nachos. They have a very intercontinental menu (a bit of everything).
Nuestro Cafe – You’ve got to try cafeteria-style dining while in Panama! This is where the locals pop in for a quick, cheap bite on their way to work. We hit this up before heading out for our adventure activities in the morning and it was perfect.
El Puente Cafe – This is the most popular place for real Panamian food like a plate of beans, rice, fried plantains, and more, located right on the river.
La Viuda Del Cafe – This means “coffee window” and is a cute place to go try the local brews, like the famous Geisha coffee.
Gelateria La Ghiotta – You’ll notice that in Panama, people love ice cream. This was a good little gelato place (not amazing but nice) and had a fun vibe inside.
Fresas Mary – Fresas means strawberries and Boquete is all about the fresas. This is the most popular place for a sundae!
Others that were highly recommended to us by locals there were: The Rock, Big Daddy’s Grill, Mike’s Global Grill, ll Pianista, Butcher Chophouse, and the very popular Boquete Fish House.
Things to do in Boquete, Panama
I’m going to give just a small blurb for each thing because most of these are pretty self-explanatory. Many are just able to be booked in tourist agencies or if you want, online through TripAdvisor or Viator. You cannot negotiate the rates now as the agencies have set rates. Most companies are listed on TripAdvisor and there are a few companies that offer the same thing, so I linked to the company that is the best one for that activity.
1. Hike Baru Volcano
This is the most famous thing to do in Boquete, but actually many people don’t do this because it’s a two-day hike unless you do the more expensive option of hiring a 4×4 to take you most of the way up the summit and just hike the last little bit. You can actually see both oceans from the summit.
You can raft the Chiriqui Viejo River. Viator has a low-price guarantee for $65 if you book online. Here is the link. You can also check out their reviews on TripAdvisor or book there. The company is Boquete Outdoor Adventures. We met the owner, who is from Colorado, at lunch by chance and he seems really nice. He also runs a no-kill dog shelter in town.
The ziplining is through Tree Trek Boquete and you can book on TripAdvisor ahead of time. This is the most popular thing to do it seems with so many people at their office to head out. We went with them, but to do the hanging bridges tour (more on that later).
4. Coffee tour at Finca Dos Jefes
There are so many coffee plantations but this is the best one to go to in Boquete. It’s a do not miss! You can book this on TripAdvisor and read more reviews there.
5. Hiking the Quetzal Trail
Located in the Barú Volcano National Park, you can hike a trail at the base of the volcano. But due to temperature drops and flash floods you really need to hire a guide.
6. Chocolate-making class
You can do a chocolate-making class at The Perfect Pair right in the center of town. Boquete is known for both it’s chocolate and it’s coffee.
7. Quad ride
You can rent quads on your own or you can do a quad tour into the forest with a guide. There are little places all along the main road renting them out.
8. Caldera Hot Springs
Just outside of town, are the Caldera Hot Springs. We didn’t go due to lack of time and it taking over an hour to get there. You can do tours, but if you take a local bus it’s just $2 for the bus and $2 to enter but it’s going to take up your whole day.
9. Hanging bridges
These are the second longest and highest hanging bridges in Central America. It’s really beautiful and while on the tour, you also learn about the flora and fauna. This is also through Tree Trek Boquete (the same as the zip-lining) and costs $30 to do.
10. In February, Enjoy the Jazz Festival
There is a jazz and blues festival in February where some of the top performers in the world come to play.
11. Horseback Riding
Horseback riding is common here and you’ll see locals riding their horses on the road like real cowboys. You can book through Explora Ya Eco-Tours on TripAdvisor.
12. Swim in a River Gorge
Ask locals where Los Cangilones de Gualaca is, and get a taxi to take you there. It’s a river gorge you can swim in. Take a picnic!
On the way to the waterfalls is a rock-climbing wall. You can stop here on your own or plan a tour from town with an agency
14. Go Chasing Waterfalls
There are some popular waterfalls called the Lost Waterfalls, or “cascadas”, in Spanish. To get there and back requires a hike that is 3 hours in total. You can guess I skipped this one! Love a waterfall, but that’s a long hike haha. Some people say it was their favorite thing, though!
15. Visit a Bee Farm
You can visit a bee farm to see how honey is made and why bees are so important to our ecosystem at Boquete Bees.
16. Shopping in Boquete
Believe it or not, this is the best place to do shopping. Because it’s not touristy and not as crowded, prices are lower and locals are more friendly than Panama City or Bocas Del Toro. There is a popular Tuesday market but we weren’t there on Tuesday and there is still a big market near the center of town with about 20 shops set up. Here’s a bit of what you can buy:
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