Upon arrival in Panama you probably will be really excited for the warm and sunny weather. However, that excitement will likely wear off after about two weeks–a month tops. Waking up in sweaty clothes loses it’s luster at about the thirty day mark, when you will begin looking for viable alternatives– sleeping with frozen towels, sleeping in your bathing suit, sleeping in the refrigerator. (Ok, so maybe I’m exaggerating, it’s not that bad). This is when it is time for you to visit Boquete, and while it may seem dramatic to bus 7 hours to beat the heat, it’s not.
Located next to Panama’s tallest peak Volcan Baru, Boquete offers a plethora of fun activities as well as excellent people watching opportunities. Numerous tour companies offer fun outdoor activities such as ATV tours, waterfall hikes, hot spring and mini canyon tours, zip lining, rafting, bicycling and scooter rentals. Another popular activity, which I did, was a coffee tour. Even if you aren’t a huge coffee drinker (I don’t drink coffee), the tours can be interesting from a historical and socioeconomic standpoint. Coffee has played a huge role in certain Latin American societies making its history and current realities interesting to learn about.
Other personal highlights in Boquete were the strawberries and blackberries. Take advantage while you are here because these are hard to find in other parts of Panama, and seriously–the blackberries were the best blackberries I’ve ever eaten (called mora in Spanish). Check out the Mercado Municipal for fresh fruit and vegetables. For some tasty bites check out Sugar and Spice for breakfast and lunch. Big Daddy’s was a seafood place, but they also had a handful of vegan and vegetarian options. If you haven’t gotten tired of rice, the cheapest places by far to get your fill are the cafeterias on the main avenue in Boquete.
One of the most interesting things you will notice about Boquete is the large amount of ex-pats from the US living in the area. After Panama was named one of the best places to retire, retiring US citizens flooded into the area. I found that it provided excellent people watching opportunities. It may or may not be safe to assume that the older Americans who decide to retire in a foreign country like Panama are pretty interesting and eccentric unless it is Panama that has made them so. Watching the interactions and social dynamics of the ex-pats with the town was very interesting. While we were in Boquete there was a “jazz” festival organized by the ex-pat community there. An example of an event was a free concert in the main square. The audience was a mix of dancing ex-pats, unsuspecting back-packers, Ngöbe-Buglé, and other Panamanians. Another event was a New Orleans style parade along the main avenue, which again consisted of mostly ex-pats marching down the main avenue playing various instruments. If you are a people-watching enthusiast Boquete will definitely not disappoint.
Boquete is an enjoyable reprieve from the heat of the city, valley and San Miguel. This blog post only scratches the surface of the many things you can do during your visit. Don’t let the city’s reputation as a gringolandia deter you from visiting because it is this very presence that provides excellent people watching and entertainment.