Coffee country again! Yes!!

Trip Start Apr 21, 2010
Trip End Jun 29, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hostal Gaia

Flag of Panama  ,
Saturday, May 29, 2010

The bus ride from Bocas del Toro to Boquete had amazing views of Panama's mountains. First a boat from Bocas to Almirante, then a bus ride to David where we changed busses to finally get to Boquete for an overall travel time of just over 6 hours. There was a few times I thought the minibus to David would't make it as there are many steep, steep roads and overdrive was heavily used.

Going from Bocas to Boquete reminded me a lot of the Corn Island to Matagalpa trip previously in Nicaragua. We went from blazing hot at sea level to refreshingly mild up in the mountains. Boquete town center is about 1000m above sea level and the temperature was around 20-25 depending on how cloudy it was.

The bus drops you off right in the middle of town at the central park. We began our search for a place to stay. Directly adjacent to the park are 1 hostel and 1 hostel/hospedaje. The hospedaje was pretty run down but the owner was extremely nice. The hostel was a classic youth backpackers place with free net, free pancake brekky and lots of dorms with what appeared to be decent beds. It was called Mamallena I believe and they have a second hostel in Panama City. There are a bunch of hostels further south just off the main road. They are all pretty close so you can shop around. We stayed at Hostal Gaia, which was immaculately clean. The dorms are $12/night and has a nice common kitchen and movies to watch. We grabbed a private with bathroom for $25/night, low season price.

Boquete was voted 4th best place in the world to retire by some magazine, I can't recall the name, but this has brought a lot of older ex-pats to the area. I can understand wanting to retire here as the temperature is moderate, the scenery is amazing, and the community seems pretty decent. Of course, the fact that you can go from living as a middle to low class retiree in America to a sultan in a 4 bedroom palace on a hilltop with 10 acres and live-in maids must also be a draw...

Lots to do around here, we went for a nice hike up a trail to a wonderful waterfall. There is no swimming pool here but I did manage to go walk underneath it and take a cold shower! The hike is either apart or beside the famous Queztal trail. It takes about 45mins or so each way to get to the waterfall, definitely worth the walk. We also visited a coffee farm with immaculate gardens and gorgeous views of misty deep green mountains. We had a quick bite to eat in their hilltop restaurant, which was really nice.

We also rented a scooter from our hostal for $15/day and headed down to Caldera where there are natural hot springs. These springs are on private property but the owner allows public to come enjoy the springs for a small fee of $2/person. The springs are completely undeveloped, basically a hot stream pools occasionally and creates a small pool. There are various pools with varying temperatures. Apparently they get as hot as 40+ degrees Celsius according to the owner. We enjoyed one that was about 30 degrees. These springs have the claim of providing health benefits due to all the minerals from the Volcano, you can smell the sulphur! Quick warning, the owner is super nice but he will try to sell you a horse back tour or something other activities; he just keeps talking to you forever about it.

On the way back from the springs, we saw a HUGE tarantula skit across the road in front of our scooter and we stopped to take pictures. It was easily bigger than my hand and it just stayed there on the side of the road and wasn´t bothered by us, our flashes, or the scooter when we drove away...Yikes!

Boquete is also littered with a bunch of coffee plantations. You can sign up for a tour for $25-$35pp. The best deal we saw was offered by the Hostal Boquete who´s tour included the usual seeing the production and tasting but you also got a parting gift of a couple packages of coffee beans and some other trinkets!

All in all, if the weather had cooperated a little bit better we would have stayed longer because it is a beautiful town. Unfortunately the rainy season seems to be kicking in so we decided to head back to sea level and try to catch a little bit more sun while we can. Off to Panama City!

Safe travels,
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