The small Central American nation of Panama has a relatively new reputation of being “not for tourists.” According to Visit Panama (the national tourism board), this destination is rather for “Explorers,” “Sunchasers,” “Culture seekers,” and “Travelers.” In other words, authenticity and adventure are bound to encapsulate you from the moment you step off of that airplane.
This is especially true for those who choose to spend time in the breezy inland town of Boquete. Stationed directly in between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea in the cool, mountainous region of Chiriquí, this is the perfect location for those of us who like to get outside and enjoy all of the excitement nature has to offer.
Go Rock Climbing
One of the most thrilling, challenging, and worthwhile experiences to undertake in Boquete would definitely be rock-climbing. There are loads of places just around town with beautiful walls of abstract rock formations just waiting to be scaled. Even one short stretch of rock will offer climbs for many different skill levels, meaning this is an activity that everyone can take advantage of, even those who are disabled.
Break a sweat, push your body to its limit, get a few blisters, and reward yourself with a spectacular view of the Panamanian mountains after reaching the top of your climb. Tours run at a quite affordable rate, averaging at around $45 per 5-6 hour tour (all gear, instruction, and professional guides included). This is definitely a do-not-miss excursion!
Hike to the Lost Waterfalls
Perhaps the most popular outdoor activity in the Boquete area (and for a good reason) is the Lost Falls Trail. Plenty of tour companies offer organized trips, but this is more of a DIY adventure, as planning it out is both easy and cheaper than booking a tour. This hike is considered easy-moderate, takes about three hours to complete, and will lead you to not one, not two, but three separate waterfalls along the way.
Cross over a suspension bridge, duck under hanging vines, and make your way over exotic greenery littered with wildflowers before reaching these gushing visions straight out of your wildest fantasies. Immerse yourself in the Panamanian wilderness and go for a brisk dip while relaxing underneath the cloud forest canopy, but don’t forget to keep an eye out for sloths and quetzals in the meantime!
Go Whitewater Rafting
Get your heart pounding, your adrenaline pumping, and your clothes soaked by spending a day rushing down the continuous class III rapids in what is one of the best rafting destinations on Earth. The Chiriquí province homes several world-class whitewater runs; the river you’ll take a trip down simply depends on rainfall, season, and overall water levels.
Between your options of Rio Chiriquí Viejo, Rio Fonseca, Rio Gariche, and Rio Chiriquí among others, you’ll no doubt have the time of your life whipping around bends and flying over boulders while enjoying some of Panama’s best scenery. Many tour operators in the area also include a buffet lunch in the price of the tour, meaning you’ll get to take a midday break from paddling to sit riverside and eat to your heart’s content in the serenity of the Panamanian jungle. If it’s hours of all-inclusive excitement you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place!
Hike up a Volcano
The most notorious hike in Boquete, and perhaps in all of Panama, lies in plain sight of Boquete town on Volcán Baru. Daring hikers pull all-nighters to make the most of their time at the peak by scheduling their arrival at sunrise. However, because this is a 27km trek from around 3,000ft all the way up to 11,398ft and back down again, this means beginning the journey at 11:30 PM the night before. Oh, and it’s probably worth mentioning that the peak rarely reaches temperatures above freezing!
It is important to acknowledge that this hike is pitch black, often slippery, has a steep incline and elevation increase, and is in an area with temperamental weather conditions. It is not recommended that non-professionals attempt this journey if it is raining or if the winds are powerful, as this poses the threat of you getting stuck at the top of the volcano during a storm (which could lead to hypothermia, altitude sickness, and more dangers related to the flooding of the trails). However, if the weather does permit, prepare yourself with a bright headlamp, snacks, water, warm layers, and probably some toilet paper, and hit the trails right as bedtime rolls around.
By the time you reach the top, the sun will just be peeking over a layer of clouds swirling thousands of feet below you. Snap some pictures of the incredible view, then warm back up on the well-lit descent. It is a gorgeous and flourishing green trail that you’ll be glad you got to witness with the sun out before returning to your hotel to sleep for the rest of the day.