Written by buzz_1919 on 11 Nov, 2006
Setting It Up: While hiking the Mono trail, I ran into a couple from New York (T.J. and Bonnie) and the three of us decided that we would go white-water rafting together. When we got back to town and went to Panama Rafters to get…Read More
Setting It Up: While hiking the Mono trail, I ran into a couple from New York (T.J. and Bonnie) and the three of us decided that we would go white-water rafting together. When we got back to town and went to Panama Rafters to get signed up. As it turned out, there was another couple from Durango, Colorado who were signed up to go rafting, so we had a full boat.Panama Rafters is within walking distance of the main town square, located next to Java Juice on Main street. We got sized for the water shoes and helmets, paid the $90, and signed the "I won't sue if I die" forms. We were told to bring sun-screen, a hat, some dry clothes, water, and our passport/ID.
To The RiverThe next morning, Kevin picked me up at my hostel in his van and after picking up the other rafters we headed south to David. At David, we turned west on the Pan-American highway towards Costa Rica.
Along the way, we ran over some palm tree fronds and got a flat tire - had to stop and change it, and then were back on our way. A little later we pulled off the highway and took a dirt road to the entrance to the Chiriqui River.
The Raft Will Never FlipWhile the guides set up the raft, Kevin goes over the safety precautions and general rafting instructions. Having never rafted before, I didn't know what to expect, but when Kevin started explaining what to do if the raft flips over, I thought to myself "yeah right, we aren't going to flip over - give me a break."Kevin knows a whole lot about Boquete and the Chiriqui area. He only hires quality English-speaking, friendly guides and cares very much about the safety of his guests. Panama Rafters have excellent rafts in great condition. It was a pleasure to meet Kevin and I will gladly give him my business the next time I am in Panama.
The RiverAfter a good long rain the day before, we were assured that the Rio Chiriqui Viejo would not dissapoint, and from the very beginning I was extremely impressed. With my original expectation of looking around at the scenery and paddling every once in a while, I was delightfully surprised to find that I didn't have many opportunities to take in the beautiful landscape around me. Even with my digital camera in it's underwater housing secured to my life jacket within easy reach, I did not have more than half a dozen chances to snap a picture before I was being commanded to row again.
The river was almost non-stop rapids. Thankfully, Kevin had taught us the less-tiring way of paddling (using your whole body vs using your arms). Minute by minute the rapids kept coming, an hour later we were still paddling our way down the mighty river, giving paddle high-fives after each section we conquered.
River Stats:▪ 94 total rapids▪ A couple class V▪ Half a dozen class IV▪ Dozen or so class III▪ 17 miles long▪ 4 hours of rafting timeAbout two hours down the river, we steered over to a sandy bank and stopped for lunch. Consisting of sandwhiches, pineapples, juice, and snack bars - the lunch was perfect. After a quick rest on the bank of the river, we boarded the raft and headed back out. At one of the class IV rapids, we pulled the raft over to the side to scope out which path to take. The guides agreed on how to best manuever this area and we attacked it.
Oh My Gosh The Raft Just Flipped!It took me a moment to realize what had just happened when I hit the water. The raft flipped completely over without any warning whatsoever. In a second I was washing-machined 20 feet down the rapid before I was able to right myself and get my legs up (as Kevin had taught us). Bonnine was in front of me (which was upstream as I was going backwards) and she was in full-on panic mode. I have never seen eyes so big - I reminded her to keep her feet up and tried to calm her by joking about the flip, which helped a litte.Amazingly, I still had my paddle and my camera, and now all I had to do was make it down the rest of this rapid and swim to the side - easier said than done. I will admit that a slight (very slight) amount of panic coursed through my veins when it looked like I wouldn't make it to the shore and would be going through the next set of rapids raft-less. I made it safely to the shore, as did Bonnie, and even though we were a bit shook up, we were all smiles.
Written by Jose Kevo on 11 Aug, 2006
Like the clacks from a rollercoaster straining to overtake the summit, so goes the road to Boquete as battered school buses chug their way onward and upward through Panama's highest elevations. With excitement and suspense, nothing suggests exactly when or where this lofty settlement…Read More
Like the clacks from a rollercoaster straining to overtake the summit, so goes the road to Boquete as battered school buses chug their way onward and upward through Panama's highest elevations. With excitement and suspense, nothing suggests exactly when or where this lofty settlement will emerge from the imminent horizon. It never does. Hanging on with anticipation while duped into searching higher, a sudden plunge reassigns any preconceived notions as passageway spirals into the mountain village that's draped across an extravagant abyss that's anything but hell.The arrival is impressive, saying the very least, but nothing compared to actually stepping off the bus. Something's different, as blatantly subtle as when Dorothy opened the door to her far-flung, black-and-white Kansas homestead, and the vivid domain of Oz beckoned from beyond. The first impression is one of an uncanny shift you just can't quite put your finger on, and that's certainly not found on any guidebook map while trying to get your bearings.As the center of attention in the Central Plaza, yet so far removed like a spectator watching a daydream unfold, the surrealisms of Boquete have already began to cast their spells. Unshackled by soothing presence, temptations to linger serve no purpose towards getting settled, nor does the urge to pinch yourself. It's real, it's waiting, and the engaging stage has been set; as if just for you..._______________Living WatersMeditational CD selections often include the sedateful sounds of nature suggesting places we'd much rather be. Better than anything programmed into an iPod, the background soundtrack of Boquete is unfailing, and highly recommended over any headset! An abundance of chirps and chatters accent the stimulations which penetrate to the core of one's being, thanks to the Río Caldera; an alpine sensuality which tumbles from the upper realms before coursing with fervor through the soul of Boquete.Caldera signifies cauldron or kettle, but there's nothing boiling in this crisp mountain stream that begs to massage tired hikers' feet, or lull them to sleep at the close of another rewarding day. Even at the end of April's dry season, the potency was invigorating in both sight and sound; gentle roars carrying through-out the village and magnified by Dolby-quality echos off the surrounding slopes.And, that's not all. Boquete's ditches and low-lying areas further runneth over with Babbling Brooks draining through the valley; their lush banks just as inviting for the holistic relaxation of body, mind and spirit._______________Spic-and-SpanPart of Boquete's appeal was the groomed appearance of most everything; regardless of importance or significance. Locals and newly relocated expats take great pride in their community that maintains a sparkling expression thanks to industrious efforts, something highly commendable compared to shabbiness and discarded debris which often dominates Latin America. The school buses, which run between Boquete and David as public transportation, may have been broken down on the inside from heavy usage, but bands of youth were constantly washing them between runs._______________Upscale EleganceHotel Panamonte oozes with the charm and grace which define Boquete. This historic structure is located on the northern stretch of Avenida Central before the road sways towards the Río Caldera. Facilities are centered around a courtyard with beautiful gardens, and an expansive lawn which enhances seclusion. Within the town's city limits, it's the premier lodging option. In addition to offering Day Spa treatments, the hotel also organizes numerous excursions, including quetzal watching and coffee plantation tour packages at Finca Lérida, also owned by the same family._______________Yakkity YakAnd what ever you do, Don't Talk Back! Weekends in Boquete always take-on a carnival approach thanks to swarms of Ngöbe Buglé Indians which pour into town for market days. We'd missed the bulk of activities, but returned on a rainy Sunday afternoon just as everything was concluding. Lumbering in the street, across from the Central Plaza, was this monstrous creature! I'd never seen a yak, and became highly curious.Preparing to snap a photo, this little man grabbed my arm, held up a Polaroid camera, and insisted he would take the picture for $2. Explaining that I preferred using my own camera, he said the cost would be $1. Paying up, I went back to focusing when a small dispute broke out between the cameraman and yak owner. Apparently, he was supposed to take the picture using my camera while I was sitting on the yak. Otherwise, the owner couldn't claim his cut. There was brief hesitation when insisting I should mount the beast. Thankfully, a couple of others refueled the commotion, and I quickly fired the shot before skedaddling around the corner...
Coming to a town that's renowned for flowers and coffee, and sharing conversations over a cup of java with Boquete's "Flower Man", was one of those unlikely encounters that even locals and expats met with suspicious eyes. Nevertheless, Oscar Valentino is the essence of…Read More
Coming to a town that's renowned for flowers and coffee, and sharing conversations over a cup of java with Boquete's "Flower Man", was one of those unlikely encounters that even locals and expats met with suspicious eyes. Nevertheless, Oscar Valentino is the essence of these Chiriquí Highlands, both past and present. Not a day goes by that he can't be seen toddling through the streets, rain or shine, carrying a meticulous bouquet of flowers that he's helped himself to from people's yards and gardens.As to what he does with these flowers, no one seems quite sure and after several days of observances, I'm still not either. There were no sales ever made or even complimentary poesies offered to those he passed. Actually, it would seem this rugged old mountain man was given a wide path, licensed with the insolence that tends to greet perceived down-and-outers of the world.Justified or merely suspect, age has cordially liberated his need for anyone's approval. Uncertain mysteries only heighten potential shock values he conjures at will, nothing malicious, yet hinting of devilish gratifications perhaps enriching his life more so than daily rituals. Charged with purpose and self-sufficiency, Oscar Valentino certainly doesn't shy away from the spotlight he commands as Boquete's prime exhibition of Living History, even if he is a legend only by his own regards.During initial explorations, I was passing along Avenida Central when finding one of those tantalizing photo opportunities. A frail creature was stroking a four-legged companion, but further seizing attention was the striking bouquet of flowers lying off to the side. Sitting facing the other way, quick study surmised the midday sun had warranted a shaded breather from what was presumed to be yard work.Fumbling to retrieve camera, my subject had risen and was now delicately recompiling the floral collection. Distant click of the shutter announced presence, and the only thing more compelling than the profound eyes that locked into mine was the snow-white beard. So it wasn't a woman; didn't matter. The moment was spoiled from that self-inflicted guilt of shooting strangers in public, when no one's the wiser, and getting caught!There were no exchanges, and I busied myself with distractions in high-tailing it down the street. Intrigue warranted a second glance from another safe distance. This gentleman was headed my way at a snail's pace, and could surely be recaptured using a zoom lens. Of course, that's when the sidewalk generated probably the highest level of foot-traffic for the day, and the senior's shufflings seemed to involve walking with head down to assure ginger steps."Come on, come on..." when suddenly, this subject idol threw his head back to penetrate straight through the lens. A split-second of panic and indecision strickened until realizing this old geezer wanted his picture taken, and was striking an exaggerated pose as if I were paparazzi! With such invitation, the best opportunity would've included an entire portfolio, but the dog wouldn't cooperate, background interference kept coming, and suspect as hell about any potential photo fees, a quick shot sufficed. He actually thanked me before I could extend the same courtesy, and further mumblings were excused when rushing off.The following midday, an umpteenth wind was carrying through final stretches of a 20km ramble. Frivolities of food, shower and rest were waiting at the finish line back in Boquete, but there was no delirium when hearing someone desperately trying to get my attention in this area where I was still a newcomer. There, sitting under the shaded patio of Café Ruíz, was unmistakeably the same fellow, a signature bouquet laid on the table.With eyes like a hawk, the vigilante had spotted my passing even from quite the distance. Raising quite the ruckus while hoisting a coffee cup, invitation was apparent but untimely. Thoughts of consuming anything hot were nauseating, and any pause would've likely collapsed into unfinished business. I smiled and waved, feigning ignorance to anything else, but the playful distraction fueled those last kilometers. Who was this old man, that certainly seemed to get around even if it took all day for doing it?Propped up in the central plaza the following afternoon, fate charmed on this third consecutive day when glancing this new-found fixation meandering towards the park, bouquet in tow. There was no second guessing opportunity. Trying to anticipate his course of action, I should have known there'd be nothing predictable about this feisty old fart detouring away from any strategic positionings. After a third failed attempt of getting noticed, I threw caution to the wind and settled for the direct approach.Introducing myself, a snaggled-tooth smile lit up as if he'd been expecting me. My invitation for coffee didn't seem to register as this puzzling individual drew almost too close, like an animal whose only means of comprehension came through scent. By now, every eye in the surrounding area was zeroed in on the tourist towering toe-to-toe over the village jester. A scene was certainly unfolding when he abruptly swung his walking stick up in the air, breaking into a tirade that startled everyone.Talking gibberish, the crank began poking his stick through dead spots on overhead limbs as if enraged by conditions; commentary as indecipherable regarding puny-looking plants below. Wondering what I'd gotten myself into, focus was distracted by the growing audience. Re-declaring my coffee intentions for all to hear diffused any questionable predicament, but botany class had yet to be dismissed."¿Listo?", "ready", was eventually the first word which came out of his mouth that I understood. Waiting to escort my guest was met with indifference; my walking around to the steps while he opted for struggling over the wall like the old mountain goat that he was.Rushing across the street to Central Park Cafe, a pair of black coffees were ordered and the girl indicated she'd bring them out to the patio. Her smile warmed once seeing my guest and fuss made over getting him settled. He thanked me and readily helped himself to the sugar packets I had no intention of using. Preparing his cup of coffee like it was some type of magic potion, I watched in silence while trying to read between the lines of his weathered face. Once he'd savored the first taste, conversation was apropos through general acquaintance.So this was Oscar Valentino: an 89-year old native of these mountains surrounding Boquete. Through the highest esteem, probing questions would've been inappropriate so I let him talk between sips. Aside from proudly expounding his Spanish heritage, he was most enthused to divulge life's history as a musician involving guitar and piano. Particulars never went far, but it wasn't hard to imagine him creating music, countrified strains in whimsical settings of an era gone by. And like anyone disposed to the spotlight of performance, the streets of Boquete were now his stage for daily encores.Tattered appearance had also done nothing for depreciating his other well-rehearsed expertise. Oscar Valentino was a lady's man, nothing uncertain about it. Cultured as a Latin lover, he scoffed at mention of Rudolph as if to assert himself as the original that could still charm the pants off of anyone. I joked about him collecting the flowers for the ladies. He answered only with the debonair look of a rascal, not that a gentleman would ever kiss and tell. But even I was spellbound from the same suave arrogance he'd inflamed when lusting for the camera during our first encounter.With bouquet in hand, the tutorial resumed telling the flowers' names in Spanish, and intently listening to and processing the English equivalents. Rising from the lavender-hued collection was a plumed blossom he called pomarrosa in relation to manzana. A Canadian expat at the neighboring table, that had been all ears and eyes throughout parley, took that as cue to jump in by extending a bag of small rose apples which came from the plant producing this beautiful flower. His English spew of chatter, as if to really inform me about the individual I was sharing coffee with, was plausible even if the old codger didn't understand a word.Oscar had busied himself digging through pockets, and produced what I thought was a rose apple. The taste was gritty until realizing it was a freshly dug potato. He watched with approval at my gnawings; readily offering more. I countered with suggesting another cup of coffee. Making excuses, he didn't hesitate asking for money to buy a cup later. I pulled out $2; he only took one.Eyes are the windows to a person's soul, and boring deep into mine through his, he grasped my hand with genuine recognition. Drawing from Hemingway's Santiago and Manolo, the affect was stirring. Also, doomed once seeing him totter off like a rebel with sordid cause, stoked on a caffeine and sugar buzz more fresh than the bouquet he carried. A trio of teens scattered without him even acknowledging their presence, and I snickered with admiration.Close
As Panama's second-largest city, David has prospering commerce along Highway of the Americas, but otherwise it's a predicament of dusty streets circulating through a mini-metropolis of bedlam. There's nothing here to warrant an extended stay. Take a hint from the town's central plaza…Read More
As Panama's second-largest city, David has prospering commerce along Highway of the Americas, but otherwise it's a predicament of dusty streets circulating through a mini-metropolis of bedlam. There's nothing here to warrant an extended stay. Take a hint from the town's central plaza named Parque de Cervantes, but think Dante's Inferno! It's not the place you want to be, but unprepared travelers may find themselves stuck here for the night in trying to reach Boquete.Every mode of transportation must first arrive in David, including daily flights on Aeroperlas. Most travelers come on luxury motorcoaches from Panama City, and that's where schedules begin to break-down; especially for late arrivals.Once the sun goes down, bus service connecting to Boquete is unpredictable regardless of what schedules at the station says, locals' advice, or Lonely Planet's listing of 9:30pm for being the last run. Unless negotiating a minimum of $15 for a taxi to Boquete, staying in David could prove wretched; especially for budget travelers.AccommodationsPensión Clark (507-774-3452), located nearest to the bus station, and The Purple House were the two recommended places, but neither had weekday vacancies. They suggested Pensión Costa Rica; I don't!Another American and I split a "closet" for $9.20 that had enough room to walk in, set bags down, and step over them for crawling onto the foot of side-by-side cots. The springs sagged tortuously, the off-kilter fan served no purpose except generating clatter, and I've seen better out-houses than the shared bathrooms.After drowning ourselves on 40¢ beers across the street, we returned; afraid to even undress for lying on the stained sheets. Usually for exhausted travelers, any place can feel like the Hilton once the lights are out, but certainly not here. We left sweat-soaked at sun-up, without even brushing our teeth. So Not Recommended!David's Transportation CenterMost travelers will only endure the David bus terminal, which is a straight-forward encounter thriving with the typical Latin chaos of a very busy place. For naive passengers stepping off the bus, getting swept away in the sidewalk frenzy is guaranteed culture shock!The assortment of local Spaniards and indigenous tribe members, going about their daily routines, are harmless but impart an uneasy feeling with their constant gawking; only the brazen traveler would dare pulling out a camera. Crude measures of eateries and vendor boothes provide everything a person could need during any wait.The station is divided between two sections. The newer, modern terminal is where long-haul motorcoaches are based from. The older, larger area is where smaller buses and vans disperse through-out the Chiriquí province. All buses unload on the side closest to the street, and out-bound buses leave from the interior parking lot.Regional departures are easily determined from over-head signs lining the parking spots, and barkers call-out destinations. Ánden is the name for each boarding point. Boquete is #13. Schedules are posted for departures, but again--earliest times and later in the day are the most inconsistent. Safest bets are aiming for something after 7:00am and before 7:00pm.Broken-down school buses make the run to Boquete, cost $1.45, and were usually packed. There are no storage racks so travelers will need to cram luggage between/under seats or hold items.Arriving by MotorcoachMost travelers bypass Panama's interior, heading straight for David from Panama City. Hourly motorcoaches depart from the capital's Albrook Terminal, but timing is everything based on getting to David before services become unreliable.A pair of Express Buses depart nightly from Panama City at 10:45pm and midnight, taking 6 hours, including the 30-minute stop at a Roadside Plaza in Santiago. Cost is $15. Taking the midnight bus spares having to wait in David for the first "said" morning departure to Boquete, but keep these factors in mind for either of these late-night departures:
With Boquete up-and-coming as Panama's favored retirement destination for expats, the town's isolation is keeping pace with a growing number of services, including agencies handling legal and professional affairs. Travelers are also flocking to this base for explorations of the Chiriquí Highlands and Nacional…Read More
With Boquete up-and-coming as Panama's favored retirement destination for expats, the town's isolation is keeping pace with a growing number of services, including agencies handling legal and professional affairs. Travelers are also flocking to this base for explorations of the Chiriquí Highlands and Nacional Parque Volcán Barú. These days, there's hardly any need for back-tracking to David with these extras which provide travel-related necessities as well as helping pass the time.Boquete's Tourism CenterThe IPAT Cefati is located on a hilltop about a mile south of town, where overview of the village and Virgin statue mirador are more impressive than any information you'll find in the center. If there's one thing most needed, it's a decent map of Boquete and the surrounding areas. Most of Boquete's streets are unnamed and unmarked, but the biggest concerns are for heading out on side roads and trails, where signs and markers are often contradictory and unreliable.There's a small café in the center, with a nice outdoor balcony for enjoying snacks and coffee from homegrown beans. If you feel the need to come here, I suggest taking a $1 taxi. The walk isn't out of the question, but it trails along the narrow highway, with little shoulder room for dodging hectic traffic.
Travelers that need mass quantity of entertainment venues won't enjoy Boquete. The town is simple, unassuming, and shuts-down promptly at 10:00pm. Unless peace and quiet, and outdoor activities are what you're after, head for Bocas del Toro where the carousing never ceases.Sueños del Río and many other guesthouses provided VCR's for their patrons, and there was a surprising surplus of video rental stores scattered around town, most selections in English with Spanish subtitles.Several drop-in cantinas and hole-in-the-wall gathering spots are available, as well as a trio of pool halls along Avenida Central. When passing along one afternoon, I overheard a young tourist railing on her boyfriend for getting their pockets cleaned out. If you're foolish enough to take-on the local contingency, be prepared to bring your best game or be ready to add mountain sharks to the list of Boquete spectacles.
The Guide: When I arrived in Boquete I met Tony, a local guide who speaks English (read more about him in my Where there's a will... review). After checking into my hostel, Hostal Boquete, I met up with Tony to go hike the Bajo Mono…Read More
The Guide: When I arrived in Boquete I met Tony, a local guide who speaks English (read more about him in my Where there's a will... review). After checking into my hostel, Hostal Boquete, I met up with Tony to go hike the Bajo Mono Trail.
Quetzal!Not knowing much about birds, and not caring much either (sorry bird-watchers), I wasn't too worried about seeing the famous bird of Boquete - the Quetzal (pronounced "kate-zal"). I heard many stories of people dying to see one of these birds and hiking day after day just for a glimpse, disappointedly never seeing one. I probably make all those people very angry when I say that I got to see one after just 15 minutes of hiking. The bird is quite beautiful, and larger than I thought it would be - but honestly, I really don't understand the attraction to bird-watching (again, sorry).The Quetzal flew above us and landed on a tree about 20 yards away. Before I had a chance to get my camera out, it flew off in a flash of color back into the cloud forest. "Did you see that?!?!", exclaimed Tony with a giant smile - "You are very lucky!" Well... I like to think that it wasn't luck; rather it was due to my panther-like prowess.
What I did find interesting were the very large, extremely old trees on the trail. Some, according to Tony, were over 500 years old! The lush jungle that the trail cuts through is spectacular, and those gigantic trees were amazing to see, the pictures I took of them really didn't do them justice. What was really strange about those large trees was that they were home to upwards of dozens of other forms of vegetation including vines, moss, and even other types of trees.
Fresh WaterAlong the trail, there are moss-covered water pipes that lead back down the mountainous jungle towards Boquete. Fresh water supplying the town apparently, fed from the mountain spring water - there is no such thing as a water shortage in Boquete (as there in my hometown, Tucson).
The trail ends at the magnificent San Ramon waterfall. The water cascades down creating huge mist clouds that spread out into the jungle. The closer I got to the falls the wetter I became, and I was not able to get close-up shots of the falls for fear of damaging my camera. Time didn't allow much exploration around the falls area, but it appeared that there might be a way to hike to the top of the falls, providing, I am sure, an amazing view of the jungle landscape.
Rained OutIt started to sprinkle a little just after we reached the falls, and Tony suggested that we head back to town. As we started back, it really started to pour, and the jungle didn't provide enough cover to prevent us from getting completely soaked. Luckily, I had a plastic bag for my camera and wallet - and a dry set of clothes back at my hostel. Quickly but carefully so as not to slip, we made our way back to the main road back to Boquete.
This hike should have been done earlier in the morning. The afternoon rain cut it short and I did not have enough time in the Boquete area to do it again. When I return to Boquete, I will definitely venture up the Bajo Mono trail, but solo so I can take my time. There are also many other beautiful trails around Boquete deserving of exploration.
Written by Karla1516 on 15 Jun, 2010
I took a trip with Boquete outdoor adventures early this year and I couldn't have been more impressed, before I decided to go rafting I went to all three companies in Boquete and read the Tripadvisor reviews, that made my choice a lot simpler; One…Read More
I took a trip with Boquete outdoor adventures early this year and I couldn't have been more impressed, before I decided to go rafting I went to all three companies in Boquete and read the Tripadvisor reviews, that made my choice a lot simpler; One of the things that I loved about them was the security Kayaker who was with us during the whole trip who happens to be the owner of the company. Everything was well organized, from the departure, the equipment been ready when we arrived at the starting point, the lunch been very healthy to even the shuttle ready to go when we finished the trip.It was a thrill to raft with them, it really turn my trip around!I really love this company and I wish everyone that goes rafting in Boquete go with them.Close