Chugging along on a chicken bus, being squeezed from all sides is a Central America experience not to be missed and is the perfect way to venture to Boquete, a highland town in the Chiriqui Province, many miles west of Panama City and not far from the border with Costa Rica.
Before I went to Panama I really only knew it for the famous canal and equally famous and notorious border with Columbia, so to find there is a stunning mountain region where the air is fresh and the scenery lush was quite a surprise.
Not so surprising to ex pats and retirees, particularly Americans, who have been relocating here in their droves, attracted by the temperate climate and inexpensive property prices, albeit demand has probably pushed the costs up over the past few years. For visitors outdoor pursuits are an obvious draw here. Whether you favour mountain climbing, hiking, horse riding, whitewater rafting, rock climbing or golf, all options are available, not far from town.
If the more active pursuits aren’t for you, a visit to a coffee plantation is another very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, particularly as Boquete coffee is very highly rated. In fact if you’re short on time, as I was, you can take a fairly short walk out of town up to the Cafe Ruiz coffee plantation. On route there are great views to be had and once there you can take the tour or just try some of their award winning coffee in the cafe.
Just a little further up the hill is a quirky garden filled with Boquete’s other plentiful product, flowers. Mi Jardin es Su Jardin translates literally as My Garden is Your Garden and is a fabulous private estate. The house isn’t open for view but you can spend plenty of time wandering the extensive gardens filled with colourful flower beds and just as colourful statues of animals.
Back in town it doesn’t take long to do a circuit, there are really just a few blocks in the centre, but its quite a nice meander. Along the way there’s a brilliant little bakery and cafe on Main Street called Sugar & Spice which is the perfect pit stop to sit outside and sample more of Boquete’s freshly brewed coffee, freshly baked bread and fresh mountain air.
Getting to Boquete from Panama City involves a bit of effort – a flight or bus to David and then the chicken bus up into the misty mountains – but if you have the time and the inclination it’s a really rather nice place to while away a couple of days.
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