BOQUETE is set in the tranquil Caldera Valley, 1000m above sea level. Some 37km north of David, it is the biggest town in the Chiriquí Highlands, and sits smack in the middle of Panama’s two coasts. The road to Boquete ends in the highlands, so those wishing to travel on to Bocas del Toro from here must go back to David before catching a bus onwards. The slopes surrounding the town are dotted with coffee plantations, flower gardens and orange groves, and rise to rugged peaks that are usually obscured by thick clouds. When those clouds clear, however – most often in the morning – you can see the imperious peak of Volcán Barú, which dominates the town to the northwest. Foreign investment targeting retirees from the US has flooded the area in recent years, seeing the construction of all-inclusive luxury condos and the clearing of cloudforest to make way for golf courses and retirement homes, causing various tensions within the community. For all that, Boquete remains an attractive destination offering a host of activities.
The main attraction of Boquete is the opportunities it affords for exploring the surrounding countryside. As well as the climb to the summit of the volcano – a strenuous day’s walk or a couple of hours on a bone-shaking drive – there are plenty of less demanding walks you can make along the narrow country lanes.
One of these walks, heading out of Boquete to the north towards the hamlet of Alto Lino, takes you past the Café Ruiz factory, a ten-minute stroll from town. Tours explore the coffee-making process.Read More
January’s Festival de las Flores y del Café (wferiadeboquete.com) sees Boquete’s otherwise tasteful and discreet appreciation of coffee and flowers give way to lusty, noisy rejoicing. Throughout the ten-day celebrations, which coincide with the coffee harvest, the local fairgrounds explode with flower fireworks – you’ll never see so many orchids – and the locals plant their own gardens accordingly. Stalls spring up selling food, handicrafts and coffee to the thousands of visitors wandering around, followed everywhere by loud, live music. In the evenings the rum is cracked open and people dance around the fairgrounds until dawn. Book accommodation well in advance and avoid the fairground area if you want to get any sleep.
The fairgrounds bloom again in April for the orchid festival, while the annual jazz festival in March is also a big crowd-puller (wboquetejazzfestival.com).