I did not expect to enjoy Boquete, a largely indigenous community in the mountains of Panama that has been rated one of the best places to retire by AARP. The town itself goes to sleep by 10:30 p.m. Far from retirement age, however, the lush green mountains and the flowers that bloomed in the town’s perpetual spring still enchanted me. In fact, Boquete is so beautiful that it commands a certain level of reverence… you simply have to stop and take it all in.
Looking back now, there are three aspects of Boquete that should not be missed:
1. The Food
Boquete provides everything from cheap street food to fine dining experiences. I recommend eating lunch at El Sabroson for no more than $3 a meal for a wide variety of local Panamanian dishes. After class, happy hour at Mike’s Global Grill from 4-7 p.m. is the perfect place to unwind with a glass of wine . However, the best part of Boquete is the endless amount of bakeries (perhaps it’s because of the high concentration of grandmothers baking in the area). One of my favorite bakeries for a mouth-watering dessert is Sugar & Spice bakery. There, everything from chocolate chip cookies to delicately buttered croissants fill the small bakery with heavenly aromas. The prices are a splurge compared to the local bakeries, but Sugar & Spice provides a great variety of freshly baked goods that will keep you coming back.
2. The Lost Waterfalls Tour
Take a hike to the three waterfalls via the breathtaking three-hour trail in a remote forest within the Falling Waters Nature Reserve. The trail retraces the steps of the Pre-Columbus indigenous communities that ventured deep into the forest to pan for gold in the river and extracted the red clay to make pottery. Hidden by a canvas of trees so tall and thick that a path through them is scarcely visible and enveloped in lush mountains painted every conceivable shade of green, each waterfall is breathtaking in its own right. Bring a bathing suit because you will surely be sweaty and dirty enough to take a leap into the icy cold waters to cool off in the waterfall.
3. A Coffee Finca Tour
Panama’s coffee- specifically the kind grown in Boquete- is considered some of the best in the world. The mountainside is dotted with coffee farms, large and small that provide tours. A personal favorite of mine is Sr. Tito’s small and quirky 5-hectare farm called Finca La Milagrosa. This farm produces 100% organic specialty coffee, including the famous Geisha coffee- a brand of specialty coffee prized for its delicate tea-like smooth taste and hefty price-tag ($9+ for a small cup). The process for going from coffee bean to coffee mug is laborious. It requires harvesting, drying, and processing before a single bean can be roasted. This entire process- from coffee bean to coffee cup- is what distinguishes a cup of coffee from Panama from Starbucks or Nescafe. The best part of the tour, however, is when the beans are roasted right in front of you so that you can try a cup of the coffee that you’ve learned so much about at the end of the tour!
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