Boquete – Driving Panama

The main word I could think of to describe Boquete besides ‘gorgeous’ is ‘charming’.  Nestled at the bottom of a valley surrounded by lush, tropical rain forest mountains the town has narrow roads that lead through windy terrain that appears to go on forever.

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“I can understand why people are flocking to retire here!” I stated as The Beard and I crested the last hill before arriving in Boquete.  Laid out before us was a brightly colored town in the bowl of a lush, green mountain range.

The whole town is alive with color!  The central garden park is charming with creative statues and plaques giving information about the area.  There are flowers literally everywhere!

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With moderate temperatures, a nicely balanced climate and plenty to do and see, Boquete should be on every Panama traveler’s list of places to see.

Shops selling everything from alpaca hats, gloves and sweaters to electronics line the streets.  The smells of Panamanian cooking waft on the wind from the restaurants sprinkled up and down the main street.

Street markets with an incredible selection of flowers lined side roads.  The variety of colors seemingly everywhere was a visual thrill ride!

Without hotel reservations or any idea of where to stay, we decided to pop into a corner coffee shop.  Immediately, a young lady seated at a table by the window said, “Are you, so-and-so?”

“Sorry, no. I see you speak English.  Do you have anywhere you can recommend for accommodations?” I asked, trying to keep my focus on her response instead of letting my eyes wander around the coffee house.  The pastries looked and smelled so delicious!

“I don’t live here.  I have been waiting for this person for a while.”, she explained as she pulled out her phone.  “I will text her and see what is happening.”  Turning her attention to her phone left me free to gaze around the small, industrial feeling space.

Decorated with dark wood and plenty of ceramic tiles, the coffee shop was like walking back in time into some sort of coffee swilling saloon with just the right touches of colorful decor to bring the face of the business solidly into the future.

The Beard ordered our coffees while I sat at a table.  Just then a couple walked through the door and greeted the waiting young woman.  Listening to the couple order beverages, I noticed they could speak English and I interrupted their conversation to ask the same question to the nicely dressed man standing by while his wife talked with the young woman in Spanish.

“I am actually a Realtor here in Boquete”, he replied as he reached into his inside jacket pocket and handed me a business card.  “I can’t recommend any places to stay, but if you are looking to buy, please shoot me an email.”

I had heard that Boquete was quickly becoming a retirement destination for many nationalities.  Boquete is not only picturesque, the temperatures very rarely waver from a solid 26 degrees centigrade.  The heat and humidity gather up over the day releasing a refreshing rain overnight, which cools things down and reduces the need for air conditioning expenses.

Leaving the customers to their meeting, The Beard and I decided to enjoy our coffee on the small patio parallel to the busy sidewalk.  We took in the sights and sounds of cars and people going up and down the road.

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Boquete is a wonderful place to visit and explore.

By the time we returned inside, the young woman, the realtor and his wife were gone.  In their place was an older lady reading the local paper and sipping an espresso.

“I guess we better get online and find a place to stay,” I said to The Beard.  “Let’s do it here where there is free wifi and it’s quiet.”

“I know a lovely place you can stay.” the lady at the corner table offered.

“Really?  That would be great!  Is it close?” I turned my chair to face her while The Beard was on his phone pulling up various hotel websites to search.

“Yes.  It’s just down the street across the bridge.  You can walk there and see for yourself before you pay for the room.  I live here now, but when I used to visit often I would always stay there.  It’s called The Oasis and overlooks that lovely creek right there.  If that doesn’t suit you there are many places to stay in Boquete.  Enjoy!”

The friendly woman gathered up her newspaper and walked out the door into the sunny, warm morning.

In our travels of Panama from Panama City four days ago, we experienced challenges in communicating with the locals as the main language spoken is Spanish.  Here in Boquete, we had no problems whatsoever communicating with the local residents who are happy to engage in conversation with visitors.

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El Oasis Hotel – excellent place to stay one block away from the main roads of Boquete.

The friendly lady was right.  After a short drive across the bridge, we instantly loved El Oasis and booked a room for the night.  The hotel room was colorful, like everything else so far in Boquete.  It had a comfy queen sized bed and the room was very clean and cozy.

Right outside the window was a nice little seating area that overlooked the river.  Downstairs leading to the garden was an upscale restaurant called Boulder 54, which we decided is where we would celebrate The Beard’s birthday that evening.

We had a couple of hours before supper time to wander around the town.  One thing about deciding to travel by car for many hours and countless miles in an unknown country is that when the opportunity arises to walk, you walk.

One block off the main road is where we found Feria de Las Flores Y del Cafe which a large park and market area that offers many artistic displays of an immense assortment of flowers and homemade treats.  The entry fee is $1 US and inside visitors can wander the grounds and gaze in amazement at the creative way the park is set up to enjoy every step.

It seemed like little artistic treasures were hidden down every road and alleyway.  Behind a large restaurant, we noticed a strange sight.  It was if a carnival had come to town and left all the advertising behind.  The yard was full of these incredibly sculpted large figures of horses, mermaids, gorillas, and various other visually stimulating images.

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Things like this are not found on any tourist information maps.  The only way to see these treasures is to walk the streets and not be afraid to poke your head in and see what’s happening in the background.

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After walking up and down the busy streets and popping into every store with an open door, we decided to get back into the car and drive the many mountain roads in and around our hotel. 

In Boquete, every road along the drive to the peak of the mountains leads to somewhere or someone.  Houses, schools, vacation rentals, restaurants and various coffee, fruit, and vegetable farms are dotted all along the roads leading up and out of the mountains.

One place we spotted that is an absolute must stop for any strawberry or chocolate lover is Fresas Mary.   Conveniently located on the main road at the entrance to Boquete, Fresas Mary offers the biggest, plumpest and juiciest strawberries complemented with an exciting assortment of chocolate and toppings to choose from.  Simply delicious!

The Beard and I live in the rain forest of Canada in Northern British Columbia.  Minus the hot weather and palm trees, being in Boquete was a lot like being back home.  The main difference is that where we live, no one lives on the side of the mountains.  Dark roads leading into the trees go nowhere.

One road led us to the Boquete Tree Trek where we enjoyed a fresh coffee overlooking the valley.  Birds flew by chasing each other to the flowers that surrounded the area.  Families and visitors were busy chatting and eating food from the chalet-style restaurant tucked away high up on the side of a mountain.

A storm brewed in the distant mountain peaks while the sun shone on the lawn directly in front of where we were enjoying the scenery.  Eventually, we finished our coffee and headed back down the mountain.  In Boquete, there is only one road in and one road out.  All other roads lead right back to Boquete.  We tried to get lost without success.

The Beard took every off-shoot road he could see.  No matter which direction we went, up, down, north, south, east, west – we always ended up back where we started.  It was a little disorienting with a good mixture of feeling comforted that Boquete would always be waiting at the end of the road.

 

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Today was The Beard’s birthday and we were both anxious to try Boulder 54 which was located attached to The Oasis Hotel where we were staying.  The restaurant had a very large wine selection and a Red Seal chef from Canada overseeing the kitchen.

Getting Roosevelt as a waiter was a real experience!  He is a professional in every sense of the word.  He has traveled the world and has many fun stories to tell about his trip around the globe.  Our meal was simply divine and was a perfect compliment to a wonderful day exploring Boquete.

With bellies full of delicious steak and seafood, our legs weary from walking the streets of Boquete, great memories of driving the mountain roads in the area and very contented hearts we retired for the evening.   By 9 p.m. we had crawled under the cozy blankets and immediately fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Our next destination was Bocas del Toro and we had a long drive ahead of us.

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