Boquete is a lovely mountain town and home to a range of adventures. Many hostels and tour companies will make you believe that most of these activities require booking excursions, but we found that isn’t the case! Honestly we have been approached by such a great number of tour companies and independent guides. Every single one of them trying to sell their tours by telling us that we couldn’t do activities by ourselves, that we felt that it’s necessary to state that there are numerous activities in Boquete that can be done on your own. And possibly even more important, on a budget!
Rain ruled during our time in Boquete, halfway through our stay hiking routes were shut down by the local firemen, so instead of exploring all those trails we had planned for, the search for alternatives begun. Here are our 7 top things to do in Boquete on a budget, each of them on our own, no tours needed!
Hiking in Boquete
Let’s be honest, hiking is Boquete’s main attraction and we had spent quite some hours researching the various hikes in the area. Prepared with a full list of jungle and mountain hikes we arrived to Boquete. Three trails that are easy to reach by public transport and close by town are: The Pipeline Trail, The Lost Waterfalls and Sendero Los Quetzales.
After hiking the first two trails dark clouds covered Boquete’s skies and the rest is history. Soon we’ll write an extensive report on the Pipeline and the Lost Waterfalls trails and other hikes that can be done on your own in the area.
Caldera Hot Springs
A popular stop in the surroundings of Boquete are the beautiful Caldera hot springs. Many hostels in the area try to sell you a $15-$20 p.p. tour to visit these natural pools that are surrounded by stone walls. Find the perfect smooth stone and relax. The hot springs differ in temperature and the river is close by in case you need to cool down! It’s not necessary to pay those amounts, if the entrance is just $2 p.p., just make sure to schedule your visit around the irregular bus times from Boquete to Caldera.
How to reach the Caldera Hot Springs
Go to the bus stops for the buses to Boquete’s surroundings outside of the supermarket and speak with one of the drivers of the buses towards Caldera. They will provide you with their bus schedule for next day. You will need to walk for 30/40 minutes to reach the hot springs after the bus drops you off.
Los Cangilones de Gualaca
Trying to escape from the endless rain we decided to take a 1,5 bus ride to ‘Los Cangilones de Gualaca. This river canyon is located south of Boquete, closeby David. It can get rather busy during the afternoons, especially during the weekend. Make sure to leave Boquete early to reach the canyon during the morning hours. Cool down in the river and jump into the canyon from the bridge!
How to get to Los Cangilones de Gualaca
Take a bus from Boquete to David’s bus terminal ($2,-), here change busses to Gualaca and ask the driver to let you out at the crossing for Los Cangilones de Gualaca. It’s the last stop of the route and you will need to walk for another 10 minutes to reach the river canyon. Busses from Gualaca to David only run once every 40 minutes, ask your driver for accurate return times.
Hikes were off the list from the third day of our stay in Boquete, which meant that our stay quickly turned into a culinary journey.With a wide variety of excellent bakeries in town we found ourselves at a different one each afternoon.Sugar & Spice Bakery‘s house cured pastrami (Pastrami on Rye) and the cured corn beef (Classic Ruben) sandwiches were are favorites. Make sure to order one of their homemade lemonades, super refreshing!
After a short hike with the Boquete Nature Hikes group on Wednesday morning we ended up in Morton’s Bakehouse. Located just outside of Boquete, the best artisanal bread, pastries and sandwiches can be found here. After some coffee and cookies we ordered a bagel with cream cheese and salmon and a ‘traditional Reuben’, both delicious.
Senor Gyros was our first culinary stop in Boquete. Tucked away in a sidestreet this greek style gem can’t be missed! Their gyros is freshly made every day, the service is excellent and their garden is a beautiful place to enjoy your big greek sandwich.
Daily classes are available, most of them are given at Yia Yoga, Plaza Los Establos and several at The Haven Spa. Classes start at $7,- per hour and mats are available for rental. There is a lot of space for personal attention and the essential oil treatment during savasana made that we ended our class even more relaxed. A yoga class on the road to remember.
The best farmers market in Panama can be found in Boquete on Tuesdays. The market is located in the Boquete Community Players Centre, just over the bridge and is very popular with expats. All sorts of veggies, fruit, meat, local cheeses, honey and souvenirs are sold by local farmers and expats. We stocked up on delicious honey, organic kale, amazing cheese and cherry tomatoes.
Mi Jardin es Su Jardin
Privately owned garden at the edge of town, daily opened to the public. Anybody is free to stroll through the gardens, enjoy the wide variety of plants and the colorful flowers. Then take a seat at one of the benches and try to count the many different bird species that are passing through the garden. A great stroll on an easy going afternoon.
Where we stayed – We stayed in Arte Hostal Boquete, a relatively new hostel, run by David, the young and enthusiastic owner. The hostel has 6 rooms, of which 3 are private (matrimonial beds) and 3 are 4 bed dorms. Our matrimonial room was cozy, the dorm rooms are on the small side! Pancake (mix) and fresh fruit breakfast are included. It seems to be the norm to use a pre-bought pancake mix for breakfast in Panama, we are we prefer to use fresh ingredients, instead of pre-packaged mixes.
David is a fantastic owner, who is always there to help you around and had lots of information about the trails in Boquete’s surroundings.
Where we ate – Boquete is a little culinary paradise in the mountains of Panama. We wrote a separate post on our favorite budget restaurants in Boquete and how ongoing rain during our stay made this into a culinary stop, instead of a place that’s made for hiking. Some of our favorite restaurants in Boquete are Sugar & Spice Bakery, Senor Gyros and Re Pomodoro Pizzeria.
How we got there – We traveled from Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro to Boquete with a pre-arranged shared transfer. It was a public holiday weekend in Panama and busses were going to be packed, many Panamanians travel in between the coast and the mountains when it’s holiday time. We decided to no take any risks and booked a boat & shared transfer through Hostal Camping La YGriega, our Bocas bound hostal. The cost of the transfer was $24,-