Boquete from the travelers perspective 2024

Descubre los atardeceres mágicos de Boquete en nuestro hostel, frente al majestuoso Volcán Barú.

Boquete from the travelers perspective 2024

As a guide in Jasper, Canada, and for Joe’s Layover Hostel, many of my clients ask me why Boquete, Panama. As I consider the answer to this question, I realize it is very complicated and yet very simple.

Biosphere Diversity of Panama

Panama itself is one of the most diverse biospheres on planet Earth. It is considered to be one of two places on the planet that are the lungs of the Earth.

With a vast array of microclimates ranging from desert to Caribbean lowlands and the mountain cloud forests, naturally, these vast, varied environments are home to thousands of species, some newly discovered, of flora and fauna.

The real resource that immediately wins you over is the people. As soon as you land in Panama, you are met with smiles, kindness, and a willingness to help by the people that are rarely experienced in other parts of the world. Boquete takes this to a new level that enriches the experiences of exploring locally and throughout the rest of Panama.

In terms of exploring Panama, Boquete is centrally located and is a mere few hours’ drive from the Pacific and Caribbean oceans, as well as the hundreds of other destinations and wonders of Panama. Having said that, Boquete is considered to be the adventure capital of Panama and for good reason.

The local jungles, rivers, and mountains of Boquete, including Volcan Baru, an extinct volcano that is the highest point in Panama, are all reasons that Joe’s Layover Hostel is located in the incredible town: to access, explore, and share these wonders with the travelers of the world.

I mentioned earlier in the article a term I referred to as the “lungs of Earth”. This is in reference to the vast tracts of unspoiled jungle that are one of two places on the planet (the other in Africa) that is processing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and producing our precious oxygen. This in itself is a miracle in this day and age.

So in essence, there is literally a lifetime of adventure, exploring, and culture right in and around Boquete. The convenience of all this opportunity in one town is a guided daydream and one I am grateful for every day, especially as I share this environment and adventure with the clients and guests of Joe’s Layover Hostel in Boquete.

So that is an overview of why I am so in love with the people, culture, and surrounding jungles and wilderness of Boquete.

So what does that mean in a more detailed description of an itinerary of activities for you as a visitor and traveler to Joe’s Layover Hostel and the region of Boquete?

Obviously, the first options are the commercial tours available by the local Boquete companies.

The tour operators in Boquete offer a really wide range of experiences. Without going into great detail for each company, it is easier for an overview of the activities. So here we go from easy coffee plantation tours to the difficult hardcore ascent of Baru, Boquete offers an exciting, fascinating adventure for everyone young and old alike.

Ecotourism in Panama

Explore Boquete: Coffee, Chocolate, and Rum Distillery Tours

Driving tours and activities considered to be low-level physical activities include a tour of Boquete’s coffee, chocolate, and rum distilleries. These tours are fun, and the hosts truly go out of their way with typical Panamanian pride to demonstrate the skill and effort that goes into these plantations. There are also many other tours ranging from butterfly farms to walking tours around Boquete.

Adrenaline Adventures: Zipline and Hiking at Mt. Baru

For the more adventurous traveler at Joe’s Layover Hostel, there are a multitude of options to get the adrenaline pumping. These adventures include treetop zip-line courses, four-wheel-drive tours up famous Mt. Baru; many travelers hike up the mountain from Boquete side to spend the night and watch the sunrise over the Caribbean and also view the Pacific Ocean. A rare opportunity for the world travelers.

The Mt. Baru Trek: An Indigenous Trail to the Peak

This trek is fabulous as it winds up the jungle and mountain through ancient indigenous trails to the peak. Some logistics and a guide are required for this trek. Every bit of it worthwhile for the experience.

Independent Adventures: Tailored Exploration of Boquete

Ah, but many travelers and adventurers do not have the budget nor the inclination to join the commercial world for their adventures are seeking a more independent adventure or a more personalized guided tour. Joe’s Layover Hostel has the knowledge, information, or guide to promote your independent adventure and exploration of Boquete and the surrounding mountains.

Two of the most popular trails in the Boquete region are the Pipeline and Lost Falls hikes. These are on private land, which the owners have generously continued to allow travelers access to these special areas.

Pipeline Trail is a relatively easy grade, and the return can take 2-3 hours depending on you. This trail is famous for its breeding population of the Resplendent Quetzals. These are rare and incredible ornate birds that bring birdwatchers from around the planet to catch a rare glimpse of possibly. The last time I hiked the trail, I took 4.5 hours and was rewarded with an intimate encounter with a beautiful male of the species and all its magnificent feathers.

Two hours later, I was blessed to observe a female Resplendent Quetzal at close quarters. Truly an amazing and awe-inspiring experience for me. Since then, my observations have now included a nesting site that 9/10 times provides my clients that special moment of discovery and awe. No guarantees though as nature is unpredictable. Ask me how I know?

The fee for the pipeline trail is $5, a fee going to the family owners.

The Lost Falls hike is famous for the lost falls, a series of three waterfalls along the trail. This hike is a little more advanced and requires some level of fitness as the trail is challenging. Well worth the effort; these falls are jungle fantasy gorgeous. Providing an opportunity to swim in the garden of Eden. In between the second and third falls, the trail is rocky, wet and requires using a series of fixed ropes to scale the rocks. Still, slow and steady wins the race and don’t be deterred to visit this jungle paradise. There is a fee of $10, but keep your receipt and you can access the trail at no cost the rest of your visit.

But wait a few of you travelers are looking for a truly personal non-commercial adventure, and that is what Joe’s Layover Hostel specializes in. There are a series of non-commercial trails in the area. Some. I can tell you about, others are well-kept secrets and only available through the knowledge of our guides.

Bonnets reserve is a series of trails that the Bennet family has developed and are generously allowing public access to. These trails are quiet, rarely visited, and very special.

The coffee farm trail, as I refer to it, is a great hike, a little steep, but the final views are incredible. The finca or farm requests $4 to cross their property, and often the owner will provide an impromptu coffee plantation tour. Also selling fresh coffee beans on site. Really a special hike and experience. This hike is generally 3-4 hours round trip.

Another local trail with no fee is La Pianista. This trail is advanced and often very wet. It cuts through a small indigenous settlement and continues to the peak of the mountain. Spectacular views if the clouds are not obscuring view.

This trail is infamous, and locals will tell you not hike it as in 2014 two Dutch travelers were murdered on the trail. This was a rare and tragic event, and one should take precautions when hiking anywhere in the Boquete.

As well as these standard adventures, Joe’s Layover Hostel can customize your trip to any part of Panama. Commonly touring with clients to turtle nesting reserves, swimming adventures, surfing in Santa Catalina or Bocas Chiko on the Pacific side, or the Bocas del Toro island chain on the Caribbean side.

You name it and we can do it, and if Joe’s Layover Hostel does not do it, we will find the people that do.

Your adventure is our business!!

Often, clients and travelers contact us to determine the best time to visit Panama. Well, depending on where you live, seasons can be reversed. Summer begins towards the middle of September and lasts up to the end of April. Then winter or the rainy season starts, which is still wonderful in Boquete and Panama. This winter season lasts until October. It just requires some rain gear and a little more planning on adventures. Despite being tropical, I have been thoroughly chilled to the bone in the mountains and required layering, including a Gore-Tex coat. So be prepared.

One of the reasons most travelers come to Joe’s Layover Hostel and Boquete is to explore the flora and fauna of Panama. And rarely is anyone disappointed.

The flora, as previously mentioned, is the most rich, thick, and varied anywhere on the planet. New species of orchids, insects, amphibians, and reptiles are still being discovered in the jungles of Panama. This biosphere is truly one of the most diverse and rich environments on the planet Earth. Truly must be experienced to be appreciated and understood. The list of animals from the jaguar to the tiny capuchin monkeys is amazing and too many to list here. Do your research; it is mind-blowing.

The birds of Panama are so varied and populated with locals and migratory species; it is an ornithology treasure trove of birds. I still see species, and I have no clue as to their identity, and this is the challenge and joy of birding too.

If you are a fisherman or a lover of observing while snorkeling, then Joe’s Layover Hostel can put you on the fish. I have been blessed to have been taken by indigenous fishermen on both Pacific and Caribbean and shown how to dive off the islands of Bocas for lobster, octopus, and fish.

On the Pacific side, I was again blessed by the locals and was soon out checking nets in the pangas (boat used in Panama) for lobster and edible fish to sell or bring to feed the family.

The snorkeling is fantastic, second to no other place. On the Pacific side, Coiba is a designated United Nations World Heritage site that boasts turtles, sharks, and a multitude of rich marine species and life.

Over on the Caribbean, it is just as incredible. I once stayed off Bocas in Isle Caranero for three weeks. Every day I snorkeled for 3-4 hours, and every day with the regular nurse sharks, stingrays, and brightly colored species, I saw a new type of fish every day. It was mind-boggling.

I truly could go on about the animals, fish, birds, and the people of Panama forever. You just have to come to Boquete and Joe’s Layover Hostel and explore for yourself.

Often, my clients want to know why I am guiding them. What makes me qualified to guide? Panama requires some preparation and training to safely and responsibly guide clients in the Boquete region and the rest of Panama. As a guide, my first responsibility is the safety of all involved. This is Panama, and this is wild, untamed jungle at its best. So preparation and training are the keys to being a professional.

My own personal training and experience as a guide have been a lifetime of training and skill development. Preparation is the key to being safe. When I go into the jungle, I am well-prepared with a machete, water filter, food, first aid equipment, communications, clothing, fire-making tools, and a sound knowledge of the area both politically and physically. There are snakes, dogs, alligators, poisonous insects, plants that are not friendly, well, you get the idea.

So here are a couple of things I recommend anywhere. First, tell people where you are going and when you expect to return. Second, never leave the trail. If you feel lost, stop moving. My experience in search and rescue in Canada reveals that 80 percent of the time we found a footprint or clothing or evidence you were there. If you had stopped, we would have found you. So relax, sit down, assess your health or injury, and wait to be rescued. Always carry water and food. More than you expect to use. I carry a three-liter hydro bag system and am constantly sipping as I travel. A small first aid kit, an obvious asset, is invaluable, including antihistamines for allergic reactions to bug bites or plant contact.

I also would suggest walking poles, even for young people. For years, I refused to use these as my mountaineering partners did. Then I tried them and never left home without them. They provide balance, support, and even self-defense against dogs, snakes, or whatever.

Good footwear, as many of the trails are wet. Having said that, I love to hike in my Teva sandals. Up to you.

Here at Joe’s Layover Hostel, we practice sustainable hiking and adventures. Meaning we leave no trace. In fact, we often clean up areas and collect trash. We all can do our part to keep these incredible wild places pure. At times, I have to admit I have not been aware of the impact of the modern world on our local communities. This incredible land of Panama belongs to the people of Panama. And at Joe’s, we try to give back at many different community levels. We have a responsibility to recognize, respect, and honor the people, their culture, and their inherent right to the land.

Having said that, many of the travelers contribute to the local economy, and the spin-off is immense, even if not always visible. I have recently been honored to be asked to join a program that provides 1500 meals every month for school kids. Since this program has started, student enrollment has increased 20 percent.

So what are you waiting for? Joe’s Layover Hostel is a safe, respected place where you arrive as a traveler and you leave as family. We really are there to enhance your Boquete Panama experience to the maximum, no matter what it is, from restaurant to adventure, land or sea, we can provide all for your grand adventure.

One Response

  1. The writer of this article did a really great job of describing a wonderful country people and culture. Not to mention the wilds of Panama. Thank you

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