Life as a full time expat is pretty great for the most part. We get to live, work, and play in some of the most beautiful parts of the world, but it seems as if not everyone shares my affinity for this kind of lifestyle.
Over the last four years I’ve tried and failed miserably to get everyone I know to come visit us in the various places that we’ve lived. A few friends and family have traveled to see us, but not many. I’m really not sure why this is.
When we made the move to Panama six months ago I expected that we’d see more visitors than we did in the United Arab Emirates, Peru, or Taiwan. It’s closer to the United States and not as foreign feeling as the other places to which I’ve tried to lure people.
So, here we are, six months in, and do you think we’ve had any visitors?
Nope. Not a one.
What is it about Panama? Do people just not realize how cool this country is? I recently had a conversation with a friend who was to meet us in Cancun during our upcoming trip in September. This is how that convo went down.
Friend: I can’t make it to Mexico, now just isn’t the right time.
Me: No worries, that just means you’ll have to come to Panama!
Friend: That’s what I was thinking. Can we go to Costa Rica?
When I read that I almost cried. Yeah, Costa Rica is cool and all, but it’s pretty much the same as Panama. It’s not as if everything changes like magic when you cross the border that lies a mere hour and half from my house.
So in the spirit of that old adage that say something about beating that dead horse until you succeed in making lemonade, I’ve compiled a list of a few things about our little town that are pretty wonderful, and none of them involve going to Costa Rica.
Boquete lies in the shadow of a really big, very extinct volcano called Volcan Baru. People like to climb it for eight hours in the dark so that they can see the sunrise from the top. I am not one of these people. While I do enjoy a good hike, doing in in the dark is not really my thing.
It’s best to hire a guide for this trip, although there’s no requirement that says you have to. There are several outfits that will let you pay them to come with you on your hike, and some of them also do organized group hikes, as well.
For those who’d rather try something a little more tame and a little less nighttime-y, one or more of the other trails might suit your fancy. There is the Quetzal Trail that allows you to hike all the way to Cerro Punta if you so desire and the Pipeline Trail offers some pretty spectacular waterfalls. The trail known as El Pianista is, despite some recent very bad press, a really beautiful area and will take you over the Continental Divide and into the Bocas del Toro district if you follow it until the end.
Panama has a ton of birds; they’re everywhere. If you’re my friend on Facebook then you know how I feel about the birds. At any given time throughout the day our yard is inundated with birds, from giant pterodactyl-like vultures to tiny hummingbirds who like to come inside the house like people. I even saw a beautiful male quetzal fly through our yard one morning. I know that birdwatchers often go their whole lives without seeing this holy grail of feathered friends and I was just like, “Cool. Where’s the coffee?”
Of course, your birdwatching adventure could be combined with a hike, but you could also sign up for a tour that more or less guarantees that you’ll see the quetzal. Finca Lerida offers a good one, as does Boquete Outdoor Adventures.
The Boquete area has some really nice rivers, although dams have recently been put in place that have altered them to some degree. However, river rafting here is a lot of fun. If you’re in town for just a few days, as most visitors are, this is the one activity that you should be sure to include, in my opinion.
The river has some really good rapids and is blissfully uncrowded. You might see monkeys doing monkey things in the trees along the river, and there are sloths hanging around too. Even if you’re not that into rafting simply lazing around on the river and ogling the sexy scenery is a day very well spent.
A shameless plug this is not, but I really like Boquete Outdoor Adventures for this tour. Jim and his crew are very, very good at what they do and they run a first class outfit. You really can’t go wrong with any of the tours and activities that they offer.
Coffee Farm Tours
Panama grows some really delicious coffee, and most of those coffee farms are right here in Boquete. Several different tours are available that allow you to see the coffee trees up close, learn more about the harvesting of the coffee cherries, and discover the secrets of the roasting process.
Of course you get to taste some of the different types of coffee, and many of the farms give you a sack of coffee beans when you leave. How can you go wrong with that?
Of course, there are many, many more things to do here and I could go on and on. However, the best way to learn is by doing, right? That just means that you’ll need to come down here and see our pretty little mountain town for yourself.
Just don’t talk about Costa Rica, okay?
Author’s Note: All photos are courtesy of Boquete Outdoor Adventures and are used with permission. Still not a shameless plug, I just think Jim is a stand-up guy who operates a great business.