Boquete – the Best Place to Retire in the Western Hemisphere!
Many people, especially those looking for the best place to retire often discover Panama via the now famous highlands village of Boquete. But Panama has more than one highlands community which offers the comfort of living in cool mountain air where heating or air conditioning aren’t necessary. Certainly Boquete is by far the most popular highland retirement destination in Panama and if you’re a coffee lover than Boquete is the place for you. The mountains surrounding Boquete in the province of Chiriqui are home to what is acknowledged, world wide, as the finest coffee beans in the world! It is also Panama’s undisputed premier retirement destination. Front and center are the views of magnificent Volcan Baru which towers over the village. This inactive volcano provides majestic views while the rich volcanic soil it has created mean lush flora and fauna that many tourist seek particularly during the flower fair which takes place early each new year. Other tourist attractions, aside from the spectacular mountain views, include:
- coffee tasting and farm tours
- world class white water rafting and kayaking
- new golf courses
- bird watching
- horseback riding
- zip-lining canopy tours.
In Boquete and the surrounding area you can choose from a wide range of accommodations. There are small and cheap ‘Pensions‘ which are popular with back backers or frugal travelers. On the other end of the scale you can find luxurious boutique B&B’s, Inns and Hotels. There are also eco-lodges and spas oriented resorts which feature extended health retreats for dealing with prety much any ailment you can think of. Boquete has also been acknowledged by Fortune magazine and the AARP as one of best places in the world to live in retirement.
Editor’s disclaimer – I love a lot of places in Panama high and low but Boquete is my first love and my second home so I do have a special place in my heart for Boquete!
The Chiriqui Highlands
With all the publicity around Boquete it’s easy to arrive in Chiriqui and think this magical mountain village is the only place worth seing. Not! Chiriqui has so much more to offer – places to see, places to live and things to do. To begin it’s key to know that Chiriqui boasts two of Panama’s most beautiful and popular national parks: Parque Internacional La Amistad or La Amistad International Park consists of a 407,000 hectare tropical forest which is shared half and half by Panama and Costa Rica. It is the largest nature reserve in all of Central America and represents a major biodiversity resource regionally with 20% of the regions species diversity. Even on a global level this park is offers up one of the most biodiverse habitates on the planet. Volcan Baru National Park is 14,000 hectares in size. It was the second national park to be created in Panama and remains one of the most visited parks in all of Panama. Some of the trees in the Baru forest are in excess of 600 years old. When hiking on a sunny day, its possible to see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea from the peak and even some of the upper slopes of the Baru Volcano. The Los Quetzales trail runs through the park and around Volcan Baru. It joins the two communities of Boquete on one side and the small village of Cerro Punta, near Volcan on the other. This is one of Panama’s most popular hiking trails and is a favorite among bird-watchers and wildlife enthusiasts alike. Over 250 species of birds have been identified in the park, with the beautiful but illusive quetzal being the most sought after. Other species include – the black and white hawk eagle, the black bellied hummingbird, the brown violet ear, the black cheeked warbler, the yellow thighed finch and the black guan. Panama also has it’s share of wild cats but again they are quite illusive and hard to spot. There are five of the species of cat native to Panama and all of them can be spotted here, the Puma is the most common. Other wildlife frequently seen in the park include the endangered Underwoods water mouse, porcupines and a variety of different bat species.The Chiriqui highlands are world renown for what many refer to as the “perfect climate” where you will discover many quaint villages, very friendly locals, flower and coffee fairs, orchid farms, the world’s best birding, excellent hiking and the panoramic mountain views.
Special Places to Visit in the Chiriqui Highlands
Nestled on the slopes of Volcan Baru high up in the cloud forest of La Amistad National Park you can discover the mountain villages of Bambito, Guadalupe, Volcan and Cerro Punta. This area is easily accessible by a paved road. Here you will experience stunningly beautiful mountain scenery and exceptional bird-watching opportunities.
As you wind your way up the slopes from the Pan-American highway you will come across the impressive looking Bambito hotel. As you step from your vehicle the vision of this Swiss inspired hotel combined the cool mountain air and the surrounding pine forest don’t be surprised if you find yourself giving your head a shake. No you’re not in the Swiss Alps on a fine summers day. You’re still in Panama! At Hotel Bambito you can dine on fresh rainbow trout and if your inclined you can even pull out your rod and catch one yourself from the clean, clear and cold mountain streams which flow down the slopes of Volcan Baru.
Here you will find the famous Los Quetzales Ecolodge. This is one of the most popular places to stay either before hiking the Los Quetzales Trail to Boquete or at the end of your hike from Boquete. By the way it takes the best part of a day to hike the trail so you will need to plan a stay on each end. Here you will also find Finca Dracula, this orchid farm and botanical garden has over 1200 species of orchids!
Drop by the Jansen Family Coffee Farm for a tour and some horseback riding. Volcan is not only known for it’s great coffee it is also the premier location in the country for raising prized thoroughbred horses. Volcan is also know for their cattle farms and excellent beef. You might also want to visit Sitio Barriles which is a private farm that offers free tours of the Pre-Columbian Indian culture, history and artifacts found on their property. You will also see several ancient Petroglyphs and the Lagunas de Volcan, which is Panama’s highest marsh ecosystem.
Some say the best organic restaurant in all of Panama is found in this quaint little village. People come from near and far to experience the exquisite culinary creations at the The Valley of the Moon restaurante and to learn of a sustainable way to grow, cook and create.