April 19 2014
I decided to improve my Spanish and Boquete celebrated with a parade! The woman in the foreground looks skeptical.
If you decide to move to Boquete Panama, learning Spanish is crucial. And respectful. It will make your life easier and your time here more fulfilling. How else will you meet your neighbours? Make friends? Understand Boquete news, politics, what’s going on in town? Take it from me: the half-baked approach to the Spanish language can only take you so far.
* * *
So why did I finally commit? I am embarrassed. Panamanian guests of Boquete Garden Inn (and guests from other Spanish-speaking countries) ask me how long I’ve lived here and I chirp proudly, “Almost six years!” Eyebrows raise and there’s an awkward silence. Because my Spanish is all mangled and in present tense and ugly (less so now after three weeks of classes). I blink and say ‘No entiendo’ way more than I should. (At least I don’t commit the ultimate expat cardinal sin: peppering sentences with occasional Spanish words (usually alcohol-related), as in “The cuenta, por favor! And don’t forget, Leo: I only had two Ron Abuelos! The rest were cervezas!”
I decided to take Spanish at Habla Ya Panama Spanish Schools. I was placed in Intermediate Level B1 conversational Spanish. My professor, Leidys Pitti, is patient, kind and excellent at her job: smiling sweetly at every um, ahh and Spanglified fake word I throw into conversation after I’ve exhausted my vocabulary. And when I stammer out something horribly inappropriate, she doesn’t blink an eye. She simply corrects me and we move on.
Dedicating four hours a day/five days a week to Spanish is the best decision I’ve made. It’s easy to say you’re going to practice Spanish in your free time, but unless you are extremely dedicated and disciplined, it just won’t happen. I planned to watch Destinos every night (funny, cheesy ’90s language program masquerading as a Telenovela). Same with clicking through Rosetta Stone, the Sesame St of adult language programs. Same with tackling the workbooks stacked up on my desk. Did I? Nope.
Going to class. Completing written assignments. Watching videos, listening to podcasts. Speaking not only to the teacher, but other students, solely in Spanish. It’s so important. And the key benefit to taking group classes? Fellow classmates and your teachers keep you accountable. You have to complete assignments on time and focus in class – or else you hold everyone back.
My Spanish is still ugly. And I still blink stupidly. But I’m working to change that. Next update? In English and Spanish.
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February 18 2014
In the past, Il Pianista has been an overlooked, underrated trail (ok, mostly by me). I really wanted to recommend it because the trailhead is so close to Boquete Garden Inn. But guests who hiked the Il Pianista independently weren’t impressed: it was muddy, difficult to navigate and the Continental Divide wasn’t obvious. They’d get to the blinking cows and turn back.
Here’s the thing: guests who went with a guide loved it – because they knew where to go and what they were seeing. So, we decided to make the hike easier for people to explore alone, with tips and photos, and we are now recommending it as one of the top intermediate-to-advanced hikes in Boquete.
The Il Pianista trail delivers beautiful views and a great workout. The trail is deeply creviced at points from years of use, with walls 5ft and taller. (The Il Pianista trail was the primary walking route for coffee pickers travelling between Almirante and Boquete.) The highlight of this trail is hiking to the Continental Divide (basically, a splitting point: on one side of the divide, rivers flow to the Caribbean, the other side, towards the Pacific).
Lyle (former guest, Hiker-in-Residence, deputy mayor of Boquete) and I decided to go ourselves, scope out the trail and take photos at the points where guests reported getting confused.
Here’s where everybody freaks out: there is a bridge to the left, farm to the right. Cross the bridge. That’s it.
Cross the bridge on the left!
And you’ll also get to the point where there’s a gate. Go ahead. Open it and continue! (Lyle demonstrates in the above photo!)
The rest of the trail has been thoughtfully spray painted with orange arrows – so it really is difficult to lose your way. You know you’re at the divide when you’re at the highest point and the trail ahead of you starts to slope downward again. The views from here are incredible on a clear day.
Trail: Il Pianista
Location: About a 2-minute drive from Boquete Garden Inn, on the right side of the road, to the left of the Il Pianista Restaurant
Time: Approximately 3 hours (1.5 – 2 hours up; 1.25 hours – 1.5 hours down)
Pros: beautiful views, close to the hotel, if you’re lucky, Blue the husky will accompany you up, blinking cows, Continental Divide, cloud forest (better than Evian mist), post-hike calzone and red wine at Il Pianista Restaurant
Cons: muddy – avoid in rainy season
Level: advanced intermediate
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January 27 2014
Boquete Garden Inn’s awesome office manager Danny and friend/former guest Lyle, hiked Volcan Baru on Saturday, Danny’s night off. The had a perfect, clear morning and from the summit, they were able to see Volcan, Cerro Punta, Guadalupe…and Lyle’s convinced he saw some women sunbathing at Playa Barqueta.
Way to go, guys!
Tips from Danny and Lyle: it’s really dusty up there right now, so wait for some rain before heading up (but not too much, or else it’ll get sloppy). Also: try to avoid weekends. It’s super busy, and a number of those monster 4×4 trucks pass you along the way, spewing exhaust. Lyle estimated that about 100 people were going up Saturday night (!!).
I’m up next. I’ve set a goal for myself: I’ll be up there before the end of March. Stay tuned!
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December 11 2013
We received the following email today from Rafael Lau, a talented photographer (and bird spotter!) based out of Panama City:
Hi Susan & Jason!
How have you been? I hope everything is good! Just to let you know that during our recent stay at Boquete Garden Inn in November 26 – 27, we spotted during our stay a mysterious bird singing alone in a tree above the reception/restaurant, we took some pictures and videos of the bird and submitted the information to experts of the Panama Audubon Society in which resulted as very, very rare bird, Melodious Blackbird (Dives dives), it is ONLY the second documented record in Panama of this bird! The first record was in western Bocas del Toro, near the borderline with Costa Rica. A very important lifebird for all panamenians birders indeed!
Just for reference of the calls/song of this bird, you can find a video taken by my wife Jeannette – the bird was singing out loud the 2 days we stayed at your inn around 8-10 a.m.
We really enjoyed our stay! Thanks for everything and for giving us this wonderful lifebird that many birders will be searching for the next months!
Rafael Lau & Jeannette Caballero
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August 06 2013
Our guest Marc wrote me prior to his Boquete trip: he was looking forward his stay and he and his 10-year-old son were especially excited about their hike up Volcan Baru. I promptly sent him a link to our Baru blog post.
It’s borderline anti-Baru. In summary: if you only have a few days in Boquete, don’t use up a full day climbing Baru—it’s long, hard and the views fleeting (the mountain clouds up pretty fast—so both oceans are visible for a limited period of time, if at all). And heck, a 10-year-old can’t climb Baru, right?
Both Marc and Quinn were determined to hike and didn’t let the post dissuade them.
The father and son team are from Colorado, so they’re used to higher altitudes and they do lots of climbing during their frequent hikes. In short: they’re experienced.
They left before the sun rose. They paced the trip—stopping to drink water at signs that marked the trail every four kilometres. They took a total of three 15-minute breaks, including lunch. Quinn said the trail was really easy to follow, “It would be hard to get lost!”
Marc and Quinn did the entire hike from trailhead to top and back in 8 hours and 4 minutes (!!). And when they reached the top, they saw both the Pacific and Caribbean oceans just in the nick of time—it clouded over 10 minutes after they reached the summit.
Climb when it’s dry: The trail would be very difficult if wet and muddy
Be careful where you step: the trail is made up of rocks and your feet can slip in between them
Take breaks: refuel with food and water
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March 28 2013
Most of the time, vacations go off without a hitch. We manage to survive crazy cabbies, strenuous hikes, slippery slopes. But sometimes, things happen: one simple misstep, or a virus you can’t shake, and you find yourself in need of medical care. Well, here’s some good news if you are considering a trip to Panama.
In 2011, the government announced it would provide free emergency medical care to tourists arriving via Tocumen International Airport, valid for the first 30 days of their stay.
In 2011, Boquete Garden Inn guests Virginia and David experienced the benefits of this program firsthand. As she was leaving a restaurant, Virginia fell and broke her leg. Jason and our manager Danny visited the couple at Chiriqui Hospital to ensure Virginia was OK and provide her with information about the Panama Tourism Medical plan (Note: Not all hospitals in Panama are aware of the program).
Virginia needed surgery and a four-night stay in hospital. Thanks to the plan, the bill was only $400. (US residents: Imagine how much that would have cost back home!) They were both very pleased with the quality of care and we’re happy to report that when we saw Virginia during her most recent visit to Boquete Garden Inn, she was back to her regular self!
How do I get covered?
Once you land at Tocumen International Airport, visit the Tourist Information Center, located on the lower level, in the Immigration zone of the airport. There you will receive a brochure with information and a user card. If, during the first 30 days of your stay, you need emergency medical attention, present this card, along with your passport, at the hospital.
The insurance policy covers accidental death (up to $20,000 dollars), hospitalization and medical expenses for injuries due to accidents, or in case of contracting a disease in Panama (up to $7,000 dollars), expenses for dental emergency (up to $ 2,000 dollars), administrative legal assistance related to the accident (up to $ 3,500), and lost or stolen documents, among others.
What the policy does NOT cover:
- incidents causes by negligence
- accidents related to drugs or alcohol
- accidents that are a result of participation in extreme sports
If you meet this criteria and the hospital refuses free coverage, there is an exclusive hotline for questions and concerns: 204.9300 or 204.2312 (area code is not necessary if you are calling within Panama)
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November 01 2012
Volcan Baru, Boquete Panama: To Baru or Not to Baru?
Part of what makes Boquete Garden Inn unique is our ‘Boquete Your Way
’ service. We can help you plan your unique Boquete Panama experience—helping you select the best Boquete tours, independent excursions, Chiriqui day trips and Boquete restaurants to make the most of your stay in Boquete. Occasionally, we get guests asking us if they should climb Volcan Baru. Here’s what I tell them: unless you want to cross ‘highest mountain in Panama’ off your list, don’t do it.
I thought maybe that sounded a bit harsh, so I put it out to our Facebook followers, to see what they thought. Was I too Anti-Baru? Due to a lack of overwhelming response, I stick with my original recommendation: Don’t do Baru.
Of course, if you really want to climb Volcan Baru, we’ll help you to find a guide and work it into your stay. But here are some things to consider first:
1) If you are only visiting Boquete for 3 or 4 nights, a Volcan Baru climb kills a whole day and night. Most people leave for their Volcan Baru hike at midnight (in hopes of seeing both oceans at sunrise). It takes about 10-12 hours in total (about 6 hours up, 5.5 hours down), so most guests get back at noon and sleep. When you have a limited time in a place, you probably don’t want to spend it sleeping during the day or climbing in the pitch dark.
2) The rocky trail is tough-going on the descent. It’s really easy to lose your footing.
3) Baru clouds up pretty quickly, so, with the exception of about 2 or 3 months during the year, your odds of seeing both oceans are quite low.
4) If you aren’t a climber, and you’re more of a hiker, there are so many other amazing trails in Boquete with wildlife and great views. (The Pipeline and Culebra trails are just two!)
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August 07 2012
Sure, a lot of business may say this – but we mean it! Boquete Garden Inn guests are interesting, well-travelled, thoughtful, adventurous and fun! Boquete Panama attracts awesome people and we are thankful to welcome them to Boquete Garden Inn!
Repeat guests Lyle and Loila, who on their first visit to Boquete drove a minivan down from North Dakota. They went on one of our recommended Chiriqui day trips to Volcan and Cerro Punta and brought us back this fantastic sign from Arte Cruz. Thanks, guys!
Voted BGI’s Sassiest Guests of All Time – Linda, Terri, Arcadia, Laura and Deanna! With Susan and J.
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July 20 2012
Only an hour and a half away from Boquete, on the other side of Volcan Baru, the towns of Volcan and Cerro Punta are perfect day trip destinations. Boquete Garden Inn can provide guests with our map of the area (not to scale!), with all sorts of great places to visit.
One of these places is Haras Cerro Punta – the home of future horse racing stars!
And then return back to Boquete for its quality accommodations (ahem, Boquete Garden Inn!) and excellent Boquete restaurants!
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June 28 2012
I can’t believe it took me four years to visit Los Cangilones de Gualaca. An excellent swimming hole, it’s not only a perfect way to cool off (it’s warmer in Gualaca than Boquete), it’s great exercise. As you (slowly) make your way through the channel, the current pushes you back. It’s like one of those stationary lap pools x 100.
The narrow rock channels were created when Volcan Baru erupted, the lava flowed, met up with the River Esti and formed the great pools we have now (a very basic, unscientific explanation).
Gualaca is only a 45-minute drive from Boquete. You can explore on your own or go with a guide. Another great day trip…Boquete is the perfect home base to explore the province of Chiriqui.
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