November 13 2014
Small towns in Latin America seem to be all about the central park: It’s where people gather, gossip and peddle their wares (stories, products and otherwise). In larger cities, you can choose from multiple plazas, with street performers, shoe shiners and weird mumble-y men selling coca-marijuana tea. As I drank coffee, shopped for cathedral candles and people watched in multiple parks across Ecuador, I thought about our little square in Boquete.
Boquete, in recent years, has lacked a beautiful, welcoming, truly central, central park. Two of the roads surrounding it are closed to traffic. One side of the square houses the mayor’s office, the opposite, the main road. So we really only have two streets leading to the park, and they fall short. And the actual park itself has, frankly, been an eyesore. (Highlights: Weird, modern building-block fountain and the truly impressive statue of Spinal Tap proportions, seen below). But this seems to be changing. The new(ish) mayor, Sr. Millo Vasquez, is working on creating a central park that we can be proud of.
‘Frog Perched on Coffee Plant’ or ‘Jabba the Hutt Attempts to Contain his Entrails.’ Photo courtesy of Lee Zeltzer, Boquete Guide blog.
I’ve heard that Sr. Millo is ripping out the modern fountain and I don’t remember seeing Jabba yesterday. The mayor also had the concrete seating painted a soft green (sounds odd, looks good), getting rid of the garish orange. And the park is now awash with plants and flowers that are alive and not potted in old tires or sewer pipes (true story). And local artist, Chalo, (blog post on this eccentric, tree-top dwelling artist forthcoming) is setting to work on an elaborate wood sculpture. (During rainy season we lost some trees to high winds). His sculptures are well known across Boquete. He works with trees that have to be taken down due to disease or high winds and transforms the trunks into his own version of a totem pole.
It was a welcome site on my first day back in Boquete: It was as if I clicked my heels and got myself the makings of a new central park.
Part of the carving..Boquete Central Park
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September 18 2014
I take this Boquete hiking trail most Sundays with my wonderful animal stalker friends, Bill and Lynne. The Waterfall Trail in Boquete is gently sloped, so not too strenuous and it delivers on stunning views and an abundance of wildlife. This Boquete hiking trail is also the Quetzal nightclub of Boquete: all the boy quetzals gather here, coyly letting their tail feathers swing, luring in the ladybirds. Finding this trail can often be confusing: it used to be called the Pipeline Trail, plus, there’s another excellent trail close by with a similar name, The Lost Waterfalls (our next featured trail – stay tuned!). You know you’ve got the correct trail if you see this sign:
This is the trail we recommend most often when guests ask us where to go. For plenty of reasons:
Quetzals! You have the greatest chance of spotting a Quetzal on this Boquete hiking trail. You further increase your odds if you have a skilled guide with you. We can arrange this at check in. Most tours pick up at the hotel at 8:00-8:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. and the hike lasts about 3.5 hours. The cost is approximately $40 per person.
Quetzal on the Waterfall Trail, August 2014. Photo courtesy of John from Boquete Custom Tours.
The Really Old Tree: Yes, that’s the official name of the 1,400 year old tree that has withstood two eruptions of Volcan Baru (you can see two distinct indentations in the trunk). The tree is off to the left of the main trail (not the first left fork at the beginning of the trail…that’s where the bee colony is. Don’t go there). You’ll see the tree from the main trail. You’ll also see a lot of people with binoculars pressed to their faces, mouths slightly ajar hovering in the vicinity – it’s prime quetzal country due to the abundance of aguacatillos, also called mini-avacados, or, quetzal crack cocaine.
The Waterfall! At the end of the trail, you’ll see a stunning waterfall. Tip: Don’t stand directly under the water, trying to recreate an Irish Spring moment. Landslides/tumble-y rocks a distinct possibility, especially in rainy season. Admire from a distance.
Wildlife: I’ve seen quetzales, toucanettes (you’re picturing a toucan in a blonde wig and smurf hat, aren’t you?), howler monkeys, a sloth, baby tinamou (he hiked with me for a spell). Lynne and Bill have seen: the above, plus, a weasel, peccary, coatimundi, armadillo, deer, olingo, cacomistle, porcupine, opossum, agouti, capuchin monkey.
Photo courtesy of Bill Fox!
Another Bill photo!
The drive up to the trail: The Bajo Mono loop road is spectacular. You can make a whole day of it: stop at the crazy rock formation, waterfalls, abandoned ‘castle’, stop in at Fresas Cafe for a fresa batido (strawberry milkshake), drive through farm country and breathe in the smell of green onions. We provide a great map with all the landmarks. Ask us about it before you hit the road and we can give you some tips!
You’ll see this on the way up to Bajo Mono.Climbers not guaranteed.
Safety first! This trail features a lovely woman named Janeth who collects $3 from each hiker to cross her family’s land. She also takes note of who enters the trail and who exits—which is always a good thing.
Trail: The Waterfall Trail
Location: Up the Bajo Mono loop road – ask at our front desk for a map!
Time: 2 – 3 hours (depends on how often you stop to shoot photos)
Pros: Beautiful views, quetzals and other wildlife, waterfall
Cons: Lots of people on it in high season
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July 25 2014
No he escrito en tres meses porque le prometí a la próxima entrada sería en español. Aquí lo tienes…
Me gustaría presentarles a Coco y Pippa. Ellas hablan español perfecto.
Al principio, Coco cubrió los oídos de Pippa cuando practicaba mi español porque era tan horrible.
A veces ella se trata de escapar de mi mal español.
Ahora ellas escúchame y tenemos conversaciones excelentes.
(Sí, esto era una excusa para publicar fotos de mis gatos.)
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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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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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