New Direct Flights to Panama

Two announcements this week about direct flights to Panama:

1) Starting February 1, 2016, Emirates will launch a flight from Dubai to Panama City. At 17 hours and 35 minutes, this flight will have the distinction of the world’s longest flight.

The World's Longest Flight.

The World’s Longest Flight.

2) Air France is expanding its Paris to Panama City service, with six weekly flights between Charles de Gaulle and Tocumen International, starting November 2015.

New Panama flights: United Launches Direct Panama-Denver service

More exciting news about Panama flights! (It seems this blog has morphed into a ‘new Panama flights’ blog).

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United Airlines has announced new direct flights between Denver, Colorado and Panama CityTocumen International Airport. Starting August 2015, flights will operate daily (five times a week between September and October 2015).

And with the news of direct flights to David Panama (the addition of Copa Airlines flights between Tocumen International Airport and David Airport), it’s even easier for Coloradans (?) to come visit us in Boquete. (A large percentage of our US guests come from Colorado!)

Hiking Volcan Baru – with the Mighty Quinn!

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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.

Quinn’s tips:
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

To Baru or not to Baru?

Volcan Baru, Boquete Panama: To Baru or Not to Baru?
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!)

Chiriqui Day Trips: Haras Cerro Punta

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!

Los Cangilones de Gualaca

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.

Fiestas Patrias en Boquete – part 2!

If it seems like I just wrote a post on Patriotic happenings in Boquete…it’s because I did! There not one – but two – independence celebrations in Panama in November. This time around, we are celebrating independence from Spain.

There are a number of events and parades taking place all weekend. Here are some of the highlights:

Friday November 26
Inauguration of the pedestrian sidewalk in downtown Boquete. This one’s a bit controversial: a number of parking spots were lost to the walkway and – for the time being – there’s not much to see when you stroll around the square. But nevertheless – it will be celebrated! There will be performances and fireworks. As of 2:00 pm this afternoon, they were still laying down parts of the sidewalk.

Saturday, November 27
2:00 p.m. – Horse Parade through Boquete’s main street. Watch where you walk!
7:00 p.m. – Torch Parade that starts at the Los Naranjos Gym and ends at the Boquete Fire Station

Sunday, November 28
8:00 a.m. – Ceremony commemorating Panama’s independence from Spain. Takes place in front of the municipal building, across from the central park. School bands, folkloric presentations from Veraguas Province and more.
1:00 p.m. – Parade!

There is also a disco set up across Cabanas on the Feria road. Lots of bass-pumping action Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Every conceivable street meat available, washed down with an ice cold cerveza.

Travelling between Boquete and Bocas?

When visiting Panama, many people do the Panama City – Boquete – Bocas del Toro circuit. A perfect combination of city, mountains and beach, right?

But sometimes logistics can be a challenge. Here are the top 5 things you need to know if you are planning a trip to both Bocas del Toro and Boquete:

1. Flights There are no longer flights between David (the regional airport closest to Boquete) and Bocas del Toro.

2. But…there are economical alternatives to flyingLand transfers between Boquete and Almirante (the port town close to Bocas) take approximately 3.5 – 4.5 hours, depending on your mode of transportation. Once you are in Almirante, you can take a $3-$4 water taxi to the island. Here are your options:

a. A shuttle service between Boquete and Almirante: The cost is $35 per person. We recommend Panama Travel Services. They have professional drivers, safe vehicles and are insured. And the best thing is – they pick up at Boquete Garden Inn at 9:00 am (other shuttle services require that you get to them – for 7:30 am)
b. Private taxi: Panama Travel Services also offers transportation between Almirante and Boquete for $160 for 2 people. Comfy, safe and insured minivan. c. Bus: Take either a taxi or bus to David bus station, and then a bus from David to Almirante. Buses leave every 30 minutes from David. Panama bus schedule. You’re looking at a 5 hour trip. And possibly sharing the vehicle with chickens.

3. Taking a rental car from Boquete to Almirante is not a great idea. The rental companies charge a hefty premium to pick up your car from Almirante. And if you are planning on leaving the car in Almirante and then driving it back yourself – you’re paying to park an unused car.

4. Guests tell us that they wish they’d stayed longer in Boquete. I know what you’re thinking: Of course we’d say that – we’re a Boquete hotel. But it’s true! There are so many things to do in Boquete and the surrounding areas – see our Things to Do section for more info.

5. Skip the logistics and stay in Chiriqui! Boquete is the perfect home base to explore the mountains and beaches of Chiriqui. Las Lajas is 1 hour and 45 minutes away, Boca Chica and Las Olas are 1.5 hours away. We provide our guests with great maps to plan their beachy day trips! Spend less time traveling and more time enjoying your Panama vacation right here in Chiriqui!

Traveling in Panama next week? Yellow Alert: Heightened Inefficiency due to Fiestas Patrias

This serves as a quick heads up to anyone visiting Panama in November, or for those newly settled here: November is the month of Patriotic Holidays. Independence Day. Flag day. Recovery day. Another Independence Day. It’s noisier than usual, less productive than usual, more crowded than usual.

If you’re prepared, you’ll navigate the holidays and enjoy what they have to offer (parades, parties and great photo ops). Remember: book your regional airline tickets in advance. Get to the station early if you are traveling by bus. Avoid driving in Panama City (you’ll be fine in Boquete). And keep this schedule handy:

November 1 & 2: regular hours for banks, businesses
November 3: Independence Day (from Colombia). Banks, government offices and most businesses closed (exceptions: most restaurants, tour providers). Limited taxi service in Boquete*
November 4: Flag Day. Banks, government offices and most businesses closed (exceptions: most restaurants, tour providers). Limited taxi service in Boquete*
November 5: Random Party Day. Banks, government offices and most businesses closed (exceptions: most restaurants, tour providers). Limited taxi service in Boquete*
November 6: Recovery Day. Limited hours for banks (usually 8am – noon), government offices closed, businesses open, taxi service mostly back to normal (except early morning, which is dedicated to hangover nursing)*
November 10 & 29: Banks, government offices closed
November 28: Independence Day (it’s Spain this time). Heavy on parades.

*This refers to yellow taxis. Our preferred taxi service, which does airport runs, tours, trips to Almirante etc., is available throughout the holidays