The beaches of Panama often draw out adventurers seeking sunny skies and aquamarine waters. However, Panama is much more than just a destination for a oceanside vacation. For those seeking more out of a trip than just lying in the sand, the first thing to do is explore the best hikes in Boquete, a beautiful, […]
The beaches of Panama often draw out adventurers seeking sunny skies and aquamarine waters. However, Panama is much more than just a destination for a oceanside vacation. For those seeking more out of a trip than just lying in the sand, the first thing to do is explore the best hikes in Boquete, a beautiful, mountainous town in western Panama.
The best way to experience the gorgeous landscapes of this region is on Boquete’s hiking trails. This small city holds hidden hiking gems that any outdoor explorer would be thrilled to stumble upon. If you love hikes that involve lush jungles, breathtaking cliffs, and mountain peaks that put all of Panama on display, then Boquete is the place for you.
At about 3,900 feet (1,200 m) above sea level, Boquete’s cooler climate will have you extending your trip to explore all the city and surrounding areas have to offer. For the best hiking conditions, we recommend visiting during the dry season, between December and May. Read on for more travel tips and details about the best hikes in Boquete.
When first arriving in Boquete, you will notice a larger-than-life volcano that has remained dormant in the area since the 16th century. This is the Baru Volcano, otherwise known as Volcán de Chiriqui, and is the location of one of the best hikes in Boquete, and the most well-known.
Although this path is one of the more difficult hikes in the area, the view from the peak makes the journey worth it. After passing through rolling hills to rocky cliffs, the top of the Baru Volcano places you above the clouds, making you feel as if you were on top of the world. On a clear day, you can see both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean from the top, with a stunning view of Panama’s jungles, mountains, and oceans all in one.
How to Get to the Baru Volcano Trailhead
You can take a taxi to the trailhead for about $7. Some hostels in town also have shuttles to the volcano for about $5. If you plan to start hiking at midnight, arrange your taxi or shuttle during the day to ensure you can find a ride. On the way back down, you can take a $4 bus to Boquete.
How to Hike the Baru Volcano
Being the largest peak in Panama, it takes anywhere from five to seven hours to reach the 11,400-foot (3,475-meter) summit. Because of the hike’s significant change in altitude and length, we recommend using a guided tour in order to reach the summit. After all, safety first! You can hike Baru Volcano on your own, but it’s much better to go with a local guide who knows the area well and is trained to handle situations such as altitude sickness.
If you’re a true adventurer, start your hike during the nighttime in order to reach the peak by the time the sun rises. This view cannot be beat!
Check the weather beforehand and be prepared for rain. Temperatures can get frigid at the volcano’s summit, especially at night, so make sure to bring warm clothes, including a warm jacket, pants, a hat, and gloves. You should also bring plenty of water, snacks, and a headlamp.
If you’re interested in experiencing the diverse wildlife that Panama has to offer, then Los Quetzales Trail, or Sendero Los Quetzales, is something you cannot miss while in the area.
Stretching from Boquete to Volcan Cerro Punta, this trail travels mostly through the dense Panama forest of Volcan Baru National Park before ascending steeply towards Cerro Punta. About halfway through the hike, you will reach Mirador La Roca, a remarkable lookout point with astounding views of the surrounding forest.
Throughout the hike, you will have the chance to spot the rare quetzal, a bird of green, red, and blue colors that is native to Central America.
How to Get to Los Quetzales Trailhead
There are three options for hiking Los Quetzales Trail.
If you start from Boquete, you can take a colectivo (shared taxi) to the trailhead for about $3. From the Boquete side to Cerro Punta, you’ll climb about 2,625 feet (800 m). For that reason, some people choose to start in Cerro Punta and walk downhill.
Keep in mind that transportation between Cerro Punta and Boquete involves taking a $3, 1-hour bus to David, then a $2, 45-minute bus to Boquete. If you turn around at Mirador La Roca and head back to Boquete, you’ll just have to catch a colectivo again.
How to Hike Los Quetzales Trail
For the highest chance of seeing the rare quetzales, other beautiful birds, and howler monkeys, you can hire a guide who knows the wildlife of the area well. Even on your own, learn the calls of quetzales and howler monkeys beforehand so you can recognize their sounds while walking through the jungle.
Quetzales live at higher altitudes and like cool temperatures, so especially keep an eye out for them as you reach higher points of the trail. These rare birds are also more active in the morning, so get out on the trail with your binoculars as early as you can.
Be aware that the trail can get quite muddy. There are park ranger stations on each side of the trail which will have current information on trail conditions and weather. Prepare for your trek in the tropical jungle by bringing rain gear and insect repellent.
If you have the time to spend hiking the entire Los Quetzales Trail, we recommend doing so! If you are limited on time but still want to experience Cerro Punta, we recommend a half-day trip that would allow you to still explore the beautiful countryside in the area through shorter yet still scenic trails. With this particular tour, you are able to experience the authentic Haras de Cerro Punta Ranch, the largest horse ranch in Panama!
For more information about Los Quetzales Trail, check out this blog post.
The Pipeline Trail is another of the best hikes in Boquete, especially for those who are running short on time or who simply want a hike that is a little less strenuous. While still immersing yourself in the heart of Panama’s jungle, this hike can be completed within a few hours during the morning or afternoon.
This hike is perfect for beginners as it remains flat for the majority of the way and takes you to the reward of a stunning waterfall at the end! Some special features of this hike include man-made bridges that take you over small streams as well as fallen trees to balance on over the often muddy terrain.
How to Get to Pipeline Trailhead
Known by locals as the Cascada Escondida trail, the trailhead begins in the Bajo Mono region, which is a short $8 taxi ride or $3 colectivo bus ride from the center of Boquete. You can also catch a colectivo on the way back.
How to Hike the Pipeline Trail
We recommend you complete this hike in the morning hours, as it usually rains in Boquete during the afternoon. If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot a howler monkey during your trip!
On a warmer day, the Lost Waterfalls Trail is a personal favorite of ours, as you can swim in one of the pools of the three waterfalls you will see on this trail! On top of the extraordinary scenery you will see throughout this hike through the Panamanian jungle, these waterfalls are breathtaking and a wonderful way to cool off during your day.
How to Get to Lost Waterfalls Trailhead
Similar to the Pipeline Trail, you can take an $8 taxi or a $3 colectivo to the trailhead. You may want to arrange a time for a taxi to pick you up after your hike so that you have an easy ride back to town.
How to Hike Lost Waterfalls Trail
This hike is less strenuous, as it takes only two to three hours to complete and can be done during a half-day trip. The landscape is filled with local flora and fauna and you are able to hear many of the area’s 220+ bird species calling out to you. The hike takes you through a cloud forest, feeling even more magical after each step, as you are surrounded by the low-lying clouds.
Unless you plan on starting this hike early in the morning, you should bring a rain jacket and considering wearing rain boots in case of an afternoon storm. We also recommend using a guide for this trail in order to learn more about the local ecosystem and find out where to take a break to swim in the cool waters!
Each of these hikes certainly holds an adventure, and if you are able to spend more than a few days in Boquete, we recommend you try them all. However, even if you can only squeeze one or two of these best hikes in Boquete during your stay, we are sure you will find them to be just as awe-inspiring and exhilarating as we thought they were!
For more ideas about things to do in Boquete, plus info about Bocas del Toro and Panama City, check out our other blog post.