In Panamá: Boquete

Boquete is known as the Napa Valley of Panamá’s coffee region and is a top destination for adventure lovers – climb the volcano to watch sunrise, go white-water rafting, hike, bird-watch, rock climb, and enjoy coffee tours.

In the highlands of Chiriqui Provence in western Panamá, Boquete is where Barry and I spent much of our time in January.  With a population of 19,000, Boquete has about 14%   North American and European retirees. That fact is probably why we met people who had time to talk.   Also a result of all the ex-pats is the number of Boquete interest groups: hiking groups – at least two, a bird-watching group, bridge players, and bocce ball players; these are just the ones we discovered in the 10 days or so that we were in Boquete.

rainbow euc

Rainbow eucalyptus trees in Boquete. Many of the plants are the same as those we have in Hawaii.

N-B woman

A Ngäbe-Buglé  woman.  This indigenous group that lives in Panamá has been able to keep much of its culture.

The Ngäbe-Buglé (actually two groups of indigenous peoples whose languages are mutually unintelligible) have exclusive land rights and considerable administrative autonomy in their region.   The Ngäbe (also spelled Ngöbe), the larger group, speaks Ngäbere,  and the Buglé speaks Buglére, both members of the Chibchan language family.   Collectively, they make up the largest indigenous population in Panamá of about 200,000.

According to Lonely Planet: Panamá, “Like other indigenous groups in Panama, the Ngäbe-Buglé are struggling to maintain their cultural identity, especially as foreign pressures continue to descent on the comarca (autonomous region). They predominately survive on subsistence agriculture, but they have been more successful than other groups . . . in maintaining their cultural identity and resisting the drive to modernize” (166).  From what I saw, this means they are very poor and not well respected.  😦   But some Panamanians realize the importance of having traditional cultures, so hopefully the Ngäbe-Buglé opportunities will improve.  Walking eight hours to pick coffee is not a good opportunity!

coffee plantation

Just outside Boquete are coffee plantations. Roasted beans roll down into the waiting truck.

Ngöbe-Buglé children

Ngäbe-Buglé children

Boq susan

Susan gives terrific mat Pilates and cardio Pilates classes at The Haven Spa in Boquete

boq road

A road up from the town of Boquete. We loved picking different roads and hiking up (and back down)

At the top of one Boquete road - the colorful cemetery

The view of the central square out our Mamallena Hostel window in Boquete

save energy

Mamallena Hostel sign – and sign of the good humor there.


For $3.00 U.S. we bought - two pineapples, onions, peppers, oranges, eggplant, chilies, and a slice of watermelon!

For $3.00 U.S. we bought – two pineapples, onions, peppers, a bag of oranges, eggplant, chilies, and a slice of watermelon – all fresh and tasty!

Near the top of one of the Boquete roads - a colorful cemetery

Near the top of one of the Boquete roads – a colorful cemetery


Panamá is about 98% Roman Catholic xxxx but many other religions are part of this diverse and important trade area xx

Panamá is about 85% Roman Catholic but many other religions are accepted in this diverse and important trade area


Boquete cemetery

Boquete cemetery

A Boquete cactus

A Boquete cactus

The river that runs through Boquete

The river that runs through Bouquet


boq B, S, & R

Our new friends, Suzie and Russ, originally from Chicago, are now living in Boquete. Here we are at Sugar & Spice restaurant. We had a lot of fun hanging out with them.

Stone art

Stone art


Farm animals next to a Boquete road

Farm animals next to a Boquete road

Boquete from above.

Boquete from above.

Me on a Boquete hike

On a Boquete hike

Barry hiking near Boquete

Barry hiking near Boquete

Mi Jardin

Mi Jardin entrance

photo 5

Mi Jardin es Su Jardin – an open to the public garden

photo 4

At Mi Jardin es Su Jardin

photo 4

Boquete flowers

photo 3

On a Take-A-Hike outing

boq castle

Take-A-Hike – to the “haunted” castle

to the wall

Take-A-Hike – to The Wall

Our favorite places to eat in Boquete (in alphabetical order) include:  Big Daddy’s, La Casona Mexicana, Mike’s International Grill, Retrograde, and Sugar & Spice.  All had fresh produce, vegetarian choices for me, and wonderful cooks.

We had fun eating in Boquete too.

We had fun eating in Boquete too.

We loved the cool weather, the fair, the friendly people – local, ex-pat, and at our hostel, the travelers and Mamallena staff,  the yoga and Pilates classes, the great hikes, the organized Take-a-Hike group, and good food.

We would visit again.  We recommend that you go to Boquete too.

Aloha and Adios, Renée


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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

2 responses to “In Panamá: Boquete”

  1. Gail Wood says :

    Nice pictures, Renee. Glad you’re enjoying yourselves.

  2. Rosita says :

    We’re all unique, all of us have a particular way of living and can’t be replaced. Although some persons are bad, still there’re so many persons in the world that’re good. I did a test on internet to show me where I should live and the result is always the same, even if I change my answers: Trinidad & Tobago. Am I predestined to live in T&T? Who knows. I like to think that I am, but I’ll let destiny decides it 🙂 I would like to visit a less crowded Caribbean, as Trinidad & Tobago or Turks & Caicos (although the second option is much more expensive for me and will take a long time to occur…..), and do you know that here on Brazil we HAVE a piece of Caribbean? Yes, we have a piece of Caribbean here, although it isn’t divulged by international (and badly by national) midia, but it’s an idyllic place to those who want to visit Caribbean, although can’t go out of Brazil, for any reason, like the devaluation of our national money, and it’s as idyllic as some Caribbean destinies, as Punta Cana, Bahamas or even Trinidad & Tobago and have so much good options of hotels, even one of best all-inclusive in all Latin America: Salinas de Maragogi, although it’s pretty expensive…. But no worries, there are other options of hotels (and less expensive), thankfully, because I wouldn’t stay on a very luxurious (and expensive) place due to its price 😦 Our Brazilian piece of Caribbean is located at Costa dos Corais (literally “Coral Coast” in Portuguese), who’s world’s SECOND LARGEST coral barrier, in Alagoas state, losing only for the Great Coral Barrier on Queensland state, in Australia. Three examples (or small pieces of paradise) of Costa dos Corais are: Maceió (the Alagoan capital), São Miguel dos Milagres (a small fishermen village who looks like Caribbean) and the pearl of pearls: Maragogi, the paradise on Earth. Could you imagine a place where both French Polynesia and Caribbean unite in only one place? If yes, it’s located on Maragogi, an unique place on Earth, which I could recommend that, if you want to visit Brazil, put maragogi in your bucket list and you wouldn’t regret! Sadly, i never visited Costa dos Corais neither Alagoas state, but it’s on my bucket list 😀 I would like also to visit Bali.. What do you think about Bali? It’s true that kuta region should be avoided? On a next visit to Island of Gods, do you want to visit Gili islands?

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