Monday, December 31, 2018

A Visit to Panama at Christmas

Feliz Navidad

For the final week of 2018, my family and I visited Boquete, a small town at the foot of a large volcano and a mountain range in the western part of Panama. 

We flew down to Panama City by way of Miami, landing a little late. Given an already tight connection to our local flight to western Panama, it was not really a surprise that we ended up missing our third flight. So, we got booked onto a flight for the following evening and stayed overnight at a nice hotel in Panama City. This gave us an unplanned chance to stop in at the Panama Canal museum and to get a quick look at the Panama Canal itself. Not a bad delay! 

We eventually got onto our final flight a day late and made it to David, Panama in the western part of the country. We were picked up there by John, who works as a guide for one of the local outdoor adventure companies. He took us on the last leg of the trip, a 45-minute drive from David to Boquete. John was friendly and full of local knowledge. He told us about the area and also about the outdoor activities he guides. We made a note and planned to ask for John for at least some of our planned adventures. We finally arrived by 7pm on the second day of the trip, in time to have a nice dinner at the resort.

Our boutique hotel was called Los Establos, and is located about a mile up some steep roads into the mountains. Los Establos means “the stables,” and the property has a history of serving as stables but today it is a small hotel of about 25-30 rooms on beautifully landscaped grounds that include a working coffee plantation. There are spectacular views of the nearby volcano and mountains.

After a great dinner and some wine, we looked into the available day-trips and half-day trips. There were about a dozen adventures available, some a few hours, some half day, and a few all day. We decided on and booked a group of adventures, some as a full family, others just involving those most interested. We booked ziplining, canyon river swimming, white water rafting, a hot spring visit, a coffee plantation and processing tour, a visit to an apiary (bees), and a 4 hour hike with birdwatching and a chance to see monkeys and sloths. Great stuff! We then turned in early, enjoying our beautiful rooms.

The location was incredible, and we had great meals at the hotel and in town. We enjoyed spectacular views of the mountains and the beautiful landscaped grounds. On the walk to breakfast every morning, there was a huge rainbow visible. Each day after our adventures, we played pool and enjoyed drinks at the hotel happy hour. On Christmas Eve, there was a special meal and at midnight the whole town of Boquete shoots fireworks to welcome Christmas day. Later on Christmas day, there was a parade in the town which some of us attended. Our week was absolutely amazing.

The rest of this post is a small collection of our many pictures.
Sign at the foot of the town

Sculpture in the town square

Los Establos, where we stayed

Los Establos

Los Establos

Los Establos, beautifully landscaped

Rainbow every morning on the walk to breakfast

Visiting a Coffee Plantation

Yellow coffee fruit is ready

Green coffee fruit is not ready

Red coffee fruit is ready

Natural drying, one of several processes

On the "Pipeline Hike", we saw the oldest tree in Panama

The sign says 1000 years, but we were told it is much older

Flowers on the hike

Flowers on the hike

Flowers on the hike

We saw lots of birds on the hike, but the highlight was seeing 15-20 howler monkeys

This mature male was protective of his group

At the canyon river swim

Good place for a jump, about 12-15 feet up

Mike takes the plunge

Richie jumped in, too. Later, Tacey and I jumped as well.

Ziplining! Way up in the mountains

Our family, ready to zipline





We got "certificates" at the end after zip lining 13 platforms up in the mountains

Another river swim in a great location

Tacey, Deke, Mike at Los Establos

Steve and Mike at the Christmas Parade

Steve and Deke get a beer in town

Our family with John, our guide

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