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Caffeine, Tradition, Quetzals and a New Day for Panama

The western Panamanian province of Chiriqui (chi-ree-KEY) is dwelling to a 10,000-foot lively volcano, the world’s largest binational protected reserve, Central America’s most peaceable and conflict-free rural tourism expertise, and the world’s costliest espresso.

As well as, Chiriqui welcomes journey brokers and their clients to rethink the Central American customer expertise.

Panama tourism presently is hitting a brand new stride. Typically used as a connecting level for Individuals bouncing into South America, (Tocumen Worldwide Airport will get some sixteen million annual passenger arrivals), Panama is encouraging longer stays for “discerning” vacationers. A advertising and marketing and branding initiative (launched in October of 2021) desires us to “Live for More” and embrace:

“A land radiating with life, completely imperfect, and stuffed with authenticity. The place Northern and Southern worlds join, previous and new worlds coexist, and cosmopolitan landscapes stay in concord with wild, untamed rainforests.”

Chiriqui is however one in every of a number of provinces that highlights Panama’s foremost draw: extraordinary range in a ridiculously small area. The s-shaped isthmus we name Panama is concerning the measurement of South Carolina, but its biodiversity outranks that of the US, Canada, and Europe mixed. Whereas the marvel of the Canal and Panama Metropolis (probably the most fashionable metropolis in Latin America) nonetheless see probably the most visitation, Western Panama’s frontier with Costa Rica will amaze each seasoned and novice off-the-path explorers alike.

Panama (Photograph through Greg Custer)

Guests arrive through a 40-minute flight from Tecomen Worldwide Airport to the town of David, David being the province’s capital and a nexus for vacationers heading between San Jose (Costa Rica) and Panama Metropolis. David is about agricultural commerce, greater training, and middle-class prosperity. Guests can select to move south towards the Pacific coastal city of Boca Chica and two nationwide parks, however most will wish to climb to the highlands (north) to embrace cooler temperatures and an Eden-like setting of rural cities, rivers (20), orchid farms, espresso fincas (farms), and one in every of Latin America’s hottest retirement dwelling locations.

From David, the Pacific coast and its Gulf of Chiriqui are however a brief drive south. Playa Barqueta, Playa Las Lajas and Santa Catalina ((Panama’s surfer pipeline) are rustic however readily accessible. The Parque Marino Golfo de Chiriqui (two dozen islands, wildlife, whales, wealthy mangroves and forests) and Parque Nacional Coiba (Panama’s “Galapagos” and a UNESCO World Heritage web site) showcase the perfect of Central America’s Pacific for eco-adventure.

Head north from David and also you’ll attain Chiriqui’s highlands. An online of unbiased indigenous cultures lived right here when Spaniards arrived within the early 16th century. Cultural genocide adopted, and at present the area’s sole remaining individuals are the Ngobe-Bugle. The cool and verdant countryside north of David nonetheless bears the mark of 19th century European and North American immigrants. And now, a wave of “life-style migration” is making its mark.

Panama (Photograph through Greg Custer)

Agrotourism is a rising cottage trade, in cities like Guadalupe, Volcan and Cerro Punta. The setting is harking back to the Swiss countryside: gushing rivers, manicured pastures, dairy farms, strawberry fields, flowers, order, and prosperity. Idyllic for a Central American area that’s rife with battle and despair, this space is a pastoral paradise. It’s properly value one’s time to discover locations just like the Finca Dracula, an oasis for orchids (over 2,000 species!), and serene strolling trails. Close by is the tranquil riverside Resort Casa Grande Bambito.

This space is on the western aspect of the Baru Volcano (Panama’s tallest). It’s the gateway to 2 stellar outside adventures: the Parque Internacional La Amistad (World Heritage since 1990 and residential to over 600 fowl species) and the Sendero de los Quetzales. This path runs alongside the northern flank of Volcan Baru. Quetzal sightings are most frequent from December to April (dryer months). It’s a outstanding climbing hall (go accompanied and anticipate to spend a full 6-Eight hours) that results in a trailhead close to the city of Boquete. So, strolling between these two standard areas is a chance for even informal hikers in match situation.

The city of Boquete (40 miles due north of David) is a bonanza of rural Central American pleasures. “Found” by AARP and commercialized as a retirement wonderland for North Individuals, Boquete sits in a river-divided valley surrounded by verdant farms, espresso plantations, fields of citrus, eco-adventure parks, subtle eating/lodging, and a Shangri-La ambiance. In my 40 years of touring Latin America, I’ve by no means seen something prefer it.

Residence to some 25,000 (together with a number of thousand US, Canadian and European retirees), Boquete sits within the shadow of Volcan Baru. The summit could be reached climbing through an arduous “highway” strewn with boulders and gullies. Or one can take a 4-wheel drive ascent to the summit and watch the dawn/sundown over the Atlantic and Pacific. The Sendero del Quetzal descends from Punto Cerro (to the west), with the trailhead a couple of kilometers from the Boquete city middle.

Boquete’s wealthy volcanic soil, abundance of water and the guiding palms of European and North American farmers have crafted a metropolis that defies most Latin America stereotypes. Espresso (together with small farms rising the world’s costliest beans) and abroad dwelling has introduced gentrification, land clearing and worth inflation. However because the highway from David stops at Boquete’s northern flank, there aren’t any passers-by, few day guests (weekends and holidays, sure) and no snarling visitors. Uber clear, freed from distracting signage and visible chaos, versus many areas in Mexico), and with none signal of shanty squatters, Boquete is a spot to inhale cool tropical mountain air, (though it does rain nearly day by day Might to December), whereas sipping a neighborhood microbrew or the world’s world-renowned espresso.

Expat dwelling facilities abound (gringo cowl bands, eating range, English theatre, bookstores). Panama’s US greenback economic system makes settling in a bit simpler and English is extensively spoken. You possibly can drink faucet water anyplace in Panama, I used to be assured. Eco-adventure experiences like Boquete Tree Trek provide cover treetop guided walks, zipline runs, rum tasting and sweeping jungle views of the Boquete space. Finca Lerida is a espresso finca and birdwatching haven to not be missed.

Tree Trek Boquete in Panama
Tree Trek Boquete in Panama (Photograph through Greg Custer)

The Resort Panamonte belongs in an earlier period. Constructed simply after Canal completion in 1914, its easy cottages (16) are spacious and superbly appointed. White picket fences and flower gardens set the tone. It’s the place Canal-based US Military brass would go on romantic escapes and has hosted the likes of Richard Nixon and Ingrid Bergman. The restaurant is great and there might be culinary courses as soon as once more in 2022. Additionally, examine the Hacienda Los Molinos Boutique Resort for contemporary luxurious, a jaw-dropping setting, and superb resort facilities.

Spend days exploring this single foremost road city, and a foremost plaza uncharacteristically freed from stone church buildings or colonial mansions. Eat Brazilian Pizza (who knew?), and Asian, Argentine and Peruvian honest. Take a nap. Hike to a espresso finca. Eat like a critical foodie at The Rock. Soak your bones at a sizzling spring. River raft. Write a weblog. Mirror.

Or as one new slogan tells us, “Dwell for extra.”

Brokers take notice, you received’t discover US tour operators packaging this area. It’s an itinerary of “get to the town of David, hire a automobile and soar from coast to volcanic calderas.” Give the area a full 4-6 days for an unforgettable Central American eye-opener.

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Greg Custer has labored in worldwide tourism advertising and marketing for over 40 years. He lives full-time in Mexico’s Lake Chapala space and focuses on retirement overseas


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