The Misty Mountains of Boquete

Our trip to Boquete, Panama was the first time in six weeks that we would not be traveling/living with others.  It was also the last time during our family gap year as just the five of us.  My parents were set to join us in a week, so we knew we wanted to really soak in these last few days of our epic adventure with our core family. 

Our first impressions upon arriving in Boquete were, “Yes, it’s cool again!” and “Whoa, so many retired Americans!”  The weather was in the 70s and the area is surrounded by lush rainforest and mountains with the Chiriquí River flowing through the town.  It’s a gorgeous setting and I understand why it would be a comfortable place to make your home.  We stayed at the Inn at Palo Alto, just a mile from the city center.  A small hotel with a pool and gachuzzi (as Bingo calls it). And, they had the freshest, most delicious breakfast of the year.  We stayed in a room with a lofted area for the kids’ beds, a kitchen, and separate living area.  A perfect set up for our week of adventures!

Boquete is set among the cloud forests and boasts numerous outdoor activities.  We were coming into rainy season, but it didn’t stop us from having an amazing time while we were there.  Upon checking into our hotel, we dropped our bags and walked the 1.5 miles into town along the river.  It was a beautiful walk, made really difficult by the whining from our two youngest children.  They’d forgotten that we walked five times this much when we were in Europe! When we arrived into town, we tried to find a lunch spot and quickly discovered American prices at the restaurants.  Almost $10 for a sandwich!  Being used to cheap meals in Guatemala, we spent the afternoon at the grocery, stocking up for cooking.

I was especially thrilled to be in Boquete because its known as an amazing place for hiking, my favorite pastime! So, of course, on our first full day we set out on the Pipeline trail.  We registered at the entrance and the kids borrowed hiking sticks to use for the duration of the hike.  We were on the lookout for toucans and quetzals but they remained elusive.  The temperature and the scenery were breathtaking though.  Lush rainforest, hidden streams, and even a family full of monkeys jumping among the tree canopy!

Along the way, we met a French family on a family gap year. They had similar aged kids and were traveling by camper from Canada through to Central America. We followed them to the hike’s end and discovered we could actually stand under the hidden waterfall to cool off! Manji and Bingo even hiked the entire five miles with smiles on their faces and without complaining—a win, win!

Kate and Goose on the Pipeline Trail

The following day was our biggest adventure in Boquete, white water rafting with Full Adventures Boquete!  The kids have done a couple of float trips, one in Jackson Hole and one in Alaska. However, this was the first with class III rapids.  Our guide picked us up at 8:30 and we traveled for two hours to the start of our rafting adventure down the Chiriquí River. 

We were all excited, except Manji who in a last minute moment of panic decided it would be way to difficult to remember how to paddle and keep himself in the boat.  After a brief tutorial from our guide and paddling through the first rapid, Manji decided this would be a fun time after all.  We hit several class III rapids and the boys were begging for more!

Poor Bingo was in the bottom of the raft in the back so she didn’t fall out, but as a result she was constantly doused with water.  She is one strong little girl, never complaining! By the time we reached the midway point and took a break for lunch, she declared, “This is AMAZING!!!” We paddled hard for half the day and saw snakes hanging from trees and loads of iguanas.  All the kids were able to jump into the water and float through some of the smaller rapids.  After the float, we made a quick stop in Costa Rica to fuel up on snacks and have a restroom break and then we enjoyed napping for the two hour drive back to Boquete.

Our second hike of the week took us to Tres Waterfalls.  We packed our picnic lunch of peanut butter and jellies and pringles and planned a fun outdoor day.  The waterfalls are of course beautiful but are also known for their inviting swimming pools.  The third waterfall is the toughest part of the hike, involving a brief scramble up the trail. As a result, the map suggests starting at the second waterfall, proceeding to the third, and then circling back to the first. 

The hike in the rainforest was slippery, but well maintained with ropes strung up to assist on the climbs.  It was fun watching Bingo in her dress and sandals scrambling up the mud! As we made it waterfall three, we had a quick lunch and all jumped in for a dip.  The water was frigid, but we all took turns making our way in and swimming under the falls!

The Lost Waterfall Trail

Just as we dried off and started to return by waterfall two and one, it started to sprinkle.  By the time we made it to the trailhead, it was pouring rain! Bingo was crying and miserable, Manji was cranky, and we temporarily lost Goose as he ran ahead.  Thankfully, Goose knew our plan to wait at the next turn and James went back and found him right where we thought he might be.  All soaked to the bone, we made our way back to the car and counted the minutes to return to the hotel so we could jump in the hot tub and warm up!

Manji, Goose, and Bingo playing in the creek

Our friends, Alana and Bevan, who run the Worldschool Antigua hub, were in Boquete with their kids Jack and Elle.  We were so excited to meet up with them one night for dinner and then spend a day horseback riding.  Let me be clear, I am not a fan of horses.  To me, they are big and scary, but I knew it would be a great opportunity for the kids and a beautiful way to see the mountains of Boquete.  It was also a fun adventure to have with our dear friends.  The boys had been horseback riding at summer camp last year and knew what to expect. 

We would have thought Goose had ridden horses his entire life! He was so comfortable on his horse, leading him around without fear.  Manji, on the other hand, spent the better part of thirty minutes on his horse in a state of panic.  His horse was about as lazy as one could get, but the shear size of the horse overwhelmed him.  By the end, he had calmed down, but I don’t think he’ll sign up for another horse ride anytime soon!

Horseback riding in Boquete

Our final day in Boquete, we spent time swimming and preparing for our upcoming BVIs trip. We walked to a nearby coffee plantation where the kids played in the river.  We had the most amazing farewell meal at the Rock Boquete, a restaurant just a half mile from our hotel which had a large fire pit and games for the kids to play.  The kids enjoyed toasting the free marshmallows they gave us as well as chasing around the giant toads that were all over the lawn! We also celebrated the end of our time in Panama and our time together as just the five of us on this year long journey!

Last dinner at the Rock

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