Hiking is one of Boquete’s main attractions, with many tours and guides providing mountain and jungle excursions for visitors. Normally we avoid paying for a guide if it isn’t required, but the Lonely Planet guide for this area was a bit lacking when it came to information on solo trekking. Thankfully, after some quality internet searching (and chatting a little bit with the locals) we ended up finding plenty of available trails. Of those, we hiked three trails while in Boquete: The Lost Waterfalls, The Pipeline Trail, and the Sendero Los Quetzales. They were all relatively close to town and were very well marked. We saw tons of people on the Lost Waterfalls and Pipeline trails, and only one other couple on the Sendero trail.
The Lost Waterfalls
We used the Boquete Travel Guide which provides step-by-step directions to this hike. The drive to the trailhead is seriously scenic, with a wicked climbing wall, Lost Castle, river, and bright flowers to be seen along the way. If you are going to choose one hike in Boquete, this is the one we would recommend.
There is a gravel parking area at the trailhead. The fee ($3 USD per person) is paid at the cabin/booth once you complete the initial and somewhat gruelling climb. There are bathrooms at the cabin/booth as well… and the view from the bathroom is epic. We’re not joking, you’ll see it in the video below. There are three “lost” waterfalls on this very well marked trail. They advise you head to the second waterfall, then the third, and then the first. We found this to be a good recommendation. The second waterfall was definitely our favourite, and is the one you see below in the photos and video. The hike is fairly challenging and steep with a lot of mud and tree roots and that was our excuse for being out of breath… or maybe it was just the beauty of the waterfall taking our breath away. Oh my!
The Pipeline Trail
This was by far the busiest trail of the bunch. People were all over the place trying to catch a glimpse of the Quetzal. The resplendent (Wikipedia’s word, not ours) Quetzal is a brightly coloured bird that was the “must see” of Panama. Since Wikipedia also mentions that it is difficult to see in heavily wooded areas we can assume that is the reason why we never saw one. Maybe we were too busy checking out the giant tree and talking with other people who we met out on the trail.
The trailhead of the Pipeline Trail is located close to the Three Lost Waterfalls Hike. The Boquete Travel Guide gives a good set of instructions to reach the trailhead here. We paid $3 USD each. The trail was relatively flat with a lot of great scenery. The magnificent tree you see below was one of the highlights. There is also a massive waterfall at the end of the trail which was dry at the time, but would be spectacular during a wet patch of weather.
Sendero Los Quetzales
Sendero Los Quetzales is a 6km trail that runs between Cerro Punta and Boquete. It is recommended that you start at Cerro Punta and then hike to Boquete. Since we don’t always do what’s “recommended” we started from Boquete and headed the opposite way to Cerro Punta. After a couple hours of hiking 4km directly into the jungle without seeing anyone or anything other than dense jungle we decided to pull the chute and return to Boquete without finishing the entire trail. Guess what? No quetzals, but that’s okay with us! We heard howler monkeys in the jungle and saw goats frolicking in the pasture. We heard that this was one of the most beautiful trails in Panama, but after the two previous hikes we were on this was equivalent at best. But you know what? A ho-hum day on a trail is waaaaaaay better than… well almost everything else.
The trailhead in Boquete starts at the Ranger Station in Volcan Baru National Park (a couple of kilometres from the entrance to the Three Waterfalls Hike by road). We ended up walking from the Three Waterfalls Trailhead up to the Volcan Baru entrance, as we weren’t sure what parking would be like at the Ranger Station. Parking was actually quite good so we would recommend you drive to the Volcan Baru entrance and park there, as it would take off about an hour of intense uphill walking from your hiking time. By doing this you’d easily be able to make it to Cerro Punta and back in one day. Parking is $1 USD and we weren’t sure what the entrance fee was because nobody was at the Ranger Station.
We also heard of another trail that starts near the Three Waterfalls trail, but never ended up hiking it. If you ask around at some of the frequented restaurants/bakeries, someone would likely be able to hook you up with the details. We also found a Facebook page called Boquete Nature Hikes, where a local named Jere McCormick leads weekly hikes on Wednesdays.