We headed to the Panamanian border and decided our next stop would be the mountain town of Boquete. That meant we needed to breeze through our first border crossing of this trip, as Boquete was about a day’s drive away. Yeah… if only it was that easy.
We heard that the Sixaola, Costa Rican border was laid back, and it definitely was. We arrived just in time for a coffee break for the one person that could cancel our Temporary Vehicle Import Permit and waited for 45 minutes before we were able to start the process. After we waited for 45 minutes, our passports were stamped out of Costa Rica and stamped into Panama without a hitch.
Getting insurance for the truck was a little bit more difficult. We walked into the Seguro (insurance) office on the Panamanian side, which was actually just a girl in a room with a computer and a printer. Unfortunately her internet connection was down so she couldn’t sell any to us. Awesome. That meant we needed to walk half a kilometer back to Costa Rica (over the rickety bridge of death) and buy the insurance there. This went fine, we got a little exercise and our new insurance. We walked back to Panama to get our Vehicle Import Permit… except that the insurance we just purchased didn’t have Richard’s name listed on it anywhere. By this time we were getting a bit frustrated as we were still used to North American efficiency. Back we went to the Costa Rican side for a revised copy (and more exercise). Eventually we made it back to Panama, obtained the correct paperwork, and then proceeded to head down a random one-lane unpaved road with more rickety bridges of death into nowhere before we realized we had missed our turn (blasted GPS!). Finally we turned back, got on the highway and proceeded through the beautiful highland countryside of Panama.
The drive from the border to Boquete was one of the most scenic and lovely drives we have done in all of Central America. Alternating between pasture, farmland, and lush green mountains, we zig zagged our way up and down and through the mountainside, taking in the half-hidden waterfalls, vacas (cows) and goats along the way.
Arriving in Boquete was just what we needed. The temperature was cooler, it was significantly less humid, and only rained in the late afternoon/evening. We set up our basecamp at Pension Topas and ended up spending 10 nights there while taking day trips throughout the surrounding area.
We had plenty to do in the not so sleepy little town of Boquete. Here are a few of our favourites:
Mike’s Global Grill
Yes, a bar is high on our list of favourites… We definitely took full advantage of having Mike’s Global Grill so close to the campsite. When happy hour includes $1 bottles of beer, $1 chips and salsa, and $1.50 rum highballs how can you say no? More than once we were enticed by happy hour and ended up staying for the live band. It seems like everyone travelling in Boquete stops in here at some point so it was a great place to meet locals and travellers alike.
Los Cangilones de Gualaca
We followed the route provided by the Boquete Travel Guide and took the 45 minute drive to the river canyon. We had heard that it gets busy, but 10am on a Monday morning we had the entire place to ourselves.
En route to Bajo Mono and the popular hikes you’ll come across this climbing wall. We didn’t climb, but we definitely used it for a photo op with the truck! Across from this wall there is a sweet little boondocking spot on the river 😉
The Lost Castle
This is also on the way to the hiking area in Bajo Mono. Looks like it would have made a nice place to have a castle! Now it’s run down and creepy. Still looks cool though!
Jungla de Panama
You can read (and watch a video) all about our day at Jungla de Panama Wildlife Refuge here. There were howler monkeys, spider monkeys, macaws, goats, dogs, and cats roaming the refuge. We didn’t think that feeding an owl would be something that should be on our bucket list, but it is now, and it’s checked off!
Hiking in Boquete
We detailed all of our hikes (Pipeline Trail, Sendero Los Quetzales, and The Lost Waterfalls) in one big blog post so make sure to read that here.
Overall we spent 10 days in Boquete. It was the perfect place to get away from the rain and heat of the coast and totally relax. It was great to have a home base at Topas Pension and be able to head out for day trips around the area. We definitely understand why this place is full of expats who have decided to set up their new life here.
Other mentionable activities included:
1. Coffee and empanadas (your choice of chicken, coconut, or strawberry) at Sugar and Spice Bakery. You can buy day old bread here for half price and they also sell dark rye and whole wheat bread loaves, a jackpot find in Central America.
2. $7 USD yoga class at Yia Yoga (our teacher gave us a wonderful essential oil treatment while in savasana and we were relaxed for days).
3. The Tuesday market just over the bridge, where you can find all sorts of veggies, fruit, meat, and souvenirs. We also found some rare items such as locally made thick greek yogurt, fresh kale, cheeses and a used book section. We picked up some deliciously spicy ground turkey and made lettuce wraps with fresh salsa. Life could definitely be worse.