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In just a few days, our time of living in Panama for over 2 ½ years will be coming to an end. It’s bittersweet in so many ways, but today I thought it would be fun to look back at so many of the fun activities we did during our time here.
Whether it was sleeping in a lodge in the jungle, spending time at nearby beaches, or just walking around the town of Boquete and admiring the beauty around us, we really loved our time here.
So I wanted to take the time to share some of the fun activities we did here with you. If you’re living in Panama or visiting, you might find them useful. If you’re not planning to visit Panama (you’re missing out!), here’s a glimpse into our lives to see what kept us busy while living here.
This became a brainstorming session with me, Lisa, and Faith. As we were coming up with this list, I was amazed by how much we did here – especially considering that we spent a fair amount of time either quarantined during the pandemic or in the U.S. after taking a humanitarian flight out. In other words, we’ve been pretty busy!
Check out these 41 fun activities (in no particular order) that we enjoyed during our time here in Panama…
Fun activities we did in the Boquete area
Conquered the Meto burger at Big Daddy’s Grill
Ok, not quite!
Since we arrived in Boquete, we’ve been talking about this crazy burger at Big Daddy’s Grill…
Over two pounds of meat! Who in their right mind would try to eat this whole thing? Heck, for $26, we could order it as one meal for all of us at a pretty good per person price!
And we did. I have to say, I would have regretted it if we didn’t make it happen before leaving.
It was just how you’d expect it to be, too… messy, gross, delicious, and a heart attack waiting to happen.
Attended the Christmas parade
We attended the Christmas parade in Boquete in 2019. People told us to take our time getting there since it’s always late. It was supposed to start at 6 pm, we got there close to 7 pm, and it started at 8 pm… welcome to Panama!
This thing was great – it went on forever. We left at 10 pm and it was still going strong with no end in sight. It was crazy and, unfortunately, it was the only Christmas parade we got to experience here because it was shut down over the past couple of years due to the pandemic.
Zip-lining through the canopy
Any list of fun activities should have zip-lining somewhere on it! We did this twice through Boquete Tree Trek and it was awesome. You’re up so high that you’re essentially zip-lining through the clouds (the cloud forest as they call it). So cool!
Visited the butterfly habit
Boquete Bees and Butterflies (Miel Boqueteña y Mariposario) is a place in Los Naranjos, just a short drive north of Boquete.
I hate bees… scared to death of ’em. But this was ok because we were there to see the butterflies – although I’m told that a lot of the bees there are stingerless anyway.
The Butterfly House has about 40 different species of butterflies and it’s just really cool to walk through and see them all.
“The outdoor sport or game of searching for hidden objects by using Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates posted on the internet.”Geocaching – Dictionary.com
This was something that Faith was digging into and although it’s not too popular in Boquete, there are a few spots around. We used an Android app, which is aptly named Geocaching but it looks like it’s available for iPhones as well.
We ended up hunting down and finding one of the objects and Faith added her name/date to the scroll but we couldn’t find another one that we think was removed.
There’s nothing crazy hard about geocaching, but it’s one of those fun activities that’s worthwhile because it gets you outside more and it’s like treasure hunting.
Visited the Panamanian shops
There are scattered Panamanian shops that sell all sorts of beautiful and many handmade items throughout Boquete. But some central places are home to a bunch of these shops as well. One of these is the Boquete Artisan Center (Centro Artesanal de Boquete) and another is on the grounds of the Boquete Flower & Coffee Fair.
It’s fun to look around and see what the shops are offering and maybe pick up some souvenirs for friends or family.
But one reason we especially like this is because we met a wonderful friend here named Gia. Between my broken Spanish and her broken English, we laugh so much as we have conversations together. She’s one of the sweetest people we’ve met here.
Her shop is now located within the Boquete Flower & Coffee Fair. Here is the location of her shop if you want to visit her and support her business.
As a side note, we’ve since met her husband, Richar, as well as one of their children. They’re all just the nicest people and Richar’s an amazing artist, too! You’ll definitely want to check out his paintings!
You can also check out more of his work on his Instagram feed here.
Attended the Boquete Flower and Coffee Fair
The Boquete Flower and Coffee Fair is an annual event usually held in January that draws in a ton of visitors. There are thousands of flowers from all over the world set up in real cool arrangements. And of course, there are all sorts of local agricultural products showcased with the most prominent being coffee.
You can read more about this festival in my post, A Beautiful Hike, a Cemetery, and a Flower Festival…
Rode the bus between Boquete and David several times
You might not put “riding the bus” on your list of fun activities but we like to think of it as an adventure. When we first got here, we barely knew any Spanish or the area so figuring out where and when to get on, where to get off, and how much to pay made it interesting.
Plus, it’s like a roll of the dice on whether you’ll get one of the beautiful air-conditioned buses or one of the few old school buses in the mix.
You’d think that the adventure part would be gone now that we know the ropes, but that’s not true. The cultural differences are fascinating to see on the buses. For instance, people will watch videos on YouTube on their phones with the volume all the way up. That might seem rude to us, but it’s just an acceptable norm here.
Each trip makes this a reason to be included in the fun activities list!
To give you an idea of bus prices, as of this writing, taking the bus from Boquete to the main city of David (about an hour bus ride) costs $1.75 per person. Not too shabby, right?
Spent many evenings at the Valle Escondido Cantina with some drinks and playing cards
While living in the Valle Escondido resort, we used to look forward to heading over to the Cantina for a few drinks. Sometimes there would be live music and it tended to draw a decent amount of people that you got to know.
On the days when nothing was going on there, it was nice to just enjoy the atmosphere and play some cards. Rummy was usually our go-to game though you never know when Uno or another game would steal the show.
Created an American Ninja Warrior course
Fun activities during the COVID-19 pandemic? Absolutely!
There were some not-so-pretty times here in Panama at the start of the pandemic. We were on strict lockdown and couldn’t even step outside of our condo for a few months for the most part.
I don’t know how most parents handled situations like this but we tried to make the best of it. One of the fun activities we did… a ninja warrior course. This was compliments of Faith, of course. It’s all about making lemonade out of lemons.
Feel free to check out this trainwreck…
Visited the Tuesday Market
The Tuesday Market is something that a lot of folks look forward to in Boquete every week. Every Tuesday, ex-pats and Panamanians gather together to buy and sell all sorts of goods. It’s also an excuse to just meet new people and catch up with each other.
Personally, we found it not to be our thing after a while, but it was still one of the fun activities we’d do when we first got to Boquete.
Over the past year or so, there was a split-off and now there are two Tuesday Markets. The good news is that they’re right across the street from each other and operate on the same schedule so you can easily visit both.
Visited town square on a few weekends and holidays and enjoyed street meat
On the weekends and holidays, a lot of folks gather in the Boquete town square to just hang out and socialize. We found something we looked forward to doing once in a while when this is happening… enjoying the street meat sold by one of the vendors.
Ok, it’s not really called “street meat” but that’s what we decided to name it for fun. They cook up different meats and serve ’em on a stick. There are hot dogs, chicken, and something we call “mystery meat.” Sure, it’s probably just beef but it’s still more fun to not know for sure… and it’s delicious!
On top of that, they sell warm platanitos, which are small plantains – sliced, fried, and salted. And yeah, they’re delicious as well!
Took advantage of the amenities at Valle Escondido a lot… the pool, hot tub, and racquetball
Not all of our fun activities revolved around zip-lining or chowing down on monster-sized burgers. Sometimes we just enjoyed some more laid-back things like swimming in the resort’s heated pool or chilling in the hot tub (hmm, is that an oxymoron?).
And I also spent time teaching Faith and Lisa how to play racquetball, which has always been one of my favorite sports.
Trick-or-treating isn’t something common in the Boquete area. However, a friend of ours worked with several of her neighbors in the Santa Lucia area and put together trick-or-treating a few years ago. The kids were excited, we had a great time, and it was a good opportunity for the kids to get to know each other as well as the parents.
She’s organized this a few years in a row now and it became one of the fun activities we looked forward to each year.
Attended an… interesting Oktoberfest
And then there was Oktoberfest. A couple of months after we arrived here in Boquete in 2019, we were excited to see that there was going to be an Oktoberfest. That should be fun, right? So we bought tickets for $8 bucks each (Faith was free) a few weeks before the event.
I’m sorry to say that this was not like any Oktoberfest I’ve ever been to before. Sure, they had a few breweries selling beer there and some music. However, it looked like an old folks’ home with people just sitting around at tables talking.
Still glad we went just to check it out, but as far as fun activities go, this one was kind of a letdown.
Went on a geology tour with Dr. Paul Meyers
There are a ton of ex-pat retirees in Boquete (that’s the majority of the ex-pats here). With that comes a ton of wisdom and expertise along with people looking to get involved, give back, and share some of that knowledge.
Such is the case with Dr. Paul Meyers, a retired geology professor who was offering geology tours in Boquete. That might not sound like it should make the list of fun activities until you realize that Boquete is adjacent to a large active volcano, has a river that combs its way throughout the city, and experiences regular earthquakes.
The tour was a great way to understand the history of how all of these pieces fit together and to learn more about what we can expect when the volcano erupts again (it’s overdue!).
Hosted and entertained Lisa’s parents
I’m so glad my in-laws came to visit and stay with us in Boquete last spring. We had such a good time that I ended up writing two posts about their visit:
We had a great time showing them around and I think they enjoyed it a lot here. If they ever decide to move to Boquete, does that mean we should move back here?
Went hiking… a lot
When we first arrived in Boquete, we found out about a hiking group and joined. It was a great way to meet other people, learn where the hikes are, and of course, do the hikes. We loved it, but then the pandemic hit and the group hikes ended.
Eventually, we started going on the hikes ourselves and that quickly became one of our favorite fun activities. Some of our favorite hikes include:
Filmed and starred in an episode of House Hunters International
How often do you get to say that you starred in a TV episode? The shoot for this episode of House Hunters International took many days and hours of our time but was so awesome from start to finish. I write more about this in my post, House Hunters International (Panama) – Jim, Lisa, & Faith.
Made and spent a lot of time with friends
When you move to a foreign country, you’re most likely coming to the country knowing few if any people… so you gotta make some new friends.
And with new friends come all sorts of fun activities. Whether we got together for lunch or dinner, attended birthday parties, went hiking, or just got together for a drink (or 7!), it’s hard not to have a good time with friends.
Attended a New Year’s Eve party at Big Daddy’s Grill
During our first year here, we attended a New Year’s Eve party at Big Daddy’s Grill. Between the good food (and drinks), the dancing, and the atmosphere itself, it made a really good night of entertainment.
And when Faith won a gift certificate for best dressed at the party, that truly made it a lock for a great party for her!
Ate out at way too many restaurants
For a town of just 30-35k residents, it’s incredible to have so many choices of restaurants here to choose from. Not only can you find almost any style of food here, but it’s also usually a lot cheaper than we’re accustomed to in the U.S.
We’ve found our favorite spots and spent the last month making sure to visit them once or twice more before we move away.
Took night walks through Valle Escondido
I don’t know if this will surprise you or not, but we’re not usually out partying at night. I guess most of our fun activities take place during the daytime. After dinner, it’s usually time to play a game, watch a movie or TV show, or do some reading… and that’s about it.
But once in a while, we’d do something a little different. One cool activity we enjoyed was taking walks through Valle Escondido at night. There’s not a lot of light pollution so the stars really pop in the sky. The palm trees don’t hurt the ambiance either!
And sometimes we’ll see interesting bugs or animals out as well.
Hosted and entertained Steve and Courtney
I met Steve and Courtney at a FinCon expo in 2017 and we’ve become friends over the years. As fellow early retirees, they have the flexibility to travel a little more as well, and so they came to visit us last fall.
In between shots of peanut butter (Skrewball peanut butter whiskey) and jelly (cranberry juice), plenty of delicious beers, and eating out at a bunch of restaurants, we found time for other fun activities. We took them to Raquel’s Ark where they held a sloth, took a 4×4 tour to the top of Volcán Barú, and went hiking – just to name a few fun things.
Oh, and Steve got nipped by a coatimundi. He didn’t even feel it, but what are the chances that Courtney happened to snap a photo at that exact moment?
Had an interview and photoshoot for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine
I was honored to be interviewed for an article in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, the only personal finance magazine I read every month. So that in itself was pretty darn cool, but then they said they wanted to arrange for a photographer to come out and do a photo shoot. That blew my mind.
They hired a photographer in Panama City to come all the way to Boquete for it. It wasn’t some long shoot, but it was still something different that we got to do.
You can check out the article here… The FIRE Movement Is Alive and Well. It was published in the April 2022 issue if you’re more of a hard copy sort of person.
Fun activities we did outside of the Boquete area
Went whale watching
One of the first fun activities we did when we got to Boquete in late summer 2019 was to go whale watching. Lisa had been digging into this before we moved here and found that the best time of year for whale watching was generally July through October with September usually the most ideal. That’s when the humpback whales travel from far away to the warm waters here in the Pacific to give birth.
We booked the tour through Boquete Outdoor Adventures (highly recommended) as an “Island Trip” to Isla Bolaños off the coast of Boca Chica. In other words, they can’t guarantee that you’ll see whales so they give you a beach trip, and hopefully, you’ll see some whales on the way there or back.
We didn’t see any whales on the way to the island but still had fun at the beach on the island. On the way back though, we struck it rich and got to stop and see a bunch of humpback whales… such a super cool experience. Here’s a video Faith put together for her Fun with Faith YouTube channel with the island and the whales (she’s so young there!)…
Visited Jungla de Panama a couple of times
Jungla de Panama is a wildlife rescue, rehab, and release center. It’s also open to the public to see the animals and, in some cases, to hold them. There are some animals that we know from the U.S. and some we don’t. It’s a cool place to visit if you’re an animal lover.
Visited Raquel’s Ark a few times
Similar to Jungla de Panama, Raquel’s Ark is a rescue and rehab place for wild animals. But Raquel’s Ark in Volcán is about an hour and a half drive from Boquete whereas Jungla de Panama is only about a 15-minute drive.
So why did we go to Raquel’s Ark a few times? It comes down to one thing… she has a sloth that you can hold, which seems to be the dream of many people who tend to be female in my circle. It was something my wife and daughter were all about, my mother-in-law, and our friend Courtney. So we’ve visited there a few times because we like to make dreams come true. 🙂
A 2-night stay at Rambala Jungle Lodge
Of all the fun activities we did during our time living in Panama, our stay at the Rambala Jungle Lodge was probably our favorite. Extremely unique, so cool, and just incredible all around.
You should definitely read my post about our experience there… An Epic 2 Nights in the Jungle at Rambala Jungle Lodge.
Tour by 4×4 to the top of Volcán Barú
I was intrigued by the idea of going to the top of Volcán Barú for a while. That’s an active volcano adjacent to Boquete and the highest point in all of Panama. I mentioned it to our friends Steve and Courtney who were coming to visit and they were game. So we booked a 4×4 tour to the top of the volcano. This wasn’t something you do every day and made for a truly memorable time.
You can read more about it in the post I’ve Decided to Hike up an Active Volcano… that I wrote. And yes, this tour is what made me decide to hike up Volcán Barú several months later.
Two beach trips to Las Olas
Las Olas was the first beach we visited here once we moved here. It was a good trip and we enjoyed it a lot but you can’t go more than knee-deep in the ocean because of the strong rip currents. Still, it’s a nice little vacation without a major cost. I wrote about our first visit here… A Beach Vacation Totaling $405? Yes, Please!
We stayed there a second time with our wonderful friend and former neighbor who was renting a condo there. It’s hard to argue about a relaxing trip to the beach! Even if you can’t go deep into the ocean, the beach atmosphere is just so calming and mesmerizing.
I compare three popular beaches in the area in my post, 3 Popular Panama Beach Resorts – Las Olas, Las Lajas, and Show Pony.
Two beach trips to the Show Pony Beach Resort
Oh, Show Pony Beach Resort – how I love thee! This place is a bunch of fun activities packed into one… playing in the ocean, helping Faith dig a hole on the beach, checking out the ecological bridge, and enjoying the poolside bar.
We’ve been there twice now. I wrote about our first time there in my post, The Beach, a Sloth, and Monkey Lalas….
After the second vacation there, I wrote a comparison of a few of the beaches in the area… 3 Popular Panama Beach Resorts – Las Olas, Las Lajas, and Show Pony. Spoiler: Show Pony is by far our favorite of these three!
One beach trip to Las Lajas Resort
This became our second favorite beach vacation. It’s the same beautiful beach as Show Pony (they’re only about 2 miles from each other). We just like the ambiance and rooms of Show Pony a little better.
But Las Lajas Resort is directly on the beach and was still a great time. Just like Show Pony, there are a lot of fun activities to keep you busy. It’s hard to lose at either place!
And again, you can compare all three of these beaches in my post, 3 Popular Panama Beach Resorts – Las Olas, Las Lajas, and Show Pony.
Toured the Panama Canal
None of us cared that much about making a trip to the Panama Canal. Sure, it’s a man-made marvel but we just had other fun activities higher up on the list.
However, when you mention living in Panama to anyone in the U.S., the one thing they tend to ask is, “Have you been to the Canal?”, because that’s all that folks tend to know about the country.
We finally had an opportunity to make it happen though when we had an overnight stay in Panama City as a layover on the way back to the States back in November 2021. So we took a taxi out there to check it out.
I’m glad we went but it was a rush job through the museum. That part was a big letdown. However, seeing ships go through the Panama Canal made it worthwhile. I wrote about it in my post, Time Marches on… Getting You Up to Speed.
Took the bus from Costa Rica to Panama
After a visit to family in the U.S. in November 2019, we flew to Florida and went on a cruise, which of course, was awesome. But we also did something interesting to get back to Panama. Instead of just flying from Miami to Panama City to David, we flew for free from Miami to San José, Costa Rica using Southwest miles. Then we took a bus from San José to David.
Yes, we took a bus for about 8 hours from one country to another. It was something different to try, surprisingly comfortable, absolutely interesting, and only cost around $30 each (including the Costa Rica exit tax). Read about that adventure here: Our Return Trip to Panama – How We Saved Thousands
Would we do it again? Well, we’re about to take it from David to San José in a few days on our way to Mexico… more on that in next week’s post!
Fun activities while not all of us were together
Even though we’ve spent the majority of our time together, there were some fun activities where not all of us were together. Here are some of those things…
Lisa and Faith volunteered for Amigos de Animales… a lot
Can fun activities involve work, too? Of course! Lisa and Faith are animal lovers and have been volunteering with Amigos de Animales since 2019 (except when not permitted during the pandemic). They’re a non-profit whose mission is to provide low-cost spaying and neutering of dogs and cats and to promote the general welfare of animals in our community and surrounding areas.
So once a month, several veterinarians come in (including ones from Costa Rica) to help with a day-long event of spaying and neutering hundreds of animals. Faith and Lisa come back exhausted but satisfied each time that they were able to help out.
Faith sang karaoke at Big Daddy’s Grill
Shortly after we moved to Boquete, Panama, we went to Big Daddy’s Grill for dinner one evening. It also happened to be an evening when they were doing karaoke. Faith was only 9 at the time and said that she wanted to sing.
I thought she would be too intimidated to do it when the time came but she amazed me and walked right up went up and sang her song…
Faith took horseback riding lessons
When we moved here, gymnastics went out the door since they didn’t offer that here. However, they did offer horseback riding lessons and Faith was all about that. At $25 for a lesson of usually a couple of hours, it was a good deal… and Faith loved it. That’s also where she ended up meeting a bunch of friends, including her best friend, Ciera, who she recently started the Kid Talk podcast with.
Unfortunately, this was shut down during the pandemic and never re-opened for lessons since but it was great while it lasted!
Faith went to day camp
Considering there aren’t a ton of organized kids activities here, when we found out that they were doing a day camp for kids, we jumped on that for Faith. Some of her friends from horseback riding were also there so she already knew some kids there.
Faith went a couple of days to this two years in a row and had a good time. Fun activities and spending time with friends… what else can you ask for?!
Faith went to the bird sanctuary in David
Faith had the opportunity to tag along with her best friend’s homeschool group (her mom runs the group). They took a field trip to a bird sanctuary in David where they learned about different birds of prey. They also had the opportunity to fly the birds – they wore a special glove and the bird would fly to and from it.
What a cool experience!
Jim hiked up Volcán Barú
Last but not least, was when I did something I could never have envisioned myself doing… hiking up Volcán Barú. I trained hard for this and it was more incredible than I anticipated. The views along the way, the wildlife, the pride from the accomplishment – simply awesome.
You can read the whole story on this and see a ton of photos in my post, Holy #$%*… I Just Hiked up Volcán Barú!
And those my friends are just some of the fun activities we knocked out during our time here in Panama.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a magical place here. A couple of weeks ago I went into why we’re moving back in my post, The 2 Big Reasons We’re Moving Back From Panama… and What’s Next!
It’s sad to be leaving but I’m excited about the next chapter in our lives and maybe someday we’ll find ourselves back in Boquete… time will tell! Until then, there’s no way to say that we wasted our time while here! 🙂
Love you Panama!!
If Panama’s on your radar as a possible place to retire to, check out Retire in Panama Tours. It’s a first-rate way to see different parts of the country, learn about the pros and the cons of living here, meet other ex-pats living here, and gain a lot of the right resources to make the transition easier (immigration attorneys, for example).
Oscar, Rod, and Megan are great people, too. They have the knowledge to guide you through Panama, answer your questions, and ensure that Panama’s the right place for you. Check out Retire in Panama Tours for more info!
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!