It’s crazy to think that we’re only going to be living in Panama for less than 3 more months before moving back to the U.S. (with a couple of weeks in Mexico first!). In the meantime though, we’re cramming everything from a cemetery to a flower festival into our plans.
It’s been a wonderful adventure over the past 2 ½ years here so far – we definitely feel like this is home. But we have our reasons for heading back to the U.S. in April.
Our time here started on a high of exploring a country we were unfamiliar with and having the time of our lives. Then, what are the chances of a once-in-a-century pandemic hitting shortly after our move here?!
Things got “interesting” here during the first few months of COVID-19 and we rolled with the punches with some of the draconian measures taken. But after about 8 months, the country transitioned to a sort of new normal that was a lot more tolerable.
The pandemic hampered a good deal of what we wanted to accomplish while we were here since it cut into a lot of our time.
However, time heals all wounds, right? We’re blessed that we’re in the position we’re in and if a slowdown to our fun was the worst of this for us, that’s something I’ll always be truly grateful for!
But now that we’re all fully vaccinated and things have loosened up, we’re trying to cram in everything we can. I’m climbing a volcano tomorrow, we have plans to stay a couple of nights in a jungle lodge, and we’re heading to the beach for a few nights sometime after that. We also have a ton of restaurants we want to try and more hikes we want to try out.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! So much to do with so little time!
In between my volcano-climbing training and going to the movies in Panama for the first time, we recently squeezed in a visit to the cemetery (yes, the cemetery!), went on a hike with an awesome view, and checked out the flower festival Boquete is known for…
So, we went to the cemetery just to go…
My wife, Lisa, dropped this bomb on me and our daughter, Faith, about a month ago…
“So, I’d like to go check out the cemetery at some point…”
Um, what? No one died – why is the cemetery on your list of things to do?
Well, it turns out that the cemeteries in Panama are different than what we’re used to seeing in the U.S. One of the biggest differences is that they entomb the dead above ground. And the cemeteries have a little more character to them because of that.
I’ve never been to a cemetery without the intent of visiting a gravestone but apparently, some folks like to do this.
Ok, fine, we’ll go check it out. The cemetery in Boquete is on the south side of the town anyway, just a few minutes away.
We headed there on a day we had a little bit of time and while we had a car we were borrowing from a friend. I gotta admit, it was interesting to see…
I don’t think I’ll make cemetery visits something on my regular agenda, but it was still fascinating to see how a different culture handles the end of life.
Il Pianista Trail… a hike with some beautiful landscapes
Pre-COVID, we were doing weekly group hikes. We looked forward to those every week. Some of the faces stayed the same and some changed each week but there were usually 15-25 people on the hikes.
It was a great opportunity to get to know other folks in Boquete and we got to check out all sorts of cool hikes. There’s not really a website or anything else to be able to see all the hiking trails in the area, so it’s tough to know where they are otherwise. These weekly hikes gave us the added benefit of learning where many of them were located.
Once the pandemic started, the group hikes fizzled. We pretty much kept to ourselves anyway for several months so knowing where some of these trails were at was a bonus (I had tracked them all in an app that’s now called Outdooractive).
We’ve gone on several hikes ourselves since then with the Pipeline Trail (and the cool waterfall at the end of it) being one of our favorites.
However, one that we hadn’t been to in a long time was Il Pianista Trail in Los Naranjos (sometimes listed as “El” Pianista). It’s right behind the Il Pianista restaurant (great Italian food and ambiance!) and it’s a hike we enjoyed the view from before.
Initially, the three of us were just going to go, but we extended an invite to two groups of friends we’d been in touch with recently. One of those groups included our friends Craig and Nancy from the Chasing Panama blog you’re hopefully already following. So we had our own group hike going this time!
We didn’t do the whole trail but we did get to the spot I like most on it with some beautiful views…
It’s such a nice hike and it’s always just great to be outside anyway. This isn’t a difficult excursion but if it’s rained recently, I’m told it can get pretty muddy. We went during a dry spell so that wasn’t an issue for us.
If the Il Pianista Trail rings a bell at all, it’s likely because of the disappearance and deaths of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon. They were two Dutch students on vacation in 2014. This was a very big news story, obviously with the disappearance and deaths themselves, but also due to concerns over how the investigation was mishandled.
It’s still something talked about here in the ex-pat community almost 8 years later.
The annual flower festival in Boquete
And that brings us to the annual flower festival in Boquete, aptly named the Boquete Flower and Coffee Fair. We never noticed much of an emphasis on coffee over the years when there but maybe we were just missing it.
Regardless, it’s definitely a flower festival there… beautiful flower arrangements throughout! The fair generally happens every year around this time of year for about 10 days.
Last year, the flower festival was canceled due to the pandemic. What was interesting about this year is that they decided to only allow vaccinated folks in. This isn’t the norm here but with a big event like this, the health ministry here (MINSA) made this mandatory.
Even though the three of us are vaccinated, we decided not to go in. There’s a small cost to get in which we’d be fine with, but you can see most of it (with a better view) from the bridge over the Caldera River…
Plus, all the fun stuff is happening outside of the event anyway.
After looking at the flower festival from the bridge, we walked up and down the street checking out what the vendors had to offer. One cool thing we tried for the first time was cocada, which translates to “sweet coconut.”
We tried cocadas de maní (peanut-flavored) and cocadas de piña (pineapple-flavored). I liked the cocada de maní better though both were really good but very sweet.
And then Faith somehow conned us into buying her a Spider-Man hoodie.
She’s been really into Spider-Man lately and seeing Spider-Man: No Way Home at the movies here in Panama has only pushed that higher. We love our Marvel movies over here!
$15 for a licensed hoodie ain’t too shabby anyway! And we got it a little big so maybe she can get an extra year out of it.
We wrapped up the evening with dinner at the Boquete Sandwich Shop. Considering how good the food is here, how close it is to where we live, and the reasonable prices, I can’t believe we’re not eating here all the time!
A monster-sized burger, a buffalo chicken wrap, a Philly steak wrap, and raspberry tea… $28 (before the tip). Good for the stomach and the wallet… though probably not our health!
Although the cemetery, hike, and flower festival aren’t large multi-day events like some of the upcoming mini-vacations we have planned, they’re still a lot of fun. They’re also free or low-cost so that, of course, doesn’t hurt either!
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!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a volcano to climb!
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!