A Month-Long Vacation in Boquete, Panama: What I Loved… and What I Didn’t

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A Month-Long Vacation in Boquete, Panama: What I Loved… and What I Didn’t

Well, we just wrapped up a month-long vacation in Boquete, Panama. Wow, I missed it here!

For those of you who aren’t regular readers, we lived in Boquete for just shy of three years starting in 2019 before returning to the U.S. in the spring of 2022. Moving back to the U.S. was a difficult decision that has both its pros and cons but either way, it was great to be back there again.

This trip came about because of some good luck and great friends and ended up making for a relatively inexpensive month-long vacation in Boquete, Panama!

I was surprised by just how busy it was for us seeing old friends and doing the activities here we enjoy like hiking and time at the beach.

There were a lot of things that I loved about being back here, which came as no surprise. However, I was shocked that there were some things that I wasn’t thrilled with either.

Here’s the scoop on what I loved and well, what I didn’t…

There are some cool places to stay for a month-long vacation in Boquete, Panama!

The lodging for most of our trip was spent house and dog-sitting at our good friends’ house in Alto Boquete while they were out of town. But we also stayed at different places before and after just to try out different things…

A Month-Long Vacation in Boquete, Panama: What I Loved… and What I Didn’t - Downtown Suites
The common area behind our hotel room at the Downtown Suites for a few days was surprisingly cool!

I’ll show you photos of the other places we stayed as we get to them.

Show Pony Beach Resort didn’t disappoint!

There’s not a lot to say about this one. I wrote a post a while ago talking about how the Show Pony Beach resort is our favorite of the beaches within a few hours of Boquete.

A Month-Long Vacation in Boquete, Panama: What I Loved… and What I Didn’t - A Palm Tree at Show Pony Beach Resort at Las Lajas

We essentially made this a priority stop on our month-long vacation in Boquete, Panama. After our first night in Boquete, we picked up our rental car and headed right to Show Pony for 3 nights. Here’s what we love…

  • The beach and the resort never seem crowded (and this time we went over a weekend and it was still that way)
  • The Las Lajas ocean water is warm with some decent fun waves
  • The apartments at the resort each have a full kitchen and you’re allowed to bring in your own food
  • The food and drinks at the resort are reasonably priced and good
  • The staff at the resort are friendly and attentive
  • Each apartment has a private outdoor shower so you don’t need to drag in the sand every time you get back from the beach

I could go on, but suffice it to say, we love it there.

Faith’s best friend from Panama came with us for the whole beach trip. Faith’s now officially a teenager (we celebrated her birthday there as well as her BFF’s) and having fun with friends is starting to be higher on the list than hanging out with mom and dad so it worked well that she had her friend there. We all had a lot of fun and her friend’s mom (our friend) joined us for the last night there, too.

This was a great way to kick off our month-long vacation in Boquete, Panama!

There’s a lot of new construction going on… like a real lot

I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not, but we were surprised to see how much has changed in just the one year since we’ve been gone. There’s new housing going up everywhere, so many new restaurants, and even a new big grocery store being built that everyone’s talking about.

That’s obviously great to see that the city is growing – it’s good for the economy and it’s always great to see more options and competition.

But, Boquete’s not a big town and it lies pretty much in a bowl with not a ton of room to expand within. The infrastructure isn’t great anyway – the power goes out routinely, the water supply needs to be shut off to fix things periodically, and the roads and sidewalks aren’t in great shape. There’s also already a lot more traffic and a lack of parking without much room to expand either of those easily. Adding an extra lane each way on the main road would be great in itself but a tremendous undertaking since all the properties are right along it.

And then, supposedly there’s a new hotel being built on the north end of town. The word is that it’s possibly a chain hotel like a Holiday Inn. Again, competition is good.

Boquete’s already grown so much over the past decade. But with all this growth, it’s very possible to lose a lot of the small-town charm that it has.

So, I’m not really sure how this will play out or I feel about it but it’s definitely interesting to see all the changes happening.

Alto Boquete just isn’t my spot

Our friends’ house that we house-sat and dog-sat for was in Alto Boquete. You can’t complain about the view…

It’s also in a nice neighborhood. When we’d go for a walk around there, everyone was friendly and it’s just a nice area overall. So, that’s all well and good, but I had a couple of issues (don’t I always?!).

Alto Boquete is south of Bajo Boquete (downtown) by only about a 12-15 minute drive. In many places, 15 minutes away wouldn’t make that much of a difference temperature-wise, but when that 15 minutes means heading down a mountain, it does.

Just that little bit of a distance generally translates into about a 3-degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature. Still no big deal, right? Bajo Boquete tends to stay right around the 75° each day so that puts Alto Boquete around 78°.

Here’s where it gets weird. Whereas Bajo Boquete feels comfortable (to me) at 75°, it feels exponentially hotter in Alto Boquete… like miserably hot. In fact, we needed room air conditioners to sleep comfortably at night (not something we ever had or needed in Bajo Boquete).

Now, there’s no doubt this is going to be different for a lot of folks depending on their degree of comfort, but I think the humidity is the big culprit here. It’s almost always humid in Boquete – you’re living in the mountains in what they call a cloud forest, which is a type of rainforest.

But at 75°, I feel like the temperature is still moderate enough that the humidity doesn’t make you feel too hot. As the temperature starts going up higher than that though, it just feels a lot hotter.

On most days, here’s what the gauge showed for humidity inside the house in Alto Boquete…

That’s pretty humid! Again, this is just a matter of preference and I have a stupidly-limited temperature range where I’m comfortable, but I guess this wasn’t it.

The other part of this that I ended up not liking so much was being outside of town. I couldn’t put my finger on it for the longest time but then I finally figured out how to describe it.

It’s similar to living on a college campus versus commuting to school. Yes, you can get “the job” done either way but it’s not the same experience by any means (I did both over the years in school).

Our friends we were house-sitting for let us use their car as well while they were gone (great friends, indeed!). That allowed us to be able to head into town to see friends, grocery shop, go out to eat if we wanted, etc. So that worked out – it did the job.

However, I realized that it’s just not the same (for me). Loyal readers know that I loved the time we lived in Boquete – it was magical to me. But I figured out on this vacation that a lot of the magic was that we didn’t have a car when we lived there and we walked everywhere in Boquete (with a periodic taxi, bus, or rental car when needed).

I loved being outside and just enjoying nature and walking around saying “hi” to everyone in passing. I felt part of the community. I enjoyed being able to walk to the gym or the grocery store if we needed something.

But being outside of town took away some of that. Driving into town wasn’t a huge deal but it just felt like some of that “specialness” wasn’t there. Again, this is just my perspective but that did take away from the trip somewhat.

So if we were to be spending a month-long vacation in Boquete, Panama again, I would choose Bajo Boquete over Alto Boquete in a heartbeat. That said, it was pretty nice to be able to stay in a nice place for free for almost 3 weeks! 🙂

We love the hiking here!

No month-long vacation in Boquete, Panama would be complete without some hiking! There are some great trails here and nature definitely rewards you for it with some beautiful landscapes and some really cool sites to see.

As crazy as it is, we were only able to fit in two hikes on this trip with how busy we were here (more on that shortly!). You also generally want to try to hike first thing in the morning here since it’s the rainy season and you can expect rain almost daily in the afternoons.

Regardless, we were able to do two of our favorite hikes here… Bajo Mono and the Pipeline Trail.

Bajo Mono is my favorite hike just because you get a little bit of everything with it – hiking through the cloud forest, a waterfall, a stunning view, and even various animals (farm and domesticated). Here’s a video short I put together on this hike…

I recently started a YouTube channel under Route to Retire. I’ve been experimenting with some different things on there and have some fun videos on there regarding our time on this Panama vacation. I also have a video touring you through our new RV travel trailer with more videos to come about our RV travel adventures that are soon to begin!

I’d love it if you’d hook a brotha up by clicking the Subscribe button on the main page or by just going directly to this link.

I’m not the only one on the YouTube front in our household. Our daughter Faith has been at it for over 4 years now! You can check out her Fun with Faith channel here. Here’s a video short she created about our hike at the Pipeline Trail that’ll give you a feel for this one…

Prices have gone up

On this month-long vacation in Boquete, Panama, we learned something else… prices have gone up since we left!

I don’t know the specifics as to what to attribute this to, but I would guess that it would be a combination of three things:

  • inflation
  • Growth of the city in general
  • The continued influx of ex-pats

Inflation is kind of a gimme as a lot of the world has been seeing that lately. And then, as I mentioned, Boquete is continuing to grow. With that growth, I think the cost of goods is following suit.

But then, there’s also a funny phenomenon where when more ex-pats move in from wealthier countries, they tend to inadvertently drive the prices up as well.

I say that it’s funny because a big part of why foreigners tend to move into countries like Panama is for the lower cost of living. And then, because many struggle to just adapt to the way things are, they want things to be more like they’re used to. So, they end up shooting themselves in the foot by demanding changes that ultimately end up pushing prices up in areas across the board. Life’s funny, ain’t it?!

We heard that rent prices have gone up quite a bit in Boquete recently (like big jumps). I don’t have numbers to verify that but we heard that from several of our friends on different occasions. It’s still cheaper than what you could get for those prices in the U.S. but no renter enjoys a price hike!

We did, however, see the price increases for ourselves on the grocery side of things. Our favorite place for fruits and vegetables (Caballeros Fruits & Vegetables aka Sara’s) made us raise an eyebrow when we first went there on this trip. Again, still good pricing but the costs are sure not what they were when we left last year.

Bear in mind, most prices are still more than reasonable. We went to lunch at a really nice contemporary sushi restaurant called Nación Sushi in David, along with Faith’s friend while we were there…

A Month-Long Vacation in Boquete, Panama: What I Loved… and What I Didn’t - Nacion Sushi David

It was delicious and yet here was the bill for the four of us (and we left stuffed)

A Month-Long Vacation in Boquete, Panama: What I Loved… and What I Didn’t - Nacion Sushi David receipt

I’ll take that kind of pricing at a nice sushi restaurant any day!

Spending time with old friends

I saved the best for last. We were a heckuva lot busier than we thought we’d be here. You might think a month-long vacation in Boquete, Panama could almost get boring with so much time on your hands after a while, but we barely had a minute to breathe.

That’s a good thing though. While we did do a lot of things ourselves that we had on the agenda – the beach, hiking, exploring, eating out, and more – that was probably only about a third of our time here.

The rest of the time, we spent getting together with friends. I guess I’m a little taken aback and surprised by how many of our friends here wanted to get together. We didn’t even have time to get together with everyone (sorry if we missed you on this trip!).

Although it was busy, we had a lot of fun and we were able to check out a lot of the restaurants we wanted to go to as well (both old and new). There are so many restaurants in this small town – it’s a foodie’s dream (though I’m not a foodie)!

A Month-Long Vacation in Boquete, Panama: What I Loved… and What I Didn’t - Lunch at
Celebrating my birthday with a friend of ours at one of my favorite places, Restaurante de Mariscos La Cueva Del Pitufo, a delicious Peruvian restaurant.

One of the lunches we had was with our friends Rod, Oscar, and Megan. They run the Retire in Panama Tours organization and they’re just great people to talk to.

If retiring to a lower-cost-of-living paradise like Panama is something you’ve been considering, it’s worth considering joining one of their tours. They take you on a 7-night, 6-day tour across Panama from Panama City to the Chiriquí Highlands. You explore various spots throughout the country where you might want to live and they give you the truth (both good and bad) about what it’s like to live in each of those places as well as Panama in general.

The tour groups are smaller (8 to 12 people) so you’ll have more time to ensure all your questions are answered and they can help you with some personalized recommendations. You’ll learn more about what it’s like to be an ex-pat in Panama, how the healthcare system works, working here if desired, and anything else you’re wondering about.

Almost all your expenses are covered, too, so this makes it an easier choice to budget for. My favorite part though is that when the tour’s done, they give you their cell phone numbers so you can continue to ask questions afterward. Then they’ll even help make sure you’ve done everything needed if you decide to relocate here.

Anyway, great folks and worth considering. You can check out their site and learn more at Retire in Panama Tours.

Such a great time visiting with all our friends here and looking forward to seeing everyone again on our next month-long vacation in Boquete, Panama down the line!

What can I say? A lot has changed here in just the year since we’ve been gone but it’s still an amazing place to be. I almost forgot how much I missed it here – just kidding, I didn’t forget at all! 🙂

If you enjoyed this post and you’re not on the mailing list, what are you waiting for? I’ll keep you up to speed with some things I don’t talk about on the blog. I’ll even send you some cool spreadsheet freebies that I use regularly that I think you’ll enjoy…

I hope you’re having a great summer and as our Panamanian friend Gia taught me years ago how to say… ¡Que tenga un lindo día!

Plan well, take action, and live your best life!

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

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6 thoughts on “A Month-Long Vacation in Boquete, Panama: What I Loved… and What I Didn’t”

  1. Looks like you had a blast there Jim, I have a friend whose brother moved to Panama on a whim right after college, that was 40 years ago! He rarely comes back to the states. I’ve personally never been, though I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. Thanks for reinforcing the hearsay 😉

    1. 40 years… that’s awesome. I know several folks who have moved there and rarely come back to the U.S. as well. One person said that they needed to come back here and just felt anxious and out of place until they got back to Panama. Crazy, right? It’s an amazing country and I’m so glad we got to live there and return for a visit. I’m sure that won’t be the last time either! 🙂

  2. great article, thank you. However I’m a beach person… how far is to the beach and are they crowded? Is the beach there rocky or sandy,cand what are the waves and rip tides like?

    1. Hi Russell – I love that the temperature in Boquete stays at about 75 degrees every day of the year… perfect for walking around. But even better is that with a couple hours drive down from the highlands of Boquete, you can find the beaches along with temperatures in the mid 80s. You’re not going to find crystal clear water like in the Caribbean, but beach is sandy and the ocean temp is very comfortable (and I’m a freeze baby!). And the best yet is that there’s rarely anyone on the beaches (except on the weekends or holidays). I wrote about three of the beaches in my post, 3 Popular Panama Beach Resorts – Las Olas, Las Lajas, and Show Pony, that should give you a taste of what they’re like. 🙂

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