Panama Bird Watching
Date Visited: March 2016
A break from the Caribbean Island blogs…
Recently I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful Panamanian town of Boquete.
Boquete lies 60km from the border with Costa Rica in the Panamanian highlands at an elevation of 1,200 metres. Because of this the town has a mild climate and has become a favoured retirement location for North Americans.
The town is also popular with tourists due to the variety of activities on offer in the area. You can climb a volcano, raft, hike, swim in hot springs and so much more.
Boquete is a major coffee growing region so the cafes here sell exceptional coffee.
The highlands around Boquete are lush and green due to the constantly changing weather, which sweeps in from the Caribbean sea, moving over the mountains onto the Pacific Ocean. The forests in the area are an excellent place for bird watching.
Located 5km up a steep hill behind Boquete, Finca Lerida (elevation: 1600m) was first established by a Norwegian engineer who had worked on the Panama Canal and was looking for a place with fresh, clean air to spend his retirement. He established the Finca with his wife in 1924.
Today the Finca is a luxury hotel with a restaurant and coffee shop. It’s surrounded by lush, well tended gardens, which attract a variety of birds.
The estate is primarily a coffee plantation and you can see the beans being processed next to the coffee shop. The Finca is famous for growing the “Geisha” bean. At US$260 per kilo, this is the most expensive coffee in the world.
On the slopes above the estate are 6km of walking trails, which will take you deep into the highland forests. Here you have a chance – but just a chance – of spotting the elusive Quetzal. I hired a guide (Eddy) and spent several hours with him in search of the Quetzal.
We got lucky! We found a male and female sitting almost side by side in two different trees. Eddy said he had never seen such a thing. They sat for 15mins while I photographed them.
Eddy was very excited, telling me I was very lucky to see such a site. When we returned to the Finca he told all the staff what we had seen. It was a good morning.
After the walk I spent some time in the garden of the Finca photographing hummingbirds and others. A female Scintillant hummingbird had built a nest on a coat rack outside one of the guest rooms and was sitting on two tiny eggs.
If your budget allows, you can splurge and stay in the beautiful rooms at Finca Lerida. Otherwise there are more reasonably priced options down the hill in Boquete from hostels to hotels.
I stayed at hotel La Casa de Abuela, which I would recommend.
There are many hotels/ hostels in town so no need to book in advance, however if you wish to you can find accommodation on booking.com
There is an excellent restaurant onsite at the Finca and you should ensure you try the estate coffee, which is available from the coffee shop.
Being a popular tourist destination Boquete is full of restaurants, cafes and bars. I especially recommend the craft beers sold at the Boquete Brewing Company. They have a help-yourself popcorn machine, which keeps everyone happy.
Some nationalities require visas for Panama – check your visa requirements prior to arrival.
International flights into Panama arrive at Tocumen International Airport. The airport is a major hub for the region, providing daily connections throughout the Americas and beyond.
You can access Panama from Costa Rica crossing the border either on the Caribbean coast from Puerto Viejo to Sixaola or inland on the Panamericana highway from Paso Canoa.
Either way you will need to transit through the city of David where frequent buses do the run up the mountain to Boquete.
Boquete is nice and compact, everything is within walking distance. Taxis and buses are available if required.
Other blogs from the region – Panama Travel Report
Author: Darren McLean
Author of taste2travel.com and an avid traveler, photographer, travel writer, diver and adventurer.