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Boquete is a gorgeous town set in the highlands of Panama.
It’s the perfect place to go while backpacking Panama for those that love outdoor adventure, with volcano hikes, coffee tours, waterfalls, zip-lining, cloud forests, and more
While visiting, I heard about this lost waterfall hike where you can find three waterfalls in the jungle. I consider myself somewhat of a professional waterfall chaser, so I knew I had to go.
You can arrange tours and guides to take you to the waterfalls, but I decided to go on the adventure myself.
The Lost Waterfalls of Boquete
Getting to the lost waterfalls trail
To get to the lost waterfalls trail, you can get a collective (bus) from town to the Bajo Mono area. The busses depart from Calle la Sur, one block from the main square. Buses run every half an hour from town, but this is Central America, so I wouldn’t count on timeliness.
Since my hostel was outside of town already en route to the trailhead, I decided to get a taxi. An advantage of the taxi is they will take you as far in as they can, whereas taking the bus you may have to walk a bit further.
After the taxi dropped me off, the trail started with a nice suspension bridge. As I walked through the beginning of the trail, I passed by a few signs stating the entrance fee is $7, but nowhere in sight to pay it.
I thought because it was raining that day no one bothered to come to collect, but eventually, further in, a small booth appeared, and the man asked for the money. He then gave me a small hand-drawn map of where the waterfalls are and told me to take a photo of it.
He went through the map with me, mostly just repeating the words “Muy difficulto”. He also made me sign my name in a book and asked me to check out when I return. None of this was reassuring to me.
The Lost Waterfalls Hike
Immediately entering the hike, you are immersed in the beautiful jungle of Panama. Everything is lush and green and wonderful.
The first waterfall is only a 10-15 minutes walk from the start, with a slight detour off the trail. The man at the entrance will tell you to visit the second and third waterfalls first and then the first on the way out.
I took his advice, but I don’t think it’s much of a difference since the trail is a loop. All the waterfalls are beautiful, so visit them in whatever order you prefer.
It was a beautiful day in Boquete when I left my hostel, but as I learned the hard way, this means nothing in the highlands. By the time I was at the trailhead, the rain started.
This actually didn’t bother me because I get so hot hiking that I find it refreshing. What I didn’t account for was that it was the end of the rainy season, so the ground was a muddy mess.
I’d lugged my hiking boots all around backpacking Central America, rarely wearing them, and finally, on that day, it all became worth it. I was so grateful to have these on my feet and can’t imagine doing this hike without them, at least in the rainy season!
The second waterfall is about a half-hour walk in. The waterfalls are relatively easy to find due to the fact that you can hear them as you get closer.
There is little signage on the trail to direct you, with the exception of a few white arrows strategically placed where you can already see the waterfall 😛
The second waterfall is gorgeous. You can get up right next to it and take a refreshing shower.
The hike itself, aside from the waterfalls, is lovely. Although it’s not far from town, it feels like you are deep in the jungle with all the beautiful flora and fauna around.
Given that the first and second waterfall was easy to find, I decided that the third one can’t be that hard to get to.
That was wrong.
I should also mention the few people I met on the trail that day decided not to go find the third one due to the poor weather conditions, but I was determined.
It takes about half an hour to walk to the third one, but I wouldn’t say that I walked there. It was more like me crawling on the muddy ground, trying not to fall into the jungle.
But I made it!
The third waterfall is gorgeous, but I wouldn’t recommend going unless you have a good pair of hiking boots. At least in the rainy season. I was pretty much covered in mud from head to toe at this point.
After spending some time at the third waterfall, I turned around and made my way back through the trail to the first waterfall, which of course, was beautiful.
I had brought my drone with me that day but hadn’t used it because of the rain. At this point, it was clearing up, so I figured screw it, I should try. I’ve carried it all the way here.
Drones are not a good item to bring into the jungle.
I wasn’t in the clearest headspace that day, evidently by all the mistakes I’d already made, and before I knew it I had crashed my drone in the jungle. It was difficult enough to walk on the path, let alone in the actual jungle, so after a while, I was about to give up and surrender my drone to the jungle of Panama.
Then a German couple showed up, and I told them what happened. They helped me look around, and the guy was able to spot it flashing! I hiked down and retrieved the drone, which was still intact and functional. I even caught my dumb crash on video for your enjoyment. Go Mavic Pro!
After the drone incident, I was pretty hungry and just wanted to get home because I didn’t have any snacks with me (what was I thinking that day)?! I figured there would be a taxi waiting to make a few bucks or the tourist bus might show up, but there was not.
It was about a two-hour walk back to the hostel, but I figured that I would find some way back if I just started walking. After walking for about 20 minutes, my prospects seemed dismal, but at least the views were beautiful along the way.
Eventually, I came across an old farmer putting items into his truck, so I thought maybe he would bring me to town. After talking for a couple of minutes I thought I had succeeded in my goal, but then he drove me 10 feet down the road to what I assume was the bus stop. I need to work on my Spanish.
Luckily after getting out of the truck, a tourist van pulled up and I finally got a ride.
The van then went back up to the hike entrance and picked up the two Germans. In hindsight, I should have just been patient and waited at the entrance, but hunger causes you to make poor choices.
Overall, I still loved my time hunting for waterfalls in Boquete. Unlike Costa Rica, where they are waterfalls every 5 minutes, I didn’t find as many in Panama.
What to bring on the waterfall hike
Other things to do in Boquete Panama
Boquete is a paradise for hikers. One of the most epic hikes you can do there is Volcan Baru. Most people hike there for sunrise, which involves hiking six hours in the dark, and I just couldn’t face it after hiking Acatenango in Guatemala.
It’s a unique hike as you will be rewarded with a sunrise over both the Caribbean and Pacific oceans. Not gonna lie, I regret not doing it!
Visit a coffee plantation
The landscape of Boquete provides a great place to grow coffee, given the rich soil from the Volcano. One of the best things to do while visiting Boquete is join a coffee tour.
I visited the Don Pepe coffee plantation, which is a locally owned plant that produces extremely high-quality coffee.
The area itself doesn’t produce an impressive amount of coffee, so they focus on higher quality, such as Geisha coffee, which is popular in Japan.
The tour of the plantation was fascinating. They show you the complete process of coffee manufacturing, from growing the seed to roasting the beans. I had no idea that so much work went into making coffee. A coffee plant there can take 3-7 years before it is ready to be used! I left the tour with a much deeper appreciation of coffee.
After we saw the coffee plants outside, the guide took us inside to show how the coffee beans are peeled, cleaned, dried, and sorted.
At the end of the tour we got to sample a bunch of the coffee that they produce, which was delicious! It was so cool because a buyer from the Netherlands was at the facility tasting coffee with the owner to import back. I got to watch a proper coffee tasting and also learn a little about the worldwide coffee trade.
Visit the Caldera Hot Springs
There’s no better activity to do after hiking than visiting hot springs! Soothe your muscles with a relaxing trip to the Caldera Hot Springs, located just on the outskirts of Boquete.
To get there, go to the main bus stop in Boquete and look for the bus going to Caldera. Alternatively, if you have a few people, you could hire a taxi.
Explore the hanging bridges in the cloud forest
Cloud Forests are an amazing place to walk through if you love nature, and hanging bridges make walking through them even more enjoyable.
These hanging bridges are similar to what you would find in Monteverde or La Fortuna in Costa Rica, so I opted not to do this since I had already visited many! However, if you haven’t experienced a cloud forest before, this is a great place to see one.
Rafting in Boquete
If you’re looking for a fun adrenaline adventure, you can go rafting down Chiriqui Viejo River in Boquete. It’s a full-day adventure that will take you through class III rapids surrounded by beautiful landscapes.
I didn’t get a chance to go rafting here, but I have been rafting all over the world, including the Zambezi River in Victoria Falls, and it’s one of my favorite things to do while traveling.
If you’re new to rafting, this would be a great place to try it out, as the rapids are suitable for all levels.
Where to stay in Boquete
Bambuda Castle is one of the coolest accommodations I have ever stayed at.
The castle was built by a man who promised his wife they would live in a castle, and so they did – talk about relationship goals!
After a while, they decided that they didn’t need that much space and downgraded to something more modest. The castle was put on the market and quickly sold to two Canadian boys who converted it into a hotel/hostel with dorm beds and private rooms available.
Staying at this castle feels like a 5-star hotel, but the prices are so reasonable.
The castle is beautifully constructed and kept meticulously clean. Inside the castle, there is a large indoor pool and hot tub available for guests to use, as well as a restaurant/bar on site. Every night the staff cook a delicious family-style dinner which gives you a chance to mingle with the other guests.
The only downside to the hostel is that it’s a bit far from town, but you can get a taxi for a few dollas or walk 45 minutes in. Or just stay there forever because why would you want to leave a castle?
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