EL PIANISTA TRAIL IN BOQUETE, PANAMA

el pianista trail boquete

El Pianista Trail fast became my favorite jungle adventure in Boquete with its narrow canyon-esque path. The trail is just 4km out of Boquete town and is a 3-4 hour out and back trail with more than 2000 feet of elevation. The trail leads you into a cloud forest, which essentially means at least half of the trail is inside the clouds. This turns the scenery into a dripping rainforest, where life is buzzing, water droplets are falling to the floor from every leaf and wildflowers and birds are plentiful.

HOW TO GET TO EL PIANISTA TRAILHEAD

Unlike the hikes in the Bajo Mono area, El Pianista trailhead is much closer to town and very easy to find. Simply head to the IL Pianista restaurant and the hiking trailhead is another 50 yards down the road to the left as you can see on the map at the bottom of this blog post where the trail is marked with a green dotted line next to IL Pianista restaurant.

To get to the IL Pianista restaurant you can either catch the ‘Colectivo’, which will come through the main street. An alternative is to catch a local taxi. There were three of us so it was more convenient to grab a taxi. The public bus cost us 70 cents per person and the taxi cost us $4.

There is a sign out the front of a small housing complex that states the regulations and such of El Pianista Trail. It actually says no hiking, which is strange but maybe it is outdated. Needless to say, we carried on up the driveway to the right of the sign to kick off the hike. The pictures below will help you identify the driveway where the trail begins. There was no entrance fee for El Pianista Trail as of 2018.

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

 

EL PIANISTA TRAIL

El Pianista Trail is one of the moodiest cloud forests I have ever adventured into. I have a new favorite type of trail. Take me to the cloud forests because I love them. Rain droplets falling to the ground from every leaf and branch while mist floats through dramatically.

While this is a cloud forest trail, the hike begins near the IL Pianista restaurant and begins down a massively long driveway. The early stages of the hike are open fields, with mountains on all sides. You can already see the clouds hugging the summit of the mountain. You know what you are heading into. I enjoyed the early parts of this hike with the beautiful hills on either side and the sounds of the river cascades to the right.

el pianista trail boquete

 

After about 15 minutes you will have made your way to the entrance of the forest. Here you will begin the ascent of more than 2000 feet over the next three kilometers. The trail was very muddy but would have been much worse had the rains been stronger in the previous days. Definitely try and do this hike on a dryer day or after a few days of smaller rains if possible.

Almost immediately after entering the forest, we were engulfed by the lush greenery on all sides. We walked through the tunnel of vines and trees, keeping an eye out for Quetzals, snakes, howler monkeys, wildflowers and strange bugs and critters.

el pianista trail boquete

 

There is a small junction where you will need to make a decision whether to go left or right. The trail to the left goes uphill and the train to the right goes downhill towards the stream, which you can hear. Head down the stream. Luckily for us, a local walked past at that very moment and I asked him which way to go and he pointed across the stream. He was the only person we saw all day on the trail. Below is the photo, you can see both directions of the trail. Josh is on the right trail going in the correct direction, heading down towards the stream.

el pianista trail boquete

Once we reached the stream it was such a magical little spot. We had a drink break and Pema decided to take things a little to far with an outfit change (not my idea). This was the final result from this epic little location.

el pianista trail boquete

 

Enough with the photoshoots, it was on with the hike and as we ascended higher and higher the mood and the atmosphere began to change. The fog and the wet conditions added an element of mystery to the surroundings. I really got into looking for unique flowers from this part of the trail onwards as they are truly strange and look amazing in the damp conditions.

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

 

The fog was really rolling in now after we were two-thirds of the way up the trail. We felt like our path was leading us through an undiscovered island. It was a truly immersive hike and being in the cloud forest was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I’m sure there are plenty around the world but I will really be seeking them out from this point onwards.

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete
el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

 

We were now in the thick of the clouds and near the summit of the trail. The sides of the trail began to rise and before we knew it we were being dwarfed by the trail. We were inside it. It must have been carved out because there is a definitive trail through the earth. It’s quite remarkable and at times it was above head height, which is a strange feeling hiking beneath the surface of the earth. Once you reach these mini-canyons you are within reach of the summit. It should about 4.2kms to the top according to our tracking as it was an 8.4km return trip.

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

 

After a few hours (slow photographer pace) we made it to the summit. Not surprisingly we were completely ‘socked in’ as they say. Otherwise known as inside the cloud and cannot see a damn thing. The funny part about this trail is that you enjoy all of the trees, vines, flowers, canyons, critters, and scenes on the trail and the viewpoint is just expected to be a blanket of white cloud. Normally on a hike, you hustle through the trail for the reward, which is the viewpoint. On El Pianista you enjoy the trail and have a quick break at the viewpoint before getting back into the trail. It is said to be very lucky to get a clear view of Boquete from the top of the El Pianista trail, although when you do it is supposedly one of the best views in the region.

el pianista trail boquete

This trail harbors some dark secrets. In 2014, two Dutch girls in their early 20’s made it to the summit and then went missing. There was no sign of the girls until a few weeks later. There are huge holes in the story of what happened and how the investigation unfolded. The girls’ backpack was found 8 weeks later, bones including a foot still inside a boot were also found weeks later. The girls had hiked down past the summit into the continental divide. The area between Costa Rica and Panama. The Ngobe tribe were the people to discover the backpack and would have been the first contact for the girls had they come into trouble and looking for a way out according to the reports.

The conclusion from local police was that it was a hiking accident. However, some locals and sources think there was a third person involved and the girls were met with foul-play out in the jungle. There is now a memorial for the girls at the top of the summit.

You can read all about the investigation of  ‘The Lost Girls of Panama‘” in this article as I did the night before trekking the El Pianista.

el pianista trail boquete

 

The trail is considered safe now but it is suggested to stop at the summit. The trail gets knee-deep in mud very quickly and can be a treacherous area. I generally listen to advice and then make my own decisions. In this case I took one look at the mud and having heard from other hikers and blogs not to go past the summit for a variety of reasons we headed back on down the same way we came out.

I hope you enjoy this trail as it truly is amazing. Below this map are some other photos from our time on El Pianista Trail.

EL PIANISTA TRAILHEAD MAP LOCATION

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

Related Posts

20 Discussion to this post

  1. Steph says:

    We did the hike today. We ended up in the wrong side of the stream early on. We ended up on a different narrow path. If it helps someone else you have to cross two small bridges very early on. After we backtracked we found the right path. It’s a beautiful hike. Thanks for the guide!

  2. Amy says:

    Absolutely stunning photos, and loved the read.

  3. Olá pessoal, sou do Brasil, Brasília-DF. Olha em todo o lugar há pessoas boas e más, isso é fato. No entanto, realmente concordo com o Seth. Há culturas, maneiras de agir, manias dos povos de cada lugar. Realmente você deve se precaver. Já existiram turistas no Brasil, que foram mortos, por nada, ou melhor foram assaltados, ou entraram em discussão. Todos os Países Latinos, ou que falam língua latina, pelo menos, sei lá, parecem ser “calientes”, esquentados, você entendem. Não devemos confiar em ninguém e ao mesmo tempo não demonstrar isso, ser sábios. As moças sozinhas em um País desconhecido, tirando fotos com todos, como se todos fossem bonzinhos, isso não funciona, temos que ser simpáticos, agradáveis, porém, desconfiados. As moças são vítimas, sinto muitíssimo por tudo, principalmente pela a família delas. No entanto, fica a dica, sempre vá com um membro adulto da família, pai, tio, de preferência homem, desculpem, porém sou mulher e sei quando ficamos com menos roupa, é claro que na praia deveremos usar biquínis ou maiôs, são moças novas, eu já sou uma mulher mais madura e não conseguiria usar algo menor, porém não sou puritana, mas, devemos sempre nos resguardar. Enfim, andar em grupo também super funciona, como moças andam por lugares que não conhecem, nunca foram no Panamá, também a senhora que elas(as moças) estavam hospedadas deveria no mesmo dia falar com a polícia, mesmo as moças não sendo nada dela, eu se alguém fica na minha casa e deveria voltar por volta das 16:00 horas e o cachorro voltou sozinha e as moças não voltaram, falaria com a polícia imediatamente, é isso, lamento tudo, porém fica a dica do Seth. Jackson admiro suas viagens, sua luta por defender a honra das meninas, é válido, não estou te condenando, porém, nós não somos detentores de toda a sabedoria, sou latino-americana também, Panamá fica na América Central, porém, temos quase o mesmo caminhar, claro que Brasil é muito diferente do Panamá, porém, conheço um pouco do perigo de alguns povos, inclusive o meu Povo.

  4. Seth says:

    No one is trying to play into any murder-drama, and calling it that when you have a lot of people who are seeing the red flags, is very alarming. It is still unsolved, do remember. A cross with flowers is nice, but doesn’t answer the question of why or how they are dead.

    Look, all over central and south America, well organised drug cartels (usually drugs) operate. They’re generally ruthless and indiscriminate when it comes to victims or violence. Governments usually don’t talk about them because of retaliation. In Mexico, heads of police were left in suitcases on the doorstep of their wives and teen daughters, wives are taken for obvious reasons, never to be seen again. Politicians who do speak out against them do so at great cost, which includes sending their whole family away and living in constant fear. Years can pass and their names are still on the hit list.

    We’ll never know what happened to Kris and Lisanne for sure, but in all likelihood, they were forced to go down that trail because they were avoiding going back to him, or, he had chased them down/lead them down and made them go into the wilderness. And you have to remember Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation is usually the correct explanation. Their bras were found, their underwear was never found, and they’re dead. I would be willing to bet anything that they escaped temporarily, took pictures to try to leave for evidence figuring they’d probably be caught, were recaptured, raped and killed.

    No one is trying to ruin your trip or saying stop traveling. We’re trying to tell you to be safe because we care about you, even if we don’t know you. I don’t think it’s fair that women are in more danger in these situations, but it’s the truth. These countries are great in their own right, but societally speaking, it’s night and day on gender issues. It doesn’t take that much to take down two girls.

    • Jackson says:

      Hi Seth, It is a murder drama. Simply by doing this hike (done by many every day now) I have random dudes messaging me on facebook for details and photos. They are obsessed with this case and the girls and it’s honestly weird. They have never even been to Panama or know the girls. I never made any comments about what I think happened. Just because there is one instance of a (possible) murder on a trail doesn’t mean we need to reference mexican drug cartels. We don’t know what happened, but I was safe, had no issues and the people who are obsessed with this case are genuinely quite odd. Some of the emails and questions I’ve been sent purely from just walking along the trail are bizarre. It has definitely become a murder drama and that is clearly evident from the obsession many people not even from Panama or Holland have with the case.

  5. Seth says:

    Okay, I have to admit that I feel better. That picture was really eery! He was definitely eyeing you like a predator would and he seemed way too comfortable. Look, you can believe me or not, but as firstly a guy, and secondly someone with some psychic sensitivities, that’s a bad dude. Taking his picture might’ve been your saving grace though, since he knew that there was physical evidence.
    Ladies, I know this sounds antiquated and sexist, but take it from someone who has lived in a place like this in C. America.

    1. Group safety doesn’t even work a lot of times. Have a male with you whenever possible.
    2. Don’t dress in a way that is provocative, that allows your bra or underwear to be seen or that includes shorts, ideally. Wear long shorts if you must, or workout shorts.
    3. Don’t stop to talk if they stop you to ask a question. Keep walking! Answer while moving onwards but don’t give any personal info outside of your first name, or a made up name if you prefer. If you do stop, make sure you note everything you can about the person.
    4. Don’t come off as a tourist. Be as confident as you can so that you seem to be a local resident.
    5. If your gut instinct ever says something is wrong, listen and act on it.
    6. If you only saw one person on the trail, then that’s because there is something dangerous about the trail that others know, and safely avoid.

    • Jackson says:

      Considering you weren’t there you are making a lot of claims. Basically you think any farmer in Boquete is now a murderer. Thanks for your tips but I’ve been traveling the world for 4+ years now and use my intuition rather than the advice of online experts.

  6. Marja West says:

    Could the writer of this journey please contact met at marjawestboeken{at}gmail.com? I’ve got some questions about this trail, esspecially about the local you met and about the first part, from the Pianista restaurant to the forrest.

  7. Andarina Tomson. says:

    Very enjoyable read with awesome photographs and fabulous Greenery,many thanks..

  8. Anonacorps says:

    I think anonymous is right, I’ve researched a lot and it’s very plausibke Kris and Lisanne were intercepted at that time and junction and forced to descend the other side.

  9. Marc Hartman says:

    Today, August 17, 2018 we did the hike to the summit. It took us 3 hours to get to the top in dry weather. Your story was very helpful to find our way.
    Nobody was on the trail till we reached the small juction. I reckonised your photo. At that same moment a local came along exactly as you described in your story and disappeared as quickly downhill as he appeared. It is truly a mysterical trail!

    • Anonymous says:

      Why is the local at that crosspoint junction in a hury, the same experience by the other hikers! Realy suspicous. He is in a hury because he do not want to be photographed. The only reason, he was watching you as a predator. But probably you where with more people. It’s possible the girls Kris and Lisanne where his prey in 2014, exactly on that spot! Think about that, all the flowers in the steel cross. It’s foulish, most of the locals knows what happened, but do not want to talk about it.

      • Anonymous says:

        You speak as if you know more about this case than most- why’s that? Interested to hear what you know. And what about the flowers on the cross? What’s so significant about that?

      • Richard says:

        Strange that you make fun of the tragic accident of the two dutch students. By the way … the accident happened downhill past the summit of the pianista.

Write a comment

Your email address will not be published.