Santa Fe is a beautiful little town, nestled in the towering mountains of Veraguas. Almost exactly in the center of Panama, Santa Fe is one of the adventure hotspots for hikers and waterfall enthusiasts. I stayed in Santa Fe for ten days and went on a hike or visited a waterfall every single day. From exploring waterfalls to adventuring on the Santa Fe hiking trails, this charming mountain town was one of the highlights of my 3-month Panama journey!
Be warned: If you stay for a week in Santa Fe, you will burn some serious calories and tone your calves. The incline is real.
HOW TO GET TO SANTA FE
- From Panama City: The bus will take you 5 hours. Transfer in Santiago. The car journey is about 3 hours.
- From Boquete: I came from Boquete as do a lot of tourists. Catch the bus from Boquete to David. David to Santiago (taxi for 2 minutes to a different station) Santiago to Santa Fe.
SANTA FE TOWN: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- It’s super small. There is no ATM I believe.
- There is a couple of grocery stores but the fresh produce is limited.
- There are numerous restaurants. Most are local style.
- The WiFi is very rough. In our hostel, we could get WhatsApp and Facebook Messages (Maybe a cheeky Insta-upload) but it was only in the lobby. I bought a DigiCell sim-card for $5, which gave me seven days of unlimited data. Highly advise doing the same if you wish to stay online.
- You don’t need a car to get around and see the attractions. The local bus system is split into three buses. Guabal, Santiago and Santiago Alto. These three buses will drop you at pretty much every adventure, hike, and waterfall on this list. There is, of course, some walking involved when it is a DIY adventure.
- The temperature in Santa Fe can be a little cooler as it is up in the mountains. Definitely bring a rain jacket for the Santa Fe hiking trails. However, when it was hot it was boiling hot. A bit of everything really.
- There are a couple of hostels and a few hotels. Hostal La Qhia seemed to be the most popular place for economic travelers and always had a decent amount of visitors and a good vibe.
BEST SANTA FE HIKING TRAILS
As I mentioned earlier, I stayed in Santa Fe, Veraguas for a week and a half. Most travelers stayed for 2-4 days but when I saw the map on the wall in Hostal La Qhia, with all of the hikes and waterfalls in the region, I knew this was a great place for lots of adventures.
Every single day I went on a hike or visited a waterfall. I never paid for a taxi or rented a car. I used the public bus system, which was really good, and my own two legs. Food was cheap, the showers were hot and the hostel vibe was good. It’s all that you could ask for! These are my favorite Santa Fe hiking trails and waterfalls. I have written an individual blog post for each hike or waterfall with directions and a more in-depth guide and lots of photos to help you decide which adventure is for you.
CERRO TUTE HIKE
To find the trailhead you just head down to the town center and head south along the main road towards the ‘Alto De Piedra; sign. As you walk south down the road out of the town center this ‘Alto de Piedra’ sign will be on your right. Walk past this for another 20 meters and there will be a dirt road, big enough for a car, on your right. This is the start of the trail.
The trail is dirt the whole pay and a car width the whole way. You will only need to make two turns and I will make it clear where those are with photos. It begins alongside some houses and quickly becomes quite muddy. The mud was only in this early section, which also had a couple of easy river crossings. Stepping stones made it possible to cross without getting your feet wet.
I really loved Cerro Tute and it was a great first experience in Santa Fe, Veraguas. I recommend doing it as your first Santa Fe hiking trail even though it is quite long. You will get great views of the area and can even pick out a few other peaks you might want to summit also!
Read the full blog post: EPIC CERRO TUTE HIKE
ALTO DE PIEDRA WATERFALL HIKE
The first waterfall was a beautiful 20-footer that quietly flowed into a small blue pool. Vines and ferns crowd the small amphitheater in what as a very peaceful spot. I hung out here for almost half an hour by myself taking photos and then I just sat on the rocks taking the tranquility in. That’s the beauty about Santa Fe, you don’t have to share it with many other tourists.
I continued on to another trail that I stumbled across and this waterfall was quite unique. It was several tiers in a slot canyon. The landscape here was quite bizarre with water flowing in all directions. I had never seen something quite like it and climbed down as far as I could to explore.
At the bottom of this trail was a huge waterfall, the biggest of the day. I felt like the waterfalls in this region just never ended but that’s Panama for you. A shallow pool once again collected the water at the bottom of this pool. It wasn’t the best place for swimming in waterfall pools. However, there were lots of swimming spots along the route. Just none at the foot of a waterfall per say. Having a shower under the waterfall would definitely be possible.
This was one of the best Santa Fe hiking trails with multiple waterfalls to explore and so much action!
Read the full blog post: ALTO DE PIEDRA WATERFALLS HIKE
BERMEJO WATERFALL HIKE
Bermejo Waterfall was a scene of beautiful destruction. As I sat atop a wet rock, alone in the amphitheater of Bermejo, I could only envision the events that had unfolded over the years to leave this magical place in the state it remains today. Boulders the sizes of houses are covered in moss with trees growing readily from their surface. Freezing cold water swirls viciously, inviting you to test the danger. And then there is the waterfall itself. A multi-tiered, dual-directional flow of pure aggression, which slices through the earth in the middle of the Santa Fe Jungle with an exclamation point.
It’s an aggressive waterfall without a place to swim directly below it. However, the first pool is deep enough to at least cool off. I definitely suggest packing lunch and hanging out in this area for a few hours to appreciate the region and recover from your trek in!
Read full blog post: BERMEJO WATERFALL HIKE
EL SALTO WATERFALL HIKE
On my last day in Santa Fe, I decided to head out to find El Salto Waterfalls. It was an incredibly hot day and a pretty strenuous hike up some serious hills. However, after arriving in the small village, what I found was nothing short of amazing. El Salto is a collection of 22 waterfalls (if not more) in the middle of the mountains near Santa Fe. I explored two by foot and one other with the drone. It is possible to explore all of them but takes expert knowledge of the area, ropes, and some serious skills and planning.
The second waterfall was where things started to get very impressive. Three waterfalls streamed down the flat cliff. It was almost like a water feature. It wasn’t a booming fall like Golondrinas, it was an elegant, triple waterfall tucked away in a corner. From the observation spot of the second waterfall, I spotted the third.
It’s definitely one of the longer Santa Fe hiking trails but you usually get out what effort you put in and it is true in this case. Remote paradise!
Read the full blog post: EL SALTO WATERFALLS
NUCA DEL TORO HIKE
Amidst a myriad of amazing waterfalls and trails, Nuca Del Toro, is a basic trail without much of an epic viewpoint. However, if you give the trail a chance it can be a fun afternoon activity with a change of scenery from the Panamanian Jungle. Huge pine trees surround you on top of the hill with snippets of the mountain range visible depending on what giant boulder you can clamber onto.
The trail led to the top of the hill, where I found two crosses. I think this may be a burial site at the top of the hill. Trekking to the top took less than ten minutes again. I had prepared for a couple of hours of hiking but it turned out to be a hill, not a mountain. The environment was much different from the other hikes. Pine trees and a forest vibe were par for this hike.
Read full blog post: NUCA DEL TORO HIKE
NATURE NIGHT TRAIL
Take a walk into the dark, armed with your flashlight! In the jungle at night the creatures come out to play and we had an epic time exploring. We saw frogs, snakes, a shy sloth, cicadas, butterflies, tarantulas and all kinds of crazy bugs.
The interesting part is that in Santa Fe there are lots of motion-sensor cameras and Edgar showed us the photos they had captured within the last 2 years. It is pretty shocking. Jaguars, Ocelots, Pumas and lots of other large mammals are out here in the jungle, but they are seldom seen!
We walked for about 1.5 hours total admiring all of the amazing creatures along the way. Let’s just see the bugs are bigger in Panama. If you are interested in this experience I do recommend it. Just drop into Hostal La Qhiaand let them know. Edgar is so stoked on the creatures and you can tell he really loves that part of being involved at the hostel. It was $25 per person and the only paid tour I did in Santa Fe. The rest of the Santa Fe hiking trails were free!
Read full blog post: NATURE NIGHT TRAIL IN THE JUNGLE
LOMA GRANDE WATERFALL HIKE
Loma Grande Waterfall near Santa Fe, Veraguas is one of the most spectacular little spots to visit in the region. Not only is this waterfall an epic natural sight but the amphitheater within which it is found is out of this world. Slopes on either side are covered in tropical plants, dripping from the spray of the waterfall. Moss covered rocks are scattered throughout the stream that leads up to the fall. The best bit, however, is the unexplainable pool of blue water that sits to the side of the waterfall.
The trail down to Loma Grande Waterfall is pretty raw. Along the way, you will find banana plants and huge century old trees. I was waiting for a jaguar, a huge snake or something to jump put the whole way. I really felt deep in the jungle and I guess I was. Santa Fe was miles away and so was Guabal. There was nothing out here except the promise of an epic waterfall.
A few cuts and bruises later, I laid my eyes on Loma Grande and what a sight she was. This amphitheater really blew me away. It was almost like the pool of youth next to the fountain of youth. An unbelievably blue pool sat still, next to the beast of a waterfall, which came crashing down just meters away. I think this might have just been my favorite Santa Fe hiking trail.
Read full blog post: LOMA GRANDE WATERFALL
LAS GOLONDRINAS WATERFALL
I had heard about this goliath waterfall but never envisioned it to be quite so epic. Las Golondrinas Waterfall is a mammoth falls near Santa Fe, Veraguas. The trek to the falls takes only 20 minutes but leads you through a wonderland of vines and river crossings before revealing the gigantic waterfall.
What a beauty! There was a slalom at the very top of the waterfall that weaved in and out before it all came crashing down with extreme force into the pool of blue water below.
There are several nice viewing spots to the sides or you can get up close and personal… and wet if you so desire. It is one of the shortest but most rewarding Santa Fe hiking trails for those who want an epic waterfall without all the effort.
Read the full blog post: LAS GOLONDRINAS WATERFALL TRAIL
HAVE YOU CHECKED OUT MY OTHER PANAMA GUIDES
- 70 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN PANAMA: The ultimate guide to exploring the whole country!
- 26 AMAZING WATERFALLS IN PANAMA: The ultimate guide to waterfall chasing in Panama.
- 6 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS IN PANAMA: The guide for thrill-seekers and adrenaline hunters.
- 37 AMAZING HIKES IN PANAMA: All of the best hiking trails. Many you’ve never heard of!
- 18 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN BOQUETE: Hiking, waterfalls, and volcanoes.
- 12 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN EL VALLE DE ANTON: My favorite place to base in Panama.
- 10 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN SANTA CATALINA: Surf, hike, swim, kayak, and explore.
I hope you enjoy my guides and have a great time exploring Panama!
3 MOST POPULAR TOURS IN PANAMA
These are the three most popular activities for tourists in Panama. Personally, I love the San Blas Islands boat trip!
- San Blas Islands Boat Trip: Explore the tropical paradise of the San Blas Islands, the most beautiful region in Panama. Easily the most amazing activity I did in Panama.
- Taboga Island Catamaran Cruise: Admire Panama from the water on a sightseeing catamaran cruise to Taboga Island. Admire the city skyline, dive from the boat for a swim, relax on a beach in Taboga, and enjoy snacks and an open bar.
- Half-Day City Tour & Panama Canal: Connect with the beautiful and modern Panama City on this shared or private city tour. Stroll the narrow streets of the Old Town and watch ships sail through the Panama Canal
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Thursday 29th of September 2022
Thanks for posting so much about Panama.
An update to other travelers: nowadays you can pay by cary in most of the supermarkets and there is an ATM.
Monday 26th of July 2021
Thank you so much for posting all this helpful information! I can't wait to see it all myself next week!