20 THINGS TO DO IN CHIRIQUI, PANAMA: THE BUCKET LIST
Chiriqui is a region of Panama in the far west of the country. It’s below the popular Bocas Del Toro, but after visiting both I can tell you that Chirqui holds it’s own and then some. This region must have thousands of waterfalls and hundreds of beautiful hikes. It truly is an adventure paradise. I stayed in Boquete for three weeks and used it as a base for my adventures all around Chiriqui. You could easily spend an entire month in this part of Panama. From monstrous waterfalls to cloud forest hikes to cliff jumps, these are my top things to do in Chiriqui.
The capital is David, which is an hour bus ride from Boquete. However, most tourists will stay near Volcan National Parque. This means in Boquete or other nearby towns. Boquete is well set up for tourists and has lots of accommodation options, strong wifi and cafes.
20 THINGS TO DO IN CHIRIQUI
THE LOST WATERFALLS TRAIL
On one of the most stunning jungle trails in Panama, we looked for the three lost waterfalls. Through the dense but luscious jungle, we trekked along muddy paths. From one patch of wildflowers to the next we discovered beautiful vistas until we reached three, breathtakingly powerful and mind-blowingly beautiful waterfalls. One after the other the waterfalls blew us away. It was our first day in Chiriqui and it set the benchmark for the natural beauty of the region. The Lost Waterfall Trail Hike is one of my favorite things to do in Chiriqui even in the whole of Panama.
The Lost Waterfalls Trail is the first thing most visitors do in Boquete. It is $7 entrance but quite easy to get to and only a short trail. It gives great value, rewarding you with three amazing waterfalls.
View the full blog post: THE LOST WATERFALLS TRAIL HIKE
THE PIPELINE TRAIL
The Pipeline Trail is another great hike and one of the best things to do in Chiriqui, just outside of Boquete Town. Walk alongside a river through the jungle until you reach a massive yet slow-descending cascade at the end of the trail. On the way, you will discover a thousand-year-old tree and some unique wildlife. The trail takes about two hours and is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon when you are staying in Boquete town.
The Pipeline Trail is a short walk through the jungle, with a great chance of spotting a Quetzal bird. They say this is one of the best things to do in Boquete for spotting the Quetzal. We also spotted a snake, caterpillars and lots of beautiful plants along the way.
The waterfall is quite high but more of a trickle than an aggressive flow like those on The Lost Waterfalls Trail.
View the full blog post: THE PIPELINE TRAIL
EL PIANISTA TRAIL
El Pianista Trail fast became my favorite jungle adventure in Boquete and favorite things to do in Chiriqui. 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 deep into the cloud forest, which means at least half of the trail is inside the clouds. This turns the scenery into a dripping wonderland. Life is buzzing, water droplets are falling to the floor from every leaf and wildflowers and birds are plentiful.
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. It was definitely one of the eeriest things to do in Boquete, knowing this story and the moody vibe due to the clouds in the forest.
View the full blog post: EL PIANISTA TRAIL
LA PIEDRA DE LINO HIKE
It may be one of the shortest hikes in Boquete but La Piedra De Lino will burn your legs! This hike was a grueling 434 meters in elevation over just 1.3km. That means for every three meters you walk forward, you walk up one meter. The view of Boquete from the top rock is worth the climb.
La Piedra De Lino means the rock of Lino. Lino is a small section of Boquete only about four kilometers from the center of Boquete town. There was lots to see on the way up with flowers, berries, and glimpses of the view as we made our way to the top of the rock. Every time I turned back to look at the incline was an epic little view. There was no-one else on the trail at all and we felt like we were out in the jungle even though we had views back towards Boquete town! It’s a great thing to do in Chiriqui for a sunset if the sky is looking clear.
The cool part about La Piedra De Lino is that you have views in multiple directions. You can look out to Volcan Baru, back into Bajo Mono or up to the east of Boquete. There were tons to look at. It would be a great sunset spot but unfortunately, we only head stormy weather. It was still a great adventure and one I would plan to do with a possibility of a sunset if you have the chance. It was one of the toughest things to do in Boquete for your legs although the pain is shortlived as the trek is only small.
View the full blog post: LA PIEDRA DE LINO (THE ROCK OF LINO) HIKE
LA PIEDRA DE ARTILLERIA HIKE
La Artilleria hike is a beautiful trail up to one of the most epic viewpoints in all of Boquete and one of the top things to do in Chiriqui. However, it is a strange one. The hike is suggested as a hiking trail on a poster in my hostel but apparently on private property, of which the owner wants no hikers coming onto. We were rejected by the owner of the property but managed to wrangle our way to the top of the viewpoint. My philosophy is always if you aren’t doing anyone or anything harm, there should be no harm in it. If I have to bend the rules a little as long as no-one is negatively impacted in the process. Having said that, you can decide where your morals lay with trespassing!
At the top of the trail, we scrambled up the rocks and watched the clouds part to show us an amazing view of Boquete! It was definitely the best view we had during our hiking in Boquete and something I will never forget. In the opposite direction, we had rolling mountains with several layers and even a rainbow appeared. It was a day where everything seemed to turn out perfectly although this is one of the things to do in Boquete that won’t be recommended at your hostel.
View full blog post: LA ARTILLERIA HIKE
LA PIEDRA DE LA INDIA VIEJA HIKE
La Piedra de la India Vieja hike has in my opinion, the best views of any hike in Boquete. However, it also has the worst trail or from what I found… no trail. My legs had many a battle scar after this hike but boy was the rock viewpoint at the top worth it all and more. If you are up for an extremely tough jungle adventure, go for it. Otherwise, enjoy my photos and head to one of the other beautiful hikes in Boquete. That’s genuine advice, not a challenge. This was one of the toughest things to do in Boquete!
At the summit, the view was totally unexpected. A jagged rock wall curved around right beneath me while mountains in all directions created an immensely atmospheric backdrop. Despite the rough journey up and the imminent rough journey down, I felt like I was on top of Boquete and I really was out here alone. I hadn’t seen a soul and I’m pretty sure no-one is hiking this trail for good reason! I hung out up top for just under an hour shooting the mountainscape from a multitude of angles.
View full blog post: LA PIEDRA DE LA INDIA VIEJA HIKE
ROCK CLIMBING WALL
On the way to Bajo Mono, the location of the Lost Waterfall Trek and many more, there is an epic Basalt rock climbing wall. The best part about it is that is completely natural. Josh and I used to run here in the morning and work out on the grass amidst the beautiful mountains. However, in the late mornings and afternoons, there were rock climbing tours that would set up and take tourists through their paces at climbing the wall.
SENDERO LOS QUETZALES
Los Senderos Quetzales, translated to the Quetzal Trail, is one of the most popular hikes near the small town of Boquete in Panama. The Boquete region has a variety of trails to choose from yet Los Senderos Quetzales remains near the top of the list for visitors. The popularity of Los Senderos Quetzales is because this trail, in the Volcan Baru National Park, provides hikers a great opportunity to spot the elusive Quetzal bird.
The Quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala as it plays an important role in numerous types of Meso-American mythology. Additionally, the Quetzal is a very striking bird with impressive green feathers on its back while on its front it is covered in striking red feathers. The Quetzal also has a long tail. All of these features make it an attractive bird for bird-watchers to travel all the way to the Chiriqui region of Panama. El Sendero Los Quetzales is one of the most popular things to do in Boquete.
View full blog post: SENDERO LOS QUETZALES: THE TRAIL OF THE FAMOUS QUETZAL
HIKE TO THE SUMMIT OF VOLCAN BARU
At 11:45 pm we set off in darkness, climbing a steep path into the mist of the night. Our mission was to reach the highest point in Panama in time to watch the sunrise from our viewpoint above the clouds. We were attempting the strenuous, overnight hike up Volcan Baru near Boquete, Panama.
After 13km of hard work, we made it to the summit! All that effort in the cold and the dark and now we were on top of the world. We looked out over to the horizon and all we could see was a blanket of clouds below us, the sign was trying to break through and then, it did just that.
This was one of my favorite things to do in Boquete and if you like a bit of adventure this one is definitely for you! I hope you get a beautiful sunrise.
Those are all of the hikes, waterfalls, and activities that I got up to in Boquete. However, while in Boquete I made a few day trips. None of these trips were much more than an hour by car. It is quite hard to rent a car and DIY by bus isn’t the easiest but is possible. Many of the following activities are available on tours. I was lucky enough to make some local friends who showed me these places. Panama is still developing its tourist route, which means you get a lot of natural beauty but also some things to do in Boquete and surrounding regions are logistically difficult. If you mention any of these to your hotel staff that will likely know where you are talking about and be able to point you to a guide, tour company or even help you DIY it. I have added directions and helpful information with an individual blog post to all of the activities above and below to help you also. So, below are the waterfalls, hikes, and places I visited while in Boquete that aren’t technically in the Boquete region.
ROMELIO & KIKI WATERFALL
I’m standing behind a waterfall, watching the droplets majestically float down right before my eyes. I feel like I am inside the earth, inside a chamber watching the raw power of mother nature from the inside out. I am within the heart of Kiki Waterfall in the Ngäbe-Buglé region, Chiriqui. It was the second waterfall of the day after visiting Romelio Falls earlier with two local tour guides and a group of new friends.
These two waterfalls are a little tough to reach but if you can organize a crew it is an epic adventure for a day of waterfall chasing. I have linked the details of the guides in the full blog post which is linked below. If you can make it happen this is by far one of my favorite things to do in Chiriqui. I have all the instructions and details for how to contact the guides in the blog post below.
View full blog post: ROMELIO & KIKI WATERFALL IN NGÄBE-BUGLÉ REGION
Choclon Waterfall is a beautiful twin falls at the end of a small gorge. The tiny amphitheater is the perfect place for a short hike and to hang out in the afternoon with friends on a sunny day. The water has a beautiful blue tinge to it and vines growing all around the walls of the waterfalls giving this spot a magical atmosphere. I really love this little amphitheatre and hanging out here for the afternoon in the sun is one of my favorite things to do in Chiriqui.
View full blog post: CHOCLON WATERFALL IN CHIRIQUI
CASCADA DEL TRUENO WATERFALL
When the destination of the day is ‘Thunder Waterfall (Cascada Del Trueno) you know the crew is heading somewhere aggressive, powerful and possibly a little bit extreme! Bundled into the back of a pickup truck, we wound our way through Chiriqui to Cordillera to begin the short trail. The 30-minute hike led us down into the amphitheater of dreams as the Thunder Waterall lived up to its name, slapping a rage of spray at anything that came within a 20m radius with pure fury.
View full blog post: CASCADA DEL TRUENO (THUNDER WATERFALL)
CABELLO DE ANGEL WATERFALL
After jumping a few barbed-wire fences, we made it down to the river in about fifteen minutes. It was here that we could hear the sound of the howler monkeys who weren’t happy about us invading their river. They never came to close to us. I stood and watched them for about 20 minutes. Every time I moved position slightly, they would climb around the trees and find a little hole to view me from. If we made eye contact they would jump away and climb to a new vantage spot. We played this game for a while and eventually I managed to grab a frame of one of the monkeys before they leaped away.
Cabella de Angel waterfall was huge! If you are looking for mighty waterfalls this may well be one of the best things to do in Chiriqui! It flowed from two different sides and then converged into one, an almighty powerful force that rocketed into the pool below. The mist blew everyone and the rocks were incredibly slippery, which made it a fun experience but incredibly hard to shoot.
CANGILONES DE GUALACA
Los Cangilones de Gualaca is a natural canyon slot in Chiriqui. It has stood the test of time and is thousands of years old. It’s a great spot to hang out with friends, cliff jump, and swim! Cangilon means bucket in Spanish or deep vessel for collecting water. This canyon is one hell of a long bucket and an epic spot to visit in Chiriqui. Cangilones de Gualaca is one of the most popular things to do in Chiriqui with locals and tourists flocking to the unique land formation every day.
View full blog post: LOS CANGILONES DE GUALACA
Sindigo Waterfall is a great little spot with cliff jumping, a rope swing and beautiful blue water. What I am saying is… welcome to paradise!
The waterfall is in the Gualaca region and is unmarked from the road. We jumped a barb wire fence and headed down a small path. After hiking down a little path for 10-minutes we arrived at Sindigo Waterfall. Gualaca is about an hour from Boquete but it is worth the drive as this is one of the coolest little rope swings and things to do in Chiriqui.
The scene was magical. Moss covered boulders created a swimming pool, which a sweet little waterfall poured into. From the top of the boulders, you can jump in from about 4-meters. This epic little spot even had a rope swing, which flung you all the way out into the middle of the pool.
The sun breaks through the canopy in the afternoon and turns this spot into a wonderland. The blue water shimmers and the light rays flow through in between the branches. It truly is a magical spot. We hung out for more than an hour jumping and swinging away with the waterfall our own private adventure spot!
View full blog post: SINDIGO WATERFALL IN CHIRIQUI
After more than a week in the town of Boquete, I had visited many waterfalls but none so far had a sizeable cliff jump. That all changed when I paid a visit to Joguata Waterfall in Caldera. An 8-meter jump from beside a waterfall into the pool below was enough to get my adrenaline pumping for the day. Caldera is about an hour away from Boquete and worth the journey as this cliff jump is one of the best things to do in Chiriqui.
The scenery was insane but I don’t like when I have to jump out over a ledge. Even if the ledge is small it still isn’t super fun when backflipping out over rocks. Having said that, I think I cleared it by a lot. It isn’t dangerous but be careful as always. Jumping forward and feet first is quite safe and easy! The water is quite deep where the waterfall crashes into the pool so aim just to the left of that but check the conditions first as you never know what lurks beneath the surface.
View full blog post: JOGUATA WATERFALL CLIFF JUMP
MACHO DE MONTE
I never made it to Macho de Monte because it was quite hard to get to and I didn’t have a car. It was also the rainy season and it can be a bit dangerous. However, it is something I am sad I didn’t get to see. It is a canyon that you essentially hike through to an epic waterfall. If you get the chance to visit Macho de Monte, don’t pass it up! It is one of the most popular things to do in Chiriqui in the summer when the rains aren’t so aggressive.
The other great adventure I missed out on was Chorca Waterfall. With 18 days in Boquete, I did a lot but you can’t get to them all unless you stay for a long time. Chorca Waterfall is a popular waterfall spot and one of the most popular things to do in Chiriqui. It has a ledge at the top you can hang out on. It isn’t too hard to get to from what I have heard!
WHERE I STAYED IN BOQUETE (FOR 20 DAYS)
Throughout my two weeks in Boquete, I stayed at Mamallena Hostel. I first stayed in a private room, which was on special for $21 a night and shared that with my friend. Then when my friends left I moved into the dorm for the price of $11 a night. Mamallena hostel is the main hostel of the town and is in a perfect location. It is right near the main street where you can get a taxi, colectivo van or bus. It is within one-minute walking distance to the grocery stores, bank and several cafes and restaurants.
From the hostel you will be able to use it as an adventure base as you explore all of the best things to do in Chiriqui!
Mamallena Hostel has a kitchen, which you can use to cook. Lots of the guests cooked their meals to save money but I hate cooking. I ate out at the same restaurant for every single meal. It’s called Sobrosons. All of the locals eat there and it is kind of a cafeteria style restaurant where you choose rice, pasta, chicken, salads, lasagna, empanadas, platanas and more. It was pretty cheap and we each meal was about $5-6 USD. Even if you only go once it is a good local experience and one of the cheap things to do in Boquete when you aren’t hiking!
Mamallena Hostel provides all-you-can-eat pancakes every morning and free unlimited coffee on tap. You make the pancakes yourself whenever you wake up but they have the batter ready to go. It seems to be quite common in Panama and Colombia to offer the free pancakes.
The staff at Mamallena Hostel were super helpful and I asked them so many questions about things to do in Boquete and hikes that they never send any guests on. In fact, many of the hikes on this list were trails that they told me not to go on. They knew a lot about the area and all of the best things to do in Boquete. They helped everyone in the hostel plan their activities and helped different types of people decide what would be the best things to do in Boquete depending on their style of travel and fitness.
The wifi at the hostel was solid and I pumped out a blog every night without any issues. I really did enjoy the vibe at this hostel and as it isn’t a party town it wasn’t too loud. Most people were just adventuring during the day and hanging out at night.
This wasn’t a sponsored stay. I paid for every night of my accommodation here.