So from Panama City we planned about 3 days in Boquete. Boquete is known for its beautiful landscapes and its fun adventure activities –hiking, climbing, rafting, etc. In three days we hoped to do three key activities:
- Hike Volcan Baru – a volcano, which from the top you can see both the Atlantic and the Pacific
- Visit the local hot springs in Caldera (a nearby town to Boquete)
- Tour a coffee plantation and try the amazing local varieties – particularly Gesha coffee, which has a bit of a cult following and for which, some crazy people pay $350 a pound elsewhere (we would not be spending this much)
Three days, three activities, sounds doable right? Ha! Cue the storms! Firstly, our time in Boquete was delayed a full day due to weather, so we spent an “exciting” day at Panama City airport (see previous post). Fortunately, we flew with CopaAirlines who provided excellent customer service – including providing umbrellas when we did finally land. . .
Secondly, the weather was poor our entire time in Boquete (pouring again), so hiking Volcan Baru was going to be:
- Slightly dangerous
- A bit pointless if done in the clouds, since we largely wanted the view to both oceans
So a plus b equals no fun. A bit disappointed in this result (the Volcano was the main reason that we wanted to come to Boquete), on our first day in town, we head to do the activity that is the least weather impacted – the coffee tour. It did not disappoint! If you are ever in Boquete, you should do a coffee tour – even if you don’t like coffee (Jen doesn’t really) and more specifically you should do it at Finca Dos Jefes – http://boquetecoffeetour.com/coffee-tours/
Finca Dos Jefes is run by Rich, a really friendly retired American (he used to run the meals on wheels program in San Francisco). Rich bought the abandoned farm as a nice location to retire. However, following some retiree boredom, he started to grow his own coffee and he fell in love with it – the process, the history – everything! Throughout the afternoon, we could tell that coffee was his passion and it was contagious – Jen began to regret not really drinking coffee.
The tour is really relaxed and conversational – Rich starts by asking everyone their “coffee experience” – what they like to drink, how and when they drink, if they’ve been on tours before, etc. Erwan, as a coffee addict blended right in with the other couple on the tour and Jen had to shamefully admit that she rarely drinks coffee (only in situations where it would be rude to not take a cup – like a coffee plantation tour). Despite this sacrilege, they still let her continue on the tour.
The tour includes a brief history of coffee production, a description of how it’s made, a short walking tour around the farm, and a tasting of both their medium and dark roast. Then you get to roast and take home your own blend! Rich even kindly ground the beans for us (despite his preference of keeping them whole until time of use), so that we would more likely be able to enjoy our coffee during our travels. . .
Yet, what we particularly enjoyed about the tour was Rich’s wealth of knowledge on the social, environmental and economic impacts of the coffee industry. It wasn’t presented as a lecture, but was having a nice conversation where we could pick the brain of a man and his passion – seriously, it was really fascinating. He described all the issues facing coffee growing and in his small way he was really trying to improve the industry – to include sponsoring a school for the indigenous people who serve as temporary labour during the harvest.
At the end of the tour, we stayed and had a beer with Rich and the other couple and just enjoyed the company and view further. Despite the weather, things in Boquete were looking up!
The day after the coffee plantation tour, we went to a local café to do a further coffee tasting, where we tried the Gesha variety (Finca Dos Jefes does not grow Gesha as they are not at a high enough elevation). Jen could definitely tell the better quality, however it still didn’t turn her into a coffee drinker. She does definitely appreciate it more now though. . .
Oh and we also still made it to the hot springs! Despite walking through a mud slide, they also did not disappoint.
Similar to the Lagoon Dudu in Dominican Republic, Jen found another happy place despite the rain. They were very relaxing, although super hot! Each of the 3 springs has a slightly different temperature. In the hottest one, neither of us could spend longer than a minute with our full body in. . .
Finally, as a bit of an extra, besides the coffee tasting, we were able to get some beer tasting in at the local Boquete Brewing Company (good pale ale).
And even some honey tasting at the Casita del Miel.
Who knew there could be 40 different types of honey?! All the varieties are based on the type of food the different bees are feeding on. Some were absolutely amazing, particularly the cacao and chili honey infusion – too bad we don’t have space/weight capacity to bring any along with us. . .
Oh and finally, we stayed in a treehouse one night! Yes, an actual tree house. It was right by the river and it a storm was going on – that’s completely safe, right?
At least it had a coffee machine for us to brew our own creation (even Jen had some). . .