Boquete is beautiful. The coffee plantations. The bird watching. The hiking trails and natural climbing walls. The refreshing weather. The expats (or at least the diverse restaurants they attract). However, Cerro Punta–with its awesome agriculture, Swiss chalet architecture, and proximity to Volcán Barú National Park (home to the tallest mountain in Panama) and La Amistad International Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s shared with Costa Rica which is the largest nature reserve in Central America)–may be even better than Boquete for travelers, bird watchers and anyone who’s into nature.
There’s something rejuvenating and reassuring about being surrounded by fields of thriving fruits and vegetables. Potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions, some mysterious green stuff we couldn’t identify, strawberries (which are sold in town by vendors who whip up strawberry smoothies, strawberries and cream, strawberry bread, etc), and more deliciousness blanket the slopes around Cerro Punta like edible carpets.
Everything you shove into the ground seems to flourish in the rich soil and tender climate at 5,905 feet (1,800 meters). However, Cerro Punta farmers don’t just shove things into the ground. Each field is tidier and more picturesque than the last with neat rows, not a weed in sight, and borders planted with flowers. They all seem to have been groomed by the world’s most fastidious farmers in prep for a Martha Stewart photo shoot.
Adding to the agricultural bliss of Cerro Punta is Haras Cerro Punto, a five-star horse farm which opened in 1977 and has produced top-of-the-line race horses and show horses. Even if you’re not in the market for a million dollar horse, you can take a tour of the pristine paddocks for about US$5.
Sleeping and spa-ing in Cerro Punta
Speaking of horses, a brand new colt was frolicking in the central lawn at Los Quetzales Lodge & Spa, in the town of Guadalupe just a few miles from Cerro Punta, when we arrived. Good sign.
The lodge offers something for everyone from camping to motel-style rooms to stand alone cabins. The place looks and feels like a cross between a Swiss chalet and a boy scout camp and is run as sustainably as possible.
Most produce comes from their own organic garden (their salad bar is famous). Dairy products come from their own cows. More than 7,000 trees have been planted on the lodge’s 980 acre (400 hectare) private reserve. No plastic water bottles are sold. More than 90% of the staff lives within walking or biking distance of the lodge.
Every morning at 8:30 am there’s a free guided tour so guests can see some of the lodge’s property in a super bad ass custom-built vehicle. We had the added bonus of seeing resplendent quetzal birds in the lush cloud forest which butts right up against Volcán Barú National Park.
During this tour you will also see the lodge’s best kept secret: About 10 minutes up a rough dirt road beyond the main lodge Los Quetzales also offers spacious wooden cabins built into areas of the cloud forest that were deforested decades ago so no new trees had to be cut down.
Each cabin has multiple bedrooms, Wi-Fi, full kitchens, and fireplaces (at over 7,260 feet/2,200 meters it gets chilly up there). They’re the perfect family or romantic hideaway. Bring your own groceries or arrange for the chef from the main lodge to come cook for you.
Los Quetzales Lodge & Spa also has a top-value spa that uses all-natural products. It’s not fancy but you can get a superb deep tissue massage for 1.5 hours for US$45 in an open-air spa room with the sound of a creek gurgling by.
Here’s more about travel in Panama