Posted by: luisabaldwin | June 18, 2010


Boquete Surrounding Areas

Rio Caldera

It was a bright sunny day with puffy white clouds pushing their way briskly through blue sky.  The air was crisp and clean.  It felt like one of those uplifting kind of days where you just wanted to be out in it.  A day for a little adventure of poking around the surrounding areas around Boquete, so we piled into the car and headed for Palmira.

San Francisco Mall

Just outside of Boquete on the road to David you will find the little strip mall on the right called San Francisco Mall.  Turn right.

One of the first buildings we found on the left was the Spanish by the River Language Institute.

Spanish by the River Language Institute veranda

Many Europeans often love to combine a vacation with cultural familiarity and language improvement.  It’s a great idea and I would advise it for any American coming down for a visit or to scope the place out.

Richelle the manager & the school mascot

Run by a delightful Dutch woman by the name of Richelle, the Spanish School teaches in the traditional language instructional methodology.  So if you are one of those people who learn better when you understand the foundation of the language, this is the place for you.  The classes are conducted outside surrounded by the lovely gardens of the institute.

I would say this is a very pleasant way to learn a language!

You can sign up for a group, a mini-group, or private lessons and the hourly rate as of 2010 is $7.00 for a group, $10.00 for the mini-group, and $14.00 for private lessons.  As Richelle showed me around, she informed me that the institute also has a very clean and reasonably priced but nice hostel which includes a private room with bath.

The hostel living room

None of those 12-15 bed rooms here!  But more interestingly, Richelle told me that they could also make arrangements for you to stay with a Panamanian family, a true immersion class if I ever saw one.  If any of you are interested, here is the contact information for the institute:

Manager:    Richelle

A little further up the road we encountered a big arch with the sign, “Boquete Country Club”.


It was a Sunday and the guardhouse was closed but we encountered a person who worked there and kindly allowed us in to have a look.  Since we have lived in Boquete, I had always thought that the Boquete Country Club was what it was called after, a Country Club.  But, like all the many anomalies you encounter in Central America, it turns out that this was actually a housing development with a few lovely embellishments.  Like many other developments in Boquete, construction was only partially done and later, upon making the acquaintance of a retiree in Panama City, we came to find out that one seller had had his property in Boquete Country club on the market for three years!  So there was a lot of open undeveloped space. We drove on into the development and came across some condominiums.

The Condos

These structures, as you can see, were very nice as far as apartment living is concerned.  Somehow I don’t equate apartment living with Central America, especially Boquete – but to each his own.  Maybe in a large city…  The developer has apparently been working on a spa and a pool but we were not able to locate them.

It's a beautiful stable with gorgeous Paso Fino Horses

We did, however, find the crowning glory of this development – the stable.  Located next to the tennis courts, this stable was the prettiest stable I think I’ve ever seen and large, very large.

I'll be back!

One of the paddocks next to the stable had three beautiful full-bred and well-fed Peruvian Paso Fino horses. Now I well remember the Peruvian Paso Fino for when I lived in Puerto Rico we belonged to the Dorado Beach Club, which had a stable of these fine horses.  They are bred to only have one hoof off of the ground while in movement so the ride at a trot is as smooth as glass. We used to have competitions riding these horses with glasses full of water.  The winner was the one who lost the least amount of water.  Did I win?  I can’t remember.  I just remember how much fun it was.

The tennis courts

I won’t tell you about tearing down the middle of the golf course at dawn, only to hear Chichi Rodriguez, the golf pro, cursing us again and again as he found us in the restaurant. Of course he would find us. The horses were tethered outside of the restaurant – and we thought we were hiding!  Oh, it was a childhood delight and still makes me smile as I remember it.  We’d escape his tirade, hop up into our saddles, and gallop back down the golf course again – laughing all the way.  Of course, it helped that my riding mate was the manager’s daughter!  Anyway, back at the development, we said hello and good by to the horses – for now, that is.  I’ll be back for a ride sometime soon.

Boquete Country Club home

The rest of the development was looking at the houses and the views up the volcano.  There were just a handful of them.  They were the typical American-style construction that you find here in Boquete.

Another home in the Boquete Country Club

But they were pretty and well put together.  If this development ever finishes, these houses will be right next to each other unless some smart and well-to-do buyer buys up several lots.  That was enough of that and we decided to continue up the road.

Further up we encountered the Café Ruiz processing plant. Now I knew where I was.  This was the coffee tour that I wrote to you about a while back.  Further up the well-paved road we came to Palmira Central.  This is where the road forks and goes down to Palmira Abajo (the road to this area is unpaved).  Palmira Central is a tiny village with a church, a store, and a few other commercial enterprises.  The homes are of modest means and there isn’t much more to write about.   We kept going.  The road wound up the slopes of Volcan Baru with coffee fincas dotted along the landscape.  I know there are lovely homes but they weren’t visible from the road save for three of them.  It was pretty in the tropical sense of the word but the hills surrounding the road were steep and the road curved around and around the bends.

A refreshing stop by a little creek with orchids growing in the trees

We stopped to enjoy a gurgling stream lined by wild orchids growing in the trees then continued our climb up the volcano.  As we approached what seemed like the top of the hill, we were surprised to encounter a dairy farm with, low and behold, what appeared like Guernsey cows.

Pastoral bliss

I say low and behold for a reason I haven’t already told you about.  You see, there’s a problem with cows in the tropics.  The only ones that are hardy enough to sustain the harsh tropics in the lowlands are Brahma cows.  Those are the hunch back cows that India is famous for.  While they’re beautiful, the meat they produce is really tough.  And the dairy has a distinctive flavor we Americans aren’t used to.  To find a Guernsey cow was a real find indeed.  I made a mental note to come back and find the owner of that dairy farm.  Oh, for organic grass-fed raw milk!  And that’s what life in Panama is like.  We can pretty much get everything we got in the U.S., we just have to find it and do a little extra work to get it.  At least they don’t load up the cows with antibiotics and nasty hormones.  All cattle as well as chickens and pigs are grass fed in Panama – in the truest sense of the word.  It simply is a part of the old ways.  I know, you’re asking, “Why is she rattling on and on about the cows?”  Well, I’ll tell you why.  Recently, I was tested for antibiotic resistance and came to find out that I was penicillin resistant yet I’ve never had a round of penicillin in my life.  But with all of the penicillin used in cattle, it probably got into my system in some quantity over time.  That’s all I can think of to explain that puzzling situation.  You can eat safely and much less expensively outside of the U.S.

Well, enough of that.  Those fields on that dairy farm were simply put, beautiful.  The cows got to contentedly chew their grass while enjoying the breathtaking volcanic slopes of bright green Mount Baru, dramatically cut into a silhouette of a vivid blue and white sky.  We arrived at the top thinking as the map had told us that there was a road over to Volcancito but no, maps in Panama are rare and not too accurate.  It was the end of the road but as with so many other things in an undeveloped country, there probably was the good intention of building that road so it got on the map.  Oh well, maybe one of these decades….

We turned around and drove back the way we came and proceeded home to our little casita in Jaramillo Abajo.  We like it here.  The house is great, the views are lovely, and the neighbors are wonderful.  As we mulled over the day, we came to the conclusion that, unless we discovered something new, Palmira probably wouldn’t be the location of choice for a permanent residence.  But those Paso Fino horses?  Well, Ill be back for them!

Photography by:
Luisa Baldwin
© All rights reserved


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