Posted by: luisabaldwin | November 18, 2012




Tel: 720-1111

(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

It’s the rainy season in Panama (October through December) so we considered ourselves quite lucky to be able to enjoy a clear afternoon outing up into the misty volcanic rainforests of Boquete.  Our destination?

Old world charm can be seen at the Fina Lerida coffee and gift shop. How about an espresso and a delicious home-made cake while you watch the herb garden grow?

Finca Lerida, which is 10 kilometers above Boquete.  This coffee plantation has a private nature preserve, a working coffee finca, a boutique hotel, a coffee shop and a great restaurant.  And boy, do we have a spot for you folks who are planning a visit to Boquete or those of us lucky souls who live here!

Finca Lerida has an interesting history going back to early 1911.  Back then Toleff Bache Mönniche, a Norwegian engineer working on the Panama Canal came down with malaria and came to the mountains seeking a refuge and recuperation from his illness.  It took him a week of sailing up the pacific coast in a vapor boat and then a long horseback ride to finally arrive at what was to become Finca Lerida.

Toleff Bache Monnich, a Norwegian engineer built his home in 1924 and became the Finca Lerida coffee plantation owner.

He found his slice of heaven and in 1924, retired from the canal and settled into his new life as a plantation owner.  As a coffee grower, he invented a sorting machine to separate good beans from mediocre beans and exported Panamanian coffee to Germany.  Today, the finca is owned and operated by the Collins family and they have carried on with traditions established a century ago.  Today they export coffee to the United States, Europe, and Japan.  Nothing much has changed.

Rio Caldera vistas can be enjoyed on the trip up to Finca Lerida if you take the charming long way to get to Finca Lerida.

A festive ambiance permeated the car and Jim started singing his favorite song, “There’s a telephone pole in the middle of the road, middle of the road, middle of the road.  Must be Panama.”  We all laughed as we actually drove past the telephone poles in the middle of the road.  And yes, things like that do happen here but then you get out into the country and it just takes your breath away.  All of the anomalies and little annoyances of daily life here cancel out and you know exactly why you live here.  Because Panama is breathtakingly beautiful and the people are lovely, genuinely welcoming, and sweet.  As we drove up the hill we encountered staggering vistas of the River Caldera and, at one point, the San Ramon waterfall.  November is the time of the coffee harvest and the Ngobe Bugle Indians were working in the coffee fields picking red cherries.  The women’s beautiful long black hair flowed in the light breeze and brightly colored native dress painted the landscape like a flower garden in bloom.  Interesting and mysterious volcanic formations begged answers to what happened here millennia ago. All the Ngobe children were playing by the roadside and smiled, waving as we drove by.  Nobody was moving too fast.  It was going to be a good day.  Oh yes, it was going to be a very good day.

Finca Lerida dries their coffee beans in the old way, in the sun!

We arrived at the finca after our scenic drive and drove up to the little coffee shop/gift shop.  I was surprised to see the green beans being dried in exactly the same manner as the coffee fincas in the Colombian highlands that I used to visit as a child.  Raked out on a large concrete slab, the beans are left to dry in the sun.

As we looked around we realized we were really in for a garden landscaper’s dream come true for the gardens were truly magnificent.

We could see we were in for a landscaper’s dream come true. The grounds at Finca Lerida are just astounding!

This is the place to feast your eyes on the incredible flora and fauna that Panama has to offer.  My friend and I both decided we were going to have to bring our gardener here for inspiration.

Just think, you’ve had a bird watching tour on Finca Lerida’s well maintained natural preserve and now you get a fire roaring and sink down into your hammock on your private terraza to watch the glorious sunset. Pretty cool!

As we wound our way through the gardens and further up the hill, we could see that this was a hotel that could be considered ideal as a mountain retreat.  Hammocks and fireplaces graced the front verandas of the rooms. And the rooms and suites?  You’re going to have to link to the hotel Website above to see how tastefully decorated they are.

Perfectly manicured gardens with colorful birdhouses dotted the landscape.  If you’re a bird watcher it doesn’t get any better than this.  Finca Lerida offers bird walk tours on their private nature preserve so that you can identify the colorful tanager fruitarins feasting on an abundance of fruit trees. This is also the place to spot the elusive but glamorous quetzal amongst other species; too numerous to list in this article.

The end of the year is the coffee harvest in Panama. Maybe you’d like to enjoy Finca Lerida’s coffee tour. They describe it as an in-debth interactive coffee tour. You’ll get to see the founder, Mr. Monniche’s, “sifon” invention which sorts good coffee beans from bad. This invention is used on many coffee plantations to this day.

Another activity available at Fina Lerida is a coffee tour.  Coffee tours are interesting and Finca Lerida describes theirs as an in-depth interactive coffee tour.  On this tour you will learn how Mönniche built the first coffee plantation by gravity in Panama. This inventive engineer designed and patented the “sifon”, which is a piece of farm equipment made to separate good beans from bad. This device is still used worldwide by many coffee plantations and it is still busy sorting coffee beans at Finca Lerida.  Like every other industry, it’s interesting to find out what goes into a process from a red cherry growing on a tree to our favorite pastime, a really good cup of coffee.

Inspiring perfectly maintained grounds provide a feast for your eyes – everywhere you look.

Think about it.  After a hike in search of exotic tropical birds, you drop down into your beautiful hammock with a cozy fire going to ward off the evening chill, for the altitude of Finca Lerida is 5,000 – 10,000 above sea level.  But it’s at this altitude that you get to enjoy the incredibly steep volcanic mountain views with coffee trees growing up the mountainsides, exotic birds, and unique flora and fauna.

As tummies started to growl, we decided it was time to sit down at the restaurant and have lunch.  I had heard that the food was very good at this restaurant and that certainly turned out to be true.  Restaurants can be somewhat disappointing here in Panama but this one was really good.

Check out this charming old-world dining room. And the food was great too!

We decided to sit out on the covered veranda so we could enjoy the view but the dining room was really sweet.  After enjoying lots of good conversation and delicious gastronomical treats, we reluctantly decided it was time to go.  But not before a lingering garden vista walk.

You’ve got to put this one on your Boquete, Panama bucket list.  Want a day or a stay that will remain in your memory bank as a “peak experience”?  Finca Lerida is a place you don’t want to leave and certainly a place you’ll want to come back to time and time again. .  Now that will do for a place to sit; for what more can a soul ask for to keep you Alive.

Want a day or a stay that will remain in your memory bank as a “peak experience”? Finca Lerida is a place you don’t want to leave and certainly a place you’ll want to come back to time and time again.



  1. Retirement and Good Living selected Boquete as one of the top retirement locations for 2013 at

    • Hello Carly,
      After living in Boquete for 4 years, I would agree with!

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