My girlfriend and I first heard about this place from a traveler in Bocas del Toro, and figured we’d drop in to play with monkeys for an afternoon. We ended up staying five nights in the extremely comfortable little hostel that’s attached, feeding the animals, walking the horse, and generally helping out wherever we could.
La Jungla is a wildlife rescue center, and they take care of multiple animals that have been abandoned or abused, or simply lost their owner and needed a home. There are four monkeys, several goats, a beautiful palomino horse, several macaws, a coati (which I’d never even heard of before), snakes, chickens, dogs, and more. But what really blew me away was the amount of interaction that was allowed. You’re not just saying hello to an animal from behind a cage. You’re right in the middle of the ground with goats checking to see if you have anything to eat, monkeys climbing your shoulders, and chickens and dogs walking side by side. All donations go to helping the animals, and there are opportunities for volunteering as well.
But as much fun as La Jungla is to visit, it’s an even better place to stay. We extended our stay in Boquete by several days just to hang out with the animals and the people. Dorothy and Luis, who run the place, are exceedingly kind and dedicated people, and made all the guests feel very much at home. There’s a working kitchen, a small grocery right around the corner, and a one-dollar per person bus into town. The beds are the most comfortable we stayed on, and the other guests were extremely friendly. Large meals where everyone shared food were common.
The refuge is located in Palmira, which is up the hill from Boquete. Most cab drivers know where it is, and the going rate to get to/from La Jungla by cab varied between two and six dollars. Four seemed to be the average.
I’ve never had this level of interaction with this many different kinds of animals in my life. This seemed like a fun diversion when we first heard about it. It ended up being the highlight of our trip to Panama.
Be sure to visit, and try to stay here if you can.