We just came back from an 11-day trip to Panama. We traveled with another couple, all of us are in our mid-30s, from the USA and this was our first time in Panama. We flew in to Panama City and the next morning we took an aeroperlas flight to David and rented an SUV for the 1 hour drive to the mountain rainforest town of Bocquette. We spent 4 days and 3 nights at the Coffee Estate Inn after which we went on to Bocas del Toro.
The entire trip was amazing, but of all the places we stayed, the standout was the coffee estate inn (also called la montana y la valle). The lodging consists of one bedroom bungalows perched on the side of a mountain with breathtaking views of Volcano Baru and the rainforest jungle in the valley below. It is run by a Canadian couple (Barry and Jane), who have lived on the property for many years running a small coffee farm and the pride they take in showing you their home is evident in all the little details that you don't normally consider but made all the difference. Some examples - 4-star resort luxury matresses, sheets and towels, juicer in every room and fresh oranges outside our door every morning, fresh roasted coffee that was among the best I've ever tasted (I used to be a barista in Seattle!!), high-pressure hot showers, a bird-feeder loaded with fresh fruit to lure all sorts of exotic birds into camera range, fresh flowers from their garden in the rooms, baking us cookies and home-made bread to send us off the last morning, the list goes on.
We stumbled on this place surfing the internet and mentioned it to some friends that were traveling to bocquette a few months ahead of us so we had some idea that they loved it, but from our first contact with Barry and Jane we were glad we found them. After booking our reservation, Jane sent us an information packet on their place that was like an insiders guide to traveling in Panama - it was filled with tips from past guests and their own travels, restaurant recommendations, business contacts they trust, cautionary tales of things to avoid and procedures for everything like booking in-country flights and rental cars, etc (the 25lb baggage limit on Aeroperlas was tough to handle!). When we had a mix-up with our flight to Bocas del Toro on Aeroperlas, Barry was quick to intervene, proactively calling their contact at the airline to help sort out the issue and ultimately arranging for a bi-lingual driver to take us on the beautiful drive to Almirante to catch a water taxi to Bocas - a much better option that the aeroperlas flight. When I mentioned that I have a severe allergy to fish and my friend is a vegitarian they made sure that the restaurants where we ate would accommodate these dietary restrictions. Even after we left, I arrived in Bocas to find a message at our hotel front desk, as well as an email from Barry and Jane informing me that I left my camera battery and charger at the coffee estate and when they found it, they had immediately arranged for another of their guests who was traveling to Bocas to leave it for me to pick up at a nearby hotel the next day. Most places probably would have waited for me to notice my battery was missing, stored it in a lost and found box and wait for me to call to request that it be sent to me in the states. But because Barry and Jane thought enough to get the battery back to me a day later in Bocas this saved us from having no photos of the second half of our trip.
There were too many little details like this to recount fully, but we left feeling like we had visited relatives rather than stayed at a boutique resort. This place is special.
If you stay there, among the don't-miss highlights, *DEFINITELY* have them cook you dinner. Barry and Jane are unbelievable cooks and they offer a candlelight dinner on the porch (we had to eat inside since it was raining, but Jane dressed up the table with fresh flowers and linens) that was hands-down the best meal we ate in all of Panama. The smoked pork was outrageous (wish we had ordered 2 of these), but it was all fantastic. They also offer a tour of the coffee farm and roasting process that you shouldn't miss. If you do nothing else in Bocquette but sit on your porch and read, make time to do these two things (and be sure to drive the loops/hike around on the sendoros - see below).
Among our regrets, we didn't bring home near enough of their coffee, we didn't have enough time to explore the quetzal sendoro (the quetzal trail) and surrounding areas. Although we hired a guide to look for quetzals, we only saw a couple of them briefly and the zip-line canapy adventour tour was cool, but not spectacular. When we drove over to the other hiking areas on our last evening in Bocquette, we quickly realized we missed out. Jane had been encouraging us to drive over to these places, but we didn't find the time until it was too late. If I went back I would also try to fit in some river rafting (which I hear is amazing there) and possibly a little golf at the valle escondido but we didn't have the time on this trip.
The other places we stayed in Panama City and Bocas del Toro were both nice too, but the coffee estate was A+. If you stay in Panama City I would recommend the place we stayed - Casa Mar Alta. The place we stayed in Bocas (El Limbo by the Sea) was reasonably clean and (when we eventually got into the room we had reserved) has nice porches looking over the bay, we had a mix up when they double-booked our room and I think if I went back there, I would look to stay somewhere other than bocas town. We heard a lot of good things from fellow travelers about the Au Natural resort on Bastimentos but weren't able to go see it.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Coffee Estate Inn is Boquete's original mountainside inn featuring personalized attention, privacy and deluxe accommodations with delicious food and coffee. Our six acre (2 1/2 hectare) private estate allows ample privacy for all of our guests during their stay, and our attentive staff are sure to make it an escape to remember. All of our bungalows have magnificent views of the towering Baru Volcano, surrounding mountains and the Boquete valley below. Learn about coffee cultivation with us, participate in the roasting process and finally enjoy the flavor of our freshly roasted estate coffee. Nature trails wind through our lush private estate, and numerous species of exotic flowers, birds and mammals are easily viewed from the spacious deck of your private bungalow. Our goal today is the same as it has been since day one. That is to provide you with an opportunity to experience the beauty of Panama that we have the great fortune of enjoying every day. We take great pride in our Inn and great care of our guests. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- La Montana y El Valle Coffee Estate Hotel Boquete