Chiriqui Province, Panamá

At the western edge of Panamá lies Chiriqui Province, the second-most developed province in Panamá (after Panamá City’s province). Its diversity means there is something for everyone. There are miles of deserted pristine beaches along the Pacific Ocean, scenic mountain regions with numerous hiking trails and waterfalls, and Panama’s only volcano Volcan Baru (dormant). This volcano is the highest point in Panamá, and from its peak of 11,398 feet, both the Pacific and Caribbean oceans are visible.

These pristine, often deserted beaches, allow not just sunning but big-game fishing, diving, snorkeling, and bird watching. Among Central America’s densest mangrove forests is the National Marine Park, home to 25 islands and 19 coral reefs. Las Lajas and Boca Chica are two of the best seaside beaches. Further out in the Pacific are Boca Brava and Playa la Barqueta which will feel like your own private beach.

es.hotels.com

This Province is also a mecca for the adventuresome hikers and rock climbers, as well as the waterfall sightseers. These upper elevations bring cooler temperatures with lush rain forests and coffee farms. Flower growing is big business here in Chiriqui, also. These activities center around the small towns of Boquete and Volcan. Both of these have drawn international visitors and retirees.

Chiriqui Province is the bread basket of Panamá. Fruit and vegetable farms dot the landscape. Boquete is the center for Panamá’s award-winning coffee, while Volcan and Cerro Punta are known for their prolific crop farms. The cattle industry is also not to be overlooked.

roughguides.com

There is always something to do in Chiriqui Province, from major shopping in its capitol city David (da-VEED) to quiet contemplation in the forests. Boquete has become a major location for about 5000 international expats, making English the second predominant language. Still, the province is Panamanian, with local festivals throughout the year. The colors of Chiriqui Province shine in its natural surroundings and in its people.

Fact: At least some English is spoken in many of Panamá’s larger towns
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At the Chocolate Factory

Once again, I have asked my friend Myra to share with us one of her recent posts. She has been in Boquete longer than I have been and gotten to places I have yet to visit. I see no reason to reinvent the wheel, so I welcome her post which I think you will enjoy:

Please visit Myra’s blog at https://gayle54.com. Thanks, Myra.

Fact: Chocolate is big business in Boquete
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Villa Gauguin

I am now ensconced in Boquete, Panamá. After six days in a hotel, I found housing! The amazing story is that I am now living in a yurt way up a mountain side among the coffee plantations. How cool is that? Actually, it is cool in the nights and mornings, but a good comforter solves that problem. I’m at 5260’ foot elevation, about like Denver. The yurt is beautiful, with a separate building for bathroom facilities.

My Yurt

The owner is “everything Gauguin;” Gauguin’s reproduction paintings are everywhere on the grounds, in addition to Gauguin murals on buildings. Five years ago, this was a flat piece of land sloping down to the road. Now it is sculpted land with a home, apartment, cabins, and yurts. It began life as an Airbnb, went to long-term rentals, and now it’s back to short-term rentals.

My Bath House

My first day, I woke up to fog on the mountain tops –  a usual occurrence at least this time of the year. As it lifted, I saw that I had a very long-distance view. I’m told that on a clear day I should be able to see the Pacific Ocean and islands beyond. That would be nice.

A little closer in, I had my first visitor – a baby lizard. He came up on my front deck looking for food scraps. Two days later, not finding any, he left and hasn’t returned. Replacing him has been a small sparrow. This bird will come into the yurt and peck around on the floor for something to eat. I thought this was cute and didn’t discourage him. Eventually, he even brought his pregnant spouse. I have had to discourage these visits, though, as they always leave droppings on my floor. So much for having pets.

Villa Gauguin

Up above my front deck, I found that I had growing three bunches of bananas. Perhaps when these are ripe, I’ll have some breakfast already available. There are all kinds of fruit trees on the property. I tried the guava but couldn’t hack all the seeds, so gave up on those. There is a fruit that tastes like a mild orange; it must be a cross with something else. We also have some vegetables and many herbs growing on the grounds. There are some raised beds waiting to be planted.

My Bananas

Boquete is a town of about 25,000, 5,000 of whom are expats  Most of the expats here are Americans or Canadians, with many other countries represented in smaller numbers. The town is nestled in a valley (probably a dormant volcano) and extends up the mountainsides. Boquete means a pass in the mountains. It was used by miners traveling through to the California Gold fields in the 1860s. There are many YouTube videos of Boquete if you’d like to see more.

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Arriving in Panamá

Greetings from South of the Border, way south of the border. I have arrived in Panama, frazzled from complications and lack of sleep. But, I’m here, and my new life has begun.

After 6 days of estate sales and multiple trips to the thrift stores, recycling center, and transfer station, I got rid of everything. I left an empty house, except for those things my landlord/best friend wanted. He even bought my car and drove me to the airport! Anything to get rid of me :).

The first day of travel was very complicated due to the new use of QR codes to exit and enter a country. I was not prepared for this. It took professionals an hour to get me out of Atlanta and another hour to get me into Panama. I have a learning curve to take on with this subject. I had long waits for shuttles, a late plane, but an early arrival. It all worked out, but I needed much more sleep. I got up at 3:00 am to catch an early flight because I forgot to set my clock back an hour. Panama has no daylight saving time.

El Oasis Hotel and Restaurant – Agoda.com

I met with my immigration lawyer right after getting off the plane and got the Visa process started. I then took a bus up to my new “home town” and checked into an old, funky hotel which I thought was really kool. After 15 days, I got my temporary Visa. It takes a couple of months to get a permanent Visa. The cost for these Visa is around $1600. These are then followed by an e-cedula (only about $65). The “e” in cedula stands for extranjero – foreigner in Spanish. With that, I will no longer need to carry my passport. In fact, I can travel around much of South America with only the e-cedula.

It turned out to be a rough beginning. The big weekly expat event is the Tuesday Market. I missed the first two (I arrived too late on the first Tuesday and the next I had to go to my lawyer’s office to pick up my Temporary Visa). The private expat group (those who took the tour I took) meets on Friday afternoon/evenings. I missed the first of those because I couldn’t find the hotel where this occurred.

Boquete – Myguiadeviajes.com

By far the biggest problem I had after arriving was the fact that I didn’t have an American phone number. I had given that up. I couldn’t do business with anyone in the US, because I couldn’t accept a security check call. This means I couldn’t access my bank or credit card accounts, in addition to some other businesses. I did get a WhatsApp phone number the first day I got here because most of the world uses the WhatsApp free phone service – that is, everybody but the US. After a month, I solved the phone problem by getting a Google Voice phone number (thank you Melissa!). Now I use that almost exclusively.

This blog is getting to be a bit long, and there’s still so much to tell you. I will continue to do so, reverting to the once-a-week posting on Wednesdays. Thanks for traveling with me.