After being trapped in Panama for 4 months for the Covid-19 crisis, I was getting desperate to get out and explore. I jumped at the invitation from one of the neighboring families to go check out a new trail. This is not a well-known trail, and you won’t find it on any maps around town. So join me and find out what it is like hiking Cerro La Estrella in Boquete, Panama!
How to Prepare…
Probably the most important thing for this hike, and any hiking in Boquete, is to set out early. The view of Volcan Baru often gets clouded over early in the morning and you don’t want to miss that. Early mornings are also by far the best light for photography. We left home at around 6.30am and started walking by 7am. Next time I would probably set out an hour earlier as the clouds rolled in about 10 minutes after we reached the top. But don’t be disappointed if you get clouds, they do put on a spectacular show and often move out as fast as they move in.
It is about a 5 1/2 hour hike, round trip, so be sure to take plenty of water and snacks. The grassy meadow at the top is a perfect place to rest and enjoy some breakfast. There are quite a few water sources on the climb, although I’m not sure if I would drink them without purifying. Look out for a tap that fills the horse trough halfway up the final meadow.
I personally did the whole hike in Shorts and a T-shirt and was comfortable the whole trip. If you have any fear of bugs I suggest you wear long pants as most other people would suggest. Good hiking boots are definitely recommended. The trail can be quite muddy down below, especially during the rainy season when we went. On the descent, the grass in the meadow can be quite slippery so expect a fall or two.
How to get there…
Hiking in Boquete is not without its challenges. Just getting there may actually be the hardest part of the hike! It is a long uphill walk from town so you will need a car or a taxi. Head up the Jaramillo Arriba Road shortly after the Panamonte Bridge. After about 3.5km there will be a dirt road that branches off to the left. Follow this road, sticking to the right, until you come to a place to park on your right. It is not marked, nor is the trail. At the parking area trails appear to go to the left and the right. Take the trail to the left which is a continuation of the road for a little ways further.
Once on the trail, you will want to stick to the left at any intersections you come across. Unfortunately, we did not know this before we set out and took a wrong turn about 30 minutes in. The right-hand turn looked much more travelled than the left, so we mistakenly took it. It turned out to be a good mistake as we came out at the view pictured below. Once the trail started heading downhill again, we decided to turn around.
After getting back on track and taking the left hand turn we missed before, we continued uphill. You can see a wide open grassy meadow up in the distance and this is what you want to head for. You will go through a rustic gate or two before you come across a beautiful wooded meadow with fences on either side. We heard many dogs in the distance who didn’t sound to happy about us being there, but we never actually saw them. The climb up through the wooded meadow was just spectacular as the sun came up over the distant horizon.
Pictures really don’t do this scene justice, it was quite surreal. But we knew we needed to press on and get to the top while the skies were still clear.
From here there really is no clear trail, you just have to make your way up the mountain. Once out of the trees and into the open meadow, the summit becomes clear. There was a beautiful white horse roaming the meadow, and a few horse trails to make the climb a little easier. We kept stopping to take photos, and then a few minutes later we would wonder why we had bothered. The view just kept getting better and better. But it never hurts to take photos when you have a good view, you never know when the clouds will appear.
Although it seems like an endless climb up through the meadow, the view at the top will make it all worthwhile. You will be greeted with a magnificent view of the whole Boquete valley below, definetely the best view I have seen in Panama so far!
We couldn’t have timed our arrival any better. Within five minutes the clouds rolled in and blanketed the volcano and the valley below in mist. The top of the volcano would be gone for the rest of the day, but the clouds did clear once again a little later for more great views of the valley below.
The top of the meadow flattens out and makes a great place for a breakfast picnic. If you forgot some snacks, there are plenty of wild blackberry bushes on the climb up making for a delicious and healthy breakfast. The clouds were constantly changing and put on a great show of nature. A timelapse video from this viewpoint would have been amazing.
Now if you look up to your right, you will realize that you are not actually at the top. There was one more peak left to climb. You will have to find you way through some barbed wire fences and old gates to get to it. Once you get there, there is a nice zig-zag trail up to the summit
At the summit you have a 360 degree view of Panama below. On a clearer day I imagine you could see the ocean, and maybe even Bocas Del Toro. There are couple of rustic benches to rest your weary legs while you take in the amazing views above the clouds.
Even Mia, the dog, appreciated the views up here. She was only five months old and had spent most of that time quarantined in the neighborhood during Covid-19. She had never experienced hiking in Boquete. This was her first-ever hike and I could tell it was the highlight of her life!
I know I may have made this hike sound quite difficult. It definetely wasn’t easy. But we made it to the top with a nine and an eleven year old, who had barely been out of their backyard for the last for months due to the strict quarantine here in Panama. If they can do it, I’m sure you can too.
The walk down is also not without its challenges. Once again finding a trail through the meadow was not easy, so you just have to do a little bushwacking. We could see the white horse below and made that our target. The long grass in the meadow is quite slippery and not one of us made it down without a few falls. The meadow will eventually funnel you back to the main trail and from there it should be easy to find your way home. On the way back down be sure to take things a little slower and check out all the amazing plant life that surrounds you.
This really was my best experience of hiking in Boquete so far and is going to be a tough one to beat
Have you been hiking in Boquete? What was your favorite trail???