I will describe my experience walking on six popular rain forest trails in Boquete, the list begins with the Pipeline Trail, locals calling it "Cascada Escondida", Finca Don Issac, Three Waterfalls, Culebra Trail, El Pianista and Sendero Los Quetzales.
Pipeline Trail - Cascada Escondida - Private Property - Entry fee is $3.00 - See the slideshow with photos of mine taken from these very trails over the years.
Good trail, well kept trail and a good hike for the beginner, although people who have just arrived not accustomed yet to Boquete's altitude breathing can be a challenge. If you exercise a lot then you will be fine. Take your time walking and take plenty of water and snack. Pipeline is easy to get to from town if you don't have a car and taxi's are available to drive you there. A busito (van) drives there but, to come back it may be difficult as it departs from Bajo Boquete. The walk back to town is easy because the road goes on a slight decline.
The Pipeline Trail is good to walk on even during the rainy season.
This trail is in between two hills with a river flowing alongside. The popularity of this trail are for many reasons, one being the Resplendent Quetzales bird and birders love hiking in this area with a Boquete bird guide, next is the hidden waterfall at the end of the trail, spotting a Howler Monkey, or Sloth and of course the natural beauty of the trail. RQ bird is here year round but, more difficult to view after June. They nest here in the beginning February when the mating begins and begin nesting. The Howler Monkey is difficult to see but, sometimes you can hear a troop of Howlers roaring in the distance. It is quite an exhilarating experience to hear them as their roar echos down the ridge. Listen to a version of their call on the website below.
Grade level of this trail is a 2.5 for incline and distance. This is out and back trail.
Don Issac Finca - Private Property Quiel family - $5.00 entry fee
Past the Pipeline on the main road going to left is a private finca (farm) this property has been in Quiel family ever since the beginning of Boquete. Some of the land along this side of the mountain has been sold over the years but the family still owns much of it.
This is a short trail, but a rugged one within a beautiful semi rain forest area. The owners continually try to make this interesting by raising sheep, growing blackberries and strawberries to sell and having a small, but very beautiful waterfall at the end of the trail. Señor Issac mentioned the last time there, he is working on extending the trail, he is also building rooms to stay in with a small restaurant. I can't wait to see it! Grade level 1.5 because of distance, this is is a loop trail.
Three Waterfalls - Private Property - Entry Fee $5.00 it may go up to $7.00
Main road past Don Issac Finca located on the on right side of the road. This trail is beautiful natural trail and can be difficult for some. At the trailhead and after crossing the footbridge the trail may be a bit steep for some, although there are handrails to hold onto. There is always someone at the entrance to pay your fee. This a beautiful rainforest trail with three levels of waterfalls. This trail sometimes can be muddy and messy during the rainy season. This year 2015 the Bajareque (misty rain) did not let up all season. This side of Boquete went from rainy season into the Bajareque thus providing dampness all year. We are in May and that section of Boquete may be a bit drier for a month making it a good time to walk the 3 Waterfalls Trail.
The trail is well maintained and the waterfalls are great to see.
This is a steep walk from the trailhead all the way. This requires you to be in fairly good shape as you will be using both upper body and lower body to view all the waterfalls, the higher you go the more physically challenging the hike becomes especially up to the third waterfall. On this trail you will enjoy the scents of earth, surrounded by and clean fresh air. Where long pants, take water, bug spray, and wear hiking boots. A grade this one from a 4.0 for roughness. The 3 waterfalls is a half loop trail.
Culebra Trail no entry fee
Another trail to the side of the Three Waterfalls Trail and after crossing the footbridge vere to the left. Now you are on Culebra trail which is a beautiful and a nature buffs dream come true. This one meets up with Continental Divide trail. All year this trail is muddy so rubber boots are best to wear and it is rugged. I prefer hiking this trail during the Panama's summer months - Panama's dry season. Grade level 4.5 a steady incline and the trail is can be a loop if you come back down on the El Pianista trail. No phone service.
El Pianista Trail no fee entry
I do not recommend doing this trail without a guide. It begins outside of the rain forest area and once you are in the rainforest the trail becomes winding and may be easy for one to get lost once you leave the Continental Divide. Pay attention to the path by marking it when you make turns if you need to. I always carry in my backpack a piece of colorful twine when hiking a new trail like the El Pianista. Last year, we had two young women disappear on this trail they were never found. The other week two male tourists hike the trail beginning in Bocas Del Toro to Boquete, one of them had an accident but, luckily they had a GPS to call for help. Help came.
I have hiked the El Pianista Trail many times up to the Continental Divide, so if, you are going hike this trail do it with someone who knows the trail very well. I interviewed a friend who hiked this trail, you can read his experience hiking from Boquete to Bocas.
The rainy season makes the river on this trail very high and muddy. Although it is wet throughout the year. altitude 3200 ft to 8000 ft and there is no cell phone service Grade level 4.5.
Sendero Los Quetzales Entry Fee $5.00 at Ranger Station where you sign in.
The trail begins on a dirt gravel road at a steady decline from the ranger station, then the road goes up a steady incline where one may see sheep. I am told there are signs now to guide you and since I have not walked this trail since last year I can't say for sure that they are up. If there are no signs indicating the entrance into the rain forest then you need someone who knows where to enter. I find the Quetzale Trail easy except for the high steps along the trail but, it is a doable. Being in shape is important to hike all the way to the other ranger station.
The other ranger station is outside the small town of Guadalupe. Guadalupe and the ranger station is still within the Boquete District. Many people do not know this.
Stay at the Los Quetzales Lodge overnight, included in their rate is a buffet breakfast and a tour of coffee plantations and more trails in the area. this is not a loop trail but, one can hike all the way to the other ranger station and back to the first one in one day, but, you have began hiking early in the morning at the latest 8:30. During the rainy season it is best to begin earlier. Take protein bars, fruit and plenty of water on long hikes.
This trail is 8 kilometers (5 mi) long and takes around five or six hours to hike. Hiking up almost 8000 ft. No cell phone service. A guide would be wise. Grade level 5 distance and incline.
My suggestion for the last three trails is to take rain gear, a first aid kit, some type of GPS for an emergency, pack protein bars, fruit and plenty of water on long hikes and go with a group who is knowledgeable about the trails or hire a guide.
Many who have come to Boquete have gone on some of these trails alone, but guides may be best for you if you are new to the area. Guide are available and cost between $35.00 to $75.00 or a bit more depending how long the hike will be and the trail. In Boquete you will find tour businesses that are reliable and honest around town. EXPLORE DREAM DISCOVER