By Lisa Leuthesser
Contributing writer to Latinworld.com
One of the most appealing elements of Panama’s geography is the wide variety of micro climates that can be experienced in a very short time. Few places in the world offer a visitor the opportunity to luxuriate in a bathing suit on a pristine beach one day and don a jacket the next day to hike the slopes of a dormant volcano in a cool cloud forest. Of the many attractions in the Republic of Panama, the province of Chiriquí probably offers the most variety for the visitor in a manageable space.
Chiriquí occupies the northwest corner of Panama and shares a border with Costa Rica. For outdoor enthusiasts, Chiriquí provides an extraordinary variety of ways to take full advantage of nature’s bounty. It is possible here to fish for record-size Blue Marlin one day and fly fish for trout in a mountain stream the following day. There are several rivers where the traveler can experience white water rafting comparable to any in the world. And the mountains also offer the exhilaration of a forest canopy zip line tour that would thrill even the most jaded adventurer.
There is an excellent variety for the ocean lover in Chiriquí, too. The Pacific shore at La Barqueta is a broad, dark sand beach where each year Panama hosts its international surf contest. At the Pedregal River estuary the tiny hamlet of Boca Chica is home to a number of upscale resorts offering fishing and diving activities. Just across the mouth of the river, on the island of Boca Brava secluded lodges and romantic hideaways beckon even seasoned travelers with tropical allure complete with the cacophony of tribes of howler monkeys in the treetops. The calm waters of the Bahia de Charco Azul are protected by the jutting Burica Peninsula shared by Costa Rica. Here at places like Punta Piedra, you will find dramatic, rocky seaside landscapes interspersed with quiet palm-lined beaches where yours are the only footprints in evidence.
For the avian enthusiast, Chiriquí offers opportunities for bird watching that rival any in the world. More than a dozen hummingbird varieties make their home here and countless variations of parrots. The harpy eagle, national bird of Panama, soars through the canyons of the Chiriquí highlands with majestic grace. The famous Los Quetzales trail goes through the Baru Volcano National Park and connects the towns of Cerro Punta and Boquete. This mountain rainforest is part of the Talamanca Mountain Range, an interesting geological formation that contains unique flora and fauna perfect to harbor highland species of Chiriquí.
These absolutely beautiful forests have the highest peak in Panama, the Baru Volcano 11,398 ft. The Quetzales Trail goes to at an altitude of 6000 ft, on a ridge with amazing views, and full of ancient trees, like oak, cedar, magnolia and laurel or aguacatillo (Quetzals main food). Ferns and mosses provide habitat for a great number of birds, such as Buffy Tuftedcheek, Ruddy Treerunner, Spotted Barbtail, and Spectacled Foliage-Gleaner. Heliconias and flowers attract a variety of gorgeous hummingbirds such as White-throated Mountain-Gem, Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Volcano Hummingbird, Magnificent Hummingbird and Violet Sabrewing.
Chiriquí is also home to some of the world’s finest coffee plantations in the world. The area surrounding Boquete has earned top cupping honors in recent competitions and the highest price ever paid for any beans in the world was lavished on one of Boquete’s boutique growers. A tour of a coffee plantation is not to be missed when visiting the highlands. Many different growers offer tours and cupping sessions for visitors.
Finally, no description of Chiriquí would be complete without mentioning the Chiricanos themselves. If you meet a person from Chiriquí he or she is likely to tell you “Soy Chiricano” (I am Chiricano) rather than “Soy Panamaño” (I am a Panamanian). Among these friendly and industrious people there is great pride in their provincial heritage. They will tell you proudly that Chiriquí is the breadbasket of Panama. The farms and gardens of Cerro Punta produce the vast majority of fresh vegetables consumed in the Republic of Panama. Vast greenhouses yield everything from fresh greens and herbs to long-stemmed roses to ornament the tables where those foods are served.
The city of David is a thriving commercial hub for the province boasting modern shopping, theaters and dining for visitors and locals. A small international airport serves as a regional hub and the Pedgregal Marina is one of a only a handful outside of the capital city. Excellent roads connect most points of interest and a reliable bus service runs to all points. In short, Chiriquí Province offers a varied and exciting opportunity to explore Panama’s rich natural and cultural attractions within a convenient, accessible framework.
Lisa Leuthesser is a managing partner and marketing director for http://www.buyingrealestateinpanama.com a company specializing in real estate in Panama’s undiscovered interior provinces.
internal photo #1 provided by Young in Panama at http://www.flickr.com/photos/young-in-panama/3134424240/
internal photo #2 provided by atour_a at http://www.flickr.com/photos/artour_a/2069964406/
internal photo #3 provided by default user at http://www.flickr.com/photos/defaultuser/113098493/