In Havana I joined a group of carpenters, plumbers and electricians for a game of…
I’ll get it out of the way up front. The Boquete Garden Inn is probably THE BEST little inn I’ve stayed at, ever.
Understand, of course, that I am a fanatic for birds, gardens and flowers. So walking through the gate from the already near-paradise that is the town of Boquete into some place that is even MORE fantastically paradisiacal is a rather striking way to begin a visit.
A fairly arduous 6-hour drive northwest of Panama City, the little settlement of Boquete is a fairly well-known coffee-scented and flowery oasis in the mountains of Panama’s Chiriquí Province and very reminiscent (to me at least) of my town of Taos, New Mexico.
Boquete sits at about 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) in elevation in the cool valley of the Caldera River. The area is famous for its flowers, coffee-growing and citrus fruits. The town hosts a growing Jazz Festival and the world-famous Feria de las Flores y del Café every year in January. Then there is the birding, the hiking trails, the national park….
It is no wonder that so many North Americans and Europeans have settled into retirement here. In fact, about 15% of the population is foreigners.
It is a heavenly little spot.
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I was fortunate enough to spend three days at the Boquete Garden Inn during January 2013 as a guest of the owners in exchange for an honest review of the place.
And honestly? I loved it.
The place is beautiful. Wrapped inside a high wall right next to the Caldera River, the Inn is itself a garden where the 5 individual octagonal-shaped free-standing units are all hidden away along a gravel path back amongst riotous flowering trees and hidden nooks where you can sit and read or watch the incredible number of bird species (80+ species have been recorder on the property) and butterflies.
I kind of feel like every human should live in this kind of beauty. Maybe we’d all be better beings for it.
The 10 rooms are comfortable (borderline luxurious), beautiful, clean, well-organized and equipped and thankfully animal-free. The bathrooms have recently been remodeled and sport some fancy wall-mounted instant water heaters that speak to the conservation-orientation of the whole place.
The attention to detail was pretty stunning.
I’ll also add that the sheets on the bed did not reek of perfumes and soaps. Most times the detergent used on sheets and pillow cases in hotels is so intense I can’t actually sleep without putting a towel or shirt over the pillow to deaden the smell. I’ve taken to travelling with my own little pillow-case tucked away in a zip-lock in my pack just in case. I didn’t have to deal with that at the Boquete Garden Inn.
These little things matter to me.
From the Boquete Garden Inn you can walk to the center of Boquete in about 25 minutes. (location and mapping here) Of course you can also get a taxi back and forth for about $2.00. It is just far enough out of town to be quiet and yet easily access all that the Chiriquí highlands has to offer.
The inn is mostly staffed by knowledgeable locals who can help arrange any activities for you like bird-watching tours and visits to some of the coffee farms in the area.
Every evening the owners Jason and Susan host a little happy hour under the El Colibri Gazebo among the flowers in the back corner of the property near the river. Every guest gets one free drink of their choice. It is a great place to meet all the other guests as well as the staff.
Note that people who stay at the Boquete Garden Inn tend toward the older. My friend Maria Elena and I were by far the youngest visitors to the inn. I was fine with that. The other guests were world-travelers with great stories and experiences to share and then all went to bed early. Thankfully this is not the place for discos and all night parties.
But you can hear the river as you’re falling asleep……
There are coffee-makers in the room for those up early to watch the tanangers and hummingbirds dart and pick at the fruits and
flowers. Breakfast under the portal isn’t served until 8am (but if you have to leave early you can order a breakfast to go the night before). The complimentary breakfast is mostly fruit, granola and milk which all looked fine but we had to fill up on a bit more for the hikes we took into the cloud forest each day so we ordered up the generous egg-based breakfasts that run under $5.00. There was no place we found in town where you could get a breakfast like that for that kind of price.
Other amenities include free WIFI, huge LCD TVs (which you’ll probably never turn on), fully-equipped kitchenettes, safes, a night-time guard. For about $100/night for two people, you really can’t go wrong here. I found it quite a deal for the price. You just don’t get the feeling Jason and Susan are tryin to milk you.
Check rates and availability here.
I feel like I have to complain about something about the Boquete Garden Inn. Something. As I’ve written this review I’ve been wracking my brain as to what that could be. The only thing I can come up with was that the bed was too soft. Yes, that’s right…. that giant California-king with the fabulous pillows was just too damn soft.
Oh well. Next time I’ll just have to suffer through that horrific indignity. Pray that I survive.