(InternationalLiving) A room with kitchenette at the Boquete Garden Inn will cost you $109 a night during the low season
I’m in the town of Boquete, in Panama’s luscious green highlands. The crowds that were here for the November holidays (Nov. 3-5) have dispersed, and those of us who remain find that Boquete is a very quiet place indeed.
This may well be the most relaxing day I’ve had in a long time…the low-stress environment and low costs have put me at ease.
I started my morning with a free breakfast—cereal, coffee, toast and fruit are included in my stay at Boquete Garden Inn, where a room with kitchenette will run you $109 a night during the low season. The inn is actually a cluster of cottages, surrounded by flower-filled gardens and bordered by a small river.
Later, at a roadside stall in the neighborhood of Los Naranjos, I just had to stop for strawberries and natilla—a thick, syrupy cream that tastes to me like melted cheesecake. For $2 the pudgy lady behind the counter will pile a generous cup high with good, fresh strawberries. It felt like I was eating a McDonald’s sundae with zero guilt!
The strawberries—and blackberries and raspberries—are among my favorite things about this region. Temperatures are typically in the mid- to high 70s, so the berries are always in season. It seems to me Boquete is the perfect place to indulge…I am tempted by fresh, bright vegetables, new cafes and restaurants, made-to-order juice and smoothies everywhere I go.
At a stall I found outside the town center, I stopped to ogle the produce: sweet Boquete oranges, four for $0.25; fresh cucumber and chayote, a local green squash, were just $0.35 a pound; and the ripe Roma tomatoes were actually red…and just $0.90 a pound. But with meals being so cheap, I was too lazy to chop vegetables for my lunch.
Noontime found me at a new Israeli café called Tammy’s, where a huge falafel sandwich, with homemade falafel and pita bread was just $5 (my friend went for a quarter of a chicken for $2.75). We each had a cerveza—at $1 a pop, how can you refuse? And the restaurant was pleasant; Indian mirrored cushions adorned plush sofas and in one corner, a stage (complete with instruments) awaited the evening band.
A sign at the bar advertised buckets o’ beer, six brewskis for $5! Another informed me about “open mic” nights with drink specials on Thursdays.
Full and content, I headed back to my little suite for a nap (Boquete is just that kind of place) and then for a free glass of wine at the hotel “social hour.” Hosts Susan and Jason were friendly and outgoing, gabbing about restaurants, outdoor activities and life in Boquete.
The other guests were American, Panamanian and European. Our drinks were served at the hotel bar, a large gazebo with twinkling lights strung under the eaves. It was the perfect ambience and a great opportunity to share stories and information. (To my utter astonishment, a fellow guest produced an article I’d written on places to meet expats in Panama City. “We’re heading there next,” she said).
As the bartender jokingly strobed the lights and yelled “last call,” we dispersed, some to dinner, others to a wild bar called Zanzibar. I joined the latter group and realized the place was wild because of its décor, not because of the crowd (or lack of one, on a Monday night).
The bar was decked with real African furniture and artifacts. Everything was lovingly picked out, from the chairs and tables (shaped like wizened men), to the carved wooden lamps, to the collection of narguiles or hookahs in the corner. It was the perfect place to sit and chat while we decided where to have dinner. As we asked for the check ($6 for the four of us), we still weren’t certain where we’d go. Heading out into the cool windy night, I wasn’t concerned. Boquete is just that kind of place…