Two Panamanian Hot Springs and an Ambiguously Marked Trekking Path

I had the pleasure of visiting Boquete’s Caldera hot springs which is 24km from the center of the picturesque and sleepy mountain town.

I thought I’d compare the hot springs of Boquete to the one I recently visited in El Valle, as the two are surprisingly very different.

●  El Valle’s Springs are in close proximity to the town’s pulse.  Boquete’s Springs are far.

In El Valle there was a sign from the main road: Pozos Terminales. From there I walked along a tranquil street where stunningly opulent homes sat behind well-groomed lawns.    I exchanged customary holas with landscapers for three straight days.  I even threw in a Buen Trabajo when I noticed a cozy-looking foot bridge being built.   This comment would arouse humble smiles along with a polite gracias. The walk from my hospedaje took 20 minutes.

To get to Boquete’s Caldera from the center of town, it takes forty-five minutes to where the road to the thermal springs begins.  From there a forty-five minute trek is required.

A bit into the trek, there’s a puente.  After crossing this bridge, the road comes to an end.  There are signs for Thermal Springs pointing in both directions.  To the right is La Abuela while on the left is Caldera.  Caldera is 500 meters away while La Abuela demands a four-kilometer walk along a rocky, hilly road.

Five other foreign tourists got off the minibus with me at the entrance to the trail.

By the time we got to the signs we were in the back of a pickup truck.  The driver, who was to meet his family for lunch, had absolutely no idea about either hot spring.    Of the six of us, not one had a clue.  We stayed in the truck assuming that he’d take us the whole, bumpy way.  He only took us a couple of kilometers.

We then decided that it would be better to walk to the closer of the two hot springs.  This was now at least a three-kilometer walk in the hot and humid, midday tropical heat.  In Boquete, it’s gruelingly hot for a few hours from roughly 11am to 3pm. The town sits a mere nine degrees north of the Equator and  1,600 meters or 5,249 feet above sea level.

Compared to the 20-minute trek in El Valle, Boquete’s Caldera requires a one-and-a-half-hour, one-way excursion. If you choose the La Abuela Springs, add at least another hour-and-a-half of walking each way.

●  El Valle has one sizable, deep, manmade pool while Boquete has three shallow pools which are a natural part of the earth.

●  El Valle has a separate pool for babies, children, and feet while Boquete doesn’t.

●  El Valle’s water is green.  Boquete’s water is clear and has a slight, sulfuric smell that goes away after a few minutes of olfactory acclimation.

●  El Valle has a mandatory hot shower for before getting into the pool.  Boquete doesn’t have a shower.

●  El Valle has do-it-yourself mud facials.  Boquete doesn’t.

●  El Valle has dressing stalls.  Boquete doesn’t.

●  El Valle has a man who shows and explains the pools, mud facials, shower and dressing rooms.  Boquete has a boy who asks you for money just before entering the hot springs area.  He provides no voluntary information and does not have answers to questions.

●  Boquette has animals.  We saw two peacocks walking and a monkey swinging through the trees.

●  Both Boquette and El Valle cost $2 to enter.  However, in Boquette the minibus ride from the center of town costs $3.50 round trip.

●  Boquete’s pools are hotter than El Valle’s pool.

The two springs are very different.

The biggest difference for me was the time used.  In El Valle, I only used about two hours of my morning.  Going to Caldera necessitated  an entire day.

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To go to the trail that leads to the Caldera hot springs, take a Caldera Minivan from Boquete’s town center.  They leave at 7.45 and 10.45am.  When getting off at the trail, ask the conductor what time(s) the minivans come to pick you up.  I took the 10.45am minivan.  Upon arriving at 11.30am, the man told me that the only option for coming back is at 4pm because the minivan that was scheduled for 2pm had broken down.  This was fine as we wouldn’t have made it back for the 2pm van anyway.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Having a permanent dreamlike home is certainly saner than indefinite dreamlike drifting which certainly is always like living in a dream. 🙂


  2. Oh yeah, I agree, when I can utilize a pool I swim as many laps as possible.
    Dreamlike: I’ll keep dreaming, but then again the .22 acres I call home is Dreamlike.


  3. The revelation I had while relaxing in these thermal waters is that I need this activity to be a permanent part of my life. A swimming pool for laps would be awesome too. Swimming laps has gotta be the single best fitness form.

    I’d highly suggest checking out Boquete. The hiking opportunities and natural setting are dreamlike. Spirit Air currently offers dirt cheap flights to Panama City from a bunch of U.S. cities.


  4. You’ve got the life. Maybe you can open up a School/SPA. That way you can get people relaxed while they’re learning.


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