Barú Volcano National Park
The Barú Volcano National Park extends across 14,300 hectares (35,336
acres). The volcano rises to a height 3,478 meters (11,411 ft.), the highest
point in Panama. On a clear day, you can see both the Pacific Ocean and
Caribbean Sea from the peak. The volcano, which has seven craters, is no longer
active but has had four eruptive episodes over the past 1,600 years, the most
recent of which was 400-500 years ago. Seismic events during the 20th
century and a recent 2006 earthquake serve as reminders of the tectonic terrain
that still exists beneath the volcano.
The Barú Volcano National Park includes a
variety of climates and terrain. There are humid montane forests, low humid montane
forests, and montane rain forests. Some
250 species of birds have been spotted within the park, including the
resplendent quetzal, the black-bellied hummingbird, black-cheeked warbler, yellow-thighed
finch, and the hairy woodpecker. All five of the big cat species live within
the park, including pumas and leopards, as well as porcupines and other
mammals. Average temperatures vary between 20°C (68°F) to 10°C (50°F).
One of the park’s most popular trails is the Sendero Los Quetzales
(Quetzals Trail), which runs between Cerro Punta and Boquete. The trail is 8
kilometers (5 mi) long and takes around five or six hours to hike. The
surroundings are beautiful—the trail runs through forests and meadows, and is
crisscrossed by the Río Caldera. Along the
way, you get wonderful views of the Boquete valley.
Cerro Punta is about a kilometer higher in elevation than
Boquete, so the hike from Boquete to Cerro Punta is uphill. Some people prefer
to go from Cerro Punta to Boquete and take advantage of the downhill walk,
while others favor hiking uphill to save their knees from the steep descent. In
either case, it’s advised to hike the trail with a guide. Doing so will help
you avoid making a wrong turn, as well as greatly improve your chance of
Hiking to the summit of the Barú Volcano is also popular, although it
should be noted that this is a serious, all-day trek. The hike runs steadily
uphill for 13.5 kilometers (8.5 mi), which usually takes 4-5 hours. Along the
way, you pass through shady forests and sheep-filled meadows, and get wonderful
views of the valley below. At the top you can see far into the distance; if the
weather is clear, you can even see both the Pacific and Caribbean. The hike
down typically takes 3-4 hours. Bring meals and snacks and lots of water—you
don’t want to get hungry or dehydrated up here. Guides are also recommended for
A less strenuous walk that travelers can do is the Bajo Mono Loop.
This 20-kilometer (12.5-mi) paved loop begins and ends north of Boquete. Rising
above the town, the road passes through dense forests and gives panoramic views
of the Boquete valley. Be careful, though, as cars share the road.