Gluten Free or Celiac Disease and travel don’t mix … or do they? In Boquete they do!

Blog by Terry Richmeier

Over the four years that we have been open as a business, we have encountered many guests who are Gluten Free or have Celiac’s disease, and we’ve made every effort to provide breakfast that they can eat and enjoy that would fit into our different International breakfast themes.Well, we believe the problem has been solved for good!

According to an article in “LiveScience” Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to overreact to two proteins in gluten, which is found in wheat and other grains. If a person with celiac disease eats gluten, it can trigger an immune response that damages their intestines and prevents them from absorbing nutrients.

Recently a friend of ours, Colleen, has opened a Gluten Free Bakery and Kitchen called “Gluten Free Gold Kitchen”.  Colleen has always cooked since she was 5 years old. She cooks according to her cravings. She wants a certain taste and tries to find recipes or ingredient’s that she can put together for that taste! This is a weird concept to her since a lot of the things she craves she has never had before, so sometimes it takes days to get it right.

Colleen had seen Boquete, Panama, mentioned on a retirement Facebook advertisement. So when she decided that she didn’t want to complete the last 10 years of her working life with snow, she started researching snowless places.

Her journey to learning about Gluten Free living started six years ago at a farmers market in Alberta. Some of her regular customers had spouses that were celiac and they asked her about doing something for them. She started with two items in October and by December 85% of what she made was gluten free and by spring she had her kitchen renovated and converted it to a dedicated Gluten Free Facility. Colleen felt that she has always had grand ideas when it comes to the business but she has now concentrated on getting her kitchen going.

It was not easy to get her flours in Panama. It took her six months to find a company here in Panama that produces Gluten Free flours. Now 85% of her ingredients come from here in Panama! Her biggest challenge is to get the flours that she can’t get here in Panama in large quantities and at reasonable prices. However, it seems that the Panamanians are finding out about Gluten Free Diets. A lot of the kids here have been diagnosed with celiac. Here in Panama, Gluten Free awareness has tripled! People don’t realize how sick Gluten can make you. Being on the bathroom floor, writhing in pain for days because someone didn’t take your allergy seriously.

Colleen tries to work the menu around what her suppliers can get to her or what is in season. Mostly she gets bored quickly and prefers to offer an endless variety! The exciting part about offering such a variety is that 50% of the guests that come to the Kitchen are not Gluten Free. They just love the food! And Colleen offers her breakfasts and lunches “to go”.

And as if that’s not enough, every day, the “Gluten Free Gold” offers a vegetarian choice and about three times per week a Vegan Choice!

We here at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast are very excited to have “Gluten Free Gold Kitchen” arrive in Boquete, Panama and open. So when you are making your reservation to stay with us. Let us know right away that you are Gluten Free or Vegan and we will be contacting Colleen and bring her products here for you to enjoy for breakfast along with our other great International recipes! We will work together to make your stay free from that bathroom floor and withering pain! And when you are here, you can visit the “Gluten Free Gold Kitchen” for lunch and also bring home your dinner! Oh, and by the way, go and like Colleen’s Facebook page ! She loves to talk to anyone about Gluten Free and Vegan products.

 

Neighborhood feel of Boquete, Panama: Just like the bygone days of the U.S.!

Blog by Terry Richmeier

On any given morning here at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast, you will open your eyes to the smell of morning coffee and your prepared breakfast. This is our normal morning, but, what about the community?

 

 

 

Walking past the bed and breakfast will be dog walkers, children heading to the bus station, the elderly couple walking down the street and stopping to smell the flowers or pet the dogs. You will see a special lady who will go around picking up the trash in front of every house and place it in a trash bag. You will see men stopping to talk to each other, never seeming to be in a hurry. And that’s just a start.

People in Boquete, Panama, live outside. We even have an outside space designed for every room. We also serve breakfast outside on the back terrace. This is very different than the communities that lock themselves up tightly and live their lives behind walls and locked doors.

Below is a testimonial from a newly transplanted couple Joyce & Scott Kinnear:

We have had some lovely sunny afternoons this week. A couple of days it didn’t rain at all (or not enough to hardly matter) and the other days, it waited until night to rain.

It is interesting the difference between our neighborhood in California and here in our neighborhood in Panama in the afternoon.

In California, when I would be working from home or have the day off, there was lots of traffic going past our house—sometimes doing some pretty crazy stunts. Also, there were lots of people walking past the yard or waiting for the bus. Many of these people would pick our flowers or drop trash in our yard. We were constantly picking up cigarette butts, dog crap, old and nasty alcohol bottles and fast food containers. It was nasty. However, there were never any people out in the yards around us. I almost never saw our neighbors. The people next to us lived next to us for nearly 20 years. We maybe saw them outside the house 1 time a year or so—usually going to their car. Other neighbors we saw less often. The only people we usually saw were the seniors from the nearby senior facility. They would walk the neighborhood and stop to talk to me about how lovely the flowers were.

When we are here on a sunny afternoon, the neighborhood is literally buzzing with people. We do see some cars or people walking down the road, but what you hear is the noise of people living in their yards. There will be contractors in several houses near us. Other houses have gardeners out doing work. The woman across the street may come out to sweep her driveway. Other neighbors putter in their gardens or sit on the veranda to read, have a drink or look at their phones. Any of these people are more than happy to stop what they are doing to chat for a few minutes if you pass by.

Since children go to school early in the morning, they are often at home the majority of the afternoon.

As I weed the flower beds, I can hear the neighbors’ children behind us playing and laughing in their yard or the baby crying for attention.

There is just so much life in our neighborhood on a sunny afternoon. How can you not love this?

Is this the isolated experience of people just in Boquete, Panama? Or more of a small town experience? Who knows, but peace and tranquility can be yours while you are staying at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast. Come and stay with us and experience living life in Boquete, Panama for a little while. Come and slow down. Oh, and if you think you want to know more about this lifestyle, check our Boquete Overview Tour and see for yourself the neighborhoods that are mentioned by Joyce…..

Do I need vaccinations before my trip to Panama?

Blog by Debra Harwood

 

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Travelers to Central America from North America, Europe and Australia/New Zealand generally have more questions about what kinds of vaccinations, if any, they need to have done prior to their journey to Panama and other countries in Central America. Travelers are looking for a peace-of-mind, especially if their journey takes them to some remote regions. The best thing to do is to contact your local “travel clinic” first. They will most probably have the latest information about any kind of virus outbreak warnings and recommendations from agencies like the CDC (for the travelers from the U.S.). Here is what we have found in our own research from talking to other people and doing our internet searches:

Routine vaccinesThese vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.  You should be up to date on these no matter even if you travel or not.

Most travelers should check into the following before travel:

 Hepatitis AThis vaccine is recommended because you can get hepatitis A through contaminated food or water in Panama, regardless of where you are eating or staying.

 TyphoidYou can get typhoid through contaminated food or water in Panama so this vaccine is recommended for most travelers, especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.

 

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Some travelers should check into the following:

 Hepatitis BYou can get hepatitis B through sexual contact, contaminated needles, and blood products, so this vaccine is recommended if you might have sex with a new partner, get a tattoo or piercing, or have any medical procedures while on your trip.

RabiesAlthough rabies can be found in bats and other mammals in Panama, it is not a major risk to most travelers. Rabies vaccine is recommended for only these groups:

  • Travelers involved in outdoor and other activities in remote areas that put them at risk for bat bites or other animal bites (such as adventure travel and caving).People who will be working with or around animals (such as wildlife – professionals and researchers).

Yellow FeverYellow fever is a risk in certain parts of Panama, so depending on what areas of Panama you plan on exploring you may need to have a yellow fever vaccine.  For example, remote areas of the Bocas del Toro, Darien Region or San Blas Islands.

MalariaWhen traveling in Panama, you should avoid mosquito bites to prevent malaria. You may need to take prescription medicine before, during, and after your trip to prevent malaria, depending on your travel plans, such as where you are going, when you are traveling, and if you are spending a lot of time outdoors or sleeping outside. Bringing some mosquito repellent with you is a good idea.

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Remember some vaccinations involve a series of shots over several months so spending time researching in advance is wise.  In addition, ask your doctor what vaccines and medicines you need based on where you are going, how long you are staying, what you will be doing in that country. Don’t let the fear of a little needle scare you, it only hurts for a second!!!

Most seasoned travelers know to pack a few meds such as Ibuprofen, Imodium, and Antihistamines along with bug repellant, sun block and band aids. It is always good to be prepared for your trip so you feel relaxed and ready for the journey!

So come explore Panama! We are a country of beautiful beaches, breathtaking cloud forests, dense jungles, a world class city and of course the Panama Canal which is one of the man-made wonders of the world!

Remember when in Boquete come stay with us at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast where we will treat you like familyJ

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Where in the World are our Guests?!?!

blog by Joy Huppe

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Welcome, World Travelers! Casa de Montaña is pleased to invite you in. If you have stayed with us before, you may remember the large-scale map festively adorned with multicolored pins which greets you from right wall upon entering our reception office.  You may have even added a pin yourself, contributing to the map’s ever-expanding porcupine-like countenance! If you have not yet had the pleasure of being our guest, you may be a little confused and perhaps slightly wary of voodoo activity. No worries… let us explain.

Since Casa de Montaña opened its doors in January 2014, we have encouraged our guests to “make their mark” and designate their place of origin by inserting a pin into its corresponding location on our 8’ wide world map. We have watched in fascination as prick-by-prick, entire countries were overtaken and thin metal shafts claimed lands stretching from one corner of “tierra firma” to the other. Pins popped up in unexpected places: from the Congo in Africa, to Australia’s western shore, to the Middle East… to islands in Malaysia.   We are proud (and humbled) that such a diverse set of world travelers have chosen to include us in their far-reaching explorations. We are truly an international destination! Needless to say, Social Hour – which we host every night and includes a beverage of choice from our selection — takes on a whole other dimension when one has the opportunity to hobnob with folks from entirely different hemispheres.

Now that we are halfway through our second year (where does the time go?) we decided to tally the marks for a better understanding of where our guests are coming from. Counting each little pin head was no small task (don’t ask who ended up with this fun job)… but worth the effort. The result for the Top Ten Countries of Origin of Casa de Montaña Guests are as follows.

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Topping the count with a whopping 44% were local guests from Panama, followed closely by those who voyaged from the United States (37%). This was followed in descending order by guests from Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Netherlands, Australia, Costa Rica, and Spain. The list does not stop there, and we are happy to report that each continent, barring Antarctica, was represented. Perhaps we intuitively paved the way for this eclectic visitor mix when we dreamed up our International-themed breakfast menu.

For those of you who don’t already know, Casa de Montaña offers a unique (and satisfying) breakfast experience that features cuisine from a different part of the world each day.   Therefore, if you stay with us an entire week, you will never eat the same meal twice! It’s like a mini-world-tour for your mouth: Italy on Monday, Pakistan on Tuesday, then off to Belgium on Wednesday, heading to the American-West on Thursday, down to Mexico on Friday, a brief jaunt to France on Saturday, and being treated to a traditional Panamanian-style breakfast on Sunday. (By the way, with prior notice, we are able to cater to special dietary requests.)   What can we say?… We have an international flair. The proof is on our wall, and on your plate!

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Of course this global attention should be expected. Boquete, with its Quetzals, world-famous coffee and cool highland climate, is a sought-out destination by locals and far-flung travelers alike. Likewise, Casa de Montaña with its creative breakfasts, comfortable lodging and attentive staff is one of the most popular places to stay in town. Don’t just take our word for it… ask your fellow adventurers. (Both Trip Advisor and Booking.com have presented us with awards for having consistent outstanding reviews!) Or better yet, come visit us and experience Casa de Montaña for yourself. Don’t forget, returning guests are eligible for special discounts. Bon voyage!

 

 

 

 

 

Re-creating and Re-inventing yourself

Blog by Terry Richmeier

 

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Manzar and Terry just recently celebrated a year of service as the owners of Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast after coming from corporate jobs in the U.S. For some, an international move is daunting enough, let alone starting a new business in a foreign country. Besides “what were you thinking?!?” … such an endeavor brings a host of questions. What is the inspiration for this level of change? How does one prepare oneself? How does one stay focused and motivated when the “going gets tough?” When embarking on this adventure in a relationship, how can partners support each other spiritually, emotionally, and otherwise? What sacrifices may be required to achieve The Dream?

We invite you to come hear our story – and share yours – over a glass of wine (or beverage of your choice) during our popular Casa de Montana social hour. Meanwhile, pique your inner “Lewis and Clark” with the following.

We came across a tale recently on Pinterest. A Canadian couple quit their jobs, sold their belongings and decided on a lifestyle of travel. Currently blogging and photographing their way around the world, they post their experiences on their website www.onemoderncouple.com.

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However, we don’t want to paint only one side of the picture. For every success story, there is also the time when challenges and fears arise which must be minimized and/or overcome. Reinventing oneself is not necessarily easy, but there are some steps to take along the way that help ease such a great undertaking.

First, it is important to reflect on the changes you want to make. Be clear as to what exactly you would like to change and why. Spend some time writing down how you envision your new life. Next, make a game plan. Ask yourself what steps you would need to take to manifest your vision. Once you begin the process, stay motivated. Keep your eyes on the prize, so to speak. One way to do this may be to create a vision board – or spend some time each day doing something (however small it may be) that will bring you closer to your goal. (i.e., study your Spanish!) And last, but not least, share your plan with others. Having a cheerleader in your corner can be invaluable, especially during those moments when you may feel overwhelmed or discouraged.

Reinventing yourself is difficult to say the least and still, we believe, it’s well worth the fight! Finding what you enjoy doing in life is the best thing you can do for your health and overall wellbeing! Here in Panama, the expat community has created several helpful Facebook pages such as Expats in Boquete and Jobs For Expats In Panama. Of course, this is just a start. Be sure to reach out to others who have, or are in the process of changing their lives. Create a community to face potential challenges together. Send an email or two with questions to those who have already taken the plunge. Support will be your greatest asset! Feel free to let us know your thoughts, what your plans are and how they are going.

“Chiriquí Rainbow Community” for LGBT and Friends/Family Group and Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast

Blog by Terry Richmeier

 

This past year, in January of 2014, Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast hosted an Open House so that we could let the Boquete Community and neighbors know who we are and that we are here to be a part of the community and the “spirit” of Boquete! Ever since that day, the people of Boquete have welcomed us with open arms and made us feel right at home!

                We also found that there are several people who are living in the Province of Chiriquí that are LGBT folks who really want to be part of an affirming community. Also, there have been many LGBT travelers to the Boquete and the Chiriquí region in general. This need spawned the idea of establishing a group that would be dedicated to creating an affirming community of ALL the people living in the Chiriquí region regardless of their affectional preferences. Chiriqui Rainbow Community was formed in March 2014 as a group that welcomes all individuals who believe in diversity and inclusion.lgbt1

With our newly created community came many challenges. Initially some people were hesitant to attend the meetings and outings for fear of being “found out”. Their concerns fast disappeared once they learned that the group had individuals of all different affectional preferences and that people were very accepting and that they didn’t need to share anything personal if they did not want to. Friends and family members of LGBT folks began to attend our monthly meetings as well. We initially had some struggles with combining Spanish speaking Panamanians and English speaking Ex-pats. We took on this challenge by making sure we have interpreters in each of our meetings who know both languages. We thought that we would have people pushing back against LGBT people, however, this issue has never presented itself.

                Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast wanted to make sure that LGBT visitors who are coming to stay in our region of Panama for a short while or are considering making Chiriqui their home, those LGBT people would have a community when they arrived. Our group took on that challenge and we have several LGBT people on the list who would welcome the opportunity to meet with you at a coffee shop, or have lunch with you and talk to you about Boquete or Panama in general. We have a contact list that we can set up some time for you to talk with local LGBT people and families.lgbt2

                Since March we have participated in many activities such as: community meetings; swimming pool parties, guest speakers on subjects such as AIDS and depiction of gays in the media, and even a lawyer who talked spousal and partnership rights in Panama. We have created a Boquete.ning.com page a Facebook page under Chiriquí Rainbow Community and hope that you will “like” and “follow” us on both of these pages.

                Soon in 2015 the “Chiriqui Rainbow Community” group is planning on donating a big town clock for the Boquete Central Park. We will be participating in community services, taking a trip together for the Pride Parade in Panama City, organize more pool parties, and a botanical Cloud Forest tour and bon fire. We are encouraging and supporting Panamanians who are closeted or feel unsupported to join our group and establish mutual support and friendship.

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The Chiriquí Rainbow Community is well established and is always welcoming new local members and even people who are just visiting. If you are planning a trip to Boquete, Panama, or the Chiriquí Region, please contact us so we can invite you to the next meeting or have you meet gay or lesbian local people. At Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast, we offer a discount rate if you inform us prior to booking that you found us through “Purple Roofs”. See the web-link: www.purpleroofs.com http://purpleroofs.com/centralamerica/panama.html . Please plan your stay with us and we will be happy to assist in setting up tours and excursions. Remember to time your visit so you can attend one of our monthly Chiriqui Rainbow Community meeting or a fun outing! Remember, you don’t have to be LGBT to attend these meetings and outings or to stay at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast. We respect and welcome people from all walks of life and look forward to meeting you!

 

Flexibility, Communication and Personalized Service

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We here at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast, are often faced with dilemma’s and questions such as: Our breakfast time is served from 8 am – 10 am, and it’s almost 10:00 am, do we go knock on your door so that you don’t miss out on breakfast or do we just put the food away and start cleaning the breakfast area leaving you to miss out on breakfast? The same way for checking out, our check out time is 11:00 am, do we knock on your door to remind you of that at 10:45 am or do we charge for a late checkout knowing the burden it will place on our staff to turn the room over quickly? What is proper etiquette in these situations?

We aren’t trying to be difficult or ruin your day. The first thing to remember is that we want you to have a wonderful time at Casa de Montaña B&B and we will go out of our way to ensure that, to a point. Casa de Montaña B & B’s policies may seem arbitrary from the outside looking in, but there are usually good reasons for them.

Things like when you drink your first cup of coffee or what you eat for breakfast may be determined by Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast. Your habit of an egg over easy every morning at 6AM may have to be broken as Casa de Montaña’s kitchen isn’t set up for short order cooking. On the plus side, you’re likely to trade that familiar breakfast for one of 7 different gourmet breakfasts served at 8AM on the back patio! You may not be able to check into your room as soon as you arrive from out of town however, we can store your suitcases while you explore the town until we can check you in. Unlike a hotel, there is not a “desk staff” that is here 24 hours, if you are coming late, to notify us is a really big help. When you do check in, you’re likely to meet Manzar or Terry in person and get advice on what to see and do in Boquete, as well as being personally welcomed into our home and making it yours during your stay.

Here are some things that you can do that will avoid head-butting with us and make your stay an enjoyable and stress-free one.

Find out what our policies are. They are posted on the website and we will include part of these policies in our reservation confirmation email.

Decide for yourself what you’re willing to give up control of and what you’re not, let’s talk about these and see if we can accommodate you. Some B&B’s have multiple seating for breakfast and others can’t do that. We here at Casa de Montaña have six tables located on the back porch with views of the Jarimillo mountains and the morning sun. We don’t normally take pets but can possibly make an exception depending on the room availability. Don’t choose an inn that can’t possibly accommodate you and try to force them to make an exception for you. It’s like asking to change a spouse after the wedding. Better to pick one you like to begin with!

That being said, if you’re not sure how flexible our policy is, contact us. Communication is the key! We can offer an early continental breakfast box for those who can’t stay for the larger meal and a phone call or email to us can clarify that. This is also true for special diets. We will do their best to accommodate dietary restrictions, but always check with us in advance. It may require us to adapt the menu for the rest of their guests or to make a special trip to the store. The website says check-in is between 2 and 6 PM and you just can’t get there early enough to make that, give us a call. We may be able to make arrangement to check you in later.

Check our on-line reviews. If you’re afraid of being given an unfamiliar breakfast and all the reviews rave about the food it may make giving up control of that part a little easier. You can have faith that there will be something on the table you will like or we can make arrangements in advance for your breakfast requirements.

Remember that we are on your side! We really do want you to enjoy your visit. If you plan on sleeping in and skipping breakfast, let them know in advance, or place the do not disturb sign on the door. If you need to leave early to catch a flight, just let Manzar or Terry know in advance and we can certainly have a to-go box placed in your room the night before. With any need that you have, we can find a solution. We are looking forward to your stay here with us at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast and your communication with us is key!

Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast and Presidential Resolutions for Boquete, Panama – year 2015

Blog by Andres Lay

At Casa de Montaña, we are taking a special interest in finding out what it means to have a new Panamanian president and a new mayor of Boquete. How will that impact the country and our neighborhoods? Which campaign promises are going to be carried out and how soon? How do the local laws and resolutions compare to what we used to see in the U.S.?

In the U.S., resolutions are passed in the local City governments, State governments as well as the Federal Government and other public assemblies. The purpose of these resolutions is an expression of the opinion or will of a legislative body. These bodies use resolutions for two purposes. First, resolutions express their consensus on matters of public policy: lawmakers routinely deliver criticism or support on a broad range of social issues, legal rights, court opinions, and even decisions by the Executive Branch. Second, they pass resolutions for internal, administrative purposes. Resolutions are not laws; they differ fundamentally in their purpose. However, under certain circumstances resolutions can have the effect of law.

In essence, laws are intended to permanently direct and control matters applying to persons or issues in general; moreover, they are enforceable. By contrast, resolutions expressing the views of lawmakers are limited to a specific issue or event. They are neither intended to be permanent nor to be enforceable. Nor do they carry the weight of court opinions. In a certain respect, they resemble the opinions expressed by a newspaper on its editorial page, but they are nonetheless indicative of the ideas and values of elected representatives and, as such, commonly mirror the outlook of voters.

Here in Panama, the “Asamblea Nacional” (National Congress) is where all the laws in Panama are created and approved by votes. The congress perform the legislative power in Panama, is composed of 71 elected legislators and they cast their vote on proposed laws for a period of five years. The congress meets for eight months, divided into two terms of four months each, one that will run from July 1 to October 31, and again from 2 January to 30 April. Its function is to issue laws necessary to fulfill the purposes and exercise the functions of the State. Each province and regions in Panama have its own legislator as a part of the congress. In order for a law be approved, the majority of the congress has to be in favor of that law.

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Some of the new laws that are going to be looked at in 2015 by the Congress are as follows:

PROYECT Nº116 REGULATE THE MARKETING AND IMPORT AND USE OF AGRICULTURAL CHEMICALS AND MAKE REGENCY IN THE REPUBLIC OF PANAMA

PROYECT Nº095 ENCOURAGE THE CONSTRUCTION OF SPORT INFRASTRUCTURE MANAGEMENT AND PROMOTING SPORT SCHOOL IN THE REPUBLIC OF PANAMA.

PROYECT Nº084 CREATING THE PROGRAM TO HELP THE PRODUCER OF AREA, INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES AND FARMERS.

These are some of the laws to be approved by the congress, there are tons of other one. The above ones a few examples just for you to have an idea of the laws being worked on.

For the next 5 years the 2014 elected President of Panama has government resolutions for his term to be completed. Some of the government resolutions for his term are:

  • Creating new permanent regional markets and municipal slaughterhouses.
  • Bilingual education in all public schools and increased days of class.
  • Plan massive renovation and expansion of public schools and construction of 50 new schools.
  • Improvement “Universal Scholarships” and extension to college students.
  • The construction of 15 health centers and 4 new hospitals, including a Cancer Hospital in the province of Chiriqui.
  • The construction of Line 2 and Line 3 of the Metro de Panama (subway system).
  • Construction of fourth bridge over the Canal and new access to Arraijan-La Chorrera highway.

In Boquete, the new Mayor has different resolutions for the good and improvement of the community. Some of his resolutions are to finish the new marketplace for vegetable vendors (located across from Romero), the maintenance of the Caldera River so we can prevent a flood in the area, the repair of the water problems in Volcancito and Alto Boquete and more. Right now the election of the new governor is still being contested so we have no resolution or new laws to be approved for the region of Boquete, Dolega and Gualaca as they need to go into a vote process again.

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Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast also has some resolutions for the up and coming year. We want to continue to give you the best personal service possible and provide you with a clean and comfortable space that you can make your home for the time you are in Boquete, Panama! We want to work and grow together as a team to give you respite from your daily lives and re-focus you back on you.

For us that are English speaking, we want to learn Spanish and for those of us that speak Spanish only, we want to learn English. The reason for this is that we can all serve each one of you and make you feel the most comfortable possible.

Casa de Montaña wants to work towards and get to the place where you say, “My home away from home”!

The Boquete Coffee and Flower Festival History

Blog by Andres Lay

 

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La Feria de las Flores y Café (Coffee and Flower Festival) is a nonprofit organization created by Act No. 40. The Coffee Festival first started in 1950. Initially, the exhibition was an intermittent event being held only when the community was organized for it. From 1950-1969 the Coffee Festival, as it was then called, was performed only four times (1950, 1957, 1961 and 1969). On April 9, 1970, one day before the opening of the fifth festival, the district was affected by severe flooding. Faced with this adversity, Boquete, far from surrendering, decided one year later to establish this fair on a permanent basis – an exhibition to show the country the best of its production, its flowers and coffee. One in three Boquetenians lost his home and a historical review of the Feria de las Flores and Cafe records that in 1971, a year after the tragedy, with the initiative of Carlos Enrique Landau (Andres’s grandfather), Alberto Federico de Alba and the presidency José Isabel Ruiz, held the sixth festival of coffee. Decision was made to beautify the town and the festival queen, Miss Brenda Aguilar, was crowned. The Sunday Medical Park was the scene of festivity, according to the review.

From 1973 Coffee Festival became the Coffee and Flower Festival and then until 1991 it took place every April. In the beginning of the 1990s the date of the festival was changed to January in order to take advantage of the dry season. Since then, Boquete Fair is performed for 10 days. La Feria de las Flores and Cafe is one of the best fairs in Panama. The organization and execution of this event goes through a series of planning stages and the most important of this planning is the preparation of the fair grounds that start in May of the previous year. The gardens surrounded by colorful flowers are the main attraction that offered by the Feria de las Flores and Café. Each year several varieties of flower seeds from US, Canada and France are acquired, to present a “colorful” event each year. The flower fair is located in a prominent area in the District of Boquete, along the Caldera River in downtown Boquete.

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The Fair is composed of community members belonging to different Governmental Entities Associations and Cooperatives; such as: Agricultural Development Bank, Ministry of Commerce and Industries, IPAT, Lions Club Boquete Active 20-30 Club, Association of Pensioners and Retirees of Boquete, Ministry of Agricultural Development, and Municipality of Boquete. The Fairgrounds are open throughout the year, The Orchid Expo, which is celebrated on March and April, is another event designed to highlight the beauty of the Orchid plant.

In my opinion, the Coffee and Flower Festival is one of the biggest events in Boquete because more than 130,000 people come to visit the festival and to visit Boquete. This festival has attraction for people of all ages. For kids there are small amusement park rides. For teenagers and young people there usually three open outdoor clubs for people to go out to dance and to see different singers and bands. For elders the flowers are the main attraction as well as the presentations they have on the main scaffold like singers, dancers, comedy shows and more.

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During the Fair, one can purchase crafts (domestic and foreign), plants, candy and promotional items. Throughout these years we have the participation of national and foreign exhibitors at each fair event that delight us with their various exhibitions. In each event, beauty of the landscape, nature, lush gardens and spectacular weather are highlighted. In addition, the Fairgrounds offer to the community an excellent location to rent in order to organize different activities, plant sales, etc, throughout the year. The Mission and Vision of the Board is to promote outstanding exhibition events that leave give Boquete a lot of positive publicity.

The good thing about Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast is that we cannot hear any noise from the fair. Most people downtown do not get too much sleep because of the noise from the Fair, especially the music from the clubs that are open until 5am. So if you want to be away from the noise but still walking distance from downtown, we would welcome the opportunity for you to book your room at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast. We still have a few rooms available!

 

Christmas Season in Panama – Boquete Style!

Blog by Andres Lay

 

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Christmas is coming up, and all the Boquetenians and Panamanians are getting ready for this special holiday. After a month full of holidays in November, where Boquetenians celebrated the Independence Day with all kinds of parades and music bands, people are warmed up for more. The celebrations in November took place on the 3rd, 4th, 10th and the 28th throughout the whole country. On December 8th Boquetenians also celebrate Mother’s day which is a special day for everyone to honor their mothers. People come together as a family and have a special day with their mother, by giving them gifts and to spend time with them. For most Panamanians Mom means a lot to us since she is the one that gave us the opportunity to live, she is the one that is always there for us when we need her, she is the princess of the house. In short, she is everything to us!

Panamanians start to prepare their houses, by painting them, putting up Christmas lights, decorating with Christmas trimmings and getting ready for Christmas with happiness that abounds in their hearts. Also, most people buy Canadian Christmas trees, that the supermarkets import from Canada, and decorate them with lights and Christmas decorations. The Central Park in Boquete is also decorated with beautiful lights and different decorations like a nativity where Child Jesus is placed at midnight on Christmas Eve. In Navidad (Christmas) people usually buy food and keep it frozen until they prepare it on Christmas Eve. The Panamanian traditional foods for Christmas include homemade Turkey, Ham, Arroz de Guando (rice with a national bean), Tamales, ensalada de papas (potato salad), fruit breads and more. In most neighborhoods people gather to celebrate Christmas. People get together with their family to eat Christmas Dinner. The tradition in Navidad is to have dinner at 12 midnight on Christmas Eve with your closest family members, listen to Christmas Carols while having a glass of wine and wait together until midnight. Some families go to church to pray with their loved ones and to wait until midnight to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Most young people expect to go dancing and clubbing after midnight. A lot of Children are kept awake until midnight to open their gifts, and some will wait until next day after Santa Claus has arrived. Kids get ideas for their list of toys with the help of their parents, by watching it on TV, or by looking at store catalogs of toys to choose from. They present this list to the Child Jesus way before Christmas day, just to be sure! Children wait anxiously for their toys. The presents are discreetly placed under the tree by “Santa Claus” when the kids are sleeping, typically not until after midnight.

There are places (including shopping centers) like Conway, Arrocha, or others where they put large trees and the kids have fun walking through there. Normally, a huge tree is placed in the Central Park (Cervantes Park) in David, like shown in the picture below.

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Christmas Day is a holiday in Panama so most of the stores, restaurants, and supermarkets are closed. It is a day for people to relax, be with their relatives and enjoy the joys of Christmas. In Boquete, on Christmas day, Boquetenians go out during the evening to watch the parade. The parade usually starts in the Basketball Arena in Los Naranjos close to Casa de Montaña, just up the street, and it is a parade where all schools participate. People are part of the parade with their decorated cars, motorcycles, golf carts, big trucks and more. The parade passes by on the main street right in front of Casa de Montaña (yes, we have the front row seat!), all the way down the street to downtown and usually ends up at Los Establos plaza. Even though most of the indigenous people do not celebrate Christmas, they will go out to watch the parade with their kids, especially since the mayor will be giving candies or gifts to them. In Boquete’s Central Park, the mayor always has a Christmas celebration for families in need, or indigenous people who do not have many resources. For the celebration, the mayor brings a Santa Claus who gives gifts to all the kids, give them hugs or just spend time with them. Christmas time in Boquete is truly a time to celebrate, be thankful for what we have and to show our appreciation of others in our life – a magical time! So if you are planning on coming to Boquete during Christmas time, book your room now at Casa de Montaña, and enjoy all the festivities that Boquete has to offer.

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Boquete Coffee – High quality coffee that is performing well on the international market!

By Eliecer Andres Lay

Are you a coffee enthusiast? Then look no further! A visit to some of our Boquete coffee farms is a must when you stay with us at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast.

coffehttp://infusionistas.com/cafe/panama-renueva-la-oferta-del-cafe-de-calidad/

The perfect weather and altitude of Boquete, as well the volcanic soil provides excellent conditions that make the coffee produced in Boquete one of the best coffees in the world. Panama is a small country that produces great coffee crops. Because of the limited land mass, growers in the highlands, such as Boquete, decided to specialize when it comes to coffee production. Coffee from Panama competes for quality, not quantity. Most Panamanian coffee is grown in Boquete, or highlands of Chiriqui. Farmers are very proud of their crops. Coffee quality control includes testing for soil, elevation, weather patterns and even the vegetation growing around the coffee bushes. Panama plants different types of coffee, the most famous is a variety called “Geisha”. The requirements for Geisha are very strict and requires great care in the production. This coffee has been known to be exported and sold at record prices to Japan and Taiwan. At the last auction held by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), the best bid for 14.5 pounds Panamanian coffee got sold for $289.29!!!

 

Different “Coffee Tours” that are available in Boquete

Here at Casa de Montaña we think that Finca Dos Jefes tour is the best! It is a very informative and interactive tour combining a field experience as well as an opportunity to roast your own coffee to your liking and bring it back with you to take home! There are several Boquete tours you can take or just buy their coffee that is not always available anywhere else in Panama. Finca Dos Jefes, Kotowa, Café Ruiz, Finca Lérida, Finca La Milagrosa, Janson Familia Coffee and Hacienda La Esmeralda are some options available to you for a tour. Each plantation has its unique appeal. Visit one or more on your next visit to Boquete. Below is a video of Finca Dos Jefes Coffee Tour:

 

Did you know… there are several steps in producing coffee?

There are many steps in bringing coffee to your favorite cup to help you wake up in the morning! Come to your tour fully equipped with these steps and impress your tour guide:

  • Cultivation: Apart from the differences in the systems of pruning and cultivation of Arabica coffee, most others follow the same general pattern in most areas where coffee is grown.

 

  • Propagation: The coffee is spread on a large scale by means of plants grown from seed or by grafting or cuttings. In the case of propagation by seed, there are procedures one has to follow related to storage of the seed to prevent spoilage. Thus for Arabica, for example, dry air storage is recommended at temperatures of 10 ° C with a moisture content of 10-11%

 

  • Shade: While there is still some debate among experts about the need for shade coffee cultivation, it should be noted that the modern trend is not to use shade plants, and the vast majority of new plantings are made ​​without this. It is a proven fact that coffee invariably produce higher yields without shade plants. It should be noted, moreover, that in the case of using shade plants, they would have to:
  1. a) Be productive
  2. b) Have similar needs for water and nutrients because otherwise an imbalance between coffee and these plants occurs

 

  • Soil Management: The most difficult issue with coffee cultivation, especially in tropical regions of the highlands, is the problem related to soil conservation. It is essential in order to establish a coffee plantation, one has to protect the soil from the erosive action of tropical, torrential rains as soon as the clearance is made. In mountainous areas and on steeper slopes, coffee can be planted along the contours. The selective weeding, removing plants that can compete with coffee trees, and / or planting of herbs to enrich and protect the soil, can be used in order to improve the quality of coffee plants on steeper slopes.

 

  • Fertilization: It is shown that fertilizers are absolutely necessary in the cultivation of coffee trees that are in the sun as well as in soils that are especially in middle to low fertility. In recent years there has been an introduction of a trade liquid fertilizer or foliar fertilizers. These are applied by spraying the leaves of plants, provide supplementary nutrients, and are similar to the solid fertilizers that are applied to the soil.

 

  • Pruning: There are two main aspects to consider regarding the pruning of coffee: first, the training of young trees to build a strong and well balanced plant with good structure, fruiting branches, and second, the pruning of branches so they keep producing fruit (coffee beans).

 

  • Harvest: The harvest season varies depending on the proximity to the tropics of the country producing the coffee. Generally the harvesting of coffee is done between October and February in countries closer to the Tropic of Cancer, and from May to July in the countries closest to Tropic of Capricorn.

 

  • Breeding and Selection: The breeding and selection of coffee has continued in two main channels – one has been the outstanding selection of local breeds, in various countries where coffee is grown; the other is the improvement of Arabica and other species.

 

  • Pests and diseases: Many efforts have been made ​​towards introducing agronomic techniques that include controlling weeds, pests and diseases. The effects of weeds are well known to the farmers. With the rising cost and scarcity of labor, it is necessary to find the most economical solutions that cause the least amount of damage to the environmental.

 

 

An excerpt from Infusionistas.com

Panama has not historically been “famous” in the cultivation of coffee, but rather largely overshadowed by its neighbors in this regard. That perception has been corrected in recent years mainly because of the great attention that has won the Geisha variety grown in farms in the region, capable of producing a “floral”, highly appreciated and sought after coffee in the international market. It is only in the district of Boquete in the province of Chiriqui where small family farms produce these unique coffee, brightly colored, with floral aromas and fruity clean taste, considered among the best in the world. The cool, moist mountain air, organic practices, expanded areas for growing shade coffee, painstaking care, all help to produce exceptional coffee. Panama has held annual coffee competitions since the late 90s, but it was in 2004 that the Finca La Esmeralda won the first prize and gained fame with the Geisha variety grown in a high elevation on their farm.

This variety of Arabica coffee exported from the wild forests of Ethiopia, was introduced in Central America in 1950, but its production was virtually non-existent in Panama until recently. Today there are several Panamanian farms that offer this variety as well as in Colombia and Costa Rica. There are many varieties of Arabica coffee beans that include flavors that are floral, fruity, sweet, or like chocolate! These are being produced in Boquete Panama and other highland areas of Panama. Panama has the lowest coffee production in Central America, however, the coffee growers in Panama are committed to quality over quantity and have established a solid reputation for excellence with the aim of sustainable growth of coffee targeting the gourmet market. In 2010, again a batch of this famous product of the Hacienda La Esmeralda farm has set a new world record when sold in an online auction at $170.20 per pound (460 grams).

Boquete have some of the top producers of coffee in the world and it is the best place to go and taste a good coffee. Boquete offers you different types of coffee tours – starting from seeing the end to end processes and ending with roasting of your own coffee to take home! One of the coffee processing plants (Café Ruiz) is located just a few doors down the hill from Casa de Montaña! During your next trip to Panama do not forget to visit Boquete and try one of the best coffees in the world.

Panama tops Gallup’s Well Being poll – happiest people in the world!

Blog by Terry Richmeier & Andres Lay

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We have been living in Boquete, Panama now for just over a year and we have felt the friendliness and happiness of the locals since the beginning. In a recent Gallup Poll Panama was number one on the list of “Well-Being”. How did the Gallup Poll come up with this conclusion?

Gallup conducts surveys worldwide to help world leaders better understand their citizens’ attitudes, behaviors, and wellbeing. Gallup continuously surveys in more than 150 countries and areas on more than 100 global questions as well as region-specific items. Gallup’s global surveys cover more than 98% of the world’s adult population through representative samples.

Gallup interviews approximately 1,000 residents per country. The target population is the entire civilian, non-institutionalized population, aged 15 and older. Gallup asks everyone from Australia to Pakistan the same questions, every time, in the same way, with the same meaning, and asks them in his or her own language to produce statistically comparable results. Gallup uses telephone surveys in countries where telephone coverage represents at least 80% of the population. Where telephone penetration is less than 80%, Gallup uses face-to-face interviewing.

This State of Well Being interviews were based on five specific areas. These areas are: Purpose, Financial, Physical, Social and Community.

Within these five areas are the following subjects and one sample question. However, this is just one of many questions that can be asked.

Business and Economics

Do you currently have a plan, idea, or invention in mind to improve your standard of living?

Citizen Engagement

Do you personally know of someone who is planning to move out of this country where you live in the next 12 months, or not?

Communications and Technology

Does your home have a DVD player?

Food and Shelter

Do you, or the person who owns this dwelling, have a deed or property title?

Government and Politics

Health

Are healthcare services in this country accessible to any person who needs them, regardless of their economic situation, or not?

Education and Families

In the past 7 days, have you shared a meal with all the members of your household, or not?

Environment and Energy

In your opinion, do other countries take advantage of this country’s natural resources, or not?

Do you agree or disagree that this country has never enjoyed more social and political peace before?

Law and Order

Is there illicit drug trafficking or drug sales in the area where you live?

Religion and Ethics

Using a 5-point scale, where 5 means strongly agree and 1 means strongly disagree, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statements? I always treat people of other religious faiths with respect.

Social Issues

In the past 12 months, have you or any relative of yours been denied an opportunity to get ahead because of your political ideas?

Well-Being

Do you have a talent of any kind, or something you can do better than most people you know, or not?

Work

Do you think you could lose your job in the next 6 months?

http://www.gallup.com/video/176117/panama-leads-world.aspx

So, there is a lot of hard work that goes into the Gallup Poll only to prove what we ex-pats already knew, that Panama is a fantastic and a happy place! Come on down and see for yourself. At Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast we can even assist you in finding a place to purchase or rent if you decide to stay permanently!

Finding a place to stay in Boquete, Panama, from November through April – Why is it such a problem?

Blog by Manzar Lari

Over the past decade, Boquete has steadily gained popularity as a tourist destination as well as a retirement haven for many expats from all over the world.  It keeps showing up as one of the top places to retire on ratings done by “International Living” and similar publishing groups. It is no wonder that each year Boquete experiences an influx of tourists, especially during the “High Season” that starts with the Panama national holidays in early November all the way through April Easter Holidays. As the rains become more and more infrequent and people throughout Panama are gearing up for their November holidays, many Panamanians from larger towns and cities, especially Panama City, are ready to escape for a few days to higher elevations where it is a bit cooler, less humid and the air is a lot cleaner.  Many Panamanians have had fond memories of their childhood vacations in El Valle, Boquete, Volcan and Cerro Punta. One of our recent guests told us that they come to Boquete at least 2-3 times per year, just like many of their Panama City friends. They typically don’t mind taking the 7- hour road trip to come here.

As the first signs of winter show up in North America and Europe, we see a dramatic rise in inquiries and reservations at the Inns, Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts in Boquete. Most people are looking for an adventure and a respite from the cold weather. Not everyone plans early, there are those who like to live on the edge and just show up in town over Christmas and New Year. Imagine their surprise when they spend hours driving from one hotel to the next, looking for a room.  As for us, we advise people to always book way in advance to avoid being inconvenienced later. High Season is also generally the time when many tour companies from Europe and North America like to book large groups of people to come and visit Panama. A large group can easily take over a whole place, especially a place like ours that has fewer rooms. We pride ourselves in being able to provide personalized service to our guests and for that reason, we have chosen to only have six rooms.

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The Boquete Flower and Coffee Festival that lasts for about 10 days brings both Panamanian and overseas tourists. Festivities at the fairgrounds last into the early hours of the morning. It seems like the population of Boquete doubles during those days. In recent years, the Boquete Jazz and Blues Festival has steadily gained popularity. This past February, each and every person at our Bed & Breakfast was visiting Boquete to attend this 4-day event. Already, we have had multiple inquiries for next year. The Carnaval in March is a time for celebration and many locations in Panama host huge parties and several days of events. Dolega, located just down the road from Boquete, is one such location. Many tourists like to stay in Boquete and just drive down for the day to Dolega.

Boquete has also become a destination for young people who are interested in all kinds of outdoor adventures such as horseback riding, mountain climbing, zip lining, river rafting, etc. Many backpackers can be seen around town, especially in the High Season (aka Dry Season). People of all ages also come to Boquete during these same months to take Spanish Language Classes. These classes can last anywhere from a few days to several months. We have had several students stay at Casa de Montaña for a few weeks to a month since we are walking distance from “HablaYa”, a Spanish Language School.

For some of the reason shared above, we would encourage our guests to make their reservations early so that they are guaranteed a room at our Bed & Breakfast. We would like to be able to make your stay in Boquete a relaxing and fun experience. The High Season is around the corner and we are here to assist you in any way we can. Either book through our website: www.casademontana.com or send us an email at info@casademontana.com if you have any questions. See you soon!

Manzar & Terry

Restaurants in Boquete

By Eliecer Andres Lay

 

I have dined in pretty much every single restaurant in Boquete searching for ones that are going to meet my “high” expectations! One of my favorite restaurants is La Posada Boqueteña which is an Argentinian restaurant that offers mostly grilled food. My favorite dish is the huge plate of nachos which includestortilla chips, pico de gallo, sour cream, cheese, chicken and more. Another one of the tasty dishes is the mixed tray which includes grilled steak, chicken, yucca, potato, pork and more.Here is an example of the mix tray that they offer.

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In Boquete, the cuisine options have been growing for the past few years.  Not too long ago you could not find many varieties of restaurant as you do now. From American, Italian, Chinese to Argentinian – these are some of the type of cuisines you can find when you visit us in Boquete.  Depending on what you are looking for, there is a likelihood that there is a restaurant waiting for you that will meet your needs. The prices in Boquete are affordable depending on what you are desire. Panamanian food is usually less than $5 dollars and it will include a full meal. There are some Panamanian restaurants in Boquete that are known for their low prices and good food, giving a great value for your money. El Sabroson, Los Orquideas, Nelvis and Km 35 come to mind as some of the best Panamanian restaurants around town.

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As a general rule, tipping in Panama wasnot obligatory so people did not need to give any tip unless they really wanted to. Nowadays, depending on which kind of restaurant you are visiting, the tip (or propina) will be included on your bill as the government is starting to make it obligatory.  Most of the restaurants will include the tip on the bill so you do not need to worry about adding a tip to the total bill. Just make sure you look closely at the bill to see if there is an additional amount listed under “propina”.

Lee Seltzer has shared his personal reviews about some restaurants of Boquete in his blog, and this is what he wrote:

American

Baru Restaurant: Right at the central park, open 11am- 10pm for food longer for a bar.

Big Daddy’s: I have not had a burger but the word on the street is they are excellent

Argentine
La Posada: A good grill, great pizza, live music on Saturday nights. In my opinion they have the best pizza in Boquete and the best steak.

Breakfast
Punto de Encuentro Cafe: Olga is wonderful. The food is good and the atmosphere is still good.

Panamonte: A past Sunday brunch favorite. It has been several years since I have had breakfast there.
Central ParkWatch the town wake up and enjoy something tasty. I love the liver and onions for breakfast.

Chinese

Yings: Good food a little more expensive than David but better than most in David and a lot more convenient in Alto Boquete.

French
Art Cafe (formerly La Crepe: Excellent crepes and more. Revisited several times and I can recommend their specials, excellent food.

International
The Rock:The Rock is solid. This is the place for a dinner undisturbed by loud music or a blaring television. It is all about good food, good service and consistency. The management is international, the cuisine international and the quality of product as good as you will find in all of Panama, not just Boquete. The Rock has withstood two floods literally destroying it and hopefully it will withstand the test of time.

Mikes Global Grill: Good food, good entertainment and worth the trip for a truly international menu.

Italian
some people like Il Pianista.

Mexican
Antojitos:Trini’s food is as always excellent.

Panamanian
El Sabroson:One of my favorites for fast cheap eats. Try the trout (trucha).

Cafe Nelvis: Still my favorite for fried chicken. They have moved across from the elementary school Bajo Boquete.

Central Park:Was my favorite Boquete Breakfast spot before Sugar and Spice, a great view of the park and usually good eats.

Milquiburger: I still have not tried a burger because the fried chicken so damn good.

Seafood:

Boquete Fish House: Excellent fresh seafood prepared as you want it. Check the board for the daily specials.

Sandwiches

Sugar and Spice:I call Sugar and Spice a Bakery because it is, but it is also a great place to have a sandwich on fresh baked bread. Highly recommended.

New restaurants keep opening up in Boquete so it is important to ask us about the latest list of restaurants and our recommendations. We have an updated list available in our office of all the restaurants and a map showing the locations. Just recently a restaurant called “Black & White” (a Spanish Tapas place) opened up in Bajo Boquete (Boquete downtown). We have been there a few times. The food and the service are excellent! As Boquete keeps growing and changing, so does the restaurant scene. Now if Boquete would only get some Thai, Pakistani/Indian, and Vietnamese restaurants, we would be all set! Any takers?

Welcome to Boquete’s Newest B&B!

Welcome to Casa de Montaña, located in beautiful Boquete, Panama. (More info to go here)

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