The last real town before Yaviza is Metetí (pop. 6,244). Most residents are colonists from the province of Chiriquí, of all places—it’s clear on the other side of Panama, on the Costa Rican border.
Metetí is mainly of interest to travelers as the crossroads for travel to Puerto Quimba on the Río Tuira. From there it’s possible to take a water taxi to La Palma or, with more difficulty, arrange boat trips to El Real and Yaviza. Along with other services, there are several hole-in-the-wall restaurants and places to stay.
Hotel Felicidad (tel. 299-6544 or 264-9985, hotel_felicidad [at] yahoo [dot] com. US$20 s/d), the most substantial and best-run hotel in the region, offers air-conditioned rooms. It’s on the Interamericana just before the crossroads. There are a couple of other, more rustic places to stay at the crossroads.
There’s a branch of Banco Nacional de Panamá (tel. 299-6052 or 299-6054, 8 a.m.–3 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–noon Sat.) at the Metetí crossroads. It has an ATM and can supposedly cash American Express travelers checks. There’s also a large police post and checkpoint, filling station, and pay phones. There’s an ANAM station a right turn off the road before the crossroads as one heads toward Yaviza. You’ll likely find the staff absolutely useless.
Most services are at the crossroads outside Metetí rather than in the town itself. To get to the town, turn south off the Interamericana. The road continues to Puerto Quimba.
Puerto Quimba (KEEM-buh) is Metetí’s “port.” It’s sometimes spelled Puerto Kimba or even Kimball. Pickup “buses” link Puerto Quimba and Metetí
A water taxi runs from Puerto Quimba to La Palma, 7:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m. and from La Palma to Puerto Quimba, 5:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Theoretically it runs every 60–75 minutes, but after the first trip of the day, the boat leaves when it gets a full load. It’s US$3 one-way and takes about 30–45 minutes.
Those who need a boat up the Río Tuira to El Real, Yaviza, or Parque Nacional Darién may find someone willing to make the trip at Puerto Quimba, but the chances are better in La Palma. How much this will cost depends on the number of passengers and whether the boat was already going that way. It may be possible to hitch a ride for about US$5 per person, but expect to pay US$100 or more to hire your own boat.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition