Pensión Marilós (Avenida E Este, tel. 720-1380, www.pension-marilos.com, US$6.95 s, US$9.90 d with shared bath; US$9.90 s, US$15.95 d with private bath) remains one of the best deals in all of Panama. Marilós offers seven simple but clean and tidy rooms at bargain prices. It’s two blocks south of the plaza, on Avenida E Este, which is parallel to and two blocks east of Avenida Central. Guests can use the kitchen and dining room. The prices here haven’t gone up in years. Amazing.
Nomba (Ave. A Oeste, cell 6920-4169 or 6497-5672, ryan [at] miradoradventures [dot] com, www.nombapanama.com, dorm rooms US$8–9 pp, private rooms US$15 s, US$22 d, including breakfast and good local coffee) is a friendly hostel in a residential area just west of downtown Boquete.
Rooms are clean and range in size from 2–6 beds. There are no private bathrooms, but the three shared bathrooms have hot water. There are two shared kitchens, a hammock lounge, laundry facilities, a foosball table, and other extras.
It’s run by a warm couple (he’s from Colorado; she’s from Boquete) who offer their guests much more than a bed for the night. It’s an especially good option for those interested in outdoor adventures.
The hostel is literally attached to Mirador Adventures, and has good-quality outdoor equipment for rent, ranging from tents and sleeping bags to warm socks. You don’t have to stay at the hostel to rent the equipment, and they’ll stash your luggage for free while you use it.
The owners also lead free hikes twice a week. This is the best place for backpackers interested in climbing Barú, as they can equip and prepare guests and give them good advice on how to tackle it.
The hostel is one block west of Avenida Central. If you’re heading uphill from the town plaza, turn left at Supercentro El Mandarín and make the next right. The hostel is the third house on the right and is painted bright green.
The German-run Pensión Topas (Avenida Belisario Porras, tel./fax 720-1005, schoeb [at] cwpanama [dot] net, starts at US$8.80 s, US$11 d) is three blocks south of the plaza on Avenida Belisario Porras, which is parallel to and one block east of Avenida Central. This is a cheerful place with eight rooms set in a garden filled with flowering trees. A simple breakfast (8–11 a.m.) on the terrace is US$2.50; fancier fare is US$6–7.
The owner, Axel Shöb, speaks English and is helpful on advice about where to go and what to see. There’s a volleyball net and small swimming pool on the premises. The pension can also help arrange tours. The least expensive rooms are very simple and small with a shared bath. Rooms with private bath range from US$22–24. Allow 10 days for an answer to email; Axel hates computers.
El Bajareque Lodge (tel./fax 720-1505 or 720-1506, www.panama-rafting.com, US$13 pp) is tucked away among the coffee plantations in Palmira, a short drive from Alto Boquete. It’s run by the Sanchez family, the folks who run Chiriquí River Rafting, and is in fact on their farm, right next to their quite attractive, modern home. The hostel-style rooms are simple but comfortable, with bunk beds, plenty of blankets, and private, hot-water bathrooms. The place caters mainly to kayakers, who can stash their kayaks in a secure shed on the property, but rooms are available to anyone.
Guests can use the kitchen for free or arrange meals. All-you-can-eat breakfasts are US$5, dinners are US$10, and you’re on your own for lunch. The turnoff to the lodge is near the Café Ruiz beneficio (processing mill); call for directions. The last stretch of road is rough but a regular car can make it. Taxis from Boquete cost about US$3; ask the driver to take you to “Hector Sánchez en Palmira.”
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition