Panama’s Chiriqui province is the westernmost province on Panama’s Pacific Coast. A rich agricultural region, it contains a range of climates from the hot lowlands near the Pacific to the high mountain valleys and Volcan Baru, which has an elevation above 4000 meters. Although there has been much deforestation, the higher elevations still contain some of the original cloud forest cover, and are one of the best places in Central America to view exotic wildlife, such as the resplendant quetzel.
Most land transportation through Chiriqui is along the Pan American Highway, a two lane paved road in most places, which runs from east to west. The principal city in Chiriqui province is David, but David seems like a distant backwater next to Panama City. Only a single road crosses the continental divide between Chiriqui and Bocas del Toro province, providing access to the Carribean port of Chiriqui Grande and several ecological reserves.
The most popular tourist destinations in Chiriqui province are the towns of Boquette and Cerro Punto, both on the flanks of Volcan Baru. They are situated in high mountain valleys with a temperate climate. The lands around these towns grow dairy products and vegetables for Panamanian markets and some coffee for world markets.
Boquette and Cerro Punto are not connected directly by road. To get from one town to the other, one must return to the lowlands, or hike for a day on a well-marked footpath that connects the two. This footpath is one of the best nature trails, well maintained and accessible for hikers of average ability. Other trails are poorly marked and rugged, often with difficult conditions. A local guide can be hired.
Either town is an excellent starting point for exploring the volcano and the ecologically rich precincts nearby. Boquette is a good starting point for white water rafting, which is available year round, but is best during the rainy season, from June through November. Cerro Punto is a good starting point for exploring the international Parque de la Amistad (Friendship Park), shared by Costa Rica and Panama, still largely pristine and undeveloped.