Ecolodging in Panama

More than Panama hats

Indeed, the famous Panama hat is actually made in Ecuador. You can read about this phenomenon in a previous Vamostravelblog.

            On this trip, however, we experience more of Panama’s natural world at Los Quetzales, a mountain ecolodge in Guadalupe village not far from the border with Costa Rica.

Map of Panama
Map of Panama

Cloud Forest

Although Cerro Punta-Guadalupe is lush, the area is often shrouded in clouds because of the altitude, rain and high humidity from nearby cloud forests.

Highest Communities, Highest Peaks

The highest communities in Panama at 1,975m (6,480ft) are located here. They lie in the shadow of the highest peak in Panama, Volcan Baru, at 3,475m (11,401ft).

On a Clear Day….

At the peak on a clear day, the traveller sees both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

The province of Chiriqui, in which these communities are located, is Panama’s ‘garden province’.  Most of Panama’s fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy products, are produced here.

Swiss history

Many decades ago, a Swiss colony settled here. Thus, a number of the homes have the alpine look. Descendants from these early Swiss settlers still speak Swiss-German.

Los Quetzales offers…

…Horse back riding, bird watching, nature hikes, a spa service and restaurant facilities. Norm tried horse back riding following a qualified lodge guide. He led horse and guest rider to the vegetable garden terraces planted in rich volcanic soil. Then to the foothills of the surrounding mountains.

horseback riding
Yes, I went horseback riding.
trail riding to the cloud forest
Off into the cloud forest with a guide.

            The lodge makes a great effort to be as eco-friendly as possible. Free plastic water bottles are available for filling provided they are returned (then cleaned). As much as possible is recycled. Herbs and some vegetables served in the restaurant are organically grown on the property.

Los Quetzales accommodation

Los Quetzales Lodge, back view
Back view of Los Quetzales Lodge

Our room was on the 2nd floor, left, in photo.

The 2nd floor of the main building (not shown) contained a restaurant/bar/library lounge. A separate building held a sauna offering spa services. We spent hours lounging in the library fascinated by the plethora of book and magazine choices.

            The lodge also has 9 cabins in the middle of the cloud forest. These are about half an hour away accessible by horse or farm tractor only. The road to the cabins is virtually impassable by car/SUV.

We hike in the National Park – Up, Up!

We hiked the Sendero Tres Cascadas (Three Waterfalls Trail).

The trail was rated moderate-difficult – up, up, up about 200-300m (650 – 985ft) to a peak at 2,269m (7444ft).

Getting to the trail head proved unforgettable. Sitting in the back of a tractor (inhaling that delicious exhaust) for half an hour through the forest resulted in near nausea. A stop at a ‘boot cabin’ where we exchanged our shoes for rubber boots (your size) underlined the different and challenging terrain we would cover.

one of the 3 waterfalls
One of the 3 waterfalls. This is the dry season – imagine what this would be like in the wet season.

Down, Down!

Then down, down, down to a pure, clear, supposedly non-contaminated stream which we forded several times as it meandered along the forest floor.

Descent is Difficult!

Picking our way down was more difficult than ascending the trail.

Estimated Time

Estimated time for this winding, up, down, and sideways trail of 1km (0.62mi) was 90 minutes.

Abel gives an orientation
Our guide Abel (ah-bell) gives us an orientation to the trail

Our Time

We took 2 hours! But with valid reasons… like many stops for photos and to watch and listen to the vast array of tropic birds including the elusive quetzal.


The Quetzal is the national symbol of Guatemala. In fact, its currency is called the ‘quetzal’. The Quetzal is also the namesake of our lodge, Los Quetzales (the quetzals).

            The bird was sacred to the ancient Maya and Aztec peoples. Royalty and priests wore the feathers as part of ceremonial dress. The birds were usually not killed. Only the prized feathers were plucked as replacement feathers grew every mating season.

            The existence of these beautiful birds is now threatened because of the disappearing tropical forests.

The quetzal
The Quetzal bird. We saw this bird on the trail but were unable to get a clear photo due to the foliage. The lodge provided this photo for us
Sounds of the Quetzal

Panama Fun Facts

Panama is the only place in the world where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific and set on the Atlantic. The country runs east to west.

            In Panama, you can swim in the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean on the same day.

            The Panama Canal generates fully one-third of Panama’s entire economy.

And Panama is part of a Palindrome.

A palindrome is a word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backward as forward.

            “A man, a plan, a canal; Panama.” is a palindrome.

COVID update

For the latest Covid information for travellers click here

Music of Panama

Traditional Music and Dance

Music of Today

How to get there

From Panama City, take a flight to David, capital of Chiriqui province. From David take a taxi or better, rent a car. Allow 1.5 – 2 hrs for the trip from David to the lodge.

Copa Airlines
Copa Airlines (Panama City – David)


Los Quetzales of course. Reviews.

Travelled: March, 2016

See our other blogs of Central America

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  1. Good read, nice pics, you are still in good condition for hiking! Good job.
    Miss you both. A Florida visit wouldn’t be quite as exciting but would love to see you both. 👍😊♥️

    1. Thanks A would love to see you too (two lol). Borders still closed, virus still going. Someday…we wish

    2. nice website! As always.
      Yes, Florida is flat, but not exciting? Of course it is: so many old men in bermuda shorts and women with strange polished acrylic nails used for showing off large diamond rings. Tempers run high in the heat and road rage, very dangerous, quite deadly, enhanced by all the drugs taken by old and young alike. Come visit anyway, we’ll protect you!
      Take Care, we would love to see you both soon, too.
      Arlene and Mike

  2. After what you just wrote about the wonders of Florida—including the fact you and Mike are there—Florida is number one on our list to visit. Stay safe and keep well!

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