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About Evelyne Meyer

Head of Language Travel Consultants at Habla Ya Spanish Schools

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Visit by Sonia & Giovanni from ESL – Language Studies Abroad in Italy

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A few weeks ago, we had the great privilege to receive 2 special guests at Habla Ya in Bocas del Toro. Giovanni and his lovely girlfriend Sonia both work as Language Travel Consultants at the Swiss language travel agency ESL Sejours Linguistiques in Italy. Back in Milan and Verona respectively, both Giovanni and Sonia specialize in advising language programs to adults who would like to acquire a new language abroad.

They listen to their clients’ wishes and preferences, and will make objective recommendations regarding language schools and destinations all over the globe. Habla Ya Spanish Schools acts as a partner school for them, and we are always happy to meet and welcome our partners who work so hard to bring us students from all over Europe. For them, visiting partner schools is also very helpful, because they will get to experience the goods first hand before offering it to others. There is no better way to advise a student to visit a certain destination, than by having been there yourself.

From our side, it is always important to hear feedback, and even more so when coming from a colleague who works in the same industry. ESL works with many Spanish schools all over the world, and their opinion is crucial for us, because they help us understand what is essential to our clients. Every business has room for improvement, and Habla Ya is no different. Feedback is always welcome, whether it is positive or negative, so it is needless to say that we wanted to impress Giovanni and Sonia, or at the very least not disappoint them. But most of all, we wanted them to truly experience what it is like to be an student at Habla Ya in Panama, so that they can accurately describe it to their potential Italian customers.

Sonia, Giovanni, Carlos and I hanging out one evening in Bocas
Sonia, Giovanni, Carlos and I hanging out one evening in Bocas

Significant to us is also knowing what really matters to an Italian student, compared to a German or North American student for example. Sometimes cultural differences will surprise you, and it is very interesting to look at how our Spanish programs will be perceived by different nationalities.

Hence, after 2 weeks, I asked Giovanni to spill the beans and tell me his honest opinion about us. I wanted to hear the good, the bad and the ugly without any sugar coating. So here are the questions I asked him with his honest/unedited answers.

Giovanni, what was your primary objective during your trip to Panama?

I had two main objectives. First of all I wanted to discover the country by trying as many things as possible: visit different places, meet local people to see their lifestyle and culture, taste new meals...anything! The 2nd objective was more personal, since I wanted to help the local community by doing some volunteering activities.

Sonia, you took 2 weeks of Spanish lessons with us. Can you tell us a bit more about what you thought about the class structure, your teacher, and most of all your progress in Spanish?

I enjoyed my 2 week course a lot! Before taking it I was able to read and understand Spanish, but I could speak it only a little. Now I am much more confident and I can speak more fluently, and I made this progress thanks to the small class size and the ability of our teacher! The small number of students (2-3) was ideal for learning, as the teacher could give a lot of attention to all of us. During the lessons the conversation was focused on the Panamanian culture, traditions, food, etc.. and on our personal interests and everyday life. These topics were very interesting and they stimulated the discussion: we found out differences but also a lot of similarities between our countries :-) Even if the primary focus was on conversational Spanish, we did a lot of grammar too, and I'm impressed by the number of rules we learned in just 2 weeks! In a few words, I would absolutely recommend a Spanish course at Habla Ya!

Sonia with fellow Habla Ya students.
Sonia with fellow Habla Ya students.

Is there an aspect of Panama that you weren’t aware of before traveling, and that it's important to tell your clients while telling them about the destination?

We can't say that we weren't aware of something: we have friends living here, some others have been here on vacation, and then we read many useful things thanks to the feedback sent by our ESL students. The reality might be slightly different from our expectations, but we believe that this is the beautiful aspect of traveling with curious eyes: we knew something before our departure but then our eyes judge and live it. After 3 weeks spent here, we can say that our knowledge of the destination is now good enough to advise the clients adequately, or we hope so at least :-)

What is, according to you, the most important aspect of this program for an Italian student from Milan? For instance, a French student may give more importance to the food, while a North American may insist on having air conditioning. What do Italians insist on the most?

Generally speaking Italians do insist on the accommodation, which is often the key topic of our counseling activity. Is it the same for Bocas? We believe it's not. In our opinion the most important aspect of this program is the atmosphere: our students have to feel it through our words, understanding that Bocas is something special and different... a new experience in their travel portfolio. Then all the questions on courses, activities and accommodation will be considered differently.

What did you particularly like about the school, and what do you think needs improvement from our side?

We liked the atmosphere a lot: it's a smiling school! Teachers and staff were always friendly and very helpful, we felt a positive vibe and everything was easy-going. Then the courses: I (Giovanni) didn't take any course, but I saw how much Sonia progressed during the 2 weeks, thanks to the great teacher she had and the mini group classes. Some improvements can be done and these are our suggestions: limit the use of English during social activities as much as possible, even if we understand that there are many A1-A2 students; have a person taking part in the activities, because his or her presence would encourage the use of Spanish between the students; and maybe more focus on the volunteering projects which are very useful for the local community. You're already doing a great job, and we saw how difficult can be to deal with some realities of the organization.

Would you recommend our program to your clients, after living the experience yourself?

Sure, to the right clients! And who are the right clients? The ones traveling to feel a place, not to see it only; the ones looking for something new, not scared to live in a different way or try new things; the ones who know the difference between a tourist and a traveller, because they will come back from Bocas del Toro & Panama as richer persons! And this is how we feel now, grateful to Bocas because we had feelings which will stay forever with us! Thanks!

Well, thank you so much Giovanni and Sonia! We really enjoyed having you =). All the very best back in Italy and we look forward to paying you back the visit one day...



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Posted in Experience, Habla Ya, Interviews, Learning Spanish

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7th Grade Teacher from the USA comes to Panama to Learn Spanish

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It’s always interesting to hear about each students’ motivations to learn Spanish, hear about their backgrounds, and why they chose Panama specifically as a destination to study Spanish. Since a good amount of our students come from professions where knowing Spanish enables them to do a better job (think teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, etc.) I though it would be cool to interview a teacher and find out more about her experience.

So let me introduce you to Kate, whom I had the chance to spend some time with during her 7 week program. I met Kate at the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in Bocas del Toro, where we trained together a couple of times.

Kate is 28 years old, and currently works as a 7th grade teacher in Portland.

Kate with her Spanish teacher Iveth, at the end of her 7 week Spanish immersion program in Panama
Kate with her Spanish teacher Iveth, at the end of her 7 week Spanish immersion program in Panama

Here is what she has to say...

1. When you started your course, you were pretty much a complete beginner. How do you feel today, at the end of your program?

I can’t get over how much I learned in seven weeks. I had taken two years of required Spanish years ago, but really didn’t remember much at all, save a few words like “agua” and “gracias”. At the end of my trip, I stayed a couple of days in Panama City and was able to navigate, get taxis, and communicate with the hostess at my hostel fairly easily.

2. Which course did you choose, and would you recommend it to future students?

I chose group lessons for the time I was in Panama. I added private lessons two weeks while I was there to work on specific language skills for my job. The group lessons were small, so I felt that we were able to practice a lot and ask questions about the language, Panama, or other. Because they were small, the teachers were attentive to my needs as a language learner, and I learned a lot from them. For private lessons, I am a teacher by profession and want to learn Spanish to communicate with my students and their parents (the majority of my school population are immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries). In private lessons, my teacher practiced role-playing parents with me and worked on other skills specific to a school environment, which was very helpful.

3. What are the things that you liked the most of Panama, and what did you like the least?

Panama is beautiful, the people are friendly, and the food is good – what is not to like? I spent time in both school locations, and experienced two different cultures of Panama. I loved the peaceful environment in Boquete, but also enjoyed the laid back feel and the variety of activities in Bocas del Toro (including beaches, hikes, salsa lessons, cacao tour, and trying out Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the first time). As for what I liked the least, the rainy July in Bocas limited activities sometimes, but that’s what I get for visiting during rainy season! Plus, the rain is what keeps Panama so lush and gorgeous, so I really liked everything in Panama.

There is never a shortage of things to do in Bocas del Toro. I gave Jiu-Jitsu a go a couple of times. Here's me rolling with a fellow Habla Ya student.
There is never a shortage of things to do in Bocas del Toro. I gave Jiu-Jitsu a go a couple of times. Here's me rolling with a fellow Habla Ya student.

4. What motivated you to study Spanish abroad, and why did you choose Habla Ya?

I wanted to be a non-English speaking environment when I began studying Spanish. I’m from the States, and in an area where realistically, we don’t need to speak any other language than English. Additionally, in my previous travels, English has been enough. However, in my school community, we often have families that arrive knowing little to no English, and I wanted to experience the ups and downs in order to “walk a mile in their shoes”, so to speak. This proved to be one of the most valuable parts of the experience for me. It was humbling to start off. I am an educated, independent woman in my country, but was unable to make simple requests without relying heavily on a dictionary and the incredible patience of the other person. Sometimes it was unsettling, sometimes it was embarrassing, and sometimes it was frustrating, but with practice, I improved, and earned a deep appreciation for both the Spanish language and my own language. After a couple of weeks, I could converse with my host family, and enjoyed talking with people that previously I had been unable.

I found Habla Ya by searching for conversational Spanish programs on Google, and then chose it because of the raving reviews and the responsiveness of the Travel Consultants. Mary Beth and Evelyn were overwhelmingly helpful with answering my questions before traveling and the program is well laid out. I also compared it to other programs in Central America, including others in Panama, and felt that it was the best fit for my Spanish goals. For however long you are able to stay, I definitely recommend the Immersion Program. Nowadays there is lots of talk about Spanish immersion programs in the US, but nothing really compares to actually being in a Spanish speaking country. This is true immersion.

5. Did you make friends during your program here?

Yes, from all over the world! There was a group of us that would do activities together and practice Spanish while hanging out. It was a really encouraging environment to practice too because while we were at different speaking levels, we all had the same goal, and we would help each other with what we were learning in our classes.

Kate and fellow students during a hike in Bastimentos
Kate and fellow students during a hike in Bastimentos

6. You mentioned to us that you needed Spanish for work, because you have many Hispanic families in your region. Do you feel more confident speaking to them now?

While my grammar and vocabulary are still a work in progress, I definitely have a lot more confidence. I used my school’s summer break to study Spanish, so I was able to be in Panama for seven weeks. I’ve been back to work the past two weeks and have communicated with all of our Spanish-speaking staff members – all of whom were impressed, because they knew how little Spanish I spoke before the summer and were thrilled by how much I learned. Additionally, I’ve spoken in Spanish with some of my students from last year and also with some parents.

Even though my language isn’t perfect, the result has been the same every time – their faces light up, because I am able to speak to them in their native language. With the parents, I sense relief; many times, the language barrier leaves these parents timid in the school environment. I’m looking forward to the ability to connect with my students’ families more in the coming school year.

Me having salsa lessons with my Spanish teacher and fellow students
Me having salsa lessons with my Spanish teacher and fellow students

If you would like to see your own story featured on our blog page, please don’t hesitate to let us know! I am sure that your experience too is worth the read, and we are always happy to share it with our readers =)



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Posted in Experience, Habla Ya, Interviews, Learning Spanish, Spanish Immersion Programs, Testimonials

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Meet Tally and Her Happy Ending

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Tally is our newest family member and now the official Habla Ya Bocas mascot. She is also the cutest thing I have seen in a long time, and since she shares most of my work days on or under my desk nibbling at my feet, I felt it would be cool sharing her story (at least for me!). I also want my personal heroes Tammy and Molly (former Habla Ya students) to be able to follow what has become of their little rescue kitten, since they have now finished their Spanish program and already left the country.

Only 9 weeks ago, kitten Tally somehow got separated from her mother, and was left to survive on her own. She was only 3 weeks old then, and unable to hunt for food yet. At that age, not having a mother is a certain death sentence for a kitten, and when she was found she was only skin and bones, had infected wounds, was flea infested, full of parasites, and was barely breathing. Flies started to circle her, just waiting for her to pass away... and had anyone waited only one day longer, she would most certainly not have made it.

But fortunately for Tally, two Habla Ya students with a big heart passed by just in time and saved her. Tammy and Molly were on their way to their 8 am Group 4 class, and when they saw her lying in the dirt, they picked her up and brought this little kitten to the school. Not knowing what to do with her, they handed her over to Gilberto, their Spanish teacher.

If you think Tally the cat looks bad in these photos, you should have seen her in real life... poor little thing!
If you think Tally the cat looks bad in these photos, you should have seen her in real life... poor little thing!

Gilberto always wanted to have a cat, so he was happy that his students had found this little critter. Gilberto had never had a cat before, and didn’t know how to properly care for this undernourished, wounded rescue. For some reason, he must have heard of my Brigitte Bardot reputation (only the animal activist part!!!), and so he gave her to me and I somehow became her “baby-sitter” . I have 4 cats myself, two of which are rescues, and my friends call me the crazy cat lady (I am married and in my thirties, but I just happen to really, really love cats). Since I couldn’t take her home with me (5 would be slightly above my own limit), the only solution was to keep her in my office during the day.

We took her to the vet more than once, and treated her eye infection and wounds. Now she is clean and her fur is fluffy. She has no parasites and is well nourished, and full of energy. She’s got some serious meat on her bones now! Over here we nicknamed her “Taliban’ because she became a little terrorist. Working with her is a challenge. She loves to bite cables and feet, unplug the router while I am working, sleeping on my keyboard, and sometimes chatting gibberish to my colleagues in our internal chat system.

Gilberto has decided that the school would be a better home for her, so she became an official Habla Ya resident and family member. Soon she will be old enough to run around the school property on her own, however I am a bit scared that she will run to the street and get hit by a car. I guess that is a risk that we will have to take if we want her to be free and happy.

Here are some pictures of healthy Tally, happy and full of energy.

Here is happy Tally harassing me while I try to work!
Here is happy Tally harassing me while I try to work!

Sharing stories like that always make me happy, and when I see that people care about animals as much as I do, it gives me hope that more adorable creatures like this one get their happy ending.

The community of Boquete (where our other school is) is currently leading the way with their Amigos de Animales volunteer program, which operates a monthly spay clinic sponsored by donations. They catch strays, sterilize/castrate them, and then release them again. Pet owners can also bring their animals and get them fixed for $5. Hopefully in Bocas del Toro we'll follow their lead soon. There is a huge need for a spay clinic on our island, to prevent stray dogs and cats from endlessly reproducing, only to die young hit by cars or by starvation and disease.

I’ve heard rumors that such a spay clinic may be something a local veterinarian wants to launch in the near future, and if/when that happens, Habla Ya would be more than happy to recruit volunteers to help. Of course I include myself in this.



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Interview with Volunteer Director at Habla Ya Bocas del Toro

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If you’ve “liked” our facebook page, you may have seen our occasional job openings, either as a Language Travel Consultant or as a Volunteer Director and Front Desk Assistant. You may have wondered whether you fit the profile, or you may have asked yourself whether this is something you had the guts to do.

It is very tempting to get a job on a gorgeous island in the tropics, but truth is the unknown can be scary. It can be frightening to commit to spending 6+ months in a country you don’t know, hearing a new language and being surrounded by total strangers. You may have wanted to apply, but have not done so because you don’t know what you are getting yourself into, or because it is hard for you to picture what it will be like. For some, leaving their families and friends for a long period of time is an important factor to consider.

But fear not, we are nice people, and we will treat you well, we promise! But you don’t have to take my word for it. Let me introduce you to our newest staff and Habla Ya family member Ludovic Jolly. This laid back, young Frenchmen joined us a little earlier this year, and decided to join our team in order to work as our new Volunteer Coordinator.

Here's Ludo at the front desk of Habla Ya Bocas del Toro
Here's Ludo at the front desk of Habla Ya Bocas del Toro

We were looking for a dynamic and motivated person, with a fun personality and a willingness to help the community. Ludo fits all the requirements, and is now officially part of the family. His role is to welcome students at the reception desk, provide customer service, and set up volunteer projects for those who want to give back to the community while studying Spanish with us.

I first met Ludo through a common hobby, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Bocas del Toro, where we meet 3 times per week to train. Ludo was working as an independent massage therapist back then to finance his trip in Latin America, but decided that he wanted a more stable job opportunity (preferably in a place where he could surf!). When I told him about what we do at Habla Ya, he was instantly excited about the idea, and joined a week later.

But instead of me doing all the talking, why don’t we let Ludo answer all your questions about what it is like to work at Habla Ya Spanish Schools. Maybe his story will inspire you to embark on a similar adventure.

What do you think made you a suitable candidate for this position? What does it take to do what you do?

First of all, I have always been looking at opportunities to work in a sustainable business operation, especially one that works with volunteers to help the local community. Volunteering is definitely an activity that I’ve always wanted to invest time, effort and money in.

I had also been working as a volunteer in Costa Rica, during which I studied permaculture farming and sustainable living solutions, which became my passion and personal project in life. I eventually ended-up being in charge of volunteer projects involving other volunteers, which allowed me to develop leadership skills and the sufficient knowledge to put new projects together.

Another advantage that I have is that my Spanish is fluent now, so I knew communication wouldn’t be a problem for this position that involves frequent meetings with non-English speakers and communicating with the local community.

What was your first impression of our school and the staff when you started with us?

What I noted can be summarized in just a few words: professionalism, enthusiasm and vision! As I first walked into the school's building, I could immediately appreciate the tidiness and the sense of detail of the structure. Then I got to meet the different staff members and found myself immersed in a really positive and enthusiastic atmosphere, as we've instantly started to joke around with the teachers and staff members, who were very welcoming and warm. Finally, when discussing the goals and objectives of the school regarding the volunteering projects, I felt that I wanted to contribute because they matched my personal expectations of a smartly run, and truly community oriented volunteer program!

Did you already speak Spanish before coming to Panama? How did you learn the language?

Yes, I learned Spanish in Costa Rica in a similar establishment, and I'm actually really happy to have a chance to immerse myself again in an educational environment. Here I can benefit from the teachers helping me improve my formal Spanish, which got tainted with incorrect grammar along the years living in a more rural environment.

Do you feel you have improved your Spanish during your time in Panama, and does it help you with your current position?

Yes, I'm definitely learning new vocabulary and a different accent in Panama, thus training my ear which gives me a better comprehension.

What were your first thoughts when you were told about the job opening at Habla Ya? What made you want to apply?

I had been looking for such a work opportunity for a little while already, so I got really interested right away. Then, witnessing the great deal of professionalism put into the operational part of the school and meeting the staff made me want to apply the very same second I discovered those different aspects!

What are some of your ideas for new projects that you would like to implement at Habla Ya?

I would love to work on improving the (barely) existing waste management system, and incorporate plant based infrastructural solutions, creating a local food production system based on organic waste reuse, thus facilitating access to healthy foods, and run educative programs to raise awareness about sustainable living solutions that people could implement in their home.

Do you have a funny story to share, that happened to you so far?

Carlos, the School Director, can be quite sarcastic and likes to joke around with people. Some of us recently rescued a malnourished cat from town and were taking care of It. Without wanting any harm, a teacher took it to his class, which he shouldn't have done, since the cat hadn't been vaccinated and the classrooms are shared with other students who are allergic to animals. So Carlos wrote an email remembering all staff members to please not take any animals into the classrooms and he also mentioned in that email (to all the staff members) that I was not allowed to bring geckos and lizards as my pets to the school anymore. Of course I had never done that, but since then some teachers have been asking me about my geckos =)

My co-workers and new friends at the Front Desk: Carlos (left) and Dominique (right)
My co-workers and new friends at the front desk: Carlos (left) and Dominique (right)

Do you miss home sometimes? What do you miss the most? What is it you definitely don’t miss?

I feel home pretty much anywhere on this planet as long as it is warm and as long as there are waves to surf, and I haven't been back to my home country (France) in more than 2 years now. I do miss it a bit, but I find it really hard to go back as this job and the people I´ve met here mean a lot to me. It is not really about what I miss, but more about who I miss, which is my close friends and family members.

On the other hand, I definitely do not miss my country as the social dynamics there have been really stuck on materialistic, superficial so called "problems", but on a more optimistic note I'm looking forward for it to reorient toward a more "solutions seeking" attitude, so that I'll be able to bring the knowledge I gathered overseas to help.



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Posted in Ecotourism, Experience, Habla Ya, Interviews, Staff, Sustainable Development, Volunteer

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Where to study Spanish in Panama: Boquete or Bocas del Toro?

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This post focuses on the Panama locations where you can currently find an Habla Ya Spanish School: Boquete and Bocas del Toro (Habla Ya Panama City is planned to open its doors by the end of 2014). If you'd like to know more about where else in Panama you can learn Spanish click here...

One question I hear a lot from future students about our two schools is: Where should I study Spanish? Which location is better, Boquete or Bocas del Toro?

There is no correct answer to this question, because neither is better or worse. Both locations are very different from each other, and choosing which one fits you best is simply a matter of personal preference.

In fact, it should be quite simple for you to make up your mind. Just ask yourself, are you a beach or a mountain type of person? If you prefer the beach, your answer is Bocas. If you're more inclined to the highlands, then go to Boquete. As simple as that because the quality at both schools is the same. And as a rule of thumb, if you're staying in Panama for more than two weeks, we certainly recommend giving both locations a try! In this way, you'll be able to experience different parts of Panama: not only are the tours, climate and surroundings very different from one location to the other, but the people and each town's culture would make you think that you're in totally different countries.

Warm Caribbean waters? Bocas del Toro... for sure!
Warm Caribbean waters? Bocas del Toro... for sure!

So, if you're studying Spanish in Panama for three weeks or more, end your Spanish program at your preferred location, and try to start your trip by spending about 1/3 of your time at the location that would be your second option. It's also good to know that despite the fact that you're studying at separate schools, there is no need to worries about loss of academic continuity and you will obviously get the discounted rates that come from booking several weeks of classes.

If you're a foodie, you'll find tons of amazing restaurants in both towns. And in terms of convenience, both are small towns and it's quite easy and inexpensive to get around, although Bocas could have an edge as it's flat and you can easily cycle anywhere in town and taxis are available at almost any hour, as opposed to Boquete where after 9 p.m. it's more difficult to flag down a cab.

If the outdoors and hiking is your thing, Boquete!
If the outdoors and hiking is your thing, Boquete!

If you still have a hard time choosing between Caribbean beaches and Central American mountains, here is a list of pros and cons for you to consider. And when I say "pros and cons" it's really all relative to each person, because one "con" could be a "pro" for someone else!

Lets start with Boquete...


  • The climate. Temperatures are nice (sometimes warm but not hot!) during the day (70° to 80° F, or 21° - 28° C), and fresh at night (60° to 70° F, or 15° - 20° C), all year round. If you don’t tolerate the plastering heat very well, Boquete will be your little piece of paradise as it's an average 7-8°C fresher than the lowlands.
  • Lots of outdoor activities are available, such as hiking, rafting, ziplining, coffee tours, hot springs, rock climbing, horseback riding and more. It’s not called the Eco-Adventure Capital of Panama for nothing!
  • Its delicious coffee. It is worth stopping in Boquete to learn how coffee is produced by visiting a coffee farm, and tasting the delicious product. After all, Boquete makes some of the best coffee in the world.
  • Fresh fruit & vegetables. You will find a large variety of fresh veggies from different farms at a very low price. Chiriqui is the province that provides veggies to the rest of the country.
  • Proximity to David (30 minute drive) and all its perks, like big supermarkets, modern hospitals, an international airport, a bus terminal with routes to the rest of the country, and shopping centers.
  • Authentic immersion in Panamanian culture. Boquete is famous, yet not as touristy as other places in Panama. If you are looking for a true Spanish immersion, Boquete is the place to be.
  • Safety. Boquete is probably one of the safest places I know! Even teenagers can come to Boquete without their parents to study Spanish with us, while staying with a local host family. You can walk anywhere by yourself and feel safe. Of course you should always take the usual security measures, just as you would back at home. Being on vacation should not translate into being careless.


  • Very little nightlife. If you came to party, you hit the wrong spot. You will find the occasional party at a hostel or at someone’s house, but don’t expect clubs and bars to be going off every other day. There are only a few bars where the party can sometimes can get going, mainly Zanzibar and La Cabaña (and only on the weekends).
  • The beach is a couple of hours away. If you like the beach, you may prefer to go to Bocas del Toro instead. The closest beach on the Pacific side from Boquete is about 1 hour away by car (La Barqueta), which can be inconvenient if you want to go more frequently than just on the weekends (don't miss the Chiriqui Gulf National Marine Park!).
  • The weather in Boquete can be quite frustrating during rainy season, especially during certain parts of September, October and November when it rains the most. The good news is that during these months, it usually (not always!) only rains in the afternoon, and mornings should be nice and sunny.

Imagine yourself breathing fresh mountain air every morning while enjoying some of the world's best coffee to start your day... if this is what you're looking for, pick Boquete!
Imagine yourself breathing fresh mountain air every morning while enjoying some of the world's best coffee to start your day... if this is what you're looking for, pick Boquete!

Now let’s move to Bocas del Toro...


  • Great nightlife. You will find a variety of bars and clubs to keep yourself entertained every single night... for weeks and weeks on. Be careful though, classes start at 8am the next day =). If the party temptation is too great for you, stick to Boquete!
  • Loads of stunning beaches. If you are a beach bum and love watersports, you’ve hit the jackpot. Did I say world class surfing? Check out some surf videos from Bocas del Toro...
  • Watersports. World class surf, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming and sailing.
  • The local, day to day food is better than in Boquete. That one is purely subjective, I apologize for that. I just love the coconut flavored rice so much!
  • Lots of things to do to workout, with Zumba, Fitness, Yoga, Muay Thai or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes every day of the week.
  • The weather. It is very warm and humid, so no need to worry about bringing much clothing or moisturizer.
  • Demographics. If you are in your twenties or thirties like myself, you will find more people of your age group in Bocas del Toro. Probably because of its weather and nightlife.


  • A useless hospital. If you ever get ill, try to help yourself with over the counter meds, because the local hospital is pretty much useless. The staff there is not very helpful, the infrastructure is decadent, and the medical care is… let’s just say not great. If it’s really bad, go to Changuinola or David, where you will receive excellent medical care.
  • Bad tap water. It’s a small island, so you can’t drink the tap water. You will need to buy bottled water, or refill your used bottles with filtered rainwater, which is available at our school.
  • It is hot and humid. Did I say tropical island in the Caribbean?
  • It can get quite touristy, specially in high season (this is relative to the rest of Panama, as tourism in Panama is much less than neighboring countries such as Costa Rica), so you will bump into other travelers a lot. That being said, there are plenty of spots where you will be completely on your own if you ask the right people (us).
  • Not teen-proof. Bocas is not the place where I would send my teenager on vacation alone to learn Spanish, because the temptation to go out and party will just be too much.

Postcard perfect beaches every single day of the week? Bocas is a no brainer!
Postcard perfect beaches every single day of the week? Bocas is a no brainer!

This list combines facts with my personal opinion. Having lived in both places for several years, I can compare them both quite well and you may have sensed my personal preference for Bocas del Toro. That has mainly to with the fact that I have made many friends here, who are about my age and have similar interests to me. I am 34 years old, have no kids, and enjoy the free, easy-going and laid back atmosphere that Bocas has to offer.

As a traveler these things might be irrelevant of course, as both places are absolutely amazing to visit. My recommendation is to visit both if you have the time to do so, and split your Spanish learning vacation between locations, staying a more wherever you think you'll feel happier!



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Posted in Bocas del Toro, Boquete, Experience, Habla Ya

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