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We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years. So search our blog to plan your vacation. From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss. You'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while on vacation!


Language Travel Vacation in Panama

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I had 10 vacation days left and I was wondering what to do with them. Bored of the same thing everytime: beach, big resort, all you can drink, eat until you burst, pass out, fly back home... I was in search of new horizons. I needed something different, that would allow me to really get to know the place's culture. Meaningful, yet exciting... and even better if I could gain a skill. So I streamed through my friend's photo albums on facebook to see what they've been up to during the last years and this led me to Habla Ya's photo album on Facebook and I said to myself: these people really know what it's about! I'm going on a Panama Vacation to learn Spanish!

The Cafetos, Habla Ya and Explora Ya's mascots enjoying Boquete, Panama's ecotourism capital

So I booked my flight to Panama and the next week I was landing in Tocumen Airport. After picking up my luggage and going through customs, there was a driver called Bladimir waiting for me with a sign with my name on it: easy and no fuss at all. 30 minute drive through modern Panama City, over the bay and enough time to stop for a bite in a trendy restaurant in Casco Viejo. I took my time to admire the colonial feel and walk the cobbled streets with churches full of art, kids playing soccer in an abandoned monastery and a group of old men talking politics in the park's benches.

It's only 1 p.m. so there is still time to see the Panama Canal before catching my 4:00 p.m. flight to David. Bladimir makes nice conversation and he tells me tales from another time about Gamboa, Coló, and the Canal's treaties. Finally I have to say goodbye to my first companion of the journey and I take my 45 minute flight on one of Air Panama's new aircrafts. I was told that I could also take a bus to David, but as it takes around 7 hours and I only have 10 days of vacation I decided to fly. Even though I thought I would miss some of the beautiful countryside views, I wanted to make the most out of my time in Panama!

At David's airport Gerardo is already waiting for me. I identify him by his smart Habla Ya polo shirt and we head off to Boquete. After a beautiful 40 minute ride up the road to Boquete (1,200 m above sea level), we make a quick stop at the school where I have a glimpse of the activities of the week (I like what I see). I'm also given some reading material to cover before class on Monday and I sit down to enjoy a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

View of the town of Boquete, Panama

I can already start feeling how special this place is: everybody is smiling and chilled, the temperature is nice (nor hot nor cold), the skies are blue and the sun is warm, I can see a rainbow over the river and the mountains are covered with greens of all shades. I'm at peace and I decide to find out what is scheduled for tomorrow: an out and back hike to the Quetzals Trail, so I sign up for that.

Now it's time to go and meet my host family (although I could have also stayed at a Boutique Hotel such as the Boquete Garden Inn or even a Luxury Resort). I get to their house and they were all there waiting to greet me, just like my own family would! We had a fabulous meal and we spent the entire evening looking at family photos. I can't thank them enough for how they made me feel... I really felt like a part of the family!

On the next morning I was picked up at 6 a.m. Our guide was Álvaro and besides me, there were another 7 Spanish students: a great way to start meeting people! Álvaro gave some explanations in English, French and Spanish, and put lots of emphasis on how quiet we needed to be in order to spot a Resplendent Quetzal. It was our lucky day: as soon as Álvaro started calling the birds we saw five of them perched up in an old tree in the midst of the cloud forest. I instantly realized why everyone wants to see a Quetzal and what's all the fuss about: it's a truly magical experience.

A Resplendent Quetzal perched on an old tree in the midst of the cloud forest

After a 5 km hike we had lunch in the middle of the Quetzals Trail in a place called Mirador La Roca. It was nice having a picnic with people from all over the world after such a gorgeous hike. On our way back we got lucky again and saw another two quetzals.

Once I was back in my host family's house I decided it was time to have a look at my welcoming pack: a nice map of Boquete, advice on how to learn Spanish and motivational material to get students inspired to work hard! We shared a tasty hot chocolate and then saw a movie.

On Monday I paid the school a visit around 10 a.m. after visiting one of the town's most beautiful gardens called Mi Jardín es tu Jardín. The first thing I noticed is how the school is really well organized, things are clean, feels cozy yet proffesional and everyone in the staff was happy to meet me and they addressed to me only in Spanish (which was a little difficult to deal with at first, but as the days went by the Spanish started coming along more natural!).

Habla Ya Spanish School's building

I talked with Swan, the school's Customer Experience Director, and arranged the rest of my extra-curricular activities during the week, and I also had a chat with Roy, Habla Ya's Volunteer Director, and I decided that I would go and volunteer in Paradise Gardens for a day. It really got my attention how many possibilities there are for having excursions near and in Boquete: no wonder it's considered Panama's Eco-Adventure Capital. It's really great that one can do tours during the morning when the weather is nice, and then have classes in the afternoon (during Panama's rainy season - May to November - it's more common for it to rain the afternoons).

After lunch with some fellow students and Habla Ya's staff, I started my group lessons. My teacher Ericka was great! Everyday at class we would chat a little about travelling in Panama and before I knew it, we were already having a conversation in Spanish (as much Spanish as I could speak, of course). I will never forget how great it was to have Spanish classes everyday! My Spanish definitely got better very quickly by having my host family speak to me in Spanish and having the wonderful teacher that I had!

A group lesson taking place in one of Habla Ya's classroom

There was a Social-cultural activity during every night of the week. I particularly enjoyed the Panamanian Dinner and Poker Night at Hostal Mamallena. We also watched a cuban movie called Habana Blues (which comes highly recommended) and we really had a blast after class on Thursday, when we went to Zanzibar's Charity Quiz and Theme Party (crazy hats was for me). They were all great oportunities to immerse myself a little bit more into the language and into the town's personality! Many of the staff people at the school ended up being partners in crime as I discovered all the fun things to do in Boquete! Everyone was so friendly and wanting to have a great time.

Dinner at La Posada Boqueteña with Habla Ya Staff and Students

Besides the lovely coffee, the staff, the Spanish School and the Spanish classes, I really enjoyed doing a couple of Eco-Adventure Tours in Boquete, Panama such as Zip Line Canopy Tour and Whitewater River Rafting which were simply amazing! I can hardly believe that I was zipping down the cloud forest about 50 meters above the ground level. AWESOME!

The Zipline Canopy Tour in Boquete, Panama

I also went to the Caldera Hot Springs after some Horseback Riding in the valleys. I can't describe enough how beautiful the place is and how relaxing it was! We had a little bit of what they call around here "Bajareque" which is a misty rain, very light, almost absent but you can feel it and in combination with the Hot Springs it was a sublime experience...

Horseback Riding Tour in Caldera, Chiriqui, Panama

At the end of my trip I spent two nights in paradise: at Isla Paridita in the Chiriqui Gulf National Marine Park. Five private beaches with white, gold and black sand, turquoise water, colorful fish and coral... bliss. I sea kayaked, hike the islands hidden spots and ate fresh sea food. One day we went to see dolphins and it was so special.

I just love how everything was set up perfectly for me. I didn't even have to pay in advance! I just signed up, bought my plane ticket and that's it. Habla Ya was wonderful and they took care of everything!

Gamez Island in the Chiriqui Gulf

Since I was having such a great time, I thought about rescheduling my return flight but that would have meant me loosing my job. The only downside of my Panama trip was that I had a very difficult time departing from this enchanting place. I had so much fun studying Spanish, going out with my new friends, dancing and doing some really amazing Panama tours. Just walking around town gave me a great sensation of being in a very cozy and peaceful ("cozy" is my favorite word so far to describe Boquete).

I have such a strong desire to some day make it back to Boquete, Panama. I have so many new Spanish speaking friends and I'm taking home such beautiful memories. Panama has a very special place in my heart and I will always remember the great Spanish Learning Holiday that the Habla Ya people gave me... it makes me want to learn Spanish all over again!

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We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years. So search our blog to plan your vacation. From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss. You'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while on vacation!


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1 Response to "Language Travel Vacation in Panama"

  1. Bien hecho! Me gusta mucho tu blog Carlos!