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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!


Day Trip to the Caldera Hot Springs & Gualaca Mini Canyon (Cangilones)

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It's a sunny afternoon, surprisingly hot for our little town in the mountains. What to do to cool down? For a trip to the beach on the beautiful Pacific side of the province it is already too late and there are only a few, well hidden swimming pools here that only locals know about. Anyway, I prefer swimming in fresh water and being surrounded by nature. An idea jumps to my mind - the refreshing Cangilones de Gualaca!

This Mini Canyon is a popular gathering place for tourists as well as locals. Everyone appreciates the fun you can have there. First I need to get there - nothing easier than hopping on the Explora Ya shuttle and being driven there while I get to see the beautiful surroundings of Boquete and Caldera. The scenery looks stunning: wide hilly grasslands with the stunning mountain chain which is the continental divide (division of Pacific and Caribbean area) in the background.

When you're driving to Caldera there is nothing else to do but to sit back and enjoy the view
When you're driving to Caldera there is nothing else to do but to sit back and enjoy the view

Then we get to Gualaca, the town where the Mini Canyon (or "Cangilones" as the locals know it, which means deep cylindrical bucket used to extract water from a well or water source) is located. At a dead end street on our right hand side we see the canyon. We have to climb down a staircase and then we are on the stone floor which is heated up from the sun. Be sure to wear sunscreen, the sun is quite intense!

Once again nature has created the perfect playground for all ages: Los Cangilones de Gualaca
Once again nature has created the perfect playground for all ages: Los Cangilones de Gualaca

Now let the fun begin: After getting rid of bags and clothes I am ready to have my first daring jump. There are different levels from which you can jump down into the refreshing river that formed this Mini Canyon. Some of them are more than 3 meters high and at first it takes me a moment’s effort to actually jump. But then it is so much fun and the water is so refreshing that I don’t want to stop! The current carries me to a shallower part of the river and there it is easier to get out and back up the Cangilones to just jump right back in.

Water Solo Bouldering at Los Cangilones de Gualaca in Chiriqui, Panama
For all those who like climbing, try to free boulder here (also known as water soloing) - no need to be scared because all that can happen is falling back into the water.

After one or two hours of fun while jumping in and climbing out of the river, I am getting tired. The sky feels the same way: the sun is not so strong anymore and a few clouds appear on the horizon I wouldn’t mind getting into the warmth now.

Even if you're a bit afraid, before you leave, make sure to get one quick jump into Los Cangilones de Gualaca
Even if you're a bit afraid, before you leave, make sure to get one quick jump into Los Cangilones de Gualaca

No sooner said than done: Back in the car we take the road to Caldera. Caldera means boiling pot and has this name due to the Hot Springs that can be found there. Outside of town we take a dirt road and get to a place in the woods where we leave the car and make our way by foot. After a short hike of about 15 minutes, where we walk past a small stream and a few cows, horses and the enormous water buffalo that lives on the farm adjacent to the Hot Springs, we reach the entrance.

There are two public springs here that differ in temperature. One feels like a nice warm bath, which is awesome because by now the sky went darker and darker and it started to drizzle lightly. This weather is perfect for the hot springs - it is so pleasant to feel the warmth surrounding your body. I am curious - how hot can the other one be? I make my way over the little muddy path and reach the second hot spring, which is, like the first one, surrounded by big stones to give the impression of a private bath. I hold my toe in the clear, slightly blue water - wow! It sure is hot! But not too hot for me :) Slowly and gradually I immerse my body into the heat. It feels comfortable once you get used to the temperature.

It's certainly not a luxurious bath tub: the Caldera Hot Springs are as natural as it gets!
It's certainly not a luxurious bath tub: the Caldera Hot Springs are as natural as it gets!

After several minutes relaxing I start feeling sleepy. It’s time to wake up! I need to cool off my body and refresh my mind. So I decide to go down to the river. The river is full of huge stones and I need to be careful not to slip on them. It is really cool and I almost don’t want to get in. But once I do, I don’t regret it. After a few minutes I am all awake again. I sit down on one of the rocks with a few friends. We chat and have a cool drink.

A nice little surprise: there is a third hot spring in the actual river. It is quite shallow and hot, but it’s totally worth sitting there with one half of your body in the heat and the other half in the cool water of the river.

Yep, there is a hot spring in the river too!
Yep, there is a hot spring in the river too!

The day is coming to an end and we get back into the van. I feel wonderfully relaxed now - like after a day on the beach, or even better :)

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT TOURS AND THINGS TO DO IN BOQUETE, PANAMA... »

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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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