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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!


Interview with Erick Miranda, Habla Ya Boquete Excursion Guide

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There are very few of us in this world who can say without a doubt that we have found our dream job and that our job is actually an extended vacation. Erick Miranda is one of those lucky people. Erick is an Excursion Guide for Habla Ya in Boquete and he is in charge of introducing the spectacular Chiriqui province to our Spanish students.

Erick with Spanish student Sam... a hard day of work at the beach.
Erick with Spanish student Sam... a hard day of work at the beach.

At Habla Ya, we want our students to learn Spanish and experience our country at its best. This is why at our Spanish school in Boquete, we have a dedicated guide to provide fun and informative excursions in and around Boquete and the Chiriqui region. Erick gives these tours in Spanish or a mix of Spanish and English, depending on the Spanish level of the participants. These tours are offered only to enrolled Spanish students at our schools, at deeply discounted prices because we want our students to get involved, learn and experience our community.

Spanish teacher Diógenes, with his Spanish students at the beach
Spanish teacher Diógenes, with his Spanish students at the beach

Erick is a native Chiricano and grew up around this mountain region of Boquete. From a young age he loved nature and frequently went on hikes with friends, camped on the beach for a week multiple times with his family, hiked Volcan Baru with his dad, rode horses with his grandfather. Although the love of nature flowed through his veins, he chose to study electronics and graduated from the Technological University of Panama.

After many years working with computers in Panama City, Erick became frustrated with the environment and way life of Panama City. He longed to be free and to connect again with nature. He moved back to his family’s land and started a new life with his wife and children. It was natural for Erick to become a tour guide and it was fate that he became part of the Habla Ya family.

Erick at Piedra Pintada  Petroglyph in Caldera, Chiriqui
Erick at Piedra Pintada Petroglyph in Caldera, Chiriqui

I had the opportunity to share a few minutes with him and he immediately infected me with his love for nature. I’d love to share our interview and we hope to have you along on some of our tours as a student in the near future!

What are the three most popular half-day excursions in Boquete?

Everyone comes to Boquete to go hiking and learn about coffee. The third most popular activity would be the Hot Springs. There are obviously other must do's such as rafting but when you're studying Spanish every day of the week, you can only manage to do those full day tours during the weekends.

Being able to hike and reach places like this waterfall, sometimes several times a week, is one of the things that I love about my job.
Being able to hike and reach places like this waterfall, sometimes several times a week, is one of the things that I love about my job.

Tell me about the most popular half-day hike.

This hike is called White Rock and it is a great hike for every age and ability since it’s not too difficult. It’s also an excellent hike to be able to explain what is a cloud forest, find different types of animals (including the Resplendent Quetzal), exotic plants and to understand the importance of how everything is part of one ecosystem.

There are so many coffee tours in Boquete. What makes Habla Ya's special?

We take students to a coffee farm called Miracle Farm founded and owned by Señor Don Tito. He is what makes this tour so special. A coffee seed, plant, process is the same everywhere. Specialty Coffee is grown all over Boquete. What sets the Miracle Farm apart from the rest is Don Tito.

To not “spill the beans” too much, Don Tito created his business from nothing. Many years ago he knew nothing about coffee farming, but had a great interest and would try anything and learn everything. His friends made fun of him and thought he was stupid for investing all of his time, money and effort into this venture. Let’s just say that now, those same friends say that he is a visionary and genius.

Don Tito is the most humble man I have ever met. Though his coffee is world famous for being among the best, he remains on his farm working hard every day with his hands in the dirt, greeting his guests and offering them his special brew that he made himself. We learn a lot on his coffee farm, but we can learn even more from a man who overcame every obstacle by putting his heart and soul into something he believed in.

Spanish students enjoying a nice cup of coffee after touring Don Tito's farm
Spanish students enjoying a nice cup of coffee after touring Don Tito's farm

I’ve heard varied feedback about the Hot Springs in Caldera. Why are they unique and why should students pay them a visit?

Since the hydroelectric dam was built on the river that runs by the hot springs, now they are not as easily accessible as in the past when you could drive a car right up to the entrance of the hot springs. Now you can hear complaints because there is a 30 minute walk to arrive there. In the many years I've worked as a guide I've heard things like: “Why do we have to walk and get sweaty? And then I’m supposed to enjoy a hot spring while I’m already hot and sweaty?”

Unfortunately there is still people who don’t understand the benefit of exercise. Funny, isn't it? On the other hand, breaking a sweat before arriving to the hot springs actually improves the effects of the hot mineral waters. Let me explain.

By walking for 20 to 30 minutes (an easy, flat walk), the pores open as your body heats up and releases sweat. Entering the hot springs with open pores makes it easier for the body to dispel toxins. You may have heard that hot springs have been used for medicinal purposes. This is because this is a natural way to initiate the expulsion of toxins, in a similar manner as what your kidneys and liver do.

The hot springs in Caldera have been visited and studied by National Geographic scientists who have verified that they are actually some of the best in the entire world because of the balance of the mineral levels in the springs. Minerals are released from the layers of the Earth as the hot water bubbles up. These minerals are absorbed by the skin, another reason why it’s best to enter the hot water when your pores are already open.

Cooling off in the river after spending some time in the hot springs is definitively the way to go
Cooling off in the river after spending some time in the hot springs is definitively the way to go.

Habla Ya also offers full-day tours on the weekends. Which are the most popular?

The most popular full-day tours (and my personal favorites) are the Cerro Punta Panoramic Tour and Chiriqui Gulf Tour.

Why is the Cerro Punta Panoramic tour your favorite?

There is something remarkable about Panama that many people don’t realize because it doesn’t receive a lot of attention. This tour to Cerro Punta is steeped in the culture, history and ancestry of Latin America.

I take people to visit the archeological site Barriles where there is art dating from 600 BC. These etchings have a connection with the Mayas, Aztecs, and all of the indigenous groups that lived on these lands and passed through when traveling between the North and South continents.

Panama is a treasure chest of archaeological riches, but so much hasn’t been discovered yet. My tour groups always feel like they are discovering a great world secret and are a participant in the process. I believe that we need to continue to promote sites like these to draw interest, knowledge and understanding. Hopefully this will also encourage more investment in preserving these amazing artifacts of history.

Additionally, the Panoramic tour to Cerro Punta includes a visit to the Parque Internacional de La Amistad (International Park of Friendship - PILA), where we have lunch, and then a peek at the Dracula Orchid Farm where there are 2,200 species of orchids. It’s an absolutely gorgeous farm!

Over 2000 species of orchids you'll be able to find at the Dracula Farm in Cerro Punta.
Over 2000 species of orchids you'll be able to find at the Dracula Farm in Cerro Punta.

I know a lot of students want to experience the beautiful beaches of the Chiriqui Gulf while they are here. What’s the best part about this full-day tour?

The Chiriqui Gulf is a notable place, not only for the beautiful beaches, but for the emotion that it evokes in students. We visit multiple islands with uninhabited perfect beaches. It’s common to not see anyone else while we are there since tourism is still undeveloped in this particular region. Immediately I can sense the relaxation and tranquility in the students.

Spanish student and teacher enjoying the pristine water of the Chiriqui Gulf National Marine Park
Spanish student and teacher enjoying the pristine water of the Chiriqui Gulf National Marine Park

We get to see an incredible number of exotic plants and animals, even humpback whales from July - September!

I saw my first monkeys in Panama when I went to the Chiriqui Gulf. Why is it not very common to see a large variety of animals while hiking in Boquete?

Many people rave about how many wild animals they see in Costa Rica and are surprised that it’s not the same environment in Panama. There is a very good reason for this. Costa Rica has many parks and protected areas, but they are very small and are easy to access. Panama has 3 main protected parks and multiple buffer areas and conservation areas around the parks. Unlike Costa Rica, only about 15% of the protected land in the parks has been accessed. This means that animals have a huge unspoiled ecosystem to enjoy.

So maybe we will see less animals on our hiking trails, but overall it is better for the animals to have a secure place to live wild and free.

Now tell me something personal. Why did you want to become a tour guide?

Nature is inspiring. It connects you to life and broadens your knowledge and understanding. I knew I wanted to be a tour guide because I enjoy nature and being in nature. I wanted to help preserve it, conserve it and teach others to value it. The opportunity to share these feelings with others is a dream for me.

Nowadays this is what Erick's office looks like. Without a doubt he made the right choice!
Nowadays this is what Erick's office looks like. Without a doubt he made the right choice!

Thank you for sharing your passion for nature with me, Erick! You can check out Erick’s Flikr stream of beautiful photos from his adventures in Panama here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/erick_miranda.

LEARN MORE ABOUT ECO-ADVENTURE TOURS 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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