Where to Study Spanish in Panama: Panama City, Bocas del Toro or Boquete?

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"Where to Study Spanish in Panama: Panama City, Bocas del Toro or Boquete?".

Search our blog about all things Panama! From must dos, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss, in our blog 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! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 15 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


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Or find out more about ONLINE SPANISH LESSONS HERE...

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Where to Study Spanish in Panama: Panama City, Bocas del Toro or Boquete?

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This post focuses on the Panama locations where you can currently find an Habla Ya Spanish School: Habla Ya Panama City, Habla Ya Boquete and Habla Ya Bocas del Toro. 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 Habla Ya location is better, Boquete, Panama City or Bocas del Toro?

All three locations are very different from each other, and choosing which fits you the 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 city, beach or a mountain type of person?

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

If you prefer the beach, your answer is Bocas. If you're more inclined to the highlands, then go to Boquete. If you're looking for a sophisticated nightlife, the convenience of shopping malls and favor an urban environment, Panama City is the place to be. It’s as simple as that, because the quality at all 3 campuses is quite similar. Even though our Spanish school in Boquete was the first one, our other two schools were started and currently staff teachers from our original location, so the experience is there.

And as a rule of thumb, if you're staying in Panama for three weeks or longer, we certainly recommend giving all 3 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 another, but the lifestyle and culture would make you think that you're in totally different countries.

If you're a foodie, you'll find tons of amazing restaurants in each location. And in terms of convenience, Boquete and Bocas del Toro 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. In Panama City you will have to deal with the city traffic if you choose to take a taxi or drive on your own. Luckily, all our lodging options are conveniently located at walking distance to our school, or are just a very short subway ride away (honestly, it will never take you more than 20 minutes to get from our school in the city to any of our recommended lodging option if you walk and/or use the subway).

Panama City is not only about its nightlife, restaurants, shopping and culture... there are also other great things that you can add to your daily routine while studying Spanish in Panama City
Panama City is not only about its nightlife, restaurants, shopping and culture... there are also other great things that you can add to your daily routine while studying Spanish in Panama City

So, if you're studying Spanish in Panama for three weeks or more, and are also considering studying at our Panama City campus, we recommend you to begin or end your Spanish program in the city. It’s the most logical choice, as you will probably arrive and/or depart from Tocumen International Airport in Panama City (the airport code is PTY).

Academically speaking, the order shouldn't matter to you as there is no need to worry about loss of academic continuity and you will obviously get the discounted rates that come from booking several weeks of classes. You are free to choose where to start off and go next, as well as how many weeks you want to study at each location. You just need to let us know when you sign up and register to ensure teacher/level availability as well as accommodation.

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, Latin America's trendiest capital 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!

Let's start with Boquete...

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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!

FIND OUT MORE BOQUETE, THE PERFECT MOUNTAIN TOWN TO LEARN SPANISH... »

Now let’s move to Bocas del Toro...

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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, especially 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!

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT BOCAS DEL TORO, THE PERFECT BEACH TOWN IN THE CARIBBEAN TO STUDY SPANISH... »

And last but not least, Panama City...

Pros:

  • It’s a cosmopolitan city, and as in most capitals of the world, you will find anything you can possibly wish for in terms of shopping, food, culture, sports and leisure.
  • Tons of cultural opportunities in the form of art galleries, museums, plays, music concerts, fashion shows, historical monuments and ruins, etc.
  • A very efficient and brand new subway system. It is still incomplete as we only have one line so far, but it’s a great way to get to many important places (and we specifically chose our location in the city only a 5 minute walk from one of its stops - Via Argentina)
  • Sophisticated nightlife. If you like to go out to a different bar or restaurant each night, dress up fancy, and hit the clubs, Panama City is definitely the perfect venue. The city can easily satisfy a wide range of musical and culinary tastes.
  • Modern and top quality hospitals in case you need to see a doctor (let’s hope not!).
  • Most homestays in Panama City are more modern compared with our other locations. If you need a certain level of comfort while living with a local host family (such as hot water or wifi), we recommend the Panama City location.

Cons:

  • Traffic. This is probably the biggest issue in the city right now, and many drivers complain about spending hours in traffic during rush hour. If you plan on renting a car, you need to take this into consideration. However, you will not need a car if you study at Habla Ya, as lodging options and shops/restaurants are very close by.
  • Pollution. The air is obviously not as clean as it is at our other locations, due to the presence of cars and buses. That being said, since the city is located right on the ocean, you will still benefit from a pleasant breeze, especially at night.
  • It’s fast paced. If your main goal is to relax and rest, you may be better off studying in Boquete or Bocas del Toro. Panama City is obviously fast(er) paced, and can make you feel stressed, just like any other big city.
  • Slightly more expensive. Panama City businesses, just like in any large city, will display slightly higher prices in restaurants, bars and supermarkets than in the rest of the country. However, you can still save money if you shop at the right places, such as local fish or vegetable markets, and typical Panamanian restaurants.

The Casco Viejo in Panama City is full of colonial history
The Casco Viejo in Panama City is full of colonial history

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT PANAMA CITY, AN AMAZING CITY TO LEARN SPANISH... »

This list combines facts with my personal opinion. Having spent significant amounts of time at all 3 locations, I’m in a position to compare them quite well. You may have picked up on my personal preference for Bocas del Toro, which is where I currently live. This has mainly to with the fact that I am biased toward beach locations in general. In addition to that, I have made good friends here, who are about my age and have similar interests to mine. I am 35 years old, have no kids, and enjoy the easy-going and laid back atmosphere that Bocas has to offer.

As a traveler of course, these things might be irrelevant to you, and all of these locations are absolutely amazing to visit. My recommendation is to visit all 3 if you have the time to do so, and split your Spanish learning vacation between campuses, and stay longer wherever you think you'll feel happier!

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HABLA YA SPANISH SCHOOLS IN PANAMA... »

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Search our blog if you're visiting Panama! 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 in our country! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


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2 Responses to "Where to Study Spanish in Panama: Panama City, Bocas del Toro or Boquete?"

  1. RI says:

    Hello! My friend and I will be in Bocas del Toro from July 11th to the 14th. Any recommendations as to where we should stay?

  2. If it’s low budget, http://www.tungara.com. They have also have a great tour info office that you can visit when you’re in town and a chilled out bar…
    If it’s mid-range, check out Tierra Verde, Cocomo on the Sea, Lula’s…
    Upscale go for Tropical Suites or Palma Royale.
    These places are in Bocas Town. If you want to stay elsewhere, let us know =). Enjoy your holiday!


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