Quetzals' Trail Guided Hiking Tour | Hike Chiriqui's Eco-Path

Hiker in Boquete admiring the beauty of the Quetzals' Trail

One of Panama's Most Gorgeous Hikes

"El Sendero de los Quetzales" Guided Hiking Tour

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Please note: most hiking trails in Panama are not maintained nor properly signed posted so please DO NOT ATTEMPT TO HIKE ON YOUR OWN as getting lost can put your life in danger. Sudden river surges, precipices, cold nights and other hazards are real threats. Always hike with a certified guide from a reputable company.

General Info and Facts

Resplendent Quetzal in the Volcan Barú National Park

Considered one of the most gorgeous paths in Central America, the Quetzals' Trail is without any doubt the most popular hike in Panama's western highlands. Located within the Volcan Baru National Park, the "Sendero de los Quetzales" links the towns of Guadalupe, which is near Cerro Punta on the west side of the Volcano, with the town of Boquete which is on its east. The trail skirts the Baru Volcano on its north face and can be hiked in any direction, starting in Boquete and ending in Cerro Punta, or vice versa.

Hiking the 9.6 kms (total distance of 6 miles) of this path may take from 4 to 7 hours. Fluctuations in timing come from differences in hiking speeds, direction chosen to complete the hike (uphill or downhill), time spent contemplating the scenery and time invested "hunting down" one of the splendorous birds that gives its name to this path: the Resplendent Quetzal.

Hiking the Quetzal's Trail, a gorgeous hike in the Chiriquí's cloud forest

Boquete's altitude is 975 meters (3,200 feet) above sea level but the ranger station where the hike starts is at about 1,800 meters and Cerro Punta's altitude is 1,981 meters (6,500 feet) but the highest point in the Quetzals' Trail is marked at 2,500 meters. This makes the shift in altitude around 500 meters for the entire hike. In this National Park temperatures range from 10° - 16°C (50° to 60°F).

At each end of the Quetzals' Trail the ANAM (National Authority of the Environment) has a Ranger Station that marks the beginning and end of the hike. At the last part of the paved road, roughly 8 km from downtown Boquete, Alto Chiquero Ranger Station guards the entrance on the east side of the National Park. El Respingo Ranger Station is certainly closer from the town of Guadalupe, at only 4 km but the road is not paved on this side so the ride from Guadalupe to this ranger station takes longer and you need a 4 x 4 to make it.

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Our guided tour includes a bilingual bird watching guide and transportation arrangements to drop you off at a pre-selected Ranger Station and pick you up at its counterpart once the hiking tour is over. Hiking the Quetzals' Trail in each direction has its own advantages and disadvantages, as it will be explained further on.
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Hiking the Quetzals' Trail from Boquete to Cerro Punta

Hiking the Quetzal's Trail from Boquete to Cerro Punta has its advantages

Hiking the trek in this direction demands more physical stamina and endurance than going downhill, but it does have a major significant advantage: you'll be able to encounter more wildlife in the lower altitudes of the National Park, especially during the first hours of light.

Within the first hour you could find some Quetzals still roosting along the trail. The amount of birds rapidly decreases after the first hour, mainly due to the progression of day but also because of the increase in altitude.

Another point in favor of this option is that although the uphill hike is more strenuous, it can be gentler on the knees than a steep rough descent. And yet another advantage is that in Boquete it more commonly rains in the afternoons and in Cerro Punta it more commonly rains in the mornings, so you may stand a better chance of remaining dry if hiking in this direction. Truth told, in the rainforest during the rainy season, there is no such thing as a guarantee for dryness.


You have a better chance to spot more wildlife with this option

From Boquete's side, El "Sendero de los Quetzales" starts after Alto Chiquero's Ranger Station with three quarters of an hour hike (mostly downhill with a few ups) on a dirt road. At some point instead of continuing on the dirt/rock road we take a left and join the trail that immediately immerses us into the rainforest. After about an hour and a half or two of mostly flat terrain with only a slight pendent, the steep ascent begins.

Series of staircases scale the steepest terrains, and present the greatest obstacles. Ongoing exposure to moisture has rotted the wood, and steps are frequently missing and covered with moss.

There are several viewing points along the Quetzal's Trail

Midway up the ascent we reach a picnic area with several wooden tables. Further up, about halfway along the trail, we arrive to "Mirador La Roca" which is approximately equidistant from both Ranger Stations and marks the trail's highest elevation at 3,100m. Depending our hiking pace, this part of the trail can be covered in 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. This resting area offers a viewing platform with almost 270° panoramas, a shelter, picnic grounds and a camping site. This is where we stop to have a nice lunch. An unnamed opening, several minutes before this spot, offers even greater panoramic views. In the Out and Back option we then return to Boquete.

The rest of the trail continues upwards into the cloud forest but with a less inclined gradient. It is certainly tough enough and after 2 - 3 hours we finally reach Alto Respingo Ranger Station where we will be picked up and taken to the town of Guadalupe where we'll have private transportation back to Boquete. For the overnight option, this will be our camping spot. Simply beautiful. Almost everybody agrees that this side of the trail is the most amazing and the next day even more wildlife watching early in the morning.

Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Out and Back $50 $55
Boquete to Cerro Punta $75 - $125 $125
Overnight (Boquete to Cerro Punta) $150 $175

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales.

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Although an we cannot guarantee spotting one of the elusive quetzals, with our guides the odds are in your favor. In a guided tour hikers have spotted up to 15 quetzals in a single day.
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Hiking the Quetzals' Trail from Cerro Punta to Boquete

You can also hike the Quetzal's Trail from Cerro Punta to Boquete

The major advantage about making the hike from west to east is that it is mostly downhill and for some hikers this might mean that it is now a doable hike. If you cannot make it uphill or do not like the idea of having an early start, completing the Quetzals' Trail in this direction is certainly worth it.

Private transportation is provided from Boquete to Cerro Punta. From another point of view it is also a comforting idea to know that at the end of the hike, only after a 20 minute drive, you'll be back in your hotel for a hot water bath, or in one of Boquete's many restaurants with a hot plate of food in front of you, as opposed to making a 3 hour road journey after the hike, first from Cerro Punta to David, and then from David to Boquete.

Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Cerro Punta to Boquete $75 - $125 $125

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales.

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The downhill hike takes in average an hour less than the uphill hike. The itinerary is basically the same, just in the opposite order, which means that although it is mostly downhill, at the very end of it, during the last kilometer, you'll be challenged by la "Loma de los Lamentos" (Hill of Miseries).
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Guided Tour Itinerary and Cost

What do you need to take?
  • Small backpack or rucksack (any extra weight only makes the hike more difficult: keep it light)
  • Drinking water (at least 2 liters per person)
  • Snacks (nuts, chocolate, energy bars, etc.)
  • Shoes in good condition for hiking
  • A digital camera with enough batteries and memory space
  • Rain coat or waterproof jacket (" poncho" )
  • A soul at peace to contemplate nature's beauty (and a rested body for the hike)
Note: all of our hiking tours depart from Boquete and require a minimum of 2 persons. Schedules are subject to change. Times are approximate and depend on weather, group size, hikers physical condition and other factors.

Out and Back to Boquete
  • 8:00 a.m. Meet up in Boquete and depart to Alto Chiquero's Ranger Station (Boquete's side).
  • 8:30 a.m. Arrive to Alto Chiquero Ranger Station and sign registration book.
  • 11:00 a.m. Arrive to "Mirador La Roca" (Rock Viewing Point). Snack break.
  • 11:30 a.m. Restart hiking back to Boquete.
  • 1:30 p.m. Arrive back to Alto Chiquero Ranger Station (Boquete's side). Lunch.
  • 2:00 p.m. Arrive to downtown Boquete.
Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Out and Back $50 $55

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales.

Boquete to Cerro Punta
  • 8:00 a.m. Meet up in Boquete and depart to Alto Chiquero's Ranger Station (Boquete's side).
  • 8:30 a.m. Arrive to Alto Chiquero Ranger Station and sign registration book.
  • 11:00 a.m. Arrive to "Mirador La Roca" (Rock Viewing Point). Lunch.
  • 12:00 a.m. Restart hiking.
  • 2:00 p.m. Arrive to El Respingo Ranger Station (Cerro Punta's side).
  • 4:00 p.m. Arrive to downtown Boquete.
Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Boquete to Cerro Punta $75 - $125 $125

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales.

Cerro Punta to Boquete
  • 8:00 a.m. Meet in Boquete and depart to Cerro Punta from Boquete by private transportation (we may depart earlier if requested by group).
  • 10:00 a.m. Arrive to Guadalupe end of pavement road.
  • 10:30 a.m. Arrive to El Respingo Ranger Station (Cerro Punta's side) and sign registration book. Hike begins.
  • 1:00 p.m. Arrive to "Mirador La Roca" (Rock Viewing Point). Lunch break.
  • 1:30 p.m. Restart hiking.
  • 3:30 p.m. Arrive to Alto Chiquero Ranger Station (Boquete's side), pickup point.
  • 4:00 p.m. Arrive to downtown Boquete.
Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Cerro Punta to Boquete $75 - $125 $125

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales.

Overnight Boquete to Cerro Punta
  • 8:00 a.m. Meet up in Boquete and depart to Alto Chiquero's Ranger Station (Boquete's side).
  • 8:30 a.m. Arrive to Alto Chiquero Ranger Station and sign registration book.
  • 11:30 a.m. Arrive to "Mirador La Roca" (Rock Viewing Point). Lunch.
  • 1:00 p.m. Restart hiking.
  • 4:00 p.m. Arrive to El Respingo Ranger Station (Cerro Punta's side). Setup Camping Site. Explore.
  • 7:00 p.m. Setup Camp Fire. Dinner.
  • 5:00 a.m. next day. Pick up gear. Snack. Start looking for wildlife hiking back to Boquete.
  • 8:00 a.m. Breakfast.
  • 9:00 a.m. Arrive to Mirador la Roca.
  • 12:00 p.m. Arrive to Alto Chiquero Ranger Station (Boquete's side). Lunch.
  • 12:30 p.m. Depart back to Boquete
  • 1:00 p.m. Arrive to downtown Boquete.
Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Overnight (Boquete to Cerro Punta) $150 $175

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales.

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Prices includes: transportation to and from each Ranger Station, lunch, entrance fee to Volcan Baru National Park, Bilingual Bird Watching Guide, safety kit.
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The Quetzals' Trail Scenery

Hiking El Sendero de Los Quetzales is a wonderful experience

In this trail through Chiriqui's highlands you have to make your way up and over the mountains, through primary, secondary and cloud forests, delighting your senses with colorful orchids hidden in the immense trees and the name of the game is trying to spot an elusive Resplendent Quetzal within the dense vegetation. You may also bump into Ngöbe Bugle ladies with their wonderful dresses that look like the colorful birds against the dark forest.

It is a precious hike in the sun but during the rainy season the cool mist and fog also give the cloud forest a mystical feeling. The rainforest is always changing, with beautiful vistas of peaks, valleys, waterfalls and rivers flowing fresh and clear. During this hike you'll have to cross many streams, sometimes balancing on tree trunks, sometimes stepping from stone to stone, but always being careful with slippery plant life that can complicate the maneuvers required. By now you should have begun to understand why his is certainly one of the Panama's best hiking tours.

Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Out and Back $50 $55
Boquete to Cerro Punta $75 - $125 $125
Overnight (Boquete to Cerro Punta) $150 $175

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales.

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As indicated by the hike's name, the Resplendent Quetzal is the highlight of this tour. Chances of spotting a Quetzal will certainly be higher if a bird watching guide accompanies you. He will be able to mimic the bird's noises, call them, make an approach without scaring them off, and from his experience he will be able to take you to the appropriate places where Quetzals can be seen. Our guided tour includes a professional birdwatching guide.
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Birds, Vegetation and Wildlife

The Quetzal's Trail is full of all different shades of green

The Quetzals' Trail is a botanical paradise for hikers, with layers upon layers of dense growth and shaded isolation beneath the lush canopy of the forest. A wide variety of green tones can be appreciated and where sunlight manages to penetrate, brilliant colors explode in nature's fest of beauty.

The area is considered to be an island within the biosphere due to its isolation and the Baru Volcano's height. Endemic orchid species and unique flora such as the magnolia and giant oak trees, which are between 600 and 900 years old, call this land home. Along the path you'll stumble upon wild bamboo gardens, gigantic, gnarled trees covered with vines and nascent prehistoric looking bromeliads from their trunks. Take your time to really appreciate this hike.

Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Out and Back $50 $55
Boquete to Cerro Punta $75 - $125 $125
Overnight (Boquete to Cerro Punta) $150 $175

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales.

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The cloudforest is home to over 250 bird species, some of which include the silky flycatcher, the three-wattled bellbird, several hummingbird varieties and the hairy woodpecker. The Resplendent Quetzal is obviously the star of the list and is more frequently spotted during the dry season, from December to May.
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Spotting an Elusive Quetzal

With a experimented bird watching guide you have a better chance of spotting a Quetzal

The iridescent green resplendent quetzal is widely considered to be the most beautiful bird in the Americas. Many marvel at a sighting, especially of the male quetzal for his breeding plumage and tail feathers that can reach nearly 0.6m (2 feet). From December to May, the best place to see a Resplendent Quetzal is in the cloud forest of Volcan Baru National Park. As suggested before, starting the Quetzals' Trail around sunrise gives you ample chances of spotting one and you'll have even more possibilities if accompanied by one our bird watching guides who can mimic their noises in order to attract them and search for them in places only known by them. We can also organize a bird-watching tour, focused on spotting quetzals, for those not necessarily interested in hiking the Quetzal Trail.

In our guided tours we have spotted up to 14 quetzals in a single day

The Resplendent Quetzal has its past rooted in the Mixtec, Toltec, Mayan and Aztec culture. Quetzalcoatl, a central figure in Central American indigenous mythology, is depicted as a hybrid of a quetzal and a serpent, born from a feather that landed on his virgin mother. The snake represents the earth and vegetation, but it was in Teotihuacan (actual Mexico City, around 150 BC) where the snake got the precious feathers of the quetzal, as seen in the Murals of the city. The most elaborate representations come from the old Quetzalcoatl Temple around 200 BC, which shows a rattlesnake with the long green feathers of the quetzal. More recently, indigenous peoples in Central America, believing the quetzal unable to survive in captivity, have interpreted it as a symbol of freedom.

Rates
  Habla Ya Student Rate Normal Rate
Out and Back $50 $55
Boquete to Cerro Punta $75 - $125 $125
Cerro Punta to Boquete $75 - $125 $125
Overnight (Boquete to Cerro Punta) $150 $175

* Prices are in US Dollars. The above prices are per person and do not include Panama's 7% ITBMS Sales.

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The Resplendent Quetzal has been called "the most spectacular bird in the New World" but today it is listed as Appendix I in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, meaning that the species is threatened with extinction.
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