Image by Paul Kennedy Getty Images

One of Panama's most beautiful trails runs between Cerro Punta and Boquete, crisscrossing Río Caldera. You can hike from either direction, but west to east offers more downhill: the town of Cerro Punta is almost 1000m higher than Boquete. The 8km route takes between four and six hours. Getting to and from the trailhead takes another couple of hours either side (about 23km in total). A guide is recommended.

A 4WD taxi can take you to the trailhead on the Cerro Punta side for about US$35 per person; a colectivo (shared taxi) will cost US$6. Taxi drivers know the area as Respingo. Road conditions may be very poor due to landslides. The trail is approximately 10km from Cerro Punta, first by paved road (6km) and later dirt (3.5km). When you exit the trail, it’s another 8km along the road to Boquete, though you may be able to catch a taxi along the road. In total, the hike is about 23km, so plan accordingly if you intend to walk the length of the trail.

Buses run from David to Cerro Punta (US$3.50, 2¼ hours); last departure is 6pm. Consider leaving your luggage at one of the hotels in David to save yourself the hassle of backtracking. Take only the bare essentials with you on the walk, and a little cash for a good meal and/or lodging when you arrive in Boquete.

Be aware that conditions can change any time, especially after heavy rain. There's talk that hiking the trail with a guide may become a requirement – in recent times many travelers have gotten lost on this stretch and resources for rescue are practically nonexistent.