Expat Interview: Boquete’s Explora Ya Weighs In on Panama’s Bursting Eco-Tourism
Panama is becoming increasingly well-known as a top eco-tourism destination. Viva Tropical sat down with Oscar Peña Sanchez, Manager of Explora Ya, Boquete’s top eco-tour and adventure travel company to find out why Panama consistently ranks above the rest.
Please tell us briefly about Explora Ya and the adventures you offer.
Explora Ya is an eco-tourism company dedicated to providing not only tours but “EXPERIENCES”; we are a company with a beautiful goal and that is to show the best of Panama and the Chiriqui province. We want to have a positive impact on our community and every single traveler visiting us.
We value the big effort travelers make by taking the time off and also spending their savings to enjoy and get to know the culture of Panama in general, so the best way we can honor that is to make sure they leave Panama with positive and amazing experiences!
Much of Panama has an exploding eco-tourism scene. Can you explain to our readers why Chiriqui is especially important?
This is a very good question. Chiriqui is one of the most important provinces in Panama for a number of reasons. Because of its location we can be in the mountains of Boquete drinking one of the best coffees in the world and then after a short drive we can swim in the warm Pacific Ocean. Chiriqui is also very rich when it comes to food production. We always have the highest quality fresh green veggies.
Chiriqui is a very dynamic place to travel and now even more since Copa Airlines opened a connection flight from Tocumen Airport. So our travelers, if they plan well, don’t need to stay an extra night in the city to make it to Chiriqui, which helps save them some time and money.
The variety of weather is another big part of why Chiriqui is the best province to visit or retire in many cases. Boquete for example is around 3,473 ft above sea level, so the temperature here is always fresh, but not too cold, and people feel very relaxed. The weather is pretty much always the same since we are near the Equator.
What are the most popular areas for eco-tourism in Chiriqui?
To be honest, all of them! From Boca Chica you can take a boat and visit beautiful islands with white sand and amazing snorkel spots. You can see sea turtles, colorful fishes, and humpback whales from the months of July until early October. Also there are many other islands like Boca Brava and near the Chiriqui Gulf, which is growing very fast in terms of eco-tourism.
Boquete for sure is the most beautiful boutique town. This town literally has almost everything: a nice amount of good restaurants, several trails for people to hike or do the best bird watching. We have a good amount of trained guides to ensure amazing experiences and spot the best of it.
The Baru Volcano is the Giant and center of attraction for many hard-core hikers or people who enjoy adrenaline by going up on a Jeep 4×4 or ATVs. We celebrate the famous Baru Eco-fest which invites a lot of people to challenge themselves to go up and down in a short time but under supervision of security like paramedics and emergency groups.
Generally speaking, Chiriqui has a little bit of everything for everyone. Other destinations are great beaches like Las Lajas, and also Puerto Armuelles which is located near the border to Costa Rica and is getting more attractive for travelers and expats. It has great fishing and also nice beaches to swim in.
Tell us how Explora Ya is adapting to Panama’s eco-tourism growth.
Explora Ya is progressively making sure we promote more activities that involve being in touch with nature, but in a safe way for our environment. We are aware of how we can have either a positive or negative impact on nature, depending on how developed the activities are here.
I do remember when I got here almost six years ago eco-tourism was not that explored and there were not many options. It wasn’t so easy to spot a Resplendent Quetzal, which is a rare bird originally from Guatemala that has found home in the mountains in Chiriqui. This bird can be spotted from Cerro Punta to Boquete in several trails, and we make sure this bird and all the rest of them are protected.
It’s very much ingrained in the culture of Panamanians to adapt and take ownership of the natural reserves and be part of the growth in Panama.
Finally, what advice can you give to future visitors to Panama and especially to those who are planning a visit to Chiriqui?
First of all, planning ahead always is very helpful regardless of which activity you are going to do or which place you’re going to visit. Make sure you bring the gear necessary to fully enjoy Chiriqui. It is also very important to do research on different tour companies and make sure you always have a guide who’s certified by SINAPROC (National Civil Protection). After that just enjoy the ride!
Explora Ya is an official ATP Licensed operator. Its tour office is downtown in the heart of Boquete. You can find out more about the experiences they offer by clicking here.