The little mountain town of El Valle receives a lot of day-trippers from Coronado, Gorgona, and Panama City, as it rightfully should. It’s only about 40 minutes from Coronado and offers cooler temperatures, a colorful market, and some mountain adventure opportunities! (It’s also a wonderful place to call home, as many expat residents will attest.)
If you’re feeling energetic, hike to the top of La India Dormida (the Sleeping Indian) to enjoy a view that stretches all the way to the Pacific Ocean — well worth the effort you exerted to get to the top! Actually, the journey itself is pretty spectacular, too, as the journey usually is. You’ll see waterfalls and, if you’re lucky, a variety of birds and butterflies.
Afterward, you’ll probably want to rinse all the sweat off (hey, you’re in the mountains, but this is still the tropics and you did just do a hike!) in the nearby hot springs, Los Pozos Termales, which you can do for about $3.
El Valle is home to a little animal rescue zoo, El Nispero. You’ll see the signs directing you there.
For a truly amazing dining experience, I have to recommend Casa de Lourdes. Turn right at the street before the big white building that says “Hong Kong”, and follow the signs to Los Mandarinos. Turn left into Los Mandarinos about a mile down the road. A sign will direct you to turn right to Casa de Lourdes. Give yourself a couple of hours to really relax and enjoy your meal here — the setting will make you feel like you’re in France!
Zip-lining is one of El Valle’s many highlights. To get there, drive through town to the end of the road until you see the hut on the left. For a couple of dollars you can just take a hike through the rainforest and visit the waterfalls. However, if you’re tired after your trip up La India Dormida you might prefer to zip! It’s $53 and worth every penny.
You can’t miss the outdoor market there on the main street, where you’ll find fruit, vegetables, tropical flowers, and an amazing selection of arts and crafts. My favourite jeweller is Antonio, and he can be found at the back right corner of the market. If you’d like, you can tell him Denise sent you! He carves intricate metal pendants — and speaks English!
While El Valle does enjoy cooler temperatures, it also enjoys more rain than the beaches do — especially during rainy reason. If you head up the mountain for a day trip, make sure you leave Coronado no later than 8:00am or so to give yourself enough time to enjoy the area before the afternoon rains come and you’re forced inside — perhaps to enjoy a lovely meal at Casa de Lourdes? Oh, darn!
If I can offer you other suggestions for things to do in Panama, or if you are considering some Panama real estate, please feel free to contact me.