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  • The Quetzal Trail (Volcán Barú National Park): Panama's foremost day hike takes visitors around the northeastern flank of Volcán Barú and through primary and secondary tropical forest and cloud forest that provides a dazzling array of flora and fauna. The trail's namesake, the resplendent quetzal, lives here, too. The trail is mostly downhill from the Cerro Punta side to Boquete, and is the recommended direction unless you really crave a workout. What's unique about this trek is that travelers lodging around Cerro Punta can send their luggage to their next hotel in Boquete, and walk there.
  • Walk to Pirre Mountain (Darién National Park): This is a serious jungle trail, located in one of the most remote wildernesses in Central America. Pirre Mountain rises above the Cana Field Station in the Darién National Park, and is a moderate-to-difficult trail beloved by nature enthusiasts and bird-watchers for its dense concentration of fauna. Howler monkeys, spider monkeys, sloths, even snakes are easily and frequently spotted, but just as exciting is the wild sensation that comes from the magnificent jungle surrounding you. At the peak's summit, there is a lookout point with sweeping views.
  • Pipeline Road (Soberanía National Park): Pipeline is a bird-watcher's haven, but this trail also provides outstanding opportunities to see wildlife and just to delve into steamy, wild jungle. The farther you walk or bike, the better your chances of seeing monkeys, coatimundis, sloths, and other mammals. The best time to go is early morning, before 9am if possible, when birds and animals are most active.
  • Finca Suiza (on the road between Almirante and David): The Swiss owners of this tiny ranch-style hostel offer some of the best hiking trails in Panama, both for beauty and because they are so well-maintained and marked. There are three loop trails that connect with one another; all are moderate to difficult but worth the initial climb for the expansive views of the coast and lowlands of the Pacific, and into the peaks of Costa Rica. The trails pass through verdant rainforest, and there are waterfalls with bathing pools for taking a dip. You can visit for the day, or bunk in their simple but attractive rooms (tel. 6615-3774; www.panama.net.tc).
  • La Amistad International Park (Chiriquí Highlands): Visitors here can walk a quick 15-minute easy path near the ranger station, or an hour-long (but still easy) path through bamboo gardens and thick jungle, and past clear-water creeks. Another 2-hour hike takes visitors to a series of lookout points with mountain and valley views, and a crashing 49m (160-ft.) waterfall; a detour here to a lookout point offers a view that stretches to the Caribbean. Gung-ho hikers can hack through a narrow trail up to a peak for a coast-to-coast view. Finish off your hike with a delicious lunch at the local co-op cafe near the ranger station.
  • Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.