Travelers can opt to stay in town and be close to services and restaurants, or outside of the town center in a more forested setting. No hotel mentioned here is farther than a 10-minute drive from town. Air-conditioning is available at some hotels but is really not necessary given the elevation of Boquete. Breakfast is included in the price unless otherwise specified. Note that some hotels sell out for the Flower and Coffee Festival in January, so you'll need to plan ahead. In addition, Valle del Rio Inn, located just down the road from the Valle Escondido Resort (tel. 720-2525; www.elvalledelrioboquete.com) is new and offers 25 standard, chain-like doubles and one three bedroom suite. There's nothing special about this hotel, but there are two excellent restaurants on grounds, the Pomodoro and the Wine Bar, which are both open to the public.

One unique lodging option is Tinamou Cottage (tel. 720-3852; http://coffeeadventures.net/tinamou.html), which is nestled in a coffee plantation and owned by Hans and Terry of Coffee Adventures. The cozy cottage is perfect for a couple seeking a romantic hideaway, or for birders who want a private sanctuary. With a sitting area, a small kitchen, and a queen-size bed, the cottage is a steal at $55 (£28) a night.

A Nature Lodge With Hiking Trails

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The simple, Swiss-owned Finca Suiza is one of the best lodges in Panama to spend the night or visit for the day if you're an avid hiker, because the trails are so well-maintained and marked (probably better than any others in the country), and because the scenery and views along the trails are dazzling. Also, you don't need a guide. Finca Suiza is truly a find, located on 81 hectares (200 acres) of land about 56km (35 miles) north of David, on the road to Chiriquí Grande. From the lodge there are three loop trails through dense, emerald tropical forest to lookout points, waterfalls, and through cloud forest. If you're in Boquete for a lengthy period and looking for a day-hiking trip, or if you're traveling from Bocas del Toro and want to stop for the day before heading to David, you'll have to arrive and start hiking between 7 and 10am, and be out of the finca by 4pm during the dry season (mid-Apr to Nov), by 2pm during the rainy season. Admission is $8 (£4) per person, paid to the Ngobe-Buglé woman at the entrance to the finca; you'll need to park your vehicle here and walk up the road until you reach the trail head. If you're staying in the lodge and have a 4WD that can make it up their dirt road, advise them of when you're coming because they let their guard dogs out at night. All trails are moderate, with easy portions, but there's a lot of uphill walking during the first stretch. The Small Circuit takes 3 1/2 hours; or you can continue on and complete the Large Circuit for a total of 6 1/2 hours, with the option of walking an extra hour to the Mirador Alta Vista lookout point. This lookout point is breathtaking, stretching as far as the mountains of Costa Rica and the Pacific Ocean. Those with a full day can tack on the 3-hour hike through the cloud forest. It is common to hear howler monkeys here, and hikers report having seen white-faced capuchin monkeys and coatimundis. The forest provides nesting sites for many species of birds, but the finca is not specifically known as a hot bird-watching spot -- the focus here is on hiking. Hikers walking the Large Circuit and the cloud-forest circuit must be in good physical shape, and children under 12 are not allowed on the trails. July and August, when everything is green, are the best months to come; March and April are drier months with less foliage.

The Finca Suiza Lodge (tel. 6615-3774; www.panama.net.tc), with its clapboard walls and wooden shutters, looks out toward the Pacific with sweeping, sunset-facing views framed by blooming bougainvillea. There are two spotless guest rooms, each with two twin beds and a private bathroom. The rooms lean more toward comfort than rusticity, but this lodge will appeal more to easygoing nature lovers. There is a cozy living/dining area with a fireplace where meals are served (breakfast $4/£2; dinner $11/£5.50). Meals are tasty and healthy, made with organic ingredients from the finca's garden. Bring snacks and picnic lunch items with you, and alcohol, as none of these items are available. Rates for a minimum of 2 nights are $44 (£22) for the first night, $35 (£18) for the second, and credit cards are not accepted. The Swiss owners, Monika and Herbert, answer their phone only from 7 to 9pm, and check e-mails once a week only. Note that the lodge and the trails are closed during June, September, and October.

Another smart lodging option if you have your own car and don't mind being 25 minutes outside of Boquete is Rancho de La Caldera (tel. 772-8040; www.ranchodecaldera.com.) This small resort is currently under construction with four rooms open to travelers, but all nine should be open by December 2008. The tastefully-decorated rooms are reasonably priced at $150 per night and are stocked with modern amenities such as flat-screen TV and air conditioning. Best of all are the lovely mountain views.

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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.