2017 Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor!

Great news came this week, our inn just received Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence Award for 2017!  

What is the Certificate of Excellence?

It is an annual award given to the top 10% of accommodations on Trip Advisor, based on customer satisfaction.  For us, it means that most people who stay with us leave happy and we’re doing a good job.  This is our fourth year in a row we’ve received the award.  I know there are some really amazing little inns and bed and breakfasts in Veraguas, so I am pleasantly surprised by receiving the award.

Here are some of the other hotels, inn and B&B recipients this year in Veraguas:

La Buena Vida in Santa Catalina

Hotel Sol y Mar in Santa Catalina

Hotel Hibuscus Garden right outside of Santa Catalina

Hotel Santa Catalina in Santa Catalina

Mykonos Hotel in Santiago

Also, there are four hostels in Veraguas who received the award:

Deseo Bamboo in Santa Catalina

Hostel Villa Vento Surf in Torio

Hostel Villa Vento Surf in Santa Catalina

Hotel Iguanito in Santa Catalina

 

Off – trail trekking with dad to Guayabito Falls, Santa Fe National Park.

My dad. Looking over Santa Fe National Park in Piragual

My dad is turning 70 this year.  For the past fifteen years or so he has been into hiking the Sierra Nevadas on solo trips or with a friend or two for a few days.  He looks on google, looks on topo maps and plans a backcountry trip.   Off -trail.

This summer, he came up to help baby-sit Rafael during our high season for a month, and I got to take him out in a totally different landscape in Santa Fe National Park and explore myself some too!  For our new overnight tour, we are targeting families and those who want to have nature and a cultural exchange, spending the night in a remote village with a hike … but where.  We settled on this waterfall that Edgar knew about, and hour’s hike, according to him.  So, of course, I wanted to check it out.

 

Edgar, looking guidelike on the trail.

So, we started hiking at 9.  Evidently the trail was overgrown, so Edgar opened it up again with the machete.  Going was slow and it took us a good 3 hrs to arrive.

But it was a beautiful time, if lengthy…and at the end:

It was an amazing hike, and no, not too hard at all.

I fell in love with Santa Fe -again

Fabulous Santa Fe Views

I went on the most BEAUTIFUL 4×4 drive with Cele and Rafael on the 3rd up on a little known route towards Cerro Tute along a place called Cerro Redondo.  We had 180 degree views of the mountains, of Santa Fe National Park, of the town of Santa Fe, of the beautiful Santa Maria River that traverses the valley.

So the thing is this, I was wrong.  OK.  I’m going to go ahead and say it- I was wrong.  I’ve always been underwhelmed about Cerro Tute as a destination in the area.  It’s written up in all of the guide books (by people who only visit the area overnight – I argue), as somewhere to visit.  (Why spend 5 hours hiking up an unforested hill, when the rainforest of Santa Fe

National Park is right there, I would argue).  Don’t go to Cerro Tute, go to Cerro Mariposa I would tell guests.

Ascending Views of Santa Fe National Park
Cerro Narices

We took a 4×4 road off the main road of Santa Fe to Cerro Redondo (between Montanuela and the Community of Tute Abajo).  The dirt road was in good condition, and while we definitely needed 4×4, it was easily passible.  The road connected to the road to Cerro Tute, and we looped back down to Santa Fe.  Total time: 1.5 hrs.

I would love to come up with a tour that goes along this route – sunset horseback ride anyone?  While I still maintain that the normal route to Cerro Tute is not that great (not what you should do if you only have a couple days in the area) – this route is.  And is a great short alternative.

Cerro el Sapo

Cele and Rafael on Cerro Redondo

 

Cerro Mariposa, Santa Fe Veraguas

I’ve always been intrigued by Cerro Mariposa.  It’s one of the two mountains that make up the western arm of Santa Fe National Park; it’s mentioned by birders and scientists, as a refuge for species, but it’s not that popular with tourists because it’s hard to access. Unlike Cerro Tute, where you have farms and a 4×4 road to the top, Cerro Mariposa is a six hour round trip hike on a footpath some of the year (and with a machete the rest of the year) in mud and rainforest to reach the peak – and a guide is a must.

We recently had a group of more adventurous guests make it up there, and I’ve asked Edgar, the guide, to guest write a post:

Just the Facts

Elevation: 1,424m

Location: Western Arm, Santa Fe National Park

Type of Vegetation: Rainforest

Hike Duration: 6hrs Round Trip

Ascending Cerro Mariposa

Sunrise through the forest ascending Cerro Mariposa in Veraguas
Sunrise through the forest ascending Cerro Mariposa in Veraguas

It was 7AM, March 15, 2016 when the group of explorers, Josepus, Oliver and Edgar (me, the guide), prepared to set off on the hike to Cerro Mariposa, located in Santa Fe National Park, at an altitude of 1,424m.  We spent 20 minutes driving from Coffee Mountain Inn to where we began the hike in Alto de Piedra.   We began our hike accompanied by the songs of diverse bird species. And we weren’t alone.  100 meters from where we began, we spotted Jaguar and Ocelot tracks and soon came across a Trogon (Trogon aurantiiventris) very close to the trail.  600 meters later we found one of the Jaguar monitoring stations that use trigger cameras to capture night life with a motion sensor (take a look at other work of  AMIPARQUE (Amigos del Parque Nacional Santa Fe)).  I showed them some previous fotos that had been taken by the cameras.  We could also hear Keel-billed Toucans and a Great curassow (Crax rubra).

Calathea species along trail: Cerro Mariposa, Santa Fe, Veraguas
Calathea species along trail: Cerro Mariposa, Santa Fe, Veraguas

In the midst of the forest, we saw many different plants with flowers like the newly recognized species of Calathea (Calathea galdameciana), endemic to the area and discovered by scholarship student through Smithsonian Tropical Reseach Institute (STRI).  Orchids, bromiliads, mosses, ferns, athurium and philodendrons were plentiful.

After walking for three hours, we ascended from the rainforest to the dwarf rainforest of the ridgeline.

Arriving to the Peak of Cerro Mariposa
Arriving to the Peak of Cerro Mariposa

We reached the peak.  At first it was cloudy, but then we hit a break in the clouds after a few minutes. The ridgeline of El Tute extended before us, the town of Santa Fe far below, and the rainforest of the National Park on the hills below us.

Cerro Delgadito, Southward View from Cerro Mariposa, Santa Fe, Veraguas
Cerro Delgadito, Southward View from Cerro Mariposa, Santa Fe, Veraguas
From Cerro Mariposa, looking over Santa Fe National Park, Panama
From Cerro Mariposa, looking over Santa Fe National Park, Panama

We rested, taking in the beautiful views offered to us, with the clouds in our face, the constant wind, cool temperatures before descending again.  Halfway through the decent we were surprised to spot a rare lizard (Anadia Vittata), hard to spot because of the camouflage in dry leaves.

We arrived at the end, in perfect health, happy and thrilled with the adventure.