I may have said it once or twice, but it’s worth saying again: I’m definitely not in the best shape of my life.
Despite this, I never let a bit of huffing and puffing stop me from trying to tackle a challenging hike while traveling, especially if a reward waits at the end.
The Caldera Canyon (also known as Rio Canyon) hike in Boquete Panama was no exception.
Caldera Canyon in the background
I’d been warned that it wasn’t the easiest of hikes, but that the oasis at the bottom was entirely worth it, so I laced up my sneakers and set off with guide Oscar and two other hikers. From my vantage point, the hike didn’t look too difficult.
Caldera Canyon Hike in Boquete, Panama
Boy, was I ever wrong.
Right away, the difficulties started.
Even though the hike started with a descent, it was tough. I slipped and slid and tried to keep my balance on the way down as the path was covered with slick decaying leaves, and the steep decline didn’t help my traction. My knees and shins ached while sweat dripped down my face (and let’s be honest, everywhere else as well). I always thought the descent was supposed to be the easy part?!
Luckily, Oscar distracted us from the tough path by pointing out bugs and snake skins on the way down, providing welcome breaks and short breathers.
When we finally did reach the bottom of the canyon, I was shocked and delighted by what awaited – a true Boquete oasis of peace, tranquility, and cool fresh water.
The beautiful freshwater pool was cold but not too cold, and the chill water was perfectly balanced by the hot sun and warm rocks to dry off on.
The location was a dream spot to practice with my new Go Pro!!
Several different rocks provided convenient points for cliff jumping. While I challenged my fear of heights by jumping off the smaller of the rocks (still pretty tall!!), I didn’t brave the larger jump. Next time, maybe?
Our little group of 4 was joined by a friendly black lab, who barked frantically any time one of us jumped into the water.
The worried dog even leapt out into the water a few times to “save” us from the drowning we seemed to be inflicting on ourselves. Like any sweet dog, he instantly became my bff.
After a few hours of swimming, jumping, and clambering around on rocks, it was sadly time to leave our Caldera Canyon oasis and attempt the return trip.
If I thought the descent was hard, I didn’t even have words for the ascent. The incline was so steep (and of course felt steeper trying to go up), the slippery leaves still covered the path, and by now it was almost noon and the sun was hotter and higher in the sky… causing me to absolutely drip with sweat and wheeze in exertion.
I always try not to slow my group down (though I do tend to be in the back, no matter what I’m doing), but for the ascent I definitely had to stop a few extra times to catch my breath, as my throat burned in tandem with my legs and stomach. There’s no pictures from this return trip, as I could barely move my body up the incline let alone hold my camera steady enough o snap some photos.
By the time I finally reached the top, I was ready to collapse on the ground, in exhaustion and in thanks that it was finally over.
Even though the hike was incredibly tough, would I do it again?
I would DEFINITELY do it again!
The cool pool at the bottom was totally awesome, and the tough physical exertion meant that I felt even more justified about eating a huge and delicious sandwich for lunch after!
Pin for later
You can book the Caldera Canyon / Rio Canyon hike through Explora Ya tours for $37. It’s best to book a few days ahead, as the hike does not occur every day and requires a minimum number of participants.
Remember to apply sunscreen in advance, as well as bug spray. Bring a bikini, extra sunscreen, and a towel for the swim at the bottom. Bring a water bottle as well, you’ll get quite thirsty and want to stay hydrated.
If you’ll be continuing on from the hike to another activity (like I did with Spanish class), bring a change of clean clothes.