At only 120 Km from Panama City and very close from the Pacific beaches in Cocle province is located the quaint town of el Valle. This beautiful town is nestled in the caldera -crater- of the second largest inhabited volcano in the world. This crater with a radius of 6 km was formed about 1.1-1.3 million years ago. Today the crater forms the ground for the small town El Valle de Anton with its 6200 inhabitants.
El Valle, lying 600 m above sea level, owns an all-season mild springtime climate. Year-round average high temperature is 28° C, and the average nighttime minimum is 20° C, with little variation between summer and rainy season. The dry season starts in the middle of December and lasts until the the beginning of May. During the rainy season the town turns greener and nature is at is best. This time is ideal for hiking and longer treks.
WHAT TO DO IN EL VALLE
Local Artisan and Vegetable Market
On Sundays is full of people. Here you can buy tropical fruits, plants, flowers and beautiful orchids. Also you different artisans show their local art and handicrafts. Including: ceramics, bateas (wooden trays), woven baskets, hats, carved and painted totumas (cups made from squash) and trinkets made from acorn.
Bird Watching – El Valle is one of the best places in Panama for birders. More than 339 birds species has been registered.
Butterfly Haven (El Mariposario) – Experience the wonder and tranquility of being immersed in hundreds of living, jewel colored butterflies in a tropical rain forest setting. Hours: Everyday from 9 am to 3:30 pm, closed on Wednesday. Closed October and November
Zip Lining or Canopy Adventure – The Canopy Tour and the “Chorro El Macho” waterfall share the same entrance. Here, from platforms 100 feet in the air, you are given a spectacular insight and view of the cloud forrest´s fauna and flora.
On this tour you soar above the waterfall twice. The tour lasts aprox. one and a half hours and costs around 55 US$ per person. More information can be found here.
Chorro El Macho Waterfall – This waterfall is the largest in the región with a drop of 70m. It is just a 30 minutes walk from the towncenter in the direction of La Mesa. Since the beginning of 2009 it is not posible anymore to see it close-by or take a bath in the natural pool. Open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Chorro Las Mosas Waterfalls, along Rio Anton – To reach these rapids it is a1/2 hour walk. From here follow the right side of the river for 30 minutes to reach a natural swimming pool. Here the local youth venture very dangerous jumps into the pond. In the Green Season you hardly can see the path to the pool. It is more or less a climbing at the slippy rockface to reach it. There is danger to slip, fall on the rocks hidden under the water or end up in one of the caves below.
Hiking – A path behind the Hotel Campestre will lead you to the Cloud Forest Reserve of the Cerro Gaital Natural Monument. Here the cloud forrest offers its unique flora and fauna. Serious walkers and birdwatchers will be pleased.
To scale the peak of Cerro Gaital there is another entrance after the village of La Mesa (which is also a great place for bird watching). The village can be reached by car or local buses.
There are two tours from La Mesa: For the large one to the top you should ask the locals for advice, start early in the morning and bring some climbing experiences with you. Up and down it will take about 5-6 hours.
The Sleeping Indian or La India Dormida is a hill chain with the silhouette of a sleeping Indian woman in the west of El Valle. The name has it´s origin in a local legend.
Another interesting tour is to Rio Indio, one hour away from El Valle (by car) in the cloud forrest. You can reach the place with the public pickups that leave in the center of the town a few times a day.
Biking – The valley offers excellent roads with great scenic views and little traffic. Bikes can be rented in many hotels.
Horse Back Riding – Another way to discover the valley is by horse. The spot were you can rent them is near the Hotel Campestre. The fee is $5.00 per hour. A guide can be engaged on request
Orchids Center (Aprovaca Orquídeas) – The nonprofit organisation APROVACA (Asociación de Productores de Orquídeas El Valle y Cabuya) deicates itself to the task of cultivating and conserving endangered local and regional orchids. At the moment 147 different kinds of orchids can be seen. Open every day from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Petroglyphs: La Piedra Pintada – This pre-Columbian pertroglyph (more a rock face) couldn´t be decoded yet. Some locals say it has been a map for traders, other say it is a map of caves connecting the mountain range.
Pozos termales (Hot Springs) – There are two cement pools under the jungle canopy. They are filled with hot mineral water (38 degree Centigrade), coming directly out of the volcanic ground from a depth of 1200 m. Another atraction here is the mineral clay you can use for a face mask or a full body cover. There is also a picknick area and a playground.
Open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm