The Feria de las Flores y El Café is Boquete ’s showplace event. The Fair of Flowers and Coffee draws tens of thousands of people from all over Panama to view the stunning flowers that carpet Boquete’s fairgrounds on the east side of the Río Caldera. The fair has its roots in a celebration first held in 1950.
Though gardens all over Boquete are spruced up for the event, the fairgrounds are the epicenter, transformed each year into a floral playground with fanciful landscaping. The festival also includes concerts, folkloric dancers, handicraft exhibits, and a chance to sip gourmet coffee and chug vast amounts of other liquids. It’s held for 10 days in the middle of January. Check with ATP (CEFATI, tel. 720-4060) for exact dates, which change annually.
Note: Friends who have lived in Boquete for years tell me the quality and abundance of the flowers at the fair have declined in the last couple of years, which has coincided with or perhaps caused a drop in attendance. In the past, the beauty of the fair has compensated for the blaring music, crowds, full hotels, and heavy public drinking. Unless the fair returns to its former glory, it may be best to avoid Boquete at this time.
The Boquete Jazz Festival (http://boquetejazzfestival.com ) was held for the first time in 2007 and has become an annual event, bringing Panamanian and international jazz musicians to town for three days of performances in February.
After the Feria de las Flores y El Café in January, the fairgrounds remain open until late March or early April, when a smaller festival, the Feria de las Orquídeas (Orchid Festival) closes out the season with a four-day celebration. Again, check with ATP (CEFATI, tel. 720-4060) for exact dates.
The entire country celebrates Panama ’s independence from Spain on November 28, but Boquete’s celebration is the biggest, presided over by the president of Panama and drawing people from far beyond the highlands for a huge party.
No one’s yet explained to me why Boquete’s Día de la Independencia celebration is so grand. My favorite theory came from a tour guide who explained that was the date Boquete got its very own team of firefighters; he neglected to mention Spain at all.
Boquete  is hurtin’ for real nightlife. One hot spot is Zanzibar (Avenida Central, no phone, 5 p.m.–midnight or later daily), at the north end of Avenida Central. It’s a cute and cozy place with an African safari theme. They have a Facebook page (http://bit.ly/zanzibarboquete ) but no phone or website. Regular entertainment includes belly-dancing on Wednesdays, house music DJs on Fridays, and live music on Saturdays.
A newer place is La Cabaña (no phone), on the east side of the Caldera just north of the fairgrounds. It has a faux log-cabin look and keeps erratic hours. It’s usually open on weekends starting at 9 P.M. and going all night long, much to the chagrin of everyone trying to sleep on that side of the river.
The nicest watering hole in town is the bar at the Panamonte Inn and Spa (tel. 720-1324, noon–11P.M. daily), which is now both cozy and sleek. It’s quite relaxing to sit with a drink at either of its two stone fireplaces (one indoors, one out). Be sure to check out all the antiques. The only unwelcome addition is a big-screen TV.
Bar Mr. George, next to the bus station office on the north side of the plaza, is a blue-collar dive with zero atmosphere but a friendly, drunken vibe.
A pool hall, Billares Espinosa (Avenida Central, no phone, 3 p.m.–midnight Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–midnight Sat.–Sun.) is on Avenida Central just south of the plaza.