Zipline rides are beginning to pop up all around Panama , but Boquete Tree Trek (tel. 720-1635, www.aventurist.com , US$60 pp) is the longest and most impressive. (On a zipline, riders wear harnesses connected to pulleys that are then attached to a series of cables stretched between trees at a slight downward angle. Riders shoot along the cable, braking manually to keep from smacking into the approaching tree.)
The Boquete Tree Trek features 12 stages and 14 platforms spread over three kilometers and passing over two waterfalls. The longest run is 360 meters, during which you can reach speeds of up to 18 kilometers an hour. One stretch of the ride is about 90 meters above the forest floor.
It’s an exhilarating, scenic experience that is over much too quickly. I was impressed both by the natural beauty—the zipline is in a cloud forest right below the Continental Divide, and on a clear day there’s a view of Volcán Barú —and by the guides. Without exception they are friendly, enthusiastic, and highly professional. All are bilingual.
There’s an attractive lodge (with bathrooms) that serves food and drinks before and after the ride. Four modern log cabins are being built and should provide a picturesque, if isolated, lodging option for outdoor types, as there are lots of hiking possibilities in the area.
Note: This ride requires somewhat more upper-body strength than other ones in Panama, particularly if the lines are wet. Riders must be able to apply enough pressure with their gloved hands to slow down, and be able to pull themselves along if they stop short of a platform.
The ride starts at an elevation of nearly 1,900 meters, in an area up the mountain from the Café Kotowa mill in Palo Alto, but the guides pick guests up from the Boquete Tree Trek office, which is in Los Establos Plaza in downtown Boquete .
Pickup times are 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and noon daily. The whole thing, including transportation from downtown, lasts about four hours. The ride itself lasts about 1.25 hours.