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El Valle de Anton

Nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano, El Valle de Anton is a quiet, idyllic mountain community that has plenty to offer visitors wanting to enjoy the outdoors, relax, or explore someplace new. Lined with private residences, hostels, and hotels, many of which are beautifully manicured, El Valle’s grid-like network of residential streets makes it easy to get around and find what you’re looking for. Its compactness places everything within walking distance. Just 1.5–2 hours from Panama City, and a popular getaway for city dwellers, El Valle is a wonderful place for a day-trip or weekend junket.

The lush, verdant forest that surrounds El Valle is home to an extraordinary number of tropical bird species, making El Valle one of Panama’s most desirable and frequented destinations for birders. Over 350 different species have been recorded including 5 toucan, 6 parrot, and 25 humminbird species. Non-birders will enjoy the “El Macho” waterfall and ziplining, Cerro Gaital and Sleeping Indian hiking trails, Nispero Nursery, and other attractions.

In many respects, El Valle is a diminutive version of Boquete. It is smaller, quieter, and less diverse, but no less appealing. Below, we have listed just a few of the activities and attractions that make El Valle de Anton appealing and worth a visit.

Getting to/from El Valle de Antón

Google Map - El Valle de Antón

Mini-buses depart Albrook Bus Terminal daily, between the hours of 6:30 a.m.–6:30/7:00 p.m., and depart El Valle for Panama City between the hours of 3:45 a.m.–4:15 p.m.; the trip lasts approximately 2.5 hours. For those who wish to remain in El Valle after 4:15 p.m. but still want to return to Panama City, you can take a local bus to the Pan-American Highway as late as 6:30/7:00 p.m., and then take another bus to Panama City.

For those driving, it takes approximately one hour on the Pan-American Highway to reach the turn-off for El Valle—the turnoff is marked by a sign. Turn right, and continue for the remaining 17.4 miles (28 km). It is a beautiful, well-maintained road that winds through the countryside. The trip from Panama City takes about 1.5 - 2 hours.

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el valle de anton golden toads golden frogs of el valley panama el macho waterfall el valle

El Valle de Anton's Hightlights

Visitors can see the beautiful Flower of the Holy Spirit (El Espíritu Santo), which happens to be Panama’s national flower, between July and October. The frog exhibit at the Nispero Nursery & Zoo has a large showcase set aside for El Valle’s famous golden toads.

butterfly haven el valle de anton

Butterfly Haven features a life-cycle education exhibit and a 1500 sq. ft. flight house with approximately 250 tropical butterfly species including the Blue Morpho—the most beautiful butterfly in the Americas.

Visit their website for more information.

Google Map - The Butterfly Haven
butterfly haven el valle de anton panama

cerro gaital trail el valle de anton panama

Just north of El Valle de Anton, and forming part of the volcano's rim, is Cerro Gaital, a vibrant cloud forest offering outstanding views and terrific birding opportunities.

From the park's entrance, your hike begins with a mild uphill climb on a flat, grassy substrate. After a short walk, you'll turn left at the sign and proceed to the trail's starting point. The trail, known as "Sendero Convento" is a simple loop that measures 1.5 miles (2.48 km) in length. The trail is mostly uphill and very well maintained, with three not-so-comfortable resting areas along the way. After reaching its end, you'll need to continue a bit further to reach the lookout area—el mirador. Once there, you'll find a relatively stable wooden platform on which to stand, offering terrific views of El Valle and the Pacific Ocean—weather permitting. You can return on the same portion of the trail or complete the loop by descending on the remaining section. The trail sign reads "2 hours" but most will reach the lookout in less than 45 minutes.

Cerro Gaital is often covered in clouds and during certain months of the year you should expect heavy winds and rain, so it might be a good idea to take a wind-breaker, rain gear, or sweater with you. Moreover, the weather is very unpredictable and can change quickly, so don't be fooled by how things look from town. There are no stores nearby so bring whatever you need.

Getting to Cerro Gaital

Google Map - Cerro Gaital Trail

Cerro Gaital is further along the same road that passes in front of "El Macho" waterfall. There are public buses—look for small mini-buses that read "La Mesa"—that can drop you off very close to the park's entrance; it's just a few minutes from the bus stop. The more intrepid can walk from town or "El Macho" waterfall, but it is a very long hike. To complicate things, the upper section, which winds through poultry farms and private residences, is littered with unmarked roads. If you decide to walk, you will need to reach the "Alemi Toledo" poultry farm—there is a bus stop on the corner—turn right, and walk along the gravel road until you reach the park entrance. It's a long hike and there are no stores after leaving town, so bring all you need.

el nispero plant nursery and zoo el valle de anton panama

The El Nispero Plant Nursery & Zoo is more of a nursery than a zoo, even though they have several animal species represented there. Visitors will appreciate the well-maintained trails and extensive array of tropical plants on display, which include Panama's national flower—El Espíritu Santo (Flower of the Holy Spirit)—between July and October.

The Zoo is the best and only place in El Valle to observe the famous golden toads. Most of their natural habitat has either been destroyed or is inaccessible, making it virtually impossible to view them in the wild, if they even exist. The on-premises frog exhibit, managed by the Smithsonian Institute, has one large showcase set aside for the golden toads and between 10-15 smaller exhibits for other frog species. It is very well presented and offers visitors a unique opportunity to see these fascinating reptiles up close.

Getting to El Nispero Zoo

Google Map - El Nispero Zoo

On the main road leading into town, turn right at the Police Station. At the fire station, turn right, and continue along the winding road until you reach the entrance, which is off to the left side.

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orchid nursery el valle de anton panama

APROVACA, the nursery concentrates on conserving endangered native orchids and promoting ecotourism and environmental education. Here you will find a wide assortment of different orchids, in particular endemic species like "El Espíritu Santo," which just happens to be Panama's national flower.

Getting to the Orchid Nursery

Google Map - Orchid Nursery

Black signs pointing to the nursery line the main road as you enter El Valle. Turn left at the entrance, which is just after the Texaco station, and follow this short road to its end.

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petroglyphs piedras pintadas el valle de anton panama

The petroglyphs are located near the start of the trail that leads to the Sleeping Indian "La India Dormida" (see below.) All of the writings can be found on one rock, and while not overly impressive, they are worth a look if you are passing by.

Getting to the Petroglyphs

Google Map - Petroglyphs

From the central market, continue along the main road until you reach the intersection just after the bridge. Turn left, and then, at the first corner turn right—there is a sign pointing to the "Piedras Pintadas." Cross the bridge and proceed until you reach the entrance, which is off to the left; it's about a 20-25 minute walk from town. The path to the petroglyphs is cemented, so it's an easy walk and shouldn't take but a few minutes.

sunday market in el valle de anton panama

A major attraction in El Valle is the Sunday market. Apart from vegetables, fruit, plants, and flowers, you can buy handicrafts including wooden bowls, paintings, hammocks, molas, baskets, and ceramics, many of which are locally produced. The market is located in the center of town under a fixed roof, along the main road. You can't miss it.

Google Map - Sunday Market
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the sleeping indian la india dormida el valle de anton panama

The Sleeping Indian, who acquired her name based on local legend, is a chain of hills whose form resembles that of, well, you guessed it—a sleeping Indian. Along with Cerro Gaital, these hills help form part of El Valle's volcanic rim.

The trail, which begins at the Petroglyphs, is mostly uphill and comprised of dirt, clay, and stone. Shortly after passing the petroglyphs, and off to the left, you'll reach the first of two waterfalls—"Chorro El Escondido." Though not very impressive, it's set back in a well-protected cove and has a pool where you can swim. Shortly after resuming your climb, you'll make your way over a cement bridge, and just a bit further ahead, you'll reach the "Chorro El Enamorado" waterfall, which is considerably larger and comprised of two sections. Further along the trail, and just after passing a very large boulder, you will need to turn left; look for the sign pointing to "La India Dormida." Make sure you turn left here, otherwise you get lost for sure.The remaining portion of the trail is noticeably steeper as it climbs adjacent to a private farm lined with a barbed wire fence with wooden posts. Once at the top, turn left, and follow the fence until you reach the Sleeping Indian. (Shortly after turning left you will reach an intersection. You can go either way. If you take the trail to the right, follow it until you reach the next intersection, and turn left. Both trails lead to the backside of the hill. Continue walking through the stubby grass until you reach the summit.)

At the top, you'll find a network of trails connecting the adjacent hills, offering terrific views of El Valle and its surroundings. Weather permitting, you may even see the Pacific Ocean. The wind and rain can be surprisingly strong and the temperature exceptionally cool, so wear appropriate clothing. Guides can be hired at the base.

Google Map - The Sleeping Indian

el macho waterfall el valle de anton panama ziplining el valle de anton panama

Open daily and just minutes from town, the "El Macho" Waterfall stands 210 ft. (70m) tall and is set back in the dense forest, just off the main road. Visitors can choose between two trails of differing lengths and costs; both trails provide an unobstructed view of the waterfall. During the rainy season months of September-November, the river swells considerably and the waterfall can be very impressive, forming a large pool at its base. Further downstream, and nearer to the entrance, there are plenty of shallow rivers that wind through the rocky, lush landscape. You are not permitted anywhere near the waterfall's base.

In addition to the hiking trails surronding "El Macho," the operation also offers a zip-lining tour. For more information, we recommend you visit their website.

Getting to El Macho Waterfall

Google Map - El Macho Waterfall

From the central market, continue straight along the main road until you reach the intersection, just after the bridge. Turn right, and continue until you reach the waterfall, which is off to the left. If you're walking, the trip shouldn't require any more than 20-25 minutes, and there are several signs to guide you. You can also take one of the mini-buses that read "La Mesa."

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