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Chiriquí's insider take:

Chiriquí Province, in the southwestern corner of Panama, is muy fresco, thanks to the cool mountain air. It's the same air that makes the hills outside the main town of Boquete (where the region's hotels are all based) perfect for cultivating coffee. If you're interested in learning about coffee-growing—and sampling some flavors—a visit to Café Ruiz, a coffee shop that organizes tours of neighboring plantations, is a must; the café is right in downtown Boquete (507-720-1292;

Chiriquí's towering wooded volcanoes evoke the famed cloud forests of Monteverde in Costa Rica—a country you can actually see from some of the tallest peaks here. Hikers and wildlife-spotters head for Volcán Barú National Park, a 35,390-acre preserve crisscrossed with trails that includes Panama's highest volcano, the inactive 11,400-foot Barú. More than 250 bird species make their home here, along with pumas and many varieties of bat (seen mostly at dusk). There are several local guides based in Boquete who can take you on a day or overnight trek through the park; contact Boquete's tourism office to arrange this (507-720-4060).

Chiriquí is a major destination for whitewater fans. The region's Rio Chiriquí and Rio Chiriquí Viejo, both near the border of Costa Rica and about two and a half hours from Boquete, have rapids that range from slightly hairy Class III to roiling, adrenaline-raising Class V. Chiriquí River Rafting runs two- to five-hour trips on both these rivers, along with several lesser-known tributaries; the trips include all gear, lunch, and transport to and from your hotel (507-720-1505;

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