A Guide to Hiking Volcan Baru
Hiking Volcan Baru in Boquete, Panama
Total cost – $13 USD
Hiking Volcan Baru is an experience that Brian and I will never forget. At 3,475 meters (11,400 feet), the Baru Volcano is the highest point in all of Panama. If you want to experience the rare sensation of viewing both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea from far above the clouds at sunrise, you might consider this strenuous midnight climb.
The trek up and back down the 500-years-dormant volcano is 27 kilometers and takes between 9 and 12 hours to complete. Note that hiking Volcan Baru is for advanced trekkers — but surely an incredible activity for anyone fit for the task! Here are seven tips from our firsthand experience on how to make it to the top, and how to do it on a backpacker’s budget:
1. Skip the guide and go with a group!
Hiring a personal walking guide can cost about $90, not including transportation to and from the park entrance. The 4×4 Jeep tour (a bumpy, dusty ride) costs $120 per person and stops short of the top! We loved the companionship of going with a group and it gave us a chance to meet new friends! Hostel Mamallena (located in the Central Park Square of Boquete) offers a shuttle to the base of the volcano for only $5 per person. You can sign up during the day and meet the group at the hostel at 11:00 PM for the 11:30 departure. The shuttle drops you off at midnight to begin your trek.
2. Make sure you know what you’re getting into
Hiking Volcan Baru is not a walk in the park! The trail is uneven, rocky terrain. On the way up, the rocks slide out from underneath you – think one step forward, two steps back, and it is, for the most part, directly uphill. For me personally, it felt like spending six hours on the Stairmaster. Ouch!
3. Know how cold it will get at the top of Volcan Baru
When we started walking at midnight, it was a comfortable 60 degrees Fahrenheit. As you climb, the temperature obviously drops and about halfway up, we started seeing frost on the ground. By the time we reached the top, our group had stopped twice to gather brush and build fires to keep warm – this part was actually quite fun 🙂 ! I was wearing a hat, gloves, two pairs of socks, fleece-lined leggings, thick pants, long-sleeve Under Amour cold gear, a long-sleeve thermal, a sweater, a sweatshirt and a WINTER COAT and was still shivering waiting for the sun to rise. Bring enough layers!
4. Bring lots of water and some food for energy
While hiking Volcan Baru, we easily went through two liters of water each and got hungry after only about three hours! Sandwiches, granola, nuts, fruit, and even cookies are great snacks for the trek!
5. Its midnight. Don’t you dare try this without a headlamp!
I don’t even recommend a flashlight, since at times I needed to use my hands to climb. There are no lights whatsoever on the trail. We were actually out on a moonless night and it was pitch black. A headlamp is absolutely necessary.
6. Take your time on the way up
There are kilometer markers along the way that should make it fairly easy to judge your pace. We’ve heard horror stories of groups that hurried to the top, got there an hour too early, and were too cold to wait for sunrise. After hours of hiking Volcan Baru in the dark, this would be tragic! Its a good idea to take a few minutes the night before to check the internet for the approximate time of sunrise. If you’re ahead of schedule, take another snack break, build another fire, or take a few minutes to wait for the slower parties to catch up.
7. Schedule a taxi home
The Volcan Baru National Park is only a short way out of the town of Boquete, but further still than you’ll find taxis and “collectivos” looking for business. If you don’t schedule transportation and don’t have an international cell phone, you might find yourself adding a few extra miles to the trek. 😉 After we complete hiking Volcan Baru, we shared a taxi with two other people (four total) and the ride cost us $3 USD per person. A fair time to schedule pickup is 12:00 noon.
Other notes on hiking Volcan Baru
- It was so nice that someone in our group had thought to bring a lighter or matches to start the fires. This was a great chance for us to take a break and get to know our fellow insane midnight trekkers. Without the fires, it just would have been too cold to stop and chat! If I did it again, I would remember to bring matches myself.
- Hey, maybe throw a roll of toilet paper and some hand sanitizer in your pack, too…
Costs of Hiking Volcan Baru
- Shuttle: $5 USD
- Park Entrance: $5 USD
- Return Shared-Taxi: $3 USD
Total cost of hiking Volcan Baru: $13
Hiking Volcan Baru was a monumental trek and was an experience of a lifetime! It was a grueling hike and we’ll remember it forever. We took it at our own pace and made it to the top with only 20 minutes to spare. There is a wooden cross at the top that was great for taking pictures with and the views are absolutely breathtaking! I mean, we’re talking “no filter on Instagram” views.
Thanks for taking the time to read!
Are you planning a trip to Boquete, Panama? Looking for an exciting and challenging excursion? Hiking Volcan Baru? Leave a question in the comments section below and we’ll be happy to help!