The Panamonte Inn & Spa: A Home Away from Home for Adventurers, Explorers and Nature Lovers Since 1914.
Long before Boquete was officially founded in 1911, the Doraz Indians settled this fertile highland valley, followed by Spanish conquistadores, and later by the ‘49ers who stopped here on their way to the isthmus shortcut north to California in search of gold. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Boquete valley`s spectacular beauty, fertile volcanic soil and temperate climate drew European and North American settlers, as well as people from other parts of Panama. Their hard work and deep affection for the area allowed Boquete to evolve into a prosperous agricultural center. Many refer to Boquete as the “Breadbasket of Panama.”
Joseph Wright, a spirited Texan and retired railroad conductor, opened the Boquete hotel in 1914 with just five rooms. In those days, “Pop Wright’s Hotel,” as it was called, hosted weary travelers to Boquete who had made the journey from David by train, ox cart or foot, as there was no road. Wright would lure tired, arriving travelers to the hotel with the offer of a complimentary cold guava and rum cocktail. During the ensuing decades, the small Boquete bed and breakfast saw its share of notable guests, including Teddy Roosevelt and Charles Lindbergh, who dropped in during a flight through Central America. The great explorer Admiral Richard Byrd holed up at the Panamonte to finish writing his memoirs about his Antarctic expeditions.
In 1946, Hans and Vera Elliot purchased small Boquete hotel and expanded it to include 10 rooms and a formal dining area. Hans had originally come to Panama from Sweden in 1924, as Captain of a Swedish merchant-shipping vessel. He later brought his wife Vera from Sweden to Panama City, and established a successful cargo shipping business. While visiting Boquete to solicit cargo from cattle ranchers, farmers and rum manufacturers, Hans became enamored of the Boquete Valley He and Vera purchased the Hacienda La Esmeralda farm and the Caldera Hot Springs and moved his family here.
Vera Elliot was a cultured and exceptional hostess. Her tasteful attention to detail and respect for perfection and protocol earned the new Panamonte Inn an esteemed reputation throughout Panama. It also provided the foundation for the tradition of hospitality carried on by the Panamonte today. Vera hung oil paintings by Latin American artists, had the gardens planted with fruit trees and colorful flowers, and polished the cutlery until it gleamed.
During the latter decades of the 20th century, the Panamonte was considered the premier Boquete hotel retreat for diplomats, VIPs, and the Panamanian political and business elite, who came to Boquete to escape the humid heat of David and Panama City. The Shah of Iran visited the Panamonte while searching for an exile address. The famous and somewhat reclusive Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman enjoyed the Panamonte so much that she came back for a second visit. Richard Nixon came for lunch. Sean Connery visited and one wonders: Did he have a dry martini, “shaken, not stirred,” in the Fireside Lounge?
Many international travelers, politicos, and merchants visiting Panama or sailing through the Canal made a point of visiting the increasingly famous Boquete hotel. Vera hung a sign over the front door depicting two puffed-cheeked cherubs blowing trade winds to symbolize the Panamonte’s role as host and meeting point for visitors from around the globe.
During the past 20 years, the Panamonte has also hosted a new kind of visitor: ecotravelers and birdwatchers who come to envelop themselves in lush, verdant rainforest and view wild fauna and the hundreds of birds that live in or migrate through Boquete, including the Resplendent Quetzal. The Panamonte was a pioneer in the ecotravel market in Boquete, and the first to create adventurous and active tours around the area. In order to provide its guests with maximum relaxation and an antidote to sore muscles, the Panamonte opened a full-service spa with a highly trained international staff.
Keeping with the tradition of personalized attention and service associated with a family-owned and -operated inn, the Panamonte’s current owner is the Elliot’s daughter, Inga Collins. Doña Inga, as she is respectfully and affectionately known, upholds the tradition of fine hospitality established by her mother, Vera. Doña Inga is often on hand to entertain guests with anecdotes from the Panamonte’s past, and to suggest activities and sightseeing options in the area. Doña Inga’s son and partner, is Charlie Collins, an award-winning chef whose focus is on creating a memorable dining experience for his guests.
In the true pioneering spirit that defines the Panamonte Inn & Spa, the Collins family is constantly seeking new ways to make certain their guests are relaxed and enjoying themselves. They host international Food & Wine Festivals, special cultural events, holiday feasts, unique tours, and offer a environment that is both luxurious, comfortable and cozy, evoking the feeling of a home away from home. No mean feat to accomplish all that, but this outstanding Boquete hotel has been practicing the art for almost 100 years!