You Can See The Atlantic And Pacific At The Same Time At This Spot In Central America

The paradise of Panama is the last country in Central America before you hit South America, a thin wedge between worlds flanked on either side by the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Thanks to the county's slim geography, it's one of the few places in the world where you can see both oceans at the same time. On a clear day, visitors can glimpse each shoreline from the summit of Volcán Barú, a stratovolcano with an elevation that tops 11,000 feet.


Sitting in the middle of Barú Volcano National Park in the Chiriquí Province near Boquete, Volcán Barú is the highest point in Panama. While it's technically an active volcano, the last eruption was nearly 500 years ago. Today, the surrounding biological reserve is home to five ecosystems, from tangled rainforests to lush highlands. There's an abundance of wildlife peppered throughout, including jaguars, pumas, frogs, butterflies, tapirs (pig-like mammals), and coatimundis, which share similar bandit face markings as raccoons. There are more than 250 types of birds nestled in these trees, including the rare resplendent quetzal with its famed emerald plumage.

How to get to the top of Volcán Barú

There are two ways to scale Volcán Barú for the iconic two-ocean view. The first (and most strenuous) is a 16-mile hike, which takes seven to eight hours round trip. The best chance of seeing both oceans without any cloud cover is first thing in the morning, making this trail a popular attraction in the middle of the night. With sunrise around 6 a.m., many travelers leave the comfort of their beds in Boquete around midnight to start making their way up the mountain in the dark. Check the weather forecast before you go and try to avoid the rain and mud. You can go with your own group or hire a tour guide to take you for around $75 to $100 (we highly recommend a guide for inexperienced hikers).


The other way to get to the top is on a guided tour in a special vehicle with four-wheel drive via the volcano's maintenance road. The tour starts at 4 a.m. and takes two hours to get to the top. You'll be rewarded for braving the steep road and cold temperatures with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, a welcome treat as you soak up the sunrise from the Caribbean side. Boquete Outdoor Adventures offers sunrise tours for $120. If you'd prefer a sunset adventure, 4x4 Volcan Barú has tours available for $125.

What to know before you go

If you're going up the mountain on foot without a guide, you'll need to book a taxi to the trailhead in Boquete and pay the $10 entrance fee at the ranger station. While the trail offers a gradual incline to the top, it's still an intense hike that's best reserved for experienced trekkers only. As the sole spot in Panama where temperatures dip below freezing, be sure to dress in warm layers and pack plenty of snacks and water for the journey.


As you ascend, you'll see regular signs that tell you how far you've climbed and how much further it is to the summit. Near the top, you'll find a campground, radio towers, and a large white cross. While it's possible either ocean will be shrouded with clouds — you are in the sky, after all — the view from the top is still epic. On the way back down, you'll be greeted by an illuminated rainforest and the chance to marvel at wildlife you may have heard but couldn't see in the dark. After the hike, don't forget to relish in some regional delights, like a piping hot cup of geisha coffee. This treasure is grown at high altitudes in volcanic soil, earning its rank as some of the most expensive java in the world. Round out your trip with a quick dip in the Caldera Hot Springs for those sore muscles. You've definitely earned it.