The noise problem in Boquete

Some people have given voice to the complaint that Boquete is too noisy. The Mayor seems to support them in their quest to close down bars and restaurants with live music. The Mayor however has provided us with a glaring exceptions, the Patriotic holidays and January Fair. Complaints about the marching bands and discos playing until three in the morning are from expats. Panamanians who also find sleeping impossible those nights know the drill and although they might not like the noise, they understand the reasons, these events inject money into the local economy.

In reading the Lonely Planet Thorntree Forum about Boquete I chanced upon a question from a person planning a Panama holiday. The question was simple, he asked, I am in my twenties and want to party, should I visit Boquete. The responses were few,  but a clear, no; Boquete is a drag, it’s a town for old people.

I might have more than sixty years under my belt but at times I still like to dance the night away or listen to a good band. We in Boquete have few options. Amigos is banned from having live music, Mikes Global Grill has to request permission weekly in fact the only two spots with dancing to live music are La Posada and Coca Cola. I like them both and apparently the local community does also,  La Posada is usually hopping on Saturday nights.

Boquete has a three phase economy. Agriculture  is in serious jeopardy with the US free trade agreement, residential tourism, the people who moved here and invest in the community and plain old tourism. We lack beaches, we lack the architecture of Imperial Spain, what we have is nature. The government of Panama is two faced on tourism. Panama spends a lot of money promoting Panama as a tourist destination and then the same government continues to pave the country, dam the rivers and desecrate the environment. The mayor of Boquete has been more consistent, he appears to do all things possible to discourage tourism.

Tourism is a potential replacement for the jobs to be lost in agriculture. For this evolution to happen Boquete needs better education for it’s young people and more noise! We need to have live entertainment for all age groups all week. Tourists of all ages are looking for a holiday, many of those of us who live here like entertainment options. The Patriotic holidays of November and Fair in January prove that when there is noise in Boquete we have tourists, with tourists comes money and the local businesses rejoice. Boquete needs more noise.



  1. Lee, I salute you for taking a strong stand on the noise issue. I believe, at the root of the issue, is a self-perceived privileged class of people, mostly expats, who have invested in property here, and now want this little piece of paradise to behave itself. I recall reading several entries on this and related blogs by locals who point out that expats come here and expect services and infrastructure without paying taxes. It seems the NIMBY mentality is alive and well here in Boquete. While I would not advocate Boquete become Bourbon Street South or even a rival of Bocas Town, I also would hate to see it as Elmore City South (the conservative town in the movie “Footloose”). There ought to be a happy medium.

  2. If you don’t live in Boquete Abajo …noise is not a problem. If you live in Boquete Abajo, which the Alcalde does not as well as ahem “others”… then it is a living hell during Feria. I call it Noriega’s Revenge in that the US Military played loud music all night to get Noriega out of his hiding place. (I forget the church or Embassy where he was hiding) If you think noise is the answer go to just about any place in the world and you will find noise ordinances. I think legalizing drugs and prostitution in Boquete is on the same level as making it impossible for children to sleep for 10 days.

    I remember when I first came to visit Boquete years ago… I was staying at the Panamonte. I checked out after one night during Feria as well as many of the other guests. But the people from other parts of Panama who camped in the highlands and who brought their own food and booze and whatever else “in enhanced chemistry” to “stimulate the economy”… didn’t seem to mind. The cost in garbage collection must have been huge.

    I have no problem with the celebration as long as it doesn’t get out of hand…which it has for a very long time.

    For those of you who live in Bajo Boquete….you better get your reservations in to Las Lajas before they book up.

  3. Bjorn Sefeldt says:

    Much of it is like someone moving out to the countryside…because its tranquil and pretty , and moves next to a farm…then complains that the farm animals smell…

  4. I think most people moved to Boquete because it was a quiet town and it had a very back to nature and cool environment….

    An occasional parade is noisy but no big deal… a late night bar with live music could annoy a close proximity neighbor but the neighbor should know that they live next to night club and the music should not be too loud or too late (within reason)… fire works and loud partying at night can be fun too and normal (and it is normally within reason) …ditto for parades (although practicing on drums should be limited like most places with muffling on the drum and during the day)…but when you make the center of town uninhabitable for 10 days and the locals all talk about how they live in Alto Boquete to escape the “BULLA” of the feria and you see that only the very poor who cannot afford to repair their houses and can’t afford to move because no one wants to buy because of the noise (i.e.look at the new unsold condo’s)…you know things have gone TOO FAR. The Feria was set up to display coffee and flowers..it morphed into a money making chaos for the few to help pay for the feria ground bills and to help politicians like rum distillers, etc. The monied few that came here in the olden days now avoid Boquete during this time.

    So as a responsible citizen who lives here wonders… what do you want for the future of Boquete? More Coney Island or The Olde Boquete Naturale? Which would ultimately be better for the economy and the quality of life for everyone?

    Perhaps the next Alcalde will answer that question.

    What a Garden of Paradise Boquete could be with a good gardener.

  5. Pat & Susan says:

    “Agriculture is in serious jeopardy with the US free trade agreement”

    We had an interesting conversation the other day with a local Panamanian guy heavily involved in coffee farming here who gave us a new perspective to consider in regards to the agriculture here in Panama. and especially in Boquete. In addition to the US Free Trade Agreement, he commented that more Ngobe children attend school and continue with schooling than in the past. While we think that is a good thing, he commented that those children will never work in the fields, never pick the coffee and this will result in a shortage of workers, etc, etc. and will ultimately [negatively] impact agriculture in Panama.

    Gave us something to think about.

  6. You’re wrong that only expats complain about the noise. I know a number of Panamanians who say they and their children are unable to sleep for days at a time. And the stories are legend about housekeepers and gardeners who come to work during holiday times bleary-eyed and cranky. I’m happy for you, Lee, that you still like to party hardy, but most of us–Panamanians and expats–prefer a good night’s sleep.

    As to tourism, it depends on the kind of tourists Boquete wants to encourage. Nature and tranquility has always been Boquete’s best drawing point. Most tourists aren’t going to come this far to party when they could stay in Panama City and have more entertainment options. In my view, excessive noise discourages the very tourists most likely to want and make the effort to come here.

  7. Houston Greene says:

    Stayed in Boquete for about 2 months. Got kicked out of my 1st apartment because I had a party with about 5 people. The party was about 10pm to 12pm. We were not super loud at all. We used the computer as a means of music. We laughed talked and had fun. Until the landlord asked us to shut it down. I am in my 30’s and absolutely love Boquete from 8am-9pm. After that it is like living in your parents house. Lights out at 10pm. I really want to move there full time but I am having conflicts about the “noise” situation. I have a Masters Degree in Education and could really add to the society. Why push the young and educated away. I don’t understand the need for complete silence.

  8. Bonnie:

    I helped get 500 signatures last year from LOCALS who were against not sleeping until 5 am…I could have gotten another 1000. One of the signatures was from the next alcalde in Boquete.

  9. It’s a great place for young people who don’t have an insomnia problem… you can go to 1 am most any weekend at Amigos or a couple of other places…don’t know why a decibel level beyond current Panamanian law is unattractive to young people. Try doing that in your own hometown and see what happens…

  10. @Guy C… Do you know something we dont? Who is going to be the “next” Alcade of Boquete then?!

  11. Don’t listen to me…I said Romney would win too…lol

  12. There was some great music tonight at Fusion, and a very mixed crowd. Yahoo, close to home!

  13. I arrived in Boquete on Boxing Day a few years ago and I thought it was incredible. I met some locals at Amigos when it was downtown and they took me to the fair. I couldn’t believe this was in the sleepy little town of Boquete, but I had a blast. Dancing all night and drinking beer at six in the morning was hard on the old body, but I went back for more.

    The next year I couldn’t go and admittedly the loud music kept me from getting any sleep, even way up in the mountains. Yes, the fair is very critical to the local economy, but I think out of respect for the locals it doesn’t need to go all night. Hardly anyone is there at ten o’clock mostly because they know it goes all night. If it shuts down at, say, one o’clock people will just come earlier. It’s maybe a compromise that everyone could live with.

  14. In the local culture people start night partying at 10 or later. You are projecting your cultural perspective on an established culture.

  15. As to local tradition…..Just try to use that line of reasoning ( Multiple decibels above the law) in Panama City, Chitre or Concepcion at 3:30 am. and see what happens…. This town has lost its local flavor..it has become an “Anything Goes “town because of the Gringo presence upsetting the normal cultural “within reason ” partying. The reason it morphed from a flower and coffee fair into a 10 day 24 hour ghetto rage is due to the avarice of a few bar owners, politicians, etc. and rum manufacturers . Most locals with families now live in Los Naranjos or Alto Boquete to be able to sleep. Most locals who live in Bajo agree with me about the amount of noise in Bajo Boquete being way too excessive and I have 100’s of signed petitions from them to prove it. Whoever is for the 5am ghetto blasting beyond the law (excessive decibels) in Boquete should be forced to sleep in Bajo Boquete for 10 days during Feria. I get tired of these “do as I say not as I do” commentaries. They don’t realize what damage they are doing to the culture and way of life here.

  16. Ask the locals who live in Bajo to get the straight truth on this subject.

  17. Frankkie O. says:

    I think the fact that people start partying way too late here is a some sort of behaviour. I myself being a Panamanian hate that. It’s fine for having a get together and dinner parties. But that incessant loud head banging calypso followed by the unnecessary screaming of party goers, that’s what makes it unbearable. Instead of it dying down, you have the party blasting higher and higher after 12 am. There is no consideration or conscience when it comes to sleep or having to work or go to church the next day. It’s disturbing to know that there is a law out there yet never ever enforced about the loud noise.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: