Once you leave the busy agricultural town of David, the road winds towards the beach and the pace of life seems to calm with the breeze that the rustles the leaves of overhanging mango trees lining the road. I am on my way to Las Olas resort on the beach of Playa Barqueta, 20 minutes from David, Chiriqui, Panama.
This hotel is really the only option near David to get your fix of a beach vacation. Chiriqui is known for its beautiful highlands, volcano and islands but not much to offer of white sand and waves just out your hotel room.
Las Olas does deliver that and so much more! Running along 18 miles of Pacific oceanfront property, Las Olas Beach Resort is a piece of paradise, not only for the amazing ocean view, but the location on the tip of a mangrove peninsula. There are 2 wonderful pools, a swim up bar and shaded areas on the beach just a minute walk from your room ( with A/C!).
The hotel itself has a Spanish tropical flair, and the Abigail dining room is decorated with family photos and the 100 year old original title hangs like a banner over the windows. An old pirate treasure map of the area gives you an idea of the wild past that Chiriqui has had. Pirates, cowboys and indians, this area boasts an incredible history. The "finca" La Barqueta has been in the Anguizola/Arauz family for over 100 years. The property itself is 4th generation family-owned Plantation, and in the olden times the largest cattle production in Chiriqui.
Because of its' strategic position with the estuary, cattle were shipped out on large boats to auction in Panama City or David. Boats were always an important part of life on the farm, and "La Barqueta" refers to the Latin term Barquin or "people who travel by boats".
Passed down thru generations, the farm still boasts a healthy agricultural aspect.
Now integrating dairy cows to the herd, the family is working to breed a hearty, short haired breed that lives happily and healthy in the tropical weather of La Barqueta and Las Olas.
The owner of Las Olas (great-grandchild of Antonio Anguizola De La Lastra- the original family!) Juan Gabriel Araúz Anguizola, was kind enough to give me a "safari-like" tour of the farm that is an incredible part of the hotel beach experience. He has a great smile, and makes you excited about the area as he is knowledgeable about the animals and grew up as a child playing and exploring the farm that he calls home. Just behind the hotel is the farm and barn, where at 9am the calves are bottle-fed, and it is a great family activity to see how the farm animals are kept. There are ponies, just the perfect size for the little children and a goat herd with bouncing babies that you can feed as well. They also have short-haired sheep, that although are a bit skid dish but are fun to watch as the little ones nuzzle up to the moms. Piglets wallow in their pens, the cows are milked and the whole farm is tidy and a great place to understand more about the farm life and how it is integrated into the Las Olas hotel stay.
The menu of the Las Olas Resort at "La Abigail" offers a true home grown menu. The lemons, coconut, mango and milk come from just across the fence, and pork chops, steak, lamb chops and fish are all organically produced right there in La Barqueta. It doesn't get more fresh then that!
We took the 4x4 far into the farm, following the little river as it lead to the main mangrove estuary which was a wild tangle of 5 different species of mangrove. Birds of every type of wetland species seemed to be coming home to roost for the evening as we sat and watch the tide come up and swell the banks of the river. Juan pointed out hawks and egrets, and colorful jacarandas that seemed to walk on water. The cattle peacefully grazed in the valleys beyond us as a golden glow of a setting sun warmed the horizon.
It was an amazing site.
The abundance of fish, birds, other wildlife, the mangroves and rainforests have not been as impacted as other parts of Panama and the family has worked with the local conservation organization ANAM to create a protected area of the beach and farm to encourage conservation and preservation of this natural habitat. There are many ways to enjoy the nature of this wonderful area, including kayaking through the mangroves right from the hotel bridge on the outgoing tide, to birdwatching, and participating in sea turtle releases.
The Surfing spots are right in front of the hotel and offer good swell year round, with uncrowded waves.Tourists can also ride horses on the beach at Las Olas for miles and watch amazing sunsets.
In fact, as we were building a sandcastle as the sun was setting, Juan rode by, tipping his hat from his beautiful black steed and rode off into the crimson La Barqueta sunset. A storybook ending to a beautiful day.