In Panama – specifically in Boquete, a town located in the westernmost Chirqiui province – a rare opportunity to experience rock climbing at its purest and most profound awaits discerning Central America travelers.
Whether you’re an avid rock climber, are looking to try this popular extreme sport, or even if you’re content to remain feet firmly planted on the ground, Boquete rock climbing promises an experience you can’t find anywhere else.
Enter resident rock climbing master Cesar Melendez, a world-renowned vertical artist and one of a handful of individuals responsible for establishing rock climbing in Panama. Cesar guides Boquete visitors to tap their innermost craving for a rugged challenge. He leads rock climbing adventures up his hometown crags – the ones he personally prepped and lovingly maintains – out of an almost-religious devotion to the sport. Instructing participants and onlookers alike in the holistic nature of rock climbing, an endeavor combining connection with one’s environment, mental focus, and physical exertion, Cesar passes on more than just safety tips and technical know-how.
“His passion for rock climbing is infectious,” said Island Intern Ben Brown of his private lesson with Cesar. “And his grace, agility, and strength are unbelievable.”
Rock climbing may be a sport for the fit and the daring – but the sight of Cesar Melendez dancing up a rock face with seemingly no regard for gravity will dazzle anyone who cranes their neck up to watch him perform his vertical artistry.
Rock Climbing in Panama
Established less than a decade ago, rock climbing remains a relatively new movement in Panama, a country brimming with ecotourism and adventure travel opportunities. The potential for rock climbing went long undiscovered due to the temperate Chiriqui highlands’ abundant rainfall producing lush vegetation that concealed prime spots suitable for climbing.
What People Are Saying about Rock Climbing in Panama
“Outdoor rock climbing is the real deal. This isn’t a gym with families and birthday parties. We just pulled over to the side of the road and went to work. Nature built this.”
– Ben Brown, 2011 Isla Palenque Island Intern
“When we arrived at our climbing destination, Cesar took some time to meditate. He told us how rock climbing was equally a mental challenge as it is a physical one. Cesar’s first attempt up the rock wall was astonishing. It was as if he had temporarily switched off gravity while he playfully ascended the rock wall.”
– Luke Hansen, 2011 Isla Palenque Island Intern
“Escalo porque es una forma de expresion artistica… Como Icaro, ascendere tan alto como pueda, escuchando el llamado de las alturas aun cuando el ardiente sol pudiese derretir mis alas. (I climb because it is a form of artistic expression… Like Icarus, ascend as high as possible, hearing the call from on high even when the hot sun could melt my wings.)”
– Cesar Augusto Melendez Castillo, principal founder of rock climbing in Panama & celebrated vertical artist
“If you go, ask Cesar to show you his solo routine. He does a horizontal handstand on the face of the rock. Awesome. Injury has kept us from climbing for a while so this was the perfect, casual place to spend a morning.”
– Shelly D., TripAdvisor reviewer, visited in March 2012