This is the second blog in a 2 part series about our trip to El Valle de Antón, but it can be read on it’s own if you didn’t read the first one. You can find part one here, where I discuss our stay at the great Crater Valley Resort. In this guide, I’ll talk about the things we did after we left the resort and decided to check out the many attractions El Valle had to offer. Even though this part of our trip only took about 4 hours in the afternoon, we still managed to visit a lot of different places. We visited the Butterfly Haven, the Victoriano Lorenzo Museum, and the El Macho Waterfall.
For a small town, El Valle really has a lot of different tourist attractions. You can find a list of many of them on Trip Advisor. All of the attractions are cheap, costing $5 or less for tourists, and they are usually discounted for residents/children. However none of them will really take the full day (unless you go on a long hike), so expect to visit several in a day, as we did.
The first place we visited was the one my wife and I were most looking forward to, which was the Butterfly Haven. The Butterfly Haven is a fairly new attraction, as Jon, the owner, is an expat who recently moved to Panama. I don’t remember exactly when it opened, but it was earlier this year. Already it has earned itself a reputation as one of the must visit attractions in El Valle, and it’s easy to see why. The sanctuary has 12 different species of butterflies and about 350 butterflies in it total. The butterflies were all different colors and sizes, from small to some of the largest you will find in North America. You can either tour the grounds yourself or get a tour by the owner or one of the staff. Jon was nice enough to show my wife and I around, and could answer any questions we had about the butterflies. The attraction isn’t huge in terms of size, but you can easily spend 45 minutes to an hour there looking at the different butterflies and taking pictures. There’s a pretty simple test to figure out if you’ll like this attraction: If you like butterflies, you’ll enjoy it, and if you don’t, it’s probably not your thing (but seriously, who doesn’t like butterflies). The cost is $5 for a tourist, $3 for residents, and $1.50 for children. Here are some of our favorite pictures from the Butterfly Haven.
There is also a cafe at the Butterfly Haven, which is supposed to be pretty good, and that’s where we had intended to eat lunch. Unfortunately the owners are out of town for the month of September, so it was closed. We’ll have to check it out on our next trip back. The Butterfly Haven will also be closed for all of October, expect for select weekends, so make sure to check their website before your next visit. Our visit got somewhat cut short by the torrential rains, as the sanctuary isn’t yet fully covered. Jon mentioned they are working on getting it covered with a material that will keep it from getting to hot and allow light in for the butterflies.
After the Butterfly Haven, we decided to stop for lunch. We ate at Carlito’s, which while it won’t make any amazing dining lists, was still the best meal we ate all trip (I mentioned in my other post how I don’t exactly think El Valle is a diner’s paradise). It was reasonably priced for El Valle, the ambiance was good, and the food was decent. They also had English speaking staff. It wasn’t a bad place to wait out the rain, which was crazy heavy for a while.
We finished lunch and the rain had let up some but was still going, so we tried to find something to do inside. Here’s the thing about El Valle: there’s not much to do inside. We ended up finding this little place called the Victoriano Lorenzo museum. It was located in what seemed like a little community center next to the first Carlitos (there are two Carlitos apparently, and this was the one closest to the beginning of town). We only heard about it because our server at the second Carlitos (where we ate), let us know it was there.
It ended up being a decent stop to buy some time while the rain let up. The museum was small, only a couple of rooms, but it nicely showed some Panamanian indigenous history as well as some geographic history. We had 3 guides giving us the tour, which was pretty cool. The tour was in Spanish, so I took over the camera while my wife got the tour. After her tour and reading a couple of articles online, I’m still not really sure what Victoriano Lorenzo did. I know he was a Panamanian indigenous hero, who had something to do with the war against Colombia, and then after the war, the white man betrayed him and he was executed, or something like that. If you go to the museum, you should probably pay more attention than I did. They may actually give it in English as well. One of our guides seemed to at least speak some. The museum had a couple of really cool things in it, such as an early 1900s map of Panama, and a Panamanian dollar bill from back when they actually used to have Balboa paper currency. Wasn’t a bad way to kill half an hour in the rain, especially since it only cost me $2 and my wife $1.
After the museum, the skies had cleared up enough for us to continue on our journey and hit the other must visit we had on our list, which was Chorro El Macho (the El Macho Waterfall). This also did not disappoint. This was the most expensive attraction, costing $5 for me and also $5 for my wife (no Panamanian discount), but definitely worth it. They also offered a beginners tour for $20 and full tour for $65. I’m not sure what’s included in the tour prices, but I can’t really imagine it’s worth it. There’s a really easy path to follow to the waterfall, and then it’s just a big waterfall. I can’t imagine what you would need to a tour of. If anyone has taken the tours and can shed light, that would be appreciated. UPDATE: Apparently the tours are the zip lines. The full tour includes multiple zip lines and hiking to areas that are not on the normal path. So maybe it’s not such a bad deal after all.
It’s about a 10 minutes walk to the waterfall. You will have to cross several wooden rope bridges that feel like they’re about to fall out from under your feet (they don’t), so if you have a terrible fear of heights, this may not be for you. It also do require a bit of walking up and down steep steps. They give you a walking stick to help, but I imagine if you had a disability, this would be a hard attraction to do as well. There appears to be an easier walking path for who can’t do the heavier walk. They also have a zipline for thrill seekers to go across the creek from a high height. I am not sure if this is included with one of the tour prices or not, but it looked cool if you are into that type of thing.
Once you complete the path, you’ll arrive at Chorro El Macho, which is a massive 115 foot tall waterfall. It is really impressive. I’ve read on Trip Adivisor that people who went during the dry season didn’t think the waterfall had that much flow to it, but after two days of strong rains in the middle of rainy season, the waterfall definitely was intense and powerful.
It did appear that you could swim at the bottom of the waterfall. I’m not sure how safe/clean the water was, but we saw a ton of people doing it, and they seemed to come out okay. I wouldn’t drink it. And I definitely wouldn’t be like the two crazy guys who were climbing up the slippery rocks into the second level of the waterfall. While I’m all for thrill seeking, one slip and you can literally end up with your head smashed on a rock.
Overall this was definitely worth the price of admission. Next time we go back to El Valle, we will definitely bring our swimsuits to try out swimming in the waterfall. Maybe we’ll even have waterproof gear for the camera by then to take some under the waterfall pictures. The walk back was nice too, as we got some nice pictures of the streams that had rapids caused by the strength of the water falls.
Overall, our only complaint about El Valle was that we didn’t stay longer (okay, the 4 hour drive back in Sunday rush hour traffic kind of sucks). I could easily see us spending 3-4 days there on another trip and never feeling bored. There was plenty else we didn’t do, like visit the zoo, the farmers market, and some of the other waterfalls. Still, we left feeling like we got a ton accomplished in the 24 hours we were there, while never feeling tired or stressed. It ended up being a wildly successful vacation. If you love nature, you’ll love El Valle, and should put it on your must visit list while in Panama.
Check out our full picture album from both blogs, as well as some additional ones we didn’t share.