It is possible, if a little less convenient, to explore this region without a car. Yellow taxis ply the streets of major tourist centers. Your hotel or restaurant will be happy to arrange transportation for you. In fact, if you want to hike the Sendero los Quetzales, it's best to hire a taxi in Cerro Punta to take you to the trailhead. It only takes about 90 minutes to drive from David to Boca Chica. If you spend a few nights there, you may want to have your hotel arrange a taxi transfer from David.
A Bit of History
Chiriquí remained the realm of indigenous chiefdoms for most of the colonial era, although conquistadors first visited the region in the 16th century, founding a few outposts that were soon abandoned or destroyed. According to Spanish chroniclers, the region was divided among various indigenous ethnicities, which conquistadors collectively dubbed the Guaymí—a name that persists to this day. Though they founded David and a few neighboring towns in the early 17th century, the Spaniards remained a minority in the region until the 19th century. They introduced cattle early in the conquest. As ranching took hold, the area's forests receded, and the indigenous people retreated into the mountains they now call home. The trend continues to this day; pasture is the province's predominant landscape.
Originally considered part of Veraguas, the province of Chiriquí wasn't created until 1849, when it had just 16,000 inhabitants. Because nearly all the buildings were made of wood or adobe, hardly a structure survives from the colonial era. Chiriquí didn't really start to grow till the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when ranches and banana and sugar plantations completely covered the lowlands. European immigrants then began moving into the mountain valleys, where they took advantage of the rich volcanic soil to produce coffee, fruit, and vegetables. With agricultural expansion, indigenous territory shrank. The majority of Chiriquí's indigenous peoples now live in the mountains in what was once the province's northeast corner, though many also work on farms in Boquete and Cerro Punta. The 21st century brings a real-estate boom as foreigners were drawn to the mountain valleys' spring-like climate and to the beautiful coast.
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