Our Mission
Unexpected Moments of Magic Panama is dedicated to empowering individuals worldwide through the encouragement of self-exploration through social entrepreneurship, volunteerism, philanthropy and education as powerful forces for worldwide change. Be the change!

Meals & Food
This section describes the types of meals you can expect during your placement, provided by the program. Please note that meals will differ from accommodation to accommodation.

Meals during your Volunteer Time
Your program fee provides for your breakfast on the start date of your placement, which is a normally a Monday or Tuesday, so if you are arriving prior you will have to pick up a few things for yourself for the first few days of your stay. This allows us time during orientation to see what you and your fellow volunteers would like for breakfast and to get a group list. Breakfast foods may include: cereal, bread with jam/peanut butter, fruit, yogurt, pancakes, eggs, and tea. Specialty items are not included and volunteers must purchase them on their own shall they desire items not included on the breakfast list. When an item runs out at the home, the volunteer must email the Volunteer Coordinator and allow 24 hours for delivery of the requested item(s). If the item is approved and the volunteer desires it immediately, he or she can purchase the item(s) and he/she will be reimbursed with a valid receipt.

Volunteers participating in the homestay program will have the option of adding a meal plan covering all meals for $49 per week.

For all other meals - lunch, dinner and snacks - volunteers are responsible for purchasing at your own cost and preparing food for yourself.

UMMP encourages all volunteers to arrive the Friday before Orientation on Monday to allow time to explore and gain a sense of comfort with the culture and location before starting your placement and of course time to get to know the other volunteers. With that being said, volunteers have the option of including those days as part of their accommodation covered in the program fee, or starting their accommodation covered in the program fees on the night before the 1st and 3rd Monday of the month and paying for the additional nights.

The program fee covers 7 nights per week. So if a volunteer signs up for 3 weeks, they have 21 nights in the volunteer house no matter what day they arrive. Additional nights are $12 for dorm rooms. If a volunteer would like a private room with a shared bathroom in the Boquete Starfish Volunteer House, it is $10 extra per night for one person or $15 per night for a couple ($7.50 each). If volunteers want to extend their volunteer placement for a few days, UMMP asks that volunteers make a $10 donation per additional day. 

If volunteers choose to do a homestay, the additional cost per night is $10 per person per night. Volunteers can request a private room generally with a shared bathroom or if they are open to it, a shared room with other members of the family (usually children). See more information on the Cultural Immersion Program online.

Type of Accommodation
Boquete Starfish Volunteer House

UMMP offers an array of accommodation options to best suit your needs and desires. Within the volunteer budget, volunteers are accommodated at the Boquete Starfish Volunteer House in separate gendered dorm rooms (during slow season, dorms may be mixed gender). Couples & groups of friends who wish to share a room can be accommodated for in the Volunteer House subject to availability.  If a volunteer desires to have a private room or participate in the Cultural Immersion Program add-on option, additional fees apply. See above for a detailed description.

The majority of volunteers choose to stay at the Boquete Starfish Volunteer House. For volunteers staying at the Boquete Volunteer House, it is conveniently located in the center of town on the main street; the home has a wonderful atmosphere that will peacefully make you feel just at home. The home has hot water and you will be able to share an equipped kitchen, a comfortable living room lounge to chill out and free wireless Internet access is available. Volunteers need to bring their own towels and laundry services are available in the home for $3 per load. The volunteer house is run like a guesthouse and can accommodate approximately 13 volunteers. You should expect to share a room. Private rooms are available through reservation and at an additional fee.

For volunteers working on various other programs in Boquete and David, you will be housed at homestays in those areas, and conditions for these programs may be more rustic than for those in the volunteer house. We also offer an assortment of hotel accommodations for additional fees depending on your needs and desires.

Arriving at your Accommodation
For those of you doing homestays, when you first arrive in your new home and orientation will be given to discuss any questions you may have. For example, meals times, laundry procedures, if there is a curfew, if your host permits alcohol and or smoking and where it might be allowed on the premises. Remember communication and understanding is the key to stopping a problem from evolving.

Volunteers must act with a courteous and respectful manner towards their accommodation provider, the dwelling they are living in and other volunteers they are living with at all times. Being considerate to others is the key to communal living: You are asked to keep communal areas free of personal belongings; keep your bedroom space clean and tidy; remain quiet when people are sleeping; keep personal hygiene to a high standard; if you require a shower at a certain time discuss with others in the house beforehand; maintain an acceptable standard of dress at all times; before inviting guests to your accommodation seek the permission of your host.

  • For those staying at the Volunteer House, we ask that you introduce your new friends to your Volunteer Coordinator prior to inviting them into the home for your own safety and the safety of the other volunteers.
  • Alcohol: Alcoholic drinks are not permitted in the Volunteer House or homestays. Returning drunk to your accommodation is not permitted in any of the accommodations within the program including the Volunteer House.
  • Smoking: Smoking may not be permitted at your accommodation, so check with your host to find out if it is ok to smoke and where you can do it. Smoking is not permitted inside the Volunteer House.
  • Illegal Substances: The use of illegal substances are not permitted at any point through the duration of your time on the program or while staying in your accommodation. Breaking this rule will end your volunteer placement.
  • Curfew: Please be aware you may be asked to observe a curfew time set by your accommodation provider.
House Duties
If you are staying in the Boquete Volunteer House, volunteers will be responsible for the upkeep of the home. Chores include sweeping & mopping floors, washing sheets, emptying rubbish, wiping down the bathrooms, cleaning the shower, etc. As a volunteer, you are expected to clean up after yourself by washing dishes you dirty, keeping your living area organized and being respectful of shared bathrooms.

Departing your Accommodation
On your final day at your accommodation, please be sure to remove all of your belongings from the house in preparation for the next volunteer coming and clean up any mess you may have made. If for some reason you decide to leave the program earlier than your scheduled departure date you will need to inform your UMMP Volunteer Coordinator. Please be aware that ending the program early will also terminate your accommodation. You are not entitled to a refund of program fee - this includes food, accommodation, and fees yet to be utilized - as explained in the legal terms of service agreed to on applying to the program.

Visitors are always impressed by the amount of restaurants in Boquete. Panama is a very cosmopolitan country and you encounter the most international cuisines in places like Boquete, Bocas del Toro and Panama City where the foreign influence can be felt in its restaurants. Amazingly enough, Boquete is home to several prestigious and internationally renowned chefs and there are plenty of gorgeous restaurants in Boquete. There is an array of restaurants in Boquete offering a wide selection of international dishes including: Mexican, Italian, Peruivan, American, Chinese, and of course delicious Panamanian. Just to mention a few: Restaurant Baru, Il Pomodoro, Machu Pichu, Antojitos Mexicanos, El Panamonte Bar and Restaurant, The Rock, Il Pianista and Oasis are amongst the best restaurants in Boquete.

There are also plenty of places to eat out in David. Restaurant 24 is a typical Panamanian style restaurant with main meals for around $3 located on Ave 2 Este. You will find restaurants offering international cuisine in David also, with the Steak House serving highly recommended Chinese food as well as Panamanian food. Java Juice, based on Av Francisco Clark, northeast of the bus terminal is a popular location for travellers, serving fresh smoothies, coffee and burgers, with main meals priced between $2.50 -$4. There are also several popular American fast food outlets in David also such as TGI Fridays, McDonalds and Domino’s Pizza. 

There are several markets in Boquete that offer a vast array of food from around the globe. Fruits and vegetables are in abundance and tend to be cheaper at the Market across from Super Baru, which is the largest and most diverse Supermarket in Boquete. Deli Baru offers a gourmet selection of foods, but tends to be a bit more expensive. La Mandarin offers a larger selection of Asia cuisine.

There are also several supermarkets in David. Super Banu is a large American style supermarket located on the corner of Ave Francisco Clark & 3 de Noviembre.

Food Prices
Due to the vast array of food selection, the amount you spend on food will differ pending on your taste. The local eateries offer budget foods starting at $1.00 per meal, while the more contemporary restaurants have a pricier selection from $5-25.

The water in Panama is drinkable from the tap. If you would like to be extra cautious, we ask that you boil water instead of buying bottled water to be friendly to our environment.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends boiling water as the best method for making water safe to drink. Boiling water as recommended will kill bacterial, parasitic, and viral causes of diarrhea. Directions for boiling water: boil water vigorously for 1 minute and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Final Comment
Try something new! If you are offered food that you are not familiar with, try a little. It is alright to refuse politely if there are health reasons or other dietary restrictions.

Additional Accommodation Needs
If you require accommodation outside of your program dates, we are able to assist you in planning. Please refer to the below accommodation descriptions and options in Boquete. If accommodation is needed outside of Boquete, please contact us for more information. Additional accommodation is at your own expense and you pay your accommodation provider directly. Here are some other options:

Live with a local host family while you learn Spanish in Boquete!
Living with a Panamanian family during your volunteer time is an incredible cultural experience. A homestay offers you an amazing opportunity to practice Spanish in a natural, relaxed and authentic atmosphere as well as being in a unique and privileged position to get immersed in the Latin American culture, cuisine, customs and daily way of life.

We have many different types of families and this allows us to choose the host family that best suits you. With our homestay program volunteers have the optional of adding a meal plan to cover their lunch & dinner for an additional $49 per week (this option is available with most families). Many of our host families in Boquete are within walking distance to the village center, while others require a short ride using public transportation. 

Volunteers based out of David will have the option to stay at Bambu Hostel, do a home stay and with certain placements, onsite lodging is available. For more information or to view pictures of Bambu Hostel, visit them online at www.bambuhostel.com.

Recommended Hostels, Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts
There is a very wide variety of places to stay in Boquete, ranging from very simple hostels, to extremely luxurious country inns. Below you will find a general selection of some of the best places to stay at within different price ranges.

Recommended Low Budget Hostels in Boquete
Low price range hotels will typically cost between $11 & $15 U.S. dollars per night, depending on the hostel and the time of the year. Accommodation and facilities are shared and basic, but clean and welcoming. The staff at our selected hostels provides a friendly and professional costumer service. Hostels are a good option for backpackers and students seeking an environment with a young atmosphere, a chilled out energy or a lively party vibe. Hostal Nomba, Hostal Refugio del Rio & Mamallena are our favorite low budget hostels in Boquete.

Recommended Mid Range Hotels in Boquete
Mid price range hotels will cost between $30 & $90 U.S. dollars per night and will offer more privacy than the low range hotels. Rooms at the hotels of this category will be comfortably furnished and will include a private bathroom and cable TV as standard. Mid range hotels will also have breakfast and laundry service available for guests. Their facilities will offer free wireless internet connection, nicer common areas and gardens with river views. Isla Verde's Roundhouses & Suites and Boquete Garden Inn are amongst the favorites for travelers.

Recommended Top Range Country Inns in Boquete
Top price range hotels will cost between $100 and $250 U.S. dollars per night. The rooms themselves will be very comfortable indeed and the hotel will also offer a complete range of guest services that may include a restaurant, bar, spa facilities, etc. In this category you will find Boquete's most luxurious options and you will certainly remember your stay at these special places wishing to return to enjoy a piece of heaven. Valle Escondido, Haven Inn & Spa & The Panamonte Inn & Spa are amongst our favorites.

Apartments, Homes and Cabins for Rent: Boquete Vacation Rentals
UMMP can also assist you in finding apartments or homes available for rent, which you can share with other volunteers who are traveling with you. This is a very good option for families or groups who plan to volunteer together and are looking for a vacation rental that will allow them to live at their own home during their extended stay in Boquete. Additional fees apply for this service.

Recommended Low Budget Hostels in David
Bambu Hostel is a backpackers resort with a deluxe in-ground pool and Mayan-style rancho bar and landscaped garden. Prices range from US$11 for dorms, to $18- $23 for private rooms. This hostel is located close to major restaurants, supermarkets and pharmacies. During October you may need to book in advance.

Recommended Top Range Hotels in David 
Travelers to Ciudad de David in Chiriquí Province, Panama seeking comfortable elegance, contemporary style, and personalized service will find the perfect place to stay at the new luxury Hotel Ciudad de David. In the heart of the city, hotel guests will find tranquility, contemporary design, modern technology and good value as the hallmarks of our brand-new boutique hotel. This luxury and boutique hotel in David City Panama is just steps away from the Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra Park and mere minutes from Enrique Malek International Airport. The banking, business, and nightlife districts of Ciudad de David are within easy walking distance of the Hotel Ciudad de David — which is also the perfect gateway for enjoying all the beauty Panama’s Chiriquí Province has to offer.

Another option is The Grand Nacional Hotel that is located in Calle Central, and is one of David’s more expensive hotel with rooms costing around $60 a night. It is predominantly suited for business travelers, and is centrally located with an on-site restaurant.

Panama City
Recommended Low Budget Hostels in Panama City
La Jungla Hostel - Why compromise when you can have it all. Fun, safety, and access to most of the city without haggling with taxi's. Classy yet budget hostel located within a few steps of restaurants, 24 hour grocery stores, bars, shopping, and casinos right in the middle of the young and hip El Cangrejo district. Come and see what others are already talking about and why we are the best option for backpackers in the city's center.'Tree Top' level rooms overlook the hotel/casino district of the city. Dorm rooms and private rooms come with and without AC; communal area with TV, movies (digital theatre coming soon), free internet with good wireless signal throughout the main floor and rooms. Vip entrance for the guests in several of the city's clubs There is a huge communal kitchen, not joking. 'Backpacker breakfast' available to all. Laundry service, garage parking with remote access, equipment rental for excursions, airport transfers and reputable boats to Colombia through San Blas can all be arranged.

Mamallena is another great budget option! It has been long rated one of the best hostels in Panama and one of the only hostels in Panama City in a large colonial style house. This is where you will get to experience the real Panama. Walk out of the hostel and you will find one of the main streets of Panama City that is packed with restaurants, shopping, and lots of things to do and see!

Recommended Mid Range Hotels in Panama City
The Las Vegas Hotel Suites is ideally located in El Cangrejo; both residential and commercial, it is one of the most modern and safe areas in Panama City. Las Vegas Hotel Suites is a short walking distance from a splendid variety of activities, including the financial and banking district, shopping centers and restaurants. The hotel's architecture provides spacious and comfortable areas, suffused in tropical breeze and light. We offer you the choice of Studios which are one room efficiency apartments and one bedroom Suites with a separate living-dining room and kitchen area. All our rooms come equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, in-room safe, WiFi, voice mail, cable TV and air conditioning. The Suites also have a kitchen with an electric stove and cooking utensils and some have balconies.

In our interior garden you will find today's chic-est Caffè in town: Caffè Pomodoro, an affordable chance to enjoy some of the best Italian recipes for pasta and fine wines. The Caffè also provides delivery service to your room. Right next to Caffe Pomodoro is The Wine Bar with its great atmosphere offering live music and a wide variety of a select menu or cheeses, pizzas, salads and other gourmet choices.

We are a small hotel where you will enjoy a personalized service in which honest attentiveness defines our concept of hospitality. Its location is superb for business and pleasure, see this map of Panama City with the location of Las Vegas Hotel Suites in the heart of the banking and shopping area.

Recommended Top Range Hotels in Panama City
Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower Panama - Rising 70 stories above Panama Bay along Punta Pacifica's pristine peninsula, Trump Ocean Club® International Hotel & Tower Panama unites exclusive amenities, innovative accommodations and the signature services of Trump Attaché™. Destined to become Central America's next architectural icon, Trump’s sleek design evokes a majestic sail fully deployed in the wind. This 5-star Panama beach hotel is the tallest and largest building in Latin America, with a landmark address that’s redefining luxury in Panama. Steps from Punta Pacifica's sophisticated shops and nightlife, five minutes from the financial district and minutes from Panama City, this top hotel in Panama gives you the perfect setting to unite business with pleasure.

Unique among the world's finest hotels and resorts, Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower Panama delivers a superior level of modern convenience including meeting facilities outfitted with sophisticated technology. The 13th-floor deck features three radiant pools with waterfront dining and adjacent three-story high sky lobby. The fully-equipped gym, open 24 hours a day, offers personal training sessions from 5:30am to 11:00pm.

Staying true to Trump's unmatched reputation for excellence, every aspect of the tower has been designed to showcase direct ocean views, and each of the 369 hotel rooms and suites is exquisitely furnished in an elegant, cosmopolitan style. From the international casino (coming soon) to gourmet dining, this is opulence at its absolute finest.