Santa Fe is perfect for hikers and adventure seekers looking explore off the beaten track. This is my complete Santa Fe, Panama hiking guide with all the information you need about hiking this hidden gem of Panama.
From Santiago, there are frequent buses leaving every 30 minutes from the main terminal. The full ride last 90 minutes and costs $2.90. Santiago is the main stopping point on the Panama City-David bus route and the bus terminal is very easy to navigate. Buses from Panama City take 3.5-4 hours depending on traffic and cost $9. Make sure you have enough cash and/or gasoline before leaving for Santa Fe because the town does not have an ATM or gas station.
I had quite the adventure on this hike. The trailhead is pretty easy to walk to from Santa Fe as long as you stay on the main road until you see the Bermejo Waterfalls sign. Unfortunately, as you will see in my YouTube video of the Bermejo Falls hike, I turned off the road too soon and hiked on the Altos de los Gonzales trail for a bit until I asked a local who told me I was in the wrong spot. I arrived at the trailhead and began hiking the trail as the rain tapered on and off.
There are also two water crossings on the trail to the falls. It’s important to bring water resistant hiking gear or at least wear clothing you aren’t afraid to get wet. It’s important to note the trail to this waterfall is blocked by a fence but you can open the fence without getting in trouble (see directions in the video). You should also see horses and a herd of cows past the fence as you make your way to the falls. There is no entrance fee to access the waterfalls and assuming you don’t get lost as many times as I did, this hike should take 4-5 hours roundtrip.
This trailhead can be pretty tricky to find if you do not have the right map and directions from the hostel. This trail has no entrance fee and starts off at the Las Brujas trail/4X4 road located on the west side of town. This path has with many amazing viewpoints of Santa Fe and the surrounding mountains. After you cross three streams on the road, look for a boulder as a marker for where the Cerro Tute trail begins.
There is a larger boulder off the side of the road earlier on the road that does not lead you to the start. After you see this boulder, you will see a trail/4X4 road on the right with a steep incline that you will take instead. After a short walk, you will see another boulder sitting in the road and look for the small trail to Cerro Tute after that. There are no markings on this trail so I highly recommend bringing a map and watching my YouTube video of the Cerro Tute hike because I provide accurate information on getting to the correct trail.
From here, the Cerro Tute trail should take no more than an hour to the summit. It meanders through a well-shaded forest (with lots of butterflies) that breaks out into the open a few times on the climb up to the summit. The hike isn’t too difficult until you get close to the top when a little scrambling is required. The views are the top are stunning and probably some of the best in Panama. You have the view of Santa Fe and the mountains on one side and a view of the valley on the other side. In total, the hike should take 5-6 hours roundtrip.
El Alto Waterfalls/Swimming Hole
This area is on the road towards El Alto which you reach by minibus from Santa Fe for 40 cents. There is also a minibus that will drop you off at the entrance to El Alto road for 30 cents. I asked around but not too many people (mainly construction workers) knew where it was located. A local did show me the right way and I was able to find the waterfalls pretty easily. They aren’t the most impressive waterfalls to see but there is a nice swimming hole but the surrounding mountains are very nice to look at. I recommend going here if you have some extra time and I think it’s better to go with a group.
El Salto Waterfalls
This is a series of 11 waterfalls over a small area east of Santa Fe, Although you might not see all of them but you should at least see a couple of the bigger ones. Get there by taking the same minibus that drops you off at the entrance to El Alto road. Walk down this road for a bit and take the big dirt road on the right. From here it’s a 2-2.5 hour hike that takes you through an organic farm on the way to the waterfalls.
When I decided where to hike, I chose to hike to El Alto Waterfalls over here. It didn’t turn out to be the best idea but hey nobody is perfect and I definitely want to hike here when I return to Santa Fe. I recommend clicking this link for more detailed information about El Salto Waterfalls as well as the organic farm owned by Egberto Soto and his family.
Alto de Piedra Waterfalls
This is a beautiful series of waterfalls located west of Santa Fe on the road to Gualaca and Calovebora. You can hike on the road for two hours to get to the entrance to the trail but I wouldn’t recommend it because it’s mostly uphill. Save a bit of energy and hop on a minibus at Santa Fe’s town square heading to Guabal. They will drop you off at the trailhead and the cost is $1 each way.
The hike has no entrance fee and the trailhead is no more than 20 minutes downhill to the waterfalls. Bring your best hiking shoes because it can get pretty muddy and slippery when it’s raining. The waterfalls are nothing short of amazing and a great place to unwind. You can swim in certain parts and I saw a family washing their clothes at the falls when I was there. There is also a third waterfall which I found out about while writing this article. I wish I knew about I was there because it looks stunning. You can read more about the third waterfall and how to get there by clicking right here.
Here are additional helpful resources and articles to read before your trip to Santa Fe, Panama.
Official Website for Santa Fe
Excellent Hiking Map of Santa Fe
More Information about El Salto Waterfalls
More Information about Alto de Piedra Waterfalls
Travels with Miha shares the story of her bus ride to Santa Fe and exploring El Salto Waterfalls.
Tracey from A Taste of Trace went swimming at El Alto Waterfalls and hiked to Bermejo Waterfalls during the dry season and it looks way different compared to when I went there.