Piedras Gordas is a tranquil Latino community located in beautiful forested mountains overlooking the town of La Pintada, in the province of Coclé. The community has roughly 800 inhabitants but the population can double for holidays and on certain weekends. Most community members dedicate themselves to agriculture, ranching and making artisan goods. Piedras Gordas is […]
Piedras Gordas is a tranquil Latino community located in beautiful forested mountains overlooking the town of La Pintada, in the province of Coclé. The community has roughly 800 inhabitants but the population can double for holidays and on certain weekends. Most community members dedicate themselves to agriculture, ranching and making artisan goods. Piedras Gordas is well known in the region for its orange, mango, café and bean production. The community’s iconic export is the Sombrero Pinta’o, the traditional Panamanian hat. Piedras Gordas is well known for its citizens’ craftsmanship and for weaving the traditional hats with locally sourced fibers.
Visiting Piedras Gordas is a unique and amazing experience for any Panamanian or foreign visitor. The people of Piedras Gordas (Piedra Gordanos) are incredibly friendly and welcoming; it’s not uncommon to be invited by a complete stranger to come to their home and share a meal or coffee. The Piedras Gordas and its surroundings are absolutely beautiful. There are amazing views of the surrounding mountains, forest trails leading to hidden coffee and orange farms, and cool rivers and streams where the residents fish and swim. Although Piedras Gordas and the district of La Pintada are relatively well known in Panamá, Piedras Gordas has not become overly crowded with outside visitors…yet. This makes visiting the community such a special experience for the adventuresome traveler. People in Piedras Gordas are happy to have visitors and share their culture with outsiders, but tourists are still able to encounter an authentic rural Latino community that hasn’t been transformed by outside visitors. Piedras Gordas is the ideal place for anyone interested in learning about organic agriculture and permaculture, the region’s history and culture, searching for a new adventure, and/or looking to make a meaningful cultural connection.
Piedras Gordas is located roughly 100 kilometers northwest of Panama City, and 25 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital Penonomé. To reach Piedras Gordas you should take the road from to Penonomé to La Pintada (15-20 min). Upon reaching La Pintada, drive through the town always following the main road to left. For a short period of time in the center of town this will become a dirt road. Continue down this road for another couple of minutes until you hit a fork. There you will encounter a sign with the name Piedras Gordas pointing the left. Follow this road for another 15-20 min. until you see the signs welcoming you to Piedras Gordas. If at any point you are unsure of which way to go feel free to ask someone to point you in the right direction; Piedras Gordas is well known in the area and anyone you come across should be able to help.
There are a large variety of activities available to anyone visiting Piedras Gordas. Ranging from relaxing walks in the forest, to unique cultural events, to experiences designed for the adrenaline junkie.
Hiking Cerro Orari and Cerro Corral
Although both hikes have rather steep ascents, the climbs are relatively short (1-1.5 hrs.) and the payoff is huge! Both hikes amazing offer 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and towns. These hikes can be organized through any of the community contacts.
Most locals tend to use bikes for utilitarian purposes more than for exercise or pleasure, however there are many well paved roads with beautiful views as long as you don’t mind hills. There are also some dirt trails that are perfect for anyone interested in mountain biking. The best trail for mountain biking passes by Piedras Gordas’ soccer field before leading down to the neighboring town of Calabazo #2.
There are three beautiful rivers that are popular swimming spots for locals: the rivers in Las Delicias, El Harino, and El Bermejo. All three of these rivers are very clean and visiting them offers a typical Panamanian experience. There are waterfalls that can be visited at the rivers in El Bermejo and Las Delicias, and the Las Delicias river also has a very deep swimming whole that locals often jump into from the surrounding cliffs. Trips to the rivers can be organized with any of the community contacts.
Visit Organic Farms
There are a number of farmers that have embraced organic agriculture practices and their dedication has certainly paid off. Ernesto Perez and Edilberto “Beto” Rodriguez both have very impressive farms and gardens, and are more than happy to share their knowledge with others. Beto’s farm is the more developed of the two and he is an experienced tour guide. Contact Ernesto or Beto to arrange a tour of their farms.
Learn how to make Sombrero Pinta’o
The iconic hat in Panamá, the Sombrero Pinta’o (not to be confused with the “Panama Hat,” which is actually made in Ecuador and is only worn by tourists) is the most important accessory a Panamanian can have. The La Pintada district in Coclé is one of the most famous regions for the confection of the Sombrero Pinta’o. In Piedras Gordas visitors can visit a nursery where the plants that are used to sew the hats are grown, watch how the dyes are made, learn how to weave the sombreros and buy their very own Sombrero Pinta’o. The majority of households in Piedras Gordas have at least one family member that knows how to weave these hats, but contact Ernesto Perez to visit the nursery and learn how the dyes are made.
Parque Nacional Omar Torrijos
There is a beautiful national park located about 1 hr. by car from Piedras Gordas. Visiting the Parque Nacional Omar Torrijos makes for the perfect day trip while staying in Piedras Gordas. To organize a tour with the park guides speak with Ernesto Perez who has contacts with ANAM, the Panamanian environmental agency, which is in charge of looking after the park.
Enjoying the mountain trails by foot or on horseback: There are numerous trails that venture into the forests surrounding Piedras Gordas. You can take a short relaxing hike around the area or a more strenuous half-day or full day hike into the surrounding mountains. Many families have their own horses and are happy to take visitors on a ride, so feel free to ask if that sounds appealing. There are many hieroglyphic drawings on rocks throughout the area, so make sure to ask your guide to point them out. Hike and horseback trips can be arrange through any of the community contacts.
Celebrating Patronales in Piedras Gordas
At the beginning of each March Piedras Gordas celebrates their patron saint San Juan de Dios (John the Baptist). The celebration starts with 8 nights of religious services, with culmination being an evening procession through the town. After the religious services there are three days of dances, concerts, and bull fights that normally start around the 8th of March.
The most impressive artisan goods available in the community are the iconic Sombrero Pinta’os (captured in the above photo and pronounced: ‘peen-tao’). The price of these hats depends on how finely the hats are woven. The most basic hats can be woven in a day or two and typical cost between $10-$15, the most finely woven hats can take up to two months to weave, and can cost a couple hundred dollars. You can find Sombrero Pinta’os of various prices and designs throughout the community. Many people in the community also sow bags, key chains and other smaller items with the same fibers.
There is a very talented carpenter and furniture maker named Agustin Bermudez who gets commissioned to work on projects for people throughout the country. All of his wood is locally sourced and he is always pleased to take on new projects and clients.
Piedras Gordas is ideal for day trips, but if you are interested in staying in the community for more than just the day, it is possible to arrange staying with a host family. Members of the Nazareno Co-op (contact Ernesto Perez) have lots of experience hosting visitors, and they are usually happy to open up their doors to guests. Prices for staying with families are quite reasonable usually $5-15 per night and meals can be arranged. If you are interested in a longer stay there are a number of houses that can be rented for weeks or months at a time. Get in touch with any of the community contacts to arrange lodging.
It is common for visitors to arrange meals with families in the community. If you are interested in arranging meals for bigger groups it would be best to get in touch with Ernesto Perez who can organize with the Nazareno Co-op to cater to your needs.
There are five community contacts that can help any visitor make a smooth introduction to all that the community has to offer. The Panamanian Country Code is 507, which must be dialed before the phone number is entered. (e.g. If calling from the US: 011+507+6390-4960)
Ernesto Perez 6390-4960, you can also call his daughter Fatima 6425-2010 (Spanish)
Eldiberto “Beto” Sanchez his cell phone service is very bad, so it’s best to ask for him once you come to Piedras Gordas (Spanish)
Yarineth “Yari” Sanchez 6420-4540 (Spanish, Some English)
Serifina “Cheli” Martínez 6644-4393 (Spanish)
Agustin Bermudez 6465-4630 (Spanish)