Boquete, Panama, a town of 20,000 near the Costa Rican border, has attracted substantial foreign investment in recent years. The mountainous area grows crops such as coffee and oranges and is very similar to Costa Rica, but at more economical prices. Costa Rica has experienced a real estate bubble and is no longer a bargain, so investors seek alternatives. Panama is the fastest growing economy in the world and real estate increased during the global bubble, but at a slower rate than Costa Rica.
One new business is The Haven Spa, opened a year ago with favorable reviews at TripAdvisor. It is designed to provide the experience of a spa that costs $500, but at a much cheaper price of $125-200. The common area includes a library of books about alternative medicine, such as Food Fight, which describes why many people become obese.
They offer rooms with king size beds and firm quality mattresses, plus an array of spa services such as massages, alternative medicine therapies, fitness equipment, jacuzzi, saunas, and several unusual luxuries.
A racquetball court seems unusual at a spa and it is a sport that will give you a good workout. The fitness equipment also includes an Ironman Resolution vibration trainer, pictured at the right. Popular Mechanics voted the machine the tenth worst gadget of 2007, but the staff at The Haven strongly disagree. The Ironman is designed to simulate being in space at up to 4 G’s of force. Mary and I tried it at the low setting of 2G and the high at 4G. I was able to stand up for about 3 seconds at the high level and Mary was forced to hold on to the handlebars. It was interesting, but I couldn’t say how well it works because we only used it for a minute.
The Haven also features a Riverpool swimming treadmill, pictured above, which seems like a good way to swim without using a large space or noisy ventilation equipment. Endless Pools, a competitor, claims they “are gaining popularity among baby boomers whose creaky knees can no longer take a pounding, avid swimmers, people seeking a healthier lifestyle and those who need medical rehabilitation.”
Mary and I spent two nights at the Haven Spa and were impressed with the luxury and attention to detail. The only downside is that the bedrooms are small, although the bathrooms are large and contain two sinks. I most appreciated the shower, a luxury few hotels construct well, which at The Haven allowed us to precisely control pressure and temperature, and did not force me to stoop over. It seems that the showers in many hotels are designed by short women. Fortunately, The Haven is owned by a man even taller than me!