To visit Finca Ceriana we drove to the Volcan airport and parked our car to continue with the guide. They usually collect visitors from their hotels in Volcán. Years ago I had met Luigi Gonzalez de la Lastra and his wife Jannette Janson at an event in Hacienda Los Molinos Boutique Hotel in Boquete. They had invited me to visit their farm but I did not have the opportunity to go.
Diversity of tours
Originally they only had a premium tour that remains the flagship experience of Finca Ceriana. But they realized that not all people could or wanted to spend a full day and decided to divide it into alternatives.
The full day tour includes all the activities offered by the farm such as hiking, platform, bird watching, sheep and grinding sugar cane in a mill. A coffee snack with butter cookies is offered at the viewpoint in the middle of the cloud forest. Then, a gourmet picnic style lunch with wine under leafy cedars. Any dietary preferences or allergies must be notified 48 hours in advance.
The family tour starts at 8 a.m. and you see the sheep, chickens and cows. Animals can be fed and pictures taken with them. Next you will go to the mill where they teach you how to make sugar and try guarapo (sugarcane juice). If you want to go hiking or bird watching you can walk through the four signposted trails on the farm for about three kilometers. The difference of both tours is the departure time, birdwatching starts at 6:30 a.m.
The panoramic viewpoint has breathtaking views of the lowlands of Chiriquí and, with luck, you can see the Pacific Ocean, Punta Burica, in Panama and the Golfo Dulce and the Ossa peninsula in Costa Rica.
Ebird has certified 207 species of birds visible on the farm. The flagship of Finca Ceriana is the trogon acollarado. Other birds that can be seen are tanagras, hummingbirds, honeycreepers, chile, falcon and warblers. White and howler monkeys inhabit the trails.
Finca Ceriana is a nature reserve
After living all over the world, Luigi and Jannette decide to return to Volcan where she had grown up. This farm is located right next to Janson Farm. They acquired this 20-hectare farm and decide that half will be designated as a private nature reserve. Only four and a half hectares are for tourist use. They have primary and secondary forests.
One of the first questions I asked was “where does the name Ceriana come from?” His answer was “from Italy.” Jannette’s grandparents had ‘Crespi’ as surname and were originally from a town called Ceriana in northwestern Italy.
When you visit, they will tell you how the town of Volcan was founded by Europeans mainly French and German who arrived in Boquete. Exploring the area they discover that the land of Cerro Punta was even more fertile and they open what is now known as the Los Quetzales Trail.
They opened sawmills and began conquering Dolega, Potrerillos and the Valley of Volcan. This was in the years 1904-1908 when Panama was recently separated from Colombia. Originally the township of Volcan was called Baru and then Hato Volcan.
Lodging, coffee, avocado and lagoons
A beautiful log cabin is located in the lower flat part of Finca Ceriana. When I checked to see if they rented it they told me it was owned by the owners. But they are building several similar cabins that will be ready in 2019. All are eco-friendly with solar energy and water of their own. The materials mostly come from the farm, including wood.
The sheep are herded near the cabins. They are sold standing or butchered which is bought by local restaurants such as Cerro Brujo. At the moment they do not produce vegetables but once they open the cabins they will build a greenhouse.
They brought avocados from Costa Rica to Finca Ceriana, which start production after their fourth year. Upon entering the farm you will go through the coffee plantations of Janson Farm and then to this valley that has avocados and coffee plants. They have planted the Geisha variety since it is highly valued but they do not sell it, they only make a blend to offer visitors.
Finca Ceriana is a natural reserve and at the same time serves as a biological corridor. The volcano lagoons are right next door and serve as a source of water for birds and animals.