Do Square Trees in Panama Really Exist? – Here’s How to Visit

Do Square Trees in Panama Really Exist? - Here's How to Visit

Upon realising I would be near an area with the infamous ‘Panama square treesI had to go and investigate. I love things that are obscure, off the beaten track, ridiculous, fascinating and absurd. This ticked all the boxes and is an alleged phenomenon unique only to a small forest in the middle of Panama. Nowhere else on the entire planet can lay claim to having square trees! This was not to be missed.

Pointing at a square tree in Panama
A square tree and I in Panama…what a world!

El Valle de Antón (often referred to as ‘Anton Valley’ by us Westerners) is a town built in the crater of a volcano. Don’t worry though, it hasn’t erupted for hundreds of years, so there’s no cause for concern. 

However, something inside the volcanic crater may offer an explanation as to why the Panama square trees exist. Scientists have taken samples away and tried to grow them elsewhere in the world, but they always grow in the traditional manner. 

What causes this? Could it be something in the volcanic soil? Aliens? Who knows. Off I went to find out for myself.

Well, ‘the valley of square trees’ in Panama isn’t really a valley. Nor are there many square trees. In fact, there’s a grand total of two. 

Yes, two! 

It’s so hard to tell which trees are supposed to be square, that a directional sign has been placed next them. This thankfully saves any Columbo style investigation, as you wouldn’t even notice them if it wasn’t pointed out.

Direction sign to the square trees in Panama
You wouldn’t know it was a square tree, unless there was a sign to tell you

I had read that the Panama square trees have right angles of 90°, which is quite laughable. Although I’m sure we’ve all learned not to believe everything we read online, this was the icing on the cake.

Fair enough, they aren’t round in the traditional sense, but to call them square is a bit silly. In the below picture I look to be desperately performing kung fu on a tree. I’m actually trying to distinguish the square features. I didn’t go so far as to cut one open (that would have been criminal), but apparently they do have square rings (an oxymoron I know) inside to identify their age.

Checking for a square tree in Panama
Kung fu or maths…someone needs to measure the angle

One website has gone so far as to describe them as ‘one of the most fascinating and mysterious things of the world’.  I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Looking for square trees in Panama
Do square trees exist in Panama…I’m not convinced they’re really ‘square’

How to visit the Panama Square Trees

The Panama square trees aren’t easy to access. Unless you happen to be in the area, it’s probably not worth travelling for one or two days to reach them.

El Valle is located in central Panama and reached by first travelling to Las Uvas. This is a tiny place on the Pan American Highway, so all buses travelling from David in the west, or Panama City in the east will pass by here.

From Las Uvas, on the side of the highway you catch a Collectivo mini bus to El Valle for $1.50 per person. (As a side note; the correct bus usually has a large ‘Dumb Ass’ sticker in the window. That’s no joke and really sums everything up). 

From El Valle the forest is a half hour walk out of town. The square trees are officially accessed by paying $3 USD to Hotel Campestre. This gives you entrance to a forest path and the square trees are at the point furthest away.

Another way to access the square trees for free is from a secret entrance at the side of the road. I don’t really feel good about putting this up, but in line with full disclosure about how I visited the Panama square trees, I should tell you. Our accommodation, Bodhi Hostel & Lounge also encourages this secret entrance. Reflecting back, I should have just paid the official $3 USD entrance fee.

You can walk down the road behind Hotel Campestre (as in the map above) and then look for a broken down fence on the right hand side. A short hop down the bank and you will see a small bridge to the left. Cross it and walk about 100 metres to the left. One of the world’s most underwhelming phenomena will now be right before your eyes!

If you love trees, you might find this article on tree shaping interesting. Mankind has not yet been able to shape a square tree though. That’s at least to my knowledge, so internet, please do prove me wrong!

Have you visited anywhere unique and crazy? Tell us about it in the comments below…

Get the best value accommodation in Panama here:

Essential Items for Your Trip to Panama

It’s always useful to have a guide that helps you plan your travels. The Lonely Planet Guide to Panama is ideal. Also available as Kindle.

The Rough Guide to Panama is also an exceptional travel planner. Also available as Kindle.

I have taken one of these across the world. This power strip is essential for international travel. It charges multiple items at once and takes any kind of international plug. Perfect if you’re in a hostel dorm with limited plug sockets or have a lot of tech to charge.

You’ll need sun cream to fight against Panama’s scorching sun. I recommend an eco friendly reef sun cream. This means if you also use it to go swimming, you won’t be harming the underwater environment and animals. You won’t get burned either!

Save the environment and stay hydrated with a bottle that filters your water. This is ideal for travelling overseas where people don’t have the luxury of potable tap water. It will mean you don’t get sick or use a lot of non-recyclable plastic.


Panama Square Trees

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