Day 1. Panama City
On your arrival into Panama you will be met at the airport and transferred to the Country Inn Amador. The remainder of the day is free to explore.
Day 2. Panama Canal Rainforest Boat Adventure - Miraflores Locks - Chiriqui
Early in the morning we are picked up at the lobby of our hotel by our Naturalist Guide for a 45 minute drive to the town of Gamboa, where the Chagres River meets the Panama Canal. Here we board an expedition boat and depart on an adventure that will include a voyage across Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal passing by gigantic cargo ships transiting the waterway, making contrast with the natural surroundings.
Along the way, we will have the opportunity to spot Green iguana and Three-toed sloth resting on tree branches, Crocodile, Osprey in the hunt for Peacock bass, Snail kite and Keel-billed toucan among other wildlife. Gatun Lake was formed to give way to the Panama Canal in 1914. With a surface of 423 km², at the time of its creation was the largest man-made lake in the world.
The flow of all the rivers within the Panama Canal Watershed is contained in Gatun Lake to provide water for the operation of the lock system. More than 52 million gallons of fresh water are used for every ship that transits through the Panama Canal from one ocean to another. Our expedition boat will allow for close approximations to rainforest covered islands (former hill tops) in Gatun Lake to search for White-faced capuchin, Mantled howler monkey, Central American spider monkey, and Geoffrey's tamarin. We will enjoy a picnic lunch on a small island with extraordinary views of the Panama Canal and the natural surroundings.
We return to Gamboa and drive to Albrook domestic airport to catch our scheduled flight to David, capital of the Chiriqui province. Chiriqui is known as "Panama's breadbasket" and contains some of the most breathtaking highland scenery in Central America. Transfer by van to the western side of the Baru Volcano to the town of Volcan. Night at Finca Lerida. B
Day 3. La Amistad International Park & World Biosphere Reserve & Sitios Barriles
Shared with neighboring Costa Rica and recognized in 1982 as a World Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site, La Amistad is located at a point on the Central American natural land bridge where flora and fauna from North and South America reach here their maximum species mix. With great ranges in altitude, precipitation, soil and temperature, bio-diversity here is at its best. We spend the morning hiking and exploring La Amistad in the area of El Retono in search of the Resplendent Quetzal, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Andean Pygmy-Owl, Barred Becard, Black and Yellow Silky Flycatcher among many other western highland birds.
After lunch at a local restaurant (not included) we will visit Finca Dracula home to over 1500 orchid species. On our return ride to the hotel we will stop at the Janson's Coffee Estate and have an interactive experience with coffee. Here the experts will explain all the processes that coffee beans go through. This is no ordinary coffee. Shade grown and scrutinized; Janson's Coffee is world renown. Enjoy a fresh brewed cup of coffee while watching the spectacular sunset over the Baru Volcano, the highest peak of the country at 3, 475 meters above sea level. Night at Finca Lerida. B
Day 4. Finca Drácula - Boquete
This morning you will visit Finca Dracula home to over 1,500 orchid species. After lunch you will continue to the eastern side of Baru Volcano , enroute you will have a unique opportunity to experience a century-old tradition at a local Trapiche, a horse-powered sugar mill where the delicious Raspadura blocks are made.
You will then proceed to the quaint town of Boquete with its countryside dotted with flower, fruit and produce farms, coffee plantations and also lush tropical cloudforests. This afternoon you will have an interactive experience with coffee at Lerida Coffee Estate. The experts will explain the process the coffee beans go through before reaching your cup. This is no ordinary coffee. Carefully grown and scrutinized; Lerida’s coffee is world renown.
Enjoy a fresh brewed cup of coffee while watching the spectacular sunset over the Baru Volcano, the highest peak of the country at 3,475m (11,400 feet) above sea level. Night at Finca Lerida Lodge. B
Day 5. Finca Lerida Cloud Forest
Explore Finca Lerida, a privately owned preserve in Boquete, located in the buffer zone of Baru Volcano National Park. At an elevation of 2,286m (7,500 feet) you will have the opportunity to look for the elusive Resplendent Quetzal, Three-wattled Bellbird, Black-faced Solitaire, Volcano Hummingbird, Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher and Prong-billed Barbet in their cool habitat of orchids, bromeliads and wild avocados. The afternoon is open to relax or to walk through the coffee plantation within the property.
Night at Finca Lerida Lodge. B
Day 6. Panama City - Casco Viejo
After a leisurely breakfast we will travel to the city of David to board our mid-morning flight to Panama City. Upon arrival we visit the Smithsonian's Tropical Research Institute Tupper Center where we have lunch and visit the bookstore.
Afterwards visit the Panama Canal's Administration Building to admire the beautiful murals painted by William B. Van Ingen which depict the monumental labor involved in the building of the waterway. We continue with a visit to Miraflores Locks the first set of locks on the Pacific Ocean side of the canal and Casco Viejo, the colonial city. Country Inn Amador. B
Day 7. Panama City - San Blas Islands - Kuna Village
Located along the northeastern coast of Panama in the Caribbean Sea, the San Blas Islands are the home of the Kuna Indians. Determined to protect their unique culture, the Kunas were granted regional autonomy forming the "Comarca" (autonomous territory) of Kuna Yala where to this day an indigenous congress rules. Kuna women spend countless hours stitching the very colorful reverse appliqued cotton "molas" which is part of their daily wear. Essentially, the Kuna are fishermen, but they also farm coconut, corn, rice, cocoa, yucca and other staples.
Today you will depart by small plane to San Blas at the crack of dawn. To enhance the interaction with the Kuna, travelers will go without the Naturalist Guide. A representative of Uaguinega Lodge will greet you upon landing at the airstrip and will transfer you to the lodge by boat to check in and have breakfast.
Uaguinega Lodge is located on Uaguitupo (Dolphin) Island, about ten minutes from the Achutupo airstrip. Owned and operated by a Kuna family, the accommodations at Dolphin Lodge are rustic but comfortable in traditional Kuna-style huts with cozy beds, indoor bathrooms and a hammock on the front porch. Meals are served in the Bohio dining room overlooking the Caribbean
After breakfast you will visit the Kuna village of Achutupo in the company of a local guide that will offer an excellent opportunity to learn about the Kuna culture and traditional ceremonies. Visit the communal house of “Sahilas” (Kuna chiefs) where the chiefs are responsible for enforcing the law of the community as well as offering advice on other aspects of life - including marital problems! Learn about the building of the typical Kuna house, their economy, the famous mola, and the processing of sugar cane into the alcoholic drink known as chicha. Return to the lodge to relax at one of the hammocks and to have lunch. Later this afternoon you will go snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea to look for stunning marine life.
Night at Dolphin Lodge. BLD
Day 8. Panama City - Chagres River & the Embera People
Early morning transfer to the mainland where you will catch the plane bound for Panama City. Upon arrival you will meet your Naturalist Guide who will take you to El Corotu on the shores of Madden Lake.
The main reservoir of drinking water for the cities of Panama and Colon, Madden Lake also supplies 40% of the water required for the operation of the Panama Canal. Here, you will board a motorized piragua (dugout canoe) and travel up the Chagres River. The journey will take you through the rainforest of the 129,500 hectares (320,000 acres) Chagres National Park, which is the largest of the National Parks protecting the Panama Canal Watershed.
Along the Chagres River, you may be able to spot Little Blue and Green Heron, Great Egret, Anhingas, Neotropical Cormorant, Amazon, Ringed, and Green Kingfishers, along with Keel-billed Toucans and Ospreys flying above.
At the Embera village you will be greeted with dancing and music. You will learn about Embera customs and their relationship with nature. There will be handcrafts available for sale and you will have a chance to be painted with the traditional jagua, a natural dye the Embera use to adorn their bodies. After a picnic lunch you will head back to Panama City. Country Inn Amador. B
Day 9. Panama City - Panama City Tour
Panama City is a city of easy cosmopolitan living, a delightful combination of the historic and the ultra modern. Upon seeing the Manhattan-like skyline, visitors comment that they had no idea that there was such a modern, beautiful capital city in Central America. The City has historically been an international crossroads, so its people are accustomed to visitors and are some of the most friendly and helpful in the world.
During the half-day morning tour you will visit the ruins of Old Panama, climb up the Cathedral tower, visit the Old Panama Museum and then continue to Casco Viejo (the old city compound) which dates from the late 1600's. A bilingual guide will describe the events in history leading up to the eventual movement of the capital city to its present location. Casco Viejo is home to monuments to Ferdinand de Lesseps and other Frenchmen instrumental in the ill-fated attempt of the French to construct a canal through Panama. Your tour ends with a visit to the Panama Canal Museum.
The full day tour continues with lunch at a Panamanian restaurant and a tour of the Panama Canal area, including the town of Balboa, formerly part of the Panama Canal Zone. You will stop at the folk art market at the old YMCA building and then visit the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal where large ships can be seen transiting the canal. Enjoy a presentation by the Panama Canal Authority on the history of the Panama Canal and marvel at the workings of this feat of human engineering. Late afternoon you will return to your hotel in Panama City.
There are actually "three" Panama Cities the visitor should become acquainted with: the modern skyscraper city, the Colonial-era Casco Viejo and the ruins of the original Panama City in Panama Viejo.
The "first" Panama City is a picturesque ruin: Panama Viejo (Old Panama) a site with the ruins of the original 16th century Panama City. Founded in 1517, Panama City was the first city built on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. It was founded to facilitate the transfer of riches the Spanish plundered from the Incan Empire to Spain via the Isthmus of Panama.
In 1671, it was destroyed and burnt down as a result of an attack by the English pirate Henry Morgan. Make sure and visit the Panama Vieja Museum with exhibits on history and daily life including artifacts archaeologists are finding in the ongoing excavations. With the exception of an impressive scale model of the city, the exhibits are all in Spanish, so unless you speak Spanish, this is one trip best taken with a tour operator.
The "second" Panama City, the Casco Viejo sector of the city dates from the 17th century Spanish era. Numerous noteworthy historical buildings dot the area including 17th century churches and convents and handsome 18th and 19th buildings which reflect Panama City's long history as the crossroads of the Americas and the world.
Visitors to the area enjoy fine restaurants in historical ambiences (one restaurant, Las Barandas; is housed in former Spanish dungeons), historical museums like the Panama Canal Museum in a elegantly restored headquarters building of the French company which tried and failed to build the Panama Canal in the late 1800's and a great nightlife.
The "third" Panama City is set on beautiful Panama Bay, has a prosperous business district, first-world infrastructure including 100 banks, a lively nightlife, a fantastic restaurant scene and the only rainforest within city limits in the world: the Metropolitan Natural Park. Countless beautiful residential neighborhoods add to the city's charm. It is also one of the safest cities anywhere. Country Inn Amador B
Day 10. Onward travels
You are transferred back to the airport for your onward journey.
Additional nights are available on request.
Exchange rates differ from time to time. For the most up-to-date prices of this holiday idea please fill out our Latin America Travel Quote form.
- Easy/moderate hiking 2-4 hours per day with rolling, slippery hills.
- Hotel or lodge accommodation
- The San Blas portion of this trip is led by a local bilingual guide. The Naturalist Guide will not be traveling to San Blas.
- Weight restrictions apply to luggage in commercial and chartered flights within Panama. A maximum of 25 lbs. (11 kg) of checked luggage and 10 lbs. (4.5 kg) of carry-on per person is allowed. Arrangements can be made with your hotel to store luggage that will not be needed while away from the city. Excess baggage charges assessed by commercial carriers are the responsibility of the passenger.
- Panama international departure tax $20 USD
- Local currency is Balboa (equal to the US dollar and idntical in appearance)
- Time Zone: GMT/UTC -5
- Dialing Code: 507
- Electricity: 220V, 60Hz
- Weights & measures: Metric
- Hotels based on availability
- Some tours are on a shared basis
Wednesday, Friday and Sundays minimum of 2 people
- 5% Government tax
- All land, air and water transportation within Panama
- Domestic Flight Ticket (Panama City-David-Panama City) and (Panama City-Achutupu-Panama City)
- Accommodation in Panama
- Arrival and departure transfers
- Park, museum and related entrance fee
- All tours as listed
- All meals as listed B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
- Visa fees (if required)
- Passport & Visa Costs
- Vaccination Costs
- Personal Spending Money
- Meals where not listed
- International Flights
- Travel Insurance
- Airport departure taxes
- Border taxes or fees