BEST OF PANAMA
9 days / 8 nights
TOUR DESCRIPTION Discover the Panama Canal’s natural attributes and experience a Partial Panama Canal Transit; visit the new Agua Clara Locks of the recently inaugurated Panama Canal Expansion; share a unique experience with indigenous people; admire Frank Gehry’s Biodiversity Museum on the scenic Causeway Amador, explore tropical cloud forests in the Chiriqui Highlands known for the best outdoor adventures and coffee in the country, take a swim in the beautiful Pacific waters and get the chance for humpback whale watching (in the months from July through October) while staying at a lodge o overlooking the Gulf of Chiriqui.
PRICE US$3,495 per person + 7 % tax (DBL occupancy), SGL Supplement: US$890 + 7% tax
INCLUDED Accommodation, meals as specified in the itinerary (B - breakfast, L - lunch, D - dinner), all land, air, and water transportation within Panama, snorkeling equipment, all airport/hotel transfers on scheduled arrival and departure dates, private group guides' services, and expenses, services of an in-bound land operator for airline re-confirmations and tour operations, park, museum, and related entrance fees
NOT INCLUDED International airfare, meals not specified in the itinerary, alcoholic beverages, personal equipment, gratuities and extras in hotels (telephone calls, laundry, room service)
Day 1 - Arrive to Panama
On arrival to Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, you will be met by an Ancon Expeditions of Panama representative and transferred to your hotel in the historical district of Panama City.
2 nights at the CENTRAL HOTEL IN CASCO ANTIGUO
Day 2 - Full Day Panama City Tour & Panama Canal
This morning you start your city tour at the Panama Canal where you will visit the Panama Canal Visitors’ Center at Miraflores Locks where ships can be seen transiting the waterway. The 3-floor exhibit halls will provide information about the history, engineering, and current events related to the Panama Canal.
Then drive through the former Panama Canal Zone managed by the United States from 1903 to 1999. Old military bases have been turned into residential neighborhoods, universities, and one of the most important commercial hubs in the region combining airports, container ports, and cargo railways that provide support to the Panama Canal operation.
Your next stop is the Biodiversity Museum, designed by the world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. As a Smithsonian Affiliate museum, the Biodiversity Museum serves as a gateway to new information about the biodiversity and natural history of the Isthmus of Panama. Scientific experts from both the Smithsonian Institute and the University of Panama oversee the contents of the museum and aim at teaching visitors about eco-awareness, conservation, and Panama’s extraordinary natural treasures in various unique exhibition galleries. Did you know that the Isthmus of Panama has more bird, mammal, reptile, and plant species than the US and Canada together in just 75,990 Km2 (approx. 29,000 square miles)? In fact, 3 million years ago, the emergence of the Isthmus of Panama changed both the climate and the biodiversity in the planet and played a key role in the creation of the world we know today.
Continue to Casco Antiguo for lunch followed by a historical walking tour. In 1673, after the devastating pirate attack, Panama City was moved some 7.5 km west of its original location, to a small peninsula at the foot of Ancon hill, closer to the islands that were used as the port and near the mouth of a river that eventually became the entrance of the Panama Canal. The relocated town, known today as Casco Antiguo or the Historic District of Panama, not only had better access to freshwater but could be fortified. The military engineers, moreover, took advantage of the morphological conditions that complemented the wall surrounding the peninsula, all of which prevented direct naval approaches by an enemy. Several buildings within the District are identified as important for the country’s 17th-20th century heritage. Most outstanding are the churches, above all the metropolitan cathedral with its five aisles and timber roof; San Felipe Neri, San José, San Francisco, and especially La Merced with its well-preserved colonial timber roof. The Presidential Palace originally built in the late 17th century and partially reconstructed in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, is a revealing example of the transformations that characterize the Historic District as a whole. The House of the Municipality, the National Theatre, the Ministry of Government and Justice, and the Municipal Palace are outstanding buildings of a more recent period. Casco Antiguo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tonight you will have dinner with your guide at a local restaurant in the old town enjoying Panama City’s culinary diversity, local tastes, and international fusion.
Overnight at the CENTRAL HOTEL IN CASCO ANTIGUO
Day 3 - Embera Indigenous People – Agua Clara Locks Panama Canal Expansion - Chiriqui Highlands
This morning you will be picked up at your hotel by your Ancon Expeditions guide for an approx. 1.5-hour transfer across the Isthmus to Gatun River near Colon. You will have the opportunity to visit an Embera indigenous village on the shores of the Gatun River. You will board a motorized piragua (dugout canoe) and travel up through the lush forest to the community. Along the 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 traditional Embera lunch, you will head to the Agua Clara Locks of the Panama Canal Expansion just outside Colon.
Unlike the viewpoints at Gatun and Miraflores, this new visitor center has a more ecological design, being built in the middle of the jungle area next to the new Agua Clara Locks on the Atlantic side, inaugurated on June 26, 2016. The US$5.25 billion projects included, among other tasks, dredging works on both ends of the canal and the route itself in order to increase water depth and the straightening of bends along the route that will allow larger ships to transit through the canal. The most important aspect of the project, however, was the building of two new sets of locks, one at each terminus of the canal, which will increase the waterway’s capacity to move cargo from one ocean to the other by 50% within the next 15 years and will allow the passage of bigger ships (almost 3 times the capacity of the largest size vessels that can cross the old locks. The new locks accommodate neo-Panamax ships that can carry up to 14,000 containers. A ship with this capacity pays approximately US$850,000.00 in toll fees to cross the Panama Canal. The new locks were designed to reuse up to 60% of the freshwater that would flow into the ocean by using recycling water basins.
Return back to Panama City’s domestic airport in order to catch a 50-minute late afternoon flight to David, capital of the Chiriqui province, in western Panama. Chiriqui is the country´s “breadbasket” contains some of the most breathtaking highland scenery in Central America. After arrival to David Airport, you continue to the Western side of the Baru Volcano, where you will spend the next two nights.
2 nights at LOS BREZOS
Day 4 - Finca Ceriana Nature Experience & Sugar Cane Mill
Strategically located between the highlands and lowlands of Chiriqui, Finca Ceriana forms part of a privately protected area for the conservation of flora and fauna in the region. One of its unique characteristics is the number of bird species and other animals from the upper and lower mountain areas. The property is part of the biological corridor that hosts the famous volcano lagoons and a large variety of animal and plant species. The total area counts 10 hectares of protected land and nearly 2 kilometers of nature trails, in addition to one of the most beautiful views to Costa Rica's Golfo Dulce, or sweet golf, and Osa peninsula as well as to Punta Burica in Panama. Once at Finca Ceriana this morning, you will walk through 3 km of beautiful trails while your expert guide explains what you see, particularly, beautiful and rare birds of the 180+ species that live in this forest. Midway your tour, you will go up a nice Canopy Tower, where you will enjoy our great Janson Family coffee and savor our famous local butter cookies, while you admire the cloud forest and relax for as long as you wish. When you are ready, your tour continues through the trails up a hill where you will get to see a magnificent view of the low lands of Chiriquí, and weather permitting, The Pacific Ocean and Punta burica in Panama in addition to the Ossa peninsula and Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica. By noon you will start your descent to the lower part of the farm, where we will be expecting you for a gourmet picnic under beautiful Cedar trees. You will enjoy your homemade lunch with a nice glass of wine and, again, relax and enjoy the view for as long as you desire. When you are ready, we walk some meters towards the sugar cane mill, where your guide will explain the sugar cane process and you will get to taste fresh sugar cane juice and other sugar cane products. Return back to your hotel late afternoon.
Overnight at LOS BREZOS
Day 5 - Janson´s Geisha Coffee Tour & Canopy Zipline Adventure in Boquete
This morning, the Janson’ Coffee estate owners invite you for a comprehensive tour of their farm in the mountain range of Baru Volcano and the surrounding valley. You will learn about planting, harvesting, processing, roasting, and packaging of the world-class coffee Del Fino and Geisha, grown on the Janson´s coffee farm. This coffee is grown at the perfect altitude in rich volcanic soil and processed by utilizing the best that tradition and technology have to offer. Janson Coffee has a unique aroma and brilliant flavors and has won many prizes.
Then proceed to the Eastern side of Baru Volcano for lunch in the charming mountain town Boquete, situated on the Caldera River. In the afternoon get ready for an exciting canopy zipline tour that allows you to contemplate the rainforest from fourteen different canopy platforms while smoothly soaring in the heights of the cloud forest from one treetop to another. You will glide through the trees and encounter a world unknown. You will discover a fascinating perspective of wildlife that you had never appreciated. Native species of flora and fauna can be observed. You will marvel at the sight of a great variety of orchids, trees, and wildflowers that are found throughout the area.
Late afternoon descends for approx. 1 hour to your hotel in Boca Chica. Nestling amidst a stunning tropical paradise, Bocas del Mar Hotel in Boca Chica offers the perfect base for discovering the region. This is the gateway to the Gulf of Chiriquí Marine National Park with its many luxuriant green islands, palm-tree-fringed white beaches, and an incredible variety of wildlife, right on the hotel’s doorstep.
2 nights at HOTEL BOCAS DEL MAR
Day 6 - Island & Beach Exploration at the Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park
Awakening just yards from the ocean, enjoy your breakfast with panoramic views over the bay. Get ready for your day tour venturing to a neighboring island, a day of beach relaxation and underwater exploration with snorkel and fins. This Pacific Gulf is home to thousands of pristine islands and unspoiled beaches and is also nearby world-renowned sport fishing grounds and scuba diving. The National Park covers 60 square miles (155km) of islands and ocean and is known for its green iguana lizards, humpback whales, dolphins, many species of turtles, stingrays, monkeys, and hundreds of types of exotic birds and tropical fish.
In the months from late June through early October, you will also have the opportunity to be part of the magical whale season when thousands of Humpbacks migrate northwards from their summer feeding grounds around Antarctica, arriving in this Pacific region of Panama where they breed and give birth to their calves in the warm, shallow and safe waters near Cala Mia!
After some beach time, more snorkeling, and a picnic lunch on one of the white sand beaches, return back to the hotel to relax or enjoy the fresh-water swimming pool with beautiful sunset views over the bay. You can also opt for optional activities such as horseback riding, bird watching, deep-sea fishing, or relaxing Spa treatments with stunning views over the Pacific Ocean.
Overnight at HOTEL BOCAS DEL MAR
Day 7 - Kayaking in the Gulf of Chiriqui – Panama City
Several rivers empty into the sea by Boca Chica and help support a maze of mangroves. The mangroves are good places to spot birds and reptiles and are especially fun to explore on kayaks. Head out with your Naturalist guide for a kayaking outing this morning and enjoy the calm waters, lush nature, and biodiversity of this beautiful part of Panama. After lunch back at the lodge, you will head back to catch your afternoon flight back to Panama City later this afternoon. Tonight, your dinner will be at a local restaurant within walking distance from the Bristol hotel together with your guide.
2 nights at the BRISTOL PANAMA
Day 8 - Jungle Boat tour for wildlife observation and Partial Panama Canal Transit
Early in the morning, you will be picked up at the lobby of the hotel by your Naturalist Guide. Nearby you will board a small 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, you 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 262 Km2 (164 Mi2), 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 locks system. Nearly 200 million Liters (52 million gallons) of freshwater are used for every ship that transits through the Panama Canal from one ocean to another. Your 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.
Later this morning you will board a 250-passenger ferry for the Partial Panama Canal Transit. Now you will be sailing at 26m (85 feet) above sea level. Shortly after departure, the ship will enter Gaillard Cut, the narrowest section of the Panama Canal. The 13.7Km (8.5 Miles) long portion of the Continental Divide was carved through rock and shale at beginning of the last century when the canal began operating (1914). You will have the opportunity to look at the work’s progress on this extraordinary engineering venture. The ship will reach Pedro Miguel locks, where the vessel will be lowered 9.4 meters (30.8 feet) into Miraflores Lake. After traveling nearly 2 kilometers you arrive to Miraflores locks, where the transition from freshwater to saltwater takes place in the locks chambers. Due to the Pacific Ocean’s extreme tidal variations, Miraflores locks miter gates are the tallest of the locks system. In two steps, the vessel will be lowered 16.6 meters (54.5 feet) onto the Pacific Ocean. You will then sail under the bridge of the Americas, which reunites the land divided by the Panama Canal as part of the Pan-American Highway. After disembarking at Flamenco Island, transfer back to the Bristol hotel downtown. Enjoy your farewell dinner at the hotel’s famous Salsipuedes restaurant.
Overnight at the BRISTOL
Day 9 - Depart Panama
Today you will be picked up at the lobby of the hotel 2.5 hours prior to your scheduled departure flight and transferred to Tocumen International Airport. Fly home. (B)
NOTE: Optional pre-tour and post-tour extensions are available.
- Easy/moderate hiking 2-4 hours per day with rolling, slippery hills.
- Hotel or lodge accommodation comfortable
DISCLAIMER & NOTE
- Prices and itineraries are correct at the time of printing, however they are subject to change due to tidal/weather or local conditions, availabilities or factors beyond our control.
- This program includes a private Ancon Expeditions´Naturalist guide accompanying the group throughout the entire itinerary. Some tours are on shared basis. We accept a maximum of 12 persons on the program.
- The route and duration of the Panama Canal Transit can vary and depend on the Panama Canal Authority´s daily established transit schedules.
- The Canopy Zipline Tour in Boquete has the following maximum weight restrictions: 175 lbs (80 kg) for women and 250 lbs (113 kg) for men.
AIR PANAMA BAGGAGE REGULATIONS
- For domestic flights, each passenger is allowed 1 bag of up to 50 lbs (23 kg)
- Carry-on luggage is limited to 8.8 lbs passenger (4 kg).
- Passengers are responsible for excess baggage fees: US$5.00 per extra kilo (max. 3 kg extra allowed on 1st checked bag). 2nd checked bag at US$35.00 extra cost of up to 50 lbs (23 kg).
- Name or date changes on flight tickets are subject to a penalty of US$25 plus 7% tax (per change, per route.
- Ticket cancellations with more than 30 days before your trip are subject to a service fee of US$25 per ticket (taxes included). Within 30 days from your arrival, our regular cancellation policies apply.
- The penalty for no-show is 100% of all applicable fares, taxes, and surcharges.
- Surcharge for transportation of a pet or a surfboard is US$30 per item per route.
WHAT TO BRING
- Binoculars (preferably 7x35 or bigger, also available for rent at Ancon Expeditions of Panama)
- Camera with extra batteries & film
- Flashlight with extra bulb & batteries
- Insect repellant, Sunscreen, bathing suit
- Hat, Day pack / dry sack
- Water bottle
- Lightweight/quick dry cotton clothes
- Sandals, sneakers / hiking boots
- Rain gear, Windbreaker
- Money in small denominations
- Toiletries & personal medications
Ancon Expeditions is Panama’s top eco-tourism operator. Our Natural & Cultural History Guides are the country's finest. Due to frequently asked questions from our clients about suggested guide & staff gratuities, we would like to provide you with the following universal tipping guidelines:
- Naturalist guide/Tour leader: US$10.00-US$20.00 per person/day
- Day tour guide: US$10.00 per person/day
- Transfer driver: US$2.00 per person
- Tour driver: US$5.00 per person/day
- Tour boat driver: US$5.00 per person/day
- Hotel bellman: US$1.00 per person per suitcase
- International airport bellmen (red caps): US$1.00 per piece of suitcase
"We enjoyed our experience of Panama--the sights were beautiful and interesting--and the people were friendly and willing to share their culture with us. The small tour group size (6 in our group) made us feel like we got an up close and personal experience not found in larger tours."
Douglas & Shelli Vallis, USA
"My wife and I would like to thank you and Ancon Expeditions for a very enjoyable, informative, and memorable tour of Panama. Our tour guide, Kenny Weeks, was excellent. His knowledge of the country, as well as the birds and wildlife in it, was most impressive. Above all, he made it fun and easy-going, which is what we hope for in a vacation. We consider him to be a friend.
Panama was everything we hoped for, and even more. It is very rich in history and culture, and now has a special place in our hearts. We hope to return again soon.
Thanks again for everything."
Bob & Carol Dolha
CENTRAL HOTEL CASCO VIEJO
The historic hotel is located in the Casco Antiguo of Panama City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, next to the Panama Interoce¬anic Canal Museum and facing the Plaza de Independencia. Located opposite the Cathedral, the hotel is just steps away from the Municipal Palace, and is close to the Presidential Palace, along with other attractions in the area. The Central Hotel opened its doors for the first time in 1874. It hosted guests such as Theodore Roosevelt and Count Ferdinand de Lesseps among other public figures of the time. The Central Hotel was the first hotel in Panama, serving as a “rendezvous” for all of the passengers who traveled to the American continent, and becoming famous throughout the western hemisphere for offering high-style European and American services at reasonable prices. Construction work on the building has been completed. This work consisted of totally restructuring the building while maintaining the façade and respecting the original structure. The hotel is unique given its location, modern appearance, history, and institutional connections. The hotel features 135 rooms, a pool, restaurant, bar and Spa.
Address: Plaza de la Independencia, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panamá
Phone: +(507) 392-1307
Check in: 15:00 hrs
Check out: 12:00 hrs
This small family-owned boutique hotel in Volcan, in the buffer zone of Baru Volcano National Park, offers 6 rooms, a bar invites for afternoon cocktails and the hotel’s restaurant is hosted by chef Oliver Blond combines fresh local ingredients from the rich volcanic soil grounds of the Chiriqui Highlands with international flavors. Enjoy nearby national parks, hiking, horseback riding, coffee farms, agriculture, local farmer markets, white water rafting and a fresh climate with lush cloud forest, abundant flora and fauna.
Address: Volcan, Chiriqui, Panama
Phone: +(507) 787-5687 / 787-5677
Check in: 15:00 hrs
Check out: 12:00 hrs
HOTEL BOCAS DEL MAR
Nestling amidst a stunning tropical paradise and away from any city or busy towns, Bocas del Mar Hotel overlooks the Gulf of Chiriqui and is the perfect base for discovering the region being the gateway to the Gulf of Chiriquí Marine National Park with its many luxuriant green islands, palm-tree-fringed white beaches and an incredible variety of wildlife. Located at approximately 1 hour from David Airport, the hotel provides a perfect oasis for relaxation. The hotel consists of sixteen large bungalow-style guest rooms, architect designed with a beautiful contemporary style, modern features, views of nature & ocean plus, above all, plenty of space; perfect for restoring body and soul in. The rooms all come with AC, satellite TV, safe free Wifi, walkin closet, private bathroom with shower and separate bath tub including toiletries and hair dryer. There is an own private dock at the hotel along with a comfortable excursion boat with a daily tour schedule, ideal to go beach-hopping or set off on a sports fishing trip. The hotel´s trip program is varied and you can choose among a variety of excursions and activities (not included) or simply relax in the infinity pool.
Address: Boca Chica, Gulf of Chiriqui, Panama
Phone: +(507) 6395-8757
Check in: 15:00 hrs.
Check out: 13:00 hrs
>> Ranked as one of the Top 5 hotels in Central America by Condé Nast Traveler <<
Long considered the city’s finest, the Bristol Panama offers distinctive charm and warmth in the heart of the financial district, minutes from shopping, cultural attractions and nightlife. Unrivalled in its service and setting, this is a highly acclaimed hotel with timeless architecture including 125 luxurious guest rooms and 48 suites; are handsomely appointed and spacious. Enjoy the hotel’s fitness room, Spa facilities, pool, business centre, 8°58´Lounge and one of Panama’s finest culinary offered at the Salsipuedes Restaurant. The hotel is also a Virtuoso member hotel.
Address: Avenida Aguilino De La Guardia, Panama City, Panamá
Phone: +(507) 264-0000
Check in: 15:00 hrs
Check out: 12:00 hrs