Panama: The Capital to the Canal 9 days / Nature & Wildlife Tours
About This Experience
From its thriving rainforest to its history-changing canal, Panama is a little country that makes a big impression. As you make your way from flourishing canopies to lush valleys to cosmopolitan cities, you’ll experience the local life at every level. Start in the Gamboa Rainforest and descend into Anton Valley, where you’ll come face-to-face with the area’s birds, butterflies, orchids and other wildlife. Then, continue your adventure along the Caribbean coast and cruise the Panama Canal before delving into modern city living in the country’s capital.
Your Tour Includes
Round-trip airfare & hotel transfers
8 nights in handpicked hotels
Breakfast daily, 5 lunches, 2 three-course dinners with beer or wine
Private deluxe motor coach
Multilingual Tour Director
Select entrance fees
Why You'll Love It
The diversity & vibrancy of Panama City
Creatures big & small, from monkeys to butterflies
Getting to know the indigenous Embera
Cooling off in Mozas waterfalls
True tales of pirates & treasures
Cruising the canal that connects the oceans
Panama City1 night - hotel info
Gamboa Rain Forest2 nights - hotel info
Bring your sense of adventure (and your binoculars)
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Head to the Miraflores Locks this morning, where you might see a ship making the journey between the Caribbean and the Pacific. Enjoy an included lunch overlooking the locks before transferring to Soberanía National Park. Upon arrival in the park, you’ll embark an easy hike to the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center, where you’ll enjoy free time to explore. This evening, get acquainted with your fellow travelers an included Welcome Dinner.
Get acquainted with the so-called “keepers of the rainforest”
This morning, you’ll get a glimpse of life in an indigenous community. The Embera tribe has lived in these jungles for thousands of years, and today, their lands are protected by government mandate. Known as the “keepers of the rainforest,” the Embera live in harmony with nature. You’ll discover the simplicity of the Embera way of life during a visit to a nearby village. Lunch is included during your visit.
Anton Valley1 night - hotel info
Join the creatures in the canopy for a bird’s-eye view of Gamboa
aerial tram ride
This morning board an aerial tram for panoramic views of the forest and the confluence of the Panama Canal and the Chagres River. You’ll also have free time to explore self-guided exhibits including a butterfly garden, an aquarium and an orchid sanctuary. This afternoon, enjoy a hike in the rainforest before transferring to the Anton Valley.
Farallón1 night - hotel info
Valleys to white-sand beaches, explore Panama’s natural beauties
Join a guided tour of the town of El Valle, including the Nispero Zoo, the Mozas waterfalls and a unique set of “square” trees. After lunch at a local restaurant, you’ll transfer to the tranquil town of Farallón, located on a white sand beach on Panama’s Pacific Coast.
Panama City3 nights - hotel info
Wander the charming colonial city that’s undergoing a modern revival
Transfer to Panama City this morning, stopping en route at La Chorrera to visit the local market. Upon arriving in the capital, embark on a guided tour starting in Casco Viejo, Panama City’s colonial core. Founded in 1519, Panama City served as the base of Spain’s operations to conquer South America. The town grew rapidly thanks to its status as a port-of-call for the Spanish Treasure Fleet, the annual convoy of galleons that shipped gold and silver from the New World to Spain. The wealth of the Treasure Fleet led to the creation of Casco Viejo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you’ll visit the Plaza de Francia, a memorial dedicated to the French laborers who lost their lives in the first failed attempt to dig the Panama Canal. You’ll also stop in at the Church of San Jose, where you’ll marvel at a gorgeous golden altar; the seaside Las Bovedas (“The Vaults”), once a colonial prison and now a lively promenade; and the Metropolitan Cathedral, where gleaming white towers stand in contrast to the weatherworn colonial masonry of the church’s façade. Tonight, join an optional Folklore Show and Dinner where you’ll taste authentic Panamanian cuisine and enjoy traditional folk dances.
Folklore Show & Dinner $59* pp
Immerse yourself in the culture and folklore of Panama during a traditional dinner at Restaurante Las Tinajas. The word tinajas refers to the earthen jugs early Panamanians used to keep drinking water cool and fresh. At Las Tinajas, you’ll savor an authentic Panamanian experience as you dine on regional specialties and enjoy an included show highlighting the rich heritage of European and Native American cultures. You’ll see dancers in full polleras, the colorful skirts that remain the national costume of Panama. You might also see the colorful robes and fearsome masks of the famous Diabolicos Sucios dancers.
Lean in and listen to the lore of Portobelo’s pirates
Panama’s Caribbean coast opens its doors for you this morning. You’ll board a train bound for Colón City and the Caribbean coast. In Colón, board a bus for the coastal village of Portobelo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site once known for its famous fair. Your Tour Director will introduce you to the town, whose deep natural harbor made it a regular port of call for the Spanish Treasure Fleet. The town grew rich on gold and silver, but the city’s newfound wealth also made it a popular target for pirates and privateers. In 1668, Captain Henry Morgan led a formidable armada against Portobelo’s Spanish garrison. The defenders proved no match for Morgan’s forces, and though the town was sacked, the ruined forts still stand as a microcosm of Spain’s rise and fall in the New World. After an included lunch, return to Panama City by bus. The balance of the evening is free at leisure.
This isn’t just a canal—it’s a masterpiece of human engineering
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Head to the port of Balboa this morning for a partial transit of the Panama Canal. Nearly 15,000 vessels pass through these waters every year, and during your voyage, you’ll get a glimpse of a waterway that fundamentally changed the course of world politics, economics and travel. The Canal cuts through dense jungle, so you may see exotic wildlife from the deck of your ship. You’ll pass through the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks and enjoy lunch aboard your ship. Tonight, savor a Farewell Dinner with your fellow travelers.
Passport & Visa
Panama does not require a visa or U.S. or Canadian citizens, but does require that a tourist card be obtained upon arrival. The cost of the tourist card is $30USD (amount subject to change) and may be purchased upon arriving in Panama, payable in cash only. If you are not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, contact the Panama consulate for your particular entry requirements.
Travelers should be reasonably fit (see “Walking on Tour” for more information). Take proper care for sun exposure. There is also some risk of mosquito-born diseases, especially in the rainforests and national parks. Consult your doctor at least eight weeks prior to departure about possible preventive measures and personal travel requirements.
Transportation / Walking on tour
This tour is focused on outdoor sightseeing in natural, rain/cloud forest locations, so expect moderate walking in some areas. Sturdy, comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots are recommended. While walks and hikes are not strenuous for the healthy traveler, expect some uneven, possibly slippery terrain.
Clothing & Packing Tips
This Panama itinerary focuses on the outdoors, so your clothing should be casual and appropriate for outdoor use. Loose-fitting, layered clothing that can accommodate varying temperatures will probably be most comfortable. A sun hat, sunglasses, and a bathing suit are recommended, as are sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots.
Occasional rain showers are common in the areas you will be visiting, so pack light rainwear.
Binoculars are very useful for bird- and animal-watching, along with a field guide if you are particularly interested in specifics about the different species you’ll spot.
Insect repellent is highly recommended for visits to the rainforests.
Panama’s official currency is the Balboa; however, in 1941, Panama stopped printing the Balboa in favor of using the American dollar. Panama does still mint coins in the denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 which are the same metal, size and shape of the equivalent American coins. Since the Balboa has had a fixed exchange rate of 1:1 with the US dollar since 1903, these Balboa coins are used interchangeably with the US coins, so you may end up with Balboa coins during your Panama travel.
Also when going on tour, we strongly advise that you take a combination of debit/bank cards and credit cards to use. You can use most debit/credit cards at ATMs on the international networks Cirrus and Plus, but make sure to check with your home bank about withdrawal fees.
We suggest that you inform your bank and credit card company of your travel plans, so that they won’t confuse your international purchases for fraudulent charges.
Please note: It has been increasingly difficult to exchange traveler’s checks outside of Panama’s major cities—both at banks and shops—and they
often attract higher fees.
At the conclusion of your tour, it is customary to offer your Tour Director and driver a gratuity.
We recommend tipping in your tour country’s currency, the equivalency of $3 USD/CAD per person per day for your driver and $6 USD/CAD to $9 USD/CAD per person per day for your Tour Director.
If applicable, we also recommend the equivalency of $2 USD/CAD per local guide. Tips can only be paid in cash.
Please keep current local currency exchange rates in mind when tipping.
The tour guide was very personable, accommodating and knowledge. I give him rave reviews. The highlights for me were the Panama Canal museum and witnessing the actual large ships passing through the locks from their 4th floor balcony as well as spending the half day on a smaller boat going through the locks. Another highlight was spending two nights in the Gamboa Rainforest. I would have liked to have spent more time in the rainforest. The day trip to Taboga Island I could have easily skipped (would have preferred that time exploring in the Gmboa Rainforest (we had no time to explore the Butterfly sanctuary or the orchid gardens). Enjoyed the expedition to the Embera Indian reservation. Did not think worthwhile the trip to the El Valle and was not enthusiastic about the Hotel Los Mandarinos. Would have preferred two days in the Anton Valley and the fabulous Hotel Bristol Buenaventura. The Hotel Country Inn and Suites in Panama City on our arrival the first night after a very long day of travel was very comfortable - nice room overlooking the Pacific Ocean; however on our return for 3 nights at the end of the trip, my room was the very last one overlooking a noisy construction site -the construction continuing into the early evening , that is, 7:00 to 8:00 per night. And on Saturday night, there was a very loud band (unassociated with the hotel) which began at 6:00 P.M. and lasted until midnight, despite us travellers had to be up and out at 4:00 A.M. to get to the airport. The hotel said they could do nothing about this since the band was not associated with them. Also, the ice machine on my floor was broken and not repaired during my stay. The lobby restrooms were not open, and if we needed to use one, we had to hike to Friday's restaurant at the far end of nowhere to accommodate our needs.
The trip was very intersting, in addition to what was listed in the brochure the tour director Kenny made sure that we saw some of the panamain life, he took us to a market and thru different neighborhoods, he was thorough on his history and was on top of everything.
I had no great expectations about going to Panama. After all, I asked, what is there to see or do in Panama? What a pleasent surprise it was to visit the country,its people and the magnificance of the Canal. It was fantastic to have a native Panamanean tour director who spoke fluent English and was born , raised an educated localy.