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Panama with a tour company or on our own?Traveling with kids

Denver, Colorado
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Panama with a tour company or on our own?Traveling with kids

Finally decided to go to Panama (vs. Costa Rica-where my husband and I had been in '97 pre-kids before Costa Rica became americanized). We're going to Panama in November for 10 days over Thanksgiving.

Am trying to figure out if Panama is safe/accessible to drive/do it on our own with our 2 kids (11, 8), or should I hire a tour company to arrange transport/tours. If so, which one? We've never done a tour kind of trip before with/without kids, and have travelled a lot, and tend to favor off the beaten path adventures/undiscovered places. It's not clear to me how easy/safe Panama is to travel around with the kids without a tour.

What we'd like to do:

1-2 (max) days in Panama City

1 River rafting day on the Chiquiri

A couple of beach days in Bocas del Toro/San Blas Islands

A couple of days of animal adventures/zipline/wildlife

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!

Kwai

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Panama
Panama
Central America
Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Central America
Panama City
Panama City
Panama Province, Panama
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San Blas Islands
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Guna Yala Region, Panama
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1. Re: Panama with a tour company or on our own?Traveling with kids

First, Panama is safe, many things (not all) are easily assessable. You rent a car and go, although the total rental costs may seem high - it's (IMHO) much better than going the tour route. But . . . you're sure trying to cover a LOT of territory in ten days - days lost to traveling can add up quickly in Panama (distances are deceiving) - much better (again IMHO) to concentrate on a couple of areas and enjoy the experience rather than running from place to place.

Panama City I would use as a base for more than just a couple of days. See the usual stuff (Canal, Casco Viejo, Amador) and use it as your base to take a Embera' village tour http://www.emberavillagetours.com/ You can visit several of the Smithsonian Institute's facilities www.stri.si.edu/english/visit_us/index.php in or near the city. The Rainforest Discovery Center http://www.pipelineroad.org/ is great. Do your zipline on the Atlantic side near Portobelo at http://panamaoutdooradventures.com/ OR in El Valle at http://adventure.panamabirding.com/ which is shorter and more sedate than the first option. Fish on Gatun Lake http://pesca-arenosa.weebly.com/index.html ALL of these (and dozens more) activities are day trips from Panama City.

If you want to visit San Blas (it's great) your trip will start in Panama City (overland or air) VERY early on your two travel days.

Most of the Rio Chiriqui rafting trips start in Boquete (i.e. more travel days) - it's up to you whether it's worth the travel to do the activity.

My 2¢ worth on Bocas - skip it for this trip, But again, it totally depends on how important visiting the islands is to you. You can do the beach thing much more conveniently by combining it with El Valle - and (an example) Santa Clara http://www.lasirenas.com/index.htm which has a GREAT beach.

So . . . 4 days in Panama City (sightseeing and day trips) - 3 in San Blas and a couple of days around El Valle and Santa Clara. Time flies when your having fun and you will - the rest can wait till next time.

Good luck with your plans.

Steve www.panamanotes.com

Edited: 20 August 2011, 19:28
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Santa Clara
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Panama Province, Panama
Isla de Margarita
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2. Re: Panama with a tour company or on our own?Traveling with kids

We spent two weeks in Panamá this year and used a rental car to get around with our two kids.

We had no problems but do speak spanish.

I think your itinerary is a bit much for the time you have.

I would spend two nights in Panamá City and then rent your car as navigating the city is not easy.

We had reserved our car to pick up on arrival at PTY and thankfully they did not have the car we reserved till two days later which was perfect.

We spent the day and a half (two nights) seeing the city (canal, ect.) by taxi and picked up the car on the morning we where leaving to drive north.

Be warned-the drive north to Chiriquí or David is a fairly long one especially with kids. We wound up stopping to overnight in Santiago before continuing on our way to Chiriquí.

We spent thre nights at Hotel Boca Brava in Chiriquí national marine park and really enjoyed that. The hotel is on an island in the Pacific and is great for a couple of days-lots of birds, whales, dolphins, and bands or howler monkeys came down from the forest to the trees outside our room in the mornings.

From there we went to Bocas but only spent a night there due to the extreme heat and humidity (and we are from a tropical island)

We also spent time on the Azuero peninsula on our return trip stopping in Portobelo the night before our return to Panamá City and flight home.

These activities are up our two weeks without much time to spare

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Tocumen Intl Airport
Tocumen Intl Airport
Panama City, Panama
David
David
Chiriqui Province, Panama
Bocas Town
Bocas Town
Isla Colon, Panama
Portobelo
Portobelo
Colon Province, Panama
Isla de Margarita
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3. Re: Panama with a tour company or on our own?Traveling with kids

By the way-we stayed at the Balboa Inn in Ancon and it was a great option with kids. They offer airport pickup-take them up on the offer and rent your car in the city and possibly opt for the airport return as not to pay the transfer back to airport.

We saved a lot of money on our rental car by having our credit card company send us a letter outlining thier policy of insurance coverage for rentals made with thier credit cards enabling us to refuse the mandatory insurance.

See other posts here about car rentals in PTY and make your decisions accordingly.

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The Balboa Inn
The Balboa Inn
429 Reviews
Panama City, Panama
4. Re: Panama with a tour company or on our own?Traveling with kids

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