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Adventure trip to Panama

Chicago, IL
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200 posts
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Adventure trip to Panama

Help me with some itinerary ideas!

We are planning a trip to Panama after Christmas this year. We will have ten days. Our party consists of myself and DH, 2 adult children, a teenager and a 8 year old. Most of the group is into outdoorsy stuff - birding, hiking etc.

I was originally planning on a couple days on the San Blas islands and the rest of the time at the Gamboa resort. Gamboa sounds perfect for the wildlife nuts but I'm afraid that a week might be too much.

Should we plan a few days elsewhere? Maybe El Valle? Would I need to rent a car (big car or van)?

TIA,

Deb

Chicago, IL
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200 posts
42 reviews
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1. Re: Adventure trip to Panama

Does anyone have some advice? I'm just bumping in hopes of getting feedback.

Deb

pennsylvania
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2. Re: Adventure trip to Panama

If you do a couple days sailing around San Blas and the rest at Gamboa you sould be fine.

San Blas is a group of small islands that is seen well by boat. There are charters that sail these islands like www.panamasanblas.com.

Gamboa is not far from Panama City, the airport and Miraflores Lock. At Gamboa you can hike, fish, boat. The trip to Barro Colorado leaves from here. You need to reserve this Smithsonian tour to the Barro Colorado Island before you leave the states or ASAP.

Another option:

We like going to Boquete, hiking, rafting, zipline tour. The beach, Playa la Barqueta is not far from Boquete. You would most likely fly to David from Panama City. (we stay at the beach and drive up to the Mountains for hikes etc.)

With 10 days you could do San Blas 3 nights-Boquete 3 nights-Gamboa 3 or 4 nights (Gamboa is not too far from the airport)

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Panama City
Panama City
Panama Province, Panama
Chicago, IL
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200 posts
42 reviews
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3. Re: Adventure trip to Panama

Thanks for the ideas. I will do some research on Boquette.

Deb

North Carolina
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4. Re: Adventure trip to Panama

Deb, you might want to take a look at Canopy Tower near Gamboa.

Personally I love the Boquete/Volcan area and I highly recommend a few days there. The Coffee Estate Inn in Boquete is great. I also enjoy a day in El Valle. The beach is wonderful, unfortunately your visit will be at the time many Panamanians are travelling so advance plans will be essential. You might want to check out

http://www.panamajoetours.com/ Joe lives in Chicago.

Chicago, Illinois
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5. Re: Adventure trip to Panama

We were at Gamboa for a couple days in December and our in laws were there for 4 days. We would've had much down time if we'd stayed any longer. As it was, my mother-in-law knew everybody who worked there by name (and back story, even knew the names of their kids) by the time we moved on.

Gamboa was great but it wasn't as "active" as we'd hoped (by active, I mean outdoorsy). Hiking the trails takes an hour or two. The "rain forest" tour (which was more like a brief foray into some woods) likewise. We saw few birds and little wild life (except lizzards which are cool an dthe Capibara) (not sure why -- could've been the time of day as we were out in mornings and mid-afternoon). We took the Monkey Island tour. Again, about an hour. But VERY fun. So do look into Canopy Tower (wish we had) and other adventures. Gamboa sounds more involved and engaging on the web site than in person. It was a tad on the Disney side (for example, when we walked the 1/4 to 1/2 mile back to the hotel from the "rain forest" tour, all staff thought we were pretty odd. No USA folks ever walk anywhere at Gamboa but use shuttles they provide. Sigh!) Anyway, 4 days was perfect for the 60 year olds. Not challenging for the 30 somethings (more than 2 days would've involved much reading). Great for kids (I bet) as it seemed pretty safe and kid-patient. The staff is very sweet and friendly and the slow pace is kind of nice. Hope this helps.

pennsylvania
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6. Re: Adventure trip to Panama

If you decide to add Boquete, you might look into www.losestablos.net in addition to hotels others have mentioned. The hike from Boquete to Volcan is a nice hike. You have to carry food, water and good binoculars. You will hike through rainforest, get wet, get muddy and have a great time! You will see a lot of birds if you get up early to do this hike.

We have not hiked up to the volcano, but that it next on our list.

Also, the Caladera area (near Boquete) is supposed to be beautiful.

Note: it is easy to get around by air, but you have to reconfirm your ticket 48 hours before the flight. The hotel can do this for you.

Panama
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7. Re: Adventure trip to Panama

Hi - I believe that Panama city is one

of the only cities in the world that can

offer you many activities, including

outdoors, without having to pack and

umpack to move to another location. That

is one of the best things the city has

to offer, because you can be in the

wilderness in the morning, and yet at

night, you can be eating at a first class

restaurant or going to a discotheque.

There are many activities that I could

help you organize, and you and your

children will need an extra vacation to

rest from all the activities you did while

down here.

Chicago, Illinois
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149 posts
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8. Re: Adventure trip to Panama

If you end up going to the Decameron or Barcelo Playa Blanca, you can make a half a day or half a day visit to el Valle (The Valley). It may be a nice break from the beach and the temperature there is a bit more moderate. They have a cute market on Sundays where you can buy handy crafts (good buys are the wodden trays). It not huge but it's fun to look around and they are inexpensive. You can also do a canopy tour (you will have to make arrangements for this) that ends in the "Macho Waterfall". They also have a small zoo in there. A great place to eat there is Casa de Lourdes (or casita de Lourdes). The owner used to own a gourmet restaurant in the city but now lives in El Valle. There is also "Los Capitanes" were you could stay(we were on a day stop so we didn't try it) but we ate there. The owner is German and very friendly. Food was okay (not bad but not outstanding) but the place was a nice place to take break. You could check email there too. I've heard of people going there hiking around the mountains there. We were talking to someone who went to this mountain dubbed "La India Dormida" (The sleeping indian woman) and it didn't sound it was super strenous but still fun. I do remember a company call "Aventuras Panama" that specializes in day trips (www.aventuraspanama.com). My husband book a day trip doing river rafting with some friends with this company and they seemed professional from what I recall. Their website is in several languages.

Chicago, Illinois
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9. Re: Adventure trip to Panama

Hey - I just noticed you live in Chicago too. Send me your email and I can give you more tips.

Chicago, IL
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10. Re: Adventure trip to Panama

I'm back after doing a bit of research with my guide books. I don't think we will make it up to Boquete. It looks lovely but it would involve too much travel. We have a group of six and we're already planning a trip to the San Blas area.

So here's my latest idea:

We arrive 12/27, turn around and fly to the San Blas area on Thursday 12/28. I'm not sure which island/hotel/tour to arrange yet. Return to PC on 12/30.

I think maybe we will stay in the city until 1/1 so that we can enjoy some night ife over the New Years holiday. Is it celebrated like we do in the US? Or should we avoid the crowds?

That would leave us 1/1 - 1/6 at the Gamboa resort. We could plan some day trips from there. We'd like to visit Barrio Colorado and possibly do some rafting.

Someone mentioned the Canopy Tower near Gamboa. I saw the website and think it looks really neat. In reality, is it much different from Gamboa? More isolated? Would it be worth it to pack up the family for a couple of days there? I'm thinking of just sending my two sons there for a day. One is really into birds - planning to be a wildlife biologist.

About Barrio Colorado... are they strict about the age guidelines? I'd like to take everyone but my granddaughter will only be 8.

Finally, if anyone has recommendations for the San Blas area or where a family should stay in PC over the holiday, I'd love to hear from you!

Thanks!

Deb