We booked the taste of the tropics tour with Barefoot Panama. We knew it would be a smaller group experience but had no idea we would end up the only couple. what a bonus for us! it was like having our own private tour!!
day 1 - saturday - arrived PCY around 1 pm and taxi straight to our hotel in casco viejo (Magnolia - separate review). tried to find a restaurant recommended by our hotel to watch the NCAA final four - only to find the restaurant was closed due to construction. beers and a pizza to go from Credo and back to our hotel to watch the game. which appeared to be blocked by direct TV in the hotel common area. we were about to taxi into the city to catch the game when we found that the game could be viewed en espanol in our room. we were very tired from traveling so it ended well staying in- except Syracuse lost.
Day 2 Sunday - delicious breakfast at Tantalo early and picked up by Kevin of Barefoot Panama at the restaurant and off to pick up 2 other passengers joining us for the city and canal tour. Cerro Ancon for a great view, wildlife viewing, informative history of the American zone, then off to the Miraflores Locks. good museum - don't miss the canal simulator! we missed the film so no comment on that. Mi Ranchita on the Amador Causeway for a fantastic lunch then back to Casco for a walking tour and ice cream @ Gran Clement, then more walking tour and that ended our time with Kevin. We then enjoyed drinks at Tequila Bar and back to our hotel for relaxing. we weren't very hungry (lunch was so filling!) so we just did some small plates at Tantalo.
Day 3 Monday. Jeff picked us up at 8 and we were off to Portobelo for sightseeing, and snorkeling arranged by Barefoot with Panama Divers. excellent trip - beautiful coral, many fish, we could hear howler monkeys in the trees from the water. back to panama divers to rinse off, change, and a leisurely red snapper lunch.Back to our hotel for a nap before dinner. we did the tastings menu at Manolo Carcoal - delicious!
Day 4 Tuesday. Jeff drove us to El Valle de Anton - stopping at waterfall for a short walk and a visit to the market, then relaxing in the hammocks at El Residencial Hotel -comfortable room with a great shower, good meal at Bruschetta.
Day 5 Wed - driving now to Santa Catalina - interesting view of changing landscape, saw farms, towns, men on horseback. checked into Sol y Mar then off to a beachfront bar/restaurant for lunch overlooking the beach, watching surfers and then a dip in the ocean and back to Sol y Mar, relaxing in the pool, followed by dinner on the covered patio/bar area. nice views of the ocean.
Day 6 Thurs - snorkeling trip with Coiba Divers to Coiba Island, 2 snorkeling stops, many fish, turtles, shark; back to Sol y Mar - relaxing dip in the pool, power failure; a cold shower by flashlight and then dinner at Chili Rojo - thanks to Jeff who knew they would be open because they have a generator for just such emergencies - excellent pizza and fish for dinner.
Day 7 Fri - drive to Boquete with a short break in David; first stop Kotowa coffee Shop for a delicious coffee and great view of Boquete; lunch at Big Daddy's (delicious fish tacos and tiny but tasty wings). made arrangements for 4x4 trip up Volcan Baru the next day. Great massage at Boquete Spa, very reasonable prices, and then dinner at The Rock. Our last night with Jeff . Hotel - El Oasis - small room (would opt for a larger suite type next time) clean with a good hot shower; no a/c, but cool enough for sleeping.
Day 8 Sat - picked up at 4 am at our hotel by Antonio in his Jeep Cherokee for a bone jarring, thrilling ride (in the dark!) over obstacles I thought we'd never cross. 2 hours to go 8 1/2 miles! totally worth the cost to see the sunrise, both oceans, and amazing views of the crater. Did the Kotowa Coffee Tour in the afternoon - fun and informative, saw the oldest coffee processing machinery in Panama and tasted delicious coffee with Hans a very knowledgeable and personable guide. Dinner at El Oasis - beautiful setting in open gazebo, gardens, and flowing brook and fountains; delicious local lamb; beet and blue cheese salad;
Day 9 Sun - pre-arranged shuttle to Bocas Del Toro @ Mamallena, including water taxi transfer from Almirante. beautiful scenery on the ride; early check-in at Tropical Suites - nicest hotel of our stay. lunch at Buena Vista -----good taco salad, so-so nachos; explored town a bit. Dinner at Guari Guari - a must do in Bocas.
Day 10 Mon - sailing with Capt Marcel of Bocas Sailing; snorkeling 2 spots - best coral we've seen in some time. wind was minimal so trip was very slow, relying on motor power at times, but that gave us plenty of time for relaxing and good conversation with Capt Marcel. would have liked to cover more but slow sailing. Planned dinner at Casbah - but closed Mondays - so we ended up at (can't remember name - waterfront with white drapes covering ceiling) absolutely delicious lobster!
Day 11 Tues -early am flight back to Panama City and early check in to Plaza Paitilla. comfortable room, a bit dated, but clean. business center staff very helpful with internet issues; some shopping and then relaxing and napping. dinner in at the hotel and packing for trip home.
Day 12 Wed - return to USA
I have done separate individual reviews on hotels & restaurants, as well as Barefoot Panama. I am happy to answer any questions. When we started planning our trip I had so many questions and welcomed the good help from TA. I would be happy to return the favor to anyone else.