Our family (2 adults, a 5 year old and almost 2 year old) are probably planning a trip to Panama around the first of May, probably for around 9-10 days. We are normally pretty adventurous and off-the-beaten path travelers, but now with the two young kids, we need to make sure we're planning appropriately for them, and would love some advice. We'd like to do a few days in Panama City, a few days checking out jungles/wildlife and a few days at the beach, plus learning more about some of the native Indian cultures would be great too. I'm a little afraid the places I would normally gravitate towards (Guna Yala islands, the Western Highlands, Darien) would be too much for our kids to handle (due to long travel time, or too much boat travel, or safety/health issues).
It seems like the Gamboa area would be the easiest way to do jungle/wildlife with the kids, but it looks like the only hotel that allows kids is the big resort. Are we going to feel like we're trapped on a cruise ship, or would the resort be fun? Are their excursions actually any good, or would it be better to use someone else? I feel like we actually want to stay close, because to travel up from Panama City on a 6-8 hour excursion would be too much for the 2 year old, I'm afraid. Any other great jungle options with kids, either in the Gamboa or another region?
Also, for the beach portion - as I said, I worry that Guna Yala might be too much for the kids, although it sounds wonderful. Would Bocas be better with kids, or should we look at the Pearl Islands? I'd like to be able to get them to beaches/swimming/snorkeling without always having to go on a long boat ride, although a few boat excursions would be fun. Does staying around Bocas require taking a boat trip to do everything? Would the Pearl Islands be easier to get to and navigate with kids? Is there enough to see/do there?
I'd greatly appreciate any advice you all have to offer! Thanks!