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Gamboa Rainforest Resort - is it worth it?

Los Angeles, CA
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Gamboa Rainforest Resort - is it worth it?

My husband and I are planning on visiting Panama for 4 days at the end of July after spending the prior 5 days in Costa Rica.

We were thinking of staying at Gamboa Rainforest Resort for the first 2 nights, then the Radisson Decapolis in Panama City the next 2. Is it worth going to Gamboa if we'll have done the rainforest thing in Costa Rica, or should we just plan on staying in Panama City for the entire 4 nights and doing day trips, etc...?

Can you suggest any must-see things to do in Panama City - shopping, history, restaurants, bars, etc...? We know nothing about the area and would appreciate any advice.

Thanks!

Florence, Oregon
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1. Re: Gamboa Rainforest Resort - is it worth it?

I vote for Plan B.

Re: must-see: Do a little searching in the forums, and you'll find lots of ideas; Andrew loves creating itineraries for people, and he's done thousands (well, dozens anyway.) :-)

And/or, buy the Moon Guide to Panama.

Los Angeles, CA
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2. Re: Gamboa Rainforest Resort - is it worth it?

Thanks for the advice. We're leaning towards Plan B as well, we were just worried that we wouldn't have enough to do in the city for the full 4 days.

I'll check out the forums re: things to do.

I found a very nice looking hotel called Canal House in Casco Antiguo... Do you know anything about it? Would it make sense at all for us to stay there in the old part of town for 2 nights and then 2 nights at the Decapolis, or should we just stay at the Decapolis the entire time?

Andrew, if you are in the mood to create an itinerary for us, we'd certainly welcome one!

Thanks in advance,

Chanel

Florence, Oregon
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3. Re: Gamboa Rainforest Resort - is it worth it?

Can't really answer the hotel question for you, because it depends on personal preference. Me, I hate packing up and moving. But...

Canal House is a beautiful place with fabulous service in what is arguably the most interesting and definitely the most photogenic part of the city. But it is slightly more inconvenient for transit to the rest of the city.

Decapolis is more of a typical city hotel -- next to a shopping mall, and pretty much like other city hotels worldwide. But it is in a more convenient (and safe) location for hitting up other city sights and restaurants, bars, etc.

Panama City, Panama
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4. Re: Gamboa Rainforest Resort - is it worth it?

Four nights - I'd opt for Casco Viejo (something different) and do the Radisson when you return to LA. Canal House or have a look at http://www.loscuatrotulipanes.com/ they have some great apartments in Casco. Taxis are cheap when you want to visit other parts of the city.

Have a great stay.

Steve

http://www.panamanotes.com/

CDY
Medellin, Colombia
Destination Expert
for Panama City
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5. Re: Gamboa Rainforest Resort - is it worth it?

If it is your first time in Panama I would not stay in Casco Viejo, the area can get a bit sketchy at night if you make a wrong turn and walk a little too far on the wrong street, plus at night it is not always the easiest place to catch a cab.

Radisson is a good choice, very nice lounge/bar just off the lobby area, lot of big cushy chairs to relax in.

Also look into the Cangrejo area about a mile from the Decapolis, lots of hotel choices and you can walk to countless excellent restaurants.

Bag Gamboa, especially after being in CR, you can make a daytrip out there but don't stay there, actually half a day would be plenty.

Los Angeles, CA
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6. Re: Gamboa Rainforest Resort - is it worth it?

Thanks so much for the advice!

We bagged Gamboa and will most likely do a day trip to see Monkey Island and maybe the Aerial Tram.

Right now, we are booked to stay at Canal House for 2 nights, then the Radisson Decapolis for 2 nights. I figure that will give us enough time in the cultured old part of town and the new part of town.

All of the reviews about Canal House are excellent on TA, which in addition to wanting to stay at a smaller boutique hotel for part of our trip, is the reason why I find it attractive. I've read mixed reviews on the safety of the area... Can you give us some general guidelines on what streets to avoid? We want to do a bit of exploring of the area and want to be able to go out for a nice dinner without having to worry about getting mugged on the way home, but nothing to adventurous.

Here is the sample itinerary I'm thinking about. Any advice on what we should add, take away, do on different days due to proximity or trying to do too much, please let me know!

Tues 7/28

Arrive PTY @12:50, head to Canal House

Late lunch in Casco Viejo - where??

Explore Casco Viejo, Ancon Hill, Armador Causeway

Dinner @ Manolo Caracol

Drinks at Los Bovedas

Wed 7/29

Day Tour of Gamboa - Monkey Island, Aerial Tram

Dinner at S'Cena

Drinks @ Play or Platea

Thurs 7/30

Try to set up tour of Presidential Palace, check out the Canal Museum, do anything in Casco Viejo we dont have time to do on Tues

Check out of Canal House, check into Decapolis

Lunch - where??

Miraflores Lockes - visit exhibition center, then drinks on terrace of restaurant to watch the boats come in

Dinner @1985

After dinner drinks at Decapolis

Fri 7/31

Embera Indian Village

Late pm shopping at Multicentro

Dinner - where??

Calle Uraguay for some discos

Sat 8/1

Our flight isn't until 5pm so we have the morning & lunch - suggestions?

Sorry for the long post. Any advice would be appreciated!!

Thanks!

Austin
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7. Re: Gamboa Rainforest Resort - is it worth it?

Regarding your proposed itinerary:

don't miss Rene Cafe in Casco Viejo

go with Ancon Expeditions on their Jungle River boat trip / or the Smithsonian Barro Colorado trip instead of Monkey Island (check Smithsonian web site for available days). Much better experience.

I love Canal House and would stay there or Los Cuatros Tulipanes in Casco Viejo

Barbara

CDY
Medellin, Colombia
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for Panama City
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8. Re: Gamboa Rainforest Resort - is it worth it?

Lunch after checking in at Decapolis, just walk across to the mall, lots of choices, nothing great but quick and easy to get to.

Dinner before the Clubs;

Ten Bistro - it will keep you light on your feet.

Panama City, Panama
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9. Re: Gamboa Rainforest Resort - is it worth it?

Here's my 2cents worth:

Tues 7/28

Canal House (great place)

Late lunch in Casco Viejo:

Deli-style lunch at the Super Gourmet Deli – 1 block away the other side of the Canal Museum

Fixed menu Asian-style menu – Rene’s Café on the Cathedral Plaza

Outdoor setting with varied menu – Buzio’s on the way to the Plaza Francia

Dinner @ Manolo Caracol (one of my favorites)

Drinks at Los Bovedas (great setting)

Wed 7/29

Day Tour of Gamboa - Monkey Island, Aerial Tram – go early and reserve the tram to get the time you want – limited “seating”

Dinner at S'Cena (my other CV favorite)

Drinks @ Play or Platea (there’s also Indigo for drinks)

Thurs 7/30

Tour of Presidential Palace – easier to go through local tour op – maybe check with My Friend Mario or Inside Panama (www.insidepma.com)

Lunch:

A few blocks away is Calle Uruguay – 10 minutes walking if you don’t mind the heat or 2 minute taxi.

The Market: burgers, steaks, sandwiches in a nice setting

Ozone Café: eclectic menu with a wide variety – great salads and sandwiches, curries etc.

Next door (same owners) is the Londoner Pub – serves pub grub.

Dinner @1985 (Good choice)

After dinner drinks at Decapolis – Thursdays are one of the busiest nights out – all of Calle Uruguay will be hopping – starts late – after 10pm...

Fri 7/31

Embera Indian Village (great tour)

Better shopping and more choice in MultiPlaza than in MultiCentro – 10 minutes away by taxi.

You could eat there – Ten Bistro and other options

Dinner :

Calle Uruguay again but more options for Dinner:

La Posta – one of Panama’s best restaurants (also open for lunch but maybe better for dinner)

Palms – fusion menu – I’ve had great meals there – funky lounge upstairs

La Rioja – great Spanish menu – tapas etc

Gauchos – Argentinean steak house

A bit further away:

Ten Bistro - in the DeVille Hotel off Calle 50 - 15 minute walk - 5 minute taxi - French owner, good menu.

Jimmy’s by the Atlapa Convention Center in San Francisco – local steak house – get the signature steak (Steak Angela?? – was just there last Thursday and can’t remember!), also known for its octopus.

Limoncillo Pony Club – just off Via Porras – reincarnation of the original Limoncillo in Bella Vista – the girls have done another great job with this version

Sat 8/1

Maybe a quick trip over to Panama Viejo – to see the original city’s ruins. Jimmy’s is on the way to/from there so maybe that could be a choice for lunch.

Gives you something to think about!!! Have a great trip.

Cheers,

Andrew

Panama City, Panama
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10. Re: Gamboa Rainforest Resort - is it worth it?

Reference the comment - "If it is your first time in Panama I would not stay in Casco Viejo, the area can get a bit sketchy at night." AND any concern you have about safety there are three things you can do as soon as you get settled at the Canal House.

1. Ask the Canal House folks for a briefing.

2. Ask the first Tourism Police you see (Spanish helpful).

3. Call me at 6818-0434 and I would be happy to show you around the neighborhood. Serious, we do it all the time with visitors.

Yes you can take a wrong turn in Casco, just like you can when visiting any place you're not familiar with, you need to be aware of your surroundings (even around the Radisson). But as someone who lives in Casco Viejo (and walks around a 1 a.m.) I feel very safe.

Hope you enjoy your stay. All of the suggestions by previous posters for your time in Casco are very good.

Steve http://www.panamanotes.com/