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“Nothing like it anywhere. Go for two nights, rent a car if any longer.”

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Gamboa Rainforest Resort
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Gamboa
San Antonio, Texas
Level Contributor
31 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
“Nothing like it anywhere. Go for two nights, rent a car if any longer.”
Reviewed 20 August 2011

Before the events of our last night at Gamboa Rainforest Resort, I was prepared to write a critical review. However, I was very pleased with the management's response to the bat flying around our room, which rescued one night of restful sleep for a family of five.

The resort: At the junction of the Chagres River and Gatun Lake as it narrows into the Culebra/Gaillard Cut of the Panama Canal. If you have read David McCullough's "Path Between the Seas," there is something special about being at that place. The fact that there is a tourist resort there at all is remarkable. In terms of design and layout, they did a great job incorporating Canal construction era housing with the new buildings in the Victorian/Georgian colonial style while infusing nature and wildlife into every aspect of the resort. Our room was the junior suite with a downstairs Queen size bed and full bath, and a loft up a circular staircase to two twin beds and a bath. An incredible large balcony overlooked the Chagres with a hammock and a table with chairs. We sat every morning and evening watching the many varieties of birds and the herd of capybara that roamed the grounds. The pool was large and clean, although it was hard to figure out when the bar would be staffed or not. Nice, though. We saw iguanas and basilisk lizards basking in the trees around the pool.

Actvities: We did the Monkey Island tour, which was great, Capuchin monkeys on the boat and everything. We also saw baby caymans, Howler monkeys, and a sloth. Boating around gigantic oceanic cargo ships on a lake was surreal. We also did the canopy tour, which included the gondola up the highest hill in the resort to a canopy tower with incredible views, particulary in appreciating the topography of the canal design. The guide did a great job of showing us, both in English and Spanish, birds, insects and lizards. She also identified animals based on the distant sounds they were making. We also went to the exhibits (Butterfly, Orchid, Snake houses, and Aquarium). By this time our 7 year old was a bit tired and these were not spectacular if you have seen similar exhibits elsewhere. It amazed us how something as impressive as a large Blue Morpho butterfly can be so stunning the first time you see it (looks like it came from the movie Avatar) then become commonplace after a few days. We did the free night bus tour twice and saw different things each time. Great!

Food: Here we go. We were not expecting much based on the previous reviews. Our bottom line was yes, European and American foods are bland, overpriced, and sub-Chef Boyardee level. However, at every meal, there were local Panamanian options that were as close to great (in my case Colombian) home cooking as I've had in a restaurant anywhere. So go for the local stuff: fish, plantains, rice, pork, sausage. Sancocho! A chicken soup that could be eaten for every meal. Yes expensive, yes few choices. We were not on the all inclusive buffet plan so sometimes we had dinner up at the Monkey Bar to mix it up a little. They did have a different bar menu and good service. It would have been nice if they had a coffee/sandwich shop if you did not want to have a full sit down meal.

Service: Same as elsewhere in the reviews. To put it kindly, unintrusive.

Access: Our biggest beef was how difficult it was to get in and out of this place. We had a car for the second part of our stay, but decided not to get it until after Gamboa since I figured we could get a cab if we needed to. A cab into the city is about 30 dollars each way. What I was not counting on was that a cab ANYWHERE is 30 dollars each way, including the Summit Zoo, which was about two miles down the road from the entrance of the resort. We had a relatively open afternoon and were not in the mood for the pool. It was close enough to the closing time of the zoo that walking there would have eliminated the time we would have to look around. There was a taxi parked by the lobby waiting for fares. He was flagged down by the doorman, we piled into the car and he drove off. By the time he told us it was 30 dollars one way, we were fortunately not out of the parking lot. We got out and walked back to the lobby. He parked the taxi right back in the spot where we found him and went back to reading his newspaper. They really need a local shuttle for guests. Alternatively, I would just rent the car just to have the option for freedom.

The Bat: Later that night...We were basically done with the buffet, with the pool, had seen all the animals three times and ready to move on with our trip (stay 2 nights, MAXIMUM 3). We had a 3.5 hour drive to Pedasi the next day (which ended up being 7 due to construction) and were ready for rest. At about 11 p.m. my wife and daughter woke me up to tell me about a bat flying around. We turned on all the lights and the bat disappeared up into the loft. Two of three kids huddled in our bed while the third was still out upstairs. I looked around, found a large moth I was able to catch in a cap and took it outside, assuming this was the alleged bat. Problem solved. At 1 a.m. more bat noises, I was then able to see it more clearly (yes, it was a bat) and that it was coming in and out of a space in the wood paneling of the loft. No, we were not surprised that there might be a bat at the Rainforest Resort, but also did not want it flapping around our room all night. I called the reception area, there was no answer. We decided it was probably harmless but it continued to make noise and bang around until 3:00 a.m. At this point, we were finally able to reach someone at the front desk. At first, she told us not to worry, it is a fruit bat and won't hurt you. I told her I was not worried about getting hurt, I just wanted some sleep. At this point, the clouds parted and the Gamboa sprung into action. Two guys came to our room, one to look for the bat, and one to show us to an adjacent room, where we were able to sleep through the rest of the night in peace without having to transfer all our belongings. ("How come this room has a coffee maker and our's did not?" I wondered as I carried our 9 year old in.) We slept in, had a delicious local breakfast, and hit the road for the rest of our Panama adventure. Gamboa redeemed.

Room Tip: Lobby level rooms are a the upper floor with the best views.
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  • Stayed June 2011, travelled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank coltexdoc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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English first
Findlay, Ohio
Level Contributor
316 reviews
70 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 116 helpful votes
Reviewed 18 August 2011

We spent a night at the Gamboa Resort. We won a free night at a charity event. With that said, I’m going to rate this as if I had paid the $150 a night rack rate.

First, the service by the staff was outstanding. They were very professional and friendly. They were very concerned about taking care of you which is very unusual for Panama. Customer service is not something the locals understand, but they do at the Resort.

We arrived at 2 pm and check in was fast, friendly and efficient. We were in room 309 with a wonderful view of the river and hills. The staff was very helpful and took our bags to our room with us. Most everyone spoke some English and some spoke it very well.

The room is very large and the décor was fine. We had a very comfortable king sized bed and the pillows were very comfortable as well. The room has a mini bar and you need to get the key from the desk. We didn’t get the key because the price of the items was way too high. The bathroom is very large and the shower is nice sized and the water pressure was very good.

There was plenty of storage but if you are there for several days there would not be enough hangers (in our room at least). They have a safe in the room for valuables. The AC worked great. The balcony is nice. All seem to have hammocks and there are two chairs and a table. It was nice just hanging around and watching the world go by.

For the price and being in Panama, the price too me is high for a room. The other reason I rate it low is that you are really out in the middle of no where. If you don’t have a car and if you aren’t willing to drive 20 to 30 minutes to the city to restaurants you are hostage to their restaurant and bars and they nail you there.

We received a complimentary cocktail at the monkey bar. You can only get a Panama beer, a rum and punch or a rum and soda. They were fine, then we ordered a glass of white wine. The wine they served cost $3.36 a bottle at the grocery store in Panama, they charged $6 for a 5 oz pour. Yikes!!!!! It should have only been $3 to $4.

We then went to the high end Changres River View for dinner. This requires reservations and no shorts. It is a flat $35 per person (yikes for Panama). It includes an appetizer (choice of one of six), a main course (only 4 to choose from) and a dessert. The wine menu is okay but they mark it up 4 times retail. The Robert Mondovi Private Select costs $12 in the store, they charged $45. This was consistent with all selections. Crazy. The other issue is that the menu items said that things came with asparagus and mushrooms. They were out and did not tell us and we got what ever they had (green beans). My wife had a grilled vegetable plate. It wasn’t grilled nor what one would expect. She thought it was pretty good but not what she imagined or wanted. I had the scallops. There were 6 small scallops on cabbage. They were a little chewy but not bad.

For the main course, my wife got the chicken. It was over done and did not come with the side she wanted or ordered. Big let down. I had the beef. Actually, I rarely get the beef in Panama. It tends to be tough and gamey tasting plus the cooks in Panama are clueless in how to cook it. I will give them credit, the beef I had was tender cooked perfect (medium rare) and had good flavor. On the down side, it was suppose to come with asparagus and a mushroom sauce. Nope didn’t come with that.

For desert, my wife had a passion fruit mouse which was tasty but very small. I had the brownie with strawberry ice cream. First issue was the brownie was hard and stale and second the strawberry ice cream tasted a lot like vanilla.

For $130 in Panama, that is stupidly expensive for the portion size and the quality of the food. The pricing at the Restaurant Corotu was very high as well and it uses the same kitchen as Changres River View.

The pool area is very nice and large. There is a swim up bar that I’m sure is 300% over priced. The resort was not very busy since it is the off season and it rains a lot.

The service is great but again understand it is a tourist trap and you will pay 2x to 3x more than you should.

  • Stayed August 2011, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
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Helpful?
4 Thank Stargazerm31
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed 12 August 2011

Our group of 200+ descended on the Gamboa Rainforest Resort for a long weekend on 28 July 2011. Firstly I would like to say that the staff were excellent. They were friendly helpful and always smiling. Our accommodation, a suite in one of the older houses, was great. The hotel facilities were good as were the activities that they organised. I recommend the bike ride around the area which is tailored to the needs of the specific guests and the walk through the rainforest.
But the management really cast a dark shadow over the occasion. With this being such a large group, there were many months of negotiations with the hotel in Spanish and English to get an all-inclusive deal. We dealt with several teams over the period, but finally got what we thought was a great deal. On arrival, we were informed that they had got it wrong, and they effectively tore up the contract and started negotiations again on 25 July. Lawyers on both sides were involved and we were told that we could find another venue if we were not willing to accept their changes. The result of this was that each adult guest had to pay and extra $90 for the weekend. There were also obvious economies made by the hotel. We ate separately from the other guests and the food was repetitive and sub-standard and limited to the 3 main meals a day. We were also limited to what drinks we could have.
This left a bad taste all around and it is unlikely that any of our group will return to the hotel, but I do recommend that you try it for yourself.

Room Tip: Ask if accommodation off-site is available. For B+B rate we got a large colonial suite which compare...
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  • Stayed July 2011, travelled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank Earlsfield246
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
8 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
Reviewed 11 August 2011

The room was very nice. The size surprised me since it was much larger than expected. We loved the fact that they had a hammock outside of each room. The overall resort is also very nice.

The grounds were beautiful and the view of the surrounding hills was even more beautiful.

The service was decent. Our bags were delivered promptly and the staff was friendly.

The food was surprisingly bland (I expected more taste in any country and especially in Latin America). Even a lot of the fruit had little taste which was almost shocking to me. They couldn't even make scrambled eggs correctly and that's a simple thing to do. There were a few things that tasted good like the arroz con leche and some of the other desserts.

The hotel management refused to honor a contract with our party and we had to pay more than the agreed upon price for our stay. This was very wrong of the hotel and a great burden to family members who don't have great financial means and had to pay more. For this specific reason I gave the resort a poor overall rating. Otherwise, I would have given it an average rating.

The fitness center is just passable - the treadmills are very old and made me feel as though I was running on a stiff bed. I stopped after a few minutes and used the bike and the combination exercise machine for the rest of my stay.

  • Stayed July 2011, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
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Helpful?
2 Thank sensima
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

Travellers are raving about these Gamboa hotels

Saint Louis, Missouri
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed 11 August 2011

We fished one day with a guide and boat furnished by the Gamboa Rainforest Resort Resort. NEVER AGAIN. The equipment was substandard, broken and unacceptable. There is another dock with private outfitters at Gamboa. Pick a private outfitter and skip the guides offered by the Resort. The rod was made for five ferrels (the guides for the line), but two were gone. The reel spools had little line which precluded casting beyond two yards. One rod was a two piece, but the connection was broken. Unfortunately, we did not notice these defects until after we had left the dock, driven through the canal and arrived at our fishing destination. If you cannot find a private guide, just skip the fishing offered by the resort and spend a day at the pool. L.E. Evans

Stayed July 2011, travelled with family
Helpful?
1 Thank Lawrence E
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
San Diego, California
Level Contributor
13 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
Reviewed 8 August 2011

The Gamboa Rainforest Resort is absolutely wonderful. I grew up in the Panama Canal Zone during the 1960s and 1970s and left when I was 14. After 37 years, I returned with my husband and 17-year old daughter. We stayed a total of ten nights in Panama, three at a hotel on the Causeway, three in El Valle, and four at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. We loved all of the places we stayed. We took four of the tours at Gamboa – the night tour, the boat ride to Monkey Island, the aerial tram tour, and the bird-watching tour in Soberania National Park. All of the tours were great and the tour guides were very knowledgeable. We saw capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, crocodiles, turtles, toucans, blue morpho butterflies, and many, many types of birds. Each evening as we sat on our balcony, we watched dozens of noisy parakeets and parrots fly in pairs to roost in the trees. After each rain, a herd of capybaras emerged from the foliage to graze on the lawn. Agoutis ran around the property and were as numerous as squirrels in an American park.

The pool was absolutely gorgeous - one could spend hours there just relaxing and enjoying the views and drinks from the bar. In contrast to some of the other reviews, we enjoyed most of the food. The breakfast buffet had a wide selection and the items changed daily. The lunch at Los Lagartos was really great. In addition, we watched an 8 foot crocodile and numerous turtles in the water just off the restaurant deck waiting for people to throw bread to them! While some of our meals in restaurants in Panama City and El Valle were better, we were generally pleased with most of the food at the resort. The service was always very good - we appreciated the numerous refills of coffee at breakfast.

I had to laugh at the reviewer who complained about towels that wouldn't dry, the damp smell in rooms, and the desk clerks that didn't speak great English. If you want towels that dry quickly, don't like humidity, and want native English speakers, I suggest you go to Arizona instead! After my first 14 years in Panama, I lived my next 7 years in Tucson. Both are fantastic places, but only Panama has 900 different kinds of birds, a great tropical rainforest, the marvel of the Panama Canal, and the wonderfully cosmopolitan cultural mix of indigenous peoples and people from Spain, the West Indies, and the US.

  • Stayed August 2011, travelled with family
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
6 Thank vramey
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Inver Grove, Mn.
Level Contributor
7 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
Reviewed 7 August 2011

The Gaboa Rainforest resort overlooks a breathtakingly beautiful green veranda. The three story lobby has a waterfall that cascades all the way down to the pool. The pool area is lovely and I spotted a green iguana munching flowers near the pool on my last day there. The rooms come equipped with a hammock slung balcony, which is wonderfully relaxing. Not to be missed is a trip to monkey island , to see the Caputian monkeys. All in all it was a fine vacation.

Stayed August 2011, travelled with family
Helpful?
4 Thank BugsyInverGrove_Mn_
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Gamboa Rainforest Resort

Property: Gamboa Rainforest Resort
Address: Goethals Blvd. | Soberania National Park, Gamboa 7338, Panama
Region: Panama > Colon Province > Gamboa
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Centre with Internet Access Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Gamboa
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Gamboa Rainforest Resort 3.5*
Number of rooms: 166
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Deep in the heart of the Panamanian rainforest lies the completely unique Gamboa Rainforest Resort. This magnificent destination rests where the scenic Chagres River meets the Panama Canal and is the only resort property in the area. Few places on earth offer such an amazing natural experience while providing an unsurpassed level of luxury. Escape the noise and hectic pace of everyday life and surround yourself with the tranquility of the mystical Soberania National Forest. Here, just a short 30-minute ride from Panama City, on 340 acres overlooking the stunning Panama Canal, you can commune with nature in a pristine environment where explorers and pirates once tread. Our Panama Tours offer an exhilarating variety of jungle adventures such as an aerial tram, guided boat tours, fishing expeditions, and much more. Our tours are designed to show you wildlife in its natural setting amidst the colorful splendor of the jungle flora. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Gamboa Rainforest Hotel Gamboa
Gamboa Rain Forest Resort

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