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“Relaxing, memorable vacation”

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Gamboa Rainforest Resort
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Gamboa
Ontario
Level Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 48 helpful votes
“Relaxing, memorable vacation”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 16 February 2011

We were on an almost all inclusive package with Sunwing departing from Toronto Canada. We enjoyed a wonderful week at Gamboa Rainforest Resort staying in one of the historic villas just a short walk from the main resort buildings. The washroom has been renovated with a huge shower stall equipped with a rainshower showerhead. Lots of hot water and clean clear water (no smells). The king sized bed was very comfortable and all towels, linens, pillows etc. were great. There were no smells, bugs etc. in the villa although they were constructed for the Panama Canal workers (old but repainted). The maids did a good job cleaning the villa. We found the outside of the windows needs to be cleaned which would give a better view of the Agouti and birds that seemed to surround the villa.
The check in and check out was fast and smooth. The staff at the restaurants, and bars was all very friendly and attentive. We did not encounter any problems with refilling of the water, coffee, wine etc. The buffet food was tasty but the selections were somewhat fewer than you would expect from a resort this size. We dined at the a la carte restaurant (Chagres River View) twice. We were provided with great service and food. Try the steak , it is perfectly cooked and very tasty.
There are a lot of birds e.g. Toucans, parrots etc. especially around the historic villas early in the morning i.e. from sunrise to about 7:30 am. There are also a lot of animals around the resort e.g. Agoutis, Capybaras, Sloth, Coati etc. We also saw crocodiles, caimans, turtles and iguanas from the restaurant (Los Lagartos) by the Chagres River. We were also lucky in seeing the Oceania Marina sail by on her maiden voyage transiting the canal (see picture) all without getting out of our seat at lunch.
There is free Wi-Fi in the lobby area. This means that you can enjoy a cool drink while surfing/emailing. We took a local bus to Albrook Mall (65 cents per person) and a taxi back to the resort ($12 it is air-conditioned). The Mall is huge with some good quality clothes, shoes etc. at reasonable prices.
We enjoyed our one week of relaxing vacation and attached some pictures for your enjoyment.

  • Stayed February 2011, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank puravidasouth
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    3.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    3.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 bubbles
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Denver CO
Level Contributor
12 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 29 January 2011

Our nature center from Denver led a tour of 12 people with Ancon Expeditions. We were supposed to stay in the Villas, but Ancon upgraded us to the main hotel at their expense after ongoing complaints about the conditions in the villas. Having seen them, it would be fine for me as a budget traveler, but not for our group or anyone wanting a nicer experiences. Seems like temperature, bugs, and lack of the views at the main building would be the challenge.

The main hotel is amazing. Only 11 years old, the lobby and views are incredible - building is starting to show some wear from last visit 5 years ago, but interior of rooms was very well maintained. Our room was very clean, great temperature, bed and bedding, quiet HVAC system, huge bathroom, amazing deck. The pool area is great to hang out, and walking the grounds (treeline out to the river, north to the playground, and back to the pool) was some of the best birding we experienced with parrots, toucans, motmots, hummingbirds, shorebirds, and tropical specialties everywhere. Capybara easy to find. Several nights we took headlamps out to do some spotlighting and found capybara, agouti, paca, baby crocodiles, and more. Not sure I'd recommend their night tour as their trucks drove by with massive spotlights while we were out and missed both us and many of the things we found. We were approached by security while out walking which we liked to know that they noticed and responded.

Location depends on what you like. Walking the grounds or getting out on a tour its a great place, but if you have no transportation, it is much more limiting. Taxi to discovery tower and pipeline road or even a long walk very doable. Close to locks or to tours on either coast.


The service was surprisingly poor for the rest of the experience. Restaurant staff was not very friendly and consistently seemed inconvenienced to serve us . Breakfasts for our early morning 5 am departures were insufficient - nice to have coffee (insufficient quantity for our group) and fruit and pastry, but nothing you could carry with you (eggs, unpeeled fruit, yogurt etc would be just as easy). Getting the bill for a meal consistently took ridiculous amounts of time (up to 30 mins). Buffets were good - $10 cold buffet, $15 hot buffet, $25 for everything, but consistently got charged for the full buffet even when ordering one of the others. Food at the pool was indeed more quantity for similar or lower cost than at the bar on the top level. Hotel was to provide early morning transport for our group to Pipeline road and was nearly an hour late, and several mixups with meals, room keys, etc. When problems were pointed out to staff, slow response, but when pointed out to management, the response was much better (including a late repair to plumbing in one participants room after several daytime requests for help).

Our tour group was out on the canal with a private guide and encountered Gamboa tours at Monkey Island where their boats were feeding monkeys and wildlife. Our participants complained to the hotel about the practice and seemed to be met with either denial or indifference.

Typically I am a budget traveler and the location and appointments are much higher than my typical fair. Made for a luxurious start to our trip (thanks, Ancon), service was not any worse than typical Central American standards for customer service - but for the price and super high quality of the site, would have hoped staff would shine a bit more.

  • Stayed January 2011, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank Skot L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
World-wide Traveller
Level Contributor
143 reviews
85 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 147 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 12 January 2011

I did not stay overnight at the hotel, but did instead the aerial tramway tour during the afternoon. I just popped up, addressed the tour guide desk in the lobby, and luckily enough they had 2 vacancies.
It is a good tour, the aerial tramway is very nice, going through the forest canopy, and ending up at the top of a hill from where you easily climb a tower. At the top you have the best view over the canal and Rio Chagres. However, do not expect to see many animals during daytime, we only saw 3 iguanas.
On the way back, things deteriorate as they want to show us their aquarium, snake house and orchid house. If you are a first-timer to the tropical forest, you may find this interesting, but beware that this is more like a sub-zoo, and I feel pity for those animals locked in a small cage. Actually you can just give a pass and walk 10 minutes back to the resort instead.
There is also a Disneyland atmosphere will is a little oppressive, but there is nothing to complain about the friendliness of the guides.
So worth it.

Stayed January 2011, travelled solo
Helpful?
2 Thank JeanLouisV
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 8 January 2011

We stayed at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort from Dec 31/10 to Jan 3/11 and were very disappointed!
We booked through Nolitours but did the Dual-Center Holiday. We spent 10 days at the Royal Decameron in Farallon, Panama then moved to the Gamboa for the remaining 4 days of our trip and we regret not staying at the Decameron the whole time.
We were told when we booked that the "Villas" were an "upgrade" so we booked one. DON'T DO IT - IT'S NOT TRUE! It's the lowest of the low! Once I realized this (luckily before we got there) I called the resort and asked to switch us to a room within the hotel. They told us it would cost an additional $25/night more to change rooms once we checked-in.
Once we arrived, we checked-in and nothing was said about an additional cost so I asked. The woman behind the counter looked through her reservation and looked puzzled?? She told us there was no extra charge for the room and everything had been taken care of. However, after the 4 days when we checked out they tried to charge us the $75 for the upgrade! Really?? We haven't received the credit card bill yet - but I'm sure it's probably there!
We did take a look at the villas and unless you want to go home with some kind of lung infection don't bother staying in them. They smell of must and mold and are horrible looking!
Our room in the actual hotel was very nice, comfortable and we had a great view. The balcony was very large with a table, 2 chairs and a hammock.
The service was HORRIBLE! The food was ok...not a huge selection and we found it was the same every time we ate. The best food we had our entire stay was dinner at the Chagres River View Restaurant (al la carte) This resort allows locals to book reservations for the restaurant and they were far better looked after then we were. The first night we went for dinner, sat down and ordered our drinks (all-inclusive), about 6 locals came in soon after, sat down, ordered their drinks and they had their drinks within minutes. We finally got ours once our dinner was done! I figure they wait and wait and wait to deliver the drinks for the all-inclusive guests because the less you drink the more money they save! The following morning we went down for breakfast and I had to ask 4 different waitresses for coffee! Again, my breakfast was finished before I ended up getting it. By this time I had had enough and demanded to speak to a manager. I expressed my concerns and from that point on we didn't wait for anything and we even got a lovely fruit basket delivered to our room that afternoon. It didn't really matter at this point - the damage was done!
Even though we were on the all-inclusive plan, the restaurants made us sign-off on every food bill! Not quite sure why; they kept telling us not to worry we wouldn't be charged but I guess we'll see soon enough. Luckily, we gave my husbands credit card (which doesn't have my name on it) and I signed for everything and wrote "no charge" next to the amount every time.
Putting the actual "hotel" reviews aside, the tours were great and the rainforest is really something to see. Capibaras were on the grounds all day and you could get quite close for photos. Birds are everywhere and we even managed to get a few good shots of some Toucans but we were lucky. We did see Parrots as well but weren't able to get pictures. We did the free night tour provided by the hotel. I'm sure it's a hit & miss what you get to see as there's no guarantee you'll see anything. We only saw a turtle and some kind of small owl-like bird.
We did go on the Monkey Island tour and it was WELL WORTH IT! In fact, it's probably the best tour I've ever been on. You get to travel the canal on your way and we saw so many different types of animals such as howler monkey's, white-faced capuchin monkey's, sloths, and we got very close to a crocodile. I brought a banana on the boat with me and one of the monkey's jumped right on with us which made for some great pictures! If you go on the tour, be sure to go early in the morning - they say that's when you'll see the most wildlife.
The restaurant down by the canal is great for pictures of turtles, birds, lizards and the odd cayman and crocodile.
My husband and I decided to go for a very early morning walk on our last day and found several species of birds and animals within the backyards of the villas.
By the end of the 4 days we were very ready to go home and forget this whole hotel experience. They're lucky they have the rainforest to keep guests coming back because without it, I presume this hotel wouldn't exist.

  • Stayed January 2011, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank wheretogowheretogo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Crescent City, Florida
Level Contributor
5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 January 2011

We made a reservation to visit Barro Colorado months in advance (required), and relied on the hotel front desk staff to provide us with transportation to the dock, as per the tour operators instructions. We reminded the front desk staff FOUR! times! that we needed transportation, and that the ferry boat would leave if we were not there on time. They ignored us, and finally had a young man drive us to the dock in his own car, only to miss the ferry boat. The front desk employee then lied to our tour operator, telling them we were not in the hotel lobby when the transport arrived. Lying, in addition to irresponsibility, is unacceptable. This was not a language issue, as my wife speaks fluent Spanish. I do not recommend this resort, given the poor service we received.

  • Stayed December 2010, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank coakwood
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Maryland
Level Contributor
88 reviews
21 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 46 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 29 December 2010

We picked the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, because we wanted a rainforest experience without having to travel to a remote location. And for that purpose, the resort was appropriate.

Tourist Trap
The resort caters to cruise ship excursions and other day-trippers. When we arrived, the resort was literally flooded with people. We got hardly any attention from the staff and no orientation to the resort. We didn't know that they offered children's activities until another guest told us. We didn't know you could order off a menu at the restaurant, rather than the buffet. We didn't know you could drink the water because the hotel filters. I could go on and on. We felt completely uninformed all the time. We didn't even know what questions to ask. I would not have even thought to ask, for example, will you be having traditional music and dancing on the lobby tonight? They hadn't had live music the first two days we were there.

We stayed in one if the historic villas. I admit that it had charm once you got used to the loud air conditioning unit, the holes in the wood, and the smell of mildew. I know it sounds harsh, afterall, it is a rainforest. However, for $215 per night, I expect a "restored" apartment to be in better repair.

Another note, I don't recall reading about the hike from the apartments to the lodge - the pool, the activities, etc. People should be prepared.

What did we like? The location was awesome. It was convenient to the city when we needed supplies on a Sunday. The aerial tram was worth the expense. Great view and a knowledgable guide.

I think 2 nights would be more than enough. I would recommend it to a person who understands the limitations and finds a good deal.

  • Stayed December 2010
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank sbecon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Chester, New York
Level Contributor
6 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 25 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 1 December 2010

After reading all the reviews, I approached my recent 4 day stay with a bit of trepidation. However, this resort came through.

Rooms;
We stayed in the most expensive room in the resort, with a loft, which worked great for my 12 year old son. The price was decent, better than a similar room in most Caribbean and Central American lodges/resorts of a similar class. The room was very nice, bed was great, TV had a limited number of channels but we were not there for the TV. Air conditioning worked well, and the balcony had a great view of the grounds and the Chagres River. Internet was expensive and was slow at times, but just having wireless internet in the rainforest was nice. Rooms were thoroughly cleaned each day, staff in general was very good. Laundry is expensive, wash you clothes elsewhere.

Food:
We ate at the main restaurant , Corotu, each night, off the menu. 20 meals purchased over four days, 19 were great. Prices per normal entree (the 10 ounce NY strip for $35 was the exception), were around $15, which in my experience is very, very reasonable for this type of accomodation. And there is nothing around, so they really do have you over a barrel. Dinner menu was limited, but the food was very good and i did not get bored eating the same thing two nights in a row. Breakfast (room service) was expensive, but comprehensive, and worth it dollar wise.

Free Tours:
We did the night safari a couple of times, it is quick tour of the grounds and you will see some things (opposums, armadillos., night birds, caimans, etc). Not a life changer, but it was quick and free.

Pay Tours:
Did the Pipeline Road tour. Not a bad tour, but probably could have used a more expert guide. The guides for their paid and free tours are somewhat interchangeable. For example, we crossed paths with another tour, tour guide had a spotting scope, which all guides should have at this price point. Our guide did not. We did see birds, nothing earth shattering, and keep in mind it is a 2-3 hours of walking in very humid conditions on a slippery path. I would recommend this tour for serious birders only, not enough bang for your buck at the current quality of the tour if you just want to see a toucan (we did see all three of the main species by the way). There is a private place, the Rainforest Discovery Center, which we did on our own, much less walking, they have a tower, a lake overlook, and a deck with a million hummingbirds flying over you to get sugar water. We saw alot of stuff with a free tour, guides were very knowledgeable, this would be a better option for most folks, especially those with children, before deciding to do the pipeline tour.

Fishing
We did a 6 hour Gatun lake fishing tour, used minnows, and caught between three fishermen and the guide, about 90 peacock pavons, generally aaround a pound or so. Action was non stop, and while this is not a cheap tour. it was a heck of alot of fun and I would do it again. Birdwatchers should bring a camera, you will see hawks, kites, etc, and we even did a short trip to monkey island. saw sloths, holwer and capuchin monkeys on our way back to the marina. The marina restaurant is good (if it is open) and it is not expensive.

Monkey Island
A quick trip to see monkeys, a sloth, caimans, etc. Not as hokey as it seems, recommended.

Night Boat Ride
Expensive tour, limited on the night we were there due to floating debris in the Chagres River. Stayed in the marina, but not at a discount, no earth shattering encounters here. need a really, really good guide to make this sort of tour work, since so much is subtle at night. Their guides were very friendly and tried hard, but nature guiding is a very tough thing to do really well.

The Grounds:
Pool is very nice, and their are lots of birds on the grounds if you take the time to look. One of the trees near the pool was loaded with a number of different species of tanagers, some of the best birding I experienced on the trip.

In all, I think this is a very nice place. Maybe the food is expensive by Panamanian standards, but not by US or Caribbean standards. Stock up on beverages beforehand, the small store charges $1.50 for a can of soda, which can add up. it is only 45 mintues or so from Panama City, hit the Canal Museum in Miraflores on your way there or back.
Bring good bug spray, and try to put most of it on your clothes and not your skin. Long pants for tours are a great idea.

Driving
We rented a car, which was ok for driving to and from Gamboa, but unless you have the spirit of adventure, driving in Panama City (Motto: Street Signs: We don't need no fricking street signs) is an experience to be avoided at all costs. Being lost in the poor section of town after dark, requiring a police escort to figure a way out, and still being left far from where we needed to go, stopping and asking for directions every five minutes...I think i can do without this next time. For a city with a million sky scrapers being erected, the planning department might want to put a few dollars into signs, or limiting roads to one name only....

  • Stayed November 2010, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
7 Thank SteveF46
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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