Best of Panama | Trip Itinerary

Day 1:  Arrive to Panama.

On arrival to Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, you will be met by an Ancon Expeditions of Panama representative and transferred to the historical district of Panama City. Check-in to the Central Hotel for a 2-night stay.

Day 2:  Full Day Panama City and Panama Canal Tour

This morning you start your city tour at the Panama Canal where you will visit the Panama Canal Visitors’ Center at Miraflores Locks where ships can be seen transiting the waterway. The 3 floor exhibit halls will provide information about the history, engineering and current events related to the Panama Canal. 

Then drive through the former Panama Canal Zone managed by the United States from 1903 to 1999.  Old military bases have been turned into residential neighborhoods, universities and one of the most important commerce hubs in the region combining airports, container ports and cargo railways that provide support to the Panama Canal operation.

Your next stop is the Biodiversity Museum, designed by the world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. As a Smithsonian Affiliate museum, the Biodiversity Museum serves as a gateway to new information about the biodiversity and natural history of the Isthmus of Panama. Scientific experts from both the Smithsonian Institute and the University of Panama oversee the contents of the museum and aim at teaching visitors about eco-awareness, conservation and Panama’s extraordinary natural treasures in various unique exhibition galleries. Did you know that the Isthmus of Panama has more bird, mammal, reptile and plant species than the US and Canada together in just 75,990 Km2 (approx. 29,000 square miles)? In fact, 3 million years ago, the emergence of the Isthmus of Panama changed both the climate and the biodiversity in the planet and played a key role in the creation of the world we know today. 

Continue to Casco Antiguo for lunch followed by a historical walking tour.  In 1673, after the devastating pirate attack, Panama City was moved some 7.5 km west of its original location, to a small peninsula at the foot of Ancon hill, closer to the islands that were used as the port and near the mouth of a river that eventually became the entrance of the Panama Canal.  The relocated town, known today as Casco Antiguo or the Historic District of Panama, not only had better access to fresh water but could be fortified. The military engineers, moreover, took advantage of the morphological conditions that complemented the wall surrounding the peninsula, all of which prevented direct naval approaches by an enemy.  Several buildings within the District are identified as important for the country’s 17th-20th century heritage. Most outstanding are the churches, above all the metropolitan cathedral with its five aisles and timber roof; San Felipe Neri, San José, San Francisco and especially La Merced with its well-preserved colonial timber roof. The Presidential Palace originally built in the late 17th century and partially reconstructed in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, is a revealing example of the transformations that characterize the Historic District as a whole. The House of the Municipality, the National Theatre, the Ministry of Government and Justice and the Municipal Palace are outstanding buildings of a more recent period.  Casco Antiguo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Tonight you will have dinner with your guide at a local restaurant in the old town enjoying Panama City’s culinary diversity, local tastes and international fusion. (B, L, D)

Day 3:  Embera Indigenous People – Agua Clara Locks Panama Canal Expansion - Chiriqui Highlands  

This morning you will be picked up at your hotel by your Ancon Expeditions guide for an approx. 1.5 hour transfer across the Isthmus to Gatun River near Colon. You will have the opportunity to visit an Embera indigenous village on the shores of the Gatun River. You will board a motorized piragua (dugout canoe) and travel up through lush forest to the community. Along the river you may be able to spot Little Blue and Green Heron, Great Egret, Anhingas, Neotropical Cormorant, Amazon, Ringed, and Green Kingfishers, along with Keel-billed Toucans and Ospreys flying above. At the Embera village you will be greeted with dancing and music. You will learn about Embera customs and their relationship with nature. There will be handcrafts available for sale and you will have a chance to be painted with the traditional jagua, a natural dye the Embera use to adorn their bodies. After a traditional Embera lunch you will head to the Agua Clara Locks of the Panama Canal Expansion just outside Colon.

Unlike the viewpoints at Gatun and Miraflores, this new visitor center has a more ecological design, being built in the middle of the jungle area next to the new Agua Clara Locks on the Atlantic side, inaugurated on June 26, 2016. The US$5.25 billion project included, among other tasks, dredging works on both ends of the canal and the route itself in order to increase water depth and the straightening of bends along the route that will allow larger ships to transit through the canal. The most important aspect of the project, however, was the building of two new sets of locks, one at each terminus of the canal, which will increase the waterway’s capacity to move cargo from one ocean to the other by 50% within the next 15 years and will allow the passage of bigger ships (almost 3 times the capacity of the largest size vessels that can cross the old locks. The new locks accommodate neo-panamax ships that can carry up to 14,000 containers.  A ship with this capacity pays approximately US$850,000.00 in toll fees to cross the Panama Canal.  The new locks were designed to reuse up to 60% of the fresh water that would flow into the ocean by using recycling water basins. 

Return to Panama City’s domestic airport in order to catch a 50-minute late afternoon flight to David, capital of the Chiriqui province, in western Panama. Chiriqui is the country´s “breadbasket” contains some of the most breathtaking highland scenery in Central America.  After arrival to David Airport, you continue to the Western side of the Baru Volcano, where you check in to the Hotel Los Brezos for a two-night stay. (BLD)

Day 4: Finca Ceriana Nature Experience & Sugar Cane Mill

Strategically located between the highlands and lowlands of Chiriqui, Finca Ceriana forms part of a privately protected area for the conservation of flora and fauna in the region. One of its unique characteristics is the number of bird species and other animals from the upper and lower mountain areas. The property is part of the biological corridor that hosts the famous volcano lagoons and a large variety of animal and plant species. The total area counts 10 hectares of protected land and nearly 2 kilometers of nature trails, in addition to one of the most beautiful views to Costa Rica's Golfo Dulce, or sweet golf, and Osa pensinsula as well as to Punta Burica in Panama. Once at Finca Ceriana this morning, you will walk through 3 km of beautiful trails while your expert guide explains what you see, particularly, beautiful and rare birds of the 180+ species that live in this forest. Mid way your tour, you will go up a nice Canopy Tower, where you will enjoy our great Janson Family coffee and savor our famous local butter cookies, while you admire the cloud forest and relax for as long as you wish. When you are ready, your tour continues through the trails up a hill where you will get to see a magnificent view of the low lands of Chiriquí, and weather permitting, The Pacific Ocean and Punta burica in Panama in addition to the Ossa peninsula and Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica. By noon you will start your descent to the lower part of the farm, where we will be expecting you for a gourmet picnic under beautiful Cedar trees. You will enjoy your home made lunch with a nice glass of wine and, again, relax and enjoy the view for as long as you desire. When you are ready, we walk some meters towards the sugar cane mill, where your guide will explain the sugar cane process and you will get to taste fresh sugar cane juice, and other sugar cane products. Return back to your hotel late afternoon. (BLD)

Day 5: Janson´s Geisha Coffee Tour & Canopy Zipline Adventure in Boquete

This morning, the Janson’ Coffee estate owners invite you for a comprehensive tour at their farm in the mountain range of Baru Volcano and surrounding valley. You will learn about planting, harvesting, processing, roasting and packaging of the world class coffee Del Fino and Geisha, grown on the Janson´s coffee farm. This coffee is grown at the perfect altitude in rich volcanic soil and processed by utilizing the best that tradition and technology have to offer. Janson Coffee has a unique aroma and brilliant flavors and has won many prizes. 

Then proceed to the Eastern side of Baru Volcano for lunch in the charming mountain town Boquete, situated on the Caldera River.  In the afternoon get ready for an exciting canopy zipline tour that that allows you to contemplate the rainforest from fourteen different canopy platforms while smoothly soaring in the heights of the cloud forest from one treetop to another. You will glide through the trees and encounter a world unknown. You will discover a fascinating perspective of wildlife that you had never appreciated. Native species of flora and fauna can be observed. You will marvel at the sight of a great variety of orchids, trees and wildflowers that are found throughout the area. 

Late afternoon descends for approx. 1 hour to your hotel in Boca Chica, where you check in for a 2-night stay. Nestling amidst a stunning tropical paradise, Bocas del Mar Hotel in Boca Chica offers the perfect base for discovering the region. This is the gateway to the Gulf of Chiriquí Marine National Park with its many luxuriant green islands, palm-tree-fringed white beaches and an incredible variety of wildlife, right on the hotel’s doorstep. (BLD)

Day 6: Island & Beach Exploration at the Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park

Awakening just yards from the ocean, enjoy your breakfast with panoramic views over the bay. Get ready for your day tour venturing to a neighboring island, a day of beach relaxation and underwater exploration with snorkel and fins.  This Pacific Gulf is home to thousands of pristine islands and unspoiled beaches and is also nearby world-renowned sport fishing grounds and scuba diving. The National Park covers 60 square miles (155km) of islands and ocean, and is known for its green iguana lizards, humpback whales, dolphins, many species of turtles, stingrays, monkeys, and hundreds of types of exotic birds and tropical fish.

In the months from late June through early October, you will also have the opportunity to be part of the magical whale season when thousands of Humpbacks migrate northwards from their summer feeding grounds around Antarctica, arriving in this Pacific region of Panama where they breed and give birth to their calves in the warm, shallow and safe waters near Cala Mia! 

After some beach time, more snorkeling and a picnic lunch on one of the white sand beaches, return back to the hotel to relax or enjoy the fresh-water swimming pool with beautiful sunset views over the bay. You can also opt for optional activities such as horseback riding, bird watching, deep sea fishing or relaxing Spa treatments with stunning vies over the Pacific Ocean.  (BLD)

Day 7: Kayaking in the Gulf of Chiriqui – Panama City

Several rivers empty into the sea by Boca Chica and help support a maze of mangroves. The mangroves are good places to spot birds and reptiles and are especially fun to explore on kayaks. Head out with your Naturalist guide for a kayaking outing this morning and enjoy the calm waters, lush nature and biodiversity of this beautiful part of Panama. After lunch back at the lodge, you will head back to catch your afternoon flight back to Panama City later this afternoon. Transfer in to the city, and check-in to the Bristol hotel for a 2-night stay. Tonight you’ll enjoy dinner together with your guide at a local restaurant within walking distanced from your hotel.  (BLD)

Day 8: Jungle Boat tour for wildlife observation and Partial Panama Canal Transit

Early in the morning you will be picked up at the lobby of the hotel by your Naturalist Guide. Nearby you will board a small expedition boat and depart on an adventure that will include a voyage across Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal passing by gigantic cargo ships transiting the waterway, making contrast with the natural surroundings. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to spot Green Iguana and Three-toed Sloth resting on tree branches, Crocodile, Osprey in the hunt for Peacock Bass, Snail Kite and Keel-billed Toucan among other wildlife. Gatun Lake was formed to give way to the Panama Canal in 1914. With a surface of 262 Km2 (164 Mi2), at the time of its creation was the largest man-made lake in the world. The flow of all the rivers within the Panama Canal Watershed is contained in Gatun Lake to provide water for the operation of the locks system. Nearly 200 million Liters (52 million gallons) of fresh water are used for every ship that transits through the Panama Canal from one ocean to another. Your expedition boat will allow for close approximations to rainforest-covered islands (former hill tops) in Gatun Lake to search for White-faced Capuchin, Mantled Howler Monkey, Central American Spider Monkey, and Geoffrey’s Tamarin. 

Later this morning you will board a 250-passenger ferry for the Partial Panama Canal Transit. Now you will be sailing at 26m (85 feet) above sea level. Shortly after departure, the ship will enter Gaillard Cut, the narrowest section of the Panama Canal. The 13.7Km (8.5 Miles) long portion of the Continental Divide was carved through rock and shale at beginning of last century when the canal began operating (1914). You will have the opportunity to look at the work’s progress on this extraordinary engineering venture. The ship will reach Pedro Miguel locks, where the vessel will be lowered 9.4 meters (30.8 feet) into Miraflores Lake. After traveling nearly 2 kilometers you arrive to Miraflores locks, where the transition from fresh water to salt water takes place in the locks chambers. Due to the Pacific Ocean’s extreme tidal variations, Miraflores locks miter gates are the tallest of the locks system. In two steps, the vessel will be lowered 16.6 meters (54.5 feet) onto the Pacific Ocean. You will then sail under the bridge of the Americas, which reunites the land divided by the Panama Canal as part of the Pan-American Highway. After disembarking at Flamenco Island, transfer back to the Bristol hotel downtown.  Enjoy your farewell dinner at the hotel’s famous Salsipuedes restaurant. (BLD)

  Day 9: Depart Panama

Today you will be picked up at the lobby of the hotel 2.5 hours prior to your scheduled departure flight and transferred to Tocumen International Airport. Fly home. (B)

B=Breakfast; L=Lunch; D=Dinner

Departures

2019 Departures

Feb 15-23
Mar 30-Apr 7
May 18-26
Jun 15-23
Jul 20-28
Aug 17-25
Sep 21-29
Oct 19-27
Dec 20-28
& on request

Price

$3495 p/p
with minimum of 4 travelers

Travel Style
either a recommended custom itinerary or group trip