volcan lagoons in panama with trees behind them and large mountains in the background
a group of adventure travelers rows a dugout canoe on flat water with mountains in the background on a sunny day during the best of panama land tour
an indigenous woman in a bright top weaving in front of a thatched wooden wall on the best of panama land tour
a capuchin monkey looking at the camera on the best of panama land tour
travelers with binoculars look and point upwards in the jungle on the best of panama land tour
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Central America Panama Land Tour

Best of Panama

The 9-day Best of Panama land tour is truly a comprehensive Panama trip, exploring Panama’s beaches, forest, history and culture, as well as a partial Panama Canal transit.

Discover the Panama Canal’s natural attributes and learn about the expansion work at Aqua Clara locks to increase the waterway’s capacity to move cargo from one ocean to the other by 50% within the next 15 years. Visit thriving indigenous villages, protected areas for conserving flora and fauna and Spanish colonial forts. Explore tropical cloud forests by trail or by ziplining between 14 different canopy platforms. Snorkel off Boca Brava and neighboring islands in Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park Island and discover the wildlife including white-faced capuchin, mantled howler monkey, Central American spider monkey, Geoffrey’s tamarin, little blue and green heron, great egret, anhingas, neotropical cormorant, green kingfishers, keel-billed toucans, osprey and more.

Moderate hikes offer 2-4 hours of activity each day, with opportunities for more adventures like riding in dugout canoes and meandering along white-sand beaches. Follow a naturalist guide to see more bird, mammal, reptile and plant species than the U.S. and Canada have combined. Tour local industries at Janson’s coffee estate and a sugar cane mill. From cloud forest canopy exploration to a partial Panama Canal transit, this is the Best of Panama adventure travel!

Read on for details about this trip, or view all of AdventureSmith’s Panama tours.



Itinerary

Best of Panama Itinerary

This comprehensive 9-day Panama land tour includes time at the Panama Canal and begins and ends in Panama City, Panama.

Route map of the Best of Panama land tour, operating round-trip from Panama City, with visits to the Panama Canal, Agua Clara Locks, Chiriqui Highlands, Finca Ceriana, Boquete & Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park.
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Day 1
Arrive Panama City, Panama

Upon arrival to Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, be greeted by a representative and transferred to the hotel in the historical district of Panama City.

Accommodations

Central Hotel Panama, or similar

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Day 2
Full Day Panama City Tour & Panama Canal

Begin with a city tour at the Panama Canal, then watch ships transit the waterways at the Panama Canal Visitors’ Center at Miraflores Locks. The three-floor exhibit halls provide information about the history, engineering and current events related to the Panama Canal. 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 support the Panama Canal operations.

Visit the Smithsonian Affiliate Biodiversity Museum, designed by the world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, and learn about the biodiversity and natural history, eco-awareness, conservation and Panama’s extraordinary natural treasures in various unique exhibition galleries. Continue to Casco Antiguo, a UNESCO World Heritage site, for lunch followed by a historical walking tour. In 1673, after a devastating pirate attack, Panama City was moved nearly five miles west of its original location to a small peninsula at the foot of Ancon hill. Several buildings within the district are identified as important for the country’s 17th-20th century heritage. Most outstanding are the churches, especially the metropolitan cathedral with its five aisles and timber roof, the Presidential Palace, the House of the Municipality, the National Theater, the Ministry of Government and Justice and the Municipal Palace.

Enjoy dinner with your guide at a local restaurant in the old town enjoying Panama City’s culinary diversity, local tastes and international fusion.

Accommodations

Central Hotel Panama, or similar

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 3
Embera Indigenous People, Agua Clara Locks Panama Canal Expansion & Chiriqui Highlands

Begin this morning with a 1.5-hour transfer across the Isthmus to Gatun River near Colon. Board a motorized piragua (dugout canoe) and travel through lush forests to the Embera indigenous village on the shores of the Gatun River, spotting 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, be greeted with dancing and music, learn about Embera customs and their relationship with nature, and 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 head to the Agua Clara Locks of the Panama Canal Expansion just outside Colon.

Built in the middle of the jungle on the Atlantic side, the Agua Clara Locks were inaugurated on June 26, 2016. The $5.25 billion project included 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 allow larger ships to transit through the 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 to catch a 50-minute late afternoon flight to David, capital of the Chiriqui province, in western Panama. Chiriqui is “Panama’s breadbasket” and contains some of the most breathtaking highland scenery in Central America. After arrival to David Airport, continue to the western side of the Baru Volcano and spend the next two nights at Los Brezos Hotel.

Accommodations

Los Brezos Hotel or similar

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 4
Finca Ceriana Nature Experience & Sugar Cane Mill

Today visit Finca Ceriana, a privately protected area for the conservation of flora and fauna strategically located between the highlands and lowlands of Chiriqui. 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. Once at Finca Ceriana, walk through beautiful trails while an expert guide discusses the rare birds of the 180+ species that live in this forest. Stop at the Canopy Tower for coffee and cookies to admire the cloud forest and relax. Walk along trails up a hill for a magnificent view then to the farm for a gourmet picnic and wine under beautiful cedar trees. Visit the sugar cane mill and learn about the sugar cane process and taste fresh sugar cane juice and other sugar cane products. Return back to the hotel late afternoon.

Accommodations

Los Brezos Hotel or similar

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 5
Janson's Geisha Coffee Tour & Boquete Canopy Zipline Adventure

This morning, take a comprehensive tour of the Janson’s Coffee estate at their farm in the mountain range of Baru Volcano and the surrounding valley. Learn about planting, harvesting, processing, roasting and packaging of the world class coffee Del Fino and Geisha, grown on the Janso’s coffee farm. Janson coffee is grown at the perfect altitude in rich volcanic soil, processed by utilizing the best that tradition and technology have to offer, and has won many prizes.

Lunch in the charming mountain town of Boquete, situated on the Caldera River. Take an exciting canopy zipline tour in the afternoon and contemplate the rainforest from 14 different canopy platforms while smoothly soaring in the heights of the cloud forest from one treetop to another. Glide through the trees to discover a fascinating perspective of wildlife and marvel at the native species of flora and fauna including a great variety of orchids, trees and wildflowers.

This afternoon arrive at the hotel in Boca Chica. 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.

Accommodations

Bocas del Mar or similar

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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

Awaken yards from the ocean and enjoy breakfast with panoramic views over the bay. Get ready to venture to a neighboring island for 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 nearby world-renowned sport fishing grounds and scuba diving. The National Park covers 60 square miles 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, enjoy 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.

Return to the hotel to relax or enjoy the fresh-water swimming pool with beautiful sunset views over the bay. Or opt for optional activities such as horseback riding, bird watching, deep sea fishing or relaxing spa treatments with stunning views over the Pacific Ocean (additional cost).

Accommodations

Bocas del Mar or similar

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 7
Gulf of Chiriqui Kayak & 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 at the lodge, catch your afternoon flight back to Panama City. Tonight, dine at a local restaurant within walking distance from the Bristol hotel, with your guide.

Accommodations

Bristol Panama Hotel or similar

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 8
Jungle Boat Tour & Partial Panama Canal Transit

Early this morning, voyage across Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal on a small expedition boat, passing gigantic cargo ships transiting the waterway. 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, formed to give way to the Panama Canal in 1914, was the largest man-made lake in the world, at the time of its creation. 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. Aboard today’s expedition boat, enjoy an up-close explorations of rainforest-covered islands (former hilltops) in Gatun Lake to search for white-faced capuchin, mantled howler monkey, Central American spider monkey and Geoffrey’s tamarin.

Later, board a 250-passenger ferry for the Partial Panama Canal Transit and sail at 85 feet above sea level. Shortly after departure, the ship enters Gaillard Cut, the narrowest section of the Panama Canal. Take 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 30.8 feet into Miraflores Lake. 1.2 miles later 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 54.5 feet into the Pacific Ocean. 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 a farewell dinner at the hotel’s famous Salsipuedes restaurant.

Accommodations

Bristol Panama Hotel or similar

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 9
Depart Panama City, Panama

Today be picked up at the lobby of the hotel 2.5 hours prior to your scheduled departure flight and transferred to Tocumen International Airport, or continue your adventure independently.

Accommodations

n/a

Meals

breakfast

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Details
Inclusions, Terms & Notes

Included

Accommodation; meals as specified in the itinerary; all land, air and water transportation within Panama; guide services and expenses; all airport-hotel transfers on scheduled arrival and departure dates; snorkeling equipment in Bocas del Mar; park, museum and related entrance fees.

Exclusions

International airfare; 2020 taxes of $245 per person (double occupancy); meals not specified in the itinerary; alcoholic beverages; personal equipment; gratuities and extras in hotels such as telephone calls, laundry, room service, etc.; tips for guides, drivers and boat captains; insurance of any kind.

Payment & Cancellation

In order to confirm this trip, a deposit of $500 is required per person at time of booking. The balance of the trip price is due 90 days before the departure date. Special holiday payment and cancellation terms may apply. Guests who must cancel their trip for any reason must do so in writing. Standard cancellations are subject to the following per-person penalties, based on number of days prior to departure:
Up to 91 days – 50% of deposit
90 to 31 days – 50% of total trip cost
30 to 0 days – 100% of total trip cost

Terms & Conditions

This trip is subject to AdventureSmith Explorations Terms and Conditions. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A Traveler Information Form, which includes a release of liability, must be completed and signed by all travelers. Your Adventure Specialist will send you a unique link to complete this form along with a packing list and extensive pre-departure and travel insurance information upon booking confirmation.

Arrival & Departure

The Best of Panama adventure begins and ends in Panama City, Panama (PTY). Plan flights to arrive to Panama City any time on day 1 of the itinerary. We highly recommend arriving one day prior to your trip start date in case of any flight delay, cancellation or lost luggage issues. Plan flights to depart Panama City anytime on day 9. If you would like assistance with international flights, please visit our Booking Flights resource page.

Internal Flights

Domestic flights within Panama allow one bag up to 30.8 lbs (14 kg) per passenger. For flights to David, each passenger is allowed 1 bag of up to 66 lbs (30 kg). Carry-on luggage is limited to 8.8 lbs (4 kg). Arrangements can be made with your hotel to store luggage that will not be needed while away from the city. Passengers are responsible for excess baggage fees and are subject to fees.

Activities

Whether you are looking for light activity options or more challenging outdoor pursuits, the guides can tailor most excursions to suit your skill level. Adventure activities may include easy to moderate hiking of approximately 2-4 hours a day with rolling, sometimes slippery hills and optional activities such as snorkeling, rafting, extended hikes and zip lining.

Families & Children

Children 12 years and older are welcome on this expedition.

Travel Insurance

Protect your travel investment with insurance. Our partners at Travelex Insurance offer a variety of plans and policies to fit every trip and budget. Coverage for a pre-existing medical condition is also available if you purchase the Travel Select plan within 15 days of the initial trip payment; refer to plan details. Learn more about travel insurance or get a free quote.

Itinerary Notes

Use the itinerary as a guide only. Itineraries may be altered due to weather, wildlife, national park regulation or at the guides’ discretion. The ability to be flexible makes this type of adventure travel unique.

Rates & Dates

Trip Rates & Dates

Contact us for 2021 rates and availability.

Accommodations

Learn About the Lodges & Hotels on Your Itinerary

Hotel
Central Hotel Panama

This historic hotel located within Panama City's Casco Antiguo District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers timeless architecture, an ideal location and historic luxury. Staying at the first hotel in Panama is an experience in itself.

Hotel
Los Brezos Hotel

The six-room Los Brezos Hotel is located just off the base of the Baru Volcano and is the ideal stopover for exploration of the Baru Volcano National Park.

Lodge
Bocas del Mar

This Panama hotel offers incredible Pacific Ocean views while being surrounded by lush gardens. Guests enjoy the close proximity to the Gulf of Chiriqui Marine National Park and modern and luxurious features.

Hotel
Bristol Panama Hotel

Ranked as one of the Top 5 hotels in Central America by Condé Nast Traveler, Bristol Panama is located in the heart of the financial district, minutes from shopping, cultural attractions and nightlife, and is acclaimed for its timeless architecture, unrivaled service and handsomely appointed rooms.

Lodge
Casa Grande Bambito

This small mountain boutique hotel is located approximately 90 minutes driving from David Airport, and about 15 minutes after the small town of Volcán enroute to Cerro Punta, at an elevation of 1,900 meters.

Lodge
Gamboa Rainforest Resort

Escape to this jungle paradise located in Soberania National Park Rainforest just 45 minutes outside Panama City to encounter nature without leaving the comforts of a full-service exotic resort.

Hotel
Cala Mia Boutique Hotel

Cala Mia Boutique Hotel luxury eco-island resort located on Boca Brava, in the Chiriqui Archipelago, part of the National Marine Park in the Gulf of Chiriqui, is a beautiful haven surrounded by palm-lined white sand beaches, uninhabited islands, mangroves, and ideal for wildlife viewing.

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