Custom Panama Tour – Go beyond Panama’s famous canal to discover what makes this gem unique, from traditional villages, to the forested highlands, to its portfolio of tropical islands.
About Panama Travel
Bocas del Toro: Christopher Columbus anchored here in 1502. By the turn of the 20th century, the town was headquarters for the United Fruit Company, and had 25,000 inhabitants, six consuls and five newspapers. That ended with a banana blight in the 1920s. The archipelago consists of six densely forested islands, scores of uninhabited islets and Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos, Panama’s oldest marine park. The town is at the southern tip of Colon Island in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago. The province contains another national park, La Amistad International Park. The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute operates a research station here.
Chiriquí Highlands: Chiriqui Province in western Panama, near Costa Rica, encompasses primary forests that harbor orchids and unique endemic wildlife, including the fabled resplendent Quetzal. Indian cultures, coffee plantations, hiking and horseback riding are here to be experienced. David is the provincial capital city and offers excellent shopping. Chiriqui Province is known for rafting and kayaking adventures, including Class Five rapids.
Colon: On the Caribbean side, Panama Canal transits start and end here. Highlights include the San Lorenzo and Portobello fortresses, the state-of-the art cruise port and the largest Free Trade Zone outside Hong Kong. This province not only offers historical sites and shopping, it is also a perfect place for nature activities such as snorkeling, diving and rainforest hiking within world-class birding areas. It is a relaxing spot to enjoy the Caribbean atmosphere. Colon province features the Panama Railroad and the lush tropical Isla Grande just off the coast.
Embera Village: The Choco or Embera people live in small villages of five to 20 houses along the banks of the rivers throughout the Chucunaque/Tuira/Balsas River watersheds in the Darien Province. The villages are about a half day’s walk apart. They are built on a small rise, set approximately 100 feet in from the river. Around each village, the jungle is partly cleared and replaced by banana and plantain plantations, a commercial crop for the Embera. They have their own form of government and live by their own unwritten rules. Health care is primarily provided by trained Shamans. The land is owned and farmed by the entire community. If a hunter gets a larger animal such as a peccary or a tapir, everybody in the village shares it. Embera woman sell coiled basket and other crafts.
Panama Canal & Cruise Between The Seas: The earliest mention of a canal through Panama dates to 1534, the king of Spain commissioned a survey to discover a shorter route between Spain and Peru. But the first construction efforts didn’t begin for 349 years! After several failed attempts by others, the United States completed the present canal in 1913. It remains a vital link in world shipping. Transits of the 82-kilometer/51-mile canal can either be a full day or a shorter partial voyage. The Cruise Between the Seas is a seven-day cruise that explores the world of the Embera Indians, the wildlife and the ecosystem of the region. The cruise also includes a Panama Canal transit, Pearl Islands of San Telmo and Mogo Mogo; Chagres River; and Portobelo, founded by Christopher Columbus in 1597. There are opportunities to snorkel, swim, kayak and hike.
Panama City: Founded in 1517, the city has long been an international crossroads. It was the first city built on the Pacific Coast of the Americas by the Spanish. The thriving business district includes shops, fine restaurants and lively nightclubs strung along the beautiful bay. The Spanish architectural influence is found in the 17thcentury convents and churches such as the Church of the Golden Altar. In addition to the famed canal, other sights include the original dungeons, a French monument to the 22,000 workers who died building the canal, and the Panama Canal Museum. The Amador Causeway connects three small islands that also have fine restaurants, bike and walking paths, a Smithsonian Institute research aquarium and a marina.
Soberania National Park: This national park offers outstanding natural attractions within its 20,234 hectares/50,000 acres of pristine rainforest. Some 105 species of mammals here include jaguar, white-tailed deer, wild pigs and monkeys, including the small mono titi and the evasive jujana. For 19 years, the Audubon Society has taken an annual census. In one day in 1996, they recorded 525 species of birds. On Gatun Lake, part of the Panama Canal complex, it is common to see three species of monkeys as well as crocodiles and iguanas. Bird-watching, fishing and jungle boat tours are available. Water sport enthusiasts can venture out on kayaks past lush rainforest, or paddle from Gatun Lake to Fort San Lorenzo on the Atlantic Coast. Chagres River was used in colonial days to transport gold and silver from Peru to Colon and eventually on to Europe.
San Blas Islands: San Blas Archipelago encompasses some 365 islands, many of which define the cliché of a ‘tropical paradise.’ Quiet beaches, secluded coves plus the full range of water sports, including sailing, sea kayaking and snorkeling, make the San Blas Islands a very appealing retreat. The islands are also home to the traditional villages of the San Blas Indians, the Kuna, who are famous for their mola embroideries (reverse appliqué embroidery with colorful tropical designs). Accommodations are basic and rustic.
Suggested Panama Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Panama City, Panama
Founded in 1517, the city has long been an international crossroads.
Day 2: Panama City/Panama Canal Transit
The earliest mention of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama dates to 1534.
Day 3: Panama City/Soberania National Park
Not far from Panama City, this scenic park encompasses 20,234 hectares/50,000 acres of pristine rainforest.
Day 4: Soberania National Park/Embera Community
The Embera people live in small, traditional villages and hold fast to their cultural customs.
Day 5: Soberania National Park
Bird watching, fishing, kayaking and trekking are activities enjoyed here.
Day 6: Soberania National Park/Panama City/Bocas del Toro
Christopher Columbus sailed into these Caribbean waters, anchoring at Boca del Toro in 1502.
Days 7/8: Bocas del Toro
This archipelago consists of islands, uninhabited islets and Panama’s oldest marine park.
Day 9: Bocas del Toro/Panama City
Panama City was the first city built by the Spanish on the Pacific Coast of the Americas.
Day 10: Panama City/Depart
Custom Travel Options
Chiriquí Highlands (3 days)
The highlands are noted for indigenous Indian cultures, bird watching, whitewater rafting and rainforest hikes.
Colon (3 days)
Colon is home to the historic fortresses, a high-tech cruise port and the largest free trade zone outside Hong Kong.
Cruise Between The Seas (7 days)
Cruise explores the world of the Embera Indians, the wildlife and the ecosystem of the region.
San Blas Islands (2-4 days)
The islands are known for distinctive culture, relaxing beaches and outstanding fishing.