Your family's adventure in Panama begins today! A representative will meet you on arrival at Tocumen International Airport and transfer you to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort on the shores of the Panama Canal. In the evening, enjoy a welcome briefing with your naturalist guide and rest up for tomorrow's activities.
Lodging: Gamboa Rainforest Resort
Day 2 Panama Canal Jungle Boat Adventure
Today you will be picked up at the hotel by your naturalist guide and transferred to the Panama Canalmarina, where you'll board a specially equipped expedition boat. Your voyage takes you across the Panama Canal, passing by gigantic cargo ships that contrast sharply with the natural surroundings. Along the way you will have the opportunity to spot sloths and green iguanas resting on tree branches, ospreys, snail kites, toucans, and other bird species. You'll be close enough to Gatun Lake's rainforest-covered islands that you can search for white-faced capuchins, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, and the endemic red-napped tamarin from the comfort of the expedition boat. Enjoy a picnic lunch on one of the islands, taking in the extraordinary views of the Panama Canal and the lush natural surroundings as you dine. In the early afternoon you'll be transferred back to Gamboa, where the rest of the day is free to spend at your leisure.
Drive to El Corotu this morning, a port located on the shores of Madden Lake. The main reservoir of drinking water for the cities of Panama and Colon, Madden Lake also supplies 40% of the water required for the operation of the Panama Canal. Here you’ll board a motorized "piragua" (dugout canoe) and travel up the Chagres River to the indigenous village of Embera Drua. The boat journey will take you through the rain forest of the 320,000-acre Chagres National Park, the largest of the national parks protecting the Panama Canal Watershed. You may be able to spot some little blue and green herons along the river, as well as great egrets, anhingas, neotropical cormorants, ringed and green kingfishers, keel-billed toucans, and ospreys flying above. At the Embera village, your arrival will be greeted with dancing and music. You'll learn about Embera customs and their relationship with nature. There will be handicrafts available for sale, and you will have a chance to be painted with the traditional “jagua,” a natural dye that the Embera use to adorn their bodies. After lunch, visit the nearby waterfall, where you can take a dip in the crystal-clear waters of the Chagres River before heading back to the hotel in Gamboa.
This morning you will start off with an adventurous kayaking excursion on the Chagres River and the edge of the Panama Canal where you might be able to spot some large cargo ships passing by. Afterwards, enjoy a relaxing and quiet rainforest nature walk on La Chunga Trail that leads you to the beautiful shore of the Chagres River. Being packed and ready to continue your journey after your rainforest stay at Gamboa, you will eat lunch at a local restaurant and then continue to the Miraflores Locks one of the three sets of concrete water elevators that move boats through the Panama Canal. The locks are true marvels of engineering, lifting ships 85 feet above sea level at Gatun Lake and lowering them back down when they reach the other side of the isthmus. The canal still essentially works the same way it did in 1914, when the SS Ancon Steamer became the first ship to transit the Panama Canal. This afternoon your family will catch a flight from Albrook domestic airport to David, the capital of the Chiriqui province. Chiriqui is home to some of Central America's most breathtaking scenery, which has earned it the nickname "Panama's Breadbasket." Later, you will be transferred by van to Boquete, located on the eastern side of Panama's dormant Baru Volcano. This quaint town is surrounded by a rolling countryside dotted with flowers, fruit and vegetable farms, coffee plantations, and extraordinary cloud forests.
This morning enjoy a canopy tree trek on a zip line 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. (Optional tour: river floating down the Chiriqui River. This optional tour has an additional cost and must be arranged in advance.)
Pack up and head out on a four-hour drive from the cloudforests of David to the coral reefs of Bocas del Toro. The vehicle will make several stops for you to stretch your legs and enjoy the scenery. On arrival at the coastal city of Almirante you'll go aboard a boat and transfer to Colon Island, your home for the next two nights. This afternoon you'll visit Swan's Cay (weather permitting), a rock protruding from the Caribbean Sea that serves as a rookery for red-billed tropic birds and brown boobies. Spend the rest of the day traveling along the coastline, snorkeling in the coral reefs and mangrove isles. You'll also stop at the beach at Boca del Drago, where your family can search for vibrant, colorful starfish together.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Lodging: Bocas Inn
Day 7 Salt Creek Village/Bastimentos Park
Contine your adventure today with a morning boat ride to Bastimentos National Park, Panama’s first marine national park. The journey will take your boat through clusters of red mangroves, tropical shrubs that provide sea creatures with a protective home during their fragile reproductive and developmental stages. Upon reaching the park you'll take a walk on Caiman Trail through several stages of lowland forest dynamics. Look for birds such as the red-throated ant tanager and golden-collared manakin, as well as mammals like night monkeys, white-faced capuchins, and three-toed sloths. The older tract of the rainforest has tall trees that give life to birds like the three-wattled bellbird and the green-breasted mango, while spectacled caiman and slider turtles live in the nearby lagoons. You may even see the tiny endemic poison dart frog, Dendrobates Pumilio, hopping near the trail during your walk. After the hike, enjoy a visit to the Ngobe Bugle indigenous community, where you can purchase handicrafts such as painted woodcarvings and handbags. Enjoy lunch, then spend the afternoon looking for brightly colored sea fans, sponges, and brittle starfish at Red Frog Beach. You may also want to go snorkeling again, searching for numerous species of fish amongst the coral reefs and mangroves.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Lodging: Bocas Inn
Day 8 Panama City
Fly back to Panama City this morning. Your family will visit the ruins of Old Panama and Casco Antiguo, then sample the city's cuisine at a local restaurant for lunch. In the afternoon you'll visit the Smithsonian Marine Exhibition at Culebra Point and the International Handcraft Market, where crafts from Panama and other Central American countries are available to buy. Spend your final evening in Panama enjoying a farewell dinner at your hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Lodging: Marriott Panama
Day 9 Panama/Onward
You will be picked up at the hotel this morning and transferred to Tocumen International Airport for your flight home.
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