Expedition to Darien and Guna Yala

Adventure, Conservation and Education

By Raffaele Capomolla

The Darien – A region of Panama, that is still unexplored, with an incredible biodiversity, stunning wildlife and a breathtaking beauty. The Darien is not just a place to go and see, but place you will admire, where you will literally feel the nature, which will offer you an unforgettable experience. I had the chance to accompany a group of biology students from the St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas through an adventure in Panama’s treasure of wildlife. The adventure started very early in the morning in Panama City, where we were picked up for a long drive to El Real in the Region of Darien. Once arrived there, we had to hike for 2 hours until we arrive to place called “Rancho Frio”, where we would overnight in tents and hammocks, exposed to nature, in the middle of this beautiful, virgin rainforest. The next day we went on a trail in the area, which beat all our expectations – we saw the impressive harpy eagle, a powerful and very beautiful prey bird. To finish this great trail our extraordinary local guides took us to a wonderful waterfall to have a swim and eat a snack in the middle of nature. We were impressed of what the Darien gave us to see; amazing birds, snakes, insects and amphibians. The region of the Darien is also habitat of the Jaguars; unfortunately, we didn’t see them, but that’s nature is – unpredictable.

Our next part of the trip was an incredible, cultural experience. We went to the Mogue indigenous community, where the “Embera” have their houses made of wood. We literally got to experience their way of living, their old traditions, their typical food and their language. We were impressed of the simplicity of their lives, with no electricity, no internet, just using the nature in a sustainable way.  I was touched of the answer of an Embera when I asked him: “How much meat do you eat? Do you kill animals for food every day?” And he replies: No, because if we kill a lot of animals in a short time, we won’t have enough”. It seems ridiculous, but this is something a lot of people nowadays still don’t realize – Such a simple and obvious answer, but too many people still continue to eat meat every day. We stayed a night in one of those rustic but very authentic houses of the Embera.

Guna Yala, San Blas Cultural Expedition

The last part of our trip was in the beautiful Archipelago of San Blas, called “Kuna Yala” in indigenous language. Not only we enjoyed the typical Caribbean, crystal-clear waters of the Atlantic ocean, but also the culture of this indigenous community, which had to fight a lot for their territory. We slept in comfortable, rustic cabanas and had fresh seafood every day. The Kunas are very organized and very proud of their culture, which they always transmit to future generations. I was picking up a coconut that fell from a palm tree and was first a little confused when a Kuna asked me to pay for the coconut I just found on the sand. But then I understood as he explained to me that the coconut is a very important and sacred object in their daily lives, because the coconut is still used as a payment method for goods. We had then the chance to visit the village and the Museum of the Kunas, where Mister Delfino explained us everything about the history, the culture and traditions of the kunas.

If you are planning to come to Panama, don’t miss the chance to visit the incredible, natural beauty of the Darien and the marvelous clear waters of San Blas. You will have it all in one – Nature, Culture and Adventure! The EcoCircuitos Team and our naturalist guides will be happy to organize this adventure for you. Just contact us!

info@ecocircuitos.com or annie@ecocircuitos.com

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Why should you get married in Panama?

 

by Juliette Darmon

Panama is known as the perfect getaway for a short vacation and and is the perfect destination for nature lovers.

Its tropical climate and warm weather throughout the year, is a magical opportunity to visit Panama at any time.

December, January and February, the colder months in the North but still summer time in Panama.  You will be able to wear your summer wedding dress you were dreaming about!

If you are dreaming about a summer wedding destination, Panama is the place for you!  You will find any type of wedding you were looking for!

Panama is a melting pot and has plenty to offer.  From a cosmopolitan City and a hub for an amazing gastronomy to beautiful beaches in the Caribbean and Pacific where the sunset is waiting for you.

With a great eco-diversity and untouched beaches, you would have the possibility to get married in heavenly and white-sand islands around the archipelago of Bocas del Toro. What better place to spend and enjoy a romantic and relaxed wedding than the Caribbean coast, where the turquoise sea, coral reefs, sun, turtles and exotic fishes will be present?!

You could also prefer a more adventurous wedding in the highlands of Chiriqui, immersed in the mountain fresh air, and hiking the highlands, testing local coffee and honey, learning about butterflies, zip lining and relaxing in other amazing islands in Pacific side like Islas Secas in the Gulf of Chiriqui where snorkeling and kayaking are great for those more adventurous.

Are you more looking for a totally private and shy wedding? Then, the archipelago of San Blas will be the perfect place you were searching for. But be aware that it is also going to be a real rustic wedding!

Enjoy the blue sea view for kilometers, watch at the playful dolphins leap alongside sailboats, the deserted island, palm and coconut trees, cabanas in bamboos, and be immersed in Kuna community’s culture for your wedding.

*You could also decide to get married in a private sailboat, a real original experience not available everywhere…!

For the city lovers, you won’t totally feel out of place! You could have the chance to get married in the charming historic Casco Viejo, enjoying romantic dinners in typical or modern restaurants, staying in a luxurious resort or smaller cozy hotels, tasting local chocolates, walking around the Cinta Costera and visiting the surroundings as the Canal, the tropical rainforest, boarding on the jungle boat or even hiking in the National Park.

You now probably got that Panama has all the options required for any types of weddings and could make your wedding a real customized, appropriate, unique and unforgettable day, whatever your cultural and religious requests are.

Most of all, as you probably know Panama is a wonderful place for sustainable and green travels, and become therefore the perfect place for the trendy and fancy “Green Wedding”.

More than just getting married, take advantage of being in such a lush country for enjoying the honeymoon trip of your dreams.

Visit our honeymoon page here: http://ecocircuitos.com/tour-category/honeymoon/ and decide the kind of experience you are ready to live!

Do not forget that all our programs and itineraries can be arranged and tailor-made for you.  Contact us for more information at info@ecocircuitos.com

 

Re-Discovering Colon Province

By Carina Forster

The low season is here!   the time when the EcoCircuitos team explores the regions of beautiful Panama, looking for new exciting activities, tasty restaurants and nice hotels to use in our programs. All departments are working together, developing ideas and creating new exciting itineraries to our favorite places in Panama. Yesterday we explored beautiful Colon region, with its laid-back Caribbean flair, deep rainforests and colorful towns full of pirates and buccaneers history.

Crossing the country in the early morning by train, our way led along the Panama Canal from Panama City on the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean town of Colon. We quickly forgot the early hours with breathtaking views of lush rainforest, the Panama Canal and jungle lakes covered in mystic morning fog.

Being picked up by our EcoCircuitos driver Roberto at the train station in Colon, we started our road trip along the palm-fringed coast line to the colorful town of Portobelo. The charming little village does not only offer incredible history, with once being one of the most important ports in the Caribbean Sea, but surprises with lovely remains of African culture in form of Congo dances and expressive pieces of art next to lush rainforest adventures and superb snorkeling.

Every team member has his or her own preferences and opinions; however, when it came to the Arrecifes restaurant we discovered in the town of Colon, everyone was just as excited about the delicious typical fresh seafood lunch offered next to an extensive view of the Panama Canal.

To continue our road trip deep into the jungle to the Fort of San Lorenzo, we waited for a spot between large container ships to cross the Panama Canal by ferry. Following a romantic wild road surrounded by lush rainforest, we let monkeys, birds and coatimundis cross the street. The fortress of San Lorenzo lies on the edge of steep cliffs, overlooking the surrounding coast lines with abandoned beaches and wild rainforest as far as your eyes can reach.

After a successful day of collecting inspirations, testing logistics and forming partnerships, the creative part starts, with using our experiences and ideas for developing unique brand-new itineraries.

Weekend getaway: Historic Portobelo and Caribbean Beaches

By:  Carina Forster – Intern from Austria

Insider tipp: Last weekend I explored the charming small town of Portobelo on the Caribbean Coast which is a hotspot for Panamanian weekend retreats; however, it still remains mainly unexplored by foreign tourists. The only way of getting there- except from day tour with a tour operator EcoCircuitos Panama – involved a bumpy ride in a colorful old school bus, where happy salsa music loudly went along with the roaring old engines of the rattling bus.

It was hard to believe that this laid-back village has once hosted Central America`s most important harbor. Only the old ruins and the UNESCO forts, which are spread out all over the charming fishing village, prove of its glorious past.  If you tour with a naturalist and interpretative guide you will travel to the battles between Pirates and Conquistadors.

A short boat ride away, I found cast-away Caribbean beaches, where lush rain forests meet white sand, turquoise waters and coral reefs. And while already being astonished by the unreal beauty surrounding me, two toucans were peacefully flying over the picturesque bay, forming a scenario like in a dream.

If you are interested in this tour and many more, please contact us for more information.  We offer snorkeling tours in the Caribbean side of Portobello.  Contact info@ecocircuitos.com

Where to Eat and Drink in Panama?

Annie´s Dining Suggestions

Panama offers a wide choice of restaurants to suit everyone’s taste and budget. From great cuisine and international chefs  to real Panamanian food experience.   I love to eat and here are my suggestions to make your gastronomic experience in Panama City unforgettable.

IN PANAMA CITY:

AMERICAN TRADE HOTEL  (Colonial Section of the City – American Trade Hotel) Offering sophisticated lunch and dinner menus offering local cuisine using fresh, local and seasonal products. This is great venue for groups. Panamanian Clara Icaza is the chef. Tel: +507 211 -2200

ATLANTIC & PACIFIC Co.  (The Miraflores locks at the Panama Canal) with the best view in town overlooking the Panama Canal, this restaurant offers a delicious menu created by one of the best chefs of Panama Cuquita Arias.  Fresh ingredients and Panamanian gourmet dishes.  Open: Monday to Sunday  Tel:  +507-232-3120

LAS CLEMENTINAS BAR AND CAFE (Casco Antiguo) –  The menu is best described as Panamanian classics lovingly updated and made with care.  Each dish–from risotto con coco to ropa vieja–has been researched and refined to perfection by the  Chef, who has created Panamanian food as it was meant to be, using fresh, local ingredients, many of which come right from Las Clementinas garden.  Open:  Monday to Saturday.  Tel:  +507-228-7613

CALIOPE (Casco Antiguo – Colonial Section of the City, Av. Central, Edificio Teatro Amador, 3rd floor) Casco Antiguo`s first farm to table dining, using fresh and local ingredients, the chef is very creative and the food is fantastic.  My favorite is Cedula 3.  Reservation is a must.  Tel:  +507 212 – 1565

 INTIMO (Calle 27 Este, San Francisco) – Recently written up in the New York Times, this 20 seat restaurant provides unique dishes that have be created with local seasonal products.   Tel: +507-388-1365

TANTALO KITCHEN (Casco Antiguo) – Offers an internationally inspired tapas-style menu with a Panamanian touch. Each dish is a creative combination of local meats, fish and vegetables with local, Mediterranean and Latin American influences.  Open:  Monday to Sunday.  Tel: +507-262-4030

LAS BOVEDAS (Casco Antiguo) – Exclusive setting in the colonial part of the city. Good French cuisine with excellent atmosphere in the subterranean prison vaults said to have been used during the Spanish era. Try the soups, cream sauces and mushrooms. Seafood dishes are delicious. Friday and Saturday nights live jazz shows.  Open:  Monday to Saturdays.               Tel:  +507-229-80258

VINOTECA (Obarrio, Edificio de las Americas) This is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Panama.  It is a family business run by Chef Ciniglio and his daughter.  You will feel at home while eat amazing combinations with excellent wines.   Go for the chef recommendation.  Open:  Monday to Saturday.  Tel: +507-223-7734

LAS TINAJAS (Bella Vista, Calle 51) – Rustic and charming ambiance, specializing in traditional Panamanian cuisine and folkloric shows. Try “pixbae crab salad” and “Tamal de Olla.” Nice typical desserts.  My favorite:  flan de coco.  Open:  Monday to Saturday.  Tel:  +507-263-7890

SAL SI PUEDES AT THE BRISTOL HOTEL – The creation of Panama´s renowned chef, Cuquita Arias. Panamanian gourmet made from the freshest native ingredients. Deserts to-die-for. Try the panamanian ceviche.  Open:  Everyday.                             Tel: +507-294-7890

MERCADO DEL MARISCOS – (Avenida Balboa & Cinta Costera)  – The city fish market, is Panama City’s seafood haven and a paradise for seafood lovers. With over 70 stalls selling the country’s freshest produce, there are also stands serving some of the best ready-to-eat Panamanian ceviche.  My favorite:  Jumbo Shrimp cocktail and ceviche combinación.  Open:  daily.

LA POSTA: (Calle 49, Bella Vista) – A real secret, hidden away from the noise. It is in a house from the last century. Try the homemade bread and pasta, fresh seafood and my favorite El chuleton chiricano. This restaurant  is an old and beautiful house with a very nice decoration.  Open:  Monday to Saturday.  Tel: +507-269-1076

IL POMODORO (El Cangrejo) – In very nice outdoor ambience the restaurant offers a wide variety of Italian specialties, including pasta, pizza, meat and seafood dishes. Casual and pretty, with delightful internal patio setting. Finish up with the rum cake. The Wine Bar next door, by the same owner, is also one of Panama’s best wine & cheese spot.  Open:  Monday to Sunday.  Tel: +507-269-5836

SIETE MARES (El Cangrejo) – Serves Atlantic and Pacific Ocean delicacies in a new and luxurious setting. Specializes in seafood and has an extensive wine list.  Open:  Monday to Sunday.  Tel: +507-264-0144

MARTIN FIERRO (El Cangrejo) – Specializes in fresh Argentinean-style meats and seafood.
Dishes arrive at your table sizzling from the grill!  Open:  Monday to Sunday.  Tel: +507-264-1927

LOS AÑOS LOCOS (San Francisco) – Specializes in fresh Argentinean-style meats. Dishes arrive at your table sizzling from the grill!  If you like meat, try Entraña is a very good cut.  Open daily.  Tel: +507-226-6966

SEGUNDO MUELLE  (San Francisco) – Specializes in fresh and Peruvian seafood.  Delicious desserts, this is one of the best seafood restaurants of Panama.   My favorite dishes here are La Causa and the peruvian cebiche.  Open:  Monday to Sunday.  Tel:  +507-391-9234

EGO/NARCISO (Old Quarters) – Fusion of Europe and Asian food.  Very good for wine, drinks and tapas.  The octopus is very good.  Open daily.  Tel; +507-262-2045

MAREA CEVICHE & LATIN FOOD (Multiplaza, Paitilla)  specialties are ceviches and seafood and very good cocktails.

DONDE JOSE (Avenida Central y Calle A – Casco Antiguo) Panamanian food with a twist.  If you want to try this restaurant we suggest you to reserve with one month in advance.  Try the octopus, very good.

Open:  Tuesday to Saturday.  Tel:  +507-262-1682

MADRIGAL (Casco Viejo)  Very good and creative menu.  The Spanish chef is fantastic and very good selection of wines.  You will need a reservation in this place.  Open:  Monday to Saturday.  Tel:  +507-211-1956

CHALET SUIZO (Via Argentina) A small, and intimate restaurant, specializes in a variety of Swiss dishes, Including: Raclette and Cheese Fondue, Wienerschnitzel, Sauerkraut, Sausages, Veal. The famous chef Willy Diggelmann assures that his Swiss dishes are unsurpassed. Open Monday to Sunday.  Tel: +507-263-8571

MANOLO CARACOL (Casco Viejo)A kitchen focused on the fresh, on the historic roots of his epicenter, the fisherman Barbate from his childhood in Spain, on the traveled and the lived, on the European, African, Asian and American influences, they all cook on the brain of Manuel Madueño, also known as Manolo Caracol. He produces food according with his feelings, on how he lives: generous of spirit, generous pockets, plenty of creativity, such as the tropic that hosts him. 

MARKET (Calle 48, Marbella) – Market is one of the most popular restaurant in Panama City, providing a fresh selection of dishes to serve a wide variety of tastes.  From a quick business lunch of hamburgers and wraps to a night out for premium grade steak and a bottle of wine, you’re guaranteed to experience a delicious meal in a lively setting.  My favorites: BBQ  Baby Back Ribs and the sliders.

MAITO (Via Cincuentenario y final de Calle 50) –  An old house converted into a modern restaurant.  It offers a great atmosphere, delightful cuisine, and extremely accommodating service.  My choice here are Rissotto Colon and Calamares Rellenos.

HUMO (San Francisco Calle 50 y Calle 70)  The atomsphere is billed as southern smokehouse BBQ. The food and service are excellent. My recommendation is the brisket.  If you like BBQ this is one of the best places in Panama.  Also for vegetarians the veggie burger is excellent.   Many choices as the lobster taco on season one of my favorite.   Reservation is a must.

MASALA (Bella Vista, entre Calle 44 y 45) – Great Indian food and if you are vegetarian this is a very good option.  Here my options are Mango Lassi and Butter chicken.

THE GARDEN 2112 (Calle 48, Uruguay) – A new Thai restaurant with a wide selection of dishes and beautiful decoration.  The staff is friendly and chef is from Thailandia.

THE CORNER 76 (Cale 76 San Francisco, next to supermercado El Rey) – This is a great places for burgers.  Nice ambience, great service and excellent quality.

PATAGONIA GRILL (Via Cincuentenario y Calle 4ta Sur – San Francisco – Panamá) – One of my favorite places to eat a good steak.  Their specialty is the Argentine Parrillada with great cuts of meats.   If you are vegetarian… don´t go!

MATSUEI (Eusebio A. Morales 12A)  Matsuei is my favorite japanese restaurant in Panama and one of finest sushi and raw fish experiences.  They offer a varied of Imported fish from unagi (eel) to maguro (tuna).   The owner is an excellent chef and always welcoming new guests.

Restaurants outside Panama City:

LOS CAMISONES (Pass Coronado and Santa Clara Beaches and you will find the entrance on your right.) – Seafood specialists. Try the shrimps with garlic sauce and coconut rice. Delicious!

CASA DE LOURDES (El Valle) – One of Panama City’s best chefs (Golosinas Restaurant) has created an Itialian villa weekend retreat in the “hill station” of El Valle de Anton. The food is rich, inventive, nouvelle gourmet with wonderful Panamanian accents. Excellent wine selection and an experience not to be missed as you dine poolside with Lourdes.

EL SITIO-(Playa Venao, Pedasi) – Very good atmosphere, beach front and one of the best restaurants in the area.  Their specialty is Octopus Pad Thai, not to be missed.

CUATRO (David) – a place of unique flavor in Chiriqui province.  A Panamanian style food with a touch of quality.  Try the ribs, fresh tuna among other options.

ESA FLACA RICA (David) If you love burgers like me, this stree car is an excellent choice.  Open from 5.00PM to 10.00PM and with locations in Costa del Este Panama and David, Chiriqui.

PANAMONTE (Boquete) – This charming restaurant  is one of the best in the highlands. Inventive dishes based on traditional Panamanian cuisine include pumpkin soup, shrimp-and-plantain croquettes, mountain trout sauteed with almonds, and grilled beef tenderloin topped with a three-pepper sauce. It’s served in a historic European atmosphere that’s hardly changed over the past century. Sunday breakfast is popular.  My favorite:  Egg Benedict with Panamanian Tortilla.

THE ROCK (Boquete) –  A very nice atmosphere and different options.  Ribs and burgers are very good and the garlic soup not to miss.

EL PIANISTA (Boquete) – An Italian in the highlands offers a wide selection of dishes.  Pizzas, Parmesan eggplant, risottos and more.  The ambience is nice, close to a river and with a good selection of wines.

GUARI GUARI (Bocas del Toro)  –  This restaurant should not be missed while visiting Bocas! It is not easy to find but the food is very good!

THE FIREFLY RESTAURANT & BAR (Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro) beautiful and romantic ambience and you will need reservation.  It is a tapas style and my favorite is the ahi seared tuna and the prawn skweres and very good cocktails.

Nightlife in Panama City – Bars

Casco Viejo is the place to go at night in Panama City. Stroll in the cobblestone streets at night and you can discover always a new fun place. Also, explore the City and the new breweries that are popping up in different neighborhoods.

Below some of my favorites places.

GATTO BLANCO (Casco Viejo)  This is one of my favorite little bars in Casco.  Located at the rooftop of Casa Nurati Hotel you can find this rooftop that offers a great view of Panama Skyline and a relax setting.

DIVINO ENOTECA (Casco Viejo) – Opened by three friends united by the same passion for wine, DiVino Enoteca specializes in serving quality, international wines. The bar hosts educational tasting nights for those interested in boosting their wine knowledge and offers tapas style plates with an Italian touch.

TANTALO (Casco Viejo) Located at the roof top of Tantalo Hotel, this small rooftop bar has nice views of the City skyline and the old Quarters.  Very nice ambience and usually good DJs.  The drinks are a bit expensive. 

BARLOVENTO (Casco Viejo).  The good thing is that the entrance is free for women.  This is a relaxed bar that offers views of Casco Viejo at night and a nice screen.  Nice ambience and good for dancing. 

CASA JAGUAR (Casco Viejo)  Another bar that is usually free for girls. A very nice ambience, good music, excellent drinks, but a bit pricy.

RELIC BAR (Casco Viejo) Located in the bottom floor of Luna Castle Hostel, this rustic bar offers an indoor and outdoor areas.  Indoor, depending on the hour of arrival, it might be crowded and the music is loud. Outdoor it´s more relax, offering tables and chairs so you can sit, talk and have some drinks.   This is a laidback place where backpackers and a young crowd  hangs out.

1400 ROOFTOP BAR (Blue Bay Hotel in Obarrio)  From 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm they have promotions in Champagne and Sushi. After 9:00 pm, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday they offer a variety of music. They have an outdoor area.

EL SOTANO/EL APARTAMENTO (Casco Viejo) Location: Bella Vista. Entry fee: Depends on the event.  In El Sotano you can find live rock music and by going up the stair you arrive to El Apartamento where you can find indie music and have some drinks. They have several events during the month with themes or even special DJs.

Beer Bars in Panama City

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Some of these bars offer local craft beers, national beers and original house brew beers.

CASA BRUJA  (Costa del Este) This is a brewing company that produces very good beers ince 2013.   They create quality and very different beers.  My favorite LA FULA!

LA RANA DORADA  (Casco Viejo and Avenida Eloy Alfaro and Calle 11) –  A very original pub offers good homemade local beers.  The brewery, which can be glimpsed from the interior of the restaurant, adds to Rana Dorada’s beer-themed décor with its soft, yellow-painted walls and classic wooden furniture. Along with an appetising food menu offering finger foods, pizza and more recently ceviche, the pub serves premier pilsner, pale ale, blanche and porter beer, all brewed in-house.

THE BREW STOP (Calle Andres Mojica & San Francisco) This pub is great for beer lovers, good ambience, excellent selection of local and international beers and my favorite, good apple cider.

ISTMO BREW PUB (Condado del Rey, San Francisco y el Cangrejo)  They offer entertainment (pool table), food and a wide variety of local, crafted and international beers.

 

Best Diving and Snorkeling Spots in Panama

From: Dive Advisor

Panama was named after an indigenous word meaning, “abundance of fish.” This beautiful Central America paradise is one of the few places in the world where you can dive two oceans in one day. With the warm, tropical waters of the Caribbean on its east and the cooler waters of the Pacific on the west, it’s just a two-hour car ride between them in some places. Panama boasts 1,207km of Caribbean coast and 1,700km of Pacific coast.

On the Caribbean side, divers come for the abundance of colorful reef fish and corals. When rating the best diving in Central American, Bocas del Toro always comes up with its white sand beaches and many calm and the Bastimentos Marine National park. It’s a great place to learn how to dive and the marine life make it a great place to keep diving. Another popular spot on the Caribbean coast is Colon, only two hours from Panama City. Just offshore, the Portobelo National Marine Park has beautiful corals and the area is filled with a history of pirate battles and sunken ships.  Sir Francis Drake died at sea in 1596 and his body, clad in a full suit of armour and in a lead coffin, is thought to be off the coast of Portobello.

On the Pacific side, cooler waters and currents make encounters with pelagic common. Lucky divers can see several species of shark, whale sharks, humpback whales, dolphins, and more. Coiba National Marine Park is often referred to as the Galapagos of Central America and has the second largest coral reef in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Pearl Archipelago also offers great options close to Panama City.

Just nine degrees north of the equator, Panama is hot and humid year round. The rainy season is May- November and the dry season is December-April (with less humidity and almost no rain.) Panama is not in the hurricane belt, but it can get strong winds from nearby storms. Air temperatures throughout the year range form 20-32C, being a bit cooler in the winter/dry season. Water temperatures vary between coasts. The Caribbean side the water can be as cool as 25C in the winter and as warm as 28C in the summer. Coiba can get as cold as 20C during winter and reaches a high of around 24C in the summer.

Best Spots to Dive in Panama

Coiba National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes 38 islands. Lonely Planet says it’s “The best diving to be found along the Pacific Coast from Columbia to Mexico.” Coiba gets the big stuff. Sharks can be seen on almost every dive including white-tip reef sharks, black-tip reef sharks, and occasional hammerheads, bull, and tiger sharks. Whale sharks are common visitors from December to April. Humpback whales are seen July through October and orcas and pilot whales frequent the area. Large schools of mantas and mobula rays sometimes swim by, and most dives have turtles, schools of large fish, angelfish, butterflyfish, and dolphins.

On the Caribbean side of Panama, close to the Costa Rica boarder, is Bocas del Toro. This archipelago of nine large islands includes the protected area of Isla Bastimentos National Marine. Bocas is known for its well-preserved hard and soft corals. Being outside of the official hurricane zone, away from large cities and river mouths, the coral is very healthy. It is estimated that 95% of the coral species found in the Caribbean Sea can be found within the archipelago.

Tiger Rock is rated one of the best dive sites around Bocas del Toro, and is three rock pinnacles that rise up from the sea floor at 40m. It’s an advanced dive and can have strong currents, but is a good place to see sharks, rays, large fish schools, whale sharks and dolphins. Its location requires perfect sea conditions for boats to be able to get there. Dolphin Rock is another offshore rock formation where sharks can be seen and has lots of colorful fish life. The diving is also very good around Zapatillas Cays, another more distant boat ride.

Closer to town, Bouy Line is a poplar shallow site (near a deep water channel buoy) that has sea horses, lionfish, crabs, and lots of morays. Hospital Point is near the north end of Isla Solarte and has healthy cauliflower and brain corals on a sloping wall. The dive usually has a slow current and is 15m deep max. Sashek is another drift dive between Bastimentos and Carenero that has rare long lure frogfish. Airport is a protected site good for training dives, and has lots of coral.

Also on the Caribbean side, but further southeast is Portobelo National Park. This is also a popular diving area with great marine life. Being closer to Panama City, people come directly from the city to dive this area that has great reef dives and several wrecks.

Water temperatures on the Caribbean side are warm year round (23-27C) and a 3mm is usually plenty. On the Pacific side, colder currents bring waters (15-23C), so a 5mm will be comfortable. For those doing deep dives in the winter, thermoclines can be present, so a 7mm might be useful.

If you are looking for good snorkelling one of the best spots is the San Blas Archipelago.  In this Guna land is forbidden to dive with a tank but here you will find one of the most untouched coral reefs by mankind. The reef holds its beauty for decades now since people do not pollute the waters around it.  The Kuna Indians or Guna indians live from the sea and hunt on it. They hunt the reefs and sandbanks by using simple snorkeling gear and do not over fish their own waters because they only take what is needed to stay alive. They are scared that scuba dives will kill the great schools of fish and leave the Kuna without food to survive. They will preserve the coral reef for future generations this way.

The rich sea life and the crystal clear water will give you plenty enough time to drift away from the world above water. One of the easy places to get in touch with this sea life is the shipwreck near Isla Perro. This place is perfect for people not used to snorkeling or scuba diving but also gives people that have done it before a nice challenge to spot all the sea life around the ship. Don’t forget to bring your underwater camera because spotting a wild turtle, shark or octopus isn’t a rare sight in the waters around the San Blas Islands.   The best way to snorkel in San Blas is charter a sailing boat.  EcoCircuitos Panama organize this adventure for you.

Tranquilo Bay Winter Escape From $2195.00 – Arriving on Friday

Escape the winter to the soothing waters of the Caribbean; discover the ecosystem of Bocas del Toro archipelago through snorkeling, kayaking or hiking the National Park.   The lodge lies within an area of nature reserves on land and in the sea, which is one of the most biologically diverse places in Panama. Encounter tropical birds, different monkey species, iguanas and many more during your stay and feel yourself relax and refresh in the unique natural environment.

Save $635.00 per person when you travel in February 2015. Applied to all February departures.

Day 1 – Welcome to Panama!- Today at the appropriate time an EcoCircuitos representative will meet you at the Tocumen International Airport to assist and transfer you to your hotel located in Panama City. At this time you will also receive an EcoCircuitos information kit that will provide you with all the details for your stay in Panama. Once you arrive to your hotel, please check-in. Marriott Executive.

Day 2 – Fly to Bocas del Toro Archipelago – This morning your Caribbean adventure begins! You will be transferred to the domestic airport in Albrook to catch your flight to Boquete to Bocas del Toro Archipelago. Once you arrive to the island, you’ll board a water taxi that will route through the archipelago’s small canals, passing local communities, mangroves and into the Caribbean Ocean. You will arrive to Tranquilo Bay ecolodge and check in in your private cabin. Enjoy a welcome lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the beautiful surroundings. (B,L,D)

Day 3 – 5 Bocas del Toro Island Adventures – Awake to the sounds of nature and overlooking the Caribbean. After breakfast you will get ready for a day full of adventures. You will discover the tropical beauty that surrounds this magnificent Archipelago and National Park. Included in this adventure package is one daily standard activity each day. Daily actitivies include: snorkeling, kayaking, diving, hiking, fishing, visiting turtle nesting sites, surfing, birding, or exploring nearby beaches. The island’s midsection and surrounding waters are protected in the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park, and the entire island offers nature lovers an array of wildlife, both terrestrial and marine. The waters here are filled with brilliant parrot fish, angel fish, red snapper, slender needle fish and many others. Four species of sea turtles come ashore to nest on the beaches and the forests are home to many endemic and endangered species such as neon colored frogs, the red billed tropic bird and two and three toed sloths. (B,L,D)

DAY 6 – Return to Panama City and Visit the Biodiversity Museum or Miraflores Locks – This morning you will return to Bocas del Toro domestic airport for a short flight back to Panama City. You’ll be met at the airport for a visit to the Biodiveristy Museum design by Frank Gehry on the entrance of the Panama Canal or a visit to the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal to observe the “eighth wonder of the world.”  After the short visit, you will be transferred back to your hotel to enjoy your last afternoon in Panama City. (B)

Day 7 – Departure – At the appropriate time you will be transferred to the Tocumen International Airport for your outbound flight. You will arrive at the airport approximately 2 hours before your departure time.

Note: customers will be picked up 3 hours before their flight time.

Price per person in double room: $2195.00

Internal Flights (Panama City – Bocas del Toro – Panama City): $325.00

(Flight cost is subject to change)

The program includes:  Private Transfers from international airport to hotel in and out, 6 nights of lodging and taxes,  All meals in Tranquilo Bay, Government taxes, Tours as mentioned above, bilingual guide during tours and adventures, Breakfast at all mentioned hotels, Information kit, Lodging taxes, Panama kit.

The program does not include:  Optional activities, International and domestic airfare and taxes,  Departure taxes ($40.00 per person for Panama), Meals not specified in the itinerary, Alcoholic beverages, Personal equipment, Extras in hotels (laundry, phone calls, room service, etc.), Gratuities

Rates are valid until October 15th, 2015 and subject to change due increases on fuel prices

  • Prices are net per person.
  • Prices are given in US Dollars.
  • Prices are subject to change without previous notice depending on any significant increase in rates, taxes, fuel or due to availability problems.
  • Prices are based on the minimum of paying participants previously informed.
  • If the minimum number of paying participants changes, the rates would also change
  • Tips for drives and guides not included

Note: This is a quote not a reservation. Please note that all quotations given are subject to availability at the time of reservation and cannot be guaranteed until payment is received. Please note that credit card payments are subject to processing fees.

EcoCircuitos realizes that has important environmental and social responsibilities in and out of the office. We create memorable travel experiences in Panama’s natural history and cultural heritage.   Our office team and suppliers ensure quality service, cultural sensitivity, local knowledge, innovation and social and environmental responsibility. As travelers ourselves we believe giving something back is essential. Therefore we work with our team, suppliers and customers to ensure that benefits will contribute directly to the communities we visit and their environment.

For more information, please visit our Responsible Travel Policy link.

Encourage the channeling of part of our revenues towards supporting the conservation and sustainable use of Panama’s biodiversity. We are committed to the conservation of protected areas, education and local community development.