Are you ready for the New Locks?

By Jennie C. Trow

The Panama Canal Expansion project has brought many new innovative changes to the Panama Canal and the way it is visited. Now you will visit the new Aguas Claras Locks Visitor Center instead of the Gatun Locks Visitor Center. Both locks will still be used by ships crossing the Canal. The Aguas Claras Locks were constructed to accommodate larger vessels that will transit the Canal.

The Panama Canal Expansion is the largest project at the Canal since its original construction. The project will create a new lane of traffic along the Canal through the construction of a new set of locks, doubling the waterway’s capacity. June 26, 2016 is the inauguration, are you ready for the new Locks?

The Aguas Claras Visitor Center was built in an ecologically conscious manner, taking advantage of its natural surroundings, allowing its visitors to not only have an amazing panoramic view of the Canal but also being in the middle of nature. Visitors will have the opportunity to watch a short movie about the construction of the locks, visitors center and the several Panamanians that were involved in the project.

Afterwards if you are up for a short adventure, walk along an ecological trail close to the Center and identify the different species the Panama Canal Rescue Team has relocated within the trail.

For more information, please contact us

Weather in Panama

Many travelers that come to Panama have doubts about the weather; we would like clear these doubts to help you with your travel planning to Panama!

The seasons            

Panama has a tropical climate and it´s divided in two main seasons: dry, which is usually from December to May, and rainy which we like to call the “green season”, from June to November. During the dry season, it usually doesn´t rain, but sometimes we can get a surprise sprinkle of rain. Due to the dryness, these months are good months to travel to Panama. Not only will you be able enjoy the wonderful climate, but you are able to be in the presence of a variety of birds, mammals and great flowers.

The rainy season doesn´t mean that the rain won´t allow you to enjoy Panama, on the contrary, during the rainy season is when Panama is the greenest and our favorite time to enjoy outdoors. You will be able to admire the growing flora and also take advantage of good deals off season, just make sure that if you´re planning an activity outside to check the weather forecast!

**Note: These two seasons don’t apply to all of the country. On the Caribbean side, which includes Colon, Bocas del Toro, and San Blas, might have rainfall during the whole year. Meanwhile in Chiriquí and Valle de Anton, there might be some rainfall during the dry season.

The Temperature

Year-round in Panama the temperature in the daytime usually ranges from 32ºC (90ºF) to 21ºC (70ºF) in the evening, meaning the day is hot and the night is cooler.

However it’s important to mention that the temperature varies according to geography. In the mountainous areas, such as Boquete and El Valle de Anton, the temperature annually may range from 12ºC (53ºF) to 15ºC (59ºF).

Facts about the weather in Panama

  • Even though we have a dry season, Panama´s humidity goes up to 80% all year round.
  • Because of Panama´s location you don´t have to worry about hurricanes.
  • February is the driest month and October is the wettest month
  • Rain can fall for more than 2 hours
  • It’s very rare and important to mention that in the mountainous areas, snow and frost may sometimes be visible, but not in large amount.

Just make sure to check the weather and temperature when booking your trip, to be able to have the best experience in Panama!





Touring the expanded Panama Canal’s new locks

The Panama Canal Expansion is the largest project at the Canal since its original construction. The project will create a new lane of traffic along the Canal through the construction of a new set of locks, doubling the waterway’s capacity. The existing locks allow the passage of vessels that can carry up to 5,000 TEUs. After the expansion the Post-Panamax vessels will be able to transit through the Canal, with up to 13,000 TEUs. The Expansion will double the Canal’s capacity, having a direct impact on economies of scale and international maritime trade.

The Canal Authority offered last Sunday a chance to all interested in seeing the mega-project up and close.  We were among the group of more than 45,000 people that took the tour  with the Panama Canal Authority as the host and guides, and it was an unforgettable and historical visit.

Canal administrator Jorge Luis Quijano said Sunday that the objective of opening the project to the public is so that “people can sense and understand the magnitude of the project.”

The Panama Canal is installing the last of 16 giant lock gates that are a key part of the waterway’s multibillion-dollar expansion.

Panama in 2006 decided to build a wider canal to accommodate vessels capable of carrying 2.5 times the number of containers held by ships currently using the canal. The canal is expected to open in April 2016.

Ecocircuitos Panama: getting ready for the green season

Panama is worth seeing throughout the year! Not only the dry season is a good time to travel to the “bridge of the world”- as Panama is called by locals. Many people think that the green season is the better time to explore this country since- as the name suggests- everything is green and blossoms. An additional benefit is that hotels and tours are available much better since there are fewer tourists in the green season. Tours like hiking and kayaking can be more worth seeing when the plants and trees unfold their whole splendor. But also City-, sightseeing- and rafting tours are a good way to enjoy Panamanian “winter” since it is only a term indicating that it rains more often than on the high season. Not that it rains all day every day.

by Marius Leidig

Celebrating the 100 years of the Panama Canal

By Marc Vedder

If I had to describe the wonder of mankind in one word it would be “unbelievable”.

Almost finishing the high season, I had the chance to take part in the Panama Canal Transit. I was really excited to see the Canal, because I have heard so much about it but I have never seen it before. After the trip I really wonder why the Panama Canal is not listed up in the modern wonders of the world!

The Panama Canal is a ship canal and connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. In total the canal is 77, 1 km long and was official opened in August 1914. Actual maintenance extends the canal to carry larger and much bigger ships.

Amber and I started our trip at Causeway Marina and drove with a bus to Gamboa where a ship waited for us. Thus the unforgettable trip began. Surrounded by curious elderly travelers from all over the world we found us in the position of the young chickens. Nevertheless it was a nice and relaxing atmosphere. The boat drove very slowly and calm through the canal, so we could totally indulge in the environment and atmosphere the canal creates. It is just amazing to pass huge ships which are 500 times bigger than you.

We were so lucky at that day because of the perfect sunny weather, which created the perfect condition for the canal transit and a sun bath on top of it. The fabulous guides were very informative. I would call it “informative entertaining”. They knew all the details about the canal and explained to us in Spanish, English, French and even in German. On top of it they were very authentic and entertaining at the same time, which generated a perfect trip for us. With much gratitude to the guides I gained a lot of new information about the canal and its history. I have learned for example that the docks in the canal just work with physics with regard to the water level and letting ships trough the docks. Furthermore before the trip I had no idea about the amount of money a company pays for a canal transit. Due to the guides I have learned that companies have to pay around $500.000!

Whilst passing through the docks, I tried to imagine how the people have built this canal but I could not. I was so impressed and astonished. Therefore I continued listen to the great guides, absorbed as many information as I could and enjoyed my lunch provided by the crew. Moreover it so striking being part of a boat that raised and lowered with the water level in the docks.

After a fantastic 5 hour trip we arrived at Causeway Marina and departed home.  I do not want to forestall too much, you have to experience it.

I can highly recommend the Panama Canal Transit Tour. It is informative, entertaining, marvelous and will stay in your memory forever.

For more information about the Canal Tour please do not hesitate to contact us directly! We are more than happy to organize a trip and experience something unforgettable.

Come and discover Panama and experience an unforgettable adventure in 2014 only. The Panama Canal celebrates its 100th anniversary and we invite you to join this amazing event with a program that takes you to the most important and influential areas related to this man-made wonder.  For our Panama Canal Centennial adventure, click here.

Experience Panama from a vintage Airplane!


A new and safe way of seeing the city: Aerial tours of the city and the canal in a vintage military airplane and 100% safe simple aerobatic maneuvers.

The airplane:

This Beechcraft T-34 is a 1950’s propeller-driven, single-engined, military trainer aircraft in perfect condition. Planes of this type are being used by the Lima Lima Flight Team and Dragon Flight; both civilian demonstration teams. It is also used by aerobatic pilot Julie Clark, who flies her T-34 “Free Spirit” (registration N134JC) at air shows.

The plane can be flown with the cabin covers open, and flies at an average cruise speed of 150 knots.

The Pilots:

Colonel Danilo Caballero is a veteran of the Ecuadorian air force,  a former military flight instructor, and low-altitude aerobatic pilot.  Lieutenant Juan C. Mérida is a veteran of the Uruguayan air force and an FAA flight instructor.

The flights:

Choose between a 30-minute Canal flight, including one loop and one roll, or a 50-minute Canal and City flight, also including one loop and one roll.

Equipment and company are insured through US insurance company Nation Air.

These aerial tours are a special experience not only for fans of vintage airplanes or military history, but for everyone who would like a unique view of Panama. This is a true once-in a lifetime experience!


Transiting the Panama Canal

By Franziska Beyer

When I was just starting my internship at EcoCircuitos, they already offered me the opportunity to participate on my first tour.  As the Panama Canal Transit is one of the tours that you can impossibly miss if you visit this wonderful little country, it was like a dream coming true when they asked me to take part.

The EcoCircuitos team was preparing all things carefully, expecting 12 tourists from Australia for the tour on the boat through the canal, starting from Calzada Amador.

While the sun was rising we left the base, I was swept off my feet when slowly we were able to see the amazing skyline of Panama City.

Every boat that passes the canal needs a captain that is authorized to maneuver through the canal; I noticed a mystic atmosphere when our tourists were welcoming him on our boat.

The Panama Canal is a 77km long passageway connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean via the Caribbean Sea, opened in 1914. Thinking about the fact that the construction of the canal took such a long time and people from different countries were working on this difficult project I got more and more excited when we started passing through the Bridge of the Americas. I felt so small in our boat gazing at a big container ship accompanying our boat all along the pass trough the canal.

Taking millions of photos when passing the first locks, the Miraflores Locks, to save this unbelievable and unique moment, I got even more nervous when I realized that I had the chance to live this moment once again passing the Pedro Miguel Locks.

I breathed deeply to prepare for this second marvelous moment.

Leaving the boat at Gamboa I felt like on top of the world because of having accomplished one of my dreams.

Our fantastic tour continued until we reached Fort San Lorenzo that was attacked in 1670 by buccaneer Henry Morgan leaving it in ruins. Henry Morgan invaded Panama City using San Lorenzo as his base; visiting this beautiful place you can almost smell Morgan and his crew. In 1980 UNESCO declared San Lorenzo as a World Heritage and EcoCircuitos completed this incredible tour with a luxurious picnic at this amazing place.

So far this tour with EcoCircuitos was my highlight visiting one of my favorite countries, the lovely and marvelous Republic of Panama.

Ready to visit the Panama Canal yourself? Find more information on our Website  

A Fantastic Journey: Part 1

by Luis R. Celerier


A Dream Fulfilled

Since my retirement several years back, I had been wanting to return to Panama, the place where I was born and spent the wonderful years of my youth. I wanted to return to the places which had been a part of those growing years and I wanted to see other locations I had never visited before.

Each time I tried to put together a trip, I was frustrated in my attempts by one reason or another. All this time, my relatives in Panama thought I was crazy for wanting to make the kind of trip in my dreams … to head into the interior away from the city. In 2002 I found the Panamanian Institute of Tourism (IPAT) on the Internet and they immediately responded with a large packet of information. Encouraged by this data, I began to formulate an aggressive itinerary covering all I wanted to do and see. Searching the IPAT website, I located several local tour companies and one met all my needs and goals. This was Ecocircuitos. Next, a fellow retired co-worker, Gene,  stated he would like to go along and the plans were immediately put in the works. The pieces fell into place and on March 2, 2005, we began our Fantastic Journey which would last until March 21. Allowing for two days of travel, we would be in Panama a total of 18 full days.

Wednesday, March 2

Our trip began at Shreveport, Louisiana, an hour by car from Longview, where we boarded a Continental flight to Houston. In Houston we changed planes and went on directly to Panama taking 4 hours in the process. Arriving at Tocumen at 6:45 PM, we were greeted by the EcoCircuitos representative who drove us to the Marbella Hotel on D Street, El Cangrejo, about two blocks from the old, but still somewhat majestic, El Panama Hotel.

The Marbella fit our desires for a hotel exceptionally well. The rooms were ample and clean with telephone, TV and AC, dresser, table, closet, etc., it had its own restaurant with excellent Panamanian food and the personnel were friendly and helpful. We would stay there 7 nights and would return for two more nights at different occasions. By the time we left for the last time, we were being treated as family.

Thursday, March 3

On this day, my cousin Luis Carlos picked us up at the hotel taking us to the offices of Ecocircuitos so we could meet the company’s owner, Annie Young, and pay the balance of our fee. From there we went on to meet with some relatives and to a wonderful Panamanian lunch at Luis Carlo’s home. During this time, we introduced Gene to Marañones (cashews), from which the cashew nuts are harvested, even drinking a glass of chicha de marañon, made from the fruit itself. As some of you may know, the fruit is edible, being sweet and tart but very good. The juice from it is excellent and appears to have blood pressure reducing qualities. I need to check this out further.

That evening we went out again with cousins and their spouses for dinner at a fine restaurant in the new filled area next to Flamenco Island. This area is full of restaurants and shops. From here, the sight of the city of Panama at night time is just as outstanding as it is by daylight.

The causeway leading from land to the islands has been widened, a two-lane concrete road has been built, as well as a nice sidewalk with landscaping, which is now widely used by people walking, jogging and riding bicycles.

I had a good day visiting with some of the relatives and seeing the tremendous changes that have taken place.

Friday, March 4
The Ecocircuitos van picked us up at the hotel at 9:00 after we had consumed a big breakfast. Our first stop was the locks at Miraflores, where an observation building with an observation platform has been constructed. This allows a perfect view of the operations of the locks as ships are taken through. After watching several ships go by, we toured the excellent exhibits in the building beginning with many photos and models of the equipment and processes used during the construction days. Included in the exhibit area was a simulator that allows the visitors to observe the transit of a container ship through the locks from the view point of the helmsman, including movement and noises. Unfortunately, the view from the windows of this ship’s bridge does not show in the photos I took. Only blank windows appear, but this is misleading as, in reality, one can see the locks and the cut as if on was standing on the bridge of a real ship.
From Miraflores, we went to Quarry Heights driving through the Officers’ Quarters area. The houses are being sold to private individuals and remodeled to suit individual tastes. Also, Edgar McArthur, nephew of the late Charles McArthur, has gone into partnership with another fellow and they are buying some of these quarters turning them into a hotel. I met Edgar at Santa Clara several days after we had visited Quarry Heights.
Then we went up to the top of Ancon Hill. The road up is a single lane hardtop requiring a guard at the bottom to contact a guard at the top for clearance before letting us go up to prevent meeting another car coming down. I had never been to the top of this hill and the view was magnificent. The crest of the hill, where the flag flies, is fenced and a policeman is on duty at the locked gate to prevent anyone from going there. I don’t know why this is so. But it felt good to be there and see the area as I had never seen it before. I could remember stories of my uncles about the hill as my grandfather used to take them there occasionally on a Sunday when they were small children and lived nearby.
The next area of exploration was the Casco Antiguo around Cathedral Plaza, The Plaza de Francia, Las Bovedas, the Presidential Palace and several other streets. This area is very quiet with little traffic and not many people in the streets. It is also very clean, as is most of Panama City, with the exception of the slum areas which are filthy. Some of the old homes are being renovated and there are efforts to revitalize the area as a tourist attraction. The results are outstanding and very beautiful. Many homes and buildings have already been renovated and it makes a good place to live because of the quiet and peacefulness away from the hussle and bussle of the rest of the city.
My old elementary school building at Plaza Bolivar, where the La Salle Christian Brothers school was located, is still standing and seemed very well kept. I do not know what is located in that building now. I went there for two years before transferring to another Christian Brothers school closer to home at the old Miramar Club, by the sea, at the end of Federico Boyd Avenue by the Urraca Park.
Being behind schedule by now, we made a dash to Old Panama to visit the ruins of the city burned by the infamous Henry Morgan. Years of neglect have taken their toll and now desperate attempts are being made to save what is left. Unfortunately, someone decided to use brick made in the fashion of
these times to replace missing pieces of walls around windows, etc. As you may remember, the original buildings were made of stone and the decision to use brick for repairs makes for an awful contrast. While in Panama, the Star and Herald ran an article criticizing this decision.
That night we went to Las Tinajas Restaurant for dinner and the folkloric show which has been promoted so much up here by other tour outfits. Briseida “Bris” Fuentes Lopez (51) and Susi Hammerschlag Marmorstein (51) met us there. We, the Panamanians, found the food adequate and the entertainment not truly Panamanian. The foreigners, who have never seen Panamanian folklore dancing, though the show was great. All we could hear was loud drums and no music and the dancing had little resemblance to “tamborito” and other local dances. It was so loud we could converse very little. I guess that as long as no one else provides real Panamanian folklore dancing and show (as in the Lucho Azcarraga days) this will have to pass as the real thing. We were disappointed, but since all others were having such great fun, we shared in their happiness and enjoyed ourselves. We really did enjoy the “polleras” when they came out dancing because they are always so beautiful, as you can see in the photos. By the way, Briseida’s husband was very much involved in the Flamenco island developments and the Paitilla area developments, but sadly passed away about 6 months ago. At Las Tinajas, we also met Ann and Bill Willoughby and Gay and Henry Pridgen.
As a whole, this first day of site-seeing in the City was very enjoyable and exciting. More exciting days were to follow.

Each Monday, we will be sharing another piece of Luis R. Celerier’s account of his journey to rediscover his country. Subscribe for blog updates, or follow our Facebook page to make sure you don’t miss anything.


Madden Dam and Lake Alajuela

By:  Luis R. Celerier
January 2012

The United States took over the task of construction of the Panama Canal on may 4, 1904, after quite a debate as to where would be the best site for this project, even after the French had already started construction in Panama. The U.S. considered five routes before deciding to continue the work the French had already begun. As you can see below, these routes included (1)through the narrowest point in Mexico, (2) through Nicaragua, (3) the French route through Panama, (4) a second route through Panama going roughly from the Gulf of San Blas to Chepo and (5), through Colombia using the Atrato River.

The French had considered several alternatives canal designs including their initial effort for a sea level canal and, later, on their second attempt, a locks canal. With greater engineering information, the U.S. abandoned the French design and proceeded with a locks design based on a large lake 85 feet above sea level. The French sea-level design suffered greatly from the large volume of excavation required and from flooding that would have occurred along the Chagres River. By constructing a dam (Gatun Dam) near the mouth of the Chagres, the combined effect of reducing excavation and mitigating flood impacts was achieved at the cost of constructing the locks.

The Panama Canal watershed is 1289 square miles drained by six major rivers of which the Chagres is the largest. Five major stream gages keep track of the flow from these rivers into Gatun Lake. These stream gage locations, shown in the map below, are: the Gatun River at CIENTO; the Boqueron River at PELUCA; the Pequeni River at CANDELARIA; the Chagres River at CHICO; the Trinidad River at EL CHORRO; and the Ciri Grande River at LOS CANONES.

Map: US Army Corps of Engineers

When the canal operations began in 1914, it became evident that, for water management purposes, another dam was needed. And it had to be above Gatun Lake. Thus, on October 13, 1931, construction on another dam was begun up the Chagres near the location of a little town called Alajuela. The dam was named Madden, after U.S. Congressman Martin B. Madden, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, who played an important role in support of the project. The dam would not only help control the tremendous floods of the Chagres, but also hold water in reserve for periods when traffic through the canal was at its highest point. And additional benefit was the hydroelectric power it generated for use in the operation of the canal.

Madden Dam is located 250 feet above sea level and retains 29 million cubic feet of water. It was constructed by the engineering companies of W.E. Callahan and Peterson, Shirley & Gunther of Omaha for $4,047,407 (Note 1) which was a lot less than had been estimated by the Isthmian Canal Commission. The design and construction work was under the direction of E.S. Randolph, who stayed at the job site through out its construction. The contract was signed by General Burgess, who was the Governor of the Canal Zone at the time.

Madden Dam and what is now called Alajuela Lake. Photo by Panama Canal Co.

The resulting lake was called Madden Lake for many years but, eventually, this was changed to Alajuela Lake. This lake has a perimeter of 189 miles. The dam is 930 feet long and rises 220 feet from its foundation. Up to 893 persons, divided almost evenly between the contractor and the Canal Zone government, were employed during its peak construction period. Completion of the dam was accomplished on February 5, 1935, five months ahead of schedule and was hailed as another triumph of U.S. engineering in the history of the Canal. The Canal Zone government proceeded to build a concrete paved road 12-1/2 miles long connecting the new dam to the town of Summit.

Madden Dam shortly after completion. LIFE magazine.

Madden Dam is maintained and operated by the Panama Canal Authority. This large reserve of water has lived to its expectations providing water to (1) help maintain water levels necessary to operate the canal during the dry season, (2) control flooding of the Chagres and (3) providing hydroelectric power for the area.

Sources: Dr. Alonso Roy, M.D., Escritos Historicos de Panama; Timothy Davis, Sioux Falls Travel Examiner, 5-18-10;
Some History and Hydrology of the Panama Canal, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, June 2000;

NOTE 1: Dr. Roy states that the contract for the dam was $4,047,407. However, industcards gives a figure of $$10.6 million.

New Hotel in Casco Viejo

Recently  in Casco Antiguo, a stylish new hotel open it doors:. Casa del Horno, a boutique hotel located on Avenida B in the Colonial District in Panama City.

Casa del Horno (The Oven House) is a majestic colonial property built by the French colony in the 1850s that served as a bakery. The building has been renovated with modern elements and keeping the original colonial architecture.

Casa del Horno is a sweet haven for those who love art, wine and simple pleasures.  Built with Calicanto stonewalls and finished with delicate wooden details, each of the 8 suite is equipped with state of the art bathrooms, imported Italian kitchens, top of the line wine fridges, LCD TVs with Satellite, Sony IPod docks and L’Occitane bathroom amenities, differencing each other only by size and specific amenities.

This fantastic new hotel is a jewel in Casco Viejo and .