Why should you visit Panama during the rainy season?

By Juliette Darmon

Contrary to what you think, visiting Panama during the rainy season has many advantages.

And first of all, if the rain is scaring you, then you have to know that it’s also raining in dry season as it’s raining 200 days per year in Panama…! And despite the name “rainy season”, it is most of the time raining only one hour per day!

So rain is not an excuse for not visiting this surprising country in rainy season!

Favorable and worthwhile:

The first and not the less, is that travelling during this period is much cheaper than during the dry season. You will so enjoy nicest hotels and places for less expansive, and could spend your money in extras, something you may not afford during the dry season.

Attractive and greener:

For travelers keen on nature, you definitely have to visit Panama during the rainy season, when it is much more eye-catching!

Panama has one of the most spectacular untouched rainforest in the world. And precisely in this period of the year, the nature and rainforest are greener and more authentic. It is one of the most picturesque times of the year!

Furthermore, because of the everyday rain (one hour downpour), Panama is open up to plenty of water-based activities (white water rafting, surf along the Caribbean coast..). Indeed, the rivers and streams are about 23 feet (7meters) higher, meaning that every watering place, like river, creek and lake are navigable.

You will so have the opportunity to explore more of the waterways of Amazonia and discovering more plant and wildlife areas than in the dry season.

More wildlife, less crowded:

As flowers, blooms, tropical fruits and vegetables are more abundant in this season, you will for sure have the chance to cross a lot of monkeys, birds and other wild animals.

Animals don’t really like tourists and they more tend to hide during the dry season, when travelers get too numerous. Take the chance to be fully immersed in Panamanian nature and wildlife by coming in the rainy season!

And less tourists also means less crowded, and so more availabilities and choices in terms of hotels, restaurants, activities and so on…!

KEEP THAT CHANCE! Try the rainy season in Panama!

Panama Romantic Adventure

Start your trip with EcoCircuitos in the vibrant capital of Panama City with its modern skyscrapers, charming old towns.  The tour starts with kayaking the Panama Canal while looking out for wildlife and watching huge vessels passing by. Stay in the boutique American Trade Hotel located in the Old Town, offering a first-hand experience of Panama City`s extensive nightlife. Get on a snorkelling tour the next day to explore coral reefs and picturesque Caribbean Beaches.

The next stop is the charming little town of Boquete in the highlands. Watch out for birds and other wildlife in this area blessed with a spring-like climate all year. Get on a breathtaking Skywalk tour offering direct insights in the life of the cloud forest with unique views of surrounding landscapes. At the end of the tour, get on an exciting canopy zip lining adventure through the treetops.

The last stop of the tour leads to the romantic laid-back Island Plantation Resort surrounded by jungle and tropical beaches on the archipelago of Bocas del Toro. Snorkel colourful coral reefs; explore dream beaches by boat; hike through lush rainforests or gain deep relaxation enjoying a double-cabin massage before returning to Panama City.

For more information about our honeymoon programs, please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com

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.

Panama Jazz Festival 2016

On January 11-16, 2016 the annual Panama Jazz Festival, one of the region’s largest music education events held in Panama City, marks its 13th anniversary. Since its foundation in September 2003 by Panamanian Grammy-winning pianist Danilo Pérez, the festival has become a cultural tourist attraction by drawing audiences from across the globe.

We are offering an amazing itinerary to take advantage of this beautiful event.

Jan 11 – 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 at the hotel.

Overnight hotel in Panama City for 5 nights in chosen hotel.

Jan 12 – Half Day Historical City Tour

During the half-day morning tour you will visit the ruins of Old Panama, climb up the Cathedral tower, visit the Old Panama Museum and then continue to Casco Viejo (the old city compound), which dates from the late 1600’s. A bilingual guide will describe the events in history leading up to the eventual movement of the capital city to its present location. Casco Viejo is home to monuments to Ferdinand de Lesseps and other Frenchmen instrumental in the ill-fated attempt of the French to construct a canal through Panama. Your tour ends with a visit to the Panama Canal Museum. (B)

 Optional Jazz Concert: MAIN ARTIST: Rudresh Mahanthappa Quintet


Show Opening: Joshue Ashby C3 Project


SHOW TIME: 8 p.m. Place: Ateneo, Ciudad del Saber

Prices from $20.00 – $200.00

 Jan 13 – Free day for Relaxing or optional tours in Panama City

For a list of tours visit: here

 Optional Gala night at Teatro Anayansi, Centro de Convenciones Atlapa

MAIN ARTIST: Danny Rivera y Danilo Pérez + The Pan-American Detroit Big Band



SHOW TIME: 8 p.m.

Prices from $15.00 – $200.00

Jan 14 – Free day for Relaxing or optional tours in Panama City

For a list of tours visit: here

 Optional Jazz Concert: MAIN ARTIST Randy Weston

Show Opening: John & Tom Patitucci 4et

SHOW TIME: 8 p.m. Place: Ateneo, Ciudad del Saber

 Jan 15 – Free day for optional tours in Panama City

MAIN ARTIST: MCA Power Trio (David Murray, Terry Lyne Carrington, Geri Allen)

Show Opening: Dominique Eade con New England Conservatory

SHOW TIME: 8 p.m. Place: Ateneo, Ciudad del Saber

Prices from $20.00 – $200.00


 Price per person in double occupancy: from $499.00

 Includes:  all transfers, 4 nights of lodging + taxes, bilingual guide on tour, entrance fees to attraction, 24 hour assistance from EcoCircuitos staff, Panama kit including a PBA Stainless Steel bottle and lots of fun!

Tips for crossing the border from Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro, Panama

The border between Costa Rica and Panama, on the Caribbean side of these two countries, is the Sixaola River. The town on the Costa Rican side of the river is called Sixaola, here you will visit customs to check out of the country of Costa Rica and meet your contact from Panama. You will walk across the bridge to enter Panama with your new driver, leaving your Costa Rican driver to return home. The town in Panama, across the Sixaola River, is called Guabito.

The drive in Panama will take you across the low flood plains of the Sixaola and Changinola river valley’s. This area collects the watershed from the massive Talamanca mountain range, which extends through both countries. This is an important wetland for many species of tropical flora and fauna and includes habitats such as rivers, humid lowland forest, mangroves, coastal lagoons and other marine coastal environments.

A wetland reserve taking in the most of the coastal region of this area is called the San San Pond Sak (Humedal de San-San Pond Sak). This sparsely populated area is home to several endangered species such as manatees (sea cows), hawksbill, leatherback, and loggerhead sea turtles.

Next you will come to Changinola, home of United Fruit Co. /Chiquita Brands Intl., this town is older than the country itself and thick on lore of a bygone era when it was simply known as, The Banana Republic.

Crossing the bridge over the Changinola river is like stepping back in time, you might have to stop and wait for the company train to pass over first, it is only a one lane bridge. From here you will be entering the densely forested foothills of the Talamanca Range. Just up in these mountains is La Amistad Bi-national Park, some 2 million acres in size, it is jointly protect on both sides of the border. This represents one of the largest protected tracts of primary forest in Central America, and it is a UNESCO world heritage site. Keep an eye on edge of the canopy, the wildlife is spectacular. You will be passing over several elevated bluffs with spectacular views of Bocas del Toro Archipelago below.

The location of this unique site in Central America, where Quaternary glaciers have left their mark, has allowed the fauna and flora of North and South America to interbreed. Tropical rainforests cover most of the area. Four different Indian tribes inhabit this property, which benefits from close co-operation between Costa Rica and Panama.

After several small pueblos, you will be passing the outskirts of Almirante, another antiquated banana town. About 12-13 miles outside of Almirante, at kilometer marker 48 ½, is a yellow sign and pink gate for La Escapada. This small eco lodge is built on a steep slope near the waters edge, the grounds are beautiful, and the birdlife is outstanding. Here you can take a short break and stretch your legs, or have a cold beverage and watch the marine life from the dock.  The boat will be waiting there to transfer to the hotel of your choice.  Tranquilo Bay is our suggested lodge for coming days.  From here it is a beautiful 45-minute boat ride to your final destination. The ocean leg of your journey will take you across Bahia Almirante passing Sheppard and San Cristobal Islands, and into Dark Land. The glassy calm and emerald green sea, and the long shadows from the steep mountainous terrain, blend to make an intense surrounding. A narrow channel passes into another smaller lagoon named Boca Torito, or little bull’s mouth. It is here where the mother dolphins bring their calves to rear. Leaving the dolphins behind, we will enter Bastimentos National Marine Park, the mangrove islets, sea grass beds and coral flats are stunning. Oceanic birds such as brown boobies, magnificent frigates, and brown pelicans will be feeding on marine wildlife that is fleeing from predators below. As we round the southern peninsula of Isla Bastimentos, we will have our first glimpse of the Zapatilla Keys, and the lodge for the next days:  Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure lodge.

Some advice to help you stay healthy, safe and happy while on holidays

From:  LATA

Travel to Latin America is a wonderful chance to experience a stunning array of cultures, landscapes, ecosystems and activities. At the heart of this experience are the differences between your ways of life. You should understand that this means that standards of health and safety will not be the same as in your country.

Fire Safety

When you arrive in a hotel, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the fire procedures and your escape routes and nearest fire exit. Be especially careful about this if you are staying in a hotel that is more than two storeys high. Take a flashlight with you and have it within reach by your bedside.


Balcony heights and distance between the rungs can vary considerably from country to country. Do take care around balconies, particularly if you are traveling with children. If you are unhappy with the balcony height, or any other aspect of it, you should request a suitable alternative room.

Trips and Slips

Guards and warnings of wet floors, uneven steps, holes, or other trip hazards sometimes are not provided. Watch your step!

Swimming Pools

The vast majority of pools will not have lifeguards, depth markings or non-slip surfaces around them. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the layout and depth of the pool. Be aware of any hidden and/or submerged objects. In the event of an emergency, know how to get help. Avoid using the pool when alone, at night and after consuming alcohol.

Beach Safety

Take time to familiarize yourself with the beach and also take local advice particularly regarding swell and currents. On sandy beaches one way you may be able to identify strong currents is by looking out for distinct sandy patches in the face of breaking waves – avoid these stretches. If you are caught in a ‘rip’ current, do not panic, swim sideways out of the current – do not swim back against it. Take great care in areas where there are motorised craft of any sort sharing the water with swimmers. If in doubt, don’t bathe.

Gas Safety

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a chemical compound of carbon and oxygen. It has no colour, taste or smell and is extremely poisonous. Gas stoves, fires and boilers, gas powered water heaters, paraffin heaters, solid fuel powered stoves, boilers and room heaters are all capable of producing CO if not appropriately installed and maintained. You can tell if a gas appliance is working correctly by observing the flame. A yellow/orange flame is evidence of possible CO presence. A ‘healthy’ flame should be crisp, vibrant and blue.

Symptoms of CO poisoning can easily be confused with flu, severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, general lethargy. Severe CO poisoning makes the body turn a cherry-red colour. If you suspect CO poisoning get out into fresh air as quickly as possible and call for medical help. If you can, open doors and windows.

Electrical Appliances

Please exercise caution when using electrical appliances. When using your own appliances be sure to use relevant adapters and converters.


You should always seek immunization advice from a trained medical professional at least 6 weeks prior to travel. Make sure you take medication appropriate to your destination.

Sun Safety

The sun in Panama is stronger than you are used to most probably.  Use a high factor sunscreen, avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun in the middle of the day. Take a broad-brimmed sun hat, a baseball cap is rarely sufficient. Cover up with appropriate clothing. Drink bottled water. Stay in the shade.

Food and Drink

Use your common sense when selecting where and what to eat. Ask your guides for advice. Drink bottled water. Always wash your hands before eating. Anti-bacterial hand wash is worth having.

General Safety

Take note of what is going on around you and keep away from any situations where you do not feel comfortable. Keep up to date with local and regional events in the media. Leave your jewellery and valuables at home if you can. Only carry as much money as you need for the day. Respect local customs particularly when visiting religious sites, markets and rural communities. It is hard to generalize but you should at least be prepared to cover shoulders and knees when visiting churches.

Activities and Excursions

Before you go you might like to check details with your tour operator and, if necessary, take appropriate equipment with you. Whilst on holiday you should use your common sense. Always follow the guides’ instructions. If you ever have cause to feel nervous about the safety of an activity or excursion then do not go. Report your concerns to your guide, local contact and/or tour operator at the earliest opportunity.   Remember that if you choose to take an excursion or activity on holiday which is not arranged as part of your package, your tour operator will not accept any responsibility.

Getting Around

When travelling by foot, be careful crossing roads. particularly in Panama City. When traveling by taxi, make sure it is licensed, ideally you should ask your hotel or restaurant to call one for you. When traveling by coach or minibus, we recommend that you use seat belts when they are provided. If there are no seat belts then try to avoid the front seats, seats by emergency exits and seats in the middle of the back row. When travelling by hire car, familiarize yourself with local regulations and laws before setting off. Check all tires for tread and air pressure, including the spare. Check oil, water and petrol. Always obey speed limits, never drink and drive. Drive in the daytime whenever possible and be aware of distances between petrol stations. Drive defensively and be aware that pot holes and random speed bumps are common.

Pre-existing Medical Conditions and Disabilities

Please make sure that your tour operator is aware of any pre-existing medical conditions or disabilities which could affect your holiday. Please ensure that you travel with sufficient supplies of medication. When flying always pack enough medication in your hand luggage to tide you over should flights be delayed or your hold luggage go missing.

Access to Medical Facilities

During your holiday you are likely to be traveling in areas well away from medical facilities such as doctors, pharmacists and accident and emergency units. Your travel insurance must include sufficient cover for emergency medical evacuation, by air if necessary.

Travel Insurance

It is your responsibility to ensure that you are fully and adequately insured for the duration of your holiday. Take time to confirm that all activities, excursions and destinations are included. Be particularly careful of any altitude exclusions. Ideally your cover would include, but not be limited to adequate: medical, legal, cancellation, delay and personal possession cover.

Letting us Know

You should always use your common sense whilst on holiday. If you ever have cause to feel nervous about the safety of an activity, excursion, mode of transport or hotel then please report this immediately.

Report your concerns to the supplier on the ground (this could be your hotel, bus driver or activity leader for instance). You should also inform your guide, local contact and/or tour operator at the earliest opportunity.

Study Spanish in Panam with EPA! and EcoCircuitos

Enjoy our culture and experience unique adventures while learning Spanish in Panama.


This semi-intensive Spanish course is designed for students looking to combine Spanish and study with more recreational activities, such as discovering Panama.

This course gives you the opportunity to improve your Spanish Language by focusing on the skills you will need to communicate well in everyday business and social settings. The classes focus on the listening, speaking, reading and writing skills necessary to communicate effectively in Spanish. Each day, the class takes you one step closer to achieving your goal: to communicate more and better in Spanish.

f you don’t have much time and wish to make the most of it, you can follow your own pace of learning with a personalized  Spanish course. This means that neither you nor the teacher need follow the pace and interests of your fellow students, as in any other group course. You choose the frequency and the intensity.

One-on-one Spanish teaching is an exceptionally effective approach to instruction and most students, educators, and parents would agree that the ideal academic environment consists of one-on-one teaching, customized to the needs of the student. This type of individual attention allows for a high level of quality interaction between the teacher and the student.

The student benefits immensely from the personal attention inherent in a one-on-one teaching ratio. Because of the intimate environment, the teacher can accurately monitor how well the student is mastering the lessons, and can adapt the pace and targeting of skills accordingly.

If you would like to have one-to-one lessons we can offer different options customized to your needs. Firstly, we analyze your individual goals and then create a personalized program adapted to you with regard to content, timetable and additional activities.

For more information contact us:  info@ecocircuitos.com

The Streetcars (Tranvias) of Panama

By Louie Celerier

There are few of us left that remember riding in the streetcars (tranvias) of Panama.  Those of us that rode in these vehicles remember the fun it was regardless of the destination or the reason for the ride.  It did not matter. What mattered was that, whenever we needed to go anyplace, we would ride the “tranvia”.  Notes from others that enjoyed these mechanical caterpillars recall the routes which included  such landmarks as the Café Coca-Cola, The French Bazaar, the sweetshop La Gran Via, the Kiosk of Mr. Mejia (always wearing a beret) where one could acquire apples, pears, grapes, sodas, newspapers, magazines and comic books, La Flor Panameña, Farmacia Preciado and La  Central de Lecherias to name a few.  All that, and much more, within the reach of those that were lucky enough (in my boyhood opinion) to ride the tranvias.  But I came too late to enjoy them very long.  By 1941 they were gone (1).

II. My Recollections

For me, the era of the streetcars, or Tranvias, in Panama was from 1932 until Saturday, May 31, 1941, when, at midnight, service ceased forever. Thus, my recollections begin later as I grew old enough to start appreciating their existence. In my fading memory, I remember the streetcars as a Sunday afternoon family fun diversion, riding through downtown and then heading to Balboa, in the then Panama Canal Zone. As time went by, I came to realize it was also a means of transportation to downtown; trips, by the way, which except for the ride, I did not enjoy much as they involved visiting fabric shops. There, my mother would purchase the necessary items to make us clothes, but this shopping also represented long waits in the store, with nothing to do, while my mother looked around and conversed with the help, who were also friends of the family. Eventually the streetcars also meant a way of getting home from school until the day the service was discontinued.

The Routes: The routes I remember from my days using the trolleys were only two: (1) From SABANAS to PALACIO and (2) from BELLA VISTA to BALBOA.

The SABANAS to PALACIO route started around the area of Villa Hermosa, close to the little church of Maria de Lourdes and followed Via España all the way to El Casino. Then it went on Central Avenue to Santa Ana Plaza, Cathedral Plaza and the Palacio de Justicia by the National Theater, near the old Union Club. (If you notice errors in my descriptions, please note that my recollections are from when I was some 4-5 years old until I was 9).

The streetcar station in my neighborhood

This was a very familiar view to me. The pick-up is in front of the grandiose Fuerza Y Luz (Power & Light) building across the street from the Cecilia Theater. It was a favorite place to wait for the trolley because it was always cooler inside and they had an iced water fountain. There are two sets of tracks here and you can see two trolleys in the background going in opposite directions.

The BELLA VISTA to BALBOA route started at the old Miramar Club/Colegio Miramar by Parque Urraca on 46th Street. It joined the SABANAS-BALBOA tracks at Via España near the station in front and across the street from what was then “La Central de Lecheria” on the corner of Via España and Calle 45. Calle 45 went over the hill and joined Simon Bolivar Avenue. This station served as a transfer point if you wanted to go to Sabanas or Palacio, or vice-versa. The BALBOA route then continued on the same direction as the PALACIOS route until reaching Santa Ana Plaza. There, in front of the French Bazaar, the route would switch to “C” Street for one block heading toward the Variedades Theater. It then made a sharp turn into 14th Street and another into “B” Street heading through Chorrillo into 4th of July Avenue. Crossing into the Canal Zone it took Balboa Road to La Boca Road ending up in La Boca near the ferry crossing. The turn from “C” Street into 14th Street always fascinated me. As the car turned, the roof would just barely miss the balcony of the house on the corner. Up until the last minute I felt sure it was going to hit it until the last second. Then it would complete the turn and miss it by what appeared to be a fraction of an inch.

The SABANAS-PALACIO route had a siding in front and across the street from the old Kennelworth Dog Race Track, which I believe is now the El Cangrejo area. There, the streetcar heading toward SABANAS would wait until the one heading to PALACIO would pass. Fortunately, a huge tree grew there giving a much appreciated shade. As a kid, it was fun to watch the conductor get off the trolley to switch the tracks in order to go into the siding and then on to the main line again. On Sunday afternoons,we could hear the din of people shouting and hounds barking as the races took place.

Interior of streetcar

At the end of each trolley route, it was also interesting to watch the conductor get off and turn the trolley pole around so the car could head in the opposite direction. The motorman would remove the electric power handle to take it to the opposite end of the streetcar. As he walked through the car, he would turn the backs of the seats so they would be facing to the front again. It was also fun to watch closely the motorman operating the electrical power handle and the big, long brake handle. And, naturally, the clanging bell was the frosting on the cake. I don’t remember one single ride I did not enjoy.

The Motorman: The Motorman and the Conductor wore a military cut khaki uniform consisting on regular long pants and a coat with a high collar so as to not require a tie with a “kepi” style cap. Because they looked military, I once asked my father if they could help the police in catching a criminal. Yes, he said, they could if necessary. One motorman especially comes to mind. He was a tall black West Indian, always very neat and with a waxed and pointed moustache. He looked as if he owned the car he drove and everyone respected his authority while in his car. But he was also well-liked, friendly and helpful.

The seats of the cars were made of tightly woven straw, and the backs would swing so that the passengers would always face the direction of travel. Whenever four of us traveled together, we would move the back of one seat so we could face each other.

Streetcar at Miramar School in BELLA VISTA

My School Route: I started using the streetcar to get home from school when I was transferred to the Colegio Miramar in Bella Vista for the third grade. When time came for me to use the streetcar to get home after school, I would catch the BALBOA trolley across the street from the school and ride up 46th Street until reaching the station across from La Central de Lecheria. There, I would get off and wait, with a few other students heading in the same direction as I, for the trolley going to SABANAS. While we waited, the trolley coming from SABANAS and heading to town would come by. Our daily entertainment consisted of placing rocks on the track to see them get smashed by that trolley as it went by. Once my trolley came, I would board and head for the little station at the entrance of my street, Via Porras.

One day, while in the third grade, a classmate named, I believe, Mario deDiego, his older brother and I, decided to walk home instead of taking the street car. We walked up Federico Boyd Avenue and then down to Via España, where the Del Carmen Church is now located. There, we picked up the trolley tracks and followed them to my street, Via Porras. And I then walked into the biggest scolding I ever got. Pulling out the trolley ticket to show the fare I had saved was no help. The trolleys ran a very tight schedule and, when I was not home at the appropriate time, my mother was very distressed for she knew I had missed the trolley and wondered why. I was sternly told never to do that again, and I never did.

Bella Vista to Panama ticket

The Tickets: My mother would purchase tickets at the Fuerza y Luz (Power & Light) Co. building, downtown across from the Cecilia Theater. This was an impressive building and, as a child, I loved to go in there because, it was always cool and they had an ice-water fountain. The cavernous inside with its very high ceiling in most of the building was the reason for this coolness. My aunt Maria Teresa “Chola” Azcarraga worked there in a cage where one paid the electric bill and where one could also buy the street car tickets at a small discount. I was always impressed by the big red rolls of tickets. Another relative named Graciela “Chela” Mendez also worked in this cage at the back of the building.

The front of the building, with its awning, provided a protected area under which we would wait for the streetcar in relative comfort from the sun or rain.

The Demise: It was to our great sorrow when we learned that the “tranvias” service was coming to an end. No longer would we listen for the screeching sounds as they went around sharp corners, no longer would we see sparks flying out of the wires as the trolley pole hit some contacts. Those leisure “paseos” on Sunday were gone giving way to the automobile which crowded out this revered method of transportation. After that fateful day in 1941, the streetcars were no more

III. The Eras Of The Streetcars In Panama City

According to Allen Morrison, who has made a most extensive study on the streetcars of Panama (1), there were two “distinct tramway eras, which correspond roughly to the two periods of construction of the Panama Canal.” He refers, of course to the 1880-1890 era of the French effort and the 1903-1999 period of the U.S. canal.

The French Era Tramway: During this period of the Panama city streetcars, Panama was still a part of Colombia. In 1889, when the French effort to build a canal across the Isthmus was already in financial troubles, the Ministry of Public Works in Bogota, capital of Colombia, granted permission to a group of Colombians to build a tramway in the city of Panama. Unable to get their finances in order, they transferred the franchise to a British group of investors based in London, England on October 22, 1892. The company, known as the United Electric Tramway Co., built a power plant and laid track along Central Avenue (2). Exactly where this track went, I do not know.

Celebration of the inauguration of service by the Panama Tramway Company, August 1, 1913.

The vehicles, though, were unique in that they got their power from the overhead lines not from the known roof-mounted bows and trolleys, but by means of a unique triangle mounted high above the car and held in place by a fixed pole on one side of the vehicle (see photo below).

French Era trolleys. Notice the triangle on top of pole which is attached to side of trolley.

The final failure of the French Canal Company as well as the 1000 Days War destroyed the small economy of the city and, with it, the solvency of the tramways company. By 1902, the line had ceased to exist.

The United States Canal Era: With the French out of the picture, the United States took over construction and operations of the new canal and, with it, came new prosperity to the now independent country of Panama. The need for a good transportation system within the city became a necessity and the government of Panama issued a permit to the Panama Tramway Co. which, on November 9, 1911, registered in New Jersey. Construction began soon afterward in 1912. The main routes would run from SABANAS to PALACIO and from BELLA VISTA to BALBOA using Central Avenue and Calle “B” as the main city arteries.

IV. The Routes

As stated before, the main routes of the tram system were from SABANAS – PALACIO and BELLA VISTA – BALBOA. (See Early Routes Map next page)

This is a 1915 photo and the Calidonia Bridge is still in place. Notice railings on right of photo. The streetcar coming from the Plaza 5 de Mayo, just behind it, will turn to our right, away from bridge, and head for Ancon (See Panama Streetcar Routes below). Notice the new train station on the left.

During the period that the Calidonia Bridge existed over the Panama Railroad tracks, the tram tracks could not get across the railroad tracks. In order for the SABANAS tram, heading south to PALACIO, to get to the other side and continue southward, it became necessary to use another route which had to go around the railroad marshaling yards. With the Casa Miller on its left, the street car would take Calle 23 Este, heading south toward the Tramway Company “Barn” (streetcar garage and repair shops). Then it would take Avenida Norte, enter Calle 15, zigzag into Calle 16 and re-enter Central Avenue continuing south toward Santa Ana Plaza. At Santa Ana Plaza, through a confusing re-routing of tracks, the SABANAS streetcar would continue south on Central Avenue to its destination at PALACIO.

The BELLA VISTA streetcar, coming south towards BALBOA would follow the same route, but split up at Santa Ana Plaza to continue its trip to BALBOA. On the reverse route, the street cars would again go through Santa Ana Plaza, but, this time, they would take Calle 13 (Salsipuedes) to go down to Avenida Norte in order to proceed north to its destinations.

There was another route that, beginning at Santa Ana Plaza, would head north on Central Avenue with ANCON as its destination. This route would go all the way to Plaza 5 De Mayo then swing into Calle 22-B and then Frangipani Street to its end. The Panama Streetcar Routes map shows that this route also circled Plaza 5 De Mayo. Additionally, there was also a spur going down from Central Avenue, at Casino, down Calle 34 to the Santo Tomas Hospital.

Once the Calidonia Bridge was replaced by a graded crossing, around 1920, the Tranvia track was extended to connect from Calle 22-B to Calle 23 Este. The Avenida Norte, Calle 13, Calle 15 and Calle 16 tracks were removed. Not long after, the tracks going to Ancon were also removed as were the tracks to the Santo Tomas Hospital.