Exploring the City of Panama, Central America

By Marius Leidig

In my first week here in Panama I tried to explore Casco Viejo on my own and I really thought that my guidebook would be enough to get all important information. Today I know that I was mistaking: There is nothing like a sympathetic, well-educated guide to explore a beautiful place.

But first of all I would like to introduce myself. My name is Marius and I am a German tourism student doing an internship in Panama. I am very happy to be part of the Ecocircuitos Team for five months. Right now I am part of the operations department.

Even if I like the work at our office a lot, I was happy to be invited to join a half day city tour with our staff guide Fabio Trujillo.  I was very excited to see the old parts of the city with a guide who knows a lot about the history of Panama. At 9:00am we picked up our client who booked the tour.   From El Cangrejo we headed for the outskirts of the modern city of Panama where we got a vivid description of the historic district.  Fabio explained that Panama Viejo was the first city built on Panamas Pacific coast. Founded in 1519;  Panama Viejo has been for more than 150 years an important base and reloading point for the captured treasures.   A walk between the remaining ruins such as the tower of the old cathedral are perfect to put oneself into the position of Henry Morgan who was a famous pirate that attacked the city in 1671 which lead to a huge fire that destroyed most parts of the city.

After Panama Viejo has been destroyed, it was rebuilt in today’s Casco Viejo. So the old town of Panama became our second attraction. In my eyes, Casco Viejo is the loveliest and most colorful district of Panama City.  It is a vivid place with plenty historical buildings and nice cafes and restaurants. Numerous varicolored modern street arts contrast the ancient buildings which creates a special atmosphere.

One of the attractions that stayed in my mind is the golden altar from Iglesia San Jose. When pirates attacked the city, the altar was painted black to cover its beauty to make it uncomely to the buccaneers. Obviously, the plan worked.

Passing plenty of indigenous street vendors we headed for the French quarter. Plaza de Francia with its monument dedicated to the French workers who died during the attempt to build the canal offers a great view to Amador Causeway and the impressive skyline of Panama City.

A visit at one of the best ice cream parlors I have ever been named Granclement in the Old Quarters was a worthy end of a special day in Panama!

For more information about this tour and others, you can visit our website www.ecocircuitos.com or write an email at info@ecocircuitos.com.

 

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In search of pirates in Panama -from BBC Travel

In Central America History
By Roff Smith, Lonely Planet Traveller

Camino de CrucesIt’s kind of spooky in the jungle, sweaty and dank, with deep growls of thunder adding a theatrical touch of menace to a shadowy old mule path. Howler monkeys are hooting in the treetops and brightly coloured parrots flit through the branches above, restive ahead of the downpour the whole rainforest knows is brewing. Down at bootlace level, a young fer-de-lance slithers over a knot of tree roots and conceals its deadly self beneath a mass of rotting leaves.
Somewhere above the forest canopy the thunderheads shift and for a brief moment a shaft of sunlight filters down through the tangle of vines and creepers, casting an antique silver glow on the path’s mouldy cobbles. Framed by palm fronds and the trunk of a gigantic cuipo tree, the scene could be an engraving in an old, old book. All you’d need is for one of those grand turn-of-the-century illustrators such as Howard Pyle or NC Wyeth to paint in a few of their trademark pirates or some haughty conquistadors in peaked helmets and shiny cuirasses, and you’d have yourself a swell cover illustration for a Boy’s Own tale of snakes, jungles and lost Incan treasure.
And well you might. After all, this is the real deal: a seven-mile stretch of the old Camino de Cruces, the legendary Spanish treasure trail across the Isthmus of Panama, and a setting for one of the Golden Age of Piracy’s most swashbuckling tales: the sack of Panama City by the pirate Henry Morgan in 1671.

Morgan had told them all he was going to do it, but no-one had believed him. It didn’t seem possible for even the toughest pirate captain to lead his band of cutthroats through seventy miles of pestilential jungle and launch a successful attack on one of Spain’s wealthiest New World treasure ports.
But then Panama’s colonial governor had to go and make it personal. After Morgan sacked Portobelo in 1668, the captain sent a note across to His Excellency the governor demanding a ransom of 340,000 pesos for the town and its citizens, or he would burn the place to the ground. The aristocratic Spaniard responded with chilly disdain, saying that he was unaccustomed to corresponding with ‘inferior persons’ and dismissing Morgan as a mere ‘corsair’. In other words, he called the Welshman a pirate.

People didn’t say that to Henry Morgan. Captain Morgan preferred the term ‘privateer’, an important step up the social ladder from a common pirate. Privateers were sea captains who carried Letters of Marque, signed by royal decree, which authorised them to harass His Majesty’s enemies abroad – a kind of 17th-century licence to kill.
His Excellency eventually coughed up the ransom money for Portobelo but Morgan wasn’t a man to forget a slight. In 1671 the  touchy privateer made good his threat, assembling an armada of 38 ships off the pirate island of Hispaniola and recruiting more than 2,000 ruthless buccaneers to the cause – English, French, Dutch, virtually every pirate in the Caribbean. Their destination was the rich mainland coast of Spain’s empire in the Americas. Wreaking a trail of havoc along the way, the pirates sacked the fortress at San Lorenzo, on Panama’s Caribbean coast.
From there they turned inland, up the Chagres River and along this cobbled old jungle path to where Panama City lay waiting, in splendid isolation, aloof on the Pacific side. Every year, fabulous Incan treasures would arrive at this port – tonnes of gold and precious stones from Peru, silver from the fabled mines at Potosí – where they were stockpiled before being shipped on to Spain. Here was a prize well worth the taking, or at least it would have been if the governor had not been tipped off that the pirates were on their way.

As it was, most of the good stuff was packed onto galleons, to be hidden away in the Islas de las Perlas, a jewel-like archipelago of 220 tropical islands, 30 miles out in Panama Bay, where Panama City’s wealthiest citizens – those who could afford the panic-rates being charged to get out there – took refuge themselves.
The pirates struck at dawn, on 28 January 1671, emerging from the jungle and swiftly overwhelming the town’s outnumbered defenders. A month-long orgy of fire, torture and pillage followed before finally, like sated locusts, the pirate hordes left, carrying their booty back down the trail to where their fleet waited on the Caribbean shore, leaving Panama City’s dazed citizenry to wander amongst the ruins of what had once been their homes.
Even if the haul wasn’t all the pirates could have hoped for, their audacious attack sent shock waves throughout the Spanish Empire, and also reddened a few faces in London, where a peace treaty had recently been signed with Spain in which England had specifically promised to keep the likes of Morgan on a short leash. And in the best of tabloid tradition, the raid also spawned a reality best-seller.
One of Morgan’s men, a French pirate named Alexandre Exquemelin, penned a lively account of the sacking in his book The Buccaneers of America, with plenty of racy stuff in it about how naked Spanish contessas were slow-roasted over coals to help them remember where they’d hidden their jewellery. The book was a runaway success in multiple languages and many editions, and is still in print today.
Morgan himself, no doubt with an eye to posterity and to his by-then-veryskittish political backers in London, adopted a more elegiac tone in his own version of events: ‘Thus was consumed the famous and ancient city of Panama, the greatest mart for silver and gold in the whole world…’

A lot of rainy seasons have come and gone over the old Camino de Cruces since Morgan passed this way. While the jungle remains as sinister as ever, now it’s part of the Soberanía National Park, a vast wilderness better known for plumage than plunder, with a world record 525 species of bird having been recorded in a single day. And where Morgan and his men camped in a misery of mud and mosquitoes where the trail met the Chagres River, modern hikers are within musket range of a five-star eco resort or an easy half-hour’s drive back to the boutique hotels, cafés and jazz bars in the Casco Viejo, Panama City’s fashionably crumbly colonial quarter – where they still won’t serve Captain Morgan rum.
But nowhere are the changes more apparent than along the Chagres River itself, dammed in 1913 to form Gatun Lake, as part of the Panama Canal project. At 164 square miles, the lake was the world’s largest man-made body of water when it was created. Much of the route Morgan followed is now submerged; to tread the pirate trail through modern Panama, you need to transit the canal.
More than a million ships have passed through the world’s most flamboyant shortcut since it opened in 1914, and waiting to add to that tally on this thundery morning is a sightseeing vessel called the Pacific Queen, its decks bright with tourists in souvenir Panama hats, snapping photos and gazing across the water at the shimmering glass-and-steel skyline of Panama City, which looks more like Singapore or Miami than the steamy adventure port of popular imagination. So many new office towers are sprouting up that local wags have taken to joking it’s the construction crane, not the harpy eagle, that ought to be Panama’s national bird.
It all seems a long way from the bad old buccaneering days – a long way even from the hard-boiled years of the military dictator Manuel Noriega and his drug-thug cronies, and the 1989 US invasion that booted them from power. Once practically a by-word for glamorous danger, Panama City has blossomed into one of Latin America’s most cosmopolitan cities, a glitzy banking capital and a honeypot for real estate tycoons, property developers and well-heeled North American retirees looking for tropical sunshine, an expatriate lifestyle and a safe place to berth their yachts away from the hurricanes that beset the usual run of Caribbean tax havens.

Oh, don’t worry, we still get our fair share of buccaneers passing through,’ laughs veteran canal pilot Winston Burgos, as he guides the ship towards the great steel gates of the Miraflores Locks. ‘Only nowadays they wear loafers, fly in on corporate jets and instead of parrots on their shoulders, they have yes-men hovering around, carrying their briefcases.’
It’s a 10-hour passage through the canal, and once out of sight of the city it’s a journey straight from the age of steam, up and over the continental divide through a series of locks and across the great silvery expanse of Gatun Lake, with its islands of virgin rainforest, crocodiles sunning themselves on sandbars, brilliant parrots and white-faced capuchin monkeys swinging through the greenery on shore. Then down through the Gatun Locks on the other side and into the blood-warm waters of the Caribbean at Colón.
The canal’s northern gateway is not a city to linger in, least of all with an expensive Nikon around your neck. It’s best to avoid Colón and head west along the coast, to the picturesque clifftop ruins of San Lorenzo – the Spanish fortress at the mouth of the Chagres River that Morgan sacked on his way to Panama City. From there, head back east to get to the heart of the story, in Portobelo, known variously to history as Puerto Bello, Portovelo and (to the English) Portobello.

If you’ve ever read a pirate book and wondered just what they meant by the ‘Spanish Main’, you need look no further. Geographically speaking, the Spanish Main meant the entire continental coastline around the Caribbean, but from the point of view of pirates and swashbuckling fiction it generally meant one of three principal treasure ports, Veracruz in Mexico, Cartagena in Colombia, and Panama’s very own Portobelo.
It was to Portobelo that the treasure from Panama City was brought during the dry season, by heavily guarded mule train along the Camino de Cruces and down the Chagres River, for shipment on to Seville on the mighty galleons of the treasure fleet which called in here once a year.
These same vessels also brought out rich stores of silks and luxury goods for Spain’s expatriate aristocracy. For several weeks each year, while the fleet was in, Portobelo came alive, with the cream of Panama City’s elite making the trip across the isthmus to party and buy nice things. At the same time, tonnes of plundered Incan silver and gold were loaded aboard the Spanish treasure fleet, beneath the watchful gaze of soldiers manning the town’s three massive fortresses, bristling with cannon, that overlooked the bay.
The thought of all that lovely loot made this place the apple of many a pirate’s eye. Long John Silver speaks wistfully of Portobelo in Treasure Island, but Henry Morgan did something about it. Rather than risk a frontal assault from the sea, he borrowed 23 native canoes, long sleek war vessels called pirogues, and crept up the coast towards the unsuspecting town in the dead of night in 1668.
They made landfall a few miles west of town and came in on the road, much to the surprise of the sentries. Before anyone could raise the alarm, Morgan and his men were rampaging through the streets, having taken the seemingly impregnable port with ease. And so began a fortnight of terror, with the entire town held to ransom and an exchange of letters between the haughty privateer, who arrogantly datelined his letters ‘the English town of Portobello’, and the even haughtier governor in Panama City, 60 miles away, who disdained to correspond with a mere corsair, setting the stage for greater things to come.
The scenic coastal road from Colón follows the line of the pirate’s approach, past the crumbling coral walls of Santiago Fort, Portobelo now just a sleepy backwater mouldering in the tropical heat.

Although Morgan did a first-class job of wrecking the place, he wasn’t the one to put Portobelo out of business; that distinction went to a buccaneering English naval hero named Edward Vernon – also known as Old Grog – who captured the town in 1739 after a hearty bombardment in the now-little-remembered War of Jenkins’ Ear – so called because a Spanish sea captain severed an ear off a British sailor named Jenkins, thereby incurring the wrath of the Royal Navy.
It was a popular war and in celebration of Vernon’s triumph, the name ‘Portobello’ began popping up on maps in every British part of the world, starting with Portobello Road in London.
The Spanish retook the town, and later gave Vernon a thorough drubbing in the waters off Cartagena, but Portobelo’s days as a treasure port were done. Weary of being targets for every pirate in the Caribbean, Spain decided from then on to ship its New World plunder the long way around, via Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America. Portobelo went into a long and terminal decline.
Nothing could be drowsier than Portobelo on a hot, sultry Sunday morning here in the early years of the 21st century, with the murmurings of the litany drifting across the square from the open doors of the town’s old colonial church, and a brace of vultures perched outside, gazing down lugubriously as though listening to the Mass and contemplating past sins.

It seemed a pity to have travelled to one of the gaudiest treasure ports along the old Spanish Main and to not at least have a crack at seeing some gold doubloons, especially since rumours abound of beachcombers here occasionally finding delicious bits of treasure washed up on the sands after a storm. A few discreet questions here and there, a couple of dollars slipped to a shady character selling coconuts beside the bus stop, and then a boy is summoned to take us around to a house tucked away in Portobelo’s ramshackle backstreets, where the raffish accordion strains of vallenato music replace the murmurings of the Nicene Creed.

Here, for a few dollars more, a man who gives his name as Octavio agrees to show us a few of the things he’s found. But these turn out to be not much more than cannonballs mainly, a few badly eroded pieces of eight and an early 19th-century American half-dime. No gold, other than Octavio’s piratical smile, only disingenuous shrugs and vague references to friends of friends who make such finds. The ‘good stuff’, it seems, if it exists outside of myth, isn’t shown to the merely curious.

Then again not even Morgan, with all his powers of persuasion, got to see everything. Back on the Pacific side of the isthmus, in Panama City’s old colonial quarter, I find myself in the incensesweetened nave of St Joseph’s church, whose magnificent altar of gilded mahogany survived the pirate siege by being daubed in mud to look as though it had already been stripped of its  gold.

In what must have been as fine a piece of acting as any this side of an Oscar, the priest at the time not only convinced Morgan  there was nothing left to steal in his church, but, local lore has it, even sweet-talked the hardened buccaneer into donating a bit of gold for its refurbishment. This same legend has a bemused and sceptical Morgan handing over his donation with the words: ‘I have a feeling you’re more of a pirate that I am.’

Perhaps he was. They were all pirates in those days. After all, Panama itself was built on cutlass and plunder.
Following the sack of Panama City, Morgan retired from being the Terror of the Spanish Main and lived out his days as a gentleman planter in Jamaica. While he was about it, he sat down and had a read of Alexandre Exquemelin’s best-seller, The Buccaneers of America – and sued his old shipmate for defamation: the rascal had called him a pirate.

The First City of Panama

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Subsequent to Balboa´s discovery of the “South Sea” (the Pacific Ocean) on September 29, 1513, Pedro Arias de Avila, also known as Pedrarias, was appointed governor of Castilla del Oro in August 1514. Pedrarias and Balboa did not get along well and, finally, Balboa and four others were accused of treason and beheaded by Pedrarias at Acla, Panama, in the later part of 1517.

Pedrarias continued to rule from Santa Maria de la Antigua on the Northern coast (Atlantic) of Panama in the region of Darien, but seeing the advantage of a settlement on the shores of the new ocean as an outfitting station for future explorations, he crossed the isthmus and, on August 15, 1519, the same day on which the Panama Canal would officially open 395 years later, he founded the first European city on the Pacific shore. The name “Panama” is supposed to have come from a Native word meaning “a place abounding in fish” and legend relates that the new town was built on the site of a Native fishing village. This new settlement is what we now know as “Old Panama”.

In the same year, Nombre de Dios became the main Atlantic port.

On September 15, 1521, the town of Panama was made a city by royal decree, and the first Diocese (bishop’s office) in the Americas was moved there from Antigua. For nearly two hundred years following the founding of Panama, the roads across the isthmus, Las Cruces Trail and El Camino Real, were the riches trade routes in the world. Not only did these two roads carry the plunder from Peru, beginning in 1532, but also the trade originating in the Philippines and the Indies. By the end of the 16th Century, the population of the city had increased to about 10,000.

By the time of its destruction by the pirate Henry Morgan, Panama had a population of about 30,000. It was a beautiful place with 7,000 houses, most of them of carved native cedar and others of stone, erected in Moorish style ( a reflection of the Moors influence on Spain during their 400 years of occupation). Of its stones monasteries and convents, the most pretentious was the Cathedral of Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion, a truly glorious building whose ruins still stand.

Besides the royal treasure storehouses, which were built of stone, there were some two hundred merchant warehouses guarded constantly by slaves. In addition, there were ample stables to house the large number of mules used for the transport of the treasures across the isthmus. The port of old Panama was really not the best for shipping because the 21-foot tide changes the waterfront to a mile of sticky black mud at low tide. The Bay itself was spacious enough for the largest ships to ride at ease at some distance from the shore. At one place in the bay, an arm of the sea creeps inland, North of the city, to a little creek over which an arched bridge, King’s Bridge, still stands. This bridge was the starting point of El Camino Real to Portobelo. The Cruces Trail started on the west side of the city at Matadero Bridge, also called “Morgan Bridge” because it was the bridge Morgan crossed to enter the city.

In the end, it was an attack by Henry Morgan, with 1400 men, that sealed the fate of Old Panama on January 28, 1671.

Morgan had an astute plan. He would sail to the Spanish Island of Santa Catalina, in the Archipelago of San Andres and Providencia, off the coast of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, to prevent the possibility of a warning of his proposed attack on Panama. Having captured the island, he kept most of his fleet in plain sight, while he sent James Bradley with 400 men to attack Fort San Lorenzo on the mouth of the Chagres. The fort was heavily fortified and Bradley’s men suffered many casualties, including Bradley who had his legs shattered by a cannon ball and died a week later, but they did capture the Fort. Of the 320 men at the fort, only 30 survived to surrender to the pirates.

Shortly after the fall of San Lorenzo, Morgan arrived with the bulk of his force. In spite of Morgan’s plan of deception, the Spaniards became aware of his whereabouts and were preparing for the defense of Panama. Nevertheless, Morgan continued with his plan to go up the Chagres River to Cruces and then proceed by foot to the city of Panama. Leaving 150 men guarding the ships and 500 at San Lorenzo, he started his dangerous trip up the river on January 12, 1671. The men were crowded in too few Cayucos, took no provisions and the heat and mosquitoes were a nightmare. When they arrived at Panama, the strong Spanish garrison proved to be under very poor leadership and a series of errors and confusion gave the advantage to the pirates who overwhelmed the garrison.

Morgan is credited with burning the city, but that is probably not true as his men were not through sacking the city when the fire started and drove everyone away. Having been denied the expected riches because of the fire, the pirates stayed around sacking what they could from the area, including a $30,000 ransom for a woman, for a month before returning to Fort San Lorenzo. Morgan had trouble controlling his disgruntled men and had to put several insurgents in irons. Finally, as discipline dissolved and Morgan heard of plans to kill him, he collected a band of trusted followers and, after getting the others drunk on the masquerade of a celebration party prior to dividing the treasure, he took off for Jamaica with most of the loot. But not without disabling the other ships so they could not pursue him.

With the town of Old Panama in ruins, the remaining Spaniards rebuilt their town a few miles away in the present day area of Santa Ana and San Felipe. The city was never again sacked by pirates.

Originally By Luis Celerier

A day in San Lorenzo National Park, Panama

In this Tour with EcoCircuitos, you will come back in your early childhood of the pirate world. Put on your boots and your pirate hat for the adventure.
Located in a rocky headline, 25m above the sea level and overgrown, Fort San Lorenzo Casstle dominates the mouth of the Río Chagres. The natural beauty of the caribbean, the view over the river and the lush forest are outstanding. The Fort San Lorenzo evokes the struggles of the colonial era between the Spanish and European filibusters.
San Lorenzo is one of the oldest forts and the best preserved of America. The first foundations were built in the late of sixteenth century to protect the Spanish ships, leaving the river, against hackers lured by the riches to Portobelo.
This fort is full of History. First the fortifications were attacked and demolished at the beginning of the year 1671 by the captain Joseph Bradley on behalf of Henry Morgan. He stays few times there, before sake the Old Town of Panama.
The Forts have been reconstructed two times. In 1678, more height, the fort was destroyed again in 1742, this time by Admiral Vernon. Rebuilt in 1761, he played a strong role until independence in 1821 and serves as a prison for some years.
San Lorenzo is located in the Canal area, belong to North-Americans since 1999, before being transferred back to Panama authorities
In 1980, San Lorenzo was even registered with Portobelo Fort as a UNESCO site heritage. Forty cannon would has been found on the site.
Around the fort, in the rainforest, there are many ecosystem and nearly one third of all the forest fauna of Panama.

This is a complete adventure day where hiking, wildlife observation and amazing history can be experience in one day. Ohhh and part of the experience includes crossing by car the Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal! don´t miss this in Panama.

By Lea Maillard.-
EcoCircuitos Intern

Find out more about possibilities to visit Fort San Lorenzo on our Homepage

Tropical Christmas

EcoCircuitos Panama is more than pleased to invite you to enjoy Christmas Holidays in our unique country. Get to know our history and the Panama Canal; have a cultural encounter and get to know the Tropical Rainforest during Christmas time!!!

Day 1, December 20, Welcome to Panama At the appropriate time an EcoCircuitos Representative will be waiting for you at the Tocumen International Airport for transfer to the Hotel. Once arrival, please check in and overnight at Country Inn Dorado, Junior Suite Room.

Day 2, December 21, Historical Tour, Panama La Vieja & Casco Antiguo
Breakfast at the hotel – Depart from the hotel to visit Panama Viejo, the first city founded in the isthmus by Spanish conquerors at the beginning of colonization. The remaining ruins are the ones left by Pirate Henry Morgan, who sacked the town in 1671. We will then head to the second colonial city of Panama, Casco Viejo, built in 1673 and will walk around the French Plaza and its monuments. The architecture of this area is exquisite including French, Italian and Spanish styles. Includes: transportation, bilingual guide, entrance fee to Panama La Vieja Visitor Center and Tower Duration: 3 – 4 hours – Available from Tuesday to Sunday. Departure time: 9:00 AM or 1:00 PM

Day 3, December 22 The Caribbean Side; the Kuna Kingdom an Indigenous Encounter – Today very early in the morning you will be transferred your hotel in Panama City to Albrook Domestic Airport to take your flight to San Blas. Once arrival, you will be met by a representative from the lodge for your boat transfer to the lodge. Check-in and overnight at Dolphin Lodge, Uaguinega. Standard Room 1 Day tour included to a nearby island for beachcombing or snorkeling (gear available for rental). All meals included. No drinks or water included.

Day 4, December 23, San Blas Islands, Dolphin Lodge – Days to enjoy at your leisure on the island, taking it easy or visit with the local Kuna Community. One day tour is included. 1 Day tour included to a nearby island for beachcombing or snorkeling (gear available for rental). All meals included No drinks or water included.

Day 5, December 24, The Rainforest Experience, Gamboa Rainforest Resort At the appropriate time, transfer to the local airstrip for your return flight to Panama City. Once arrival, transfer to the local airstrip for your return flight to Panama City. At the appropriate time, transfer to the local airstrip for your return flight to Panama City. Check-in time is at 3.00PM. Arrival to Gamboa Rainforest Resort; where you will stay for the next 2 nights in One Standard Room. This resort features Gatun Lake tours, an aerial tram ride through the forest canopy, animal exhibitions and more.

Day 6, December 25, Gamboa Rainforest Resort – Free day Breakfast at the hotel Day to enjoy at your leisure exploring the area or relaxing in the hotel’s spa, pool or on Gatun Lake. Optional tours include: Arial tram, night tours, birding tours, boat tours, kayaking, fishing.

Day 7, December 26, Departure Panama- Breakfast at the hotel At the appropriate time the tourists will be transferred to the Tocumen International Airport for their flight back home. They will arrive to the airport approximately 2 hours before their departure time. (Breakfast)

Price per person – Double occupancy $ 1,025.00 – minimum 4 pax ***Prices are subject to 5% ITBM government taxes and banking fees

The program includes: – Meet and greet at the international airport – 6 nights of lodging + taxes – Domestic flights (as mentioned above) – Entrance fees to the attractions as mentioned above – Private transportation with a/c throughout the tour – Meals as specified each day: B=breakfast, L=lunch or D=dinner – Information kit – Lodging taxes

The program does not include: – Optional activities – International airfare and taxes – Departure taxes ($20.00 per person for Panama and $26.00 for Costa Rica) – Meals not specified in the itinerary – Personal equipment – Extras in hotels (laundry, phone calls, room service, etc.)