Panama and Panama City for Short Stop Overs

A brief stopover or a short stay in Panama will surprise all its visitors! Within 30 minutes from the international airport you could be relaxing in a boutique hotel in the center of the colonial Casco Antiguo or a top-notch luxurious hotel in the Banking District, close to internationally known restaurants and Jazz Bars. Visit museums, parks, and historical areas all within the Panama City limits and just slightly beyond these limits adventure options are endless. Access national parks known for hiking, birding, biking, kayaking and cultural encounters or just have a day relaxing on the Pacific Coastline or a surfing adventure. Take a train to an area once owned by pirates or transit the engineering masterpiece, the Panama Canal!

EcoCircuitos can tastefully design short programs for our clients stay in Panama City that goes beyond the typical City Tour and Panama Canal visit by combining areas of interest and outdoor adventures.  The following are some our current tour options:

  • Rainforest and Ruins – Metropolitan Park, Old Panama and Casco Antiguo
  • Gastronomy Tour – Casco Antiguo, coffee tasting, chocolate production, ceviche, rum and beer tasting.
  • Inner City Tour – Casco Antiguo tour with ex-gang members that will tell you about the history of Casco.
  • Biking tours the rainforest and the City
  • Full Day City Tour (traditional) – Casco Antiguo, Old Panama and Miraflores
  • Half Day City Tour (traditional) – Casco Antiguo and Old Panama

The follow options can be used to tailor a city tour that fits your client’s wishes

  • Old Panama/Panama Vieja – Panama City’s first city
  • Cinta Costera – walking and biking area along the Bay of Panama that leads to Casco Antiguo
  • Fish Market – have a ceviche and people watch
  • Casco Antiguo – Panama City’s second city, colonial style. Home to churches and historical buildings, distinct architecture, shops, restaurants, hotels etc.
  • Amador Causeway – Stroll or bike along the Panama Canal, this causeway connects three islands Naos, Perico and Flamanco. You will find marinas, duty free shops, restaurants and Punta Culebra where Smithsonian has a small nature center and the Biodiversity Museum
  • Smithsonian Nature Center – open air marine center
  • Museums (see the list below)
  • Parks (see the list below)
  • Ancon Hill – Panoramic views of Panama City and the Canal
  • Miraflores Locks – Panama Canal
  • Panama Canal Forts

Parks

National Parks

Open: Morning to dusk

Metropolitan Natural Park

Location:

Open: Monday – Sunday 6:30am- 4:30pm

Rainforest Discovery Center

Location: Soberania National Park

Open: 6am-4pm

Museums

Biodiversity Museum

Location: Amador Causeway

Open: Tuesday – Friday 10am-4pm, Saturday-Sunday 10am-5pm

Contemporary Art Museum

Location: Ancon Hill

Open: Tuesday – Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 10am-4pm

Miraflores Locks

Location: Clayton Area

Open: Monday – Sunday 9am-5pm

Old Panama/ Panama Vieja

Location: Parque Lefevre, southeast of Panama City

Open: Tuesday – Sunday, 8:30am-4:30 am

Panama Canal Interoceanic Museum

Location: Casco Antiguo

Open: Tuesday – Sunday

Explore Panama with us!

EcoRevolution: Tourism and Conservation

It is almost impossible to completely remove our “footprint” in a expedition adventure, but we struggle to organize our trips and expeditions in a way that minimizes our impact and encourage our clients to do it as well.

Every adventure we create presents opportunities to educate our staff and clients.  By following the below classic responsible-hiking guidelines we are doing our part:

Trails and walking paths Stay on designated trails and walking paths. Cutting corners anywhere causes erosion and can damage ancient artifacts or historical locations. It is never acceptable to deface natural or human-made objects visited on a EcoCircuitos trip adventure.

Reduction and disposal of waste When possible minimize packaging and avoid using wasteful consumable goods. Our guides ensure that all trash is deposited in appropriate receptacles, even if prevailing norms are less strict. Garbage and organic waste is not to be buried or scattered under any conditions. Seek out recycling receptacles for paper, cans, bottles, foil, and plastic. Set an example and leave places cleaner than you found them, but be mindful of conveying a judgmental attitude towards local environmental sensibilities.

Bathing and washing When dedicated facilities are unavailable, these activities should be undertaken with buckets or wash basins well away from lakes, streams, and the ocean. Keep soap and detergent out of all water. Avoid wasting water and be aware that westerners’ water usage habits may be viewed as excessive in the local context.

Sanitation Use existing restrooms or latrine facilities. When there are none, walk at least 100 yards from trail, road, or body of water and dig a shallow hole (4 to 6 inches deep). Bury the waste. Do not leave toilet paper uncovered and, if safe, burn it before covering the site.

Fires In most countries we visit, forests are a precious and endangered resource. Therefore, the old-fashioned campfire or roaring fireplace is a conspicuous indulgence. Use kerosene as a fuel instead of wood.

Endangered species It should without saying that guests should not collect or purchase any items made from endangered plant or animal species. Importing products derived from endangered species into the United States is not only illegal, but it provides financial incentives for pillaging critical natural resources.

Plastic Plastic waste deserves special attention from conscientious travelers visiting developing countries. Conveniences in demand by western tourists are often delivered in some form of plastic: beverages, packaged foods, toiletries, and souvenirs. Unfortunately, poor countries face an expansion of non-biodegradable garbage on an unprecedented scale and most of them lack adequate processing infrastructure. Plastic wastes cannot be easily re-used or reprocessed and have numerous associated health risks.  The Trip Leader should seek out every opportunity to help EcoCircuitos guests avoid consumption of products packaged in plastic. In particular, water bottled in glass or canteens (which can more easily be reused or recycled) is always preferred over water in plastic bottles, even at additional cost.

 

What to do in El Valle de Antón

At only 120 Km from Panama City and very close from the Pacific beaches in Cocle province is located the quaint town of el Valle.   This beautiful town is nestled in the caldera -crater- of the second largest inhabited volcano in the world.  This crater   with a radius of 6 km was formed about 1.1-1.3 million years ago. Today the crater forms the ground for the small town El Valle de Anton with its 6200 inhabitants.

El Valle, lying 600 m above sea level, owns an all-season mild springtime climate. Year-round average high temperature is 28° C, and the average nighttime minimum is 20° C, with little variation between summer and rainy season. The dry season starts in the middle of December and lasts until the the beginning of May.  During the rainy season the town turns greener and nature is at is best.  This time is ideal for hiking and longer treks.

WHAT TO DO IN EL VALLE

Local Artisan and Vegetable Market

On Sundays is full of people.  Here you can buy tropical fruits, plants, flowers and beautiful orchids.   Also you different artisans show their local art and handicrafts. Including: ceramics, bateas (wooden trays), woven baskets, hats, carved and painted totumas (cups made from squash) and trinkets made from acorn.

Bird Watching – El Valle is one of the best places in Panama for birders. More than 339 birds species has been registered.

Butterfly Haven (El Mariposario) – Experience the wonder and tranquility of being immersed in hundreds of living, jewel colored butterflies in a tropical rain forest setting. Hours: Everyday from 9 am to 3:30 pm, closed on Wednesday. Closed October and November

Zip Lining or Canopy Adventure – The Canopy Tour and the “Chorro El Macho” waterfall share the same entrance. Here, from platforms 100 feet in the air, you are given a spectacular insight and view of the cloud forrest´s fauna and flora.
On this tour you soar above the waterfall twice. The tour lasts aprox. one and a half hours and costs around 55 US$ per person. More information can be found here.

Chorro El Macho Waterfall – This waterfall is the largest in the región with a drop of 70m. It is just a 30 minutes walk from the towncenter in the direction of La Mesa.  Since the beginning of 2009 it is not posible anymore to see it close-by or take a bath in the natural pool. Open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm

Chorro Las Mosas Waterfalls, along Rio Anton – To reach these rapids it is a1/2 hour walk. From here follow the right side of the river for 30 minutes to reach a natural swimming pool. Here the local youth venture very dangerous jumps into the pond. In the Green Season you hardly can see the path to the pool. It is more or less a climbing at the slippy rockface to reach it. There is danger to slip, fall on the rocks hidden under the water or end up in one of the caves below.
Hiking – A path behind the Hotel Campestre will lead you to the Cloud Forest Reserve of the Cerro Gaital Natural Monument. Here the cloud forrest offers its unique flora and fauna. Serious walkers and birdwatchers will be pleased.
To scale the peak of Cerro Gaital there is another entrance after the village of La Mesa (which is also a great place for bird watching). The village can be reached by car or local buses.
There are two tours from La Mesa: For the large one to the top you should ask the locals for advice, start early in the morning and bring some climbing experiences with you. Up and down it will take about 5-6 hours.
The Sleeping Indian or La India Dormida is a hill chain with the silhouette of a sleeping Indian woman in the west of El Valle. The name has it´s origin in a local legend.
Another interesting tour is to Rio Indio, one hour away from El Valle (by car) in the cloud forrest. You can reach the place with the public pickups that leave in the center of the town a few times a day.

Biking – The valley offers excellent roads with great scenic views and little traffic. Bikes can be rented in many hotels.

Horse Back Riding – Another way to discover the valley is by horse. The spot were you can rent them is near the Hotel Campestre. The fee is $5.00 per hour. A guide can be engaged on request

Orchids Center  (Aprovaca Orquídeas) – The nonprofit organisation APROVACA (Asociación de Productores de Orquídeas El Valle y Cabuya) deicates itself to the task of cultivating and conserving endangered local and regional orchids. At the moment 147 different kinds of orchids can be seen. Open every day from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm

Petroglyphs: La Piedra Pintada – This pre-Columbian pertroglyph (more a rock face) couldn´t be decoded yet. Some locals say it has been a map for traders, other say it is a map of caves connecting the mountain range.

Pozos termales (Hot Springs) – There are two cement pools under the jungle canopy. They are filled with hot mineral water (38 degree Centigrade), coming directly out of the volcanic ground from a depth of 1200 m. Another atraction here is the mineral clay you can use for a face mask or a full body cover. There is also a picknick area and a playground.
Open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm

Panama Destination: Chiriquí Highlands

The Chiriqui Highlands comprise the part of the Cordillera Central that defines the northern border of the province of Chiriquí.  It is a beautiful landscape of cloud forest, volcanic peaks, and coffee plantations and is home to most of Panama’s Ngöbe Indians.  In the province of Chiriquí, a few roads connect the highway to the highlands areas.  All these roads encompass one of the most beautiful scenic roads and landscapes of Panama.  Lowland areas give way to hills that have been clean for farming.  Ascending the mountains become sharper, their slopes more densely forested, and by noontime, they are enveloped in misty blue clouds.

La Amistad International Park

La Amistad is a binational park that stretches from Costa Rica into Panama, a small portion of which extends into the Chiriquí province. Here the land rises almost 5,000 feet, and warm air ascends the mountains where it meets with cooler air and condenses into persistent cloud cover. Cloudforest exhibit a unique ecosystem with an astonishing diversity of flora and fauna. Towering trees reach to the sun to form a canopy that creates a cool, shadowed, misty underworld on the forest floor. It is noisy with the sound of numerous ferns and epiphytes that crowd the lower and middle strata of the forest. Water drips from spongy mosses covering three trunks, from bromeliads that attach themselves to every cranny on the trees, and from flower petal perched high in the canopy of the forest. It is a magical world.

Boquete Mountain town

Tucked away on the eastern slopes of the Volcan Barú is small and charming mountain town of Boquete. Known to produce some of the best Coffee in Central America, Boquete is becoming a destination for those seeking great outdoor activities and good weather. Visitors bask in Boquete’s sunny and cool mountain climate and marvel at the beautiful landscape.

Boquete’s hills and slopes are primary covered in shade-grown coffee plantations.   Coffee is primary picked by the Ngöbe Indians during the months of October through February. Coffee picking season is a festive time when colorfully Indian families come from varios part of the Bocas del Toro and Chiriqui province to harvest the berries.

The highlands of Panama are the perfect place to practice different outdoor activities, such as hiking national parks, trekking adventures, birdwatching tours, river rafting, zip lining, downhill biking and more.  Contact us for more information on our extension tours to the highlands.  http://www.ecocircuitos.com

Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve

EcoCircuitos staff visited Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve, located in Los Pozos Volcan at 6 miles up a scenic 4WD road.  We enjoyed a two day hiking adventure and superb birdwatching, including spotting a male Quetzal and a Black and Crested Guan among other species. Mount Totumas Cloud Forest is a 400 acre reserve bordering the La Amistad National Park. Guests can enjoy 8 marked trails through the reserve with access into the adjacent national park, which is Central America’s largest protected mountain wilderness area.   Hot springs are also located nearby.   In the Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve there are keystone species present such as Resplendent Quetzals, Three Wattled Bellbirds, Baird’s Tapir, Mantled Howler Monkey, Black and Crested Guan, White-Faced Capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, mountain lions, ocelots and even Jaguars have been spotted in neighboring national park. The reserve is in a remote wilderness location with cabins and lodge that offers all the basic amenities thanks to a sustainable off the grid micro hydro power plant that taps the power of a nearby stream. For 2015 EcoCircuitos is offering a 4 day adventure at Mount Totumas Private Reserve – where you can experience the real beauty of the Cloud forest.  If you are an avid birder,  a hiker or just love wildlife observation and conservation, this is the adventure for you.   Contact us for more information:  www.ecocircuitos.com

Bird List Mount Totumas Cloud Forest:

Highland Tinamou

Black Guan
Crested Guan
Grey-headed Chacalaca

Spotted Wood Quail

Cattle Egret

Turkey Vulture

Black Vulture

Swallow-Tailed Kite
Plumbeous Kite
Ornate Hawk Eagle

Broad-winged Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk

Great Black Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk
Roadside Hawk
Yellow Headed Caracara

Collared Forest Falcon

American Kestrel
Bat Falcon

Spotted Sandpiper

Band-Tailed Pigeon
Ruddy Pigeon

Buff-Fronted Quail Dove

Chiriqui Quail Dove

White-Tipped Dove

Sulfur-winged Parakeet

Crimson-fronted Parakeet

Blue-Headed Parrot
Brown-hooded Parrot

Spectacled Owl
Mottled Owl

Bare-shanked Screech Owl

Common Pauraque

Dusky Nightjar

White-Collared Swift

Vauxs Swift

Scintillant Hummingbird
Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Volcano Hummingbird

Stripe-Tailed Hummingbird

Purple-Throated Mountain Gem

White-throated Mountain Gem

Green Hermit

Violet Sabrewing

Magnificent Hummingbird

Green Violet-Ear
Brown Violet-Ear

Green-Crowned Brilliant

Snowy Bellied Hummingbird
Magenta-throated Woodstar
Purple-crowned Fairy
Long-billed Starthroat
Snowcap
Resplendent Quetzal

Collared Trogon
Orange-bellied Trogon

Blue-Crowned Motmot

Blue-throated Toucanet
Fiery-billed Aracari
Prong-billed Barbet

Red-Headed Barbet

Acorn Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Red-Crowned Woodpecker
Smoky-brown Woodpecker
Golden-Olive Woodpecker
Olivaceous Piculet

Ruddy Tree Runner

Lineated Foilage-Gleaner

Spectacled Foilage-Gleaner

Spotted Barbtail
Red-Faced Spinetail

Spot-crowned Woodcreeper

Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Buffy Tuftedcheek
Streak-breasted Treehunter

Silvery-fronted Tapaculo

Mountain Elaenia

Yellow-Bellied Elaenia

Torrent Tyrannulet

Common Tody-Flycatcher

Rough-legged Tyranulet

White-Throated Spadebill

Tufted Flycatcher

Ochraceous Pewee

Western Wood-Pewee
Olive-sided Flycatcher

Dark Pewee

Yellow-bellied Flycatcherr
Black Phoebe
Yellowish Flycatcher

Bright-Rumped Atitla

Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Panama Flycatcher

Great Kiskadee

Social Flycatcher

Boat-billed Flycatcher

Golden-bellied Flycatcher

Streaked Flycatcher

Tropical Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird
Masked Tityra

White-Winged Becard
Barred Becard
Three-Wattled Bellbird
Yellow-winged Vireo

Yellow-Throated Vireo
Brown-capped Vireo

Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo

Rufous-Browed Peppershrike

Silvery-Throated Jay
Brown Jay

Blue and White Swallow
Barn Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow

Ochraceous Wren

House Wren

Grey-Breasted Woodwren
Southern Nightingale-Wren

American Dipper

Mountain Thrush
Clay-colored Thrush

Black-faced Solitaire

Orange-Billed Nightingale Thrush
Ruddy-capped Nightingale Thrush
Black-billed Nightingale Thrush

Slaty-backed Nightingale Thrush

Swainsons Thrush
Wood Thrush
White-throated Thrush

Black and Yellow Silky-Flycatcher

Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher

Black and White Warbler

Wilsons Warbler
Canada Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler
Magnolia Warbler

Collared Redstart

Slate-throated Redstart
Black cheeked Warbler

Buff-rumped Warbler
wrenthrush

Mourning Warbler

Flame Throated Warbler

Golden Winged Warbler

Three Striped Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Tennessee Warbler

Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush

Common Bush Tanager

Sooty Capped Bush Tanager

Silver-throated Tanager

Summer Tanager

Flame Colored Tanager
Cherrie’s Tanager

Blue Grey Tanager

White Winged Tanager

Bay Headed Tanager

Spangle Cheeked Tanager

Golden-Hooded Tanager

Scarlet-Thighed Dacnis
Red-legged Honeycreeper

Buff-throated Saltator

Streaked Saltator

Yellow-faced Grassquit
Blue-Black Grassquit

White-naped Brush Finch

Yellow-thighed Finch

Chestnut Capped Brush Finch

Large Footed Finch

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Slaty Flower-piercer

Baltimore Oriole
Eastern Meadowlark

Shiny Cowbird
Bronzed Cowbird

Great-Tailed Grackle

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Elegant Euphonia
Spot-crowned Euphonia
Yellow-throated Euphonia
Golden Browed Chlorophonia
Yellow-bellied Siskin

* Elevation range from 1500 to 2200ft (including Rio Colorado drainage in La Amistad National Park)

** Last updated May 6, 2014

Exploration on Isla Bastimentos

By Meret Schueschke

A short boat ride away from bustling Bocas Town with its multiple bars, restaurants and  souvenir shops, Bastimentos Island is a nearly untouched Caribbean retreat. With less than 1 500 inhabitants, and no access to cars on the island (there are no roads there) this is one of those places that do not seem to have changed much through the times.

A substantial part of the Island and the waters surrounding it form the Bastimentos National Marine Park, a marine nature reserve. Encompassing coral reefs and sandy beaches, as well as a sizable chunk of rainforest, the reserve provides shelter for a variety of wildlife. The animal the Island is most famous for is a species of poison dart frog: the tiny red amphibians with their black spots can be found only here, and are numerous enough to have given their name to one of the most popular beaches on the island: Red Frog Beach, which is located inside the National Park. Accessible by boat only, this beach is a wonderful sunbathing and surfing spot. It was from here that I set out on a little forest adventure: The trail to the town of Old Bank.

This trail, roughly three kilometers in length, runs along the northern coast of Bastimentos, and is, as I was about to discover, not exactly a walk in the park, but definitely worth doing.

I walked along the beach for a while, until a painted sign pointed me to a small path in the forest, and began my adventure. At first it was relatively easy going. The trail was narrow, but easy enough to find, and every step led me to a new discovery.

The forest was full of the sounds of birds and insects, lizards scuttled around in the undergrowth, and I could still hear the crashing of the waves on the nearby beach. Now and again, the path returned to sandy strips of beach, meandered through coconut tree groves or passed across rocky outcrops before another reliable little sign pointed me back into the forest.

After a while, I started to feel like a true explorer, discovering a completely foreign place, almost expecting pirates or the Spanish explorers of days long gone to pop out from underneath the trees. I kept stopping to look at the fascinating little things along the path: tiny red frogs, bits of broken coral, and my personal favorite: colorful hermit crabs inhabiting empty shells. Now and again I went to cool off my feet in the waves breaking on white sand (and got thoroughly soaked several times, but in the warm weather this was a welcome refreshment).

After a while, the trail started getting muddier, and harder to walk, but being all caught up in discovering this exotic forest, I only took serious notice of this when one of my sandals got stuck in a mud hole. Fortunately the next bit of beach where I could get cleaned up was not too far away, and from that point on I just went barefoot when the mud became too persistent.

And then, suddenly, I found myself on a long stretch of white sand beach again, a new sign informed me that I was almost at the end of the trail: I had arrived at Wizard Beach. Another twenty minutes through the forest brought me to the town of Old Bank. Brightly painted houses, children playing in the streets, fruit vendors selling coconuts down by the docks: This was the Caribbean as I had always imagined it. I realized then I had spent almost four hours in the forest, I was muddy, tired and hungry, but I had had the chance to experience an amazing place, and to discover yet another facet of the ever-changing beautiful country of Panama.

If you would like to visit Bastimentos Island f or stay at one of the fantastic lodges on the island of Bocas del Toro such as Eclypse de Mar with its cabins  built over the water, across the bay from Old Bank, La Loma Lodge in the Jungle, Tranquilo Bay on the Southern tip of the Island, or Al Natural near the indigenous settlement of Salt Cree you can contact our office for details and itineraries at Info@ecocircuitos.com or calling our Panama office at +507 3151488