10 of the best things to do in Panama

By Maelle Denoule

For the past 10 years, tourism in Panama has grown considerably, attracting more and more visitors around the world for its canal, but also for its marvelous environment. Located in Central America between Costa Rica and Colombia, and bordered on the north by the Caribbean Sea and on the south by the Pacific Ocean, the isthmus is a land bridge for an important number of mammals and bird’s species.

Nevertheless, the number of travelers to Panama is still relatively small compared with Costa Rica. But contrary to his neighbor, Panama still have plenty of treasures under-explored to discover. In fact, due to its unique geographical position, Panama provides paradisiac places, a variety of landscapes and an incredible biodiversity which offer travelers, an access to incredible adventures and sustainable experiences.

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Home of an amazing ecosystem, Panama gives you the opportunity to discover a rich culture and unique nature.   Our 10 best things to do in Panama:

Cultural exchange with local communities

With 7 indigenous communities around the country, Panama offers you the unique opportunity to share a cultural experience.  Their traditional lifestyle and their close relationship with nature will impact your life forever.  This authentic experience that everyone should live once in Panama, contributes at the same time to the conservation of these communities,  their culture and empower their economies.

Chocolate Tours

See the pygmy three-toed sloth in Escudo Island 

Another reason why Panama should be your next destination is to see the pygmy three-toed sloth, also known as the monk sloth or dwarf sloth. This sloth can only be found in only one place in the world: National park Escudo Island, a small island off the coast of Panama, situated in the province of Veraguas.

With no official permanent residents on the island, you can have the incredible chance to see lots of them, but it remains very important to not feed them. Indeed, wild animals who depend on people for food can cause injuries or spread disease, but also increase the chances of fighting and injury among animals.

Snorkel or scuba dive in Gulf of Chiriqui

Humpback whales, sea turtles, dolphins, manta rays, orcas, whale sharks, tiger sharks, and many more marine mammals and animals can be seen while swimming there. With around 760 species of fish, the Gulf of Chiriqui is becoming one of the favorite places for scuba divers and snorkelers in Panama.

Panama Canal Transit

Impossible to miss one of the world’s greatest human-made marvels, the Panama Canal. To learn about this fantastic engineering, nothing better than experience a transit. During the transit aboard the Pacific Queen, enjoy the splendorous Bay of Panama and pass by the Miraflores Locks where you can watch the locks operate. Discover at the same time its history while following the most enormous cargos and cruise ships of the world!

Volcan Baru’s summit

Located in the highlands of Chiriquí, the impressive Baru Volcano’s worth the detour. Down from its 3 474 meters, this dormant volcano is the highest mountain of Panama and one of the only places in the world from where you can see at the same time, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Apart from the breath-taking panoramic views at the top of the volcano, this one is also surrounded by lush jungle, offering the chance, during your summit, to see different birds of Central America, and if you’re lucky, the resplendent quetzal. Adrenaline guaranteed for this extremely challenging trail.

Visit a coffee plantation in Boquete

Did you know the country is world famous for the Geisha Coffee? Actually, one of the rarest and most expensive coffees in the world comes from Panama. So, if you love coffee, Boquete must be one of the stops of your itinerary. Thanks to the volcanic ash situated in the soil of the region, local farms have found the best place for the coffee to grow up and make it so special. Visit one of the coffee plantations and learn about its process. There, you will maybe have the privilege to taste one of the most exquisite coffee in the world!

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Surf in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean

Although, if the Caribbean Sea or Pacific Coast is famed for its relaxing long white sand beaches with palm trees, it’s also the best place to surf and have fun with the waves. Unlike Costa Rica, Panama is still virgin and only a few people know about Panama’s surfing potential. El Palmar, Santa Catalina, Playa Vaneo, and many other beaches can provide you the best surfing spots of Central America. Surfers? You will love it!

Try on traditional Panamanian clothing: the Pollera

Panama is also the land of a rich culture. To not lose a crumb of Panama, we invite you to discover in Pedasi, the traditional Panamanian clothing: the Pollera. National dress of Panama worn by women for festivals or celebrations is also one of the most admired national costumes of the Americas. Handmade and very colorful, this traditional dress with Spanish colonial influences is the pride of all Panamanians. Men are well, have their own traditional costume they wear during festivities. Why not try it on to make you feel, for a moment, like a real Panamanian?!

Panamanian Pollera
a girl with Pollera in Pedasi, Azuero Peninsula, Panama

Whale watching while migration season

Have you always dreamt to see whales? It is possible in Panama! In fact, humpback whales come to Panama every year, between July and October, to migrate and give birth, making the isthmus, one of the few places in the planet where you can see these majestic mammals. Many species of whales and dolphins can be found in Panama’s water during that period of the year, especially in the archipelago of the Pearl Islands, on the Pacific Coast.

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Taste 5 typical dishes of Panama

Even if Panama is not known internationally for its cuisine, the food is however very tasty and diverse. Made with local and fresh ingredients, Panamanian cuisine is a mix of traditional cooking methods from diverse regions of Panama. Consequently, it’s very common to find dishes made from coconut, seafood, root vegetables, and tropical fruits along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, but also root vegetables, starchy fruits, livestock, chicken, beans and rice, eaten everywhere in the country. Enough ingredients to make a variety of delicious typical Panamanian dishes.  You can’t miss the Panamanian Ceviche!

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My first wildlife experience in Soberania National Park with Ecocircuitos

By Maelle Denoual

True nature lover, I was chosen to work as an intern for 5 months in Ecocircuitos’ tour operator and it’s the first time for me in Panama. I’m French and I’ve never been further than Morocco. You can imagine how excited I was to know that I will discover a new land and such amazing country like Panama. And here I am!

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A week ago, during my first week of internship, I had the opportunity to experience, with two other clients, the hiking tour at Soberania National Park in the company of the very competent and smiley naturalist guides of the company named Fabio.

It was once again my first exploration of a rainforest and it was amazing! This tour offers an incredible opportunity for wildlife observation and birdwatching. In fact, while we were walking just at the park’s entrance, it didn’t take long before we could hear birdsongs and feel the absolutely unique atmosphere of wilderness. I felt in another world for 2 hours. Beautiful and colorful birds but also huge butterflies were flying from time to time above our head. Every time we saw an animal or a bird, Fabio was there to tell us what kind of specimen it was and inform us more about it. We have even seen a baby anteater on the side of the trail. Actually, we were very lucky because it’s not common to see one so close. I have learned so much during this hiking tour and it wasn’t exhausting but mostly enjoyable.

After the exploration of the lush forest, Fabio explained that our adventure is not finished.  We were heading to a jungle-adventure expedition across the Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal. Once aboard, we started the tour searching for more wildlife around the rainforest-covered islands. And we were lucky again because we could see monkeys having a nap on trees, many water birds, 2 big green iguanas, a sloth and a crocodile! Also, it was so impressive to see giant cargos on the canal transiting the waterway few meters away from us…I couldn’t believe that I was on the renowned Panama Canal that everybody talks about. I was thrilled!

That day was a very enriching experience thanks to these 2 different ways to discover nature and I felt very amazed by the considerable diversity of fauna and flora which offers Panama. I strongly recommend EcoCircuitos’ tours to everyone who loves ecotourism and want to visit Panama.

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EcoCircuitos practices responsible tourism and follow the standards of leave no trace and Travelers Against Plastics.  We encourage all our clients to bring their own bottle and change the way you travel.  For more information on this tours and others, please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com

EcoCircuitos merges with Panama Marine Adventures!

Panama City, February 16, 2018 – EcoCircuitos Panama has been a leading tour operator in Panama since 1999 and today we are excited to announce our merger with Panama Marine Adventures, Inc., a leader in the creation and development of high-quality experiential products for Panama’s tourism industry since 2003.  The merger is effective today, and the companies will combine business operations in the coming year.

Annie Young will continue as Executive Director in EcoCircuitos, with Jose Rodolfo de la Guardia joining the board of Director of EcoCircuitos. The companies have been providing high-quality services in Panama, Central America and will continue to operate as usual.

EcoCircuitos Panama, with over 18 years of experience, has been under the sole direction of Annie Young and now with this merge the company “will drive technology, new tour products, and innovation, addressing the needs of event planners, marketers, and international wholesalers”.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be partners of Panama Marine Adventures. Their high-quality service combined with our knowledge and talented team will create a leading tour operator and DMC committed to our clients and responsible travel in Panama”. Annie Young, EcoCircuitos.

“We are delighted to join forces with EcoCircuitos Panama team, whose reputation, talent and experience will expand our capabilities to develop new products. The merger will also enhance our expertise in the design and implementation of events, activities, transportation and program logistics”. Joselo de la Guardia, Panama Marine Adventures.

Discover Panama better than before with us! For details and more information contact our us at:

Annie Young J. – annie@ecocircuitos.com
Jose Rodolfo de la Guardia – jrdelaguardia@pmatours.net

Green Travel Trends

I just read an article from Anne Lim – Travel Trends In The Twenty-Tens: What Marketers Need To Know and I feel excited  to confirm that the trends are going towards responsible tourism and that companies like EcoCircuitos that have been working for years to support the local knowledge, empowering local communities and offering transformative experiences are on the right track of the industry today.

I feel connected with the philosophy of today’s travelers that buy less and experience more is the way to travel.    Some of the important information she shares with us in his very interesting article is that people are spending more on travels but in a conscious way and definitely, companies in the industry need to change strategy and adapt to the new green travelers.   Definitely, Sustainable Tourism is finally sexy!!

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Below some of the figures Anne Lim shares in her article:

Sustainable Tourism is the way today

More than 70% of travelers plan to make eco-friendly choices in the next vacation, in contrast to what was only 45% one year ago. In addition to this, 58% of travelers said their choices are affected by whether or not the hotel and tour company gives back to the local community, and 66% of global consumers prefer to buy products and services from brands that give back to society [TripAdvisor]. Why? It seems that in this age of political turmoil and ecological crisis, individuals support only the companies whose values are aligned with those of their own, especially when it comes to luxury purchases and consumerism. It’s in these particular cases that marketers must take social responsibility into account. By advertising the charitable aspects of the brands, you’re telling people why they should want your product, as well as why they should also feel good about buying it over the competition – a strategy that will be especially effective with millennial travelers. 

The “Bucket List Effect” (Panama should be on that list)

75% of travelers say they’d like to visit travel destinations that none of their friends have visited before. Additionally, 80% of travelers expressed interest in escaping the usual tourist traps on their next holiday [Experiential Travel Survey]. It turns out that people enjoy having unique experiences they can claim as their own, as opposed to traveling to the same popularly visited destinations that will provide them with the same basic pictures that everybody else has in their photo-albums or social platforms. This means that people are always on the prowl for a trendy destination – giving marketers an opportunity to showcase “under-rated” locales which enable their ads to stand out more and drive curiosity; a powerful duo that can exponentially increase sales.

My Internship At EcoCircuitos

By Rafaelle Capamolla

Time flies, and so did my time here in Panama. I remember like it was yesterday, when I arrived the 16th of January 2017 to this beautiful country. The 6th of February then started a new chapter in my life: my internship with EcoCircuitos for 6 months.

 

 

Of course, at the beginning it’s a little challenge: You come to a new country, with a different culture, and when you arrive you don’t know anybody. It’s not like when you travel and you just stay for a couple of days in the same place. You live the same way, take the same bus, and eat the same thing as the local people, for a longer period of time. And this is in fact an adventure, and you have to be willing to change your habits and adapt to new cultures. I didn’t have issues with that, and as Panamanians are very friendly and helpful, it was even easier.

My experience with EcoCircuitos was very enriching and I enjoyed very much working for this great company. I could develop new skills and learn a lot about the tourism industry and the work of a local Tour Operator. EcoCircuitos also gave me the chance to bring my own ideas, to show creativity and to manage Marketing campaigns on my own. In a small Company you get the chance to see and work directly with all the departments Accounting, Reservations, Sales and Operations, from which I learned a lot for my future career too. The fact that EcoCircuitos gave me the chance to explore this beautiful country made my internship even more exciting.

As I had the chance to travel with EcoCircuitos, I can really say that you don’t simply offer vacations, but experiences, memories that will stay in your heart forever, encounters with local and indigenous people that made me feel at home, sharing the living and culinary traditions. The whole team and the local guides put so much passion and authenticity in the work their doing, that I really feel like I am taking a piece of Panama with me to Switzerland.

Thank you very much EcoCircuitos for this opportunity and the great experience, you will definitely stay in my heart!

 

 

 

An Interview with Smithsonian Entomologist: Yves Basset

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama is dedicated to understanding and studying the unique biodiversity of the tropics. STRI’s history  began with the construction of the Panama Canal and the  interest in surveying the flora and fauna of the area for the purpose of controlling insect diseases such as yellow fever and malaria. After the Canal began operating, entomologists and biologists involved in these studies establish a permanent biological reserve on Barro Colorado Island which is located in the Gatun Lake.  Today, STRI is one of the leading research institutions in the world. Every year over 900 scientist from academic and research institutions  from all over the world visit the STRI facilities to conduct scientific research and studies.

Today we had the opportunity to interview one of the prominent entomologist in the world who has his base in Panama City.  Doctor Yves Basset talk to EcoCircuitos Panama team about his work with the tropical ecosystems and the importance of tourism and conservation to protect the tropical environment.  Learn more about his work on this very interesting EcoVideo.

EcoCircuitos promotes conservation and education through the tourism industry.   For more information about our academic adventures, contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com

Adventure, Conservation and Education

EcoCircuitos is specialized in educational travel experiences. Our guides are experts in their field and provide in-depth insights and understandings from culture and history to biodiversity. These understandings foster authentic travel experiences as well as responsible encounters between travelers and nature, biodiversity and local people. Contact us and experience the real #Panama.