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Panama Highlights of the Panama Canal

  • Highlights
Take this opportunity to discover the Panama Canal, a tribute to history and astonishing landmarks. Travel through Panama’s central mountain range, discover old Spanish forts and French canal remains, and indulge at Pearl Island – luxury island retreat. Fall in love with the Emberas and Guna peoples, and share in their culture in this diverse and brilliant land. Enjoy Panama Canal!

Customizable tour itinerary

This tour idea is fully customizable

This itinerary has been crafted by our Local Agency with one idea in mind: to inspire you. Every element can be adapted to your needs and your interests, from duration to accommodation and activities.

Day 1: Welcome To Panama

You have arrived...

Your journey on the natural bridge between the Americas starts at Tocumen International airport, located 20 km East of Panama City.

After a short drive on the Pan-American highway you will discover the impressive skyline of Panama’s capital before arriving at your hotel.

Night at hotel Tryp Panama Centro

Visited:
Tocumen, Panama City

Day 2: Panama City and Miraflores Locks

Culture and history...Located on the Pacific side of the Isthmus Panama’s capital is cosmopolitan and full of life, but behind its tall buildings lies a rich culture and a dramatic history: I was once a cornerstone of Spain’s colonial trade for 200 years it is also the gateway to the famous Panama Canal!Your visit starts with Panama la Vieja, first Spanish settlement, founded in 1519 by Spanish Governor Pedro Arias de Avila and destroyed in 1671 following the attack of the infamous pirate Henry Morgan. It was in fact the Spanish governor who set fire to the city so it wouldn’t fall intact in the hands of the privateers.Your travel through colonial times will continue at the ‘’Casco Viejo’’, at the other end of the city. This is where Panama City was rebuilt after the destruction of Panama Viejo. The Casco Antiguo's unique colonial atmosphere has the locals say that in Panama "you have one foot in Miami and one foot in Havana!"After lunch a short transfer through the modern part of the city will take you to Miraflores locks. Ships must pass those imposing water elevators to navigate in and out the Panama Canal and it is a fascinating and unforgettable show to watch the steel giants going through the locks!Night at hotel Tryp Panama Centro

Visited:
Panama City, Panama La Vieja, Casco Viejo, Miraflores

Day 3: Partial Transit in the Panama Canal

A day of highlights...

This excursion is without any doubts a world's highlight, and a must for anyone interested in experiencing this engineering marvel first hand!

A specialized guide on board will give you detailed information on every step of the lockage process. After passing under the beautiful "Bridge of the Americas" your ship will go through Miraflores locks and soon after, arrive to Pedro Miguel locks. Shortly after, you will pass into the Culebra Cut or Gaillard Cut. This is a spectacular part of your journey as the huge trench goes through the hills of Panama's central mountain ridge! This section of the canal is full of history, it was the most difficult part to construct and thousands of lives were lost here...

You shall see "contractor's hill" (so called because of the amount of small sub-contractors who worked there during the French period) and "gold hill" (where there was a brief and unsuccessful gold rush during the same period). It is quite common to see large crocodiles enjoying the sun on the sandbanks!

After the Culebra Cut your ship will meet with the mighty Gatun lake, which was until 1936 the biggest manmade lake of the world. Your final destination will be the town of Gamboa, Panama canal's maintenance and dredging port, where you will disembark. You will be back to Panama City after a 30 mn shuttle transfer.

Night at hotel Tryp Panama Centro

Visited:
Panama Canal, Panama City

Day 4: Railroad journey to the Caribbean Coast

Immensity of nature...

The Panama Railroad was the first railway ever to link an ocean to another. You will visit the Panama Canal Atlantic locks and the impressive San Lorenzo old Spanish fort, hidden in the jungle in front of the Caribbean Sea.

After an early morning transfer to Corozal train station you will take your seat in one of the comfortable cars of the Panama-Colon train. During the hour-long trip you will have time to admire the immense Gatun Lake and the lush rainforest of the Panama Canal surroundings while enjoying a good cup of coffee…

Once in Colon your driver will take you to the impressive Gatun Locks and cross the canal just behind the huge iron gates to reach the small road that will take us to San Lorenzo. This picturesque road goes through secondary vegetation, then dense rainforest. Howler monkeys are most commonly heard and seen, together with agoutis and coatimundis.

At the end of the road that you will eventually reach the majestic fort of San Lorenzo, proudly facing the Chagres River and the Caribbean Sea. An impressive scenery that hasn't changed much since Bradley and his pirates took the fort more than 300 years ago! You will have time to enjoy the breath-taking sight of the thick rainforest joining the Caribbean Sea and to visit the ruins before coming back to Gatun. Just before our arrival to the locks we will pass over a bridge that crosses what remains of the old French canal project.

After crossing the Canal again we will go to the recently opened Visitor Center of Aguas Claras; located above the brand new gigantic set of locks that allows the transit of the huge ''Neo Panamax'' ships. You will enjoy a great view from the high panoramic mirador.

Technical explanations will be given by a Panama Canal specialist.

Your transport will take you back to Panama City by the end of the afternoon.


NB: Sometimes heavy traffic on the Canal makes it difficult to go to fort San Lorenzo. If it is the case we will visit the colonial town of Portobelo instead.

Portobelo is a little village facing the Caribbean Sea located about 45 minutes east of Colon. The name ''Portobelo'' was given to the beautiful bay where the village is nested by Christopher Columbus who sailed to this area during his fourth trip. Three old Spanish forts still stand against pirates, old guns proudly pointing at the entrance of the bay....

You will visit fort Santiago and fort San Geronimo. You will also make a stop at the church of the Black Christ, the centre of an important pilgrimage each year.

Today Portobelo has more than 3.000 inhabitants, mainly descendants of the slaves brought by the Spaniards.

Your transport will take you back to Panama City by the end of the afternoon.

Night at hotel Tryp Panama Centro

Visited:
San Lorenzo District, Panama City

Day 5: Pearl Island's Amazing History

Your private beaches...

Pearl Islands lie less than 30 miles south of Panama City. During Spanish colonial period pearls were harvested and stored on ‘’Contadora’’ before they were send to Panama City and eventually to Spain. Today the archipelago is famous for its beautiful beaches and rich marine life.


After breakfast transfer to Albrook National Airport to take the plane for San Jose Island. As it is a very short flight (about 20 minutes) and the plane will be flying low over the islands of the archipelago.

After the arrival at San Jose a vehicle will transfer you to hotel Hacienda del Mar through the island’s thick jungle.

San Jose belongs to a wealthy Panamanian family and is uninhabited apart from the hotel personal and guests… and Hacienda del Mar must be the only hotel in the world with 50 private beaches!  

Several couples of blue and yellow macaws nest on the island.

From June to October hundreds of humpback whales come from Antarctica and gather in the warmer equatorial waters for mating and breeding, and they are particularly abundant around the archipelago. It is a great opportunity to spot these majestic giants in their natural environment.


Two nights at Hotel Hacienda del Mar.

Visited:
Perlas Islands, San José

Day 6: Spot the Whales in San Jose

Wonderful wildlife...
Spend another day on the Pearl Islands.

Visited:
Perlas Islands, San José

Day 7: Breathtaking View of Panama City

Early morning delight...

Return by plane to Panama City in the morning. Before landing at Albrook Airport you will enjoy a breath-taking view on Panama City and the Canal’s entrance.

Upon arrival private transfer to your hotel.

Night at hotel Tryp Panama Centro

Visited:
Panama City

Day 8: Close Encounters with the Emberas

Journey through time...

The Embera belong to the Carib culture. Their territory of origin is the Choco region in Colombia (they are sometimes called "Chocoes" together with their cousins the Wounaan) and the province of Darien in Panama.

This amazing journey through time will start with a road transfer to Lake Alahuela, North of Panama City. The rest of the trip to the Embera village will be done in local dugout canoes, first on the lake then on a small river. Navigation time depends on the lake water level, which is much lower during the dry season (January to May), making the boat trip longer at that period of the year.

The Emberas, proudly adorned with their best body paintings will show you some of the elements of their graceful culture, the beauty of their dances and their remarkable handicrafts. They will also invite you to share their traditional dish of fish with plantain prepared in a banana leaf.

Optional hikes into the nearby rainforest will help you discover some of the plants they use for their traditional medicine.

In the afternoon you will once again enjoy the navigation on the canoes to the embarkation port, where your vehicle will be waiting for you to take you back to Panama City.

Night at hotel Tryp Panama Centro

Visited:
Lake Alahuela, Emberas Village, Panama City

Day 9: Volcano and Cloud Forest

Up in the sky...

Today’s excursion will take you to the fascinating world of the cloud forest less than 2 hours from Panama City, located on the slopes of a dormant volcano.

‘’El Valle’’, as its name suggests, is a large volcanic valley just 130 km from the capital and, thanks to its cool climate, a favourite destination for wealthy Panamanians. They have built a heaven of properties and gardens in the middle of the huge crater, one of America’s largest (more than 5 km wide!).

You will hike along a beautiful rainforest trail to the top of ‘’Cerro Gaital’’ through a fascinating world of giant ferns covered with moss and epiphytes. The trail ends at a mirador where you will enjoy a great panoramic view of the crater.

Back to the village you will make a stop to admire the famous "Piedra Pintada", an ancient petroglyph representing a map of the region.

After lunch you will have some time to visit the little local market before coming back to Panama City. Especially on Sundays, many local families come from the entire valley to sell their goods in the colourful market: fruits, vegetables, orchids and handicrafts.

Night at hotel Tryp Panama Centro

Visited:
El Valle Volcano, Panama City

Day 10: San Blas Islands

Beautiful panoramas...

Take a very early transfer in the morning (but it’s worth it!) to Albrook national airport to take the plane for Playon Chico. The flight takes about 45 minutes and you will fly over thick rainforest to discover the gorgeous panorama of the green and white islands surrounded by deep blue coral reefs.

Upon arrival at Playon Chico you will be welcomed by your Guna hosts and a short boat transfer will take you to Yandup Island.

San Blas has no equivalent in the Caribbean. Of course you will be amazed by the unbelievable scenery of lagoons, white sand beaches and transparent waters facing the pristine rainforest of Panama’s coastline.

But it is much more than that, it is the sacred land of the Guna, a brave indian nation who obtained its autonomy from the Panamanian government in the early 30s. The Guna chiefs or ‘’Sahilas’’ rule the land and Guna traditional laws are applied, The Panamanian government provides schools and health centres.

The few little tourist lodges are all own by Gunas and all the workers belong to the tribe.

During your stay the lodge will organize two daily excursions with a local Guna guide: you will of course visit a Guna village,it is an fascinating jump through time, you will discover other islands to enjoy the beautiful beaches and snorkel over the coral reefs, you will also visit a Guna cemetery.

On request jungle hikes on mainland may also be organized.


Two nights at Yandup lodge.

Visited:
San Blas, Playón Chico, Yandup Island

Day 11: Explore a Guna Village

Meet the Guna folk...
Spend another day at Yandup Lodge. 

Visited:
San Blas, Playón Chico, Yandup Island

Day 12: Soberania National Park

Your last full day...

After a light breakfast transfer by boat to Playon Chico. Planes coming from Panama City usually arrive around 7 am so you can expect to be back to the capital around 8 h 15.

Your specialist nature guide will be waiting for you at the airport to take you to Soberania National Park.

Created in 1980 Soberania National Park protects an area of 220 km2 of secondary rainforest on the sides of the Panama Canal, less than 45 minutes from the centre of Panama City.

After a 30 minutes drive you will reach the little town of Gamboa, the Canal’s base for dredging and maintenance and start your exploration.

The first stop will be at the Rainforest Discovery Centre where you will enjoy a spectacular view of the forest from a 100 ft. high observation tower. There are also hummingbird feeders where you will admire and photograph up to 10 different species of the tiny acrobats!

Then comes a hike on Pipeline road. During World War II a pipe was built to transfer oil from the Pacific to the Caribbean and was never used. Today the road built for this purpose, located inside Soberania National Park, is one of the most famous birding spots in America, with an astonishing list of 525 species! Monkeys such as white-faced capuchins, howler monkeys and the diminutive Geoffroys' tamarins are very frequent sights. The area is home to other mammals like three-toed sloths, agoutis or anteaters and countless reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Return to Panama City for lunch.

Night at hotel Tryp Panama Centro

Visited:
Soberanía National Park, Panama City

Day 13: Departure

Thank you for visiting...

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and it is time for you to go back home with your eyes full of Panama’s natural beauty.

Your trip will finish where it started at Tocumen international airport where you will be transferred by one of our drivers.

Visited:
Tocumen

Tocumen Panama City Panama La Vieja Casco Viejo Miraflores Panama Canal San Lorenzo District Perlas Islands San José Lake Alahuela Emberas Village El Valle Volcano San Blas Playón Chico Yandup Island Soberanía National Park

Price details

This tour idea is fully customizable

The price reflects this specific itinerary and is designed to give you an idea of the budget required for this destination. Throughout the trip-planning process, our local agency will tailor your itinerary around your budget.

Approx. $2,500 / 13 days
Excluding international flights
Price per person, based on double occupancyLow Season (December 1st - April 30th)High Season (May 1st - November 31st)
$2,570$2,650

Included in price:

  • All transfers as described
  • All tours as described with English-speaking guide ( English-speaking commentator on the boat during the Canal Transit )
  • 8 nights at hotel Tryp, Panama City
  • 2 nights at hotel Hacienda del Mar,Pearl Islands
  • 2 nights at Yandup Lodge, San Blas
  • 2 excursions / day in San Blas (local guide)
  • Meals as described before days descriptions :   B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner
  • Flight Panama City-Isla San Jose RT  (14 kg PP)
  • Flight Panama City-Playon Chico RT (14 kg PP)

Not included in price:

  • International and national flights
  • English-speaking guide in San Blas
  • Guide in Las Perlas
  • Guide during airport transfers
  • Optional tours and activities
  • Tips
Book your flights to Panama
International flights are not included in this trip. Thanks to our partnership with Option Way, you can take advantage of booking your flights directly with your local agent.
Check out the many benefits:
  • Competitive rates
  • All-inclusive prices with no hidden fees
  • Your local agent Philippe, in Panama, will inform you of any changes to your flights
For more information or to book your flights directly, head to our partner site.

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