Overview

Secret Gems of Panama: On this 12 night journey around Panama, you’ll experience Panama’s main highlights along with its unique treasures while staying in tucked-away retreats and hidden gem hotels. Your first stop is to Panama City’s trending Casco Viejo neighborhood, where you’ll enjoy easy access to gourmet restaurants, small cafes, rooftop bars, and artisan shops while being slightly removed from all the commotion for a peaceful night’s sleep. Spend your days in Panama City exploring the Panama Canal zone, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and tropical rainforest full of up close wildlife encounters. Exchange the twinkling metropolis lights for Pacific sunsets when you spend three nights on the beach in the Azuero Peninsula on Playa Cambutal. Enjoy endless opportunities to play in the ocean, from surfing and daily yoga sessions at the resort to snorkeling off white sandy islands surrounded by dolphins, sea turtles, and whales (seasonal). Cool off from the heat of the beach when you spend three nights in the mountains just outside of Boquete, a charming mountain town known for its beautiful landscape, outdoor activities, and the world’s best coffee. You’ll stay in a cozy retreat up in the mountains with panoramic views and personalized service, including a daily breakfast served within your suite. Opportunities to wander and adventure are plentiful in Boquete, including cloud forest hikes to refreshing waterfall pools and 4×4 off-roading trips up a volcano summit to watch the sunrise. Your final stop is to the turquoise Caribbean waters that surround Isla Bastimentos within the Bocas del Toro province. Allow Caribbean island time to consume you as you relax for three nights on white sandy shores surrounded by endless blue seas.

Destinations: Casco Viejo/Panama City, Playa Cambutal, Boquete, Isla Bastimentos/Bocas del Toro

Duration: 13 days

*Price Range: $$$

*Rates inclusive of full vacation experience – hotels, tours, domestic transfers, and tax (excluding international airfare).  Actual price based on length of travel, number of travelers/rooms, seasonal rates (high, low, peak), number of tour activities, and mode of domestic transportation.

$$$: At or under $1,200 per person.

$$$: $1,200 – $1,800 per person.

$$$: $1,800+ per person

  1. DAY 1
  2. Fly into Tocumen International Airport (PTY) where one of our local airport representatives will meet you as you exit your plane and guide you through an expedited immigration process.  They will show you to the VIP Lounge where you can enjoy snacks and drinks while they collect your luggage for you.  Once you are ready, the airport representative will guide you to your private transfer waiting outside the airport.  If you’ve arrived earlier in the day, enjoy a guided tour of Panama Viejo and/or Casco Viejo in route from the airport to your hotel.  Check into the 200-year-old Los Cuatro Tulipanes in Casco Viejo, located within a quieter sector of the trendy neighborhood.  Spend the rest of the day walking around Casco Viejo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to explore artisan crafts, small cafes, rooftop bars, and gourmet restaurants.

  3. DAY 2
  4. After breakfast you’ll cross the Panama Isthmus (from Pacific to Atlantic) until you reach Colon, where you’ll full day tour begins.  Your first stop is at Fort San Lorenzo, a Spanish fort used to protect the river entrance that leads to Panama City and later used as an entry port for gold diggers on their way to California during the Gold Rush.  After a historical tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and a stop for lunch, you’ll continue to Agua Clara Locks to see the Panama Canal expansion.  Watch large vessels traverse through these new locks, which are now able to accommodate ships carrying up to 14,000 containers!  Finally, you’ll hop aboard the Panama Canal Railroad to return to Panama City, following a similar route that the 49ers used in the 1800s.  After a full day exploring the canal from ocean-to-ocean, enjoy a delicious meal in one of many top-rated restaurants within Casco Viejo.

  5. DAY 3
  6. Choose between one of two full day tours – visiting an Embera village or a nature hike within Soberania National Park.  The Embera experience is a wonderful cultural activity to see how these indigenous people have lived for decades deep within the Darien jungle.  You’ll travel up the Chagres River through the Chagres National Park until you reach their village, where you’ll learn about the Embera traditional dance, music, singing, home construction, natural medicines, and much more.  Alternatively, for an activity closer to your hotel, hike along the Pipeline Road, which runs through 55,000 acres of tropical rainforest within Soberania National Park.  Keep a watchful eye out for over 500 species of birds and over 100 species of mammals.  Next, enjoy a leisurely boat ride from Gamboa on Gatun Lake with more up close wildlife viewing opportunities.

  7. DAY 4

  8. After breakfast, a private transfer will take you to Albrook Airport where you’ll fly from Panama City over to Chitré.  Your transfer will be waiting for you at the Chitré airport and will take you just 30-minutes from Chitré to Pesé, home to Panama’s best rum production – Ron Abuelo.  Start the tour with a ride through sugarcane fields out to Hacienda San Isidro, where you’ll tour the rum distillery to see the different steps needed to produce rum from sugarcane.  Next, visit the warehouse where the rum ages in oak barrels for 5, 7, 12, and 30 years.  Finally, enjoy a rum tasting followed by a traditional Panamanian lunch with open rum bar.  After your rum tour, continue south just under two hours to your beach destination, Playa Cambutal.  Check into Sansara Resort just in time to catch a spectacular sunset over the Pacific Ocean.  

  9. DAY 5
  10. Start your morning with a tropical breakfast smoothie and then hit the waves or the yoga deck!  Beginners can take private surf lessons while experienced surfers can simply rent a board for the day.  Daily morning yoga sessions overlooks the beach with cool ocean breezes while an onsite spa offers rejuvenating massage and facial treatments.  After working up an appetite in the waves, return to the open-air restaurant for a fresh bite to eat and a cold beverage.  Spend the rest of the afternoon lounging by the pool, kayaking, paddle boarding or simply stroll up and down the coastline in anticipation for another vibrant sunset.  Share travel adventures with fellow guests over happy hour cocktails and enjoy another delicious meal under a sky full of stars.  

  11. DAY 6
  12. Repeat another day of surf, yoga, and/or relaxation at Sansara Resort or enjoy an off-site activity.  During sea turtle season (November – January), wake up early to watch the turtle hatching and migration out to sea.  For a full day activity, we highly recommend a boat trip out to Isla Iguana, a wildlife refuge famous for its white sand beach, turquoise waters, and coral reef home to more than 300 fish (a great location for snorkeling/diving).  Keep a watchful eye out for dolphins and humpback whales (June – October) as you make your way to the island.  Enjoy a picnic lunch and drinks off of El Cirial beach, a calm beach perfect for swimming.  Hike a trail across the island to El Faro beach and look for iguanas and marine birds along the way.  Return to Sansara Resort in time for sunset and dinner.  In the evening, during turtle nesting season (June – October), take a guided tour to watch these majestic creatures lay eggs along the shores of Islas Cañas.

  13. DAY 7
  14. Today, take an early morning transfer (5am) from Playa Cambutal to Chitré for your domestic flight over to Western Panama.  You’ll fly from Chitré, to Panama City, and over to David where a transfer will be waiting to take you to Boquete (1 hour).  Boquete is a charming mountain town surrounded by cloud forest and known for some of the best coffee in the world. Arrive to Boquete in time for lunch in town at one of many local restaurants.  Then, head up the mountain to check into your suite at Manana Madera located on the hillside below Baru Volcano.  Enjoy a glass of wine in their ranchito overlooking sprawling mountain views.  Head back into Boquete this evening for a gourmet dinner at one of Boquete’s top restaurants, The Rock.  

  15. DAY 8
  16. After a full breakfast within your suite’s living area, head to The Lost Waterfalls for a moderate-to-challenging hike to a set of three waterfalls.  After working up an appetite on your hike and swim, enjoy lunch in town before making your way to the coffee fields to learn how coffee is harvested and roasted.  Sample different coffee roasts before heading back to Manana Madera for a leisurely late-afternoon in the ranchito.  Explore another local restaurant in Boquete for dinner this evening.

  17. DAY 9
  18. For adventure seekers, start the day early (at 4am) as you depart on an extreme 4×4 off road ride up the Baru Volcano to see the sunrise from the highest point in Panama.  It’s a bumpy ride with a rewarding panoramic view from 11,398 feet.  You’ll return back to Boquete by 10am for a hearty breakfast and nap.  If waking up at 3am while on vacation isn’t for you, then enjoy a later morning hike over hanging suspension bridges through the cloud forest canopy at Boquete Tree Trek.  Your guide will help point out the various flora and fauna, including the famed quetzal that can often be seen nesting along the trail.  Conclude your time at Boquete Tree Trek with a canopy zip-line that’ll have you flying from 12 different zip-line cables through the cloud forest treetops.  Enjoy your final dinner in Boquete at the historic, top-rated Panamonte restaurant.

  19. DAY 10
  20. Make sure to purchase some of Manana Madera’s award-winning coffee (a great souvenir to bring home) before embarking on the final leg of your Panama vacation.  After a full in-suite breakfast, enjoy a scenic 3.5 hour ride to Panama’s Caribbean Coast.  Feel free to stop along the transfer for photo opportunities, snacks/lunch, or to simply stretch your legs.  Once you’ve arrived to Almirante dock, you’ll take a shared boat ride over to Bocas del Toro’s main island, Isla Colon (boat ride 45-60 minutes).  Casa Cayuco will be waiting for you at Isla Colon for you next boat ride with them over to Isla Bastimentos (45-minute boat ride).  Once you’ve arrived to Casa Cayuco’s white sandy shores, reward your travel day by sipping on a cold beverage while swinging from a hammock in their overwater “living room” dock.  Your all-inclusive stay at Casa Cayuco includes fresh catch-of-the-day dishes served “family style” on a communal table to socialize with other guests.

  21. DAY 11
  22. Enjoy a full day in the turquoise Caribbean waters that surround Casa Cayuco!  Kayak, SUP board, and snorkel within the calm, blue waters or simply lounge along white sandy beaches with a cold beverage and good book in hand.  Enjoy delicious, fresh dining and snacks as part of your all-inclusive stay and share travel adventures with fellow guests.  

  23. DAY 12
  24. Repeat another day of Caribbean bliss at Casa Cayuco or sign-up for an off-island activity such as an organic chocolate farm tour at Green Acres Chocolate Farm.  On this guided chocolate journey, you’ll learn how cacao is transformed into delicious chocolate treats (samples included).  After your chocolate sampling, spend the afternoon exploring uninhabited islands with beautiful coral formation perfect for snorkeling.  Return to Casa Cayuco for dinner and spend the rest of the evening socializing with new friends under a sky full of stars.

  25. DAY 13

Casa Cayuco will take you to the Bocas del Toro airstrip for your domestic flight back to Panama City.  Fly home from Tocumen International Airport (PTY).

Itinerary Highlights:

  • See the Panama Canal from the expansion site at Agua Claras Locks
  • Dine at local cafes and gourmet restaurants in the trendy Casco Viejo neighborhood, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Sip on rum cocktails at an open rum bar after a guided rum tour at Ron Abuelo
  • Enjoy endless opportunities to surf or practice yoga at Sansara Resort in the Azuero Peninsula
  • Snorkel from Isla Iguana’s white sand beaches and keep an eye out for dolphins, humpback whales, and sea turtles
  • Hike The Lost Waterfalls in the morning and experience a coffee roasting tour in the afternoon while visiting Boquete
  • Dine on fresh seafood and fall asleep to cool Caribbean breezes on Isla Bastimentos in Bocas del Toro

Best for: Family, Couple, Small Group

Bucket list experiences: Panama Viejo, Casco Viejo, Panama Canal, UNESCO sites, Fort San Lorenzo, Agua Clara Locks, Panama Canal expansion, Trans-Isthmian Route, Panama Canal Railroad, Pipeline Trail, Soberania National Park, Chagres National Park, Gamboa, Gatun Lake, Embera Indians, rum tour with Ron Abuelo, Isla Iguana, turtle nesting/hatching, dolphins, humpback whales, surfing, yoga, cloud forest, birding (quetzal), coffee tour, The Lost Waterfalls, Baru Volcano, canopy zip-line, hanging bridges, snorkeling/diving, Red Frog Beach, Isla Zapatillas, Starfish Beach (Playa Estrella), Bastimentos National Park, chocolate tour

Accommodations & Location:

  • Los Cuatro Tulipanes, Casco Viejo/Panama City
  • Sansara Yoga & Surf Resort, Playa Cambutal
  • Manana Madera, Boquete
  • Casa Cayuco, Isla Bastimentos/Bocas del Toro

Every Central America Vacation itinerary includes 24/7 in-country support.  We’re here with you every step of the way to insure the best experience possible, from the initial planning stages to the moment you’re on your flight home!