Panama: Panama City and Bocas Del Toro

Panama: Panama City and Bocas Del Toro Archipelago

PANAMA-HEADER-IMAGE

Fly in/out: Panama City, Tocumen International Airport, Domestically within Panama, fly in/out of Albrook Airport

Recommended ages of Kids: Outgrown nap times

Ball Park Price: $1,000/person for 5 travelers (airfare not included)

Pace: Moderate

Currency: U.S. Dollar

Best Season: December-May dry season

Time Zone: Eastern Standard

Itinerary

DAY ONE: Fly Copa Airline, a United Partner, into Panama City, Tocumen International Airport. Get picked up at airport prearranged through CarlosTours. Drive 30 minutes to Westin Playa Bonita Hotel. Enjoy the hotel in the afternoon.

DAY TWO: Book a day trip to include Panama Canal Museum, the Canal, and Old Town called Casco Viejo. Use CarlosTours at carlos.redfrogbeach@gmail.com. Enjoy the afternoon by the pool at the Westin.

DAY THREE: Take a day trip with Carlos to have an Eco tour boating on the Chagres River and stopping to see the views at the Gamboa Resort. In the late afternoon, go to Albrook Airport and fly Air Panama (Panama’s domestic airline) to Bocas Del Toro  and arrive at Red Frog Beach. Once you’ve landed, taxi/water taxi combination will be arranged to take you to your villa which only takes 30 minutes.

DAY FOUR: Take a small boat to explore the caves in Isla Colon from Red Frog Beach. Pre-book through Red Frog Beach activity center.

DAY FIVE: Take a boating trip to snorkel and stop for a Panamanian lunch. Also book through Red Frog Beach.

DAY SIX: Book the Canopy Zip line tours with Red Frog Beach which is on the  Red Frog Beach property  and enjoy the afternoon at the beach and villa pool.

DAY SEVEN: Arrange transportation with Red Frog Beach back to Albrecht airport and take a taxi or transit shuttle to Tocumen International Airport in Panama City and fly home.

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If you have more time

Possibly visit Pearl Islands, Isla Contadora, by taking the domestic airline, Air Panama. This is a very remote tropical set of islands that cater to the wealthier client.. It offers great beaches and snorkeling. It’s also the location for two “Survivor” series.

Vacation Highlights

  • Panama is a fascinating country filled with contrasts of growth and beauty. In just one week, you can explore two oceans, a bustling, growing city and some beautiful Caribbean beaches and rainforests.
  • The Panama Canal is truly an educational marvel for kids with countless ships waiting for miles to cross the canal. Try to arrange the tour through Carlos to watch a large ship cross through the canal. Most of the large ships pass through in the afternoon.
  • We liked the Bocas Del Toro area for a remote and tropical feel. We really enjoyed the days which were able to combine a morning excursion, an afternoon lunch at the resort and late afternoon of swimming or hanging in the villa.

Great Excursions

panama-canopy-tour

  • Visiting the Panama Canal and museum was definitely educational but was really only a 2 hour event. Combine seeing the canal with seeing other parts of Panama City such as Casco Viejo and markets.
  • Climbing inside a water cave was exciting for kids who are confident explorers and swimmers. You’ll see sloths on the route to the caves.
  • The Canopy Tour lasted just 2.5 hours and is right on the Red Frog Beach property. It was packed with thrills and a combination of zip lining, tight rope walking and repelling. Kids as young as 6 were enjoying all the activities.

panama-canal


Places to stay

Westin Playa Bonita
Westin Playa Bonita

The Westin Hotel in Playa Bonita was beautiful with stunning views of ships waiting to enter the canal. It definitely looked like a luxurious resort. However, it didn’t always function as one. Service was a little slow and inconsistent. It was a 20 minute drive into the city which I thought was worth it to have some afternoons with the views and amazing swimming pool.

Red Frog Beach
Red Frog Beach

The Villas at Red Frog Beach in Bocas Del Toro were spacious, clean, brand new and air conditioned which at 90 degrees is a must. Perfect for family sleeping with 2-3 bedroom options. We had a villa that required the use of a golf cart. Gravel roads on a golf cart took getting used to but it was just a 5 minute ride to the Red Frog Beach restaurant, beach, and activity center.

Make sure you mention one of the 10% off coupons that you can find on many travel websites when booking with Red Frog Beach!


Eateries

El Ultimo Refugio
El Ultimo Refugio

Because of the location of the Westin Playa Bonita, we mostly ate at the resort which had multiple water-taxirestaurant choices.

The Red Frog Beach also had family friendly dinners with some evening entertainment. One night, when we were in Bocas Del Toro, we took the water taxi to Boca Town and loved the restaurant El Ultimate Refugios (The Ultimate Refuge).


Hints

  • The concept of service has not been completely grasped by all the people in the tourism industry. I’m sure if you spoke Spanish it would be an easier country to navigate. Often due to the language barrier, it was difficult to understand important details relating to our travel such as getting around, costs, and tour packages. Try to book all your excursions in advance with specific requests (costs and meal information should be included with all tours) and dates to avoid confusion.
  • Always have your backpack with water, bug spray,snacks and playing cards (for the long waits). Sometimes mosquitoes show up uninvited!
  • Bring your own snorkel gear if you have it. We did not find the snorkel gear in great shape.
  • Because you have a beautiful villa with an equipped kitchen at the Red Frog Beach, you can stop at the local market in Colon (your land here before being picked up by water taxi) and stock up on groceries. Sometimes it can be torture waiting for food at restaurants with tired kids. A stocked refrigerator can help!
  • Bring extra money with you on excursions not only for tips but for the accidental.. “lunch is not included.”
  • While in Panama, you could rent a car to get to/from hotel and the city. However, we thought a driver was easier.

Before You Go

  • You’ll need a passport but no Visa. Remember, Passports expire every 5 years for kids!
  • Provide the kids with a little dose of the engineering marvel of the canal by viewing some interesting historical and “how does it work”  information here

Photo Sources: 1 | 2 | 3

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