Discover Panama: A Smithsonian Family Adventure

NUMBER OF DAYS 9

OTHER Panama ADVENTURES:

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Introduce your kids to the wonders of nature in Panama. In the Chiriqui highlands, you’ll enjoy a thrilling whitewater rafting adventure and soar through the tropical cloud forest canopy on a zip line for a total adrenaline rush. In Bocas del Toro, walk a rain forest trail alive with sloths, monkeys, birds, caimans, and more. Observe amazing marine life as you snorkel among coral reefs and mangroves. Every day of your itinerary includes exciting and memorable activities in some of the world’s most important ecosystems. 
 
You’ll also give practical context to your children’s history and science lessons with an up-close exploration of the Panama Canal and the massive Miraflores Locks. Spend time with Panama’s most renowned wildcat researcher, Ricardo Moreno, sharing his methodology with camera-trapping. You’ll also ride a motorized dugout canoe, or piragua, up the Chagres River to an Emberá indigenous village, where villagers will share some of their traditions. Join us in Panama for families with children ages 8 and older and discover the abundant treasures of one of the planet’s richest ecological paradises.
2014 Dates
Dates Adult Price Teen Price Child Price Internal Air
12/26 - 01/03 $4,790 $4,690 $4,590 $300
2015 Dates
Dates Adult Price Child Price Internal Air
03/14 - 03/22 $4,790 $4,590 $300
04/18 - 04/26 $4,790 $4,590 $300
06/20 - 06/28 $4,790 $4,590 $300
07/25 - 08/02 $4,790 $4,590 $300
12/26 - 01/03 $5,290 $5,090 $300

Single supplement: $2,000

Triple discount (child under 12 sharing with two adults): $300

 *Minimum of six participants required.

Day 1 – Depart Home / Arrive Panama City

Bring the lesson plans to life – substitute your kids’ science books for hands-on, active discovery of a variety of precious ecosystems and wildlife. Prepare for an unmatched fun and educational experience for kids and parents alike. 

Days 2-3 - Panama City
 
  • Gatun Lake jungle boat adventure
  • Meet renowned wildcat researcher Ricardo Moreno
  • Help him set camera traps along nature trails 
  • Ride a piragua (dugout canoe) up the Chagres River
  • Visit an indigenous Embera village
  • Reunite with Ricardo to analyze wildcat camera trap findings 
Days 4-5 – Panama City / Chiriqui Highlands

Chiriquí, the “Valley of the Moon,” hosts a stunning diversity of tropical Central American landscapes, from beaches and plains to mountains and dense rain forest.

 

  • Spend time at Frank Gehry's Biodiversity Museum 
  • Check out the Miraflores Visitor Center and lock system
  • Transfer to Boquete in the Chiriqui Highlands 
  • Go whitewater rafting through rugged countryside
  • Join the beautiful Boquete Panoramic Tour (alternative to rafting) 
Days 6-7 – Chiriqui Highlands / Bocas del Toro

The archipelago of Bocas del Toro is situated on Panama’s Caribbean coast. Its white sand beaches, steamy rain forests, incredible snorkeling and relaxed bohemian ambiance have made Bocas del Toro a favorite spot for our families.

 

  • Zip line through the cloud forest
  • Tour a renowned coffee estate (alternative to zip line) 
  • Transfer to Bocas del Toro
  • Stop at the Ngobe indigenous village of Salt Creek
  • Walk a lowland wet rain forest brimming with wildlife 
  • Snorkel among the thriving reefs and mangroves of Bastimentos
Day 8 – Bocas / Panama City

Before your return to Panama City and departure from Panama, you’ll have one more fascinating scientific experience in this Caribbean region.

 

  • Visit Finca Los Monos Botanical Garden 
  • Meet your kids' local pen pals for a tropical biology lesson
  • Return to Panama City for a farewell dinner in the French Quarter
Day 9 – Depart Panama City
Gamboa Rainforest Resort

The Gamboa Rainforest Resort is a luxury destination resort located on the Panama Canal in the heart of the lush Panamanian rain forest. The hotel’s 100 clean, air-conditioned rooms each have a balcony with spectacular views of the Chagres River. Other highlights include an aerial tram that goes all the way from the rain forest floor to the canopy, a fitness center, kayaks, pedal boats, tennis courts, jogging and cycling trails, a spa, and multiple restaurants.

Riverside Inn

Boquete's Riverside Inn sits on the banks of the Palo Alto River. The inn offers spacious, modern accommodations, as well as a new on-site restaurant called The Rock, one of the Chiriqui region's best.

Playa Tortuga
Playa Tortuga Hotel and Beach Resort can be found on the beautiful golden sand beaches of Colon Island in Bocas del Toro. The hotel features over 100 clean, air conditioned rooms, each with a private ocean-view balcony. Other highlights of the hotel include wireless internet, a beautiful swimming pool, a gym and a gift shop. The hotel also has two great restaurants (one of which is located at the end of a pier for amazing views!) and a bar.
Country Inn & Suites

The Country Inn & Suites Hotel is conveniently located right in front of the entrance to the famous Panama Canal. The hotel offers over 150 clean, comfortable rooms, each featuring a balcony. Other highlights include an outdoor pool, tennis court, exercise center, business center, playground, Jacuzzi, boardwalk, T.G.I. Friday’s and high-speed internet access.

Why Panama?

An undiscovered destination, with something for everyone: history, nature, culture
You know about its legendary canal, that stunning marvel of modern engineering. But what about its misty mountains and brilliantly colored orchids? Its exotic wildlife, staggering eco-diversity, amazing snorkeling and warm, welcoming people? Panama is one of the last undiscovered destinations in the Americas, and whether you are traveling with youngsters or teens, or grandparents looking to share an adventure with your grandchildren, we have created an itinerary that specializes in activities that are fun and informative for all ages. Panama is home to a largely tourist-free system of national parks, an abundance of plants and wildlife to rival neighboring Costa Rica, and easy access to both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. And Panama is just a short plane ride away from the US!
Fascinating canal system and interesting history
There is something very moving when seeing the Panama Canal for the first time. The enormity of this engineering marvel boggles the mind. There’s the vast jungle that had to be divided, the massive locks that had to be constructed, and then there are the 40 ships that pass through the Canal every day. History books can supply the amazing facts about this monumental achievement, but actually standing in full view of the Canal itself brings its story palpably and eloquently to life in a way that no book can match—and in a way that your kids will never forget. In Panama, history is one cool adventure.
Stunning landscapes and a variety of wildlife
Within our stunning itinerary, you’ll experience cloud forests and rain forest canopies, rolling hills and brilliant white sand beaches. From soaring frigatebirds to lounging lizards and capuchin monkeys, and from profusions of orchids to undersea coral gardens, Panama offers show-stopping eco-diversity that rivals most countries on earth.
Meeting the Embera
One of six indigenous groups that still maintain their cultures and traditions, the Embera recently migrated to the riverbanks of Chagres National Park near Panama City from farther south in the Darien province.  Villagers will share the story of their migration with you, a rare and special opportunity.

Why Panama with Thomson?

Time with Ricardo Moreno
 Join Panama’s most renowned wildcat researcher, Ricardo Moreno, who has studied jaguars and other wildcats in Panama and Costa Rica for more than a decade.  He will share his experiences with tropical wildlife research, his methodology with camera-trapping, and how the data is analyzed and utilized. Families are encouraged to join Ricardo in setting camera traps along the nature trails at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. 
Zip line tour
Gliding from platform to platform high in the rain forest canopy is an indescribable thrill as you wind your way along a zip line course. Hike up to the first platform where everyone is outfitted, safely and securely, for an unforgettable Panama experience.
Dugout canoe ride to Embera Village
Board motorized dugout canoes and head down the Chagres River, deep into the rain forest. As you wind your way to an Embera village keep your eyes peeled for wildlife on the shores. Upon arrival, you and your family will be met by welcoming and traditionally dressed members of the Embera and escorted to the village. You’ll learn about their traditions and history, including songs and dances, food and crafts, traditional medicines, and the story of their people.  Kids (and adults) might opt to receive a traditional tattoo!  (Don’t worry; it’s painless and made from vegetable dye, and will only last about a week.)
Friends Across Borders—Meeting your pen pal
Thomson families love this program! Children traveling with us can choose to exchange letters with a local Embera child of a similar age before leaving on their adventure. In Panama, your child will get to meet his or her pen pal through a fun activity while visiting the Embera Village. It’s amazing how much kids learn about one another—and the appreciation they gain for one another’s culture—when they meet through this eye-opening program.
Jungle boat adventure in the Panama Canal
Set out on a journey across Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal in our jungle boat, cruising past gigantic cargo and passenger ships. You’ll all be amazed at how big some of these vessels are—they dwarf everything in sight! And of course you’ll likely see plenty of wildlife along the way in the rain forest—iguanas, crocodiles, monkeys and peacocks, just to name a few.
Miraflores Locks
If your kids are into Legos or Lincoln Logs, they’ll love this engineering phenomenon. Stretching almost a mile long, Miraflores is part of a lock system that takes ships from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific (and vice versa). After watching a ship go through the locks make sure to visit the museum—the exhibits and views from there are fantastic!
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