Private Tour Highlights
- Enjoy included meals throughout the itinerary prepared by local chefs
- Admire the Panama Canal and learning all about the history of the amazing engineering marvel
- Snorkel among tropical reefs and lounge on deserted white sand beaches
- Choose from numerous activities including guided forest hikes, kayaking, yoga, and fishing
- Get an understanding of Panamanian Caribbean life from warm locals
- Admire the amazing interior design of El Otro Lado with local, campy artwork
- Appreciate the seclusion of Isla Palenque with it’s numerous jungle cabins adorned with hammocks and swings galore
- Complimentary cultural activities such as art workshops or drum lessons from local artists at El Otro Lado
- Free whale watching or Island hopping tour from Isla Palenque exclusively for Yampu Travelers, a $300 value!
Irauzqui Recommended: Hidden Luxury Gems of Panama
Yampu Tours Founders Jose & Monica recently returned from a scouting trip to Panama, where they explored both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts and stayed at two upscale boutique lodges: The colorful El Otro Lado in Bahia Portobelo and Isla Palenque, a new sustainable luxury retreat on a private island in the Gulf of Chiriquí.
With such amazing experiences all around, Jose and Monica welcome guests to “the other side” of Panama, a world away from the bustle of city life, where time moves at a slower pace and invites visitors to linger. Explore and relax with their latest suggested itinerary, Irauzqui Recommended: Hidden Luxury Gems of Panama!
Much like the pair’s own Panama trip, Yampu travelers will enjoy Panama City with several days of exquisite beach fun at two of the country’s most unique all-inclusive retreats, all starting at $5,749.
Take a look at the suggested itinerary below and contact a Yampu Tour Consultant to travel in Yampu style. Experience more with private assistance, transfers, and tours with 5-star accommodations that have been personally inspected by Yampu’s founding travel experts.
Package Price: $5749
Prices shown above are per person. Hotel categories do not adhere strictly to international ratings; Yampu has evaluated the hotels according to destination and availability. Prices include local airfare (where applicable), hotel accommodation including daily breakfast; all transfers with baggage handling, all guided tours in English and all entrance fees.
All our trips are operated on a private basis unless specified otherwise. This is only a sample itinerary; your Yampu Tour Consultant will personalize this trip for you according to your available dates, interests and type of hotels. This is your trip and we will work on making it perfect!
Welcome to Panama!
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Welcome to Panama! Upon arrival you’ll be greeted at the airport and transferred directly to your hotel, the lovely boutique La Concordia in Panama City’s historic Casco Viejo. With cobblestone streets and a variety of architectural styles ranging from Baroque to Colonial, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is best explored on foot. Set out with your guide for a walking tour of Panama City’s historic quarter to learn about the conquistadors and pirates that once roamed the streets and the Canal builders that came afterwards. You’ll also stroll along through the market stalls near Plaza de Francia where people from the Guna Yala indigenous community sell their colorful fabric molas, among other traditional handicrafts.
Overnight at La Concordia.
Private Panama Canal Railway, Agua Clara Locks & Gatun Lake - El Otro Lado
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Undertake a train trip on the historical and original railway course from Panama City to Colón. This 1-hour travel leads you through the jungle and along the Panama Canal.
After the beautiful train trip, you will continue with your guide from Colón to the impressive Agua Clara Visitor Center located on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal. The Agua Clara Visitor Center is a place where the Panama Canal has made it clear that both its legacy and its grandeur will continue to bear fruit for the world.
The center offers a breathtaking panoramic view that contrasts two particular scenes. On one side you will find the famous Gatun Lake, where cargo ships or other vessels transit every day, while on the other side you will be amazed by the view of the expansion works
After the impressive viewpoint, head over to the Agua Clara visitor center. At the projection room you can learn about the history and efforts of thousands of men and women that have marked the Canal's first century and, of course, plans in the near and distant future. Walk through the ecological path, with a variety of plants and species that makes the trail an adventure with great scenery and breathtaking views; identify the different species gathered the indigenous of the area of the Canal watershed.
Continue towards the town of Gamboa. Then, travel on small boats northbound on the canal for 25 minutes where you might come close to some of the big ships that transit the canal daily.
Look for wildlife such as Capuchin Monkeys, 3-toed sloth, Howler Monkeys, various kinds of Toucans and other bird life along the shore. To complete the tour, a delicious lunch will be served at Los Lagartos restaurant overlooking the Chagres River.
Overnight at La Concordia.
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Depart Panama City after breakfast and head towards the Caribbean Side of the country. En route stop at the Agua Clara locks and visitor center, near Colon. From this vantage point you can see the new larger locks that were part of the recent Panama Canal Expansion Project (operating since early 2016), Gatun Lake and the surrounding rainforest which enables the Canal to operate.
Continue to El Otro Lado, accessed via short boat ride across the bay from historic Portobelo. Surrounded by lush rainforest and centuries-old fortifications, El Otro Lado is a colorful boutique retreat that showcases the vibrant art and Afro-Caribbean heritage of Portobelo’s inhabitants.
Settle into your private casita or lounge by the pool before a “Taste of the Tropics” class in the afternoon. Learn how to prepare mojitos “El Otro Lado Style” and blend your own version of the spicy salsa “Llamarada” the signature condiment of El Otro Lado’s head chef, Sra. Mirna.
Prior to dinner, the patio outside of the Gazebo Restaurant comes alive with the drum beats, whistles, singing and foot stomps of a Congo cultural performance. Through costumes, dance and song, you’ll learn the stories of the local “Congo” people, descendants of enslaved Africans who fought against the Spanish for their freedom and established the first free African communities in the Americas. Here, the word “Congo” does not refer to a specific country in Africa, but the language that was created by Africans from different regions and dialects, allowing them to communicate, honor their ancestors, practice their religion and mock their enslavers without the Spanish catching on.
Introduction to the community
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Over breakfast you’ll be met by El Otro Lado’s experience manager to design the perfect trip for you. As an introduction to the community, we suggest first embarking on the Portabelo Town Cultural Walk. On this two-hour storytelling walk, you’ll learn the history of Portobelo (once the greatest port in the Spanish Empire through which all of the plundered treasure bound for Europe passed through), hear stories of pirates like Henry Morgan who terrorized both coasts of Panama and meet some of the locals like Mamma Ari, matriarch of Portobelo and the nonprofit Bahia Portobelo Foundation.
Though magical, Portobelo is a humble town, and communities of the Caribbean Coast are often neglected by government programs and outreach. Through the work of foundation, Portobelo community members have access to micro loans for businesses, financial aid for education and access to regular medical care. Artisans (of which there are many in this creative community!) have workshop space for carving and painting and galleries to display their art. The Foundation also provides jobs & career training through several hospitality projects, of which El Otro Lado is one.
Perhaps the most important work of the foundation focuses on young people in the community. Children are given free tutoring and can enroll in free music, dance and singing lessons and classes at La Escuelita Ritmo, allowing them to develop their creative talents and fostering pride in their heritage. Currently the “little rhythm school” serves more than 100 children with daily classes; they regularly perform at annual festivals across Panama, have entertained visiting dignitaries and even have had past students go on to receive music scholarships to pursue studies at UC Berkley. You’ll visit the Little Rhythm School at the conclusion of your walking tour and meet some of the talented current students; you can even participate in a drumming circle lesson if you think you have the rhythm!
After lunch in town at Casa Congo, return to El Otro Lado for an afternoon at your leisure. You can opt to go wake boarding or banana boating in the bay, or take one of the kayaks or SUPs out for a paddle. Optionally, join local artist Anel in his workshop on property and try your hand at painting a wood carving in the “Congo” style.
Dinner and overnight at El Otro Lado.
Wildlife viewing hike
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Rise early and join your naturalist guide, Jason, on a wildlife viewing hike through the rainforest to a lookout point that offers Panoramic Views of Portobelo Town & Bay. Water bottles, hiking sticks and rubber boots are provided though you will want to wear long socks and pants + a breathable long sleeve shirt.
Jason originally hails from California, but he has spent nearly the past decade living in the tropical jungles of Panama’s Caribbean doing research and conservation work with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Accompanied by Jason, you’ll be enthralled by the diversity of flora and fauna and the still “unexplored and undiscovered” nature of Panama’s rainforests. (Hike approximately 3 hours)
After lunch and a relaxing afternoon, enjoy an sunset boat ride through the mangroves forests on La Farounha, the perfect quiet way to appreciate your final evening in Portobelo.
Fly to David – Isla Palenque
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Morning transfer from El Otro Lado back to Panama City for your flight David. Upon arrival you’ll be met and drive approximately one hour to the fishing town of Boca Chica on Panama’s Pacific Coast. Here you’ll be met by staff from Isla Palenque who will escort you on a 15 minute boat ride to your private island nature sanctuary in the Gulf of Chiriquí. Mostly untouched by human development, Panama’s Gulf of Chiriquí is a protected marine reserve of teal water dotted with uninhabited emerald islands. Humpback whales calve in the waters and raise their young from July-October and the islands provide critical nesting habitat for sea turtles and shore birds.
Palenque means refuge or sanctuary, and that’s exactly what travelers will find on the 400 acre Isla Palenque. For centuries, the islands dotting the emerald waters of the Gulf of Chiriquí have provided a safe haven for humans and wildlife alike. Pottery shards and stone tools found on Isla Palenque offer clues to the island's past Pre-Colombian inhabitants. Today, guests can discover the island's past on guided forest hikes, scramble over ocean boulders to feel the spray from a blowhole, cast a line for rockfish, paddle a kayak or SUP along more than five miles of coastline or venture further by boat into the Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park to snorkel lounge on deserted white sand beaches straight out of Robinson Crusoe. Only 5% of the island has been carefully & sustainably developed so guests at Isla Palenque will find plenty of serenity and seclusion.
Your accommodations are in just one of 8 beachfront casitas. After lunch, settle in and relax in your hammock with a good book or spend some time on the sandy beaches, ideal for swimming and SUPing at lower tides. Prior to dinner, host Benny will take you through the history and different styles of Rums from around the world during a rum-tasting sundowner.
Overnight Isla Palenque.
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Enjoy two days at Isla Palenque, partaking in a variety of on and near island guided excursions, some of which are dependent on the tide conditions. Discover the “Secrets of the Island” with a short guided hike to abandoned archeological sites, kayak or SUP to the end of the island to explore shallow sea caves, embark on a longer trek to search for monkeys and other wildlife, concluding with the refreshing spray of a natural “blow hole” and rise with the sun for an early morning birding walk. Cooking classes, salsa lessons and yoga are also regularly offered. You can also embark on an ‘island hopping’ boat trip to snorkel at nearby islands or go whale watching if the season is right, weather & tides depending.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
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Select from the expansive menu of activities at Isla Palenque, such as an island Foraging Experience
This extraordinary culinary adventure takes you from the serene beaches of Isla Palenque into the depths of the island’s jungle on a foraging mission unlike any other.
Bring in your own catch of the day using artisan fishing techniques honed over centuries of coastal life. Pick out sweet, juicy tropical fruits and succulent veggies at the island’s orchard, and forage along rainforest trails for those hard-to-find, hyper-local ingredients.
We’ll compliment your haul with a fine selection of ingredients sourced from our local markets and the nearby volcanic highlands.
Leave the rest to our Chef! We’ll present your foraged feast with local spirits, beers and organic South American wines for an unforgettable culinary experience. ...read less
Return to Panama City
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Depart Isla Palenque to return to Panama City.
Enjoy a tour of the Miraflores Locks. You will start the tour with a 30 minutes’ drive to Miraflores to see the huge vessels passing the Panama Canal. The busiest hours are from 9am to 10am and from 2pm to 5pm, so you will be able to see many ships getting lifted or lowered 16 meters in two distinct steps. You will enjoy the view on the Locks from a sheltered terrace and listen to the explanations of your guide. To complete the visit of the Canal you will visit the Museum and Visitor Center at Miraflores which gives you a good idea on the construction of the Canal – a masterpiece of engineering. You will also learn about the history of the canal and its significance for Panama and the entire world trade as well as on the current expansion project. After the visit to the Canal you continue with your guide to the Amador Causeway, a road that connects three Islands in the Pacific Ocean and offers magnificent views on the Canal on one side and on the skyline of Panama City on the other side. The tour continues to the Casco Viejo, Panama City’s colonial quarter. At the Casco Viejo you feel set back in time as you admire the lovely colonial houses, the narrow roads and the impressive churches. You will get a good idea about Panama’s history by driving or walking through the main attractions of this quarter.
Evening stay at the Waldorf Astoria.
In the evening, the Irauzquis highly suggest attending a Jazz show at Danilo´s Jazz Club, minutes away from this evening's hotel. Yampu will make table reservations at no extra cost upon request. This is the perfect way to cap off your Panama experience! ...read less
Transfer to airport for flight to Panama City, transfer to international airport.
Transfer to airport for flight to Panama City, transfer to international airport.
Places You'll See
The largest and most modern city in central America, as well as the capital of Panama, is Panama City. Within the city is the Panama Canal which links the Pacific and Atlantic oceans through a fifty-mile channel. Enjoy views of the canal via airplane or stay close to the ground and delight in a terrific view of Panama from Amador Causeway, connecting three islands to the mainland.
This artificial lake was once the world’s largest manmade body of water, and continues to be a huge part of the Panama Canal today. The sheer magnitude of Gatun Lake will put anyone in awe sizing to be about 425 km2 (164 sq mi) Today the lake is used for ships crossing from one ocean to the other as well as angling and other activities.
The sleepy city of Portobelo is full of history with its World Heritage sites such as Fort San Lorenzo. Here, one will learn much about the history of the area and its settlement. Along with history and culture is Portobelo’s cuisine consisting of some of the finest sea food that can be caught in its Harbor, which was once a major silver exporting sea port.
El Otro Lado
Originally built as a private family retreat near the historic Caribbean enclave of Portobelo, today El Otro Lado welcomes guests to “the other side” of Panama, a world away from the bustle of city life, where time moves at a slower pace and invites visitors to linger, explore and relax. From the thick fortress walls that once protected Spanish galleons from marauding pirates to the vibrant art and pulsating drum music of the Congos, the area vibrates with a rich history and culture.
Bordered by rainforest and ancient forts, the waterfront hideaway is a work of art in and of itself. Architecture and design reflect the colors, magic and whimsy of the Congo culture and rooms are adorned with original artwork and striking portraits by renowned Panamanian photographer Sandra Eleta (cousin of El Otro Lado’s owner.) The retreat now operates as a nonprofit extension of the Bahia Portobelo Foundation and offers guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in the surrounding nature, culture, history and flavors unique to this part of Panama’s Caribbean coast. New in 2019, the El Otro Lado experience includes guided hikes through the rainforest, story-telling walks to UNESCO fortifications, boat trips to nearby beaches and reefs, wellness activities and dance performances or drumming lessons with the community troupe to help guests connect with the essence of Portobelo.
Portobelo , PANAMA
“Palenque” means refuge or sanctuary, and that’s exactly what travelers will find on Isla Palenque, a 400-acre private island retreat just off of Panama’s northern Pacific coast. For centuries, the islands dotting the emerald waters of the Gulf of Chiriquí have provided a safe haven for humans and wildlife alike. Pottery shards and stone tools found on Isla Palenque offer clues to the island’s past Pre-Colombian inhabitants and the surrounding waters are rich with marine life, which flourishes without the pressures of human development. Today, guests can discover the island’s past on guided forest hikes, scramble over ocean boulders to feel the spray from a blowhole, cast a line for rockfish, paddle a kayak or SUP along more than five miles of coastline or venture further by boat into the Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park to snorkel among tropical reefs and lounge on deserted white sand beaches straight out of Robinson Crusoe.
Only 5% of the island has been carefully & sustainably developed so guests at Isla Palenque will find plenty of serenity and seclusion. Accommodations include just eight gorgeous beachfront casitas and a six bedroom villa perfect for families or groups of friends.
Isla Palenque , PANAMA
Traveled January 2016
Panama- It was seriously a great trip and I saw everything I wanted.
Our trip to Panama was seriously a great trip and I saw everything I wanted. We saw a bunch of kinkajous and cacomistles that came to our cabin at los quetzales. That place is magical, the bird life alone (we saw 6 quetzels, one even right outside our cabin) makes it worth a trip. Families would love these cabins and hands down the place had the best food in Panama.
Everything was made fresh and they had a huge organic garden with all kinds of vegetables, great for someone like me that does not eat meat.
Traveled January, 2016
The beach was beautiful and the water warm
Everything that you planned was perfect! The beach was beautiful and the water warm. Thank you for everything.
Traveled March, 2014
Yampu Tours is truly an agency that put the needs of its clients first
Yampu Tours is truly an agency that put the needs of its clients first. I have had two occasions to use them to book travel plans for my family and me and both times the trips and excursions were flawless. The second trip required some additional help involving the agency doing some research and follow-up for us. Without their help, we probably would not have been able to complete the second trip. They worked without hesitation to secure for us all the information we needed. The excursions they planned for my family were exactly what they requested and all trips went on without a hitch. It is not often that one can travel to a foreign country and know that everything is taken care of and one can travel stress free. Yampu Tours offers that type of service; professional and exceptional.