Panama

Old Sep 12th, 2007, 05:46 AM
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Panama

Hi,
I'd love to go down this winter for a couple weeks - to hang around the beaches and scuba. Other than Panama City there doesn't seem to be much info. out there - book and website rec. would help as well as siting the differences between various locations.
I'm mostly looking to stay at layed back hotels that aren't too costly (under 200.) is this possible?
Thanks ahead
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Old Sep 12th, 2007, 08:17 AM
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Frommers and Lonely Planet both have books out for Panama and I sure there are others.
We went to Panama Feb of 2006 and I planned our trip using the Lonely Planet book and the internet. Trip advisor has a lot of great ideas about where you might what to stay. You can find hotels for much much cheaper then 200 dollars.
We were only able to go for six days but we were able to see a lot and enjoy ourselves. I loved Panama. We started in Panana City, went to Bocas Del Toro and then on to Boquette. If you have any other questions I'll be happy to answer them for you.
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Old Sep 12th, 2007, 08:32 AM
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You would be hardpressed to spend $200 per night in Panama (such places may exist, but they are the exception). I have only spent time in and around Panama City, the canal zone and El Valle (sort of a rainforest a couple of hours west of Panama City). Its a very easy country in which to travel.

I had planned to visit Bocas del Toro, but was unable to do so due to limited time. But, Lonely Planet has an excellent guide to Panama.

Its also fun to do a partial transit of the Canal (there are operators who offer half day trips from Panama City).

My primary objective was to visit the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), a day trip from Panama City -- lots of wildlife and a very educational trip.

Michael
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Old Sep 12th, 2007, 09:50 AM
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Loved the Boquete area, and would highly recommend La Montana y el Valle (otherwise known as Coffee Estate Inn). Runs $130 per night, and at that, I thought quite a bargain. The bungalows are lovely, and the property is beautiful. In the highlands, so temps very pleasant. Entire Boquete area very nice--great hiking/birding.

Also we liked Bocas--stayed $45 per night including "breakfast" and taxes at Dona Mara's on Isla Caranera. Were quite satisfied to get 4 nights at such a great rate--room very adequate--and clean. Breakfast pretty meager, but "okay". Water taxis (2 min. ride) over to main island coming by all the time (or they'll call one for you).

Also enjoyed Gamboa area outside Panama City (canal zone). Sounds like you're more interested in beaches whereas we were there to see more of the inland attractions. Can't advise you much further, but you might look into San Blas Islands and Santa Clara area.

I DON'T recommend Las Olas all inclusive beach resort just outside David. It's okay if you just want quiet time, beach, and someplace to go where no one would ever find you (looking for seclusion?), but other than that, it was a disappointment.

Good luck and enjoy!
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Old Sep 12th, 2007, 09:54 AM
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Hit the beaches at Santa Clara. Rent a cottage after you get there for about $100.
Scuba in Portobello or fly up to Bocas del Toros (several threads with good info on this site)
Drive over to El Valle for a couple of days. Beautiful area.
Fly to Boquete. Stay at the Hotel Panamonte or the Coffee Estate Inn.
One day in Panama city is plenty. If you are interested in nature and birds do include a visit to the Canopy Tower near Pipeline Road just outside of Panama City.

Don't overplan. You can book most of it as you go and the spirit moves you.

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Old Sep 12th, 2007, 10:00 AM
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Cybor, check out www.czbrats.com there is a ton of Panama related info there. The site is maintained by two women who grew up in the Canal Zone and many of the contributors still live there. It is a beautiful country.
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Old Sep 12th, 2007, 10:02 AM
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I see shillmac and I were posting about the same time. Great minds.....
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Old Sep 12th, 2007, 11:37 AM
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We also stayed at the Coffee Estate. Jane and Barry are great hosts and it is a beautiful place to stay. It's out of town but still close enough to walk if you feel like you would like a bit more exercise. We hired a driver, Daniel Higgins through them and he also took good care of us. They can also arrange for Chago an excellent quide to take you birding. We saw many quetzel.
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Old Sep 12th, 2007, 02:54 PM
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Indeed!
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Old Sep 15th, 2007, 06:46 AM
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Excellant info. I'll research some of your suggestions and come back for more if you're still willing.

I do wish this search engine worked better on this site.

Have any of you rented a vehicle in Panama City?
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Old Sep 15th, 2007, 09:06 AM
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I grew up in Panama and have a healthy respect for the insane drivers there. So, no I have never rented a car in Panama City. I find taxis reliable and inexpensive. If you decide to go to Santa Clara or El Valle a car would be necessary. Just don't drive in downtown.
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Old Sep 15th, 2007, 09:25 AM
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Thanks cmc. It sounds like ferry's and short flights are very available as well.

Do you have any more insight on scuba diving around Portebello? If my info. is correct, it appears that the diving around Bocas is minimal - true? Is Bocas a serious party town?

Is the water generally calmer on the Caribean side?
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Old Sep 15th, 2007, 10:29 AM
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I don't have much info on diving in Portobello, but I do have friends who can give us some counsel. Let me check into it and get back to you, cybor.
Bocas is a laid back place with plenty of bars. The drink till crazy mode probably applies to a lot of visitors, but I don't think the place is generally regarded as a party town. Let's see what Shillmac has to say about that since she was there recently. I am going to pull up a thread I did passing on a friend's comments about Boca. I will top it for you, cybor.
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Old Sep 15th, 2007, 10:46 AM
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I topped glover's reports in case you had not already seen them. Not a beach visit, but a real insight into this wonderful country.

Andrew who posts here from time to time lives in panama and is a great resource. His screenname includes his email address and it might be a good idea to write him about scuba as well. He is very knowledgeable.
AndrewSSH ([email protected])
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Old Sep 15th, 2007, 04:00 PM
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Great report loaded with lots of insight -
Thanks for posting cmc.
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Old Sep 15th, 2007, 07:58 PM
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de nada....but don't forget you will owe us a trip report when you return!
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Old Sep 15th, 2007, 09:56 PM
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I'm honored to see my reports "topped." thanks, cmcfong.

Panama is great, cybor, think you'll really enjoy it. Happy to answer any questions you have re the trip report i posted. . .
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 04:54 AM
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http://www.scubapanama.com/english/english.html
http://www.explorepanama.com/starfleet.htm

Friends in Panama directed me to these sites.
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 07:25 AM
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Glover,
You've made me want to go to Bocas. Sounds like a fun place in a convenient location. Too bad your friends pulled you away.

cmc,
Good scuba sites. Portebello seems to be the place to dive albeit some of the waters may be shallow enough to not warrent diving. It also appears that April may be better than the winter months. I may now move my trip to late March/April rather than late Feb./March.
Now that I'm seeing fairly inexpensive places, I may go for longer, 3-4 weeks.


My findings mostly show that the Pacific side may have rough water - I'm wimpy about that, as I'm a fairly new diver. I may want to check it out none the less b/c it's so close to the carib. side.

The rest of you have convinced me to take a look at the interior.

I've got a few books on order.
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Old Sep 16th, 2007, 09:26 AM
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www.caribbeanjimmysdiveresort.com
Portobelo area is very beautiful. We snorkeled for hours....
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