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Trip Report El Valle de Anton and Panama City with Kids: Trip Report

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We’re back from an 8 day trip to Panama and had a wonderful time! This was my second trip to Panama – the first was a short girls trip last year. It was a first trip for the rest of the family. The kids are DS, 10, and DD, 7.

We set a pretty slow pace, to give the kids some quiet evenings and some free time by the pool. What we did/saw could have comfortably been done at a much faster pace.
Day One: The flight was a completely full COPA non-stop LAX to PTY on a Friday night red-eye (1:12 am). Immigration in PTY took a full hour, with 3 immigration officials handling the foreign citizen line. Once through, our bags were waiting for us and we were quickly through customs.

I had arranged a driver for airport pick-up through the Golden Frog Inn and Hector was waiting with a sign to collect us from the airport. Hector was a great driver and tour guide. We had requested a lunch/bathroom stop on the way and Hector had picked out a spot on the Pan American Highway in Coronado – about an hour out from El Valle. The restaurant, Twister, had pizza and Mexican food and a nice clean bathroom. The total drive time (including the ½ hour restaurant stop) was 3 ½ hours.

In El Valle, we stayed in Suite 3 at the Golden Frog Inn. The room was big, comfortable and clean, but not luxurious. The owners (Larry and Becky) were onsite and were friendly and helpful, as was the manager – Adrian. Morning breakfasts were a feast for the eyes and the stomach. The pool was a big hit with the kids and they spent time there every afternoon.

The downside of the Golden Frog was the distance from town (and uphill walk on the way back). Town itself was spread out on a central strip – but was mostly centered near the market around kilometer 28. The walk the first day just turned out to be too much for the kids – we stopped at the Hong Kong (a mini super around kilometer 27) and picked up some food and ice creams and ate in the shared kitchen by the pool that night.

Day 2 in El Valle was Sunday- the big market day- and Larry offered us a ride down to the market. We spent some time (and a little bit of money!) at the market then walked a block or so to Don Pepe’s where we rented bicycles for two days ($10 each per day). The kids had their first taste of shaved ices and loved them! The market was neat, but was smaller than I had mentally visualized. I wouldn’t take one of the day tours from Panama City to El Valle solely for the market.

We had lunch in one of the Don Pepe’s restaurants, Mar de Plata, and the kids had their first batidos. I tried the sancocho here. We thought the food was just average, but we went back to Mar de Plata over and over for the banana batidos… which we had trouble finding elsewhere. The kids worked their way through the batidos flavors, trying strawberry, papaya, mixed fruit, blackberry and banana. Hands down, the banana was the clear winner.

Dinner was at La Bruschetta’s and I remember it being good, but can’t remember the details. DH had a chicken and rice dish, DD had a hamburger.

Day 3 we stopped by to see the Serpentarium, but it was closed. We found the ATM in town (We only found one). The ATM dispensed the freshest, crispest $5 bills I’ve ever seen. We went to El Nispero, the zoo. It seemed deserted and we were the only people there. We looked and looked in the Golden Frog enclosure for the Golden Frogs, but they must have been hiding…. While we were leaving, a large school group was coming in, so we had good timing.

Lunch was at Pinocchio’s, next door to Bruschetta’s. The kids tucked into their pizzas with enthusiasm,and my chicken lasagna was great. Later that afternoon we went on a walk from the Golden Frog over to Hotel Campestre to see the Golden Frogs in their terrarium.

Day 4 we had to return the bicycles, so we returned them at Don Pepe’s and paid for their rental. We then headed off to find the Petroglyphs. On the way we passed the church and the museum, so we stopped in to see them. We somehow missed a turn for the petroglyphs and ended up at El Macho Falls (with panting out of breath kids). We had planned to do the Canopy Adventure zip line the next day, but since we were already there…. We got kitted out in the gear and with our group of 4 started heading up the mountain. Suddenly DS, who had been too exhausted for words on the walk up to the Falls, was speeding in front and urging us on. Fortunately for me and DD, there was a bench to rest on about ½ way up! Once we got to the first zip line, DS was eager to go first and off he went. DD was a little more fearful, but after the first zip line, she was keen to keep going. The zip line and the area around El Macho was a highlight of the trip. Once we finished, we waited for a local mini-bus ($.25) to take us back down into town.

Lunch was at Nina Delias. I had shrimp with garlic and butter sauce that was good. The kids had pasta which wasn’t (we saw later that the Fodor’s guide had recommended against the pasta there).

Dinner was take-out from the second Don Pepe’s restaurant (Terra y Mar?). Again, don’t remember what we ordered, but the food was good.

Day 5. DH and DS set off on their own adventure. DD wanted to go horseback riding and the horses were quite close to the Golden Frog Inn, so we walked down and arranged a 1 hour ride. The horses were $8/horse and the guide was an extra $8. We rode up behind the Campestre Hotel. We then set off to town and were lucky enough to get a ride from Becky into town. Lunch was at La Bruschetta again.

Day 6 was our last day in El Valle. We set off for a short hike to see the Square Trees. We found that there was a short cut trail to get to the Campestre Hotel and the Square Trees path. Larry gave us and our luggage a ride down to the market and we got a bus from the market into Panama City. The bus was air conditioned and comfortable; but there were a few times where the bus was travelling too fast for the road. This trip was 2 hours from El Valle to the Albrook transportation center, in Panama City.

I started this last week and got side-tracked with work and life.... I'll add the last couple of days as I can.

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