Top 5 Travel Tips for traveling to Panama

As told by Ruth Daniels

I would consider myself a little bit of a “seasoned” traveler. I’ve been throughout the Caribbean Islands, to several vacation spots in Mexico, and the all over the U.S. So when I was thinking about going away, I definitely wanted to go somewhere different, somewhere a little more adventurous. My friends and I decided to go to Panama! I found that this booming Central American hotspot has much more going on than its namesake canal.


Photo Credit: Apple Vacations – The Westin Playa Bonita Panama


Here are my top 5 travel tips for going to this destination:

1.      Fly Non-Stop!

We left from DC where we flew out on Copa Airlines. It was a non-stop flight, which was really nice. They even had blankets and pillows and served meals on the plane! I can’t remember the last time I was on a flight that did that. It definitely added an unexpected touch of luxury.

2.      Private Transfers

For the convenience of Apple Vacations customers, all hotel bookings have private transfers included. Whether you are arriving at the airport or transferring between different hotels in our program, our local ground handler, Gamboa Tours, will provide a private air-conditioned transfer at a time requested by you. This makes booking a double (City & Beach) or triple center vacation (City, Rainforest & Beach) simpler and will ensure you get the most out of your vacation experience in Panama. It’s a really nice added touch, and one less thing to worry about while traveling.


Photo Credit: Apple Vacations – Trump Ocean Club Panama

3.      See everything! – Beach & City

We had heard through various contacts that the best way to experience Panama was to stay for a couple nights in the city, and then, spend a few nights at a beach hotel. The first 2 nights we spent at the Riu Panama Plaza. It’s in the financial district close to a lot of boutiques and shopping malls. I definitely came back with my bags a few pounds heavier! Our rooms were on the 17th floor and we had a breathtaking view of the city. From our hotel in Panama City we were less than 20 minutes from the Panama Canal and the Old City ruins. We went to Miraflores Locks and actually got to see a huge boat go through! It was neat to see the water levels change in the locks to get the boat through. The ruins were great too, because we got to see another historic side to Panama. Our last 2 nights were spent at the Sheraton Bijao where we spent some time on the gorgeous white sand beach and enjoyed the spa, bars and sun!


Photo Credit: Apple Vacations – Capuchin Monkey, Monkey Island Boat Tour

 4.      Monkeys!  (Technically, it’s the Monkey Island Boat Tour)

You can take a boat tour through secret waterways to find hidden islands where Capuchin monkeys and Howler monkeys can be seen leaping in the trees above! Occasionally, they become curious of visitors and venture down to take a closer look. This tour is roughly a ½ day and includes transportation, English-speaking guide and boat ride around the Gatun Lake.

 Last but not least…

 5.      The Panama Canal Tour

This tour begins at the Flamenco Resort and Marina. After a 45 minute motor coach ride to Gamboa, you will board a boat and enter the canal at Gaillard Cut, where the Chagres River flows into the canal. While traveling the Cut’s 8.5 miles, you will view the new Centennial Bridge. Next, enter Pedro Miguel Locks and then Miraflores Lake. Once in the Pacific Ocean, sail to the Flamenco Marina and disembark. On the way, pass under the Bridge of the Americas. Admire the Bay of Panama and Panama City’s splendorous skyline. The ½ day tour includes round-trip transportation, bilingual guide, Panama Canal transit with all fees, lunch on board, soft drinks and water. The full day tour includes in addition to the partial transit, you will enjoy a trip through Gatun Lake, which was formed by erecting the Gatun Dam across the Chagres River.

Now you can see why Panama is a top destination for adventurists, eco-tourists, history buffs, beach lovers, families and romantics.  What are you waiting for?!? Go find your paradise in Panama!


*Apple Vacations Representatives are provided by Gamboa Tours DMC, an independent destination management company operating in Panama and providing services to Apple Vacationers. All prices are per person in U.S. dollars. Prices and excursions subject to change without notice. Excursions operated by local independent suppliers. Some require physical activity. Please consider the nature of the excursion to ensure it is appropriate for your age and physical condition.




1Our very own Ohio Sales Manager Tina Tiano just visited one of our newest popular destinations — Panama! If you or your clients are looking for something new, Panama may be the destination. Here are her reviews.

Day 1 & First impressions. The airport was large but easy to maneuver. Customs was a breeze. The downtown area is about a ½ hour drive from the airport.

First impressions — Panama City is a real city! Driving into it, I felt like I was driving into a little Miami or Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, with high rises and lights everywhere. I was expecting a San Jose, Costa Rica style city experience but it felt much more cosmopolitan, modern and trendy — a real international city on par with any U.S. metropolis. This is what sets it apart from other Latin American countries.

22I was taken to Le Meridian and met by the Director of Sales. I checked into my “gold suite”, which was large with a separate living area with couches, flat screen TV and a fully stocked mini bar with an assortment of soft drinks, beers, wine, champagne, hard liquor and US brand snacks (i.e. Oreos, Pringles, M&Ms Snickers etc). The bedroom had a desk, internet access, flat screen TV and a king bed. The views of the city were amazing. The bathroom is very large and housed a shower, toilet, double-sink vanity and corner Jacuzzi tub. The décor is very modern and done in earth tones. This hotel definitely has a corporate feel but would merit a 6 Apple rating.

The Meridian is cosmopolitan and chic and would fit right into the heart of Manhattan. It caters to the business traveler as do the majority of the hotels downtown. It is well located in the city center, close to the major highway but fronting a park and the bay it overlooks both the old and new quarters of the city. It is close to many charming restaurants as well as a lot of nightlife. The rooms are contemporary with large marble bathrooms, flat screen TVs and internet access. The hotel has meeting rooms as well as a nice spa, pool and bar area.

**A note on city hotels**. The majority of the city hotels have a corporate feel and there are no kids or areas for kids. While not specifically adults only, since the bulk of the business is corporate, these hotels cater specifically to this clientele and have no areas or recreational activities for children. Families may be better off staying at the Gamboa Resort or the Intercontinental just minutes from downtown. The Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza is also good for family groups (in the downtown area), as well as the Holiday Inn on the Canal.