Day 1: Azuero Peninsula & El Valle
Often referred as the country’s most traditional region, the interior areas of the Azuero Peninsula, Coclé and El Valle are completely removed from modern Panama. The remote location, folkloric pace and idyllic landscapes will engulf you in an entirely different culture from the more tourist-centric and populous regions.
Despite the area’s isolated reputation, there’s a lot to love in this diverse ecosystem that not only is home to the national drink and the Panama’s most important sea turtle nesting ground but also a wide array of rich culture, activities and excursions to suit most any travel style. Although it is possible to enjoy water sports, horseback riding, canopy walks and even a variety of cultural tours including local market and more, our Panama Surf & Turf Tour saves the water sports for later and focuses on adventure and culture while in the Panamanian wilds of interior Azuero.
The Elle Valle community, also known as El Valle de Anton or Anton Valley, is renowned for its bustling market where it’s possible to find a myriad of handcrafted art, as well as local veggies, fruits and native plants. The region features a spring-life moderate climate perfect for summering, but it also is among the very best birding spots in all of Panama.
Azuero and El Valle may be off-the-beaten path, but it still manages to serve up an impressive array of unique hotels and resorts for intrepid travelers to call home during their stay here. One of our absolute favorites in the Tuscan-inspired Los Mandarinos Boutique Hotel & Spa.
Whether seeking recreational adventures, a romantic honeymoon escape or some family bonding time, Los Mandarinos offers an invigorating experience right in the heart of the picturesque El Valle community. The spacious suites overlook the imposing mountain just beyond the grounds and each of the six rooms comes equipped with private balconies, living rooms and even kitchenettes should you be inclined to cook.There also are nine honeymoon apartments with kitchens, living rooms, terraces or Jacuzzis and mountain views.
Today, you’ll arrive to Panama and check into Los Mandarinos following a private transfer from Panama City to the hotel. We recommend planning an early arrival for the journey to Azuero and El Valle.
Day 2: Azuero Peninsula & El Valle
After enjoying a satisfying and delicious breakfast at Los Mandarinos, you’ll be heading out on a tour that highlights the pearls of Panama’s El Valle region. This full-day private tour will take you to see the breathtaking 100+ foot Chorro Macho waterfall, the famous El Nispero Zoo and Botanical Garden, the Butterfly Garden thermal water wells, ancient petroglyphs and, of course, the renowned market we mentioned above. While spending time at Chorro Macho, be sure to enjoy the surrounding hiking trails, the glistening pool and, of course, the cloud canopy tour that begins near here.
Once back at Los Mandarinos, why not stop by the on-site Spanish style eatery for a sip off the expansive wine list or the Irish pub for a bite of some traditional Emerald Isle fare.
Day 3: Azuero Peninsula & India Dormida
On day three of your Panama Surf and Turf tour, you’re setting off on a moderate trek to India Dormida or “sleeping Indian girl.” This impressive centuries old mountain looks exactly like the silhouette of a sleeping girl when seen from a distance, and the hike there features several stunning views of the Pacific and El Valle as well. On your way down via a different trail, you’ll pass several waterfalls (feel free to take a refreshing dip) before ending your walk at another set of petroglyphs. No one knows for sure exactly where these ancient mysteries came from, but the carved and painted rocks are scattered throughout El Valle and have garnered many theories since their discovery. One thing’s for sure, the largest (at the size of a small house) is sure to leave you pondering the meaning of life on your walk back.
After a day of trekking through El Valle, there’s nothing more relaxing than a visit to the spa, and Los Mandarinos boasts the ultimate in revitalization just beyond your room. Here, expert therapists offer a wide variety of body treatments, massages and facials that will leave you relaxed and looking great for the second half of your dream vacation in Panama’s Pearl Islands.
Day 4: Panama City
All roads in Panama lead through bustling Panama City, so your bilingual guide will pick you up from Los Mandarinos in El Valle for a private transfer back to the capital, where you initially flew into the country but didn't spend any time. Before you continue on to the islands for the remainder of your journey, however, you’ll be amazed by the Canal and the Miraflores Locks.
Rife with the pulse of history yet contemporary and cosmopolitan, Panama City is both the largest and the capital city of this vibrant country. It offers an array of culture, adventure and leisure activities to spend the day.
The most famous of Panama City’s landmarks is, of course, the masterful Panama Canal. You’ll start the tour of the Canal with a short drive to Miraflores to see the enormous ships passing through. We always try to arrive during the busy hours of 9-10am and 2-5pm, so you are assured of seeing many ships lowered and lifted from the comfort of a sheltered terrace where your guide will explain the process to you. Before we leave the Canal, you’ll have the chance to visit the Miraflores Museum and Visitor Center to learn about the history of this masterpiece of engineering and its importance to world trade.
After your visit to the Canal, prepare to head out to the Colonial quarter, Casco Viejo, along the Amador Causeway for amazing views of the Canal, the Pacific and the city skyline. Once at Casco Viejo, you’ll feel as though you stepped into history among the impressive churches, narrow streets and charming Colonial homes. Here is where it becomes apparent that Panama City was founded in 1519 and packs over 500 years of antiquity into itself. In keeping with this rich heritage, it seems only right you should overnight at a repeated Condé Nast Traveler Top 10 Hotel in Latin America winner— Bristol Hotel.
Located in the heart of Panama City’s financial district, this storied hotel offers slick urban style with uncompromising sophistication in an intimate and upscale retreat for discerning travelers. The 125 guest rooms and suites feature bespoke service, modern amenities and fine dining in an historic mansion brimming with ambiance.
The Bristol is particularly well known for its restaurant, Salsipuedes, and we recommend dining here upon return from your afternoon at the Canal and Casco Viejo.
Day 5: Pearl Islands
After you enjoy breakfast at Bristol in Panama City, you’ll take a quick private ground transfer to the domestic airport for a 20-minute flight to San Jose island in the Pearl Island archipelago. So named for an indigenous king whose subjects’ occupation was pearl diving, the islands are home to fresh water rivers, colorful sand beaches of white, black and gold, turquoise coves and abundance of wildlife, including more than 100 species of bird, iguanas, agoutis, deer, wild pigs and more.
While staying in the Pearl Islands, you’ll enjoy island charm and stylish modern comfort the secluded luxury resort, Hacienda del Mar. A hotel agent will pick you up from the local airstrip for the drive to this secluded all-suite eco resort where you’ll quickly discover unmatched access to white sand beaches, triple canopy forest and its very own wildlife population that has thrived on this otherwise unpopulated island.
From Hacienda del Mar, you’ll enjoy an abundance of possibilities during the remaining days of your dream Panama vacation.
Day 6: Pearl Islands
Perhaps the most famous landmark of Panama’s Pearl Islands is the spectacular Three Monks rock formations that seem to simply erupt from the Pacific Ocean. Today, you’ll enjoy a private guided snorkeling tour that takes you to Three Monks and a myriad of additional snorkeling spots that are among some of the most unique and beautiful in the world. From Contadora to Mogo Mogo, there are hundreds of tiny islands (and a few large ones too) in the archipelago and all offer clear, warm water and beaches that would make any beach bum jealous. You won’t want to head back in from this amazing snorkeling experience.
Day 7: Pearl Islands
On the last day of your stay in Panama’s Pearl Islands, you’ve got a free day, and there are many fun ways to spend it. Admittedly, much of the entertainment here is water-based, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other activities too. Here are some of our favorites:
If you didn’t get enough snorkeling yesterday, head back out for day two, or if you’d rather charter a diving boat to do a bit of SCUBA at some of your favorite locales from yesterday, that can be arranged.
Paddle out on an island-hopping tour via kayak or paddle board.
Cast a lure for some record-breaking ocean fishing.
Book an island ATV tours to see more of San Jose’s wildlife.
Go for an early morning hike for a great chance to see a bevy of birds.
Sign up for a night safari for a totally different view of the jungle.
Join a whale watching tour (during season).
Or ask us about alternative tours.
Day 8: Departure from Panama City
After your last morning in Panama, you’ll take a private transfer back to the airstrip on San Jose before heading onto Panama’s Tocumen International Airport for the return flight home.