Our family trip to Panama this summer included three of my favorite things: nature, adventure and authentic connections.
From the iconic Panama Canal, to the gorgeous beaches of Bocas del Toro, to the highlands of Chiriqui, the itinerary was filled with family-friendly activities and new discoveries.
There’s something unique about exploring a country with local guides and alongside other families. It is not about being on a bus with a large group and being dragged from tourist site to tourist site. This Panama trip is a perfect example of what a small group departure can do: unique and authentic experiences (the ones you don’t necessarily find on TripAdvisor), local and knowledgeable guides (peace of mind anyone?) and instant playmates for the kids.
All so you can focus on the experience, exploring with your kids, seeing the world through their eyes and making new discoveries yourself.
I got to try surfing for the first time with my daughters and knowing they were safe with their own guides. I will never forget Julia’s (6) excitement snorkeling for the first time (I definitely found my scuba diving buddy!), Sofia’s (8) smile as she zip-lined through the cloud forest and the kids’ wonder as we watched the Miraflores locks in action while enjoying lunch at the Panama Canal.
Panama Itinerary Highlights
The Emberá Tribe
On our first day, we took a “piragua” (motorized dugout canoe) ride into Chagres, one of the National Parks that surrounds and protects the Panama Canal’s watershed. A scenic (and wet) 45-minute ride took us to the colorful Emberá Purú, one of the Emberá settlements in the region.
While they are indeed used to receiving foreigners and rely on tourists to survive, the visit didn’t feel fake or awkward. On the contrary, we all enjoyed a tasty lunch of fried fish and plantains served in banana leaves, listened to their traditional songs, and learned about their customs as the local kids played soccer in the rain and our kids got genipap dye tattoos.
Wildlife & Panama Canal
No better way to explore the Canal Zone than enjoying a boat ride around Gamboa forest to observe monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, toucans and other birdlife followed by lunch at the Miraflores locks. We were lucky to see the locks in action as a sailboat and container ship passed through. After lunch, our guides turned the Panama Canal museum into a fun and educational scavenger hunt.
Surfing and Snorkeling in Bocas del Toro
Not all beach experiences are created equal. And our stay in Bocas del Toro is proof of that!
Leisurely meals, gorgeous sunsets and plenty of action with a surf lesson and snorkeling outings. Girls also loved swimming in the aptly named Starfish beach.
Hanging Bridges & Zip-Lining in Boquete
Hiking through the cloud forest over six hanging bridges was truly incredible.
The kids loved learning about venomous mushrooms, local fauna and other secrets along the way.
The next day, we went back to the same location for some zip-lining fun. Younger kids had to go tandem, but if anything, that made it more exciting for them as they felt like mini-guides themselves. There were 12 separate lines and some were pretty, pretty long…
Conservation Efforts – Yaguara Foundation
On our last day, Ricardo Moreno from the Yaguara Foundation shared his stories and passionate quest for protecting the jaguars in Panama.
Ricardo did a fantastic job talking to us about what his organization is doing to save the animals and really inspiring the kids to get involved and make a difference in the world.
It was late in the day and I thought Sofia (8) had been absent-mindedly drawing on a piece of paper. At the end of Ricardo’s presentation, she hands me her notes. And declares it was one of her favorite things along with zip lining and surfing.
Final Notes & Pricing
This is an adventure-filled itinerary that offers plenty for everyone.
The best part, however, are the friends we make along the way. From that first hesitant handshake when you meet your fellow travelers for the first time to tight hugs and tears as we part ways at the end, carrying special memories and lifelong friends that we will treasure forever. Thank you Eric of TravelBabbo, Nicole of The JetSet Family and kiddos and the Thomson Family crew for the wonderful shared memories.
Pricing for this specific trip varies by date – between $4,190 and $5,090 for adults and $3,990 and $4,890 for kids under 12. Send us a message if you want more info!
We have plenty more incredible trips for 2018. Are you interested in coming along with your family? Click here to join the conversation and let us know where you want to go!