Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Where to rent a car in Panama-City and what you should be avoiding ?

1) Only rent a car if you only plan to get outside Panama-City, in the city use taxis or the new Metro. 2) Avoid renting a car at Tocumen International airport - A) If you don't understand Spansih and are in a hurry, B) people are anxious to get the car and get gone without checking to see what they've agreed to and C) when they return they are in a hurry to catch their flights and will not argue with lame, fraudulent claims or overpriced add-ons. 3) Don't rent a car if your plan is to only get to Bocas del Toro - By the time you add up all the costs for a rental car, the airfare doesn't look quite so expensive. Also, keep in mind that the express busses from Panama City to Almirante and return are no slower than what you can drive that distance. It's a very long and tiring 10 to 13 hours in a car 4)Our suggestion: You will be better off picking up the car at Albrook (Gelabert) Domestic Airport because the traffic is less rough than the other areas in the city and you will be closer to the Corredor Norte if you plan to go to Portobello or the American bridge if you plan to drive along the pacific. You will avoid experiencing the traffic and the lack of signs in Panama-City. There are many agencies, Dollars Car rental is OK

Saturday, May 31, 2014

SAN BLAS - Isla del Diablo with our friends - VIDEO!

Our friend Pascal who visited us in January just posted our San Blas vacations in Diablo Islands on youtube. This is the island we can recommend to travellers.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Where To Stay in San Blas (Guna Yala) ?


There are many "Cabanas" in San Blas, but we recommend you one Island Isla Del Diablo which is owned by our Kuna friend. It is in front of Isla del Perro (Dog Island). It is a great place for snorkeling, as there is a nice reef and a shipwreck. The island is situated at 45 minutes from the San Blas dock. They offer also free snorkeling gear and free hop on / hop off islands Tours. Tours are also offered to the deserted Cayos Holandeses, prices to be confirmed. This place is amazing specially if you want to mingle with the Kunas and experience a bit about their culture. 2014 Prices: USD 50.00 the night per person including breakfast, lunch and dinner, free snorkeling gear and day tour. USD 30.00 the transportation by boat per person from the port to Isla del Diablo (both way). Camping is as well possible for USD 30.00 with food and tour included. Do not worry, our Kuna friends coordinate very well your pick-up at the dock with our friends from the 4x4 carriers. You might be waiting around 30 minutes at the San Blas dock to have all the logistics ready. Take a rain coat with you and/or but your belongings such as camera, mobile phone in a dry place as it can be raining or the sea can be a little rough. Feel free to contact us: Secretsofpanama@gmail.com














Monday, May 26, 2014

How to get to San Blas (Guna Yala)


You have 3 options! Plane, boat and by Car 1) By car, we do not recommend you to go there with a rental car as you will have to pay more taxes (5 dollars to enter into Guna Yala + USD 5 the night) and your car will stay overnights at your own expense but we have posted a map on how to get there with your own transportation. The road to San Blas through the densely forested jungle highlands of Panama is operated by licensed 4×4 transporters. Our friends are the pionners of the road to San Blas since decades, they leave Panama City daily between 5am and 5.30am or at noon. The drive is approx 2.5-3hrs, depending on road and weather conditions. The 4×4 transporters can hold up to 7 passengers, it can be a little squeeze. It is recommended to take only small bag with you for your stay and leave your main luggage at your hotel (if possible). For they way back, they will pick you up at the port between 9am and 10am or in the afternoon around 4pm. They are always in touch with our Kuna friends to coordinate your arrival, don't worry, just be patient sometimes. 2014 prices per persons: Both way: USD 60 Kuna Yala entry taxes: USD 10,Kuna Yala Port taxes: USD 2.00 If you do not want to share the taxi with 7 people and would like more space, they also offer private charter for USD 350.00 (both ways) Feel free to contact us: Secretsofpanama@gmail.com 2)By plane, you better take the plane if you want to go to the south of the San Blas Islands. Check Airpanama. 3)By boat, (transport and sailing boat) are passing through the San Blas Islands. You can take them from Colon (Panama) or Cartagena (Colombia). There also some "lanchas" going from Miramar (Panama) to San Blas. As we have not experienced it and listen more bad stories than good stories, we cannot recommend you this mode of transportation.

Is there any Day Tour to San Blas available ?

Day tous are now available as the new road allow to arrive in San Blas in 2.5hours vs. in 5hours some years ago. It can be a good alternative if you do not have the time to stay over night or if you wish to keep the comfort of your hotel room in the City :-) We suggest you to avoid weekend or national days off in Panama. The San Blas day tour starts with transportation from Panama City to Carti with a shared 4×4 leaving between 5am and 5.30am. They can take up to 7 passengers and you might be a little squeeze. The journey to Carti on the San Blas island mainland is around 2-3 hours through the rainforest. In Carti you will be picked up by our Kuna Friend who will take you to Isla Diablo where you will have the time to go snorkelling, have lunch before to go for a two hours tour around the others islands. The day tours of the islands will finish around 3-4pm and you will be transported back to Carti Port and meet with the 4×4 transport back to Panama City, you will arrive back in Panama City between 6 and 7pm normally. Price: USD 135.00 (all included, incl. taxes) to be paid to the transport company. Feel free to contact us: Secretsofpanama@gmail.com

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sierra Llorona - the "hub" for day trips in the rainforest and Caribbean

We have decided to visit the Sierra Llorona lodge half way from Portobello and Panama-City (1 hour drive). The reason was to find a good alternative between rainforest and beaches. Knowing no good quality value accomodation are not available along the coast and the drive there can be a bit heavy on te way back, we thought it was the best location for our mini-vacations. We were kind of sceptical about the flora and fauna but when we arrived there we saw a toucan and then took the path down the lodge and it was simply amazing. We booked the suit room which is huge and has a big terrasse facing the forest. The breakfast and dinner are served as a Buffet and is very good. We even took our BBQ with us and cooked our own food on the first night. It was a very nice experience without saying that the owner is a well-know musician and enjoyed him playing guitar and singing all night with his own written song. For more info, please check the website: http://www.sierrallorona.com

 

 


 

How to arm your trip to Coiba Islands ?

Article currently under editing... thanks for your patience.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

FAQ - Facts about Panama

Let us share with you the best Panama map with tourist attractions and provide you general facts about Panama. LOCATION: Panama is located between Central and South America on the Isthmus of the same name. Its surface is of 75,517 square kilometers, slightly less than the surface of the State of South Carolina. The width of the Isthmus is between 80 km and 192 km. CLIMATE: Panama has a tropical climate. Temperatures vary between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius and humidity is always high. SEASON: There are only two seasons, the “dry” during the months of January to April and the “not so dry” from May until end of the year. LANGUAGE: Spanish is the language. CURRENCY: The U.S. dollar. Panama’s own coins match U.S. coins in size and value, and are thus acceptable in casino slot machines. TIPPING: Check with management if in doubt. 10% to 15% of the bill would be acceptable. DRIVERS LICENSE: Visitors can drive up to 90 days with a foreign driving license. HOSPITALS: Panama has a number of very up-to-date hospitals the principals being Clinica Paitilla Clinica San Fernando Hospital Nacional and Hospital Punta PacĂ­fica AMBULANCE SERVICE: Emi Panama 236-6060 ELECTRICITY: 110 volts; 60 cycles. TIME ZONE: Eastern Stardard time. Daylight Saving Time is not observed in Panama. Special national holidays of Panama It is wise to be aware of Panama’s National Holidays when the whole country closes down and businesses and banks are closed. Jan 9 – Martyr’s Day Feb 12 – Carnival Tuesday Nov 3 – Independence from Colombia Nov 5 – First Cry of Independence (from Colombia) in Colon Nov 10 – First Cry of Independence from Spain in Los Santos Nov 28 – Independence from Spain Dec 8 – Mothers´ Day

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Embera Village Tribe community tour












Your day will start around 930 am when you will be arriving to the dock, here our Embera friend will be waiting with his canoe, where you will be able to see all the flora and fauna of this area.
This was an amazing private tour spent with the Embera. Canoe, waterfall, dances, lunch.  The price for this was USD200.00  per person including transportation from Panama City and also a local english guide.  Prices for groups are reduced.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Panama Climate?

This is the best article we found about the climate in Panama and confirm it looks accurate: Panama has a year-round, warm, agreeable climate. Seemingly perfectly positioned in the tropics, it is north of the equator but far enough south to avoid hurricanes. The country can be split into climatic zones based on which ocean it is closest to and altitude. Temperature varies with altitude, more than season, the highlands being a cool relief from the humid coast. The Pacific side has a two seasons, wet and dry, while in the Caribbean it’s rare to go a week without a tropical downpour, anytime of year. Panamanians refer to the seasons as summer (verano) which is dry season and winter, (invierno) which is wet season, remembering it’s the tropics so winter is never cold, just a little wetter. The temperature is remarkably consistent all year with a thoroughly enjoyable 19-21 ̊C in the highlands and 28-31̊C elsewhere the norm. On the Pacific side the wet season, or green season, kicks in from May until November, bringing high humidity and plenty of rainfall. It often rains in short bursts but sometimes rains for a day or two before clearing. The end of the wet season is typically the wettest time of year. Where there is r`e are clouds. Accordingly the dry season sees more blue sky days than the wet. The dry season runs from mid-December to mid-April, with April and March being the hottest months. The Caribbean, on the other hand, has just one season – the wet one. Expect uniformly warm temperatures and tropical downpours. In the Caribbean you can be sure rain is never too far away, but it will always clear afterwards. A locals’ tip is to visit in February-March or September-October when there is generally less rainfall. In central Panama, highland areas receive less rainfall in the wet season, have a drier dry season and are a few degrees cooler, though at nighttime the temperature can drop significantly.

Monday, February 17, 2014

How to get to the Cayos Holandeses in San Blas and what type of accomodations are offered ?

Recently, we have received several request about the Cayos Holandeses and thought it would be good to share some information with our followers! We believe there is now more demand because some islands became very crowded during weekends and travellers want to escape from it and find their own Oasis where there is "nothing" no cabins, just camping as accomodation. The Cayos Holandeses are a group of a approx. 20 untouched islands and least visited because they are 1.5 hours far aways from the more touristy islands. Obviously it will cost you more to get there because of the fuel. It is our favorite spot for snorkeling and fishing. There is a huge lagoon where the sea is very quiet so called "la piscina" which is famous for the sailing which want to rest a little bit. We have often seen Sting Rays, small sharks, dolphins and star fish. Our friends from Diablo who owns part of this island has the permission to offer trips to the Cayos for USD 95.00/person including pick-up from the San Blas dock to the Cayos Holandeses, camping equipment, 3 meals, tours around the islands and a stop in Diablo islands and its surrounding on the way back (minimum 4 persons). For day trip, our friends offer tour to the Cayos for around USD 200.00 for the boat, we suggest you to find and motivate other tourist staying in Diablo islands to share the costs with you (the last time we pay USD 35 each and we were 6 people). Look at our other post for more information or feel free to contact us: Secretsofpanama@gmail.com

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Good value, local and quality food restaurant in Panama-City?

We suggest you to find other restaurant than in Casco Viejo because it became very crowded and expensive. Casco Viejo is a very lovely place to have a drink but for breakfast, lunch, dinner with a local touch we suggest you:
-Chinese Breakfast in Panama a delicious dim sum.
-Boulevard Restaurant in Avenida Balboa
-El Trapiche in Via Argentina
- Las Tinajas they offer shows at night with Panamanians polleras and local dance (you need reservation).
Also please check this advisory internet link for restaurant in Panama www.degustapanama.com and for any special taste and recommendations.
 Feel free to contact us: Secretsofpanama@gmail.com

Friday, February 14, 2014

Fishing in Panama Canal and sightseeing ?

We love spending our Sunday's with our friend Luis fishing in the Panama-Canal, this is a very different way to visit the canal... All our friends who have been with us just loved this experience close to the city. It is amazing to be on the canal in a small fishing boat at 20 meters from a huge ship! You will also enjoy the wildlife, see some monkeys, birds, etc and enjoy fishing Peacock Bass or Oscar. Afterwards you will take a break in a fresh water secret pool and cascade before to have a barbecue and a ceviche with your own freshly caught fish on a small island. Our friend only provide tours during week-ends and you need to book in advance as he works outside the city. The trip start from 6am from your hotel until 2-3pm or before if you wish to be back earlier. Total price including transport from your hotel to the dock, the boat, fuels, fishing gears, baits, barbecue, coolers with ice costs. Bring your own drinks! Feel free to contact us Secretsofpanama@gmail.com.






Seafood, fruit and fresh veggie markets in Panama-City ?


 
Close to La Cinta Costera you can find the Fish Market you will find seafood at great prices(The prices are better than what you could find  in any supermarket) . Every Morning the different fishermen come in day and sell their catches.
 
Also if you don’t want to take your Fish /  Octopus / Lobster / Shrimps back home or even your hotel there’s a little restaurant upstairs the seafood market  where they will cook your buy for you.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Do you know any taxi or transport company to get around Panama, airport pick-up?

This is the price list of our usual english speaking driver. We always use his services when travelling to the airport for vacations and also the multinational company we are working is using his service. The driver became our friend, he owns a mini-van with A/C which can accomodate up to 8 persons. He charges the same prices as a normal taxi driver even if only one or two people. Some of his prices for travels around Panama are below market price. The most important is no bargain, confusion and frustration while you are on holidays. Important information: Until 2 luggages/person, additional luggage has a cost of USD 2.00. Always exit to the arrival using door on the right hand side. The driver will be waiting for you with a sign and your name. Please contact us: Secretsofpanama@gmail.com