Day 1: Arrive in Panama City (August 15)
Arrive in Panama in the early afternoon or evening and take a private air-conditioned bus to the Westin Hotel and Resort at Playa Bonita. Check in and enjoy deluxe accommodations as well as all-inclusive meals and beverages. Relax by the pool while you enjoy a breathtaking view of the Bay of Panama. Check out the hotel at http://www.westinplayabonita.com/.
Day 2: Panama City Tour & the Panama Canal (August 16)
Start the day with a walk on the beach and then enjoy a buffet breakfast. Leave on a half-day Panama City tour where you will see many sites in Panama, including:
- The Cinta Costera: Also known as Balboa Avenue, this is the main boulevard along the Bay of Panama.
- The Fish Market: Spend some time wandering the fish market and enjoy a fresh ceviche.
- Casco Viejo: This is old-town Panama City where the artists mix with locals and tourists for a unique Panama experience.
Go back to the hotel and have a leisurely lunch. After lunch we will be visiting the Panama Canal, seeing a brief movie, and getting an up-close-and-personal guided tour as we watch the ships passing below us. The Panama Canal is what shaped Panama into the country it is today. See the locks in action while a guide explains what is happening in English. Get a glimpse of the canal expansion due to be complete in 2014.
Take the private bus back to the hotel and relax before dinner. Enjoy the many amenities the hotel offers, such as 5 swimming pools, a swim-up bar, water volleyball, a first-rate gym, pool, ping pong, and all-you-can-drink cocktails.
Day 3: The Wholesale Produce Market & Panama Pacifico (August 17)
Start the day with a walk on the beach or a workout in the gym and then enjoy a buffet breakfast. Leave mid-morning on a private bus for Panama Pacifico, a free trade zone. Get a firsthand glimpse of the transformed Howard Air Force Base and see how other international companies are capitalizing on the tax-free in and out status.
Take the bus back to the hotel and enjoy a buffet lunch and dessert bar.
Leave early afternoon for a trip in an air conditioned bus to visit the famous Wholesale Food Market, also known as the Ancon Produce Market. See a different side of Panama, where you can fill your refrigerator with every type of produce imaginable for under $20.
Return to the Westin Playa Bonita, where you will get a private tour of the entire Playa Bonita property, including the newly open members-only beach club, The Pearl Club. Conclude the tour with a private champagne reception at the high-end condo project Casa Bonita, led by wine expert Melissa Darnay.
Enjoy dinner at your leisure.
Day 4: Travel to the Coronado Beach Area (August 18)
Have a walk on the beach and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Then, leave on a private bus for Coronado. An hour from Panama City, Coronado is the main beach area on the Pacific Coast side of Panama. There are many small towns that make up the beach region, but Coronado is the hub of the beach area. It has two grocery stores, a dozen or so great restaurants, a Machetazu (like a Target that sells both home items and groceries), and just about everything else you need to live comfortably, from pet groomers to nail salons to an upscale wine store.
After breakfast, ride in an air-conditioned private bus to Coronado. Tour a resort community and then have lunch as a group at La Teca, one of Coronado’s many fabulous restaurants. Wine and beer are included with lunch. See one more resort property after lunch, and then check into a rental condo. After a short time to relax, we will walk one block as a group and enjoy dinner as a group at Luna Rossa, a lovely Italian restaurant serving typical Italian fare including moderately priced pastas and pizzas. Again, wine and beer are included with dinner.
Day 5: Coronado & El Valle (August 19, 2013)
Start the day with a walk on the beach. The Coronado beaches are a swirl of black volcanic sand and traditional colored sand. The magnetic properties in the volcanic sand and the negative ions from the beach will melt away your stress as well as your aches and pains. Let the black sand squish between your toes and see how good you feel.
Eat a continental breakfast from the Fruit Basket you’ll get upon check-in. Take a private bus to see a resort community on the way to El Valle. El Valle is an inactive volcano, and an entire town was built INSIDE the volcano. At the base of El Valle, there is a local’s market that sells plants, produce, and native goods. This is a great place to get fresh produce to eat during your stay in Panama and souvenirs for all your friends back home. Have lunch at Restaurante Rincon Vallero where a stream filled runs through the restaurant. We’ll enjoy lunch with wine or beer as a group, and then you can feed the fish and the turtles in the indoor stream.
After lunch, we will take a brief hike to a waterfall. Once we get to the waterfall, feel free to enjoy a refreshing swim in the water or just relax in the cool rain forest. After a short hike back to the private bus, change into dry clothes and then ride back to Coronado.
After a short time to rest and relax, we will walk as a group two blocks to Picasso’s Ristorante, a favorite local’s hangout. This is an outdoor restaurant so dress casually. Dinner with wine or beer is included.
Day 6: Coronado & Playa Bonita (August 20)
Start the day with a walk on the beach. Eat a continental breakfast from your Fruit Basket.
Every vacation should end with some hardcore relaxation. Return to the Playa Bonita Resort, this time staying at the Intercontinental hotel and plan on relaxing. You can take a walk the beach, lay by the pool, read a book, workout in the gym, get a massage in the Clarins Spa, and generally let the beautiful surroundings wash away your fatigue.
Day 7: Travel back to the US (August 21)
Enjoy a leisurely buffet breakfast and a mimosa or two, and then take a private bus to Tocuman airport to meet your flight. Transportation to the airport is included for those who have morning departure flights.
If this sounds too good to pass up, email me and reserve your spot. There is only room for 22 people, so be one of the 22 on this incredible tour. I will need a valid credit card, and the hotel may charge 2 nights on your credit card at their discretion.
See you in Panama!
** All prices are per-person based on double occupancy. Single occupancy will incur a higher charge. The prices are based on a minimum of 10 people. Prices may be slightly higher if fewer people attend. A valid credit card number is required to secure the reservation, and one night’s hotel may be charged at the hotel’s discretion. Everything is included except airfare, spa treatments, spending money, and items not listed on this itinerary. Certain aspects of the tour may change based on availability, but the overall feel of the tour will remain the same.