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Panama: Birding at the Crossroads of the Americas

Program Number: 11588RJ
Start and End Dates:
3/18/2013 - 3/27/2013; 11/3/2016 - 11/12/2016; 12/5/2016 - 12/14/2016;
Duration: 9 nights
Location: Panama
Price starting at: $2,898.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Birding Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 25; 9 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches, 8 Dinners    
Meal Options: Low Fat; Vegetarian; Low Salt    

A biologically privileged land bridge straddling two continents, Panama has more bird species than any other Central American country. Moreover, it is rare to find such easy access to tropical rainforest only a stone’s throw from a modern capital city. Based near the famous Pipeline Road, revel in Panama’s avian abundance on journeys through foothills, wetlands and lowland forests from the Pacific to the Caribbean.


• Lectures illuminate Panama’s history, bird diversity, tropical ecology and conservation.
• Enjoy birding at San Lorenzo National Park, home to more than 12 types of forests and over 400 bird species.
• Birding on an organic coffee farm and in the cloud forest of the Chiriquí highlands.

Activity Particulars

Walking for up to two hours at a time over uneven terrain. Hot, humid conditions.

This program has a maximum group size of 12. So you can get the most out of your experience, all of our birding programs have a maximum participant-to-instructor ratio of 14:1.

Date Specific Information


Can be taken in conjunction with Costa Rica birding program #20616-03/08/2013.

Itinerary Summary

Arrivals Panama City, 1 night; coach to Gamboa, 4 nights; coach to Panama City, flight to David & coach to Boquete, 3 nights; flight to Panama City, 1 night; departure.

Arrival Panama City
1 night
Coach to Gamboa
4 nights

From the dry Pacific slope to the humid Caribbean, more than 650 bird species have been recorded within a narrow isthmus that takes little over an hour to cross by road. Explore colonial Panama City then enjoy birding the nearby mudflats. Travel short distances from Gamboa, situated at the confluence of the Chagres River and the Panama Canal, to look for endemics and specials along Pipeline Road in Soberania National Park, where in 1985 the Panama Audubon Society established a world-record Christmas bird count of 385 species in a single day. On additional expeditions bird along the famous Achiote Road on Panama's Caribbean side, search for forest and woodland species at San Lorenzo National Park, and bird along the banks of the Chagres River during a sundowner boat ride. Observe excavations for the expansion of the Panama Canal during a visit to the Canal's observation center overlooking Gatún Lake and Locks.

Coach to Panama City
1 night

Embark on a birding excursion to the Metropolitan National Park, affectionately called the "lung of Panama City," in search of Green Honeycreepers, Thrush Tanagers, Rufous-breated Wrens, and more. Learn the history behind the Panama Canal and watch its engineering in action at the Miraflores locks.


Panama’s abundance in transient wealth attracted the likes of English explorers Sir Francis Drake and Henry Morgan in search of goods. The historical reliance on commerce has made this tropical oasis a melting pot of culture. Located between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, its dominant features are the mountainous highlands – formed along the central spine of the country, grasslands and over 500 rivers, 125 of which flow into the Caribbean Sea.

Panama City: Modern hotel near the Miraflores Locks. Gamboa: Resort on the banks of the Chagres River. Boquete: Boutique hotel at a historic coffee farm.
Meals and Lodgings
   Hotel El Dorado Country Inn & Suites
  Panama City, Panama 1 night
   Gamboa Rainforest Resort
  Gamboa, Panama 2 nights
   Sol Melia Panama Canal
  Colon, Panama 2 nights
   Hotel Dos Rios
  Volcán, Panama 3 nights
   Holiday Inn City of Knowledge
  Panama City, Panama 1 night
 Hotel El Dorado Country Inn & Suites
Type: Hotel
  Description: Located at the heart of the El Dorado shopping district, bordering the Metropolitan Natural Park, and only 2 minutes from Los Pueblos Albrook Shopping Mall.
  Contact info: El Dorado Shopping District
on Brostella Avenue
Panama City,  00000 Panama
phone: +5073003700
  Room amenities: A/C, minibar, hair dryer, safe, TV, newspaper, coffee maker, and Internet.
  Facility amenities: Pool, golf, exercise room, business center, and laundry facilities.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Subject to availability. Additional hotel nights are subject to availability. Please contact the program coordinator, Holbrook Travel, at 1-800-866-7111 or for information on hotel availability and rates.
  Check in time: 2:00 PM

 Gamboa Rainforest Resort
Type: Resort
  Description: Gamboa Rainforest Resort is strategically located on the banks of the Chagres River and the Panama Canal, near the Soberania National Park. The lush surroundings and quiet neighborhood are a nice refuge from the hustle and bustle of Panama City, just 30 minutes away.
  Contact info: Corregimiento de Cristobal Colon, Panama 5
Gamboa,   Panama
phone: +507-2068888
  Room amenities: Large double-occupancy guest rooms have private bathrooms, tropical furnishings, internet access, and patio with hammock.
  Facility amenities: Pools, business center, laundry services, restaurants, bar, spa services, tour desk, room service, and gift shop.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Sol Melia Panama Canal
Type: Hotel
  Description: Modern hotel located on Gatun Lake, just 10 minutes from the city of Colón.
  Contact info: Espinar Colón
Former Las Americas Military School
Lago Gatun,  00000 Panama
phone: +507-4701100
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, cable TV, hair dryer, safe, direct dial phone, and mini refrigerator.
  Facility amenities: Restaurants, bar, pool, meeting rooms, spa services, laundry services, gym, and tennis courts.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Hotel Dos Rios
Type: Hotel
  Description: Located near the town of David, the hotel lies on the slopes of the Baru Volcano and is surrounded by lush vegetation.
  Contact info: On the way to Río Sereno
Volcan,  00000 Panama
phone: +507-7715555
  Room amenities: Hair dryer.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, bar, gift shop, spa services, and conference room.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Holiday Inn City of Knowledge
Type: Hotel
  Description: The Holiday Inn - City of Knowledge is located just 15 minutes from the center of Panama City. The property is surrounded by tropical vegetation and overlooks the Panama Canal.
  Contact info: Ave. Omar Torrijo Herrera
Panama City,   Panama
phone: +507-3174000
  Room amenities: Rooms have private bath, TV with cable, wireless high-speed internet, radio/alarm clock, iron & ironing board, coffee maker, hair dryer, mini bar, security box, and air conditioning.
  Facility amenities: Swimming pool, fitness center, restaurant, bar, business center, Internet access, and laundry services.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: Subject to availability. Type of accommodations and rates are subject to hotel availability. Please contact the program provider at 1-800-866-7111 or for assistance in booking additional nights.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Arrivals at the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Panama. Hotel check-in begins at 3 p.m. You will be staying at Hotel El Dorado Country Inn & Suites that night.
  End of Program:
Departures from the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Panama. Check out by 11 a.m. You will be staying at Holiday Inn City of Knowledge the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. U.S. and Canadian citizens are strongly encouraged to have a passport which is valid for six months from the date of entry.
  Parking availability:
Not applicable.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Panama City
  Transportation to site: Tourist Taxi Service: Tel. (507) 238-4305/(507) 220-1210. This is the official airport taxi service available at the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. The taxi fare usually runs between $25 and $30 (1-2 people) one way and is payable in U.S. dollars (Panama's national currency). If you require any assistance while at the airport, please visit the airport information desk in the arrivals area.
  From End of Program
  Location: Panama City
  Transportation from site: Taxi services are available from the hotel to the airport.
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrive to Panama City, Panama.
(Monday, March 18)
 Arrive To: Arrive at Panama City's Tocumen International Airport.

Proceed through Immigrations, Baggage Claim and Customs before exiting the secured area of the airport. The Road Scholar representative will be waiting with a Road Scholar sign (only applies to Road Scholar group flights).

Transfer to the hotel.

Please note that this is an international travel day; no meals or program activities are scheduled on this day. Hotel check-in begins at 3 p.m.
Accommodations: Hotel El Dorado Country Inn & Suites

Day 2: Gamboa -
Shore Birding at Panama City Mudflats/Casco Viejo/Nighttime Safari.

(Tuesday, March 19)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Orientation to the program.

Field trip to Old Panama City for mudflats for shore birding with site lecture.

The mudflats are located in Panama Viejo and provide excellent shorebirding. In fact, the Panama City mudflats are one of the most important wetlands for shorebirds in the Western Hemisphere (a RAMSAR site) and a crucial stopover site for migrating species. Birding is best within two hours of high tide when birds such as Western Sandpipers, Willets, Whimbrels, and numerous plovers gather around the coastal rocks and sandbars in search of food.

Walking excursion to Casco Viejo with site lecture.

In 1671, the English privateer Henry Morgan attacked the original portion of Panama City. Morgan's band of pirates proved too much for the Spaniards and its residents fled the city while Morgan plundered its riches. Two years later, in an effort to avoid a repeat of the debacle brought by Morgan, the Spaniards moved the city to Cerro Ancon few miles south of the ruins created by Morgan and his men. To defend the city from future attacks, the Spaniards surrounded the new city by a stone wall, hence the name: Casco Viejo (Old Compound). Today, Casco Viejo is an eclectic neighborhood, home to museums, embassies, theaters, a handicraft market, and more than a few colorful locals.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Lecture at the Panama Audubon Society on the Birds of Panama.

Depart for Gamboa.
Arrive at the hotel and check-in, followed by birding activities on hotel grounds.

Before dinner, enjoy a brief talk on the history of the hotel in the context of the building of the Panama Canal.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: Explore the hotel's lush grounds in open-top vehicles in search of nocturnal animals.
Accommodations: Gamboa Rainforest Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Gamboa -
Soberania National Park & Pipeline Road/Birding on the Chagres River.

(Wednesday, March 20)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to the Soberania National Park for morning birding on Pipeline Road.

Although Soberania National Park was not created until 1980, it stands as one of Panama's natural jewels and is one of the most accessible tropical rainforests. The park is home to hundreds of bird species including Tawny-crested Tanagers, Russet Antshrikes, Crimson-bellied Woodpeckers, and Yellow-eared Toucanets.

Pipeline Road is a 17 km route where the Panama Audubon Society set a world record Christmas Bird Count in 1985 when participants identified 385 species in a 24-hour period. Among the species that might be added to your list are: Crested Eagles, Black-throated and Golden-collared Manakins, White-bellied and Blue-throated Antbirds, Pheasant Cuckoos, Hook-billed Kites, and more!

Return to the hotel.
 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel.
 Afternoon: Time at leisure.

Birding on hotel trails.

Sundowner birding on boat ride along the banks of the Chagres River with a presentation on the significance of the river in the construction of the Canal.

Return to the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Gamboa Rainforest Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Colon -
Canopy Tower/Harpy Eagle Exhibit at Summit Gardens/Birding at Metropolitan National Park.

(Thursday, March 21)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Early morning birding in hotel environs.

Transfer to the Canopy Tower for morning birding.

The Canopy Tower is probably on the top of every birder's list of places to visit while in Panama. The building was once used as a radar tower by the Americans stationed in Panama; it has since been converted into a hotel and nature observation tower. Sitting on the top of Semaphore Hill in Soberania National Park, the tower affords multi-level views of the surrounding semideciduous tall forest. From the rooftop visitors are able to look over the canopy and see as far as the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. Species you might see during this activity include: Keel-billed Toucans, Green Shrike-Vireos, Ornate Hawk-Eagles, Blue Cotingas, Green & Red-legged Honeycreepers, and King Vultures.
 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel.
 Afternoon: Field trip to Summit Gardens for the Harpy Eagle exhibit and site lecture.

Founded in 1923, the Gardens contain over 15,000 plant species and house a zoo that features many animals native to Central America. Birders will want to find the Harpy Eagle display, which includes an education center devoted to Panama's national bird.

Continue your field trip with a visit to Metropolitan National Park, to bird in the Americas' only metropolitan rainforest.

The approximately 232 hectares of endangered Pacific dry forest were declared a national park in 1985. Nicknamed the "lung of Panama City," the park is part of an important biological corridor that links the eastern shore of the Panama Canal with Las Cruces Trail and the Soberania National Park. Visitors can explore the park via a system of trails and enjoy scenic views of the forest and Panama City. Look for Lance-tailed Manakins, Rufous-and-white Wrens, Boat-billed Flycatchers, Green Honeycreepers, Rosy-thrush Tanagers, Blue-headed Parrots, Orange-billed Sparrows, White-necked Puffbirds, and more.

Transfer to Colon and check-in at the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
Accommodations: Sol Melia Panama Canal
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Colon -
Achiote Road/San Lorenzo National Park/Gatun Locks.

(Friday, March 22)
 Breakfast: Boxed breakfast.

Early morning birding field trip to Achiote Road.

Another of Panama's famous birding roads, Achiote runs along the Caribbean and is sure to provide some rare opportunities. Regulars include Montezuma Oropendolas, Spot-crowned Barbets, Pied Puffbirds, Streaked and Pygmy Antwrens, and White-headed and Stripe-breasted Wrens.
 Morning: Continue your morning of birding activities at the San Lorenzo National Park. This is a good area to search for forest and woodland species.

The San Lorenzo National Park covers an area of approximately 9,653 hectares on Panama's Atlantic coast, along the western banks of the Panama Canal. Up to twelve types of forest are protected by the park, including moist forest, semidecidious forest, mangroves, and floodable cativo forest. As many as 81 species of mammals and 430 species of birds have been recorded in the park. The historic Fort San Lorenzo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located on the northern edge of the park.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch, take an excursion to the Gatun Locks with a site lecture on the expansion of the Canal.

Return to the hotel.
Time at leisure to enjoy hotel amenities or explore nearby attractions.

Optional birding around the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
Accommodations: Sol Melia Panama Canal
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Volcán -
Miraflores Locks/Flight to David.

(Saturday, March 23)

Note: Passengers are allowed a checked piece weighing up to 30 lb (measuring up to 45 linear inches/length & height & width) and a small carryon weighing no more than 10 lb. Participants with excess luggage will be responsible for additional charges. Extra luggage is conditional and subject to space on the aircraft. Excess luggage can be stored in Panama City at the last hotel. Please notify the group leader if you wish to store luggage so arrangements can be made prior to the flight to David.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Morning excursion to the Miraflores Locks and site lecture.

The Miraflores Locks offers one of the most accessible views of the Panama Canal. At the locks, visitors are able to witness how the canal functions; see the operation of the locks and the mules that help guide the ships as they transit the path between the seas.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Transfer to Albrook Airport for late afternoon flight to David (45 min) in the Chiriqui province.

Baggage weight limit is 30 lbs per person in addition to a small carryon item weighing no more than 10 lb. Please pack accordingly.

Arrive at David and transfer to the hotel.
Time at leisure.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
Accommodations: Hotel Dos Rios
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Volcán -
Birding at Finca Hartman.

(Sunday, March 24)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Field trip to Finca Hartman.

This destination offers great birding in a transitional area between the highlands and the lower foothills of the Talamanca mountain range. Finca Hartmann's farm land is used primarily for growing shade-grown coffee under towering remnant rainforest trees, with some land still covered by highland cloud forest. Several dirt roads provide access to areas ranging in elevation from 400-6000 ft, thus providing a good altitudinal gradient for birding. Over 280 species have been recorded in the area, including the near- endemic Turquoise Cotinga.
 Lunch: Lunch at Finca Hartman.
 Afternoon: Continue birding at Finca Hartman.

Return to the hotel.
Time at leisure.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
Accommodations: Hotel Dos Rios
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Volcán -
Baru National Park/Cielito Sur Gardens.

(Monday, March 25)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Birding field trip to Baru National Park.

Located in the Chiriqui Province, Baru National Park encompasses the highest peaks in Panama and, despite its relatively small size (13,226 hectares), provides some outstanding birding opportunities. Where the mountains meet the clouds, the park provides excellent habitats for the Resplendent Quetzal, Volcano Junco, Baru Burbit, numerous species of toucans and more.

Return to the hotel.
 Lunch: Lunch at hotel.
 Afternoon: Time at leisure.

Excursion to Cielito Sur Gardens to view hummingbirds.

The Cielito Sur gardens belong to a charming inn located between the villages of Volcán and Cerro Punta, on the western slopes of Volcan Baru. Hummingbird feeders around the inn attract a multitude of species including White-throated Mountain Gems, Scintillant Hummingbirds, Violet Sabrewings, Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, Fiery-throated Hummingbirds, and Green Hermits. A winding trail through Cielito Sur's hillside forest provides good opportunities to view highland species.

Return to the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
Accommodations: Hotel Dos Rios
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Panama City -
Birding at Lagunas de Volcan/Flight to Panama City.

(Tuesday, March 26)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Birding field trip to Lagunas de Volcán (Volcan lakes).

Surrounded by virgin forestland, the two lakes provide an unparalleled view of the Barú Volcano. While the vistas are stunning, you have come for the birds and the Lagunas de Volcán will not disappoint. The lakes and surrounding ecosystems are home to the Masked Duck, Northern Jacana, Pale-billed Woodpecker, and various tanagers, flycatchers, and antbirds. If you are lucky, you might spot the local, but rare, Rose-throated Becard.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Transfer to the David airport to catch a late afternoon flight back to Panama City.

Arrive in Panama City and transfer to the hotel.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner and final bird count at the hotel.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn City of Knowledge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Depart from Panama City/Arrive to USA.
(Wednesday, March 27)
 Depart From: Transfer to the Tocumen International Airport to check-in for group flights to the U.S.

Note: Participants with independent travel arrangements and/or scheduled on later flights can keep their hotel rooms until check-out time on this day. Except for breakfast, all other meals are on your own on this day.
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel (dependent on flight times).
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

A Guide to the Birds of Panama

Author: Robert Ridgely, J.A. Gwynne

Description: This comprehensive field guide, noteworthy for its beautiful color plates, covers additional species found in Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica.

National Geographic Panama

Author: Christopher Baker

Description: Award-winning travel writer and photographer Christopher Baker introduces the history, nature and attractions of Panama, thoroughly illustrated in National Geographic’s style

Tropical Nature

Author: Adrian Forsyth, Ken Miyata

Description: A lively, lucid portrait of the tropics as seen by two uncommonly observant and thoughtful field biologists. Its 17 marvelous essays introduce the habitats, ecology, plants and animals of the Central and South American rainforest

Panama Map

Author: ITMB

Description: A full-color, double-sided map of Panama for the traveler at the detailed scale of 1:480,000.

Lonely Planet Panama

Author: Lonely Planet

Description: The usual comprehensive Lonely Planet treatment, with a good overview of the history, culture and nature of Panama along with regional maps and excellent detail on where to go, sleep and eat.

Culture Smart! Panama

Author: Heloise Crowther

Description: This practical guide to local customs, etiquette and culture is concise and well-illustrated.

The Path Between the Seas, The Creation of the Panama Canal: 1870-1914

Author: David McCullough

Description: Admirably told in vivid, page-turning detail. McCullough reveals the full scope of the Panama Canal, its characters, technical difficulties and Byzantine politics.

The Birds of Panama

Author: Robert Dean, George R. Angehr

Description: Built for the field, with range maps, illustrations and descriptions on facing pages, this Zona Tropical guide covers 900 species.

Panama Wildlife Guide: Birds

Author: Rainforest Publications

Description: PLASTIC CARD, 14 PAGES/A handy 14-panel fold-up card featuring accurate color illustrations of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects. We also carry Panama Wildlife Guide: Birds.

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