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Panama: Birding at the Crossroads of the Americas

Program Number: 11588RJ
Start and End Dates:
1/24/2015 - 1/30/2015; 2/25/2016 - 3/5/2016; 11/3/2016 - 11/12/2016; 12/5/2016 - 12/14/2016;
Duration: 6 nights
Location: Panama
Price starting at: $1,875.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Birding Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 16; 6 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 5 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 #12848-01/12/2015.

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
   Holiday Inn City of Knowledge
  Panama City, Panama 1 night
   Gamboa Rainforest Resort
  Gamboa, Panama 4 nights
   Holiday Inn City of Knowledge
  Panama City, Panama 1 night
 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 prior: 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 in time: 3:00 PM
  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

 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

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 Holiday Inn City of Knowledge 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)
Equipment Requirements: Participants should bring a good pair of binoculars. If you purchase new binoculars, please read the manual and familiarize yourself with its features prior to travel.
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.
(Saturday, January 24)
 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: Holiday Inn City of Knowledge

Day 2: Shore Birding at Panama City Mudflats/Exploring Historic Casco Viejo/Nighttime Safari.
(Sunday, January 25)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Orientation to the program.

Lecture by the Panama Audubon Society on the Birds of Panama.

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: Field trip to the Panama City Mudflats for shore birding with site lecture.

The mudflats are located in Panama Viejo and provide excellent shore birding. 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.

Depart for Gamboa.
Arrive at the hotel and check-in, followed by a brief talk on the history of the hotel in the context of the building of the Panama Canal.

Enjoy some free time to rest and recharge your batteries or do some independent birding on the hotel grounds.
 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: Soberania National Park & Pipeline Road/ Harpy Eagle Exhibit at Summit Gardens.
(Monday, January 26)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to the Soberania National Park for morning birding at the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center on Pipeline Road. The center has a 100 ft observation tower overlooking the forest—a great vantage point for viewing upper stratum species.

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: 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.

Return to the hotel and enjoy some late afternoon birding on the hotel grounds.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Gamboa Rainforest Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Plantation Road/Boat Ride Along the Chagres River.
(Tuesday, January 27)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Early morning birding along Plantation Road.

During the early days of the Canal Zone, this road led to local cocoa and coffee plantations. Now the dirt road is part of the famed Soberania National Park and provides access through the park’s tropical forest. The road runs parallel to a small creek which is known to attract the occasional Sunbittern and Golden-crowned Spadebill. Other residents we hope to spot at this site include Blue-crowned Manakins, Northern Schiffornis, White-breasted Wood Wrens, and Scaly-throated Leaftossers.

Transfer back to the hotel.
 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel.
 Afternoon: Time at leisure.

Sundowner birding on a boat ride along the banks of the Chagres River. Learn about the significance of this river in the construction of the Canal while looking for aquatic species such as Great Anis, Cocoi Herons, Amazon Kingfisers, Wattled Jacanas, Masked Ducks, and Anhingas.

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

Day 5: Achiote Road/San Lorenzo National Park/Panama Canal Expansion Observation Center.
(Wednesday, January 28)
 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 Crested Oropendolas, Spot-crowned Barbets, Pied Puffbirds, Mealy Parrots, and Bay 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, semi-deciduous 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 Panama Canal Expansion Observation Center. View some of the construction work being done for the new locks on the Caribbean side and familiarize yourself with the ambitious expansion plans for the Canal.

Return to the hotel.

Time at leisure to enjoy hotel amenities or bird on hotel grounds.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Gamboa Rainforest Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Birding in the Metropolitan Nature Park/The Panama Canal's Miraflores Locks at Work.
(Thursday, January 29)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to Metropolitan Nature Park for birding activities.

The approximately 232 hectares of 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. Avian species such as the Yellow-backed Oriole, Crimson-backed Tanager, Rufous-and- White Wren, White-bellied Antbird and Lance-tailed Manakin are found within the park's dry forest. In addition to safeguarding local wildlife, the corridor and nearby protected areas also help to maintain the rivers and forests that supply the Panama Canal with enough water to function.

Return to the hotel.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Excursion to the Miraflores Locks and site lecture. If we are lucky, we will get to see a ship in transit and witness the Canal mules (towing locomotives) guiding it through the locks.

The fifty-mile long Panama Canal, constructed at the narrowest point between the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans, has literally changed the course of world commerce. Three sets of mechanical locks, or flotation chambers, raise and lower ships between sea level and lake level, taking ships up to a height of 85 feet above sea level. The three locks are Gatún, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores. An elite group of pilots guide vessels through the locks, using electric locomotives known as mules.

Transfer to the hotel and check-in.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner and final bird count at the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn City of Knowledge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Depart from Panama City/Arrive to USA.
(Friday, January 30)
 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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