Day Trips from Las Clementinas
There is a reason that the Canal is considered one of the wonders of the modern world and Frank Gehry called it a great kinetic sculpture. You can practically see the entrance of the Canal from Las Clementinas, and the first set of locks is a less than fifteen minutes drive. So it’s perfectly possible to see a vessel pass through the locks and be back at Las Clementinas in less than two hours.
For those who are more curious about the Canal’s history and workings, take a little longer to visit the Museum at Miraflores, or even do a half-day Canal transit.
Fishing in Panama comes in two flavors–serious deep-sea fishing and relaxed fresh water fishing on Gatun Lake. Panama is one of the world’s top blue water fishing destinations. We can arrange a great day charter right out of the city, or at one of Panama’s famous lodges for those serious anglers with a little more time.
And for us amateur anglers, one of our favorite ways to spend a day in Panama is fishing on Lake Gatun. No matter how many times we go, we’re still amazed that within fifteen minutes of Las Clementinas we can see monkeys, crocs and PanaMax freighters while catching peacock bass and sipping Balboas.
When the North American winter sets in, Panama is flooded with thousands of species of migratory birds–so much so that the Audubon Society routinely sets and resets its records for most species seen in a day in the jungle just on the edge of Panama City. That this kind of wildlife can be found 30 minutes from a major city is a testament to Panama’s natural abundance.
Barro Colorado Island
In fact, what we call the Panama Canal might have been more accurately named “Panama’s One Big Manmade Lake between Two Short Canals at Either Side of the Isthmus”. Rather than dig from ocean to ocean as the French had set out to do, the United States elected to use Panama’s immense rainfall to flood the center of the country and lift ships into a great central lake (Gatun) by three sets of locks. At the moment Lake Gatun came into existence, many hills became islands. One of these new islands was immediately given to the Smithsonian Institute as a center for studying tropical forests. Nearly 100 years later, Barro Colorado Island is home to the world’s most important tropical research station, with over 500 scientists conducting experiments at any given moment (http://www.stri.org/english/visit_us/barro_colorado/index.php).
Smithsonian allows a very limited number of visitors to the island each year for 3/4-day educational hikes. Due to the popularity of these hikes, significant (several months) advance booking is suggested, though there are occasionally cancellations.
Panama is the perfect place to golf. A few years ago there weren’t many options throughout the country for golfing but that is quickly changing. Golf pros and amateurs now have a lot to choose from.
Because of Panama’s position as a regional trade capital and its low import duties, the country has become one of Latin America’s favorite shopping destinations. Whether you are interested in locally-flavored shopping or in high-end, mall-style shopping, you will be pleasantly surprised by Panama’s selection. Guayaberas, Cuban cigars, handmade Panama Hats, native handcrafts and global luxury brands can all be found here.
The backbone of the Americas passes through Panama on its way from Canada to Chile, with a brief break in Panama City (just low enough to allow the Canal to pass, thankfully). But driving for just over an hour from Las Clementinas, you can be breathing fresh, cool mountain air in El Valle. And a short flight can take you to Chiriquí, where you can hike to the top of Volcan Baru, a 10,000-foot peak where it is possible to see both oceans on a clear day (January-February are best). Day trips and overnight trips are both possible.
Many of our guests like to take day trips to the beaches near Panama City. Whether you want to spend an hour, all day or go for a few days, we can organize a beach trip to your liking. Some of our favorites are: Taboga Island for a day trip–it’s a short ferry ride from the city to the “Island of Flowers” at the entrance of the Canal, where Paul Gauguin was famously arrested for urinating in public on his way to Tahiti. Rio Mar–1.5 hours from Panama City has some of the whitest beaches we have ever seen (good surf, too).
September through January is normally considered prime whale watching season in Panama, though lately the whales have been sticking around all year.
Day Trip to Colon by Train
The Panama Canal was made possible by a train, built in the 1850′s to service the crowds drawn to California by the great Gold Rush of 1849. The train still winds through the jungle along the edge of the Canal on its way from Panama to the Caribbean coast each morning and back each afternoon. We recommend taking the train over early in the morning and having a car pick you up on the other end to take you to see Fort San Lorenzo, the Colon Free Trade Zone or Portobelo.