It was 3 am in Panama: dogs were barking and a rooster was squawking. It wasn’t even a nice cock-a-doodle-doo but a whining half-squawk, over and over and over again. Good grief. We rolled over.
At this hotel there were tiny green salamanders as cute as could be with the daintiest little feet you ever saw. This one was no more than three inches long.
The geckos were here and there all over the aptly-named Greco Hotel, a 3* hotel, with little cabins that had no hot water (it was hot anyway), no mirrors, and no towels or facecloths but had the most wonderful flowery smell and a view of the mist over the mountains. The beds were comfortable and the hotel had a restaurant, bar and a swimming pool surrounded by a lovely garden. It rained all night and a cool mountain breeze made for a good night’s sleep – until the rooster started screeching at 3 am. It was a charming cabin but that rooster was definitely not adding to that charm at the moment.
Rental Jeep to Anton Valley, Panama
After landing at the Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen just outside Panama City, Panama, we had rented a jeep and started driving South East of Panama City along the Panamericana Highway. We were headed to El Valle in the Anton Valley of Panama. Turning inland it was 27 kilometers of winding mountain roads with gorgeous vistas across lush valleys… hills, clouds, out-of-breath scenery.
Restaurante Los Capitanes
After turning over, and turning over yet again, we came to the realization that sleep was no longer possible. An early breakfast was the only alternative. Restaurante Los Capitanes, a round-house set in beautiful gardens, in the town of El Valle, served a good German/American breakfast (deysayunos) all on crisp white linen tablecloths. With amazing bacon – even better than Canadian Bacon (can you imagine?), and warm cream-milk (I could have kissed her hand) for coffee, they also serve local specialties, fine wines and fresh fruit shakes. The restaurant is part of the Hotel Capitanes with its hand-carved leather chairs, a wood-burning fireplace and a welcoming decor. When we found out that this hotel was the same price as our little cabin, we almost wished we had stayed here.
For more Hotel and Restaurant options in El Valle de Anton, Panama, check this website: Hotels & Restaurants in El Valle.
The big surprise came when we drove up the road a little from El Valle to a tiny village, where we found Canopy Adventures. Here you can soar over the treetops of the cloud forest on a zip-line (highly recommended) which passes over a stream and a waterfall! There are 3 different levels of zip-lines, one even suitable for children.
Rain Forest Walking Tour
The best five dollars we’ve ever spent was on the extremely cheap $5 Rain Forest Walking Tour with Canopy Adventures, El Valle, Panama. It was just beautiful. Walking down a stone path through the natural jungle, we came to a tiered waterfall, “Chorro El Macho”, flowing into a sparkling emerald pool which you could swim in, just like in the movies.
A one-hour easy walk, rich with plants and animals of the jungle, it was one of the best walking tours we’ve ever experienced. Further along down another path, we came to a man-made pond diverted from the stream, but it wasn’t nearly as nice as the natural beauty of waterfall pond, Chorro El Macho. Expect to see lively monkeys, brilliant butterflies, toucans, golden tree frogs, sloths, parrots, orchids, suspension bridges and trees heavy with a tangle of mosses, ferns, orchids and other climbing plants.
Canopy Tower Tour
This same company, Canopy Family, operates the Canopy Tower Tour which gives you a 360 degree view of the Soberania National Park, in a different location, about an hour East of Panama City.
You can stay right in the Canopy Tower Hotel where your bedroom with be at treetop level, exactly where the birds love to be. Birding here is pretty fabulous when you can bet on seeing colourful parrots, monkeys, giant butterflies, huge unusual birds and tiny colourful birds. You can buy a package deal that includes everything: hotel, all meals, wine, and canopy tours.
This was our first few days in Panama. If you’re looking for a vacation spot that is a little less known, with gorgeous beaches, lush tropical rain forests, streams and waterfalls, and fewer tourists (once you get away from Panama City and surrounding area), Panama has everything an adventurer could want.