bing

'Selfdrive Panama'

What makes this trip special?

Escape the Metropolis

Escape the Metropolis

Casco Viejo - Panama City

Narrow cobbled streets, small plazas and colonial French & Spanish buildings seem a world away from the skyscrapers of modern Panama City. Recently restored under UNESCO World Heritage and dotted with chic boutique hotels, the Casco Vieja offers an atmospheric stay in the capital.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean

Portobelo

A pretty harbour town, Portobelo was once the end of the Royal Road, where it suffered repeated attacks from Pirates including Welsh buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan and Sir Francis Drake in the 17th & 18th centuries, all vying to get hold of the Spanish Conquistador's Peruvian gold.

Strong tribal cultures

Strong tribal cultures

Embera Village

Visit a traditional Embera Village by dug-out canoe and let them introduce you to the life of their community.

Inhabited Volcano Crater

Inhabited Volcano Crater

El Valle

The mountain village of El Valle is situated in the crater of a vast extinct volcano. A popular weekend retreat for wealthy Panamanians it is a charming place to explore the flower-strewn mountain slopes and experience the vibrant Sunday market.

Coffee, Cloud forest & Adventure

Coffee, Cloud forest & Adventure

Boquete - Chiriqui Highlands

On the Eastern flank of Baru Volcano the growing mountain resort of Boquete offers some great walking, birdwatching trails and adventure activities, such as white water rafting and zip-lining. Boquete is well known for its perfect micro-climate and soil for growing high quality coffee beans.

Western Highlands

Western Highlands

Cerro Punta - Chiriqui Highlands

On the western flank of Baru Volcano lies Cerro Punta, the highest village in Panama. Misty cloud forests, tumbling mountain streams and fields filled with dairy herds all combine to make an interesting area for touring and exploring.

Pacific coast paradise

Pacific coast paradise

Gulf of Chiriqui

A small stylish waterfront hotel set a few steps from a narrow beach and private dock from where you can take boats to visit stunning white sand beaches and local mangroves in the Gulf of Chiriqui national park

Cowboys, folkloric traditions and wild pacific beaches

Cowboys, folkloric traditions and wild pacific beaches

Azuero Peninsula

The Azuero Peninsula remains the heart of traditional Panama with small farms, cowboys, fiestas, local clothing and topped with a string of surf beaches.

Itinerary map for Panama 'Selfdrive Panama' holiday

Itinerary

  • Day      Overnight
  • 1 Panama City
  • 2 Panama City
  • 3 Panama City
  • 4 El Valle
  • 5 El Valle
  • 6 Santiago, Panama
  • 7 Boquete
  • 8 Boquete
  • 9 Cerro Punta
  • 10 Boca Brava
  • 11 Boca Brava
  • 12 Boca Brava
  • 13 Playa Venado
  • 14 Playa Venado
  • For the detail of each day click the ‘Day-by-day’ tab above.

Day-by-day itinerary for 'Selfdrive Panama'

DAY 1

Panama City

You are met on arrival and driven to your preferred hotel in Panama City for a 3 night stay.

DAY 2
B

Although Panama has much, much else to discover and explore, no first visit could miss seeing the Canal. Your guide picks you up from your hotel to visit the Canal's Miraflores Lock, where massive ships squeeze through with inches ot spare, and a small museum neatly sums up the history of the Canal's construction and its engineering feats. It will usually be possible to explore the ruins of Old Panama, founded in 1519 and sacked in 1671 by Welsh buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan. The city relocated to Casco Viejo, formerly with sturdy walls against pirates, where you'll stroll streets redolent of Old Havana. You'll visit the Canal's Pacific entrance at Amador: also the location of the brand new Gehry BioMuseo, bringing you bang up to date.

DAY 3
BL

Panama Canal Railway, Portobelo & Embera Indians

You are driven to the station for the excellent train journey carrying commuters to the Caribbean, running mostly beside the Canal, and across Gatun Lake on a causeway. You visit the sleepy harbour of Portobelo, where Incan gold was loaded onto Spanish ships in the 16th century. Then continue to a village of the indigenous Embera community, arriving by dug-out boat for insights into their tribal way of life.

DAY 4
B

El Valle

Pick-up your hire car this morning. It's about a 2hr drive to your first stop at El Valle where you spend 2 nights at a charming family-run guest house in lush gardens.

DAY 5
B

A free day to explore El Valle, ringed by the lip of an extinct volcano. There are hiking, horse riding, biking and birdwatching options; flowering plants bloom in its 'eternal spring' microclimate. Small scale attractions include waterfalls, thermal waters, mud baths and petroglyphs. The excellent, totally chi-chi La Casa de Lourdes restaurant is a must.

DAY 6
B

Santiago

On the Panamerican Highway for 2-3 hours to Santiago, a bustling country town. A small side trip leads to the church of San Francisco de la Montana. Built in 1727 this pilgrimage site has elaborate carvings and vibrant frescos mixing Catholic images with indigenous folklore. Stay the night just outside Santiago.

DAY 7
B

Boquete

A mostly picturesque drive towards David. You pass grazing horses and cattle in the fields, sparkling rice paddies, coffee plantations and rivers tumbling down from the central Cordillera. You continue towards the cloud forests of Baru volcano and the mountain resort of Boquete for 2 nights.

DAY 8
B

A free day. There is plenty to do: hiking, bird-watching, whitewater rafting, zip-lines and hot springs and some extraordinary gardens. Coffee estates run good tours.

DAY 9
B

Volcán

Drive via David up the western flank of Barú, where the scenery above Volcán is most appealing. Pottering through rural villages, where neighbours vie with each other as if in a 'Panama in Bloom' competition, you might pause at Sitio Barriles to see petroglyphs and gardens planted by the family who live there. Higher up at Cerro Punta, Finca Dracula orchid farm is an excellent stop.

DAY 10
B

Chiriqui Coast & Islands

In the morning drive down to the Pacific Coast and the lovely Gulf of Chiriqui for 3 nights at Bocas del Mar - a stylish and welcoming boutique hotel. There's a choice of infinity pools, steps down to a narrow beach with a jetty for boat trips around the islands and coral reefs of the Gulf of Chiriqui marine national park, which has many secluded white sand beaches. Its forested islands are home to howler monkey, ocelot, margay, jagarundi, raccoon, ant-eater and coyote; in the bays and ocean there are leatherback and hawksbill turtles, dolphins and whales.

DAY 11
B

Relaxing at Bocas del Mar. Boat trips to explore the archipelago are a good option, at an extra charge.

DAY 12
B

Relaxing at Bocas del Mar. Boat trips to explore the archipelago are a good option, at an extra charge.

DAY 13
B

Azuero Peninsula

Returning eastwards you turn onto the Peninsula de Azuero, a cowboy ranching region fringed by Pacific beaches: the heart of traditional Panama. Stay 2 nights at an attractively furnished guest house by Playa Venado: a 1.5km crescent of soft dark sand.

DAY 14
B

Simply relax on the beach, a good surfing spot, or explore the area. Good options include Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge off the coast at Pedasi, and Isla Cañas Wildlife Preserve - a sand spit with mangroves and turtle nesting site.

DAY 15
B

An early start to drive back to Panama City, dropping your hire car downtown. A driver will take you from the rental office to the international airport for your flight home.

Guide prices for 'Selfdrive Panama'

options based on all year low season mid season high season peak season other season
Guide price with mid-range hotels and KIA Sportage 2 people sharing £2,075 £2,285
Prices are per person and include:
  • all travel in Panama
  • all accommodation
  • meals as indicated B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner
Prices do not include:
  • international flights
  • travel insurance
  • airport and departure taxes
  • items of a personal nature such as drinks, tips, laundry, etc
  • any optional excursions you may buy locally

Customer reviews for 'Selfdrive Panama'

Recent reviews are shown here from holidays based on this initial design. In each case the itinerary may have been modified (a little or a lot) to suit the individual traveller.

Average customer rating 100%

rating

Meeting the Panamanian people throughout our trip.

rating

Snorkelling with the sharks, Panama City and visiting Havana.

Seasonal information for 'Selfdrive Panama'

Along this route in January

Day Location Max °C Monthly rainfall
1 Panama City 31°C rainfall 43mm
2 Panama City 31°C rainfall 43mm
3 Panama City 31°C rainfall 43mm
4 El Valle 28°C rainfall 36mm
5 El Valle 28°C rainfall 36mm
6 Santiago, Panama 32°C rainfall 32mm
7 Boquete 22°C rainfall 52mm
8 Boquete 22°C rainfall 52mm
9 Cerro Punta 19°C rainfall 76mm
10 Boca Brava 32°C rainfall 26mm
11 Boca Brava 32°C rainfall 26mm
12 Boca Brava 32°C rainfall 26mm
13 Playa Venado 32°C rainfall 9mm
14 Playa Venado 32°C rainfall 9mm

Typical weather for January

rainchart

Max °C figures are the average daily maximum temperatures for the month. Rainfall is the average precipitation for the month.

Hotels for 'Selfdrive Panama'

Days 1 - 3

Toscana Inn Hotel

Centrally located nearby to popular tourist attractions. The hotel has standard rooms for single, double and triple occupancy. All rooms have air conditioning, wifi and TVs. The hotel has a terrace with views of the city and a restaurant serving Panamanian dishes.

Toscana Inn Hotel
Days 4 - 5

Park Eden

El Valle
rating

Average rating 4.7 (3 ratings)

Park Eden Country Retreat is a charming family-run guesthouse set in lush gardens in El Valle de Anton, a tranquil mountain town nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano crater.

The lodge has 7 bedrooms each with private bathrooms with hot water, TV, coffee makers, A/C, ceiling fan. Some rooms also have terraces, porches and even a kitchenette.

Complimentary breakfast is served each day on the terrace or enclosed porch.

Activities possible such as moutain biking, hiking, birdwatching, rafting, visit to local market.

Park Eden
Day 6

Vista Lago Ecoresort

Santiago

Hotel Vista Lago mid-range hotel located just off the Panamerican Highway in the countryside just west of Santiago de Veraguas.  There are 24 rooms in total, all with private bathrooms, TV and a/c.  All rooms have a view of the lake which neighbours the property.  This makes a sensible place for a stop-over when crossing from Central Panama to the Western provinces. Walking trails in grounds.

Vista Lago Ecoresort
Days 7 - 8

Finca Lerida

Boquete
rating

Average rating 4.5 (13 ratings)

This small working coffee farm has two types of accommodation:

The first, "Finca Lerida Bed and Breakfast", comprises of Scandinavian style cabin cottages dotted in the grounds near the entrance to the property, each with a living room, open fire, two bedrooms, bathroom and verandah.

The newer "Finca Lerida Ecolodge" has 11 comfortable modern double rooms each with private bath, a porch overlooking the forest and the lodge's own small coffee plantation.

Finca Lerida
Day 9

Los Quetzales Lodge & Spa

Guadalupe
rating

Average rating 4.5 (13 ratings)

Tucked away in a highland cloud forest, Los Quetzales Lodge & Spa is 2200 meters above sea level inside the primary forests of Volcan Baru national park. The climate here varies from 24°C on a sunny day to 7°C  in the chilliest winter night (the cold nights means biting insects are virtually absent). Timber-built, Los Quetzales Lodge is beside a river in the picturesque agricultural village of Guadalupe. The simple spacious rooms all have private bathrooms with hot water, room service and telephone service. The Lodge serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a friendly laid-back atmosphere.  There is a small spa in the grounds, next to the river and surrounded by trees.

Los Quetzales Lodge & Spa
Days 10 - 12

Bocas del Mar, Boca Chica

Boca Chica - mainland
rating

Average rating 5.0 (6 ratings)

Situated on the Pacific coast 2km from the mainland fishing village of Boca Chica - gateway to the islands of the Gulf of Chiriqui Marine National Park. 50 mins drive from David airport. This waterfront property has 16 large bungalow-style contemporary style cabanas with a/c, private bathrooms (large shower and separate bathtub with view), garden or ocean views. These have either 1 King bed  or 1 queen-sized double and 1 single bed. They also have one larger, superior "Deluxe Water's Edge" Bungalow which has a King bed with a hot tub on the deck and ocean view. Private dock. Travel by water taxi boats to stunning white sand beaches and local mangroves in the national park (available at extra cost locally).

Bocas del Mar, Boca Chica
Days 13 - 14

Villa Marina

Azuero Peninsula

Situated in the Azuero Peninsula by Playa Venado, Villa Marina is set on 2km of privately owned beach.  

Set in a colonial style house, all nine rooms at the property have a/c, private bathrooms and French Windows with sea views (only some rooms have a TV).

The hotel serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but for other options the small town of Pedasi is a 20 minute drive away.

Villa Marina