I had some concerns going from the US to South America (especially after reading the CDC travel guidelines). I will address each one.
The room: We stayed in the hotel and the set up was interesting. We had a king sized bed downstairs and an upstairs with 2 twin beds. It was fine for my 2 kids (7 and 13) but if you had younger kids it could be a problem. The floor was hard tile and my daughter fell and hit her head - again, if you have small kids (or rough ones) keep this in mind. The nice side of this is the maid service washed the floors every day. It could have used a coat of paint and smelled damp, but with the humidity this could not be avoided. I did not see the inside of the villas, but I would not have liked to stay in them. They were far from the main building and didn't look well kept from the outside.
Language: We do not speak fluent Spanish, but we able to get by. The front desk and activity desk employees spoke english. We hired a car to take us to the canal and he did not speak english. If you do not speak Spanish and are going anyplace with a driver, I would ask for an English Speaking driver. The difference in language was not a problem for us.
Water: We started out drinking bottled water but the entire hotel was filtered and toward the end of the week I was drinking the hotel water. I had no trouble.
Food: There are a lot of bad food reviews. There was one restaurant for the family (and another higher end one we didn't try) and while it was boring eating at the same restaurant, we ate the buffet (when it was available) which had great Panamanian cuisine. From the a la carte menu I tried the Hamburger and the stuffed Sea Bass - both were great meals. You could also get lighter fare at the Monkey bar. I packed a few bag of snacks for the room and some Starbucks Via iced and hot coffees. We had a refrigerator and coffee pot in our room, but the coffee they give you is weak (we used one coffee pod for every 3 cups of coffee-the maid service was happy to give us extra).
Activities: The activities and length of them were great for my family. We did at least one activity a day and spent the rest of the time at the pool. We went to the Miraflores Locks, Aerial Tram, Embera Indian Village, Monkey Island Tour and trail walk. I looked for a gym, but didn't see one (I could have asked, but wasn't that motivated with the heat). One thing I would have liked was a game room or indoor activity for the kids. When it rains, there isn't much to do. Luckily we brought some cards and activities. I didn't book ahead of time and glad I didn't. Some of the prices I was quoted via e-mail were 2 times the actual cost - not sure why this happened. At the time we were there, it was the off season so there was no trouble booking the activities. The tour desk is located in the lobby and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable. They were excited to share their surroundings with you - this was more than just a job to them - they love what they do for a living!
Weather: I checked to weather before we left and it called for thunderstorms every day which had me worried. During the rainy season it rains, but this is what makes it lush and green. The rain was not predictable, but when it cleared it was beautiful. Bring a raincoat and go on the tours anyway if they are going. Also bring a large plastic bag for your camera (or a waterproof one). The humidity is like nothing else I've ever experienced.
Mosquitos: I soaked 2 outfits (quick drying materials) with permethrin (purchased at REI), Ben's 30% DEET Spray (also purchased at REI) and some deep woods off wipes -20% Deet (from CVS). We were deep in the jungle with the Embera and could see the clouds of mosquitos around us, but had only 1 bite (it was me and at my hairline which I did not apply anything to). Leave the Skintastic at home and bring something heavy duty. I would also invest in a long pair of pants for hiking to cover your legs if you plan on going out in the woods. At the hotel, we didn't experience any mosquitos unless we went for walks in the grass.
Service: Everything was slow, but the employees were nice. There was one time we sat at the Monkey Bar for a snack and drinks for more than an hour and were never approached by the waitress. She may have thought were were just there to play cards, but we did ask for menus - luckily we have a good sense of humor and are still laughing about this! Don't expect the wait service to move like they do up North - it's just culture difference!
Toiletries: Bring any medicine or personal products with you just in case you need them. The gift shop if small and while I noticed some travel size medicines, there is no place to go to on the property if you shop for personal products..
What surprised me?
The birds! I had no idea there were so many beautiful birds - there were a flock of wild parakeets that filled a tree every night!
With the humidity nothing dries if you hang it outside! I brought this Octopus thing from Ikea with clips on it to hang in the bathroom and hang our damp clothes on.
The CDC and travel doctors had me panicked about disease and bugs. I didn't feel threatened or at risk in any way.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Deep in the heart of the Panamanian rainforest lies the completely unique Gamboa Rainforest Resort. This magnificent destination rests where the scenic Chagres River meets the Panama Canal and is the only resort property in the area. Few places on earth offer such an amazing natural experience while providing an unsurpassed level of luxury. Escape the noise and hectic pace of everyday life and surround yourself with the tranquility of the mystical Soberania National Forest. Here, just a short 30-minute ride from Panama City, on 340 acres overlooking the stunning Panama Canal, you can commune with nature in a pristine environment where explorers and pirates once tread. Our Panama Tours offer an exhilarating variety of jungle adventures such as an aerial tram, guided boat tours, fishing expeditions, and much more. Our tours are designed to show you wildlife in its natural setting amidst the colorful splendor of the jungle flora. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Gamboa Rainforest Hotel Gamboa
- Gamboa Rain Forest Resort