Chagres National Park

Chagres National Park, Colon: Address, Chagres National Park Reviews: 4.5/5

Chagres National Park
Located on the eastern side of the Panama Canal, this 300,000-acre park features the Chagres River and Lake Alajuela, which are popular spots for camping, rafting, fishing and other water sports.
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50 reviews
Very good

Antwerp, Belgium857 contributions
Fantastic introduction to the Embera people
Dec 2019
The pirogue journey on the Chagres river is already worth the visit on its own, for the beautiful scenery and wildlife on and along the river.
We visited the village of Parara Puru and received a warm and friendly welcome. While drinking a local juice we got very interesting explanations about the live, history and culture of the Embera that came to this region in the mid 50's of last century. One can wander around the village on its own, visit the small primary school, see people preparing their meal and purchase nice artwork.
Both the fruits offered and the fried tilapia in a banana leaf were very tasty.
And, of course, the visit ends with a "folkloristic" dance by the local community.
All in all: a colorful and interesting day!
Written January 10, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Honolulu, HI143 contributions
A great day on the Panama Canal !
Jan 2019
I have a great tip for those heading to the main boat tour embarkation point at Gamboa Public Dock at Muelle Publico Gamboa, to get there you pust drive thru a beautiful tropical Rain Forrest preserve "Soberania National Park" once there you can Bargain for a good group Rate if you have enough people. choose a boat drivin by the younger local guys on the far left hand side Tell them you want to see the monkies, crocodiles, and to the local Embra tribes Village and all by Boat! Have Fun !
Written April 15, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Sarasota, FL6,483 contributions
Embera Drua Village is one of the best visits we made in Panama!
Feb 2019 • Couples
Our Overseas Adventure Travel group were loaded into long, narrow canoes that were outfitted with a small outboard motor and were expertly guided down the rocky and sometimes swift Chagres River. Aguinaldo was our handsome and kind bow poke man keeping us clear of the rocks through the rapids in the river.
We had put in at a wide lake-like portion of the river but soon, as the river began to narrow, Aguinaldo began calling directional changes as we navigated the often rushing and turbulent waters. As we traveled we watched several canoes loaded with passengers that were forcing their human cargo to disembark into the river so their crew could pull the boat over the rocks. Happily Aguinaldo was much more experienced and we had a safe and lovely forty minute journey to his village down river.

There were several canoes loaded with people traveling in our direction and I was worried that this visit was going to be too touristy but I soon realized that many of the people in the canoes looked to be Panamanians who were stopping on a Sunday afternoon at little beaches that were peppered along the river’s edge. As we approached Aguinaldo’s village we began to see more straw hut villages tucked into the hillsides indicating a close knit series of the Embera community.

The Embera tribe originated from the Darien region in Panama. These people have lived in this area for centuries, long before the Spanish came to this region. It is unknown whether their ancestors migrated from elsewhere (there are rumors of Brazil or Polynesia) but no one knows for sure. At this time about 30,000 Embera Indians still live in the Darien region. The government of Panama recognizes the seven unique Indigenous tribes who live here and have been given a Comarca (similar to a reservation in North America) but these people were never forced from their home territories and were never forced into boarding schools or punished for maintaining their language and culture. Because they were allowed this independence their language, culture, traditions and lifestyle are still intact.

Rural life in the Darien region is not easy. Schools, supplies, medicine, and doctors are 6-10 hours away. For this reason many of the Embera tribes migrated from Darien to the Chagre National Park where they would have better access to things we take for granted as well as a possibility to develop a culture of tourism that would provide income for their daily needs. Panama has been very supportive encouraging these people in this way of life. Given this opportunity these lovely and happy people are maintaining pride in their culture and the opportunity to maintain their heritage.

As our canoes rounded the tree laden bend we pulled up along the sandy shore of the Embera Drua Village where members of the community came down to the beach to greet us and welcome us with their music. Once out of our canoes and assembled on the beach, our group began to climb the steps up the bank to their grass hut village overlooking the river where we were met and brought into a community grass "hut" where we were entertained by the local people.

The men and women of the village were dressed in their traditional outfits that, we were told, they always wear in the village and only dress in modern clothes when they leave to go to the city for supplies. The women’s traditional skirts were once bark but now are brightly colored cloth complemented by colorful beaded halters or bra like tops to cover their breasts. Their long dark hair also serves as modesty for some but before westerners entered the picture many women were simply topless. Men wore beautifully woven beaded “modesty” skirts barely covering their essentials and some had beaded “necklaces” draped across their chests. Many of the men and women were tattooed with henna on much of their bodies and faces.

The women of the tribe surprised us by coming to each of us ladies placing a beautiful woven headpiece made of hibiscus flowers on our heads. Once adorned, these handsome men and women performed a traditional circle dance with flutes and drums to keep the rhythm. With generous smiles we were all invited to join them in their ceremonial dance.

After a lunch that was prepared for us we were given the opportunity to shop in the shade of their long grass hut where every family had their colorful works arrayed on the long tables. We all were pleasantly surprised with the quality of workmanship on display and were eager to bring some of their work home with us while supporting the tribe. The sales of these beautiful handicrafts and artworks goes a long way to support the tribe’s life in the village but these baskets and other handicrafts take many hours, even days and weeks to complete. The sales of their efforts therefore are important to the tribe but I don’t think they ever receive their due for the long hours spent on these handicrafts, not to mention the value for the creation of their own art often equalling pennies per hour for their efforts. While we were told we could bargain, I felt it was not right given the amount of time, talent and labor spent for these beautiful pieces.

I thought Aguinaldo’s family’s artwork and handiworks to be of the best quality and so purchased a woven basket made of hand dyed palm fibers with the design of a red hibiscus in the center and a classic Embera design around the edge. I also bought a beautifully carved frog from a Wagana or Tagua Palm nut that had been painted green with red detail. These palm nuts look like ivory but are a renewable resource. After shopping I photographed Aguinaldo and his lovely wife Lisnet, also a talented handicrafter, and son Gael (baby Genesis was sleeping).

I later for a walk in the densely treed jungle to see what birds were there. I missed the tattoos but I was very lucky to come across a dark brown Montezuma oropendola perched high in the trees. I had heard their wonderful call but it was his bright yellow tail that gave him away. With patience I was successful in capturing his image as he stoically sat and watched. After my jungle walk I came back into the sunshine and was able to photograph the unique elongated oropendola nests hanging from some branches of the palm trees, but the owners of the nests remained hidden in the darkened jungle foliage.

I highly recommend a visit to meet these lovely people. It will provide an opportunity to see a people whose heritage is kept alive through their passion and love of their unique culture.
Written April 1, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Sergio R
Culiacan, Mexico304 contributions
A must visit for nature lovers.
Mar 2019 • Friends
After a 40 mins ride we arrived to the park and then to the shore of river Chagres.- In a motor canoe with native people we travrled for a few minutes to one of the 7 villages aroud the park. Once there we could see how native panamenians still live, like in th old days, their tradtions, local laws and craftmanships, chcih are very pretty in dedd.
Written March 28, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Sachin K
Plainview, NY5,823 contributions
Apr 2018 • Family
The Chagres National Park is unique and is situated on the outskirts of Panama City. It can be accessed from Colon as well. There are several Embera Indian settlements inside this park. While visiting any of those settlements, one will travel over the Chagres river in a motorized canoe boat which is a unique experience in itself. One will get to see native wildlife en route including several monkeys. It is certainly highly recommended to visit the same.
Written March 28, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Valley City, ND42 contributions
Emaera Village and Locks Tour
Nov 2018
You wonder about visiting a native village. Is it going to he all fake. Are they really natives. This is the real thing or at least as much as can be in 2018. The Embera people were warm and friendly. The dance and play music as your boat approaches. Looks like a scene from a moving, with out the poison darts flying by. They preform some dances and have crafts for sale. The workmanship is outstanding. On the boat ride to the village we saw sloths in the trees, so cool. The locks are just what you expect, but now I have seen them in person. Can we say bucket list check.
Written November 19, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Teresa H
Texada Island, Canada6,440 contributions
Living Park
Oct 2018 • Couples
This was a very good park to view and see people living in it and making a living from tourism and keeping the park viable. Our canoe trip was enjoyable, good to wear hats, sunglasses and lots of sunscreen or protective clothing. Onto the Alhajueta Lake we boarded a motorized dug out canoe and travelled up past the Pararu Puru village and down the Changres River to a side stream and walk in the jungle to a scenic waterfall and swimming pool at the base of the falls. The trail was rough but a lot of fun, crossing the stream and up and over slippery steep rocks. Juan showed us where to stand under the falls for a supper massage. Returning by the rough trail and to the village where we were welcomed by the locals in colourful costumes. After a demonstration of local woods and foods in a comfortable building on stilts with bamboo floor we had lunch served in a palm leaf of fish and plantain, local fruits and juice or water. Time to view the local crafts for sale and a demonstration of local dance with an opportunity to join in.
Written November 5, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Jamaica4 contributions
A Great Adventure
Jul 2018 • Couples
Booked this tour last minute so I guess I didn't have a full understanding of how intense it would be. It's an hour from the resort I was staying at and 5-8 minutes boat ride from our first stop and then another 10-15 minute hike to get up to the waterfall. My husband and I were definitely not prepared. I had my swimming clothes in my bag but once we got to the falls there was nowhere for me to change...this needs to be communicated to guests when they're booking to actually wear their swim suits. I still enjoyed watching everyone splash about and my husband did get a chance to swim in the river and that's his favourite thing so I was very happy about that.

We then hiked back down to the boats and ventured by canoes to the actual village (my favourite part)...the food and dances were exceptional and I loved the crafts they had on display was overall an enjoyable day even though my sneakers and clothes were completely soaked because it rained on us all the way back when we were in our canoes (make sure to bring a rain cloak because it rains alot there).

Only downside was really that our tour guide was a bit lackadaisical in translating in the latter part of the tour (I guess he was hungry and tired after that long day...just as we were).

I enjoyed it but wouldn't recommend it for people who aren't a bit sporty because it takes a lot of physical strength to hike and be back and forth in the time alotted.
Written August 15, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Steve F
Guelph, Canada165 contributions
A day with the Embera indigenous people
Mar 2017 • Couples
On a Caribbean cruise with Oceania, we chose to visit the Embera indigenous people. The Embera are known as the keepers of the rainforest and the Piedra River. On arrival at Chagres National Park, we boarded a motorized catamaran for a trip to the Embera village on the shore of Lake Gatun. Dugout canoes were originally a critical factor in the conquering of the jungle and in establishing supply lines for both the Indians and the Spanish. On the way to the village we saw two sloths and a variety of birds. After the ride upriver, we saw the village emerge from the jungle. The village men welcomed us with traditional Embera music and percussion. Little kids flocked toward us to take in the current crop of visitors. A young woman gave us some and background on who and how their handicrafts were made, then demonstrated some traditional dances. We were encouraged to join in toward the end of one of their dances. The Embera are spectacular craftspeople, and visitors to their village of 36 people are their livelihood. Because of the strict regulations of the national park they cannot hunt or cut trees, they can fish for subsistence and can grow some vegetables. But mainly they rely on visitors buying their carvings, baskets fabrics and jewelry. It wasn’t clear whether they were paid by the tour groups. The children were used to this strange lifestyle and would readily pose for pictures. They loved to see themselves on cellphone videos and knew how to activate a video. Apparently the older children take a canoe to school in Colon. Not sure if it was a motorized canoe, or people powered. According to our guide, Eric, the Embera indigenous peoples originated with the Incas in Peru. Over time they moved across Central America until the last stop in Panama. We later found out from Roy, our current favorite server that there is another tribe that lives on an island in the lake.A wonderful experience
Written March 30, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Anchorage, AK517 contributions
Amazing day of jungle river and Embera village visit
Jan 2017 • Friends
Our day trip was arranged and guided by our good friend Luis Calvo of Panama Travel & Tours based in Panama City. We drove to a lake pickup spot in Chagres Nat Park. There we met our Embera guide and host. We boarded the wooden, carved dug out and motored across the lake and into the jungle river. We passed the two lower Embera villages and went far up river thru dense jungle with birds & monkeys. Finally we reached river rapids and after making our way up thru several, we arrived at the Embera Drua village. We toured the indigenous village of 113. We were given demonstrations of the wonderful wood carvings and basket weaving, and then each family had a display table of their things for sale. We had a welcome dance, and lunch of local fish from the river and fruit. It was a trip back in time to see these friendly people still living mostly as their ancestors did long ago. This is a "must see" for travelers wanting to see and do more than just the pools and beaches of Panama.
Written January 23, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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