Trip purpose: Celebrate my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday with family vacation (4 adults)
Trip goal: Get a cross-sectional taste of Panama with minimal intra-country travel time
Trip side-goals: Eat & sleep comfortably at average price range. We are generally willing to spend a little more on food.
Itinerary summary: 3 nights in El Valle de Anton (Golden Frog Inn), 2 nights in Playa Corona (Suites on the Beach), 3 nights in Panama City (Casco Viejo loft, Patty’s Casitas)
DAY 1 (YYZ -> PTY -> EL VALLE DE ANTON)
- Flew Copa Airlines (emergency exit row – lots of legroom!) and arrived at PTY in the afternoon
- Customs officer did not immediately return my in-laws’ passports. We don’t speak Spanish, and the customs officers didn’t speak much English, so we weren’t sure what was going on. So we waited around the baggage claim area and we were soon joined by other passport-less people. We eventually learned that they were probably doing some additional background checks on my in-laws, possibly due to them having a dual citizenship.
- Got the passports back and our bags arrived at around the same time – no other issues
- Car rental: We had pre-booked a car at Alamo for 5 days with GPS and mandatory personal liability insurance ($235). Visa covered collision damage (CDW), so we did not include that in our pre-booking. We brought a copy of our Visa policy with us.
- When we got to the Alamo counter, CDW was in the contract, so we had them take it back out. They didn’t give us any hassle over wanting to take it out.
- The final cost ended up being $250 even though we didn’t have any extras beyond what we pre-booked. Oh well.
- They were reluctant to mark the smaller dents and scratches, and weren’t all too careful about looking for big ones either – we had to point out the big area of scrapes on a door after the guy had already walked around it (to be fair, it was hard to see – light scratching on silver paint – but it was a big area)
- Overall, no issues with Alamo.
- Note: We eventually spent approximately $40 in gas total for the Toyota Corolla: Panama City (PTY) -> El Valle -> Playa Corona -> Panama City (PTY)…plus a few smaller trips in and around El Valle & Corona
- And we were off to El Valle de Anton!
- Took the toll road and Alamo gave us a map with toll booth locations & costs marked down ($1.25 and $1.40), which was helpful. We got out of the city without taking any wrong turns (yay!).
- Once in El Valle, we did have some trouble finding our first hotel (Golden Frog Inn) because I was naively using some maps I had found online instead of just following the Golden Frog signs along the road. Apparently there are very few (if any) accurate maps of El Valle.
- We arrived in time for Happy Hour to find that Becky (owner) had even baked a lovely little cake in honor of my mother-in-law’s birthday! My mother-in-law was surprised. :)
- Accommodations were perfect for us – we had Suites #1 and #2. Great rooms, spacious, clean, thick toilet paper, loved the hammock and big sheltered terrace.
- Dinner at Bruschetta ($76 for four) – my Calypso seafood stew was good, but a little salty
- Didn’t sleep very well that night due to huge thunderstorm and high wind (really loud!), but oh well…we were on vacation!