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“Total Wow Factor.”

Almiza Tours by My friend Mario
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Discover the Panama culture with local guides and the best you will pay our local price (Half price than our competitors!!!) We have the best friendly guides with 10+ years experience with tons of information and history details. We are in the business since 1994.
Useful Information: Bathroom facilities, Activities for young children, Activities for older children
Reviewed July 15, 2013

Mario #3 picked us up for a day trip to an Embera village outside of Panama City. He is a very knowledgeable, intelligent, funny, and thoughtful guide--not to mention his excellent ability to navigate the city--the drive alone was an experience in culture. We left the city and then traveled in a dugout canoe, equipped with a 15-horse-powered motor, to an Embera village built up above the river's banks, where we got a quick tour and then climbed back into the boat to travel further upriver for a rainforest hike and subsequent swim in the lagoon beneath a waterfall. A waterfall massage? Come on, that's vacation. After the return hike we went back to the village and were fed an amazing meal served in a folded banana leaf decorated with a large tropical flower, and then learned a bit about the Embera people and got to see some of their traditional dances. It was such a wonderful day, and I learned so much, not just about the Embera people, but about the kindness and beauty of Panama. I can't recommend this company enough. Go to Panama. Hang out with Mario.

5  Thank Rachel K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviews (278)
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125 - 129 of 279 reviews

Reviewed July 13, 2013

First of all, realize that there are 5 Marios working for this tour operator! Make sure you review and rate a specific "Mario" tour guide. Mario Ocana was ours and he was awesome. I have traveled extensively in Asia as well as Central and South America where getting good tour guides that know their countries as well as master the English language is very difficult. Mario exceeded all expectations in both knowledge of the Panama history and culture as well as great English speaking skills. My family was toggling between a group tour and a private tour. We opted for the private tour which was a bit more expensive, but worth every penny. Mario Ocana picked us up at 6:15 sharp as expected (we were running late... :0) and got us to the train station on time to catch the one way trip to Colon. He drove to meet us there and then took us to Portobelo to see the old military bases and castles. We were able to take an impromptu boat ride while in Portobelo. He did a great job of explaining the Spanish importance of this port and how they managed the gold from Panama to this port and how defending it from Pirates was of extreme risk and importance. Very detailed in his descriptions and he answered ALL of my questions (and I ask a lot of questions). On the way back to Colon, we discussed Real Estate in Panama and how to buy as well as where to buy. He explained the 4 major infrastructure projects going on (canal expansion, Subway, cleaning the Panama City Bay, and burying power/cable lines), all of which will make Panama a leading city in Central America and a less risky investment as time goes on. He had great lunch suggestions. He also stopped and allowed my son to get a fresh coconut off the street to drink the water. Again, a benefit of going private. Make it up as you go along.

We then went to the Gatun locks and discussed Canal history including the US turnover of the canal in 1999 which led to the infrastructure projects. We then went through the national park and saw birds, animals, and monkeys- taking our time to stop and watch and discuss. We then went to San Lorenzo fort- Beautiful! More rich history from Mario. Then an impromptu stop at the Marina near San Lorenzo for a beer and relaxation (you can do this when you go private!). Then a trip to the back side of the locks to see the dam of Lake Gatun as well as discuss more canal history and future expansion. we then drove back to Panama City with Mario. We discussed politics, technology (Mario studied electronics and taught for a while) as well as more ideas around my family moving to Panama. Mario was very helpful and I will most likely use him to help me find the right place to buy in Panama in the future. We also talked about the Diablo Rojos (crazy decked out buses that drive like crazy in Panama) and even cooked up a tourist business case around the use of the vanishing Diablo Rojos. When we got to Panama, we invited him to dinner with us, fully expecting (and even telling him) him to decline so he could get back to his wife and 2 sons. He must have actually liked my incessant questioning as he accepted and took us to the local brewery in Casco Viejo (the Golden Frog) for a pizza I had NEVER tried: Bacon, onions, other stuff, and Banana! I was skeptical, but it was delicious and I highly recommend it.

We ended the night driving past the local crack lady (whom I saw the very next night when my friends were in town to visit us) and gave Mario a VERY handsome tip for his time. 14 hours in all and absolutely the best day tour I have ever had with a guide.

Mario Ocana can be reached at ocana01@gmail.com or locally at (507) 675 86959. He was the best and I sincerely mean it.

5  Thank RapaNuiCaveDweller
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 11, 2013

Hi- do yourself a favour avoid this company, without going itno all the facts and details, I booked a tour and they just failed to reply to calls after it was booked and when I called the second listed number which is his partner he hung up the phone on me and told me to keep trying teh other number. I spend USD 20 just trying to reach them, sent loads of text messages that were delivered without reply.... AVOID they are unreliable.

2  Thank Givemeaholiday
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
wapanda10, Manager at Almiza Tours by My friend Mario, responded to this reviewResponded November 6, 2013

Sorry you did not able to reach us. Sometimes the international call has no number to call you back. We you book we recommend you leave us a number to call you in case we have any problems whatsoever.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 7, 2013

I took two tours with this tour operator and was not disappointed. My first day in Panama City I was picked up by Mario #2. He was a very knowledgable and kind gentleman. He showed me around the Canal and city and even drove me around the Barrio of El Chorrillo.

The next day I was picked up by the younger Mario #3. This guy is the man. We went to the Embera village to see the native indians and then even thru thick and heavy rain trekked thru a trail to get to this amazing waterfall. It was the highlight of my trip by far. I highly recommend The Mario's. You will not be disappointed.

5  Thank kentmoney1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 14, 2013

En route to Peru, my girlfriend and I had an afternoon and evening to see a few sights in Panama CIty. Booked a city tour with MFM to hit the main sights like the canal, the old city ruins, Casco Viejo, and whatever else we could squeeze. Mario3 was AMAZING, friendly, kind, KNOWLEDGEABLE, and stayed with us for much longer than he had to. Plus he probably didn't even get home until midnight and he was back the next morning to pick us up at 545am! He really knows his stuff... history, birds and so much more. Thank you Mario for making our brief trip so wonderful and interesting. I honestly can't say enough good things about our experience with My Friend Mario and Mario3.

3  Thank henri8it
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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