Yes, I know, there are only 5 stars, but it's just not enough.
Here's the synopsis, then you can read the details below if you'd like. Luis was our guide for an 8-day whirlwind adventure all over Panama. IT WAS AWESOME! What was so great, was that Luis was able via our extended email exchange to learn about what my husband and I are most interested in and highly customize a tour that was perfect for us. Between activities, accommodations, price, meals, you name it, it was all geared toward what we would most enjoy. We are very active and Luis kept us moving. We hiked (a lot!), went river rafting, did a canopy tour, surfed, dove (scuba), did the phenomenal cave tour you'll read about in several reviews, and more. I cannot recommend Luis and Xplora enough. Really.
So here's some additional detail for those who are interested. What attracted us to Xplora was the introductory questionnaire on their website that listed so many potential activities. We were thrilled about the possibility of finding one company that would handle everything for us. Our email was answered very promptly and professionally by Luis and so began our conversation. Luis is incredibly knowledgeable about all aspects of Panama and the hospitality industry, so I felt immediately that we were in good hands. We exchanged emails for literally a few weeks making adjustments to the itinerary. He was so patient and answered all of my questions thoroughly and quickly, and there were a lot of them!
My only concern during the booking process was paying for the tour via credit card over email or over the phone. Luis explained why it had to be done so, but I was still nervous. I bring this up because I want to vouch for the fact that my credit card information has not been compromised in any way, so I can now personally attest that this is a safe process.
Once we arrived in Panama, everything went exactly as we had arranged. We had wondered what it would be like having a personal tour guide for the entire 8-days. It was great! We had plenty of time to explore on our own, yet Luis made sure everything went smoothly for each stage of the adventure and was there to answer any need or question that came up. I believe we learned so much more about the culture and country of Panama than we would have bouncing from tour to tour on our own. Also, this arrangement gave us so much flexibility. For activities that were led by Luis himself (most of the hikes), we could decide to sleep in a little or get up early as we wanted. We could also, for example, check out the surfing conditions and decide to surf, or move on to the next destination if it wasn't worth getting wet. I loved that freedom.
Briefly about our destinations: We met Luis just outside of Bocas del Toro and went to Boquete for rafting and canopy tours. It's a cute little town. From there we went to Santa Fe where we did a night wildlife hike and several other waterfall and mountain hikes. It's beautiful there, but it is a very small town. We went on to Santa Catalina on the Pacific coast to surf and scuba dive. We loved this small surf town. The hour and a half boat ride to Coiba Island to dive was well worth the time! From there we went to Panama City and stayed in the Casco Viejo part of town, which is fascinating. We did the Cave tour, which was the highlight of our trip. Our last day we went to see the Canal. I had thought that would be boring, but I was completely wrong. It was fascinating and I'm glad Luis made us go see it. We did lots of other little activities in between that were a blast, too....too many to mention!
What I would really like to emphasize is that Luis did a spectacular job with every facet of our tour. He is so professional and yet so friendly and accommodating at the same time. You could not put your vacation in better hands. I could go on and on, but better probably to just say that I would travel with Luis again without question and highly recommend that you do, too.
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