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“heaven for briders”
Review of Canopy Tower

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Canopy Tower
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed January 10, 2014

Canopy Tower is heaven on wings for both amateurs and professionals. The guides not only know their birds, they have eagle eyes to spot them, and really want you to look at them through their scopes. I am awed by their ability to talk to the birds (just how many bird songs can one know) and their honest enthusiasm. Accommodations (remember this is a converted radar tower in the middle of the rain forest), are sparse but clean. The food is very good and plentiful, with fresh orange juice in the morning and nice appetizers in the evening with a free glass of wine.

  • Stayed: December 2013, traveled with friends
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2  Thank dpaulshock
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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139 - 145 of 316 reviews

Reviewed January 7, 2014

What an experience! I was with my wife and young daughter, the explorer,the birder. We arrived mid-day and had to dodge white Nose Coati's on the way. The facility is a really neat converted US Military radar tower stationed in the middle of the jungle. Sure, it's not a thing beauty but my mom would say it has very good bones. I felt it was a perfect balance for the experience and it was by no means roughing it. I heard the owner took extreme measures to painstakingly strip all the US Military Standard lead paint so it would not seep and impact the surrounding ecosystem (awesome!). From the outside, one would think everyone is crammed into an octagon shaped can but it is very deceiving and in fact extremely spacious. We stayed in the Harpy Eagle suite and it was roomy, comfortable, and clean. The bathroom was a good size and had impressive water pressure for the jungle. The dining area is very quaint and has all the basic amenities of a modern day hotel. You can read all the interesting articles and about all the celebs that had visited before you but going up the last flight of stairs is amazing. It puts you on-top of the tower and the surrounding jungle canopy where we were introduced to our first sloth in the wild 10 meters away. My little family is extreme and we usually push the limits. We had two, sometimes 3 guided tours every day. Each tour was different and amazing. Our guides were superb and very knowledgeable on the local wild life. But, I'll never forget the first morning being rudely awaken by 6 or 7 troops of howler monkeys. It was truly a Jurassic park moment. Crawl out of bed, climb up to the top where coffee,tea and hot chocolate is served and watch the sunrise over Panama city's skyline and listen to the awakening jungle. Truly, an experience of a life time! [Note: Birds and Birds and lots of mammals too]

Room Tip: Choose one of the suites
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  • Stayed: December 2013, traveled with family
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1  Thank Estephon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 6, 2014

The description found on the Canopy Tower website is accurate and prepares the visitor for the environment and what is offered there. The Tower lives up to all expectations. The guides are excellent and provide superb information for all ages and all levels of experience in birding. I was recently there over Christmas and was with a non-birder. The unconnected group that was there ranged from a little girl to seniors (I being one) and everyone felt content and welcomed. I hired Alexis for a full day of birding on my own and he was superb. Both Michael and Alexis were excellent each early morning on the roof. The food was quite good and the kitchen/dining room staff were friendly and competent. Our suite was comfortable. It is important to remember when staying there that the walls are paper thin. One should not expect five star quality as that is not the intent of the tower. The one recommendation that I would make would be to have someone at the reception desk at all times. We arranged for airport transport and though an hour late arriving (at midnight) we were happy to see our driver and assistant greeting us with our names on their sign. Every single person on site was both courteous and friendly and willing to help in any way. I highly recommend a few nights in this place for any birder.

  • Stayed: December 2013, traveled with friends
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1  Thank MemphisDurand
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 1, 2014

A must visit place for anyone interested in birds and mammals. We visited for 3 days in late November and shared the place with 6 people. The guides work long hours but love their work and someone is always available from dawn to late evening to identify birds spotted in the canopy or point out something they have seen. As previously said they are very good at spotting near invisible birds and helping you to also see them. I was able to borrow binoculars as my own could not cope with low light levels. We visited lots of different habitats with the guides and our list grew hour by hour. The quality of the guides and trips is reflected in the cost. You get a very high quality. We had the Harpy Suite but disappointingly we didn't see anything from our wall of windows. Accommodation is not luxurious but comfortable and adequate but location and wildlife spotting is the reason for visiting. Food is plentiful, interesting and varied. All the staff are friendly. Our regrets were that we only had 3 days at the Tower and were only able to experience sunrise one morning as the other 2 mornings we were on the road by 6am. However it gave us enough knowledge to find and identify many more birds during the remainder of our holiday in Panama.

  • Stayed: November 2013, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank bobi80
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 30, 2013

A friend and I spent an enjoyable week before Christmas watching birds and other animals at the Canopy Tower. The Tower is one of the premier bird-watching areas in the world, and it did not disappoint. And I think the observation deck is the Jewel in the Crown of the Tower. Nothing beats sunrise on the deck, as you relish the cool breezes, coffee cup in hand, and take in the sounds of distant toucans, parrots, sloths, and howler monkeys. (Well, OK, maybe not-so-distant howlers.) The Tower’s top-notch guides are also there to help spot and identify what you see.
I do not think I would have identified a single bird if it had not been for the marvelous guides at the Tower. Each of our guides (Michael, Alex, Domi, and Eliecer) exhibit the characteristics needed to help spotting-challenged people, like me: an uncanny ability to spot and scope birds, skill at communicating with the birds, and patience. I think the Tower should be proud of their talented staff of guides. One day we passed a non-Tower group that was clearly struggling to find a certain bird. Michael spotted the bird immediately and located it just as quickly in the group’s scope (the scope was inferior to the ones offered at the Tower, incidentally).
Moreover, I saw in each guide a concern for the wildlife and the ecology. Michael rescued a sloth, which had been trying to cross the road, by placing it back in a tree. Alex reported he had done something similar a few weeks previously. I watched Eleicer revive a disoriented and dehydrated hummingbird that had flown into the lodge. He gently held the ailing bird and coaxed it to feed at one of the numerous hummingbird feeders the Tower offers. Gradually the bird revived and flew off.
Food at the Tower was wonderful. I appreciate their attention to detail, as with the attractively place settings at each meal. I had requested vegetarian fare (I was the only one). Each of my meals was delicious! Including wine in the menu for the appetizers and meal is such a nice touch. Very civilized! My kudos go to the entire kitchen staff.
Regarding the rooms, noise, etc, mentioned in previous reviews, I suggest people read the Canopy Tower web pages. They do a good job describing their facility and what to expect.

  • Stayed: December 2013, traveled with friends
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Thank Carolyn L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 25, 2013

Since seeing the Canopy Tower advertised I've wanted to visit and we finally made it over in November 2013 for a 1 week stay at the Tower followed by a 1 week stay at the Canopy Lodge, which is under the same ownership.

The Canopy Tower is a unique place. The all metal building has 4 floors and an observation deck on the roof. The ground floor houses the reception, the next two are bedrooms and the 3rd floor is an open plan eating, drinking and socialising floor with comfy chairs and sofas, library, honesty bar, and PC with internet access. The observation deck gives a panoramic view across the tree tops to Panama City and the Panama Canal. With the all metal construction we were warned that sound carries and ear plugs are provided free of charge, but I didn't find the noise to be a problem at all and have stayed in many thin-walled modern hotels which are far worse!

The food, cooked in a microscopic kitchen, is served buffet style. This was consistently of a high standard and there was lots of it. You won't go hungry! The accommodation is full board (there are no nearby alternatives to get a meal anyway) and very drinkable wine is included at no extra cost with the evening meals - a nice touch.

The Tower is effectively run by the birding guides who are friendly, efficient and speak very good English.

The Tower is situated at the top of Semaphore Hill and is securely gated. The rooms are lockable but as casual visitors are not permitted to the Tower you are not provided with your own key and the rooms are typically left unlocked with no issues. Rooms are basic but more than adequate. Ours was a twin room with en suite facilities. The rooms have fans but no AC, which was fine.

As with most visitors the catalyst for visiting was the wildlife. The Tower has hummingbird feeders in the grounds and five species regularly visit and will 'buzz' you as you enter or leave the building. Sloths (two species) are common around the Tower and Semaphore Hill (there was a Brown-throated Three-toed right outside our bedroom window when we arrived!!). The roof platform provides spectacular tree-top views of the birds - a great place for watching raptors (we were too late for the main autumn migration), Keel-billed Toucans, and many other species. As dusk approaches the massive crow-sized Spectral Bat appears over the roof of the tower, and there are frequently small bats flying indoors around the living quarters. It is worth using a torch to check the Cecropia trees outside the dining area in the evening for visiting Kinkajou, Central American Wooly Opossum and occasionally Western Night Monkeys. It is possible to arrange spotlighting sessions at night in one of the Canopy vehicles - we did two in our stay and also picked up Western Lowland Olingo, Common Opossum, Forest Rabbit, potoos and more. By day Mantled Howler monkeys are commonly heard and frequently seen.

I booked on a full birding package which included morning and evening or full day excursions from the Tower. The guides are all exceptionally sharp, highly skilled birders with surprisingly boundless enthusiasm. All use top quality Leica telescopes and are highly effective at getting you onto the birds, even in the forests. I spent most time with Michael and Alex and both come highly recommended. During the week I saw somewhere in the region of 270 species of bird and visited a variety of sites and habitats, mostly within a few minutes to a couple of hours drive of the Tower. A particular highlight was a full day visit to Cerro Azul; 20 species of hummingbird in the day and good birds at seemingly every turn.

A visit to the Canopy Tower is not cheap. My two week package, excluding flights, was a little over US$3,600 (or $250 per day) but this did include all accommodation and food, transfers, services of a guide and transport. We were lucky that the Tower was not full during our visit and on more than one occasion I had a guide all to myself for the day, which was brilliant.

If you are looking for a fantastic opportunity to get to grips with a large number of Central American birds and mammals with no hassle and stay in a very memorable place then the Canopy Tower is spot on. It combines well with the Canopy Lodge (a 2hr transfer to the west) and at the end of the two weeks my 270 bird species had increased to over 350!

A big thanks to all of the staff, but especially Michael and Alex.

  • Stayed: November 2013, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank Talking_Pond
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 9, 2013

The Canopy Tower is a world Class Bird Watching site and Eco lodge housed in a redundant radar tower."Birders" visit from far & wide to enjoy the experience, and enjoy it they certainly do, one only has to read other reviews. So far so good. We have just spent three days there and had a somewhat different experience. I write as a hotel and resort owner and experienced traveller having visited Eco lodges in Africa and the Americas. I understand the idea. However Canopy Tower has a general atmosphere of neglect and disinterest. The management seems to be in the hands of the guides who are excellent as guides but untrained in hotel management. The fittings throughout are very cheap and worn, bed linen,towels, cutlery, crockery, beds, mattresses, all more appropriate to a cheap hostel than a highly priced Eco lodge. Housekeeping is inadequate and cursory. Little if any ongoing maintenance seems to be taking place. Guests deserve better, and I sincerely hope that the owner will seriously consider appointing a properly experienced manager and a refurbishment budget

Stayed: December 2013, traveled as a couple
6  Thank Brian M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
CanopyTowerPanama, Owner at Canopy Tower, responded to this reviewResponded December 15, 2013

I founded the Canopy Tower 16 years ago and being a birder myself, I dreamed of making it a world class birding lodge. I believe that dream has been achieved. The Canopy Tower has won dozens of awards, hundreds of positive reviews, countless newspapers and magazine articles and attracts birders from all over the world, year after year. If you are not a birder or wildlife enthusiast, of course the novelty wears off after a few hours because there is not much to do here other than birding or wildlife observation.

Please bear in mind that we are not your standard hotel; we are the Canopy Tower, one of the world’s best and most unique birding lodges. We offer high-quality birding and wildlife watching experiences—we have expert, bilingual naturalist guides, who have been trained in world-renowned centers; our guides use the best high-quality Leica optics equipment, we are represented at several international birding festivals a year in the US and the UK where our guides are much requested speakers and tour leaders.
We provide comfortable accommodations in a very unique building providing unsurpassed observation of canopy species and, finally, we serve delicious meals to enjoy after a day in the field.
In any event, your comments are well taken and we thank you for taking the time to write them, we will carefully review your suggestions and make the necessary adjustments. However, I don’t promise you 800 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets or Christofle silverware, they don’t add much to a birding experience.
Sincerely,
Raul Arias de Para

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Canopy Tower

Address: Semaphore Hill Road | Soberania National Park, Panama City 0832, Panama
Location: Panama > Panama Province > Panama City
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 111 Specialty Lodging in Panama City
Number of rooms: 12
Also Known As:
Canopy Tower Hotel Panama City
Canopy Tower Panama/Panama City

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