Zona 5 | Soberania National Park, Gamboa, Panama
Nestled among the vast Soberania National Park Rainforest, on the banks of the Chagres River and Panama Canal, is the stunningly beautiful luxury hotel and resort, the Gamboa Rainforest Resort.
Share your experiences with others. Don't forget to send your review to Debbie by using an easy form.
"Not worth the money"
Posted by: Ashley
on Nov 11, 2010 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Nov, 2010 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
343 people found this review helpful
We travelled with sunwing with the "inclusive plan"
As for the "inclusive" part of the trip, nobody knew what was included so it was extremely frustrating.
The 2nd day we were there was a holiday and no alcohol was served. We were not informed of this until we tried to order drinks. Other people we spoke to from other resorts did not encounter the same problem, they were still served. As it was a holiday, many locals stayed at the hotel. That is when our service went from bad to worse. It was like we didnt exist, especially not being able to speak Spanish. There was never food left at the buffet, no matter what time we went. The A la Carte restaurant was closed every day so the only dinner option was the buffet.
We decided to leave this resort after only a few days because even after speaking to the general manager, nothing changed.
The Gamboa hotel itself is absolutely beautiful as is the location. It is surrounded by rainforest and has breath taking views. The rooms were also nice and clean and beds were very comfortable.
The free trips around the resort were also very worth while. As was the monkey boat tour and the aerial tram. We were happy we got to see the wildlife we did in staying there but would not return because of the lack of service, no english speaking staff and zero personality. Nobody cared whether we were happy or not.
As for sunwing, we never had the chance to meet our representative at Gamboa as he was never there, only on call. I had to pay to call him and explain why we wanted to leave our resort. He was not very helpful and really didnt want to go through the extra work to see what other resorts were available. I told him we wanted to stay at the Breezes and he made every excuse to make me change my mind and tried to stick us in a 3 star place that is part of the same company as Gamboa. We had to pay our way to Breezes which was 2 hours from Gamboa and we had to pay a couple hundred dollars to switch to the different resort, even though it was way cheaper to stay at Breezes then Gamboa, Once we got to Breezes, the Sunwing representitive was not there and they had no record of our reservations, even after our credit card was charged. It didnt get sorted out until 2 hours later!!!! We were then told that "Daniel" from Sunwing wanted to meet us in the lobby at 7pm. We were told at 7pm that he was on his way. 45 minutes later, he still hadnt showed up and when we asked reception, we were told he was eating dinner. Meanwhile, we still had not eaten our dinner. He never did show up. The next day we had to hunt him down again to see what he wanted and to ensure that the rest of our trip was sorted out.
We travel alot and never complain about anything, but we were very disappointed in this resort, especially for the price that you pay and with Sunwing. Breezes was a wonderful way to end our trip and we wished we stayed there from the start.
The flight was FULL and we did not get seats together, even after checking in more than 3 hours ahead of time. We had a stop-over in Costa Rica so it was about 8 hours from Toronto.
Once we landed, going through customs was a breeze and our shuttle was waiting for us after we got our luggage. There were only 2 of us from the full sunwing flight going to Gamboa resort. The driver did not speak one word to us the entire hour it took us to get to the resort.
Check-in was quick as it was just the 2 of us but there was no explaination as to what was included. we were just handed our room key and told where it was.
Restaurants and Bars:
We got to the resort around 3:30 and we were starving as the last meal we had was breakfast on the plane. The only food available at that time until 6:30 pm was the Monkey bar snack menu which we had to pay for a meal. The only drinks that were included were national brands and even then, staff did not know if they were included. This seemed to be a common theme throughout our stay. None of the staff spoke english and were not helpful in answering questions at all.They also seemed annoyed to be serving us and we never saw them smile. And we were very generous with tips but still no change.
"Four days just didn’t seem enough."
Dan&Liane on Dec 1, 2009 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Dec, 2009 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
341 people found this review helpful
We recently traveled to Panama, January 3 – January 17th. With the help of the reviews on this website, we were able to make an informed decision on which resort we wanted to spend our vacation at. Thanks for the website, Debbie!
We chose the two centre holiday, 10 days at the Royal Decameron & 4 days at Gamboa. I have reviewed the Decameron separately.
At the suggestion of Rey, the World of Vacations rep at Decameron, we combined our Panama Express Train trip with our transfer to Gamboa. The trip itself was incredible, and I highly recommend it. Most of the trip is by bus, however the opportunity to see the country between the Pacific Coast and the Caribbean Sea was well worth it. The train ride ended in the Canal District, just a half hour drive from the Gamboa Resort. Those going back to the Decameron had a 90 minute ride ahead of them. By combining the trip with our transfer, we gained an extra day at Gamboa.
As there were only two other couples who did the tour & transfer with us, check-in was quick and easy. As soon as we were checked in, we had a brief welcome drink with Louis, The World Of Vacations rep at the Gamboa. Within an hour of getting off the bus, we were in our room getting ready for dinner.
We stayed in the villas, as opposed to the hotel. The building number was 0253, and the room number was 2622. We must have had a renovated room, because if we didn’t, it was in great shape. As these buildings were made in the 1930’s, there were cracks in between the floorboards. This left room for little ants to get in, although I have to say that the only place I really found ants was on the kitchen & bathroom counters. I personally loved the villas, and if I were to return, I would prefer to stay here than in the hotel rooms. The furniture is all wicker, and there are windows in every room.
The resort is absolutely spectacular. We were very impressed. Although we had looked it up on the internet before going, it far surpassed our expectations. The resort is modern, and beautifully kept. They have a very large pool, and it was never overly busy. We had no problems getting chairs. There was no swimming in the river, but then who wants to swim with cayman & crocodiles!
The food was excellent. There is a buffet that is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No reservations required. It’s right in the hotel, and the food here is as good as any a la carte restaurant. The Los Lagartos restaurant, a ten minute walk to the marina, was open for lunch only. They had a buffet option, as well as a la carte. As well as a great place to eat, it is a beautiful place to just sit and have a drink beside the river where you can watch the birds, turtles, cayman and crocodiles. You can also glimpse the canal, and the ships as they go by. The third option, The Chagres Riverview, is an a la carte restaurant, open for dinner only. As reservations were required for this restaurant, we only ate there once. The food here was superb.
We golfed at the Summit Golf Course, about a 15 minute drive from the resort. For $30, the taxi took us to the golf course, and picked us up again, at our requested time. The course itself is beautifully maintained. We enjoyed having a GPS system on the golf cart. The back nine was a little slower than the front nine, but at no time did we find ourselves sitting on a tee box with another group. The group in front of us, were always at least a stroke ahead of us.
We saw more bugs here than at Decameron, but then we WERE in the middle of the rainforest. Even though I took bug repellent, I only had to use it once when we went on a nocturnal boat ride. I think I got two mosquito bites, and that was it. On the resort, during the day, we didn’t see any mosquito’s.
What To Wear:
As it is very, hot and humid, shorts and light tops are all you need… aside from your bathing suit. At dinner, men are requested to wear long pants. Light dresses, and skirts were the clothes of choice for the women. Personally, I needed a sweater in the restaurant, as I found the a/c was very cold.
We did all of our tours from the Decameron. Since we only had four days at Gamboa, we wanted to spend as much time at the resort, discovering everything they had to offer. We went on the Monkey Island Tour, as well as the Aerial Tram. Both excellent tours, and not to be missed. They’re only a couple of hours each, so we did them in the morning, leaving us the afternoon at Los Lagartos or in the pool. We also went on the nocturnal boat ride, and an evening Chiva ride, where we were able to see lots of different wildlife.
There were no tours offered for going into Panama City, but as it’s only a 40 minute drive, I would imagine that the resort could arrange for a taxi to take you in and drop you off. If four people were to split the cost of a taxi, it would probably be equivalent, or cheaper, than a tour.
In summary, this is an incredible resort. It’s beautiful and peaceful. There’s nothing in the way of a nightlife during the week; however, The Monkey Bar is open until 11. You have the choice of sitting with your drink in the air conditioned resort, or taking it out on the balcony. As we like to be up early, this was just perfect for us. Four days just didn’t seem enough. If I were ever to return to Panama, I would like to spend my whole vacation here.
"Yes, this resort has it all!"
Derek&Lisa_Canada on Dec 1, 2009 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Dec, 2009 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
350 people found this review helpful
Yes, this resort has it all, however, you should consider the Hotel rooms as you only option if you are not on the strickest budget. We did, I am sorry to say, pay over $700, for an upgrade through WOV, No fault to the resort, they did not have a record of the upgrade. Call, or email ahead. The staff at GRR are top-notch and the food is excellent. The tours that are offered are for the family, no Indiana Jones, everyone is safe. Fishing is the absolute best for groups or family. You can expect to catch at least 30 fish /boat without saying anything to the guide. The fish where so abundant the I had both my thumbs worn raw. We are also returning this Jan./05.
"See flora and fauna in their natural state."
Wendy&Roberto on Dec 1, 2009 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Dec, 2009
309 people found this review helpful
Gamboa Rainforest Resort Gamboa transit around 1pm, on Monday was uneventful, with a great travelogue by a History Professor, who told us this was her ³summer job², as it is the beginning of a 3 month ²vacation² for them all. Most Panamanians have 2 jobs. She made about $256.00 per month as a professor. University is free. Upon arrival, a few of us were upgraded, to hotel rooms, with a huge dreamy hammock on the balcony, overlooking the river and rainforest. It had a huge tiled bathroom, and as all Canadians seem to need on vacation, WASHCLOTHES. The safety deposit box is free in your room, and there is also free internet near the lobby. Gamboa offers FREE viewing of wildlife as I have never seen before in my 17 years of travel to the tropics toucans, parrots, turtles, crocodiles, multitudes of water fowI by the river, that I have yet to name, anteaters, sloths, white faced monkeys, howler monkeys, tiny frogs, capiberas (these need to be seen to be believed, as they look like a cartoon animal and are a relative of the hippo), squirrel like groundhogs, and coutimondis. We took video of all, so we could have a closer look and possibly put a name to some of these wonderful critters. This hotel is truly a 5 star in my opinion, but remember it is also open to the general traveler who pays as he goes. Sometimes we were ignored for the ³paying customers², but they are trying to correct this. Breakfast and lunch and supper is offered at the same buffet restaurant, with 2 dinners allowed at the speciality restaurant. Yes, they do keep track. Be careful if you charge wine, drinks or trips, to your room! You need to carefully track this and go the night before departure to double check your charges, as it can take a long time for each visit to the front desk. The fridge in the room is filled with goodies, very expensive goodies, most of which you get for free. But if you eat it you PAY for it. The snacks, so nicely arranged are also NOT included. The coffee supplied is included, with actual glass cups, not plastic. We did not go to Panama, as we had spent way too much time, for us, on busses.
Lunch is offered daily, at Los Logartos from 12 noon until 5pm, on the river, and there is a fabulous view from here of the Panama Canal. We saw a huge cruise ship go by as well as various container ships. You can eat from the buffet or from the menu, while watching aquatic birds, crocodiles and turtles vie for breadcrumbs. New Year¹s Eve was quite a disappointment, hotel wise, as they did nothing for us ³all inclusives² at all! And the Monkey bar still closed at 10:30! as it usually did every night. We had a great time in the afternoon by the pool on New Years Eve, meeting a nice couple who offered to share their magnum of Champagne with us at midnight. We sat outside the Gala Party ($90.00/person) and watched the activity from the ³cheap seats². The fireworks at midnight over the jungle were spectacular! There are huge balconies around the restaurant and bar, overlooking the river, where you can sit and drink the wonderful tropical drinks they serve to you in real glass, complete with fruit garnish and umbrellas! The other bar is by the Pool and opens around 10:30, where you can get a bottle of beer, water, Perrier, almost any kind of mixed drink, and white or red very good wine, Chiliean I think. Not included, were some imported liqueurs or liquors, so it was best to always ask before ordering or they will charge you. There is no other place, that we knew of, to buy wine or liquor, nearby. So if you want some for your room, bring it with you. You can get the fridge key by giving your credit card number, and keep cold drinks in it, but if you use any beverages, remember they will charge you at checkout. As an example I think pop was $3.50. All inclusive is new here, and some staff are not quite sure what is or is not included. Also, they will serve the Spanish guests first, without even giving a second thought to who is next in line. The Spanish come up and just expect to get served first. I could not write this report with mentioning the fabulous WOV rep, Jean Francoise or JF, as we so affectionately called him. He was always cheerful, calm, helpful and honest to a fault. One couple liked him so much they took him on a helicopter ride with them! I left him with a thermal cup for his morning coffee and a Hawaiian lai I had bought with me. These cups had been really great at the Decameron but we did not use them at Gamboa at all. They serve YOU at the Gamboa. It is also a smaller resort, making it easier to make friends. Being the rainforest and all, the rain did come down quite often. Mornings were usually the sunny time, but weather was very unpredictable. An umbrella here, might be a very good idea, especially as WOV guests stay in the historic villas (there is one flight of stairs). They are huge but some are quite a ways from the resort. The rep lived here and said he enjoyed the peace and quiet. Most of the Canadians were here, but as I mentioned, except for a lucky few, us included, who had booked early and were upgraded to the hotel rooms.
The toucans like to be here in the mornings as well as in front of the hotel by the lobby. There is an extreme drop off to the jungle behind the villas, so it is very easy to see white face monkeys or all kinds of birds in the treetops. We got up at 6ish every morning and walked the property looking for the wonderful toucans! Take binoculars! and keep your eyes open. All it takes is patience and vigilance to see that rare bird or that sloth, (who tends to look like a termite nest) until you take out your binocs. The gift shop is VERY EXPENSIVE. There are Indians who actually live across the river and come to work in dugout canoes. We saw them one morning. A real jungle walk, for free, is just down the river trail past the butterfly house. Right here on most days, the Indians sell their hand carved and hand painted figurines of toucans, etc, carved out of NUTS! I bought a beautiful miniature of a toucan, what else? for $15.00. In the gift shop it was $70.00!! A lot of tours from other resorts, from Panama, and the cruise ships, visit this resort to see the wildlife, but if you stay here, it is all around you for free, so you decide if you want to take them or not. There is NO guarantee you will see what you want to see on these rather expensive trips. Birdwatching with a guide on Pipeline Road was $38.00 each I think, for a 3 hour trip. We walked this one morning, leaving at 5:45am, in the dark, (take a flashlight and get written directions from the tour guides), and it took about an hour or so just to get there. Although we did see toucans, coutimondis, various birds and frogs and got some good footage, with the heat and humidity, we were totally exhausted and very happy that the Gamboa tour bus happened to go by. They are very good at stopping to pick up tourists, even when they are not part of any tour! This is for those in really good shape, and take lots of water. The humidity is very high here, and some mornings it seemed to be raining but it was dew! There were mosquitoes, but they did not bother us that much, compared to the stingray, they were nothing at all! The one hour Monkey Island trip is not to be missed. We paid $21.00 each and zoomed down the Panama Canal in a speed boat, beside huge ships, to view white face monkeys and a male iguana in full mating colours. We had asked if only the two of us, could go, with the driver of course, and they accommodated us, no problem. There is also a catamaran and other boats for larger groups. We took the excursion to Colon, to see the 3 tiered Gatun lock leading into the Caribbean, and to see an old fort, the Black Christ, and then to finally take the train that follows the canal back to Gamboa. It was something to see the huge container ship, a few inches from each side of the lock, moving only a few feet from us!! We bought a few things in duty free Colon, but what a town, filled with gigantic name brand stores for shopping, along with some horrible slums. This is a long trip, 9:30 to 7:00, so be prepared. A full delicious lunch is provided at a Melia hotel with a neat little gift shop.
The Villas or the Hotel?:
I heard that some were not so happy with the Villas, as this is a 5 star hotel, with the WOVers in the ³cheap seats² and others in the upscale rooms in the hotel, close to everything. There are 2 flights of stairs to the rooms, and a shuttle golf cart is available if you call for it. I did not see these large rooms, so have no further information. We were in hotel room 429, so if it was raining, we never had to go outside, but to the elevator and up to supper. There is a ping pong table by the elevator outside the disco.There seemed to be stairs to get to all the rooms. You could upgrade to a more luxurious 2 storey room. They do have an extensive website for more information and photos.
All in all, I am very happy to have had the opportunity to see flora and fauna in their natural state, instead of in CAGES. Don¹t know if I would spend 2 weeks in this hotel, but one was great. I found it a very quiet resort after the Decameron, with limited restaurants and everything closing down at 10:30 and no entertainment by the pool or elsewhere. As I said, the wildlife here is in the forest, not in the rooms. Definitely NOT a party place. There was a disco Friday and Saturday at 8pm to about 1am, drinks included, but not many were there on the Friday we went. The Taylor of Panama was filmed here, so we will get it soon to relive our memories.
"Beautiful resort, beautiful room, great food."
Matt_Toronto on May 1, 2009 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: May, 2009 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
344 people found this review helpful
We booked a 2-resort trip to Panama through Nolitours. The last 3 were spent at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort.
We had a 90 minute bus ride from the Decameron to Gamboa, and on arrival the place was a mob scene. Once again this was the result of Semana Santa. All kinds of locals had picked the resort as their destination for the weekend, resulting in the hotel being filled to capacity. First impressions were that Gamboa is a different kettle of fish than the Decameron. No surprise there, really, but the Gamboa Rainforest Resort is beautiful inside. I immediately got the impression that this hotel was an upgrade. We sat around for about 30 minutes waiting for our room to be ready, giving me enough time to see people lunching on some very appetizing looking food. Upgrade indeed!
We got the key to the room and found we were given the last room on southern end of the property (completely on the other end from the tennis courts). We paid for a “garden view” room from which I expected to look out onto a garden and nothing else, but in fact there was the river staring us straight in the face. I guess they categorize some of the lower floors as garden view because of the foliage that may partially block one’s view, but as far as I could see most rooms had a decent view of the river. The room itself was large and comfortable with a large bathroom that included a shower stall and a telephone next to the toilet. The room had a mini bar with the usual ridiculous prices; we only used it to cool off our own water. There was also a safe, the price of which was included, for which you selected your own code. The balcony came with a large glass-topped table, a couple of chairs, and best of all a hammock. I spent some enjoyable time in that thing.
It appears that Nolitours guests are the only ones on some sort of all-inclusive program at Gamboa. The rest seem to pay as they go. Everything up to and including drinks made with domestic and non-brand name liquors are included. You end up having to sign a cheque for dinner and drinks but at the end of your stay there’s no charge. I believe the purpose of the cheque is to have an accounting of the 10% gratuity for the staff that’s built into it. I didn’t have to pay a dime at the end of our stay; Nolitours picked up the cost of the meal and the tip, although I often tipped on top.
It was easy to tell that the hotel was booked to the gills – they had to go out and buy more beach towels. The first ones we got were straight out of the bag! The pool is beautifully shaped with a kids’ pool at one end and volleyball and basketball setups at the other. In the middle is the swim-up bar, which serves not only terrific drinks but terrific food as well. Here the Decameron should pay attention: at Gamboa all they use is frozen fries, frozen chicken fingers, frozen wings, etc and a deep fryer. It’s not rocket science, and on the surface it doesn’t even sound good, but the Gamboa pool bar puts out some great food. Seats with shade were a bit difficult to come by until Sunday afternoon when it was noticeable that most guests had reached the end of their stay and were checking out.
As I’ve mentioned the food is a step up from the Decameron. Our first dinner, even though a buffet, was sumptuous by comparison. It was a small spread but what was on offer was obviously of a different caliber. Pasta, fish, pork, beef, salads, fruits, it had a good selection. Nice desserts too; things like tiramisu in a shot glass. My only quibble was that getting a coffee took some effort, but it’s a small point. Judging by bottles I saw, I believe the red wine was a malbec/trempranillo blend from Argentina. Breakfast was great. Cereals for the kids, fresh fruit, a modest selection of fruit juices, yoghurt, really crispy bacon and eggs, pancakes, maybe waffles. It was all good. Twice we paid for lunch by the pool. The first time we shared a massive club sandwich and fries for $7. This thing came loaded with all the traditional components, but on a huge piece of bread that was under-toasted. The second day I opted for Buffalo wings and they were great too. Bottom line: big step up food-wise from the Decameron.
Not much that I’m aware of. The Capybara disco is in the basement of the hotel; I only saw it during daylight hours.
Did the Monkey Island tour, and because of the full booking at the resort we didn’t get to go until 2 pm, a time at which the Capuchins are in full siesta mode and disinterested in any grapes that you may have for them. I really do have to tip my hat to our guide, however, who persisted until we got some visitors - we were seconds away from being completely shut out. Although we signed up for the Pipeline road tour, we came to the conclusion that we really aren’t birders and that 3 hours in the jungle staring at 6:30 am really isn’t our cup of tea. So we bowed out. Fortunately for us payment is only made in the 15 minutes before a tour commences.
Beautiful resort, beautiful room, great food, but I wouldn’t recommend staying there for more than 2 or 3 days; that seems about enough time to do and see all that is on offer.
"Confusing as what is included and what isn't."
Posted by: Fred&Bev_Canada
on Apr 1, 2009 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Apr, 2009 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
340 people found this review helpful
We spent 2 wonderful weeks in Panama Jan 04 One week at the Decameron we were so very happy and felt it was exactly as advertised. The second week we spent at Gamboa Rainforest Resort advertised as 5* in World of Vacations book. First we upgraded from Villa to Hotel Room cost 20$US per night. We were not happy about this at all. Very confusing as what is included and what isn't hard to go on tours not enough people so they are cancelled, as are alot of activities like bingo dance lessons spanish lessons they need to work on their all inclusive package. Food okay staff friendly 3 days would have been long enough for us we would go back to the Decameron for 2 weeks. When we got home talked to our travel agent wrote a letter sent in pictures and just this week World of vacations sent us back 184$cdn so I encourage any one else who upgraded to do the same so they are alittle more judging of 5* accommodation any questions feel free to email us email@example.com PANAMA IS WONDERFUL
"If you plan on staging an event there, think twice."
Sam_USA on Nov 1, 2007 >
1 contribution(s) United States of America
Visited on: Nov, 2007 | Leisure | With Group
374 people found this review helpful
I normally don't write reviews unless I'm very happy with a place, but Gamboa Rainforest Resort (in Gamboa, outside of Panama City, Panama) has frustrated me to no end, and at this point it's either write a review or punch a hole in a wall. I'm normally not a hot head. In fact, in negotiations it's usually my wife who plays "bad cop", after which time I come in as the nice voice of reason. Furthermore, I'm not just an uninitiated American in Central America. I've been doing research and business in Panama for over four years. I know that business there isn't what we expect in the U.S. I know that a lot of it is uneven. I've even been harassed by corrupt cops and talked my way out of it. GRR, however, really tested my patience.
First of all, I should state that I had my wedding there. If you're just planning to go to Gamboa for a weekend, you may not need to read this review. However, if you plan on staging an event there, think twice. Or at least do so with your eyes wide open and expecting to get ripped off at least once.
The fortunate thing is that my wife and I started planning the whole thing 11 months in advance. Otherwise, it would have been a mess. It literally took Gamboa management staff months to return calls and emails. They took forever putting together a contract which in the end was incomplete and had to be revised two more times. They routinely made errors in their favor, and my fiancée and I found ourselves having to constantly refer Gamboa back to previous emails and holding their feet to the fire to keep promises made.
This went on, like I said for ELEVEN MONTHS. I could go on and on with myriad stories, but the bottom line is that while everyone at GRR carries the *veneer* of professionalism and efficiency, the actual lack of these characteristics is truly bewildering and disturbing. Management was completely unpredictable, routinely failing to return our calls or emails until we left messages threatening to cancel the event. Arriving in Panama a week before the ceremony, we set up meetings with people who simply would not show up. I don't know if GRR doesn't pay its staff well, but people were always quitting or getting fired and leaving us uninformed as to who our new liaison would be.
This was combined with a totally encompassing culture of passing the buck among the remaining staff. The strangest thing about this is that an individual might commit some sort of mistake, and then refer us to someone else to fix it, completely unembarrassed to let their colleagues know of their incompetence. Nobody takes responsibility for anything, and everyone is more than happy to give you yet someone else's email or phone number and tell you "Oh, you have to talk to her about that." Over the period of 11 months, we ended up arranging and negotiating things with about half a dozen people at Gamboa alone (this is NOT including our liquor distributors, photographer, videographer, florist, and bands, all of whom we had to contract on our own), a truly harrowing experience when one is trying to do all this from New York City. Even four days before the wedding, our main GRR liaison tried to bring in yet another person, at which point I had to tell her that I had no intention of letting her introduce me to one more new person to address something she screwed up in the first place. Although a middle manager, she was completely clueless even when I tried to explain to her that it really was in her best interest that she not let everyone else know how much she had screwed up.
Also, if you make any contracts with GRR, get it all in iron-clad writing, because they will try to rip you off. The only time in my adult life that I've called somebody a liar to their face was when I had to confront a GRR manager who had ripped off 20 members of my family on a stupid Monkey Boat Tour. It's a funny story too long to tell, but believe me, the guy was lying through his teeth. Right now, my wife and I are realizing that GRR ran off with about $400 in liquor which they were supposed to return to the distributor so I can get a credit on my card. GRR told us that as a matter of procedure they always arrange with the distributor to have the liquor returned. This was the only thing we didn't have in writing, and of course, no one's returning our emails.
"The setting for this resort is probably the best I have ever stayed at."
Brian_Canada on Mar 1, 2007 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Mar, 2007 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
312 people found this review helpful
This is a good and bad review of our 2 weeks at Gamboa.Mostly good! The setting for this resort is probably the best I have ever stayed at. In the rainforest mountains of Panama is something I enjoyed looking at everyday.It is very hot and humid here ( last week of Feb. first week of March). If you like birds or not you will be surprised at the no. and different species. I am not a bird watcher but had my binoculars in hand at all times to see all the different shapes sizes and colour.I saw about 30 different kinds of birds but there are 900 and some different birds in this area.
The food at Gamboa was very good and service was excellent. The staff in the restaurants are professional and very friendly and do not expect a tip, but we did tip well.The only problem we had with the food, and it's not the hotels fault, is that it is repetitive but we were there for 14 days so that can't be helped. For that reason I wouldn't go to any resort for that length of time.We payed for all inclusive but at this resort that is very limited. Most places you can have snacks at one of there bars with no charge, but not here! For a hamburg and fries it is $12.00 US. You can eat in the restaurants at meal time with all inclusive.Even at the pool bar you pay for snacks which I thought was wrong but it probably saved me a few pounds around the belly.
The rooms were very nice and clean and big. The air conditioning was good but could use a little cleaning more often. The shower and washroom were perfect with lots of room. There was always hot water in the shower and sink. The cleaning staff washed the floors everyday in the whole room and bathroom. Our balcony was huge with a view to die for. Looking up the Chagres River and into the mountains and also a partial view of the pool.
Bars and Restaurants:
There was 3 bars, and the staff working these bars were excellent at their jobs. Great service and amazing rum and Panama Beer is as good as any in Canada.The pool here is nice and cool and there is lots of room to swim and play volleyball if you like.
One little bit of a problem was that if you wanted a drink or a meal you have to sign for almost each and every drink. Sometimes if they thought you might be staying for a while they would let it go, but most of the time even if you wanted 1 bottle of water they had to run the receipt through their computerized register. This is supposed to be an ecological resort and they are wasting paper on every transaction.A few times we had drinks and walked away and had a server chase us halfway through the resort to get your room no. and signature.None of this is the fault of staff, but not so great management.Another thing that did bother me was that groups of people for meetings were priority no.1 and you became no.2. This was one thing that made me quite angry because at meal times they would have 1/3 of the restaurant reserved for these people while the rest of the people staying at the resort for a week or 2 weeks would have to wait in line.This happened every day during our stay. For that reason only I won't return to this resort.If you pay to stay at a resort everyone should be treated the same. I treat people with respect and I expect it back when I am paying them for their service, again this is not the fault of the employee but the management!
The best thing about Panama is the people. They are very friendly and just go about their day in a cool calm collected manner. There is so much to do here you will never be bored. All though the resort is isolated the Panama canal is a 10 minute walk away. They have many tours set up everyday of the week. Monkey Island is a must see. This was our second visit to Panama and our favorite place is Anton Valley.A small village built in the remains of a volcano. The temperature here is comfortable all year round and the Sunday Market is a great place to buy lots of good things made by the Embera and Kuna Indians.
If you do go here, which I do recommend for a week or less catch up with Rudy one of the bartenders. Tell him hello from the Dude, a nick name he used instead of calling you sir, by our request.Also Julio, Suzanna and Whan. All great people and people you will miss after leaving.
"Great for a nice quiet relaxing holyday or eco-tourism."
Marc_ThePonder on Mar 1, 2007 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Mar, 2007 | Leisure | With Group
289 people found this review helpful
From February 5th to the 19th, 2007, we stayed at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, Panama. Second year in a row. Our 2006 trip review and photos to this resort, the SanBlass Islands and Valley de Anton can be found at www.worldisround.com/articles/283009/index.html The main reason for going, 2 years in a row, to the Gamboa, is that it is such a GREAT place. The resort, the people, the food, the pool and the excurions are what makes it so appealing for those of us who either want to have a nice quiet relaxing holyday or for the eco-tourism.
Bare in mind, that there is no beach here, as this resort is situated where the Chagres River and the Panam Canal intersect and right in the middle of the jungle (Soberania National Parc)Also the fact that it is so central. About half way up on the Panama Canal, between the Carrabean Sea and the Pacific and about half way between Costa Rica, to the west, and Columbia, to the east. So everything is easily enough accessible.
This trip, besides the Gamboa Rainforest, we also visited Portobello, Bocas del Toro, Colon, stayed 3 days / 2 nights at the "Al Natural", on Bastimentos Island, which is part of the Bastimentos Natural Marine Parc in Bocas.
We saw crocs, sloths, monkeys of all types, the magnificient Panamanian National bird the "Harpy Eagle", which is almost extinct. We saw several types of birds, and not being a birder, I can only say that we were amazed by all the beautiful colors and types of birds seen during this trip.
Once again, the Gamboa Resort exceeded our expectations. The staff recognised us from last year (is that a good thing or bad thing???) and we were treated, all around with smiles and GREAT service.
As mentioned before, this resort is NOT for everyone, and not really for young children. If you expect a beautiful beach or an anination team, you will be greatly disapointed. But if you want to relax by the pool, take nice long quiet walks while admiring mother nature at it's best or do several excursions, as fully detailed in our first review, with pics, you'll be spoiled....
We had the chance of seeing not ONE, but TWO Majestic Panamaen Harpy Eagles. This eagle, which is almost extinct, can grow up to 3 1/2 feet tall, with a 7 foot wingspan, and can, in mid flight, pick a sloth or monkey off a tree branch, in the jungle, and bring it back to its nest to feed.
An adult Harpy Eagle:
Just about every morning, at the Gamboa, we would wake around 5:30 AM and by 6, go for a walk towards the Areal Tram. This morning, I was walking alone.
Was a very quiet morning and Mother Nature seemed to still be asleep. All I saw were 2 toucans way up in a tree, at the tram. On my way back, I met Benoit and Linda, who made me green with envy as they mentioned that they had actually seen the Harpy the day before....... and had photos to prove it!!!! After 2 trips to Panama and in the middle of the second week of this trip I had yet to see it (We did see it in captivity the year prior, but not in the wild).
After picking my lower jaw off the ground, I started back to the resort and almost there, as I was putting my camera gear away, I caught movement on my right!!!! Yes..... an adult Harpy Eagle, up on a branch, holding in it's talons a large iguana.
I was so nervous by the whole idea, I had trouble getting my gear back out and ready. It stayed on that branch about 15 minutes (which seemed MUCH longer), as I took shot after shot of it... I even took the chance of changing lens. I must have taken about 100 photos of it as it stood on the branch trying to keep it's balance, still clutching that iguana. Then all of a sudden it flew in the jungle.....
With a very large smile on my face, I went back to the resort telling everyone about it...... just couldn't believe my luck!!!!
Saw the smaller one (about 2 1/2 foot tall) during another walk later on that same day....
As mentioned, we also spent 2 nights / 3 days, in Bocas del toro, at The "Al Natural" resort, on Bastimento Island. Almost Gilligan's Island.... what a place!!!! Thinking of 1 or 2 straight weeks next year (don't want to tell you how good this place is..... or else it will not be available for me...). You're looking at 6 sleeping huts, they're thinking of adding 3 more. Here is their site (only look at it when your done reading this review and looking at all the pics...)
We had a great time, met with the owners Vincent and Michel from Belgium and also met 2 friends of there's..... Charlie who was our gracious host and Gérard. All these people contributed at making our stay as special as it was.
Vincent was our Chef and let me tell you that he can easily put a lot restaurants to shame..... all this in the middle of nowhere. Look at our photos, they speak for themselves..... can't wait to go back.
For making our second trip as memorable, if not more, then the first........ Thanks to all!!!
"The hotel has definitely dropped to a 3 star as far as food service."
LauraandNathan on Dec 1, 2006 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Dec, 2006 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
308 people found this review helpful
It is with great sadness that I have to write this review.
I posted a review about this resort in 2004 and what I posted was completely true at the time. After reading the other reviews I felt obligated to update mine. We returned to the Gamboa for the 3rd time in January for 2 weeks.
Everyone remembered us and we were anticipating a wonderful vacation as usual. Unknown to us Nolitours had taken over the hotel and cut everything. There were no menus, we were expected to eat at the buffet breakfast, lunch and supper. Even down at the Marina it was a buffet. 1st we were allowed 2 visits to the a la carte but eventually got 3 but it was a fight.
The staff tried to get the rules changed and eventually we came to a compromise. But the stress it caused was unbelievable. Then the 2nd week they decided to cut the quality of the alcohol, we were only allowed Gamboa Beer and "cheap" spirits.
The hotel has definitely dropped to a 3 star as far as food service.
The staff still remains amazing, but sadly we will never return under Nolitours rules they have ruined the hotel by being sooo cheap. Plus the price had gone up but the service you received was less. We are off to Huatulco this January, but my heart still longs for Panama.