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.
"Good but not a 5 star resort"
Posted by: Lisa from Canada
on Jan 1, 2004 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2004 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
72 people found this review helpful
Decameron & Gamboa
My husband and I were in Panama for two weeks, Jan5-19,2004 and the weather was hot, hot, hot!! We are both in our mid 30's and enjoyed ourselves tremendously. Our first week was spent at the Decameron and we really enjoyed ourselves. We tried each of the restaurants and my favorites were Mogo Mogo (Thai) and Sushi Samba. Although the process for making reservations at the a la carte restaurants was not the best (you had to be up at around 6:30 am to get an early sitting) luckily it all worked out for us. The pools were wonderful and felt cool when you first got in ( but that's because it was hot, hot, hot!!!). Although the hotel claims there are so many adult pools and so many childrens pools, there is not any that are strictly adults only.
The ocean was warm ( warmer than the pools), but it had quite the undertow. The flags at the beach were yellow for the whole week while the life guards were on duty.
The resort has over a hundred straw umbrellas on the beach, but we still found that you needed to be there bright and early to get one. It was unfortunate, but the days my husband and I sat on the beach we would see huts reserved but no one would use them the whole day (because they had spots reserved at the pools as well). As I said, this is unfortunate but I don't know how it can be resolved.
We did no tours from the Decameron, we thought we'd save that for the following week. And in the tour book when it says 90 minute drive from the airport, it's more like 2 hours. And if you have a tendancy to car sickness, make sure you take your gravol. We were lucky enough to see the peacocks numerous times (there are 2 males and 2 females on the property). We only made it to the evening entertainment twice, but both shows were pretty good.
Our trip to the Gamboa was about two hours from the Decameron, and they showed a movie (again, you'll need the gravol).
Our rooms were not in the hotel, but in the historic villas and they were most definately not 5 star. I would maybe rate them as a 3 star at best. To stay in the hotel was about $20 extra a night and they claimed there was only two nights available and then they were full (although the whole week they did not appear to be full at all). I also thought that the pool area could have been maintained better i.e. the concrete hosed down at night and the tables wiped down daily. I also thought that the pool bar could have used a good scrubing (there was black mold on it). You did not have to get up at a ridiculous hour to get a lounger by the pool, which was very nice.
The food at the restaurants was very, very good. If you ordered off the menu's, what you received was definately 5 star meals. The food from the buffet tended to be on the cool side, and sometimes the service was a bit slow. The a la carte restaurant was most definately a 5 star restaurant but the menu's don't change often enough. There was one menu for the first and second day we were there, and then they changed and it remained the same for the rest of our stay. That was a little disappointing.
The lobby is beautiful, again like a 5 star hotel.
We did a few trips while we were there.
First, we took the 2 1/2 hour radio station tour. It was $35/person and well worth it. It was similar to the monkey island tour but longer. On this trip we saw crocodiles, tucans, 3 different kinds of monkeys, 3 toed sloth, lizards and lots of birds. Don't forget to take some fruit from the buffet (the monkeys will come right on the boat to take the fruit from your hands). The next trip we took was the arial tram and that was also $35/person. While it was interesting, I think I would have rather walked the path to the observation tower and spent that money on another boat trip to see the monkeys.
Our last side trip was a partial transit through the Panama Canal. That was $96/person and was quite interesting.
The people at both resorts were very friendly and we would both go back to Panama (but stay at the Decameron).
The tour company should not be advertising the Gamboa as a 5 star hotel and as a result there were a lot of dissapointed people the week we were there.
If anyone has any questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
"I don't think I could ever enjoy another resort as much as this one."
Posted by: Nathan & Laura from Canada
on Jan 1, 2004 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2004 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
68 people found this review helpful
We were at the Gamboa Resort from Jan 5-12/04. It's going to be hard for me to put in words what a great and relaxing vacation we had. We were looking for a Resort that offered something other than "Theme songs" and "Bingo". What we recieved was excellent service, animals beyound belief [ Tucan, Parrots, Crockodiles, Turtles.....to name a few]. Instead of going to there fantastic gym I would take a walk at 6:30am and see and hear amazing things. You were totally safe and when I returned and went for breakfast they had it all ready for me [ I eat the same thing every morning ] And they were not even looking for tips they just liked to please you. This is the only resort my husband and I would love to return too. Honestly I don't think I could ever enjoy another resort as much as this one.
Some things I would have liked to know before hand:
1- The Hotel rooms are not part of the World of Vacation's package, they are an upgrade. Do not even try to arrange for them through your agent. To upgrade at the Hotel is usually $20.00 but it can range from $25-50. If there are alot of you you may get it for $20.00. The Villas are ok but they will not keep there 5 star rating if the Hotel rooms are not offered in our packages. Most people upgraded but were not happy with having to pay extra.
2- Internet service was FREE while we were there. Which was great to keep in touch with our kids and friends. And with temps in the high 30's the room was never overly busy.
3- This resort has just converted over to being ALL-Inclusive so there is a little confusion over what we can have and what we can't. Just make sure you do not give them your credit card # and never sign for anything otherwise you could be charged twice.Just make sure they see your bracelet and if you find a problem go to your Rep J.F. he will help.
4- Make sure you walk or take the transportation offered at the front desk to go to the docks for lunch. It is truly amazing to see all the crockodiles, turtles and watch the ships go by and the food everywhere on the resort is fantastic!!!!Considering that I am very picky I couldn't believe that I just LOVED the food, never even got tired of anything plus we never got to try everything on the menu's. No one ever got sick that I know of either.
5- The resturants are air-conditioned so unless you like to eat on the Terrace like we do, bring a sweater for inside dining.
6-Go to Monkey Island if nothing else , it is the cheapest trip and by far the best. Take some apples and banana's from the Buffet and make sure you have alot of film. I took 17 rolls and could have taken more. Not just of the Monkey's but everything else.Do your trips at the beginning of the week before the Decameron group arrives on the Friday plus alot of locals come for the weekend. So enjoy your solitude while you can!!!
7- You need $20.00 US per person to get out of the country no matter what your Agent tells you. It is not included in the price.
8- PANAMA Airport- You are allowed 20kg per person to go under the plane. You are charged for every kilo over. Some were paying $150.00 US just to get there lugage on the plane. That was a real mess and held things up.The Duty free is amazing, we passed the 3 hours in no time. So if you don't find anything in Panama don't worry you'll find it at the airport.
There is soooooo much I could tell you but this is way more than I would read myself. So please feel free to E-mail me if you need further info at email@example.com just address it ??Gamboa Resort so that it doesn't end up in my junk mail
Hope this helps, have a GREAT VACATION!!!!! We sure did!!!!!
"Gamboa is a beautiful resort and a nature lover’s paradise"
T&M on Feb 1, 2004 >
2 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2004
67 people found this review helpful
Gamboa Rainforest Resort:
We spent 4 days at the Decameron Costa Blanca and 3 days at the Gamboa Rainforest resort.
We checked out of Decameron at 1pm. An air-conditioned bus took us to Gamboa. They provide a tour guide who talks of the history of the area for the 2-hour drive. Check in was quick and we instantly noticed an improvement in customer service and a better command of the English language from the staff.
When we received our room assignment we were pleased to discover we were in the hotel not the historic villas. The historic villas looked large but we did not see the inside of one. We were in room 101, which was on the third floor at the far end of the hotel. The distance provided peace and quiet, not that this is a loud resort by any standard. The view was amazing we faced the Chagres River and had a beautiful view of the whole resort. Take the top floor in the 100’s if you can. The 300’s are at ground level and provide little view as our friends discovered. The room and bathroom were large and tastefully decorated. Our room had two double beds, a sitting area with chairs and a hammock on the balcony. The grounds are not perfectly manicured and they should not be as you are in the rainforest. There is a jogging track/trail that can be walked as well as numerous exhibits our favourite being the butterfly atrium.
There is only one pool and it has a swim up bar where you can also order snacks. This is definitely not the high light of this resort.
Restaurants and Bars:
Corotu Restaurant (Main Buffet/ ala carte) The service here is very good. For breakfast there is an omelet bar and the usual breakfast things like Pancakes, waffles and French toast. There is also a pastry table, fruit table and a selection of dry cereal and yogurt. We did not eat lunch here and instead had our lunches at Los Lagartos. There is a different theme for dinner each night and they also have an a la carte menu. We ate off the menu, which was included, and the food seemed to be the same as the fine dining restaurant but with additional choices.
Chagres River View (Fine Dining a la carte) It may be hard to get reservations here because it is a very small restaurant. There is a wine menu but the house wine is also very good. I would say that the food is 4 or 5 star.
Los Lagartos Restaurant (buffet by the river) This restaurant is only open for lunch. They have a nice buffet but the best part is that you can sit outside on the deck overlooking the river. This is a great place to view water birds and turtles. There are a lot of fish here as well and it is fun to feed them bread and watch the turtles compete with them for the food.
Monkey Lobby Bar This is the only bar other than the pool bar that was open. There is not much in the way of nightlife at this resort. In the evening people would have a few drinks and watch sports on TV. It is a small bar with a few tables and they serve the usual drinks. One nice thing is that you can get bottled water here as well.
The spa offers almost any treatment that you would want including packages and they also have whirlpools and saunas. The prices are very reasonable and the packages are a great deal. We all enjoyed our treatments and left feeling very pampered.
We did our own early morning trail hike up to the observation tower. We met up with our friends at 5 am and walked up the road toward the observation tower. Having never been in the jungle before it is interesting to hear it come alive, strange noises and all. We had howler monkeys jump from the trees across the road ahead of us. You are walking up a steep road for a while when you come to an area that flattens out, keep an eye on the left and eventually you will see makeshift staircase up the hill. When you reach the top you will be close to the Arial tram area and you will see the observation tower it is a series of ramps going up 9 stories we heard. If you don’t like heights this might not be for you. Nothing can compare to watching the sunrise over the jungle unfortunately the day we were up there was a lot of fog. Another couple had reach the top before us and kindly pointed out a tree sloth in the distance. We came down the road again and heard the “cracks” of the toucans. Look high in the trees and you might see them.
Monkey Island ($25 US per person)
We heard about this tour from Debbie’s and highly recommend it as well. You take a boat into the Panama Canal and travel to islands where your guide will point out tree sloths, alligators, iguanas and anything else of interest. Eventually he took us to an island where after calling the monkeys, they slowly appear out of the trees. We thought ahead and had brought bananas and apples which the “white faced monkeys” took out of hands. A couple of them even ventured onto our pontoon boat for a feast. We also saw howler monkeys jumping from tree to tree.
Nocturnal Boat Cruise ($36 advertised but we paid $52 US with tax for two)
We heard this was a great chance to see different wildlife at night. We saw lots of caimans, a couple tree-sloths and numerous birds. Our guide was a naturalist and explained a lot of about the animal life on the river and the geography of the river itself. We did not view as much wildlife as we had hoped but being in the lake at night seeing the stars was awe-inspiring with the jungle around us.
Panama City by taxi ($80 US for 5 hours – 4 people)
There are tours for shopping and seeing the canal but we choose to make up our own itinerary and the hotel tour desk arranged a taxi for us with an English-speaking driver (Ask for Eduardo, he’s great). Panama city is only half an hour from Gamboa, which meant that we had more time to explore. Our first stop was the Artisan craft market in Balboa. The prices here were much better than those at the hotel gift shop and the vendors were willing to bargain. It helps if you know some Spanish. Then we went to the old city with its cobblestone streets and original churches and houses dating as far back the 1600s. It was very beautiful and it was interesting to see the contrast between the old and new city, which was visible from the waterfront. Our taxi driver was great and he acted as our guide, telling us of the history of the city and it’s people. Next we went to the old, old city, which are ancient ruins from the original Panama City that were destroyed by pirates. There are also a number of gift shops here with crafts and souvenirs but the prices were higher than in Balboa.
We could not leave Panama city without doing some shopping so we asked our taxi driver to take us somewhere were we could get good prices. He took us to a strip mall, which had stores that were much like our Walmart and outlet shoe and sporting goods stores. We found some great deals like a bathing suit for $7 and man’s dress shirt for $1.99. Taking a taxi to the city is a great way to see all the sights if you only have a day to visit.
Gamboa is a beautiful resort and a nature lover’s paradise. I also think it is a very good value for your money. There are lots of tours available and I would recommend visiting this resort if you enjoy wildlife and prefer a quieter type
"A wonderful resort."
Posted by: Lee&Mike_Canada
on Apr 1, 2004 >
2 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Apr, 2004 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
68 people found this review helpful
We spent the last two weeks of April at this wonderful resort. We were not at all bored, but admittedly this resort is not for everyone. It is geared toward eco-tourism, so if you are not a nature lover and are looking for pool activities, evening entertainment and late bar hours, this resort is not for you. There are plenty of guided nature hikes and day and night tours of the area included with the World of Vacations package, as well as kayaking and other assorted activities.We went on two tours outside the resort (Monkey Island Tour and the Partial Canal Transit, both recommended) and otherwise spent our time on the resort's beautiful grounds. The pool is quiet during the week, busier and noisier (louder volume of music) on the weekends when the arrivals from other hotels and the locals come. At present, there are no activities around the pool although we did hear from one of the staff that management thinks there should be some.
We stayed in the historic villas for the first week. No, they are not 5*, but they are very quaint and reminded us of a summer cottage. They are very roomy (large living and dining area, small kitchen with fridge, coffeemaker and double sink great for doing laundry, bedroom with large closet, and small bathroom with tub & shower) and are nicely decorated with wicker furniture. The windows on 3 sides of the villas have screens, so it was great to shut off the air at night and listen to the night sounds and the birds in the morning.
We transferred to a room in the hotel the second week. Although the room was luxurious and had a large balcony with a wonderful hammock overlooking the river and rainforest, we actually preferred the villas because of the space, the windows and the proximity to the wildlife (right outside your window). It all depends on your personal preference. We found the noise level from other guests coming & going from their rooms the same in both locations, but there is more vehicle traffic going past the villas.
If you are content with nature walks looking for wildlife (there is loads of it right on site!) and spending some time around the pool relaxing, we would recommend Gamboa resort. If you are looking for a very active resort, then it sounds like the Decameron might be a better option.
Feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org (Subject: Gamboa) if you have any questions.
"What a relaxing vacation this was!"
Carol&Family_Canada on May 1, 2004 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: May, 2004 | Leisure | Family and Kids
71 people found this review helpful
We stayed 2 weeks at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort from Jan 26 thru Feb 10/04.
This was one of the best resorts we have ever went too. The weather was typical Panama 'Hot' 'Hot' , being in the Rainforest, we got the occasional relieving sprinkles of rain - but sunworshippers don't worry the sun prevails .Within 10-15 minutes the sun was back and surprisingly we had plenty of cool breezes! What a relaxing vacation this was.
Was excellent ! Staff was wonderful.
Upon check-in we were immediately directed to room 305 - hotel part not the Villas . we did not have to pay any extra .e became known to all the staff as having the Panama Canal run through our room) Four days before we set to leave, the hot water pipe busted in the bathroom & we got flooded. We were immediately moved into another room.
Free Internet service was provided in a room off the lobby. The best time to use was first thing in the morning or during the day , so long as no business conventions were going on. At night it was usually busy with people keeping in touch with their family, or like my daughter rubbing it in to her co-workers how beautiful the weather was. You are definitely getting more bang for your buck here. The prices for non-world of vacations patrons were pretty expensive, especially being in US dollars. The lunch buffet was around $22 US per person and who knows what dinner was. The typical price range in the a la carte restaurant was $30 US, per person, not including drinks. So its definately worth the all-inclusive price and the food was some of the best resort fare we've ever had - of course you do have the occasional time when the food isn't so great, but we figured it was because the regular chef probably had the day off.
One of the best places for lunch is at the marina. You get to see lots of turtles, birds & yes even crocodiles and plenty of cargo ships going down the Panama Canal. We didn't see any cruise ships , but we did see lots of yachts especially when we took the tour to Monkey Island. This was a great little tour. You get to cruise down the Panama Canal and then go to a small island where a family of 5 monkeys' live. They are really friendly - make sure to take an apple or banana with you to feed them. If not , your tour guide will usually have something. along the way you are taken to various small islands to see the wildlife that lives there. On this tour , you never get out of the boat. This is around $20 per person. ( If available your WOV rep has a map/brochure that contains a couple of coupons that you can use for the tours. My husband went on the 6 hours fishing trip & had a great time. Here you don't have to have 6 people in order to book a trip. The resort has their own marina & boats of various sizes, so you can have as many or as few people as you want.
Take as little as you can..You will get charged if your luggage is over the weight limit allowed (20KG). Our luggage was fine when we left Toronto, and amazingly we came home with less than what we took down there and they said we over 10 Kilos which amounted to $40US that we had to pay. This was the ridiculous part. They do not have the proper equipment and personally we think they were charging everyone for whatever they could get away with. Not to mention, we were not on their passenger manifestation list. This is was our third trip to Panama and we never had a problem before at the airport.
Also , take snacks for the plan. Unless you fork over the $120 each way for 'first class' you don't really get anything_ sure you get a lunch or breakfast but its not that good. The wait in the long line @ Tim Hortons in the TO airport was well worth it _ at least we got fresh bagels for breakfast there. The one we got on the plane wasn't very good & now they even make you pay for pop.
We will definitely return to Gamboa !!!!
"The most relaxing trip I have ever taken."
Fraya_Canada on Dec 1, 2004 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Dec, 2004 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
73 people found this review helpful
This was the most relaxing trip I have ever taken. I have been to practially every island in the carribean and so I was looking for something different, not your usual beach resort. Instead we opted for a resort in the rainforest. Yes....it literally is in the rainforest.
We stayed in the Hotel. Amazing room. It was clean, large and the bathroom was gorgeous! We didn't have a hammock outside when we got there, but my b/f requested one as soon as we got into our room, and it was brought up immediately for us to enjoy for the rest of the week. The balcony provided a gorgeous view of the Charges river and the sunrises were spectacular.
After dinner there's not much going on, so we usually got into bed by 9:30pm, but it allowed for early morning wake ups at 7am to get our day started early, fully refreshed. The sun really takes a lot out of you, as does all the hiking, exploring, and adventures.
Food was amazing, presentation was top notch.They were very interested in making sure that you were pleased, and enjoyed your meal. All meals except for breakfast offer an a la carte option. We always chose to eat off the menu. you could always check the buffet first, but we were on vacation, and we wanted full service, to be waited on. Sunday brunch (from 12 - 5pm) was awesome, a large variety of food and desserts, with champagne.
Of course while you are there you must visit Monkey Island which includes an informed tour on the way to monkey island. You do not get out of the boat and actually visit the island, instead the monkeys (white faced monkeys) come to you!! Bring bread and bananas and go in the morning when they're hungry. This only costs $20 + tax, and it's about an hour long.
The canal. Ok, of course everyone wants to see the canal. The canal is fed by the Gatun Lake, and the Charges River. On the monkey island tour you will travel on both of these bodies of water, and ride along side very very large ships. So, in essence you can say you were on the canal. Canal tours are expensive. You can take the Gamboa Bus in from the resort for 65Cents and it will stop at the Miraflores Lockes which is the main one. There is a museum there, and it is free. Ask the main desk for bus times. OF course no one wants to tell you that you can just take the bus (which is an old school bus and you ride with the locals - but come on what an experience, and it's soooo cheap!!) Then to get back you'd have to take a taxi (cause other wise you'd be waiting a long time for the bus again - not until about 5pm to come back). So, the tour people and vacation reps will tell you that a taxi costs $20 - $30, but you can easily get a taxi for $15 or $10. Just be smart, and don't act so touristy. They think because you can afford to come on this vacation that you have loads of money to spend.
To Panama City by bus:
We went into Panama city on the bus, again 65 cents. We got on at 9:45am, and got off at the Cinco de Mayo bus station, down town Panama.(the ride was about 45 mins) So if you head west you will go into the French/Spanish side - Collonial section. Here, closer to the water you will see historical sites, and churches, and the Presidential Palace. Yes....we were right in front, after passing by a few security who wanted to check our bags first (probably for weapons). This part is starting to become more developed and a lot of apartments are being refurbished.
If you head into the other side to the east where the tall buildings are, the air feels polluted, and the emissions from the cars can be a bit much. We chose to turn around after I was starting to get a headache from all the fumes. There is a huge shopping mart in this area though, but we didn't get that far. We got a taxi back to Gamboa for $10
The Tram. We got on this tram for $35 USD each + tax. The purpose of the tram is to get you to the observation tower. After we realized that we could easily (well for us 28 year olds) walk to the top ourselves, and see interesting things on the way. This was far more rewarding then spending the $80. Damn...I wish I knew....but I did know, I just wanted to know what all the hype was about with the tram. You can even walk up to the observation tower at 5:30pm to get to the top in time for the sun set!! Make sure to get a flash light first at the front desk for your way down.
There are several nature exibits that are free. Make sure you see them all. The butterfly exhibit was cool. As you walk in, butterflies are flying around you, and some big ones at that!!
That is what is great about staying at this resort is that you get to enjoy most things for free!!
We took one of the trails just before the tram and it leads you into an area where you can see the toucans!! They're high up though you really have to be looking up all the time. My neck got a bit sore after a while. The thing is you're always looking everywhere, on the ground you'll see leaf cutter ants, and frogs. There are huge lizards that sit in the trees. Soooooo many birds. Lots of birds. A bird lovers paradise with over 900 bird species!!
By the resort you can see the Capibaras. You head down to the water and you see this creature - kinda looks like a huge beaver with no tail. Keep your eyes open, and be quiet.
Bikes are free for one hour to go mountain biking. Definatly a must! You can see so much, and after a while you need a break from all the walking on the trails through the jungle.
Overall, the service was 5* extremely attentive, and polite. English was no so good at times, but I appreciate this, and embrace it as part of the experience. It was not difficult to pick up the necessary spanish words to get by. This vacation definately served it's purpose for relaxation. The resort is quiet, not busy, and a great get away from the hecticness back home. Watch out though, plan a trip for the Saturday and Sunday as the weekend gets busy with locals and such. We stayed on our balcony relaxing in the hammock for the most part on Sunday, and then got off for a bit of tennis before dinner. Absolutely no complaints about this resort!!!
"Someone either needs to downgrade this hotel or provide some serious service training."
Tim_Ridgefield on Mar 1, 2005 >
1 contribution(s) United States of America
Visited on: Mar, 2005 | Leisure | Family and Kids
69 people found this review helpful
We just returned from 2-1/2 weeks in Panama, including 5 days at Gamboa Resort. We travelled with our two small children--ages 3 and 5.
Gamboa has a 5-star wonderful setting, and the rooms were spacious, but the quality of the property upkeep was 3-star at best and the service was most disappointing. Despite its setting, the poor service and below-average cleanliness makes this barely a 3-star resort in my opinion. And the place is not cheap either, so for us there was little value and little to recommend.
Clearly the best part--a wonderful view of the Chagres River, and easy access to some interesting parts of the canal area--the locks, the river, the canal, the rainforest etc.
Bigger than most (much bigger than DeCameron for example), with extra big bathroom. Small decks with uncomfortable hammocks. We had a "river view" room on the 2nd level, but we happened to look right at a grove of trees so our view was obstructed at best. There are better view rooms--the higher the better.
This is a "pay-as-you-go" place and all tours/sightseeing excursions are extra. The aerial tram ride was interesting, but at $35 each it was expensive. You have to do it--there's nothing else like it. We did have a good guide here. We went to Monkey Island--the best short boat ride tour and really did see some monkeys quite close--the kids loved this. We also did the Embera Model Village Tour--this was our favorite. It's a bit surreal--a small village community relocated here with the express purpose of putting on "native" displays 2x a day for visiting tourists. So while the commercialism was a bit off-putting at first, the Embera people were truly friendly, warm, and gracious hosts and the hour or so we spent with them on the island was nice. Yes, it's all a bit artificial--but still a nice cultural exchange.
Gamboa's literature and web sites talk about their onsite exhibits--you can skip them. They're pathetic or depressing: the orchid farm was small, not well-tended and at least at this time of year (February 2005) there was little flowering; the reptile house and snake house were both dank, poorly maintained and not very interesting. The Butterfly House was never staffed and there weren't many butterflies to see. In all, this little complex seemed neglected.
The pool was large and the special kids pool section was nice for our family--the water was clean and water temperature not too warm and not too cool. But that's where the good news ends: there were never enough pool chairs at peak times--you literally had to walk away. The poolside chairs and tables were disgusting--I had read about how dirty they were in a Debbie's review from last year and it seems like things haven't changed--seriously, I felt like taking some cleaning solvent and scrubbing the dirt off them. It wasn't just one--but all of them. Many were frayed and in poor condition too. The pickup station for towels was inconveniently placed in comparison to the actual pool area.
The poolside foodservice was terrible--took over an hour for a hamburger to arrive ("we're very busy today" I was told on 2 separate days); the food just ok, and the service was indifferent at its best and rude at its worst. Their special "Gamboa" brand beer was more expensive than Atlas, Panama, or Soberana and not nearly as good.
The service was sooooo bad--I really couldn't believe it. Especially for a place that bills itself as 5-stars (it's funny, they paid some fancy magazine to put Gamboa on the cover of it's thick glossy magazine of the world's best resorts--this is a real joke!!). Reception was not friendly, the tour desk was always chaotic and not very helpful (we speak Spanish so language was not the issue). For example, we booked the Monkey Island 1-hour boat tour for $40 each. They shuttle you to the lakefront (3 minute drive but all downhill) and we had our tour. When the boat returned, we were told the shuttle would be 20 minutes late because they were busy handling the cruise ship visitors that day. An hour later (a full hour later!!) the shuttle bus arrived, only after we complained several times! (we could have walked, but it's a half-mile straight up hill in the hot sun so with our small kids we decided to wait for the shuttle bus) This was outrageous. We realize that in travelling that misshaps occur and usually take this in stride. The issue here was the staff's indifference and rudeness--no apologies. If they had been friendly, communicative, and apologetic, then no problem--we can deal with it. But the fact that they took no action really made the situation worse. The marina staff and the poolside staff was just as bad.
We were not the only ones turned off by the less than 5-star cleanliness and the surly staff. We heard several comments from other guests. One day at small cruise ship anchored nearby and the cruise folks came to the resort grounds for the day--we heard from several service staff that day that they were too busy taking care of cruise people to handle our needs as the guests at the hotel.
Someone either needs to downgrade this hotel or provide some serious service training into this place. They're the only resort in the area, so apparently there's little incentive to provide better service.
The setting and some of the activities still make it a place to go for a day or two, but expect to pay 5-star rates for a 3-star place. For a whole week--ugh, we wouldn't recommend it. It's not a place we'll go back to.
"This is a beautiful resort which needs help in learning how to cater to its clientele from abroad."
Canadian_Couple on Apr 1, 2005 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Apr, 2005 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
70 people found this review helpful
We visited the Gamboa for four days as part of WOV's 10-day Decameron/4-day Gamboa vacation package. We were excited to be going to a 5 star resort, but as Tim has eloquently and accurately described below, this resort cannot possibly be categorized as such. It was disappointing on many fronts. Other tourists, with whom we travelled from the Decameron, also indicated their disappointment in the Gamboa and stated they would never return. I will be begin with the favourable things and then describe the negatives.
The best part of the Decameron is, of course, the setting. This beautiful resort is handsome and is very tastefully appointed. The location on the Chagres River is breathtaking! Sitting on the veranda outside the Monkey Bar is a pleasurable experience with the views of the river and the rainforest beyond. The massive windows in the lobby area must be four storeys high.
My husband and I stayed in one of the historical villas. Ours was close to the main lodge so it was convenient. We thorougly enjoyed being in it. The ambiance was incredible--to think that officials who had worked on the building of the canal stayed there was thrilling. There was absolutely no mustiness because the air-conditoning was always on. The padded wicker furniture, painted wood floors, and many bright windows made for wonderful accomodations. There was a huge livingroom with even a separate kitchen~we had a suite! I loved it; not so other tourists. Some were disgusted by the "oldness" of the rooms. One couple found cockroaches in their villa, which was due to previous guests leaving food around. We encountered no such "critters" so that is one reason why I can so heartily endorse the villas. Worthy of note, I was invited to see a room in the main hotel by people we had met. Even though they were not on the ground floor, I found a definite musty odour in their room and I was so happy we had a villa room. Sure, the hotel room was lovely (especially the bathroom!), but the odour I could do without.
As Tim mentioned, the ride up on the tram to the canopy is a must, even though the price is high. We were astounded by the view of the Canal, resort, river, and rainforest below! It was worth it. We took the night ride on the resort grounds to see any wildlife that might appear. Omar, the wonderful driver/guide, was informative while he shone a huge spotlight around in the darkness. The "truck" leaves the lobby around 8 pm, I think, and is free but you must reserve a seat. It is a higlight of Gamboa. We saw five of those animals which are the largest rat in the world. I can't remember their name but they are so cute, especially since they have what looks like a beaver's head. If you take this evening trip, be sure to sit in the first row behind the driver so you can hear everything he says.
Fantastic! It is true that the sunbeds are not in the greatest shape. There aren't enough of them either. Service is very, very slow at the swimup bar but do try a "Green Frog".
This is where the resort is definitely a 3 star rather than a 5 star. The Gamboa must get an effective training program in place for their employees. The service in the buffet dining room (which is far too small for this place) was consistently and shockingly sub-standard. There was often a line-up of people waiting to have a meal because there were too few tables. Not enough servers was a constant problem. Furthermore, the resort does much of its business with groups out of Panama City. This poses a significant problem for tourists as we are overlooked in favour of the "locals". For instance, on the day of departure for many tourists, the resort also had to say goodbye to a large group who had stayed overnight for a conference. That group had their buffet breakfast very early and when they went through the diningroom, they were like a horde of locusts. Very little food was left for the many of us who were leaving for the airport. If that wasn't bad enough, the tables were still littered with the previous guests' dirty plates. We had to help "bus" the tables! The general manager of the resort even came down to help clear tables and reset them! And this is a five star? NOT. Some of the staff at the reception desk also were not as helpful/friendly as they could have been. A main problem seems to be that this resort caters to groups from Panama, and tourists from abroad are a necessary nuisance to them. At least that is what many of the people who came from the Decameron felt.
The food was quite good and in some cases, excellent. Those of us who were there for only four days could eat in the ala carte dining room only once. It was, indeed, an elegant meal when we were there and the service there was gracious. The meals were delicious in the buffet or at the marina restaurant. Nothing to complain about there. Be sure to eat at the marina at least once for lunch. It's unique!
This is a beautiful resort which very much needs help in learning how to cater to its clientele from abroad. It has great potential, and I certainly hope that it will eventually become a resort worthy of the unique and wondrous environment in which it is located!
"The 10/4 split at the Royal Decameron and the Gamboa"
BettyJane_Canada on Mar 1, 2006 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Mar, 2006 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
78 people found this review helpful
We did the 10/4 split at the Royal Decameron and the Gamboa, and I will mention the Gamboa. We booked through Nolitours and requested two beds as we were two women traveling together. Upon arrival at the Gamboa we were given keys to the “Villas,” not only are they some distance from the main unit and restaurants, they are also quite dirty, there was one double bed only, many bugs in the bathroom including an extremely large cockroach, the towels, if replaced, would come closer to dinner time and the single air conditioner could wake a bear from hibernation. After pleading for another bed and a dehumidifier it eventually showed up. The window in the main bedroom would not close. After sleeping there two nights I woke with bites all over my stomach, they continued to spread and saw my doctor after returning home, he feels it is a parasite of some sort, which I am now treating. The units in the main building were apparently cleaned daily, including fresh linens. Food was good but if going there I strongly advise upgrading from the so called “villas.’ We wanted to upgrade but were told nothing was available. Not a place I would return to.
""WOW" would pretty much sumarise our trip."
Marc_Theponder on Mar 1, 2006 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Mar, 2006 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
100 people found this review helpful
"WOW" would pretty much sumarise our trip, but I'll try to go into details. We took over 1200 pics on this trip, only about 300 are posted.
It was a hard choice and we had to reduce the size and resolution for this post.
Arrived at the resort around 2:30 pm, without any problems whatsoever.
The resort is situated on the Chagres River, almost at the Panama Canal.
An easy short 10 minutes walk will take you to the canal where you can watch the cargo and cruise ship go by. We had a drink in the lobby bar and took in the site of the lobby which is extremely nice & large. The lobby has a breathtaking view of the grounds and the Chagres River via several 4 story high windows which compose two complete walls.
We were then driven to our villa. Our villa was the first one on the right as you leave the main building, so all we had to do was walk back & forth about 500/600' to get to the Resort's lobby. Great, if you just had a big meal and, it gives you a chance to enjoy the scenery each time. The villas are large cottage style buildings. If my info is right, they were built around 1930, and this is where the people supervising the Canal workers were staying. A lot of history here... The buildings have 3 stories, the ground floor being carports and the second and third floors having 2 very large appartments each. Our appartment composed of a large room (dining area & living room), large enough bedroom, bathroom with large shower area (no bath) and a kitchenette. Clean and comfortable, very adequate.
Put on our swimsuits and went to the pool wich is situated behind the main building. The pool is 4' deep everywhere, except for the kiddy section. It's very large and impressive with it's communicating ponds and waterfalls which starts in the resorts lobby. From the pool area, with it's pool bar, you also have a beautiful view of the grounds and the Chagres River. Take note that there is no beach here (your talking crocodiles and caymans...). During our 14 days, we did several excursions, in fact we only spent 3 full days at the pool. I'll try to summarise our excursions as briefly as possible, as words can't describe everything and I'll let all the photos speak for themselves.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
- the Panama City & Canal tour: very interesting, a lot of History..... Maria and Juan were excellent.
- the Radio Station and Monkey Island tour: saw crocodiles sunning on the edges of Gatun Lake, a baby sloth and it's mother, several types of monkeys including whiteface monkeys, howlers, toucans, different types of birds, a iguana, about 7' long, sunning at the top of a tree, etc. Carlos our guide was excellent.... too bad they moved him to Playa Bonita.
- The Emberas people: a trip back in time.... The Emberas are a tribe living in the middle of the jungle. They live pretty much as they used to, except for a few exceptions. We were treated to a meal of planctain and fish. We were then treated to different dances, and offered a tatoo which lasts about 7 to 10 days. All in all a great adventure.... did I forget to mention that we were brought to their home via dug-out canoes and that we stopped along the way at a gorgeous waterfall in the middle of the jungle for a swim.
- The Tram tour: Ok but expensive at $35. per person.
- The Summit Zoo:situated not too far from the resort. you can see jaguars, monkeys of all types, etc You must stop at the Harpy eagle's cage. It's a huge pen with a male and a female Harpy eagle, Panama's National bird. The female is very large and measures up to 3', with a wing span of 7', while the male is a little smaller. (both male & female are a bit smaller in captivity)
Via a Panama travel agent we booked a 2 day trek to San Blas, including bush plane, lodging on an very small island with just the basic comodities, food (catch of the day: lobster, crab, fish) and two trips by dug-out canoe to 2 different islands for a swim and some snorkling. San Blas is an Archipelago of about 360 Islands owned by the Kunas, on the Atlantic side. We stayed at the ukuptupu Island, owned and operated by Juan Garcia and his family. We enjoyed this trip very much and made good friends.
We were fortunate to meet a couple from the Montreal area (Dominique et Olivier)who had rented a car and we were invited to join them on 2 of their day trips. Once we visited the new Playa Bonita resort and spent most of the day and then we visited the Valley the Anton..... what a beautiful place!!!
We did several walks by ourselves all over the property.... best time to go and see as much wildlife as possible is around 6AM. Anna and I can't say enough about the staff and the way we were treated by them. Let me tell you that a smile, respect, a "please" and a "thank you" can go a long way....
We had a GREAT TIME as I'm sure you can tell..... we even talked about going back before we left the resort, as there is so much to do from this resort, as it is very central in Panama.
We'd like to thank all of the following staff for making this stay so enjoyable: Edgardo, Fabiola, Abraham, Maritza, Carmen, Jorge, Marcela, Max, Simon (Nolitours), Oscar, Yara, Carlos, Sorry if I forget anyone as you all made this trip special.
P.S. The only concern we had during our stay is the fact that large vehicles (garbage trucks, etc) use the Villa entrance and not the service entrance and road to access the resort. As such, you could get waken up at the wee hour of the night and early in the morning by very loud diesel vehicles running in front of the villas and grinding their transmissions as they shift up and down to go over the speed bumps...... no reason at all for this. (This review is being sent to the resort as well as posted on "Debbie's Dominican Travel Forums"). Having met these people, I'm hopeful this will have been resolved by the time we go back.