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
349 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.
"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
380 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 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
81 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.
"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
72 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 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
314 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.
"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
71 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.
"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
319 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.
"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
345 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.
""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
102 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.
"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
298 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!!!