This Panama wildlife tour offers both great birding and the chance to observe fascinating Neotropical mammals such as Two-toed and Three-toed Sloths, Manatee, neotropical monkeys like Geoffroy’s Tamarin and Howler Monkey, Armadillo, night mammals, and more.

There are parts of the world, like Africa, where we are dazzled by the abundance of large mammals—elephants, giraffes, and lions are out in the open and easy to see. Mammal watching in Central and South America, however, can be a little more challenging. Many mammals here are found in lush forests and are small to medium-sized; many are predominantly nocturnal. Local expertise with our Canopy Family partners really helps!
In Panama, we find that it’s very easy to combine the two interests, at a pace set to observe, not just tick off species and run. We strive to find diurnal mammals like monkeys, agoutis, coatis, and tamanduas during the day; at night, we venture out with our spotlight to search for nocturnal mammals, like Kinkajou and various opossums and bats. A good list of night birds are a bonus of our efforts.

The forests of Central Panama are full of mammals, and although it may take a little searching, finding neotropical mammals is memorable and rewarding! We also take advantage of the forests around us to find birds, frogs, reptiles, and insects—there won’t be a dull moment!

"Beautiful and interesting places to stay with lots of wildlife. Canopy Tower is a very special place to stay with stunning views. Canopy Lodge has wonderful gardens to walk in with a pool and the feeding platform is a great place to watch wildlife." — Lee Ann Palmer, 2023 Traveler

Tour Highlights

  • Enjoy four nights at the Canopy Tower, a converted radar tower, completely surrounded by wildlife
  • Walk Semaphore Hill Road in Soberanía National Park looking for sloths, tamanduas, and coatis, as well as trogons, motmots, and antbirds
  • Take the Birdmobile to Pipeline Road, looking for wild cats like Jaguarundi, and great birds
  • Embark on night drives looking for Common Opossum, sloths, Peccary, and birds like Spectacled Owl
  • Explore by boat; look for Lesser Capybara and West Indian Manatee on Gatun Lake
  • Spend an afternoon at the Panama Canal, learning history and watching massive cargo ships go through the locks
  • End your stay with four nights at the Canopy Lodge, with cool mountain air and fabulous birds on feeders and trails

Trip Itinerary

Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.

Fri., Feb. 28      Arrival in Panama City | Canopy Lodge

Welcome to Panama! Please arrive no later than NOON, as it’s about a three hour drive to get to Canopy Lodge; please plan to eat lunch on your own before assembling as a group in baggage claim.

Canopy Lodge is nestled in El Valle de Anton in the foothills of Central Panama. El Valle is located in the caldera of a gigantic volcano that erupted 3.5-million years ago. It is the largest inhabited caldera in the western hemisphere. The volcano has been dormant for many, many years, but there are mud baths and thermal pools in certain areas of the caldera. Both the Canopy Lodge and the town where it is located are just delightful. When we arrive at the lodge, it is usually hard to get to your room since visitors are hypnotized by the several colorful tanagers visiting the feeders—not to mention the very pleasant temperature. The altitude here is about 2300 feet above sea level.

We settle in to our rooms, enjoy the bird feeders and perhaps a leisurely walk on some close trails near the lodge. We assemble in time for happy hour and dinner and a brief orientation about the week to come.

The Canopy Lodge is a great place to see some of our first mammals of the trip and to get some other foothill specialties. After dinner we hope to take a leisurely night walk around the lodge grounds. Some of the nocturnal mammals often seen in this area are Gray Four-eyed, Common, and Water Opossums, and Rothschild’s Porcupine.
Accommodations at Canopy Lodge (D)

Sat., Mar. 1      Canopy Lodge Gardens & Canopy Adventure Trails

This morning we enjoy breakfast and feeders that host a flurry of activity—Collared Aracari, Thick-billed Euphonia, and Dusky-faced and Flame-rumped Tanagers feast on the bananas provided. Then, we head out to explore the trails. We plan to spend the entire day on the lodge’s property, taking our time, getting to know the local species, and settling in.

After having lunch we make a point to take the trails to visit Chorro El Macho at the Canopy Adventure, a 120-foot high waterfall; the adventureous among us may want to try out the zipline! As we walk, it’s stunning to take in the cloudforest trees drapped with lush mosses, ferns, orchids and other climbing plants. It’s possible to see sloths and tamarins if we keep our eyes keen. Huge morpho butterflies and other flit past, and Robert can help us identify them.

We come back to the Canopy Lodge and perhaps take a rest or a swim in the lodge’s natural pool, then it’s time for dinner before going over our species list for the day. For those who want, we can enjoy a night wander on trails close to the lodge looking for more mammals including Western Night Monkey, Ocelot, and Orange Nectar Bats—they come to the hummingbird feeders at night!
Accommodations at Canopy Lodge (B,L,D)

Sun., Mar. 2        La Mesa | Cara Iguana

After being awakened by the morning chorus of birds and having breakfast, we go out again in search of any other animal that is still missing on our list. This time we visit two places, the first one is La Mesa, the flatlands up along the rim of the crater, within the protected area of Cerro Gaital Natural Monument. Look for Western Pygmy Squirrel, Greater Grison, Rufous Tree Rat, Rothschild’s Porcupine, Tayra, and Jaguarundi.

After lunch and a siesta, we head to Cara Iguana, a quiet road on the outskirts of El Valle. This area boasts quality dry forest at the roadsides. Here we hope to see any mammals we have not yet encountered—perhaps White-tailed Deer or Jaguarundi, along with the likelihood of Two-toed and Three-toed Sloths and Central American Agouti. We also check for roosting Spectacled Owl on a private property. Lance-tailed Manakin, Tody Motmot, and White-winged Becard are possibilities here!
Accommodations at the Canopy Lodge (B,L,D)

Mon., Mar. 3       Full Day at Altos del Maria

Departing after an early breakfast, we’re off into the highlands of Altos del Maria! With the sunrise ahead of us, we climb into the mountains along the Continental Divide east of El Valle. Often engulfed by the mist of the expansive cloud forest that surrounds the area, Altos del Maria sits at an altitude of 1,100 meters (3,600 feet). On today’s jungle tour, you can find highland forest birds, including Black-crowned Antpitta, Streak-chested Antpitta, Black-headed Saltator, White Hawk, Barred Forest-Falcon, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, Tufted and Sulphur-rumped Flycatchers, Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, Orange-bellied Trogon, Ochraceous Wren, White-breasted Wood-Wren, White-ruffed Manakin, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Yellow-billed Cacique, Black-and-yellow Tanager, White-vented Euphonia, and exquisite hummingbirds including Band-tailed Barbthroat, White-tailed Emerald, Purple-throated Mountain-Gem, White-tipped Sicklebill, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, and the tiny yet stunning Snowcap. We hope to see a tiny Western Pygmy Squirrel working away in the treetops. After a picnic lunch in the field, we drop down into a valley and climb to the ridge on the opposite side. Reaching some large swaths of mature humid forest along this ridge, we explore some trails and roadside spots in search of even more forest birds and animals. We return to the Canopy Lodge by mid-afternoon.
Accommodations at Canopy Lodge (B,L,D)

Tues., Mar. 4       Transfer to Canopy Tower | Observation Deck | Semaphore Hill Road

After breakfast, we say good bye to Canopy Lodge, and head out to Canopy Tower. We arrive at Canopy Tower in time for lunch and to get aquainted with the observation deck. Scan the treetops, where we often see Geoffroy’s Tamarin, Mantled Howler, Two- and Three-toed Sloths munching on cecropia leaves, Red-tailed Squirrel, and a variety of colorful birds that come to feed on the Cecropia trees. Keel-billed Toucan, a colorful variety of tanagers, majestic raptors, and even Blue Cotinga can be seen from the observation deck.

This afternoon we walk down Semaphore Hill Road through the lush lowland rainforest of Soberanía National Park to continue our search for mammals and other creatures. On this road there is a chance to find Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth and Hoffmann’s Two-toed Sloth, as well as a Northern Tamandua and White-nosed Coati. This paved road is a little more than a mile long, and passes through some of the most beautiful forest around! Here we also have the chance to see many birds and interesting plants, wildflowers, and butterflies. Two more rare species, Silky Anteater and the secretive Tayra, have been spotted occasionally along this road. We also have a great chance for understory birds including Slaty-tailed and Gartered Trogons, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, and several species of antbirds. At the end of this walk, we are picked up by one of the open-air birdmobiles and driven up to dinner.
Accommodations at the Canopy Tower (B,L,D)

Wed., Mar. 5       Metro Park | Summit Gardens | Night Drive

This morning we head back toward the city to visit The Metropolitan Natural Park. The park hosts forests that are much drier than those around the Tower and Lodge. There is a wonderful over-look at the summit of a hill, which gives us an incredible perspective of Panama City, the scenic bay, and some of the closer islands. Some of the most common residents are Geoffroy’s Tamarin and Variegated and Red-tailed Squirrels. Northern Tamandua, White-nosed Coati, and Panamanian Night Monkey are also a possibility for us too. Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Black-throated Trogon, Green Shrike-Vireo, and the endemic Yellow-green Tyrannulet can also be found here!

After lunch, we head up to the Summit Botanical Garden, just 10 minutes from the Tower. Our main goal here is to find a roosting colony of Common Tent-making Bats under the large palm leaves at the entrance to the park. Other mammals are always a possibility. Great Black Hawk, Crane Hawk, Giant Cowbird, Yellow-backed Oriole, and Masked Tityra also may be seen!

After dinner we board the Canopy Tower’s open back Rainfomobile for a night drive down Semaphore Hill Road. Many neotropical mammals are nocturnal, and night drives are the best way to find them! We hope this evening to find Panamanian Night Monkey, Paca, Central American Woolly Opossum, and if lucky, a Rothschild’s Porcupine!
Accommodations at the Canopy Tower (B,L,D)

Thurs., Mar. 6       Pipeline Road | Ammo Dump Pond & Gamboa Marina

This morning after an early breakfast, we board the Canopy Tower’s Birdmobile for a 25-minute ride to spend the morning at the world famous Pipeline Road. Hundreds of species of birds, mammals, and countless insects and plants have been recorded here. This 10.5-mile gravel road with eleven creeks has much to be explored, and is a great place for mammals, including White-faced Capuchin, Mantled Howler, Central American Agouti, White-nosed Coati, Tayra, and Collared Peccary. We keep an eye on the openings of tree cavities for Rufous Tree Rat. There have also been sightings of three species of cats, namely Jaguarundi, Ocelot and even, rarely, Jaguar. Over 500 species of birds have been recorded here, so there are good chances we enjoy quality sightings of Crimson-crested Woodpecker, White-tailed Trogon, Spotted Antbird, and if lucky, Tiny Hawk! We return to the Tower for lunch.

After lunch and a siesta, we drive north to Ammo Dump Pond, located in the small town of Gamboa. This is a great place to look for the world’s second largest rodent, the Lesser Capybara, which can be found in or near the Chagres River. Also, in Gamboa's forested neighborhoods, we hunt for Red Squirrel and Central American Agouti, a large diurnal rainforest rodent. Depending on time, we make a quick stop at the marina on the Chagres River, the main source of water for the Panama Canal. With a bit of luck, we can find a Neotropical River Otter and Variegated Squirrel. Water birds including Wattled Jacana, Striated Heron, and the beautiful Snail Kite can be seen hunting here.
Accommodations at the Canopy Tower (B,L,D)

Fri., Mar. 7      Jungle Boat Tour | Pipeline Road or Guide’s Choice

This morning after breakfast we board a motorboat for a spectacular tour on the Panama Canal. Most of the Panama Canal is actually an artificial lake, Gatun Lake, and this boat trip departs from Gamboa, just 15 minutes from the Canopy Tower. We start in the Chagres River, enjoying the abundance of water birds, and keep an eye out for Lesser Capybara. Then we pass under the historic one-way Gamboa bridge into the Panama Canal! Along the way we pass huge cargo ships and ocean liners and also visit hidden coves and beautiful inlets of Gatun Lake with fascinating fauna and flora.

From the boat, we explore the small islands throughout the lake to look for primates, including Mantled Howler, White-faced Capuchin, and the tiny Geoffroy’s Tamarin. There is also a chance to see some interesting reptiles, including American Crocodile (some reach 14+ feet in length) and its smaller relative, the Spectacled Caiman, Basilisk Lizard (Jesus Lizard), and Black River Turtle. A little scarcer, but not impossible, is the Neotropical River Otter and, if we are really lucky, a West Indian Manatee. This species was introduced to the Panama Canal in the 1960s to control the growth of water weeds, and they have adjusted very well to this habitat. We also hope to see the tiny Proboscis Bat; they roost along these quiet banks. We are sure to have a fantastic morning!

After lunch at the Tower, we may head back out to do some afternoon birding and mammal watching on the Pipeline Road, or our guides may suggest another option depending on the species we have and have not seen.

Dinner tonight is again at Canopy Tower, and we celebrate our week with a last species list review and a recount of our favorite moments of the trip.
Accommodations at Canopy Tower (B,L,D)

Sat., Mar. 8      Departures

After a leisurely breakfast watching the feeders and perhaps a final stroll around the Tower, we depart for Panama City to catch our return flights home, with memories of the many species of mammals, birds, insects, and other wonders of the Neotropics seen and photographed here in Panama. We highly recommend an afternoon flight; it only takes about an hour to get back to the airport but you need to be there about three hours ahead of your flight. While an early transfer can be arranged for you (additional cost), it is not the best way to end your wonderful holiday! (B)

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Cost of the Journey

The cost of this journey is $4990 per person, from Panama City. Only three singles are available. Tour cost includes all accommodations; meals as specified in the itinerary, group airport transfers, professional guide services, local park and other area entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses.

The cost is based on a minimum number of 6 participants. A limited number of upgrades to suite accommodations are also available. Cost does not include transportation to or from your home to Panama, or items of a personal nature like laundry, telephone charges, porterage, maid gratuities, or beverages from the bar. If you wish to include a transit of the Panama Canal, please ask us for help in recommending arrangements. If you wish to add days on to your trip to make this work, we are happy to make suggestions for activities and lodgings. As of last year, there were cruises on a few different days of the week, please inquire.

Travel Details

Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.

Arrival Airport: Tocumen International Airport (PTY) Panama City, Panama

Arrive Time: Plan your flights to arrive February 28 before noon

Departure Airport: Tocumen International Airport (PTY)

Departure Time: Plan your flights to leave March 8 after 1:00 PM

Travel Tip: If you are coming in early to see some of the city, we recommend you book at the Radisson Panama Canal Hotel, located on the Amador Causeway with a lovely walking trail and the Smithsonian BioMuseo. You have a view of the Bridge of the Americas and ships coming into the Canal. You may prefer to stay in historic and trendy Casco Viejo with its great shops, museums, and view. Both require a taxi from the airport but these are reliable and readily available. You will probably then need to return to the airport or one of the airport hotels to meet up with the group but closer to departure we can check to see if anyone can pick you up.

Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.


Birds & Mammals


Green Season

Intro to Biodiversity

Tranquilo Bay

  • Robert Gallardo

    A California native who moved to Honduras in 1993 for the Peace Corps, Robert stayed to make a life there, diving headfirst into the world of tropical birds. He is now considered the country's leading authority on both avifauna and butterflies – a double expert on beautiful flying things. He leads tours for Naturalist Journeys to Panama, Honduras, Texas and Trinidad & Tobago. Robert is the current President of the Pro Nature Honduras Foundation, a small non-profit which promotes nature-based sustainable tourism and environmental education. He is also the co-founder of the Honduran Ornithological Society. He has authored two editions of the "Guide to the Birds of Honduras." He and his partner Olivia hope to publish the "Guide to the Butterflies of Honduras" sometime in 2022. The couple lives in Emerald Valley where they protect 50 acres of rich mid-elevation rainforest and are working to install a nature center with their foundation.

    Other trips with Robert Gallardo

Map for Panama: Birds & Mammals

Essential Information +

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have Read more

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!

Ahead of your tour:

  • Make sure your passport will be valid at least three months after the date of your scheduled return to the U.S. No Visas are required for U.S. citizens for stays of this duration. If you are from another country, please contact the Embassy of Panama’s website for guidelines.
  • Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Panama and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “General Health and Inoculations” section below.
  • Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is strongly recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
  • Plan your international flight reservations to arrive at and depart from Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in Panama City. Send a copy of your itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office please.
  • Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.

Arrival into Panama City, Panama (PTY)

Please plan your flights to arrive before noon. Your emergency contact sheet will be helpful at Immigration when they ask where you are going.

We will coordinate your pick-ups close to your departure with operators and guides once we have all travelers completed travel information. Please make sure we have both your ARRIVAL and DEPARTURE information, so they can plan this. It is imperative that we have your correct TRAVEL information; we appreciate if you email us a copy of your flight reservation. They will check internet for your updated flight information.

Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.

Departures from Panama City, Panama (PTY)

Plan your flights to leave in the afternoon. We have a 2.5-hour drive to get back to the airport and you should check in 2.5-3 hours ahead of the flight. The departure fee is now typically built into your airline fare.

Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.

Passports, Visas & Documents

Guidelines and regulations can change. It is always advisable to double-check the country’s documentation requirements 60-90 days ahead of traveling. Information for U.S. citizens can be found at If you are from another country, please contact the tour destination’s embassy website for guidelines.

Passport: You must have a passport that is in good condition and must be valid for at least three months AFTER your scheduled return to the U.S. You should have at least one blank page per stamp. The blank pages need to say “Visas” at the top. Pages marked “Amendments and Endorsements” will not be accepted. 

Visa: At the time of writing, a tourist visa is not required of US citizens for stays of this length.  You will need proof of a return ticket. The necessary documents will be distributed by your airline while in flight or provided for you upon arrival. We advise that you bring your eContact list of hotels for use at immigration as well.

As a precaution for lost or misplaced documents you carry on your person during travel, we highly recommend you keep hard and digital backup copies on your phone (either photo or PDF scan), as well as a hard copy left with your emergency contact at home. The recommended important documents to copy include, but are not limited to; your passport ID page, travel visa, the front and back of your credit card(s), the airline barcode on your luggage. This will greatly expedite getting new ones if necessary – we hope everyone will always keep travel documents close so that losing them will not be an issue.

General Health & Inoculations Information – Be Prepared!

Health requirements for entry to any country can change. It is always advisable to double-check the country’s health requirements and recommendations 60-90 days ahead of traveling. A helpful website for planning is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for travel to Panama or by phone (800) CDC-INFO or (800) 232-4636.

We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of medical emergency. 

Mosquito born illness:  Travelers can reduce their risk of disease by protecting themselves from mosquito bites in lower elevation areas by using protective clothing. Anti-malarial drugs are not required for any area that you visit. There are occasional reports of Dengue Fever in lower elevation areas, for which there is no vaccine. Dengue fever, Zika, and other diseases are also contracted by mosquito bites so be sure to use mosquito repellant containing DEET or Picaridin. 

Vaccinations:  At the time of writing, there are no required vaccinations to enter Panama with the exception that proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for passengers entering from countries with endemic yellow fever (check the CDC Yellow Book for list of countries at risk for yellow fever). The CDC recommends that all travelers be up to date with routine vaccinations and basic travel vaccines (such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid) before traveling to any destination. Please check with your doctor for recommendations at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio and your yearly flu shot. The Center for Disease Control (CDC)'s website is helpful or you may reach them by phone at (800) CDC-INFO or (800) 232-4636.

Prescriptions: It is a good idea to pack any meds you take regularly in your carry-on luggage.  Bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. Bring an adequate supply of any prescription medications you use, a copy of the prescription and a list of generic names of your medicines as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers. 

Allergies: To be prepared for environmental triggers to allergies or breathing difficulties, please bring your allergy and/or asthma medication(s).  If you have severe allergies talk to your doctor about carrying an EPI pen and notify your guides. It is also recommended to carry with you an up-to-date record of known allergies, chronic medical problems and Medic Alerts so that, if necessary, emergency treatment can be carried out without endangering your health.

Common Ailments: We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and a supply of standard over-the-counter medications for prevention or treatment of common ailments (such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach upset, cough, congestion, head or body aches, insect bites and sunburn); as well as ointments, moisturizer, sunscreen, oral rehydration salts, band-aids, moleskin for blisters, cotton swabs, nail clippers, and tweezers, etc.

Altitude sickness: If high altitude will be encountered on your trip, it can affect some and, if there is a concern, be prepared. The most general symptoms are headache and occasionally fatigue and dizziness. You’ll want to take it easy, particularly at first. The likelihood of these symptoms can be reduced by resting, drinking plenty of water, avoiding alcohol and taking aspirin. If you have worries about the altitude, ask your physician about medications (such as Diamox) that may be right for you. For more information, see

Weather & Climate

Generally, the dry season starts in the middle of December and lasts until the end of April; these are the windiest months. That being said, the tropical climate in Western Panama can vary tremendously depending upon altitude and geography. Temperatures at Tranquilo Bay in lowland rainforest habitat average 86?F during the day and 73?at night with a consistent humidity around 82%—the island location with sea breezes is very pleasant. The cloud forest in the highlands can be much cooler.

For VERY hot days – plan to rest midday as you can, keep hydrated with plenty of fluids, and in general, just pace yourself not to get overheated. You may want to bring one of those gel-filled bandanas that cool your neck – a great invention. Do plan to protect yourself from the Equatorial sun.

Annoyances & Hazards

Mosquitoes can occur in the forests; therefore, a supply of insect repellent containing DEET is essential. At grassland or farm locations you may encounter chiggers, if so, spray your shoes with repellent, and tuck your pants into your socks, this helps a lot. When back, be sure to shower and air out your clothing. Chiggers are a part of lowland and mid-elevation habitats throughout Central and South America. Your guide should have a good read on if it has been wet enough that they are active. There can also be poisonous snakes and insects, though encountering them is rare. Do listen carefully to any advice given by your local guide. And remember the sun is strong and be prepared with proper protection.

Food & Drinks

Menus at lodges and restaurants are varied, sustainably based on the wonderful local ingredients available, and delightfully prepared in a sanitary environment. As with any case when traveling we urge you to consider what your body is used to before you eat something. Trust your common sense when consuming food and beverages. This is the best way to avoid any unwanted problems. Ask for referrals from your hotel or a guidebook such as Frommers. Meals reflect the contributions of American, European, Spanish, and local cuisines.

Bottled water will be available for field trips and drinking water is provided for you to refill a bottle. One of the many ways we strive to do our part for the environment is by trying to reduce our consumption of plastics; if convenient we appreciate if you can bring reusable water bottles. Your guide will let you know when bottled water is preferable.

Packing, Clothing & Laundry

Dress is very informal and laundry services are available for a fee at our lodges. While some people will change for dinner, it is usually just to a drier or cleaner version of what they wore during the day. Again, the climate is warm to hot, so you will be comfortable in lightweight clothing.

Please, pack light. We are serious about this – we move around a lot; you just do not need much to cope with tropical life! Please do not bring anything more than you must. Lay out your hopeful things to take and then do a serious paring down! 

TRAVEL TIP: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field, have one day’s clothing change, and a change of underwear! And please do not pack any essential medications, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!

Spending Money

We advise you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as cash, an ATM card, and a credit card. U.S. currency is legal tender in Panama. This makes it quite easy for you as you can readily spend U.S. dollars. The Panamanian balboa (B) or 1 USD = 100 centesimos. Coin denominations are: B1 and B10; 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 centesimos. Coins are of identical size, denomination, and metal as U.S. coins, and the coins of both nations are used throughout Panama interchangeably.

If you have U.S. dollars, then there is no need to exchange currency since it is legal tender. If you do want to change currencies, try to take only crisp and new notes, as wrinkled and soiled notes are likely to be refused. Panama’s ATMs are widely available in large cities. Smaller towns may not have any international ATMs that accept American cards. When using the ATM to withdrawal cash, keep in mind it might only accept cards from local banks or not allow cash advances on credit cards. Many U.S. banks charge a fee of $1 - $5 each time you use a foreign ATM. Others may charge you a percentage of the amount you withdraw. Check with your bank before departure. You must become familiar with how to use your ATM card and PIN number ahead of the journey.

We suggest you have more than one card available, if possible. You may want to bring more than one brand of card (VISA and Mastercard are commonly accepted; American Express is less common). You can use credit cards at lodges to pay your bar and gift tabs. Not every shop will accept every card. Some smaller shops and restaurants, or taxis require cash, so it is always a good idea to ask before making a purchase. Also, we recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling abroad to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges. If you have a choice of cards, bring one with no foreign exchange fees.

Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted. They can be difficult to exchange. We do not advise you use them.


Tipping is optional and completely at your discretion. If you would like to show our appreciation to your guides, lodge and hotel staff or anyone associated with this tour, it is entirely appropriate. Know that they appreciate anything you care to give and of course you can do more if you wish! Lodges normally have a box for tips that the staff share, and hotels you would just tip the maids as you do at home. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services.

Here is a standard suggestion for tipping on birding trips:

  • Birding tour guide: US $10.00 - $15.00 per day per guest
    Note: If there is more than one guide, this can be split among them, so that is a total, per person, per day
  • Tour driver if different from guide: US $5.00 - $7.00 per person/day
  • Lodge staff: US $6.00 - $10.00 per day per guest
  • Transfer (airport shuttle) driver: US $2.00 - $3.00 per person
  • Hotel & international airport bellmen: US $1.00 per suitcase

You may wish to bring small gifts for local people that you meet and enjoy (this is totally optional!). T-shirts, school supplies like pens and small notebooks, inexpensive watches and baseball caps are always popular. Your guides can pass along school supplies to a local school if you bring them. They also love any nature books/coloring books.

Cell Phones & Internet Service

Your guide is well connected and can help if any urgent communication need arises. However, it is highly recommended that you travel with a CELL PHONE, if only as a precaution for the unfortunate occurrence of a medical emergency during an outing and needing swift accessibility to critical personal or medical contacts. 

Please check with your wireless provider to see if your phone and service will work in your destination country and ask for “international roaming” service for your phone. If you still have a cell phone that accepts a SIM card, you can buy a local SIM card at the airport to insert in your mobile phone.

If your phone can connect to Wi-Fi, you may be able to make voice and video calls free of charge. Please contact your cell phone provider for further details. Another option if you have access to Wi-Fi, is to use smartphone apps like Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber to send text messages, and make voice calls, or video calls. Many smartphones, tablets, or laptops come with one of these apps pre-installed or you can download for free. If bringing a laptop or tablet, get a good dustcover to protect it at all times.

Make sure if you do NOT want to use your cell phone that you turn off your cellular data. You could incur huge charges if you are not on Wi-Fi. Putting your phone in airplane mode if you mainly use it for photos will save the battery as well. 

Your hotels and most local restaurants provide Wi-Fi at least in their common areas. Although it is generally a reliable service, it can be affected by adverse weather conditions due to the remote location.

Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers, unless it appears to be an emergency. This disrupts other guests, plan on cell phone call use on your own time.


Panama uses 110 volt, 60 cycle electricity, same as the US. Plugs are typically the 2-pronged flat type so US travelers will not need a converter or adapter. It is recommended you to pack a 3 to 2 prong adapter in case type B sockets are not available. Additional information can be found at


Panama is in the Eastern Standard Time Zone, which is one hour behind New York (Eastern Daylight Time). Panama does not observe Summertime (or Daylight Savings Time). Check before leaving home for you conversion.


Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys or telephone at our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!



Pace & Protocols +

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of Read more

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect

You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.

Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.

The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.

We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.

Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role

Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.


Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.


As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.

Photo Release & Sharing

We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.

By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.

Travel Insurance

You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global RescueWorld Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.


Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.


Packing List +

Please Pack Light! Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid Read more

Please Pack Light!

Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage.  Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle.  It is our hope that you can pack in one checked suitcase that does not exceed 45 pounds.  Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a day pack for field trips, so this is an ideal carry-on. Please reconfirm your airline’s baggage weight and size restrictions about a week or so before departure.

In general, Panama’s dry season starts in the middle of December and lasts until the end of April; these are the windiest months. Canopy Tower: The Tower is atop Semaphore Hill at 900ft and often has a nice breeze. Daytime temps range from the mid-70s°F (23°C) to the upper 80s°F (31°C). Nighttime temps are mid-to-low 70s°F (21°C). Canopy Lodge: Elevation is a little over 2,100ft. Year-round daytime high temps average 82°F (28°C) with average nighttime lows in the 70s (23°C), but early morning lows of mid to high 60s (18°C) is not uncommon.

Dress is very informal. Lightweight long sleeve shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing as they are more protective from sun, insects and vegetation. But if you like to wear them by all means bring some shorts. Also, choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty and that is comfortable and easy to wear. A light jacket should be enough in the cooler evenings and on boat rides.

Note on clothing colors and insect repellent: We recommend muted colors of tan, brown, khaki, grey or green, as they are spotted less easily than white or bright colors, though camouflage clothing is not recommended, and in some countries, not legal to wear. It is possible to purchase field clothing permeated with insect repellent such as the Craghoppers Insect Shield collection. Another approach is to purchase Permethrin spray (online or from REI) to treat your field clothing and socks before your departure.

Clothing & Gear

  • Lightweight long pants, 2 pair
  • Lightweight long sleeve shirts
  • Shorts (optional)
  • T-shirts or equivalent (1 per day recommended – remember you may be buying some there)
  • Personal underclothing
  • Socks – lightweight, long enough to tuck your pants into, and easy to wash and dry
  • Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes or a skirt, sundress, etc.)
  • Hat with broad brim
  • Bandana, gel bandanas work well to keep cool
  • Comfortable walking shoes and lightweight hiking boots – (good tread and support is essential!)
  • Sandals for evenings, travel days (optional)
  • Lightweight raincoat, poncho, or small umbrella
  • Lightweight jacket, fleece fabric is ideal
  • Bathing suit (optional, hotel in Panama City)
  • Field vest (optional), a great source is Big Pockets

Equipment & Miscellaneous

  • Airline tickets or e-ticket confirmation
  • Passport, visa (if required), travel insurance info, money & credit cards.
  • A secure pouch to carry the items above on your person at all times (such as a secure, under-clothing document pouch)
  • As a backup: copies of all the above (phone and/or paper) packed in a separate location than on your person, plus a set given to your emergency contact at home as a backup. For passport, copy of the  ID and entry stamp pages.
  • Small daypack/tote bag to carry gear while in vehicles
  • Binoculars (a hotel shower cap is great to cover these when it is raining)
  • Spotting scope and tripod (optional)
  • Camera, charger/extra batteries, memory card/film, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual (optional)
  • Cell Phone and charger – smartphones with good cameras are great for digiscoping
  • Umbrella – compact and not brightly colored
  • Walking stick (optional, but recommended if you have one)
  • Small daypack or fanny pack for carrying your field gear
  • Small flashlight with fresh batteries
  • Alarm clock
  • Sunscreen/lip balm 30+ SPF
  • Sunglasses with neck strap
  • Insect Repellent (something containing DEET, and sulphur powder or other for chiggers if you can find it)
  • Toiletry articles: shampoo and conditioner, dental supplies, razor, emery boards, hairbrush/comb, tweezers, hand lotion, feminine hygiene, deodorant, pain reliever
  • Three prong adapters, if needed (most outlets will have standard three prong outlets (same as in the USA & Canada)
  • Small power strip if you will be charging multiple devices (optional)
    Rechargeable power bank (optional)
  • Water bottle
  • Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
  • Spanish phrase dictionary (optional); Spanish dictionary phone apps are also helpful
  • Field guides (optional) or phone app field guide
  • Washcloth
  • Small bottle of antibacterial hand soap
  • Waterproof bags to keep things dry, preferably reusable
  • Steri-Pen or other UV water treatment device to help cut down on the use of plastic bottles (optional)


WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!

Medical & First Aid Items

  • Health Insurance information and vaccination records
  • Personal medication (and copy of vital prescriptions)
  • Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on bus, van, drives, etc.
  • Personal first aid kit and medications for general ailments (Imodium or Lomotil, antacids, antihistamine cream or tablets, eye drops, etc.)
  • Copy of eyeglass prescription, copy of medical prescriptions, and any medical alerts
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
  • Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
  • Hand sanitizer


Suggested Reading List +

There are many titles of interest for Panama; the following are a few that we Read more

There are many titles of interest for Panama; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.

Top Picks

Merlin App – Panama Pack. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Before departing the U.S., download the app for free, then from within the app, download the “pack” for Panama.

The Birds of Panama: A Field Guide

Field Guides

A Guide to the Birds of Panama: with Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras

Field Book of Birds of the Panama Canal Zone: A Description of the Habits, Call Notes and Songs of the Birds of the Panama Canal Zone

Birds of Mexico and Central America

Panama Mammals & Tracks Wildlife Guide (Laminated Foldout Pocket Field Guide) (English and Spanish Edition)

Birds of Central America

Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide

A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico

A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of Mexico and Central America

The Butterflies of Central America is no longer in print, but the PDFs can be purchased from the Neotropical Butterflies website:

Collin’s Guide to Tropical Plants

Panama Adventure Map by National Geographic

Costa Rica: the Traveller’s Wildlife Guide

The Wildlife of Costa Rica: A Field Guide

Natural History

Birds of Tropical America

The New Neotropical Companion

Life Above the Jungle Floor

Tropical Nature

The High Frontier: Exploring the Tropical Rainforest Canopy

The Monkey's Bridge: Mysteries of Evolution in Central America

History & Culture

The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914

Portrait of the Panama Canal: Celebrating Its History and Expansion

Chilies to Chocolate: Foods the Americas Gave the World

National Geographic Traveler: Panama


The Darien Gap: Travels in the Rainforest of Panama

The Tapir’s Morning Bath, Solving the Mysteries of the Tropical Rainforest

There is a good selection of books available for sale at visitors’ centers, and your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.


Useful Links +

Learn more about your destination at these external websites, carefully researched for you. Read more


About Panama

Panama City, Panama

Canopy Family – Camp, Lodge & Tower

Nature, Wildlife & Biology

Audubon of Panama

A Birding Field Guide to The Birds of Panama’s Rainforest –

“Jungle Eagle” – Episode (About the Harpy Eagle, Panama’s National Bird)

Species of Panama –

An Overview of Panama’s Rainforest

Endemics of Panama

Conservation, Parks & Reserves

Soberanía National Park

Panama Rainforest Discovery Center

Audubon Society’s Work in Panama

Panama Wildlife Conservation

Amphibian Rescue & Conservation Project of Panama

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama

Association for the Conservation of Nature (ANCON) - a private non-profit

Birdlife International

Geology & Geography

“New Dating of Panama Formation Throws Cold Water on Ice Age Origin Ideas” - A Scientific American Article

“Geology and Paleontology of Canal Zone and Adjoining Parts of Panama” - A US Dept. of Interior Geological Survey

“The Isthmus of Panama: Out of the Deep Earth” – A Columbia Climate School Article

“Panama: Isthmus that Changed the World”

Geography of Panama

History & Culture

Brief Histories of Panama

History of the Panama Canal

A Cultural Overview

Indigenous Peoples

Panamanian Cuisine

Helpful Travel Websites

Tocumen International Airport (PTY)

Homeland Security Real ID Act

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

National Passport Information Center

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Foreign Exchange Rates

ATM Locator

U.S. Department of State International Travel Information - Panama

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Panama

Canada Travel Advice and Advisories - Panama

Travel Health Pro (UK) - Panama

Electricity and Plugs - Panama

Date, Time, and Holidays - Panama

Photo credits: Banners: Black Howler Monkey by Peg Abbott; Yellow-throated Toucan by Greg Smith; Ocelot by Xavier Muñoz; Birding at Canopy Tower by Pat Lueders; Juvenile Harpy Eagle by Pat Lueders; Capped Heron by Peg Abbott; Geoffroy's Tamarin by Howard Topoff; Barred Antshrike, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Orange-collared Manakin by Bud Ferguson; Three-toes Sloth by Peg Abbott; Coati, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Boat-billed Herons by Tom Dove; Golden-hooded Tanager by Peg Abbott; Collared Aracari, James Adams; Broad-billed Motmot, Carla Bregman; Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Tom Dove; Night Monkeys, Carla Bregman; Yellow-throated Toucan, Greg Smith; Tayra, Mukesh Ramdass; Tamandua, Howard Topoff; Panama Canal, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Three-toed Sloth, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Snail Kite, Peg Abbott; View from Canopy Tower, Carol Simon; Black-breasted Puffbird, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Green Thorntail, Willy Alfaro; Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Feeders at Canopy Lodge, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Altos del Maria scenics, Robert Gallardo; Bicolored Antbird, James P. Smith; Black Vulture, Peg Abbott; Black-breasted Puffbird, Peg Abbott; Blue-gray Tanager, Peg Abbott; Fasciated Antshrike, Peg Abbott; Great Jacamar, James P. Smith; Green Kingfisher, Tom Dove.


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