Panama City, Panama
A destination resort in the heart of Soberania National Park, the Gamboa Rainforest Resort at the Panama Canal was created to provide guests a unique vacation experience incorporating on–property rainforest encounters. Originally opened in 2000, the resort is situated on 340 acre and provides a range of ecological adventures close to the capital city.
Although the Gamboa Rainforest Resort is just 17 miles from both Panama City and the Pacific Ocean, it is in the center of the Panamanian Isthmus and a 35–mile scenic drive (in the daytime) from Tocumen International Airport. This attractively situated hotel is currently undergoing a much needed multi–million dollar expansion and renovation, which will increase its appeal to luxury travelers.
The road to Gamboa skirts impressive lush tropical vegetation surrounded by the rainforest and a myriad of sounds and sights. After waiting for the one–way passage over a bridge, we turned onto the winding road that lead us to the Gamboa, past the resort's historical village. The village consists of 33 apartment–style 1– and 2–bedroom guestrooms, originally built in the 1920s. Panama Canal officials lived here, overseeing the construction of this manmade marvel. The historical village will be completely renovated, and for those that prefer less intrusion, these apartments might be a good option as they are a shuttle away from the main hotel.
When the hotel was built, the architect took full advantage of all possible vistas. The main lobby rises several stories, with massive arched windows overlooking the courtyard, numerous waterfalls, and multi–level pool. The Chagres River and the hills of the rainforest lie beyond.
In April 2007, Gamboa Rainforest Resort broke ground on their expansion and renovation project that will add 48 rooms. The eventual count of 198 rooms includes 12 suites (seven of which will be themed), king and queen deluxe guestrooms and an executive lounge for VIP guests. The expansion, to be finished in 2008, will be attached to the west wing of the resort, designed in the same architecture. Although the resort is just 7 years old, the renovation was clearly needed to put this quasi–worn property back on the luxury map.
The guestrooms are located on either side of the main lobby. My multi–level junior suite was on the west with a comfortable queen bed. A winding staircase near the balcony leads to the loft and a set of twin beds. The suite is decorated in woven white cotton décor with splashes of the warm Caribbean color accents achieved with pillow throws, duvets, lightly colored walls and vivid paintings. The hand–carved wood accents and furniture add a Panamanian texture to the large main room, but it's the woven hammock on the balcony that catches my attention. It's the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine and enjoy yet another view of the Chagres River and rainforest. The VIP suites also include an attached living room and bar/kitchen area, with more vibrant color accents.
The on–site spa is part of the renovation, and again a much needed upgrade will bring the luxury package together. Take advantage of the Rainforest River Experience, a spa treatment set outdoors on a pontoon boat, drifting up the river.
Three on–site restaurants are available, and with access to both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, the menu portrays the abundance of seafood, including casual and fine dining in the main lodge. Los Lagartos is the open–air restaurant adjacent to the marina, serving tropical–style dishes, and a front row seat to watch the ships cruise down the Panama Canal.
A wide variety of eco–tours are available on–site, and this is the true appeal of this resort. Located in the heart of the Soberania National Park, unique rainforest experiences and nature encounters should begin at Gamboa Rainforest Resort's multi–million aerial tram tour. Your private tram and personal host zips you over the rainforest canopy to a viewing deck with an expansive view overlooking the resort and Chagres River.
Pay close attention to the rainforest. Sightings can include flitting turquoise butterflies, emerald–green lizards crouching below, squawking toucans with lemon–colored heads perched in high branches, and white–faced monkey playing hide–and–seek. You'll be able to spot a number of exotic animals on the resort grounds also, including the Capybara, a mix between a rabbit and pig.
Upon request, the staff is happy to arrange helicopter transfers from airport to the resort. Or you can travel to the top of the aerial tram tower to enjoy a private massage or a catered sunrise breakfast or sunset dinner. Designed to bring together the preservation of nature and the history of Panama, the Gamboa Rainforest Resort at the Panama Canal combines these elements to create a setting that travelers will find hard to match anywhere else, especially this close to a major international airport.
Web Address: www.gamboaresort.com
Total Number of Rooms: 198
Published rates: $135 to $600
Review and photos by Diana Rowe.
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