Panamainfo’s Blog

Visit the BioDiversity Gehry Museum- This a Big Deal for PanamaTourism

We recently took a tour of the of the still infinished Biodiversity Museum designed by Frank Gehry on the Amador Causeway. The tour includes an presentation by Ing. Margo Lopez. She shows a video of that the seven major exhibits will look like. One cannot help getting excited by her presentation- Why? Because the exhibits are so unique and outstanding that you can believe this this museum will be a major tourism destination by itself, just as in Miraflores Locks which receives over 600,000 visitors a year. In fact KPMG did a study on the Gehry museum and calculated it will attract 500,000 visitors a year.

The museum is successfully  getting multi-million dollar  corporate sponsorships of the seven exhibits.

Many in the hotel industry are wondering how we are going to fill all those new hotel rooms. The Gehry Biodiversity Museum is an answer.

The tours take place every Friday. You can sign up on the link below. Make sure and follow the instructions on what to where. ( The tour of the construction site requires certain shoes etc.)


A Trip to Cocle: Cerro La Vieja Hotel and One of Panama’s Eco-Pioneers- Alfonso Jaen

I  spent a weekend at Cerro La Vieja hosted by Alfonso Jaen and his fine family. I had been there 5 years ago and there were many new developments. It took me 2.5 hours just to arrive by car from Panama City to this pristine mountain destination, It is half an hour from Penonome and  the roads were excellent, unlike a 5 years ago.

For me one of the best kind of  relaxation vacations is a getaway to where I can be totally surrounded by beautiful  nature, truly away from it all. It helps if it is easy to get to from Panama City- the private nature reserve of Cerro La Vieja (CLV) fits the bill perfectly.

Cerro La Vieja has the most amazing mountain views in Panama– what  Frommers guide called “drop-dead” views…namely these are panoramic views of various unusually shaped mountains that make for a kind of enchanted scene.  I enjoyed these views from my hammock on the private balcony of my cabin. Another extraordinary view CLV is from the dining room- nothing like eating 3 meals a day contemplating an exquisitely formed mountain right close. The CLV reserve is also covered with all kinds of beautiful flowers and trees- there constant reforestation and care for the native vegetation.

The owner and founder Alfonso Jaen along with Carlos Alfaro of Los Quetzales in Chiriqui, and  Raul Arias de Para of Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge  is one of Panama’s  ecotourism pioneers. His extraordinary private reserve not only has these extraordinary mountain views but also one of Panama’s most accessible and beautiful waterfalls…on our first our family bathed at the foot of this waterfall. Alfonso is just finishing up a more upscale cabin with close up view of this waterfall with more cabins to come.

Being in an off- the-beaten-track location it hasn’t been easy forAlfonso to bring the tourists but his good work and patience has  achieved a major breakthough- in 2009  a USA tour group which will bring about 3000 persons to CLV…so the secret of the beauty of CLV will now get out…

Another major attraction of CLV is the  surrounding campesino community that works there and lives nearby. In fact one “tour” of this American group will be for the Americans to visit the home of a campesino and share a typical meal with them. This is what is called “authentic” tourism and is a major trend in tourism today. This kind of tour is possible Alfonso has a beautiful relationship with the locals – I witnessed this going about the area  with him as he picked up anyone needing a ride along the way and supervised workers at the hotel and at his farm- they work for the hotel  as well in his organic farm.Foresighted Alfonso is also an organic farming pioneer.

Most importantly Alfonson has gently taught them not to “tumbar”vegetation on their to break the Panamanian campesino habit of clearing all vegetation from any piece of land he can-a habit which is  by far Panama’s biggest conservation problem. So in this area, instead of cleared land, rich vegetation is flourishing.

I was very encouraged to hear that MEF is getting some advice from Alfonso on how to get campesinos to cooperate in preserving forests and his ideas about it are sound and wise.

Many tourists know Alfonso and his family indirectly since they are one of the owners of Las Tinajas in Panama City- Panama’s most popular restaurant for typical Panamanian food which also offers a folkloric dance show.

Whale Watching in Panama: Article in the Charlotte Observer

In Panama, whales get close to their visitors

Congrats to Whale Watching Panama for this international coverage of whale watching in Panama. Our family just went whale watching with Anne Gorden- amazing…we saw lots of whale activity, heard them singing enjoyed the Pearl Islands tropical scenery sailing a beautiful catamaran.

Nancy Hanna

John Bordsen

John Bordsen is the Travel Editor for The Charlotte Observer.

  • Panama is one of the few places where humpback whales arrive from Alaska as well as Antarctica. Anne Gordon de Barrigon

Anne Gordon de Barrigon, 53, has lived in Panama for 7 1/2 years; she operates Whale Watching Panama ( www.whale watching ), which offers whale- and dolphin-watching trips. The Seattle-area native trained animals for movies and TV. She fell in love with Panama while on a shoot in the jungle, and decided to stay there.

Q: When is whale-watching season there?

Panama is one of the few places where you get humpback whales from Alaska as well as Antarctica. July-October is the best season; we get several thousand from Antarctica; December-February, there are several hundred from Alaska. In season, you can see whales as close as where all the ships line up to enter the Panama Canal. The ideal place is the Pearl Islands, in the Pacific. They’re a 90-minute ferry ride from Panama City, or a 15-minute flight.
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