Tours and Places
History and biodiversity converge at Summit Park near Panama City
By Niel McColl
Big cats are one of the attractions of the park.
The Harpy eagles, Panama’s national bird, are a prime attraction at Summit.
Summit Park offers quite a lot and at a short distance from Panama City. Located in the former Canal Zone near the Highway Gaillard in Ancón, it offers just as much in history as it does in biodiversity.
It has among its forests a rich history of research and conservation of tropical flora. It is easy and economical to spend a day’s outing with a picnic or find something to eat at the small restaurant on the grounds. A dormitory and a camp site is available for overnighters.
In 1923, the then Panama Canal Commission decided to open and operate an experimental botanical station. This 250 hectare (618 acre) site was chosen for its location on the continental divide of the Americas, called the “Cordillera”, which separates the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Park hoursEntrance to the park is permitted between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.. The cost is $0.25 for ages six to 12 $1 for everyone else. Small “bohio” structures can be rented for $8 per day while camp sites go for $5 per day per site.
During War II it was used as a tropical jungle survival training center and in 1957 it was converted into a park providing recreational facilities to Canal employees. 1958 saw it become home to a few noisy but colorful “guacamayas” (macaws) and thus the added attraction of a small zoo. Following the 1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaties the gardens, like the rest of the Zone were turned over to Panama in 1979 and in 1985 they came under the management of the Panama City Municipality.
A sleepy “gato solo” provides entertainment to visitors to Summit Park.
Lots to see today
The zoo has some 300 species including lizards, deer, tortoises and an extensive variety of birds. There are concrete trails that lead between “bohio” (thatched roof) structures on the way to see spider monkeys, tapirs and jaguars. The Harpy eagles, Panama’s national bird, are the main attraction of the park.
Summit Park is also home to some 15,000 plants and trees species amongst which can be found 12 varieties of bamboo including the Polimorphous which grows at 11cm per day to a height of 30m (66ft); there are also Brazilian Rubber, and the very interesting “Talipot” which takes some 40 – 60 years to a one-time and only flowering after which the tree dries out and dies.
How to get thereGetting there is half the fun! If by car passing, Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks offers a view of ships in transit on the Canal. By bus from the Albrook Terminal, the Gamboa “Saca” costs just 40 cents.
Ask for a copy of this map of Summit Park upon visiting.
One can see the “Canon Ball” whose fruit is the size of a human head and the “Barrigón” (big belly) tree, which, as it’s name implies, is chubby and supported by buttress-like roots. Knocking on its trunk produces a ringing sound like it were tank of water. That is, in fact, very much the case. This tree’s trunk is full of water.
The complex has a museum donated by Sony Corporation, so the visitors can learn about aspects of Panamanian nature and their importance for the country. For more information about Summit Park call 232-4850 or e-mail
Private oasis in the heart of the city
Privelége Pavillion is more than a trendy new bar and restaurant on Calle 60 in the Obarrio district of Panama City. It is an invitation-only club that’s hard to spot if you have not been invited – but that’s the point. Behind the garden wall of what looks like private luxury home, is a 1,500 square meter boutique event space with indoor dining, gardens and a beautiful bar under a thatched bohio overlooking the pool and sunbathing area. The space is decorated bamboo furniture from Bali and day beds are hidden throughout the property.
The restaurant is very spacious, but guests inevitably end up in the garden area or the bar enjoying a glass of wine or one of the great cocktails.
Epicurism – named after the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus who promoted intelligent use of bodily pleasures – rules in the kitchen. The menu is inspired by the winning dishes and the presentation is exquisite, following the idea of “eyes eat first”. Great attention is given to every detail here and service is truly superior. It is impossible not to mention the lady’s restroom, done in the style of a boudoir fitted with elegant lightning, ornate mirrors, flowers, perfumes and make-up, should the ladies need to touch up.
Pavillon Privelege holds special theme nights weekly and is often a venue for all types of private and corporate events. Contacting this “privé” club can gain one access to invitations to events or the executive lunch. Call 393-3000 or writeor look for Privelege Pavillion on .
The Haven Spa and Clinic in Chiriquí, where ancient wisdom meets with modern research
A view of the spa and lodge.
Over four years ago a husband and wife from England settled in the heart of Boquete, a highland paradise in the Chiriquí province in western Panama. Howard and Sonia Jones had the sole purpose of setting up spas and alternative medical clinics. He is a acupuncturist, she is a naturopath, nutritional therapist and reflexologist.
They brought with them a gentleman from Australia, Mark Perren-Jones who specializes in joint and muscle work, in sports injury, who is also an acupuncturist. The three have now worked together for eight years, treating all manor of ailments, and between them have 50 years experience and 18 years training. Since those early days, this team has grown and their facility now has physical therapists and certified masseurs from Panama.
They pride themselves on providing a high standard for all their clients. The team is constantly upgrading it’s skills and on-going training is seen as a very important aspect to the spa and clinic. The treatments at the Haven are varied, from acupuncture to deep tissue massage, or facials to naturopathic consultations.
A tranquil natural environment like this one in Chiriquí promotes healing.
If you are looking purely for a ‘spa pamper experience’ then look no further. You can choose their signature treatment from the spa menu, The Premier Havenly Harmony. This treatment consists of a body brush to move the lymphatic system, a body scrub to detox and exfoliate, followed by a warm shower. Then melt away with a full hot stone massage, plus a warm and cool stone facial. Or you could choose aromatherapy massage to help the body relax, or detoxify, or help with general aches and pains, your choice. Their aromatherapy wraps can help the body to detoxify and remove excess fluid, or simply float away with a massage.
For more specialist work there is lymphatic drainage massage, reflexology, ultra sound, and low-level cold laser. For chronic conditions the Haven team can help. The principles take a case study which can take up to two hours, then a program is worked to suit your needs. They have had a lot of success helping people with arthritis and Asthma. The program will have nutritional changes that suit your particular symptoms and needs, with a treatment program specially devised to help your condition, as each patient is completely different.
High quality spa equipment and well-appointed quarters contribute
to an environment ideal for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Be it a day treatment, or a program held over a week-end, a week or a month, the years of experience and dedication combined at the Haven will be evident. One of the principles is a published author in the USA and in Europe on nutrition and reflexology, and continues to be kept busy writing health articles for newspapers. At present the team is working on a comprehensive program for ‘weight-loss and wellness gain’ using ancient wisdom and modern research.
All the products used at the spa are 100% natural and most have 70 to 99 percent organic ingredients. All skin products, even massage creams and oils are totally natural. They have a range that are made in the USA especially for them, without the usual harsh chemicals found in most skin care ranges.
For more information visitor call 730-9345.
Isla Iguana, just off the Azuero
A nature lover’s island teeming with life above and below crystal-clear waters
Photos courtesy of PanamaTurismo.com and AlmanaqueAzul.com
The waters surrounding Isla Iguana are so calm and clear and the sand so
white that many visitors comment that it looks like the Caribbean Sea.
Swimming with a sea turtle would certainly be the highlight to
any under water explorer’s trip to Isla Iguana.
Isla Iguana was declared a wildlife refuge in 1980. The 58 hectarea island is located seven miles of the coast of the province ofLos SAntos on the Azuero Peninsula. It is a favorite day trip for those visiting this region, often refered to as the heartland of Panamanian folklore. The scuba and snorkeling are excellent. There are birds, turtles and whales to watch. But for most visitors the giant iguanas are the main topic on the boat ride back to the mainland.
Trails lead throughout the uninhabited island. Isla Iguana’s only two structures are a thatched “bohio” to provide shade and a small information office. The white sand beaches and turquoise waters make some tourists wonder if they haven’t missed a turn and ended up on the Caribbean side of Panama.
One of the giant, colorful iguanas for which the island was named.
Isla Iguana is also teeming with vistas
that make postcard-perfect photographs.
The 40 hectares if coral reefs are the biggest in Panama Bay, and are inhabited by 200 invertebrate species, six marine mammals species, three kinds of sea turtle, and 342 species of fish among the 16 types of coral. On dry land, the island boasts 62 different kinds of birds and six species of reptiles.
Two beaches called El Crial and El Faro are Isla Iguana´s two best assets, located on the either side of the island. There is access to several beaches, but the town of Pedasí may be the best place to begin making arrangements for transport, as it offers overnight lodging. Camping is permitted on Isla Iguana, though. Entrance to the island costs $1 for Panamanians and $3 for foreigners.
Watching birds in their natural environment is one of the activities
available by walking down one of the many paths on the island.
Luxury lodging in Pedasí
Pedasí is a destination on the rise. There are already many places to stay and enjoy the surf, fishing and beautiful countryside. But of all the lovely hotels in the area, Villa Camilla is indisputably the finest of them all. Located on the Pacific Coast of Panama´s Azuero Peninsula, Villa Camilla emphasizes comfort and personalized service.
The property was designed and built buy French designer Gilles Saint-Gilles and his wife Camille who fell in love with Panama while on vacation from Paris. They were seduced by the region´s rich folkloric character and gentle rolling hills. Their elegant oceanside community is built in harmony with nature, blending exquisite design and old world craftsmanship. Visit.
The Bocas del Toro Section
Service with a smile
Heavenly delights and royal treatment at Bocas Paradise
Bocas Paradise is the iconic yellow hotel, as seen from the water.
It’s tough to beat lobster and a smile.
Bocas Paradise Hotel is one of the newer ocean-front hotels in Bocas Town on Isla Colón in Bocas del Toro. It is a neat, clean and cosy colonial-style building that’s perched over the transparent waters of the Caribbean, right in the center of this vibrant little town.
Christin Fjeld Roberts, the Norwegian manager of the hotel, is also the chef of the restaurant. She is no novice in the hospitality and restaurant business. For many years, before she moved to Bocas del Toro, she ran her own restaurant and catering businesses in California and Arizona.
Her congenial management and administrative capabilities are reflected in the impeccable cleanlinesses of the premises and in the helpfulness and friendliness of the service personnel. And on the competitive Caribbean, service is not a small matter even at the best resorts. “My girls are the best,” says Christin, “They’ve been with me for years and they are my family here in Bocas.”
Morning sunshine on the dining deck.
The Bocas Paradise restaurant is excellent. Modestly called a “cafe”, seating overlooks the water out on the terrace where one can come or go by water taxi, as is customary here. Even if the walk is a few blocks, many residents and tourists alike opt to take the water route between destinaitons. The menu at the cafe is small, but rest assured that any choice is bursting with freshness and created with care.
Daily specials are added for lunch and dinner, depending on what’s in at the market early the same day. Items like Cannelloni Stuffed with Lobster or Fresh Grouper Wrapped and Baked in Banana Leaf (wonderful tangy sauce) or Fresh Prawns characterize the menu. An all-time favourite, the Caribbean Seafood Plate (lobster, fish and prawns) it beat out only by what is arguably the best Seafood Bisque in Panama.
Breakfast at Bocas Paradise competes only with the heavenly morning rays. Eggs Benedict or Eggs Bocas Style, everything comes served with fresh tropical fruit beginning at 7:00 a.m., to keep the early birds happy. Night owls are taken care of too, breakfast service is on through 3:00 p.m.
Bocas Paradise Hotel and Popa Paradise Beach Resort are part of the special “Bocas Combo” package offered in collaboration with Aeroperlas. For more information visit:or call 6780-0063; 757-9546; 757-9728 or