Trans-isthmus train & tour package

​We many times get (future) guests asking us about the best way to see the Panama Canal.  Most think that a (partial) canal transit is the best way to do this.  Although we have had great reviews on this, here is another option.

 Pick-up at the Balboa Inn and transfer to Panama Railroad train station (minimum 2 people).
Take a comfortable one-hour trip across the Isthmus with great views of the Canal or surrounding jungle.
Have a bilingual guide wait for you in Colon.
Take a quick tour through Colon, then head for the Gatun locks while passing through the old installations of the Canal zone.
Watch huge ships going through the Gatun locks.
Cross the locks to go to Ft. Sherman, the former training base of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force and then on to Ft. Lorenzo.   Howler monkeys 90% of the time to been seen and certainly heard!
Check out historic Spanish fortress Ft. Lorenzo at its beautiful location at the mouth of the Chagres river.
Visit a nearby secluded beach only insiders know about.
Return to Panama City in your comfortable van.
Get dropped of at the Miraflores locks for a great late afternoon drink at the terrace of the Miraflores restaurant, visit the Albrook Mall or return to the Balboa Inn.

And all this for approx $ 90.00 per person (trip), $ 25 train ticket(one way)  food (not included)

We can also tailor a tour to suit whatever  you prefer. Please contact me at

If you have a rental car, you can still do large part of this trip yourself (obviously without the train and no guide). We have detailed maps at the reception desk with instructions to make this a great (family) day.   It’s a very easy drive.

And last but not least, get a copy of the book ‘Path between the Seas‘ byDavid McCullough. A must-read for anybody visiting Panama.  Truly fascinating.

A Day in Panama- What to See?

Every so often we have guests that come to Panama City with no idea of what to see and only have perhaps 1-2 days to explore. For guests like this we put together a Day in Panama sheet that will quickly give them a few ideas for their time in Panama, it’s not the final word on what to explore but it’s definitely a list of what you don’t want to miss while you’re in Panama City. The best part of this list? Most of these places are within walking distance or a short (5min) taxi ride from the Balboa Inn!

Canal Administration Building

Take a walk up the stairs and see where they hold the canal’s offices but more importantly check out the murals they have in their rotunda of the building. The murals are a tribute to the work and hardship that went into the construction of the canal. The administration building lies on a large hill just a 5 minute walk from The Balboa Inn and can also be a great spot to just relax and enjoy some lunch al fresco.

Cerro Ancon

This hill lies right behind the Balboa Inn. It is an hour hike up or a short taxi ride ($4), you can see great views of the City and of the Canal and maybe even some wildlife (monkeys, ñeques, etc). This might be an early morning trip before heading into the city and should be done before 3PM around 4PM. To walk up Cerro Ancon, head to the Canal Administration Building, walk up the stairs and around the right-hand side of the building, from there you’ll see a road that heads up the hill. If you’re staying with us just check the front desk for our map. Make sure to wear sunscreen, bug repellent and bring a bottle of water!

Casco Viejo

A beautiful corner of Panama, this is the ‘colonial quarter’ of Panama of which you’ve probably read much about in your Lonely Planet or Frommers. Even if you’re here for just a day we always recommend a stop in Casco Viejo. Ask to be taken to Plaza Francia, walk along the Bovedas, and have ice cream at Granclement. Also try to see the Panama Canal Museum in Plaza Bolivar but remember they’re closed on Mondays. There are also plenty of old churches and beautiful buildings to admire in this old part of Panama along with great restaurants and some bars i.e. Ego/Narciso, Platea, and Relic Bar. Always take a taxi to get to Casco Viejo and when you need to leave. If you can try to arrange a free tour with the Oficina de Casco Antiguo.

Amador Causeway
Rent a bike or talk a walk along the beautiful Causeway and have lunch at Alberto’s (Italian) or Mi Ranchito (Panmanian/seafood). Alberto’s is in Flamenco shopping area, facing the pier and Mi Ranchito is on the first island near the Smithsonian Nature Center.  Restaurants, bars, and even bicycle rental is available on the causeway,  The Causeway is within walking distance from the Balboa Inn although walking to the end will probably take almost an hour. It is safe to walk just be very careful with traffic. the Balboa Inn is close to it all.

BIO Museo

“Bridge of Life Museum of Biodiversity”, designed by the renowned architect Frank Gehry in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institute. This is situated on the Amador Causeway Very interesting museum you can spend the morning or afternoon here then go for lunch or early dinner .

Miraflores Visitors Center
You can’t come to Panama and not see the Canal. Take a cab to the Miraflores Visitors Center and check out the great exhibitions they have there (9AM-4:30PM). You can visit early in the morning or late afternoon to see the large ships make their transit through the locks.

Metropolitan National Park

Panama City is probably the only big city in the world that has the jungle coming right up to its city limits! It’s really unique when you see it.

A beautiful piece of the Panama rainforest at the city limits, this park is just a 5 minute taxi from the Balboa Inn and will give you a small taste of the natural beauty of Panama. No need to go with a guide, they have maps of the different trails and it’s a safe park, just show up well covered in sunscreen, bug repellent, and bring a bottle of water. You won’t be disappointed.

Mercado de Artesania
You can’t leave Panama without a few gifts to show you were here. Within 5 minutes walking from the hotel, you can find every type of souvenir you would want to bring home. This Artisan Market is located close to the hotel  (exiting Calle Las Cruces to the left), then continue up the hill and it is on the right. This  focuses only on the artisan goods of the Kuna indigenous tribe (i.e molas).

Isla Taboga

Taboga Island, also known as the "Island of Flowers", is a volcanic island in the Gulf of Panama. Another great day to spend whilst staying at The Balboa Inn. If you need to escape and relax for a day to recover from traveling this is an inexpensive great day out. There are two ferry's that leave which is only five minuets from the hotel by taxi the cost of the ferry $20.00 return per person. You can explore the island or just take shade on the beach. Whilst traveling across to the island you also get the opportunity to see the large ships going to and from the canal. 

Want to do some shopping? Check out Panama’s Malls:

Albrook Mall

This is a huge mall located next to the main bus terminal. At just a 5 minute taxi ride you can find most anything you’ll need in Panama. You can get lost for hours shopping deals in the various department stores here. The mall along with tons of shops has pharmacies, several food courts/restaurants, a bowling alley, a movie theater, and a supermarket (Super 99). If you stop by make sure to take the customary picture with the animal statues.

MultiCentro Mall

This is a much smaller and quieter mall with pretty much the same selection as Albrook. The Panama Hard Rock Café is located here along with a small movie theatre.
MultiPlaza Mall

This is definitely the higher-end/designer mall of the 4. It is located by Avenida Balboa, about 15-20 minutes away from MultiCentro. Avoid this mall during rush hour (3-6PM) because getting out of Avenida Balboa at rush hour is very difficult.

Metro Mall
The newest mall in Panama, a large 3 story mall that rivals the Albrook Mall in size and looks, though the location is not as convenient, itis about 10 minutes from the Tocumen Airpor and 30 minutes from the city.

Exploring Gatun Lake

The Isthmus of Panama was formed just over 3 million years ago. This land bridge has allowed animals and plants of two continents to mix and mingle. This is why Panama is so rich in flora and fauna. Lake Gatun was created between the years 1906-1914. The lake is part of an aquatic bridge that links the Caribbean sea to the Pacific Ocean. When you consider the nature, history, and the Panama Canal, Lake Gatun is one of the most interesting places found on this planet.

And there’s no better way to visit it than with Jungle Land Explorers.

This company, led by the passionate Carl Davis, has created an excellent set of tours that will satisfied the need of individuals, families and even companies. Their one day Gatun Adventure is a great way to combine leisure, nature and adventure and it’s only a 25-minute trip from the Balboa Inn.   For a full-day package that includes a lunch on their floating lodge and all the activities seen belowgo to their website.  also recommended tours :- trans-isthmus train & tourpackage and a visit to an Embara village, this is one of our favorites.

The tours mentioned do pick up and drop off from the hotel .