After 3 nights in the city, we moved on to our next destination which is Gamboa Reserve in the district of Colon. Situated roughly halfway between Panama City and Colon, the road goes through the forest and along the Panama Canal. Getting into the resort is easy with Uber but getting out? That can be quite challenging.
Once there, you will be greeted by the sight of a large and majestic resort that one stood glamorously 20 to 30 years ago but now looking rather worn out. Despite that, it still retains a certain charm for those seeking to be away from the city.
I booked my room via Expedia (for the 6 miles per dollar promo on DBS Visa Altitude) instead of directly with the resort. I booked the all-inclusive plan (which I would strongly recommend given the lack of food options outside of the resort) which includes breakfast, dinner, lunch (if you stay more than 1 night) and selected drinks at the bar. This plan also comes with a complimentary guided hiking tour and night safari. There is a Meet Gamboa plan (only available from the resort’s website) that also include 2 additional activities – Gatun Lake cruise, Sloth Sanctuary and Aerial Tram.
Quaint hotel lobby
Once checked in, we were given a wrist tag to indicate our all-inclusive plan (essential for drink orders at the bar). The staff were generally friendly, and most speaks good English. I booked the room with river view (which I would strongly recommend) where you have a nice view of the Chagres river from the balcony.
The room is very spacious and the top floor rooms come with double volume ceiling. The design is clearly from the 80’s (especially the bathroom). We had an overflowing toilet bowl and the water seeped into the room as the toilet floor was flushed with the room’s floor. Thankfully, the hotel was quite responsive to our request for the repairman to fix the issue.
The balcony comes with a hammock that one can relax in while enjoying the scenic rainforest and river view. Given that this is the forest, do expect insects. Being closed to the nature, expect an early morning call from the chirping birds.
Wi-Fi speed is at a paltry 5 Mbps upstream and downstream.
Being closed to the nature, one can anticipate the occasional wildlife spotting. The wildlife can be spotted mainly outside the hotel ground (within the reserve) especially during the car ride to the activity zone. We spotted a sloth, a toucan, an iguana and some capybaras (just to name a few). For the untrained eyes, you will need the guide to point it out to you. For the night safari, it was conducted only in Spanish.
Both breakfast and dinner were buffet. The restaurants were not packed (probably it was not the peak period) and we had ample seating space. Food spread was decent but not extensive while taste was generally acceptable (but certainly not great).
The hotel as a large swimming pool with a poolside bar. During our stay, only one person was at the pool (probably due to the rain earlier). There is a booth for guests to sign up for activities (such as the aerial tram, boat ride, fishing trip etc.).
We had time only for the Aerial Tram (40 USD per person) and you get to see a panoramic view of Chagres River and the Panama Canal (just before it becomes part of Gatun Lake). These activities can cost a lot!
Unless there is a major refurbishment, I probably would not recommend staying there beyond 2 nights. Do opt for the all-inclusive plan as there is no other place to eat nearby (unless one