Author Topic: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!  (Read 48427 times)

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #140 on: August 01, 2018, 10:02:20 PM »
Sortis is great.. payed a friend $85 for 15k points.. Kava sushi was unreal and I loved Aria as well... just leaving there now actually! Moma was also very solid. Got a solid steak with side dish for only $18..

Those three were my exact favorites as well!!

Offline luv2trvlwithfam

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #141 on: August 23, 2018, 05:40:47 AM »
fantastic!!!!!
how long did it take you to plan this trip?
how far in advance did you make your reservations?
thanks for the TR

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #142 on: August 23, 2018, 07:31:43 AM »
Islas Las Perlas:

I'm not going to do a play by play of my two weeks in Panama this summer like with my first trip because I think I've given a ton of hotel and other planning info already but I did want to highlight some of the best places that we visited this time.  One of the very best places at the very top of that hit list are the Las Perlas Islands.  I hadn't heard about it at all on DDF or in the day trip offerings from any guides.  A friend of mine from Denver, that I helped to plan a trip to Panama, found out about them from a local in shul while he was there.  The Panama city tour companies don't promote these islands like San Blas or other places because they can't take you in their own boats, you need to take an expensive ferry with a per person fee (totally worthwhile, and I'll tell you how that price can be reduced) and from my perspective, haven't figured out a way to monetize the tours properly because of the transportation costs.

You can either hire a boat yourself once you get to Las Perlas (you must speak Spanish though) or do what I did and use a tour company based out of Las Perlas, on the main island of Contadora.  Our tour company then was also able to get us discounted ferry tickets that depending on your number of adults can go a long way toward reducing the cost of the tour.  We only went for the day but now that I have visited these gems, I would love come back and probably spend two nights there.  Unlike San Blas they have full electricity, nice accommodations and were way LESS crowded.  These islands are off all city tour guides radar and I unequivocally recommend spending a day here!

We used Pearl Island Day tours once we got off the ferry on Contadora island.  The cost was $250 for a half day private tour (which is the perfect amount of time for after you arrive and to catch the ferry home in the afternoon).  It was a solid deal for our family but they will accommodate up to 8 people for this price so if you have a larger group it is a smokin' deal for what you get.  I have nothing but the highest praise for Ilene (her husband also leads tours but he was back in the US while we were there) and her help with booking reduced ferry tickets and giving us a magical day that was by far my boys highlight of the whole trip!

Here is info they provide on how to get to Las Perlas:

https://pearlislandsdaytours.com/getting-there-2/




We followed Ilene's recommendation and used http://www.sealasperlas.com/en and instead of the $90 per person ticket price Ilene got it for us for $75 and then the kids were the normal $70. It leaves from Amador Causeway (the other ferry is more convenient and leaves from right near Trump hotel but it was a lot more expensive).




Please do bear in mind if you've got very little ones or any mobility issues that it is a "wet landing" when you get to Contadora as there is no dock.  So they help you you to get on a little boat from the big ferry and then from that little boat you gotta get off onto the beach and you might get knocked around in the surf.  My youngest child couldn't really do it so we just handed her into the little boat and then the guys again handed her to me after I got out into the surf and I carried her to the beach.

Ilene met us on the main beach in Contadora Island which is just beautiful.  These are the little boats that bring you ashore (and are the same boatmen that will take you back out on your adventures):





We met Ilene, got life jackets on and other stuff and then headed back out for the main reason that I booked this day (little did I know my kids would have as much fun with other parts)...all summer long they've got tons of whales in Las Perlas!

We headed out with Ilene and our boatman Jaime (yup pronouned like Chai-may): :)





Literally within about fifteen minutes, we started seeing whales!  I didn't get any killer NatGeo shots of their tails and jumping and such but it was so cool.  Because you are so close and in such a small boat I started to get a little nervous but my kids were in heaven and Ilene assured me that these boatman do this all day, every day (they are locals from the neighboring Island of Taboga) and have never had an issue, as they know right where to go and the whales are not at all aggressive.  Here are a couple shots showing their fins:









This little trip was also good for me and my family as I realized that I never want to do a safari.  We had a great time seeing the whales but we are kinda ADD and need to DO stuff, not just watch animals for hours, so after about half an hour all of us were like "this has been so amazing, we've seen enough whales now, what's next?"  :P  SOOO, Ilene took us to our own private island for family swimming and snorkeling! 

The water and islands are all SO beautiful...I thought the scenery, privacy and experience blew San Blas into the dust.  Here are some pics of heading to our beach.  The color of the water rivaled the Maldives:










Again, no docks (since it's totally undeveloped) and you gotta get out into the surf.  This pictures shows where the boat comes and stays:



Enjoying our own private beach!




After playing a bit, Ilene offered to take the boys to her favorite snorkeling spot, so I stayed on the beach with my little one and they headed over in the boat to a little protected reef.  She is such a pro that she took underwater pictures and GoPro videos of them with the fish and emailed them to me in the evening.  Obviously my sons thought that this was the coolest thing ever.  This pic shows where they were as you can see the boat waiting right next to the reef a little off the shoreline:




I hope you enjoyed this little installment and I'm planning to continue in the next one with some more awesome adventures from our day in Las Perlas!
« Last Edit: August 23, 2018, 09:31:43 AM by Denverite »

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #143 on: August 23, 2018, 09:25:23 AM »
Wow, so cool! I can't wait until my girls are older so we can go to Panama. This is exactly the type of place we love to visit, just not with kids as young as ours. Thank you for sharing.

Offline zow

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #144 on: August 23, 2018, 07:58:59 PM »
@denverite, great installment! Canít wait to go in February.  All your recommendations will be so useful.  Thank you.

Offline ludmila

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #145 on: August 24, 2018, 01:39:52 AM »
Very well written, enjoyed reading. :)
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Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #146 on: August 26, 2018, 05:18:22 PM »
Wow, so cool! I can't wait until my girls are older so we can go to Panama. This is exactly the type of place we love to visit, just not with kids as young as ours. Thank you for sharing.

Thanks!  We really did have a blast.  I saw from the pics in your latest TR that you really do have teen ones so yeah this day would have been hard for them.  If anyone is wondering though about ages I think probably even a 3yr old that can follow directions would have had a blast on this day!  Again just have to know that you are going to have to work a little to get any small kids out of these boats and onto the islands as you are basically just jumping into the surf and trying not to get knocked down by waves (so little ones are going to get carried in your arms to shore).

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #147 on: August 26, 2018, 05:21:47 PM »
@Denverite, great installment! Canít wait to go in February.  All your recommendations will be so useful.  Thank you.

Very well written, enjoyed reading. :)

Thanks, it means to lot to me and I'm happy to help.  Next installment is coming up soon and @zow doing Las Perlas would probably be a blast for your older kids and cheaper than San Blas.  You all could possibly do some hikes and other stuff once you got of the ferry, without even taking a private boat tour.  There was lots of other stuff to do on all the islands but I am limited because of the ages of my kids.  I'll try to give all that info too for you.  :)

Offline zow

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #148 on: August 26, 2018, 07:22:32 PM »
Thanks, it means to lot to me and I'm happy to help.  Next installment is coming up soon and @zow doing Las Perlas would probably be a blast for your older kids and cheaper than San Blas.  You all could possibly do some hikes and other stuff once you got of the ferry, without even taking a private boat tour.  There was lots of other stuff to do on all the islands but I am limited because of the ages of my kids.  I'll try to give all that info too for you.  :)
@denverite, sounds absolutely terrific! We will have a week so could conceivably do both, but will will start with Las Perlas. Iím sure we will be in touch as February approaches.   

Offline Sammie

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #149 on: November 19, 2018, 05:53:53 PM »
@Denvertite - WOW! Thank you for all the descriptive information. Planning our trip now mostly based on your suggestions!

Thank you!

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #150 on: November 20, 2018, 10:22:57 PM »
@Denvertite - WOW! Thank you for all the descriptive information. Planning our trip now mostly based on your suggestions!

Thank you!

So glad you enjoyed and I hope you have an awesome trip!

Offline zow

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #151 on: January 02, 2019, 03:05:28 PM »
Hi,
Sounds like you recommend Las Perlas over San Blas.
How about a day trip to Colon via the Panama RR?
And among Sorhay's tours, am I correct that you most recommend the Embera (indigenous people) tour?
Thanks!

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #152 on: January 03, 2019, 07:38:54 PM »
Hi,
Sounds like you recommend Las Perlas over San Blas.
How about a day trip to Colon via the Panama RR?
And among Sorhay's tours, am I correct that you most recommend the Embera (indigenous people) tour?
Thanks!

I do personally recommend Las Perlas over San Blas (it's more cost effective and I feel less commercialized).  My friends just went yesterday and I straight out asked them if Las Perlas lived up to all my hype (they've also been to San Blas) and they said yes.  :)

I think Sorhay's Embrera tour is a must do.  Let me know if you need anything else!

Offline zow

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #153 on: January 03, 2019, 09:05:38 PM »
I do personally recommend Las Perlas over San Blas (it's more cost effective and I feel less commercialized).  My friends just went yesterday and I straight out asked them if Las Perlas lived up to all my hype (they've also been to San Blas) and they said yes.  :)

I think Sorhay's Embrera tour is a must do.  Let me know if you need anything else!
Terrific! Thanks so much.

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #154 on: January 04, 2019, 11:27:35 AM »
Terrific! Thanks so much.

My pleasure! And I just got off the phone with my friend that just came back yesterday and they said they also thought Las Perlas and their tour with Ilene was the highlight of their trip and it ended up being way less expensive than San Blas too.  Also for them, they did a hiking, mud baths, swim in waterfall day trip with Sorhay in Anton Valley.  I've never done Anton Valley (so it's on my list for my 3rd trip...lol) because I was worried the hiking would be too much for my little one but since you have older kids, it might be perfect for you.

Looking forward to hearing about all your adventures!

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #155 on: January 22, 2019, 05:07:04 PM »
Pearl Islands (Continued):

In my last installment, I laid out why I thought Las Perlas was so special and amazing and I do think most people should take a day to visit this magical place.  I left out one of the coolest parts of our day though and something my two older boys have been talking about ever since!  There are some times when I'm travelling when everything seems to be going wrong and I wonder why I bother to make all the effort to drag my kids to far off places and then there are other times when I feel like HaShem has really just blessed us to give us these surreal and amazing experiences and I am just so blessed.  This afternoon was the latter and I know that if we go again the likelihood of having a similar experience is very small.

After we left the island where we were playing on the beach, our tour guide Ilene suggested we throw a line into the water (all these boatman are also fisherman) as she took us around to see some other scenery.  I said sure, why not, as my boys always get excited to try fishing.  The most they had ever caught were some small fish, when fishing with family off of piers on the east coast.  Literally after just a couple minutes of the hook going into the water, we saw a strong tug on the line.

My boys got so excited and headed over to try to reel in the fish...little did we know what were in for!








They started to slowly reel in the line and we could all see that the fish was really pulling!  They were trying to reel it in and slowly making progress and the boatman was showing them how to do it, as you want to make progress pulling in the fish but also not snap the line.  After a while the fish got close enough that we could see it and it was HUGE!











This whole process took a good 15 minutes (which is forever when you are "battling" an animal...which I had never done before...lol).  As the fish got closer you could really feel it pulling the boat and I was having flashback to school, when I had to read Ernest Heminway's "Old Man & the Sea" (spoiler alert, the Old Cuban dude dies after a long arduous battle with a huge fish that he is trying to bring in to take himself out poverty...it's basically the most depressing story ever for a child to read...lol) and I was actually starting to get scared.  At one point, the fish swam underneath our boat and I started freaking out that we might flip.  ;D  Obviously, I'm just a crazy Jewish mother and that wasn't going to happen but I literally asked Ilene if there was a chance that it could pull the boat over but she told me to relax, the line would snap first but regardless Jaime wasn't going to let that happen!  :P


Right about then Jaime pulled out a huge spear that I learned you are not allowed to call a spear because it is actually a gaff (but since some of you might be ignorant like me I thought I'd explain that it's a spear).  :)   Ilene told my sons to get back (I was already way back clutching my daughter...lol) and Jaime slowly worked to reel the fish in close enough and then speared it.  This whole time the fish is still fighting.  Even after he speared it with a second huge hook and after he brought it in the boat it was still fighting but as he brought it up, it really was so cool.  I've never understood people's (well mostly men's) whole man vs. nature need to conquer a mountain or an animal but in that moment, I finally got the appeal...it was scary, adrenaline filled and just so flippin' cool!


You can see my son's fist pumping in the air and the huge smile on Jaime's face as he finally pulled it out of the water.  We were all literally screaming and cheering him when he finally pulled the fish in!




I actually got even more scared once he got it in the boat.  You can see that Jaime was a huge, strong guy and he was really working to contain the fish as it was flopping and turning to fight him.






I'm not sure if you can catch the motion in the static picture but the fish was still moving in this picture and that's why it's tail is flipped off to the side.




Here are the boys, when we arrived back at Contadora beach, with their "catch" that is almost as long as they are!!




Ilene offered to bring it back to whatever restaurant on the island we wanted so we could have it prepared (all the places are apparently happy to do that) and it was at that point that I explained to her about Kashrut (although if any y'all want to head to these islands and are thinking positively you could bring a pan with you).  ;D  Because it was so funny shaped, I wasn't even sure it was kosher but then we saw that it did clearly have scales.  It was actually a Dorado (or dolphin fish, Mahi-Mahi) and is kosher.  She offered to put it on ice for me but I wasn't about to bring that thing back on the ferry with me.  My husband was flying in that night from the US to meet us in Panama City and I figured he would rather see the pictures than the real, smelly fish, that I had no way to cook in our Sortis suite!  :P 

Ilene was super happy to take it (based on prices that I've since looked up it was worth at least a couple hundred bucks) and she said they would get many great meals out of that fish!

I have other adventures and pictures from the trip but for now, that was my fish story!

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #156 on: January 22, 2019, 08:13:25 PM »
That's a great story! Ilene was one lucky lady. Thanks for sharing.

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #157 on: January 22, 2019, 10:19:25 PM »
Ha, cool story - I was actually going to say it looked like a dolphin in the water!

Offline zow

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #158 on: January 23, 2019, 08:43:35 PM »
Thatís a great story.  I hope you have some video, too.  My daughter read it and asked,
ďCan we do that, too?!Ē

Offline normathej

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #159 on: January 24, 2019, 11:02:34 AM »
@Denverite you have the best trip reviews!  Plus, you do all the research and then we can just copy your itinerary.  Thanks for all of your sharing.