Author Topic: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands  (Read 1846 times)

Offline chuchem

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Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands
« on: February 18, 2018, 02:01:54 AM »
In Switzerland the kids have 2 weeks vacation in February. The last few years we always traveled to Miami and enjoyed it very much. After going there quite a few times, it got quite boring. We have done all the attractions more than once and I wanted to try something new. I wanted a place with kosher food, warm weather and stuff to do with the kids. I checked a few options and decided, let's try panama

I looked for some cheap tickets from Europe and found a good rate from zrh via cdg with air France. When I travel with the kids, I fly economy (us airways days are over, I used them through trackitback to fly with kids business to Hawaii and Asia) but always pay the extra money for first row seats. I do need a little extra space and this makes the flight manageable, even in economy. Air France had a good rate in premium economy, that wasn't much more after buying premium seats in economy, so I booked that.

Advantages of air france:
When traveling with kids (we habe 6 boys age 2-12) I make sure that the travel is as easy possible, so that my dear wife will want to come along on these trips in the future. Air France only left at 10:40, so this made the stress in the morning easier. The other airlines that fly from Europe (lh, klm, ob) would have been much earlier. Also af premium economy gives premium access to premium economy, so business class check in, no wait by security. On the way back, they had a late 21:10 departure from pty, so the kids would sleep easy

So I had 10 days in panama, sun-wed and had to arrange a program for that time. My plan was to stay the first week in panama city and do all the activities and spend the second week at the beach relaxing somewhere. I checked a few hotels and the sortis had the best deal: 1 bedroom suite (separate living room, small kitchen and 2 bathrooms) for 240 dollars a night. That included 60 dollars spending money at the hotel daily. I decided to book 2 of these suites, that would be perfect for us. I kept on checking on the rate until departure and it lowered to 165 dollars a night. I booked it through hotels.com (every 10 night free) and some cashback, so I got the rate down to 145 usd a night. What a amazing rate for 90 m2 suite in a 5 star hotel. Beats crazy prices in miami. The hotel also had a kosher sushi restaurant in the lobby, so it was a no brainer. The only minus, it's a 25min walk from the Jewish area and is not in the eiruv (more on that later)

As I have older boys I wanted to spend the second week somewhere at the beach, but not have bumper to bumper traffic at the pool. The easiest option would have been the le meridien outside Panama city, that is on the beach. I didn't consider it, as the beach didn't seem to get a good review and the znius aspect at the pool wasn't to good.
I looked at quite a few villas along the coast, that had nice pools and beach access, but couldn't decide which one and kept on pushing it off. By the time I wanted to book one, all were taken. So I went back to a crazy idea I had: San blas islands. If you read about San blas, you will see its 100s of small islands along the coast of Panama that look stunning. White sand, secluded beaches, amazing water… basically a second Maldives.
The only problem, you can't find any decent accommodation and with 6 kids I couldn't sleep in a hut on the beach without electricity. This left us with one option: chartering a boat. Sounds crazy with 6 kids, but looking at these amazing pictures, I really wanted to make it happen. I reached out to a few companies that offer it and found the perfect boat. A beautiful Catamaran with 4 bedrooms. It was quite expensive (about 1200 a night) but it had a crew of 3 and gave us enough room comfortably for our family. I decided to book it for 2 nights and spend the last night before our flight back in panama city. Normally these charters come with food, I got a 10% discount, telling them I will bring my own food. I also arranged check in and check out at 15:00 afternoon and not at 9 in the morning. This gave us enough time to shop Sunday morning for food and make the drive to San Blas without getting up early.
The only way to get to San Blas, take a 4x4 for about 2 hour drive from Panama city. I contacted a few companies that offered transportation and all only had 7 seaters. They offered to squeeze us in, but I didn't want to be stuck for 2 hours on 6 seats (driver 1 seat) only other option was to take 2 suv or rent my own car. I did have to go shopping that morning and not being depended on a transport company seemed like the better deal. I checked prices and avis had a luxury 7 seater suv for 230 usd for 3 days incl insurance, so I went for that. Pick up was a 5 min drive from the hotel

Flights booked. Accommodations booked.

 Just needed to arrange the tours for the first week. Landing Sunday at 7pm meant the kids would be very tired and I didn't want to stress the first day, so I left Monday empty to explore on our own pace. Friday erev shabbes, I wanted a little time to relax and get us food for shabbes, so this left tue,wed,thu to explore. After reading the previous trip reports on Ddf, I decided to book with Soray from therealpanamatours. Let me just say this in advance, she was amazing! I contacted her through whatsapp and told her the 3 tours I wanted to do
-embera village tour
-st Anton valley day trip
-Panama canal and lake gatun

We arranged these three tours for tue-thu. She was so easy to deal with and communication was top. I also booked her to pick us up from airport with a mini bus for 45 usd

All planning done….

Next: actual trip






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Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2018, 03:18:43 AM »
In Switzerland the kids have 2 weeks vacation in February. The last few years we always traveled to Miami and enjoyed it very much. After going there quite a few times, it got quite boring. We have done all the attractions more than once and I wanted to try something new. I wanted a place with kosher food, warm weather and stuff to do with the kids. I checked a few options and decided, let's try panama

I looked for some cheap tickets from Europe and found a good rate from zrh via cdg with air France. When I travel with the kids, I fly economy (us airways days are over, I used them through trackitback to fly with kids business to Hawaii and Asia) but always pay the extra money for first row seats. I do need a little extra space and this makes the flight manageable, even in economy. Air France had a good rate in premium economy, that wasn't much more after buying premium seats in economy, so I booked that.

Advantages of air france:
When traveling with kids (we habe 6 boys age 2-12) I make sure that the travel is as easy possible, so that my dear wife will want to come along on these trips in the future. Air France only left at 10:40, so this made the stress in the morning easier. The other airlines that fly from Europe (lh, klm, ob) would have been much earlier. Also af premium economy gives premium access to premium economy, so business class check in, no wait by security. On the way back, they had a late 21:10 departure from pty, so the kids would sleep easy

So I had 10 days in panama, sun-wed and had to arrange a program for that time. My plan was to stay the first week in panama city and do all the activities and spend the second week at the beach relaxing somewhere. I checked a few hotels and the sortis had the best deal: 1 bedroom suite (separate living room, small kitchen and 2 bathrooms) for 240 dollars a night. That included 60 dollars spending money at the hotel daily. I decided to book 2 of these suites, that would be perfect for us. I kept on checking on the rate until departure and it lowered to 165 dollars a night. I booked it through hotels.com (every 10 night free) and some cashback, so I got the rate down to 145 usd a night. What a amazing rate for 90 m2 suite in a 5 star hotel. Beats crazy prices in miami. The hotel also had a kosher sushi restaurant in the lobby, so it was a no brainer. The only minus, it's a 25min walk from the Jewish area and is not in the eiruv (more on that later)

As I have older boys I wanted to spend the second week somewhere at the beach, but not have bumper to bumper traffic at the pool. The easiest option would have been the le meridien outside Panama city, that is on the beach. I didn't consider it, as the beach didn't seem to get a good review and the znius aspect at the pool wasn't to good.
I looked at quite a few villas along the coast, that had nice pools and beach access, but couldn't decide which one and kept on pushing it off. By the time I wanted to book one, all were taken. So I went back to a crazy idea I had: San blas islands. If you read about San blas, you will see its 100s of small islands along the coast of Panama that look stunning. White sand, secluded beaches, amazing water… basically a second Maldives.
The only problem, you can't find any decent accommodation and with 6 kids I couldn't sleep in a hut on the beach without electricity. This left us with one option: chartering a boat. Sounds crazy with 6 kids, but looking at these amazing pictures, I really wanted to make it happen. I reached out to a few companies that offer it and found the perfect boat. A beautiful Catamaran with 4 bedrooms. It was quite expensive (about 1200 a night) but it had a crew of 3 and gave us enough room comfortably for our family. I decided to book it for 2 nights and spend the last night before our flight back in panama city. Normally these charters come with food, I got a 10% discount, telling them I will bring my own food. I also arranged check in and check out at 15:00 afternoon and not at 9 in the morning. This gave us enough time to shop Sunday morning for food and make the drive to San Blas without getting up early.
The only way to get to San Blas, take a 4x4 for about 2 hour drive from Panama city. I contacted a few companies that offered transportation and all only had 7 seaters. They offered to squeeze us in, but I didn't want to be stuck for 2 hours on 6 seats (driver 1 seat) only other option was to take 2 suv or rent my own car. I did have to go shopping that morning and not being depended on a transport company seemed like the better deal. I checked prices and avis had a luxury 7 seater suv for 230 usd for 3 days incl insurance, so I went for that. Pick up was a 5 min drive from the hotel

Flights booked. Accommodations booked.

 Just needed to arrange the tours for the first week. Landing Sunday at 7pm meant the kids would be very tired and I didn't want to stress the first day, so I left Monday empty to explore on our own pace. Friday erev shabbes, I wanted a little time to relax and get us food for shabbes, so this left tue,wed,thu to explore. After reading the previous trip reports on Ddf, I decided to book with Soray from therealpanamatours. Let me just say this in advance, she was amazing! I contacted her through whatsapp and told her the 3 tours I wanted to do
-embera village tour
-st Anton valley day trip
-Panama canal and lake gatun

We arranged these three tours for tue-thu. She was so easy to deal with and communication was top. I also booked her to pick us up from airport with a mini bus for 45 usd

All planning done….

Next: actual trip
Keep em coming

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2018, 05:15:23 PM »
Keep em coming

+1, can't wait to see all your pictures!  I'm hoping to add San Blas with the kids in as well so I'm especially looking forward.  :)

Offline chuchem

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Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2018, 06:01:11 PM »
Sunday:
We made our way to the airport and checked in very fast using the business class check in. As we got to the airport quite late we didn't have time for any lounge and went straight to the gate. The flight zrh-cdg is quite short and no ksml was served. We had a little less then 2 hours in Paris and the connection went quite smooth. We were able to use the priority line for passport control. The only pain in cdg: they don't give back the stroller. They will check it straight to final destination. Our son can walk already, so not so bad, but with small kids quite a pain.
Our flight to pty should have been a new 787 but got changed last minute to a 777.
The premium economy on the 787 is a little better and it also didn't have wifi. Flight was full in all cabins, but we didn't really feel it as this small PE cabin only had 24 seats. The entertainment system was very good and it worked from sitting down. Some airlines don't start the system until in the air, I really like it right away, as it helps settling the kids down
The seat was very comfortable, we had plenty of legroom, it was wide enough… for sure worth it for a 11 hour flight.
The food from Paris was a Desaster. I knew that in advance and took along our own sandwiches. For main course they served fish! It comes from Amsterdam and was one of the worst ever tasted.
The flight dragged quite long and our 2 year old wasn't easy all the time, as this is the hardest age to travel. Wants to walk around and doesn't want to watch movies. We landed in pty 30 min before schedule and passed immigration quite fast, as we exited the plane before the entire economy cabin. Pty is a small airport and luggage didn't take long to arrive. Soray’s driver was waiting for us and the drive to the hotel took about 30 min.
I was in contact with the manager before arrival and he promised 2 suites on the same floor. Checking in at 8:30 pm that wasn't available. I was very upset, but there was nothing they could do. I could have waited 2 hours or take a suite and a regular room on same floor and move the regular room to a suite the next day. As we didn't really need the second room to be a suite, that's what we did. Staff was very friendly and the lobby looked quite nice. We got to our rooms and the suite was exactly like on the pictures. We had plenty of space and the sofabed  in the living room comfortably fit 2 kids. Suite was very modern and spacious, really nothing to complain. For us it was 3 in the morning and none of my kids slept on the plane, so I figured it would be a easy ‘good night’ but they remembered to be hungry and couldn't go to sleep without food. This is were kava came in really handy. A good kosher sushi/pizza place in the lobby. Got some pizza and sushi-was very good and finally made it to bed after a long day

Monday:
We got up quite late and went to  for breakfast to   the guy easiest way to get around is by Uber, so my wife and I each ordered a separate Uber from the app.
We only eat cholov Yisroel and realized that all restaurants don't keep it. You have a very limited amount of things you can order, that is chalav Yisroel, so be aware if you want to eat milky in panama and keep it,The pizza was Cy, everything else not. No milkshakes, no pastas… this is why it was the last time we went to eat milky. Food was ok, nothing special
We decided to check out the kosher food situation and went to multicentro not far from there. At the -2 level in the parking garage there is a huge kosher shop. Its called deli k and really has anything you can ask for. It's bigger than a lot of shops in Israel or usa.
We bought stuff that we need for the next days: nosh, cereal and milk for breakfast, bread for lunch sandwiches….
On the way back we dropped the stuff at the hotel and continued to ancon hill. Ancon hill is a small hill outside Panama city, that has amazing views from the top. It's a 45 min hike per way through the jungle and very stroller friendly.  We got to see some animals on the way and took some amazing pics on the top. Make sure to bring plenty of water, as there is nobody selling it on top
We then walked down and at the bottom it had a small stall selling drinks and fruits. It also had a small museum on Panamanian culture, but we didn't go
After a while we headed back to the hotel and hit the pool for 2 hours. It was quite empty and I had no problem taking my little We also changed our second room to a suite on the same floor.
For dinner we went to Luna by darna. Food was very good and it was nice sitting outside. It's a short 3 min walk from the sortis, that made it quite convenient. As we still had a little jetlag and had to get up relatively early, we called it a early night

Tomorrow: embrea village tour

Offline cozmohoot

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Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2018, 10:20:53 PM »
Thanks for sharing. It's very cool that Panama has all these kosher food options.

Offline BrooklynCPA

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Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2018, 06:47:23 PM »
Thanks for the amazing TR, keep it coming!!

Offline chuchem

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Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2018, 09:36:58 AM »
Panama5

Panama4


Will not have time this week to continue, but here two pics, that show what I woke up to in the morning on our boat in san blas... two different islands
« Last Edit: February 27, 2018, 08:59:22 PM by jj1000 »

Offline chuchem

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Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2018, 09:44:29 AM »
Panama6 by joe kornfein, auf Flickr

My favourite vacation picture. Amamzing beach on our own island...

 

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Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2018, 04:07:22 PM »
Keep em coming :)
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

Offline theyankel

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Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2018, 12:17:12 AM »

Offline BrooklynCPA

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Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2018, 11:47:17 AM »
Anxiously awaiting the rest of the TR.....

Offline sruliL

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Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2018, 12:01:15 AM »
Great TR...anxious to hear about your charter
Life's not about doing things good, its about doing good things.

Offline chuchem

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Offline chuchem

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Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2018, 05:13:50 AM »
day 2

We got up quite early for a vacation day, but Soray didn't want to leave to late. We made up for 09:00, but it ended up being 09:30 until we made it downstairs. We ate breakfast in the room and packed some snacks and sandwiches. She waited for us in the lobby and welcomed us with such a smile. She has a comfortable van, that fit the 8 of us with no problem. A cooler with cold drinks and even some kosher snacks were prepared by her in advance. She went to the kosher shop to get some goodies for the day and we didn't even ask for it. The second my kids got into the car, she started playing some Jewish music and disco lights went on. Just fun and the kids liked her right away. The drive was a little more than a hour and we got a lot of Infos about Panama, the city and also the emberas. She also made sure to talk to the kids in the back. It was important to her, that the kids also participate and she had a great way of dealing with them throughout the entire trip.

The closer we got, the roads got quite bumpy. Finally we arrived at a small port, were our Indian guides for the day were waiting. They didn't speak a lot of english but we were able to communicate with hands and feet and Soray led the way.



[url=https://flic.kr/p/25kY56J]



Our entire family boarded wooden canoes, that the Indians produce themselves and we drove down the river.

[url=https://flic.kr/p/282zJ2L]


[url=https://flic.kr/p/286WuRk]


[url=https://flic.kr/p/282zJej]


[url=https://flic.kr/p/282zJ7A]






It was quite unreal, here we are in middle of a rainforest, a Canoo driven by Indians. The scenery around us was unreal. After about 15 minutes we arrived at their village and had a huge reception by the entire village with singing and dancing. They showed us around the entire village and also made a dance for us, at the end most of us participated as well :-) Soray told them in advance, that a family with 6 boys is coming and set up a soccer game against the village kids. She bought a ball along that we gave as a gift for them to keep. This was just a unreal moment: a few Jewish kids, zizis and yarmulkes flying, playing football against barefoot Indian kids in middle of a rainforest. The swiss did win 5-4 and made some new friends. They showed us their school and prepared us a huge fruit platter of unknown fruits for lunch. We ate our sandwiches and sorays cooler provided cold drinks throughout the day. After lunch, the plan was to ride down further the river and swim in a natural pool under a waterfall in middle of the jungle. Some of the Indian kids joined us, as they really liked us. A short boat ride and hike through the jungle and we reached the place. Wow, unreal. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Just stunning. We spend almost 2 hours there, swimming, relaxing and taking pictures.

[url=https://flic.kr/p/271wat1]


[url=https://flic.kr/p/282zJ5S]


[url=https://flic.kr/p/271waxj]


[url=https://flic.kr/p/271wazd]


[url=https://flic.kr/p/286WuST]
panama22


We then made it back to the car after dropping of the Indians at their village. We hit some traffic on the way back, but it wasn't to bad. Back at the hotel, I checked the pool and saw it was empty, so we went for a swim.




My wife got us some sushi from the lobby, that we ate by the pool. We were all quite tired, but went pita plus for dinner. It was ok, but nothing special... after a long day we didnt want a fancy sit down that takes ages, so it did the job, but not a must do

What an amazing day.

Tomorrow: San Anton valley
« Last Edit: June 11, 2018, 07:03:44 AM by chuchem »

Offline cozmohoot

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Re: Panama with 6 kids incl San blas islands
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2018, 01:32:28 PM »
Very cool.!