Panama Canal and the New Locks Expansion Tour: Experience the Old and the New

Panama Canal Expansion Status - August 2014
Panama Canal Expansion Status – August 2014

Panama, officially known as the Republic of Panama, is known for much more than its famous Canal. It is located in Central America and sits between North and South America. Panama is bordered by Costa Rica, Colombia, the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. Panama City, the capital of Panama, hosts nearly half of the country’s population of 3.9 million people.

Panama’s geography features a mountain and hill region that forms what is known as the continental divide. The actual spine that forms this divide comes from an uplift that rose from the bottom of the sea. This range of mountains is known as the Cordillera de Talamanca close to Costa Rica. To the east this range is known as the Serrania de Tabasará. Finally, closer to the Panama Canal, the range is known as Sierra de Veraguas.

Besides a large human population, Panama is home to more species of trees, plants, birds and animals than throughout the North American continent. Specifically, 10,000 varieties of plants and more than 1,500 varieties of animals call Panama home. That is a staggering fact considering that Panama is smaller than the state of South Carolina. For example, in the plant category, twenty species of orchid are located between the rain forests and the Cordillera de Talamanca mountain range. In the jungles, marmosets and two-toe sloths can be found. In addition, abundant tropical fish populations, humpback and sperm whales and reef sharks are in Panama’s protected reefs. Finally, pumas and jaguars run through the Panamanian jungles. This is just a snapshot of the many species of plants, birds and animals that live and thrive throughout Panama.

Panama is a tourist’s paradise as it is home to many beautiful beaches and islands like Playa Las Lajas, a beautiful eight mile beach, and Isla Taboga, a favorite island among visitors. Both of these places are popular for boaters, jet skiers and sunbathers alike.

Without question, one of the main events in Panama is the Panama Canal. Condor Tours and Travel will be offering a tour package in April 2016 to view the expansion project and the Canal’s new locks. The expansion project is slated to be done by the end of 2016, but the project is far enough along where you can see not only the modern improvements to the Canal but appreciate the history of how the Canal was originally built.

During its eight-day duration, this travel package also includes visits to the new Locks and Gatun Locks area, Miraflores Locks, Panama City, Gamboa Rainforest Resort, and the Gatun Lake. You will also get the opportunity to go on a tour of the Embera Indians, one of seven indigenous tribes in Panama. Throughout this tour, you will also get to partake of authentic, flavorful Panamanian meals and shop for unique merchandise.

Condor Tours and Travel also offers 21 other Panama trip packages depending on what you would like to see and what your individual budget is. Some examples of the different trips include the following:

  • Indigenous People and Ruins Tour;
  • Luxury Travel Panama; and
  • Panama on a Budget

Lori Snow will be personally leading the Panama Canal and the New Locks Expansion Tour in April. She has been leading tours for 15 years, speaks Spanish fluently and was the fourth generation in her family born in Panama. Her personal connection to Panama will make this tour even more meaningful. For more information, visit Condor Tours and Travel’s website.

Mesoamerican Paradise: Costa Rica

Costa Rica lies adjacent to Nicaragua and Panama, and has been termed by many as an “intermediate region” between Mesoamerican and Andean native cultures. The terrain consists of deep valleys, rolling hills, sand beaches, dense forests, vast plains, wetlands, mountains, and volcanoes. Cerro Chiripo is the country’s highest point at 3,819 meters and Lake Arenal, the country’s largest lake, produces 7% of the country’s electricity. While Costa Rica has been independent since the 19th century, it had once been a victim to colonization. During the age of Spanish imperialism, Christopher Columbus first landed in Costa Rica in 1502 where the indigenous population was swiftly conquered. In 1524, the country was incorporated as a province of New Spain and the Spaniards laid claim to the country for the next 300 years. Costa Rica then became part of the Mexican Empire in 1821 but in 1838 the country gained its independence. Today the country thrives on technology and eco-tourism and is known for its commitment to human rights and democracy.

Among Americans, Costa Rica is the most popular international travel destination. 39% of Costa Rica’s tourists come from the U.S. and in 2013 the country had a total of approximately 2.4 million tourists. The popularity is only increasing and the 2.4 million visitors in 2013 showed a 3.6% increase from the previous year. While the country has seen massive growth in tourism, the country maintains a philosophy of sustainability. The country balances the use of natural and cultural resources with the economic demands of society. The goal of this philosophy is to improve the inhabitants’ quality of life while enabling industrial economic success that contributes to national development. This is imperative for many countries like Costa Rica to follow in order for them to be competitive.

Many tourists visit the country for adventure and outdoor activities such as rafting, canyoning, zip lining, hiking, surfing, fishing and mountain climbing. Many raft along the Pacuare River, which forms the northern border for some of Costa Rica’s national parks and protected reserves. This river is known to offer some of the finest white water rafting in Latin America and flows deep into lush rainforest that is home to monkeys, jaguars, ocelots, and many different bird species. While rafting is popular, with outdoor sports like canyoning, visitors get into the heart of river canyons, waterfalls, rainforests, and volcanoes. Lake Arenal is a case in point because its diverse terrain and numerous rivers make it one of the most attractive places for canyoneers and other hikers. Many visitors also enjoy zip-lining because they get to explore the canopies of Costa Rica’s many rainforests and can even get a bird’s eye view of vast landscapes and water bodies.

There are many travel packages that show the natural beauty and biodiversity of Costa Rica. For 2016, Condor Tours and Travel is offering packages from six to fourteen days that include deep-sea fishing, rain forest exploration, beach destinations, volcanoes, surfing, and honeymoon packages. The fishing tour includes two full days of deep-sea fishing and lodging is at the Tamarindo Diria hotel. Guests will leave from the Flamingo Beach Marina and after the two fishing tours they can take advantage of Tamarindo’s beaches, restaurants, and nightlife. Between the jungle and the ocean is a nine-day tour that includes zip-lining through Selvatura Park, hiking at Tenorio National Park, and sight-seeing at Poas Volcano and the Central Valley. Accommodations include breakfast every morning and lodging at the El Establo Hotel and Rio Celeste Hideaway. There are many more destination and activity packages at www.condortoursandtravel.com that highlight the natural beauty of the most popular international travel destination for Americans.