Right now in Central America, Costa Rica seems to be getting all the attention. But if you're looking for a destination with rainforests, adventure, beaches, golf, resorts and a historic canal (that'd be the Panama Canal), but that is also little off the radar for most American travelers, then Panama is the hot spot you want to check out.
Cheap Caribbean (tel. 800/915-2322; www.cheapcaribbean.com) has a few deals to choose from to Panama, geared toward the last-minute traveler. You must act quickly, as the booking deadline is December 13 and the special is valid for travel through December 21 for the company's four-night special at the Playa Bonita Resort and Gamboa Rainforest Resort, good for travel now through December 21 with a booking deadline of December 13. The trip includes taxes and transfers to all points of interest on the trip, daily breakfast, and two nights at Gamboa Rainforest Resort and two at the Intercontinental Playa Bonita Resort and Spa. Four nights are priced from $739 for Miami departures but plenty of other departures are available, too. The package does not include roundtrip airport transfers, tips or gratuities or meals other than breakfast.
You can also choose from an all-inclusive, five-night stay that puts you in Panama City at the Intercontinental Miramar for two nights and then three nights at Intercontinental Playa Bonita. This trip is priced from $989 per person, also based on Miami departures. Roundtrip flights, five nights in a standard room at the aforementioned hotels, and all meals are included. Airport transfers, taxes and gratuities and tax and service charges are not included. This too requires booking by December 13 and travel by December 21.
Djoser (tel. 877/356-7376; www.djoserusa.com), which specializes in international adventure travel for independent minds, is running a special, 21-day tour that includes Costa Rica and Panama in a small group setting. Visit an active volcano, go bird watching, snorkeling, swimming, and listen to reggae music and visit a handful of national parks. Departures are available on select dates through May 2007. Priced from New York, the trip costs $2,740, from Miami, $2,545. The package includes inter-country transportation, hotels, tour guides, airport transfers and is a balance of guided tours and free time for exploring on your own.
Latin Destinations (tel. 866/645-2846; www.latindestinations.com) is offering a handful of customizable vacation packages starting from a five night minimum to explore the "Jungle and Islands of Panama," with two nights at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, two nights at Uaguineaga Eco Lodge and one night at a Panama City hotel of your choice. Sample prices include trips from Miami from $1,075, New York City, $1,139, and Los Angeles, $1,125, for travel anytime. The best prices are for November-March. The price includes roundtrip airfare, transfers and travel throughout Panama, daily breakfast, hotel taxes, guided tours and five nights' accommodations as described.
One of the company's specials, called "Gamboa Rainforest Resort-Playa Blanca," is available priced from $1205 for Miami or New York departures from January 15, 2007 through March 15, 2007. The trip is already set up for seven nights, and all transfers, international roundtrip airfare, hotel taxes and daily breakfast are included. You'll spend three nights on the canal at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort and four in Playa Blanca, which is home to Central America's only beachfront golf course. Other departure cities, such as Chicago ($1,255), L.A. ($1,275) and Houston ($1,239) are available.
Latin Escapes (tel. 800/878-9986; www.latinescapes.com) has a handful of Panama specials that run the gamut from short ones that would work well as an add-on, including a shopping tour that includes one-night accommodations from $109; a three-night four day tour that includes the Gamboa Rainforest from $289, a family trip priced from $399 per person for five days, four nights; and a golf and spa trip from $449 for two nights. Or choose "Best of Panama" priced from $649 for seven nights, with Panama City, Gamboa rainforest and Contadora Island stays included, along with half-day tours, a welcome cocktail, English speaking guides and representatives, and a tour of the Gamboa Rainforest. There are departures available every day, you must book by December 31, and the specials are valid through January 31 but blacked out for December 15-January 15. These prices do not include international roundtrip airfare, but "Best of Panama" does include roundtrip airfare to Contadora Island from Panama.
Traveland (tel. 800/321-6336; www.traveland.com) has a package to Panama City and Playa Blanca for the winter months priced from $899 for five nights. When you arrive you'll spend two nights with breakfast included at the Riande Granada Hotel in Panama City, and then transfer to the Pacific coast to the Decameron Hotel in Playa Blanca, for a three-night, all-inclusive stay. The package is valid for departures through March 22 from Miami, New York, or Houston; other departures are available for additional cost. The price is based on double occupancy and don't include air taxes or fees.
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