Video by RusticPathways
Brave and colorful cultures, the Emberas (on the mainland) and Kunas (in the Caribbean) have resisted the colonization of their territories for more than three centuries. While they share many religious and cultural similarities, these two cultures have very unique traditions and lifestyles. The intricate geometrical patterns of black ink that cover the Embera's bodies along with their colorful skirts and bead art necklaces is only one of the many magical traditions that have been preserved over the years. The brightly dressed Kuna women with gold nose rings and carefully arranged handmade molls in their bamboo huts, will remind you the cultural paradise that is Panama.
Your journey will begin in Panama City contemplating its pirating history while wandering the ruins of old Panama and the “Casco Viejo”, and watching the cargo ships cruise through the canal while you enjoy a leisurely VIP lunch at the Panama Canal.
Then embark on a magical tour through the jungle to a remote Embera village where you will learn the treasures and secrets of there long-kept culture. Learn to fish and dance, admire their natural treasures and become closer to this friendly community, while working together on a community project.
From the Panama City, you will head to the turquoise waters of the San Blas Islands. Here you'll live in a thatched-roof hut on tiny "Nurdub Island". After spending your morning to help refurbish the local elementary schools, you'll have the opportunity to relax and take a load off on one of the many islands of this picturesque archipelago.
On this week long trip, you'll combine service projects and cultural interaction with new adventures and experiences. Get ready to swim in clear rivers and blue waters, snorkel, play games with local Emera and Kuna children, make indigenous crafts, and much more. Come join us for a summer adventure you'll never forget in this tropical paradise.
Depart the United States for Panama City, Panama. Rustic Pathways group flights to Panama depart from Houston and are escorted by a Rustic Pathways Flight Leader. Upon arrival at the Panama City airport you will be greeted by your Rustic Pathways Staff. From here you will head over to the hotel reserved for Rustic Pathways students where you will spend the first night. Students transferring Costa Rica and Dominican Republic will arrive on Tuesday evening and will be transported in the same bus with students arriving from the US. Students transferring from Peru will arrive on Wednesday morning, and will join the group during the city tour.
breakfast the group will depart for a great city tour around Panama City. Visit the "old Panama" ruins and learn about the pirates stories. Enjoy a fun walk through the Metropolitan park and then prepare yourself to be amazed by the famous Panama Canal and watch this incredible feat of engineering as huge cargo ships are lifted by the force of water and pass through the narrow channels. Enjoy a VIP lunch at the Canal Restaurant and learn the history behind the construction of the canal as you take a tour through its museum. After visiting the Cannal the bus will drive us about an hour to the jungle boat ramp where the Emberas will meet us with their dugout canoe to take us upriver to their village. Upon arrival in the village we will be greet with traditional dance and a short presentation about the Emberas culture and their crafts. You will be served a yummy dinner and soon after we settle in for the night and you fall asleep listening to the gentle and soothing sounds of the village settling in for the night and the jungle noises.
Wake up and take our morning bath in the refreshing river and then enjoy a delicious breakfast of fry bread and eggs, with local tea or coffee. Get ready for a fantastic day full of adventures and new memories. Plan and help running our “Rustic day camp” for the village kids. Teach cool art projects, play fun outdoor games and share an unforgettable morning with them. In the afternoon work on a small community project and then relax in the river while doing tubing, fishing or taking art classes.
After a delicious breakfast check their exquisite crafts and say good bye to the Embera people. Enjoy one last ride in the dugout canoe down the river where the Bus will be waiting to take us back to civilization, Panama city is waiting for us once again!.After a good lunch, stroll through the narrow colonial streets of “Casco Viejo” and visit beautiful souvenir stands along the “bobedas”. In the evening enjoy a delicious Panamanian dinner and relax with the lights of this beautiful city.
Wake up bright and early (5am) and get ready for a jeep ride across the country, over the rough terrain of the mountains and into the Caribbean. After about three hours of spectacular views and rugged roads you’ll arrive at a jungle river where your friendly Kuna hosts will be waiting. Take a boat down the river and into the turquoise waters of the Caribbean towards the Nurdub Island, your home for the next few days. After a delicious Caribbean Kuna feast, your Kuna hosts will take you to a nearby island for your first service project at one of the many local schools and a well deserved beach time. Return to Nurdub Island for a fresh seafood dinner.
Awake early for breakfast and prepare yourself for a full day of community Service projects in the nearby elementary school. You will work in small scale construction projects to improve the school infrastructure. After a fresh lunch continue work on community service projects and then enjoy some relaxing beach time. Put on your mask and snorkel and enjoy the cool coral reefs around the islands. In the evening enjoy freshly caught lobster and crab then chill out and play with the local kids.
Enjoy an early morning breakfast before participating on educational activities with the children at the local schools. Visit the local Kuna Museum to enjoy amazing stories of this colorful culture. After lunch enjoy a complete afternoon of beach time, then return to Nurdub Island for a delicious dinner. Take time to clean up and get ready for a cultural evening and a goodbye Kuna Ceremony. Enjoy your last hours in this beautiful place, and check out the colorful “molas” and handcrafts from the locals.
Awake bright and early for another boat ride to the mouth of the river. Board jeeps and return to Panama City. Take a well deserve “hot shower” and prepare to enjoy a feast at a cool international restaurant. Enjoy an amazing Ice cream and go souvenir shopping before you’ll head back to the hotel for your last night in Panama. If you are transferring to another program in Costa Rica, Peru or Dominican Republic, you will say goodbye to your friends and head to the airport for an evening flight to your next destination.
Time to say goodbye to the beautiful country of Panama and head back to the USA!
Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity. The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.
- Rustic Pathways will not be responsible for ANY lost or stolen items. Please leave all expensive and irreplaceable items at home and be prepared to be responsible for your possessions.
We highly recommend packing light and fitting everything into one medium size duffel bag or a backpack. Wheeled bags are acceptable but please know there is not much flat terrain and you will have to be able to carry your bag yourself.
-Make sure everything you pack in your carry-on complies with the new carry-on regulation of the TSA: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm
Please make sure you do not leave home without packing the following items:
Please pack all items that could leak in a PLASTIC or ZIPLOCK bag
Our guides will have program first aid kits on hand, but having a small personal kit is always helpful, you can pack these items in a Ziplock bag or a preferred bag:
Direct flights from Houston to Panama City take approximately 4 hours. Students transferring from Costa Rica to Panama, will take a short 40 minutes flight from San Jose, Costa Rica on Tuesday.
Yes. All flights between Panama City and the USA will have a flight leader starting in Houston. Return flights to the USA will also have a flight leader as far as Houston. Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Peru flight to Panama WILL NOT have a flight leader. Students will be flying on their own. All students will be picked up at the airport in Panama for a Rustic Pathways guide.
Students from the United States and Canada will be issued a tourist visa upon entry into Panama, students will have to purchase this visa on the Continental Counter, and it has a cost of $5. Students from other countries should check with their consulate.
During the Panama Cultures and Caribbean Paradise program, students will spend time in Panama City, Chagres National Park and the San Blas Islands in the north east Caribbean side of the Country.
There are no mandatory requirements for Yellow Fiver immunization to Panama for American and Canadian tourists. However the Panamanian Government recommends to all travelers to the KUNA YALA province to have a YELLOW FEVER SHOT at least 10 days prior to their departure. Please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for Panama for more information about Yellow Fever, Malaria and other vaccinations you should discuss with your physician or travel doctor. http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/destinationPanama.aspx Yello.w fever vaccinations may be required to enter Costa Rica from Panama, if you have traveled to some international destinations including Peru prior to your trip to Panama and Costa Rica. Please check the Center for Disease control website for more information.
Students connecting to Costa Rica, Dominican Republic or Peru will have a final lunch with their group on Tuesday afternoon, and will visit few souvenir stores before heading to the airport. They will then take a short flight to either San Jose, Costa Rica, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic or Lima, Peru, to connect with their new program.
Students will be traveling through a variety of different locations. One hour to the Embera Village, the longest trip will be the 3-4 hour jeep ride from Panama City to the port where students embark for the Kuna Yala Islands.
Students will visit a variety of different locations but most of the time, students should be prepared for “very” hot, humid weather in the 90’s and 100’s during the day with rain showers.
While there is no formal Spanish instruction on this program, students will be working and living with the Embera and Kuna people who speak both Spanish and their indigenous language Embera and Kuna. Local children are especially eager to speak with our students and allow them to practice their conversational Spanish skill.
Rustic Pathways works with the local tribal councils to identify and prioritize the needs of the Embera and Kuna Yala community. Students will work on small scale construction projects that will help improve community and school infrastructure. Students will also facilitate educational and cultural projects with local children and youth such as “day camp”. All projects must be approved by the tribal leaders.
The Panama Cultures and Caribbean Paradise program is appropriate for most physical activity levels. Students should be prepared to engage in service work that may involve some manual labor.
The majority of costs associated with the program are included on this trip. Students should have extra allowance money if they wish to buy souvenirs or additional snacks or sodas from the local grocery stores. Students should bring extra money if they choose to participate in optional activities that are not included in the trip costs.
Traditional fishing class: $8 (approximately)
River Tubing: $7 (approximately)
Kipara temporary Embera Tatoos: $2 (approximately)
Kuna sailing trip: $5 (approximately)
Kuna Snorkeling: $8 (approximately)
Please note that optional activities are subject to change. Occasionally Rustic Pathways staff identify new opportunities throughout the summer that we feel will enhance the students overall experience. Optional activities may also be canceled.
While in Panama students will be eating at local Panamanian and International restaurants. When they are in the Embera Village they will be eating traditional food such as fish, plantains, rice and in the Kuna Yala Islandswill be almost EVERYDAY FISH!, sea food coconut rice, yucca, salads/vegetables, different types of fish, and shell fish.
The guides will provide potable drinking water to students whenever necessary in Panama. Additional bottled water may also be purchased at local convenience stores.
While in Panama City Students will be staying in a family hotel during their first and last night. On the Embera Village and the Kuna Yala islands, students should be prepared for more rustic conditions as they will be staying in very basic, traditional housing. Students will sleep in hammocks. The housing is very simple with wooden walls and thatched roofs. Please notice NO ELECTRICITY and NO RUNNING WATER, we expect all students to be open minded and ready to live a unique experience in a unique place.
Hotels in Panama City all have bathroom facilities with running water, American style toilets and hot showers. On the Embera Village and Kuna Yala islands there is no running water, no American style toilets, or showers. Students will shower in the nearby river in the Embera Village and take bucket showers with fresh water stored in a rain basin in Kuna Yala.
We expect a good mix between boys and girls however the exact numbers will vary from week to week.
Rustic Pathways generally strives to maintain a ratio of approximately 1 guide for every 5 students. Our guides go through a rigorous selection process including interviews with our program managers and a full background check. There will be 3 guides every session.
Because safety is our number one priority, all of our programs have staff that is certified with First Aid and CPR training. Many of our guides are also qualified Wilderness First Responders, EMTs, Wilderness EMTs, or Life Guards.
Students should pack reasonably for this program. Laundry will not be available unless students are coming from Costa Rica or Peru.
Students will have limited access to internet during their program when they are in Panama City. There is no internet available on the Embera village and the Kuna Yala islands. Students will be able to purchase international minutes from the guides.
Panama: Cultures and Tropical Paradise combines well with the following programs.
Ages: 15 to 18 years old
Length: 9 days from the USA
Hours: Up to 12 hours awarded
International airfare is not included in the above cost. Please check our Travel Desk for airfare pricing and specifics.
|Departs Tue||Returns Wed||Availability|
|18 Jun||26 Jun||Limited|
|25 Jun||3 Jul||Limited|
|2 Jul||10 Jul||Available|
|9 Jul||17 Jul||Available|
|16 Jul||24 Jul||Available|
|23 Jul||31 Jul||Available|
Dates shown are inclusive of travel time from the United States. Most Rustic Pathways trips interconnect, allowing you to design your own perfect summer program.Apply Now