Canopy Family Panama

Canopy Lodge FAQs

Blue-chested Hummingbird by Roef Mulder
Blue-chested Hummingbird by Roef Mulder

I intend to drive from Tocumen International Airport to the Canopy Lodge. Please give me detailed instructions.

The Canopy Lodge is located in the picturesque foothills town of El Valle de Anton, 2 hours west of Panama City. The town is nestled in the caldera of an ancient volcano, surrounded by the towering jagged, cloud-forest covered peaks of the rim of the volcano.

The distances in kms are measured from the pay booth exiting the airport so you might want to zero-out the trip odometer on the car so that you can easily follow our kilometer markings.

Leaving the airport follow to the Left (L) and the signs for Panama Centro.

2.2 kms from airport exit, measured from parking gate, is the turn-off for Panama Paitilla Cuota off to the Right (R). There are 2 tolls, first is US$1.25 and second is US$1.40, and make sure you are in the Efectivo (Cash), not Tarjeta (a pre-paid express card), lines to pay them.
FYI: at 16.1 kms the old church tower of Panama Vieja can be seen on the R.

At 21.2 kms and shortly after the 2nd toll, the highway ends and you exit following the signs Paitilla / Ave. Balboa to L. At 21.4 kms take the Ave Balboa option up the ramp which is off on the L lane. Follow Ave. Balboa along the ocean on your L. At 24.7 kms follow the signs for Ave Los Martires/Ave Omar Torrijos up the ramp on the L. At 25.6 kms follow the sign for Ave Los Martires staying in L left.
FYI: on the right is the old Canal Zone area.

At 27.9 kms stay on main road where sign indicates to La Chorrera. At 28.7 kms starts the Bridge of the Americas. Once over the Bridge both sides of the divided highway were the old Canal Zone jungle area. You are now on the Pan-American Highway.

At 41.4 kms follow sign for Autopista a La Chorrera off to the L. Actual fork is at 41.8 kms.

From about 82.7-85.8 kms there are a series of sharp curves requiring you to really slow down.

Cautions: There will be any number of trucks mostly in the right lane going slowly and many of them have few or no lights, particularly none in the back. Speed zones through the towns drop down to 60kph and are enforced. Police are often perched off in a ditch on the right.

At 121.1 kms is the turn off on R from the Pan-American Highway to the curving road up to El Valle. From about 142.0-143.50 kms there are some very sharp curves. At 145.3 kms is the lookout point for El Valle so you are at that point on the outskirts of town. 149.2 kms is the town Mercado. 149.7 kms is our church: Iglesia de San Jose. Past the church stay R after the bridge and continue up the road to 152 kms to our entrance, on the L, there are two stone columns and a black iron gate

Total driving time should be 2:05-2:25, depending on traffic and weather.

What is the best time of the year to visit the Canopy Lodge?

The best time for your visit depends on your interests, as there's always something interesting going on in the forest.

For example, if you visit us from early December to mid-January you will see the forest still lush and green as the rainy season has just ended. Some northern migrants are present as well as the resident species. The days are sunny and balmy. January, February and March is our "high season", there is a lot of sun and practically no rain (bring sun block), the birding is continuous from sunrise to sunset and, occasionally, into the evenings to look for owls and potoos.

In mid-March to early May you'll find yourself in the middle of spring migration, a great time to see many different warblers and other Neotropical migratory birds in fresh breeding plumage, as well as hundreds of thousands of raptors on their way north.

In May and June it is the start of the rainy season, and many resident birds will be starting to nest and vocalize more often. From June to August you will see the forest at its lushest, there is plenty of food out there and you will see immature birds being fed by their parents. There is usually a tropical shower in the early afternoon, "siesta" time anyway. After the shower the sun comes out, birding is restarted and life continues on. The nights are clear and cool. Migrants are gone, but you'll find plenty of resident species to keep you distracted. Our prices are heavily discounted at this time of the year because many of our customers prefer to come to the tropics during the winter months to escape the cold, so demand is slower.

What birding companies bring tours to the Canopy Lodge?

All of the top birding companies from the United States and Great Britain offer tours to the Canopy Lodge, including VENT, Field Guides, WINGS Birding, Caligo Ventures, Avian Journeys, Flights of Fancy Adventures, Ventures Birding, Talon Tours, Sunrise Birding, Naturetrek Wildlife Holidays and others.

The Canopy Lodge is also popular with several Audubon chapters, including Massachusetts Audubon, Dallas Audubon, Venice Area Audubon as well as the American Birding Association.

What should I bring for my visit?

Mid-December to May is the dry season in Panama. We receive very little rain, and the days are beautifully sunny and breezy. Outdoor clothing, preferably made of cotton, of neutral colors to blend with the surroundings and facilitate wildlife observation. You may ask, what are neutral colors? Well, think of a Hawaiian shirt, the opposite of that is attire of neutral colors. For dinner, we like to dress up a bit, nothing fancy, something in between Bermuda shorts and a dinner jacket. Please bring a good hat to shade your head from the strong, near-equatorial sun.

If you come during the period of May to early January, bring rain gear; an umbrella might also come in handy. Rubber boots are not necessary since we will not be crossing any streams, but an extra pair of sneakers or hiking shoes/boots is advised since some trails have plenty of mud. A pair of sandals to wear around the tower is also a good idea. Insect repellent is also highly recommended for your walks in the forest. Hair dryers are provided.

A good pair of binoculars is a must, even if you are not a birdwatcher. There are plenty of other critters to look for. We recommend Leica equipment. Our guides use this brand and it is excellent. Finally, we have a Leica 77mm scope available on the observation veranda, but if you have one bring it anyway -- having an extra scope never hurt anybody.

Will I be able to recharge my camera batteries? Do I need a special adapter?

There are plenty of electric outlets in your room. No adapters are needed; our electricity is the same as in the good-old-USA.

Is there a way to reach the outside world during my stay at the Lodge?

We have wifi internet for use during your stay. You can also use our phone to call home. Bring an international calling card, or we can sell you a long distance calling card with access worldwide.

Do I need a VISA to enter Panama?

US and Canadian citizens need only a valid passport. Other nationalities please consult the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the Republic of Panama. Your passport must have at least 6 months validity remaining.

I am not all that interested in birdwatching. What else is there to do?

Please check out our list of Activities for Non-Birders for the many things you can do around the Canopy Lodge and El Valle.

What is your policy regarding smoking?

The Canopy Lodge is a smoke-free environment. However, there are smoking areas in the vicinity.

What is your Check-in / Check-out Policy?

Check-in time is from Noon to 6:30 PM. Check-out time is 9 AM. We'll be happy to make exceptions given sufficient notice.

Do you offer transportation to nearby birding spots, or do I need to rent a car?

Yes, we offer transportation to nearby birding spots. Transportation is included in our Birding Packages and our A La Carte Tours. If you are interested in visiting birding locations on your own, we can provide transportation as well. Contact us for rates. It is not necessary to rent a car.

Do I need to bring reference books on plants, birds and other animals?

We have quite an extensive collection of natural history books, including Birds of Panama, to help guests identify a species or to learn more about a particular topic related to the ecology of the Neotropics.

What is your suggestion regarding tipping?

You may tip as much as you want -- the more the better! However, a rule of thumb is between $5 and $10 per day for lodge staff, among whom tips are divided equally.

The driver who brings you from the airport or hotel, if he is not wearing a Canopy Tower shirt, is an independent contractor and does not share on the tips left for the staff. You may tip him directly -- US $5 will be considered a good tip.

Likewise, our bird guides are tipped individually. How much? We recommend $10 per person per day. Please give your tip directly to your guide. However, it depends entirely on you. Obviously if they show you 75 "lifers" in a week or find you THE bird for which you have been looking for several years, you'd be inclined to be generous. It is your decision. I will say that by recognizing their dedication, enthusiasm and knowledge, we can encourage bird guides to be real professionals.

I'm a vegetarian. Will I go hungry?

No way! We serve plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lots of salads, plenty of nuts, and several veggie dishes made with "tofu", soy products and other ingredients. No problem satisfying your appetite, but please tell us when you make the reservation so we'll be prepared.

Do you have bird lists and bird reports from your area?

We sure do! Please check the Trip Reports, Recent Sightings and the Species Lists sections of the website.

What mammals will I see during my visit?

Here is a partial list of mammals which have been spotted in our area. Please also check out our Mammals List.

Kinkajou, Olingo, Central American Agouti, White-nosed Coati, Paca, Geoffroy's Tamarin, Howler Monkey, White-faced Capuchin, Western Night Monkey, Forest Rabbit, Rothschild's Porcupine, Collared Peccary, Ocelot, Jaguarundi, Grison, Tayra, Two-toed and Three-toed Sloth, White-tailed Deer, Gray Fox, Central American Woolly Opossum, Common Opossum, Northern Tamandua (Anteater), Nine-banded Armadillo, Red-tailed Squirrel, Crab-eating Raccoon, Lesser Capybara and several species of bats and forest mice.

Are there snakes in your area?

Snakes are a fact of life in a healthy forest, although few are venomous. Nevertheless, if you are worried about snakes, we recommend you bring "snake gaiters" for your hikes in the forest while visiting the Canopy Lodge.

Do I need Yellow Fever and/or Malaria vaccinations?

Nope... these diseases have been absent for decades from this area.

Is the water potable?

No, the water used in the Canopy Lodge is not potable. We offer water bottles in all rooms and there is plenty water.

If I come in late at night, will I be served dinner?

Our kitchen closes at 8PM, if you have arranged to arrive after this hour please advise us and we'll have a cold snack for you if you wish. Our kitchen staff goes to bed early to be able to wake up very early next day and serve you breakfast.

What happens if my arrival flight is delayed?

Please call our office or Emergency Contact Numbers (if calling during non-office hours) and let us know your new arrival time.

If your flight is delayed past our check-in time, we will take you to the Airport Hotel for the first night and will transfer you to the Canopy Lodge early the following day. You will be responsible for the costs of the stay in the Airport Hotel.

If you miss your flight completely we will extend your stay one more day to compensate the day lost, provided we have space in the Canopy Lodge. Otherwise, there will not be reimbursement for the lost night.

What are your payment and refund policies?

Please review our Payment and Refund Policies.

At what altitude is the Canopy Lodge?

The Canopy Lodge is at 640 meters (2,112 feet) above sea level. Some of the trails we visit reach 1,100 meters (3,630 feet) above sea level.

What are the average high and low temperatures at the Canopy Lodge?

The Canopy Lodge is a little over 2,000ft above sea level and has a mild springtime climate year-round. Year-round average high temperature is 82°F (28°C), and the average nighttime minimum is 68°F (20°C), but low 60°sF for morning temperatures are not uncommon. There is little variation between summer and winter temperatures. The dry season usually starts in the middle of December and lasts until the end of April, the windiest months. October and November are the rainiest months.

Can I purchase an all-inclusive package shorter than 7 days?

Yes. If you would like to purchase a package shorter than the full 7-day itinerary, please be aware that the tours you receive will depend on the day you join a full itinerary tour that may be in progress at the Canopy Tower/Canopy Lodge. Upon arrival please inform your guide or manager if you would like to request a specific tour, we will make every effort to accommodate you, depending on guide availability.

What about biting insects?

Biting insects are not as bad in the rainforest as most people think. There could be a few mosquitoes and gnats, which any good insect repellent will work on. In addition to insects, we also have ticks and chiggers (near-microscopic type of mite) that you get from being in the grass and walking through the bush. Sulphur powder is an excellent means to keep the chiggers away. We provide sulphur powder.

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