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ABC News.com: Finding Your Way

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Tour Companies and Hotels in Panama
Finding Your Way

By Joe Rubin
Special to ABCNEWS.com

You won't see a five-star hotel on every corner, but you'll find a range of choices

Although Panama is not, as yet, a major tourist destination, you'll find plenty of ways to explore and places to stay if you visit.

One of the best ways to see some of the country is with an environmental tour group. Typically, the groups offer simple lodgings and excellent guides. They also may include home-cooked meals and trips to remote places you could not otherwise reach. And some plow their proceeds back into preservation.

Two of the larger tour companies are Ecotours, (507) 263-3077; and Ancon Expeditions, (888) 888-4106 or (507) 269-9415.

You'll also stumble on some smaller, more informal opportunities. In Bocas del Toro, I met a fellow on the roadside who heads up a volunteer project to protect leatherback turtles, especially their eggs, from poachers and other hazards. He said that for $5 a day for meals, international volunteers can stay on the beach in a house and help him count eggs, record data, release hatchlings and scare off poachers.

Even if you're not staying in their beach house, you can still volunteer at night. Just show up at the building on the main strip in town with the turtle painted on it and let the staff know you'd like to volunteer.

You'll find a range of hotel options, especially in Panama City. Here are a few recommendations:

Hotels In Panama

If expense is no object, check out Panama City's Hotel Miramar Intercontinental on Avenida Balboa. Rooms run from $235-$1,000. If that's too pricey, you can use the health club (nice view, sauna and whirlpool) for $10 per day. (507) 214-1000

If you're looking for something a bit more modest, try the Hotel California on Via Espana in Panama City, where you can get a spacious, clean room with a view of the ocean for 20 bucks a night. Ask for an upstairs room with a view. (507) 263-7844

For that mid-range option, try the Aparthotel Las Vegas, in a centrally located spot one block off Via Espana. The hotel has nice rooms and a beautiful courtyard restaurant. Most rooms run around $40 per night. They have a couple of $20 rooms, but you have to ask for them. (507) 269-0722

The Canopy Tower hotel in Soberania National Park is scheduled to open Dec. 15 and promises to be a paradise for bird lovers. Guests will pay $95 a day per person for a room, three meals and guided treks. (507) 612-9176

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