Canopy Family Panama

Panama's Brilliant Butterflies Tour            

2018 tour dates: 
Panama's Brilliant Butterflies II - August 11-18, 2018 
Panama's Brilliant Butterflies III - December 1-8, 2018

2019 tour dates:
Panama's Brilliant Butterflies I - May 26 - June 2, 2019
Panama's Brilliant Butterflies II - August 18-25, 2019
Panama's Brilliant Butterflies III - December 1-8, 2019

Stoll's Sarota
Stoll's Sarota (Common Jewelmark), photo by Jenn Sinasac

7-night, all-inclusive nature tour

Butterflies are one of nature’s most eye-catching creatures, considered by many throughout history as signs of joy and love. They can be found from the high arctic tundra down through the far stretches of the southern hemisphere. Like birds, they can be found in almost every ecosystem on Earth.  It is estimated that there are over 250,000 species of butterflies & moths (order Lepidoptera) living today, of which approximately 20,000 species of butterflies have been described. In the Neotropical region of the Americas, the diversity of butterflies is incredibly high; and hundreds of species can be found in Panama alone.  Butterflies are active year round; however, they rely heavily on their host plants, and their activity can be quite seasonal, with more flight and visibility in the wetter months (April to December) of the year. Come join the expert Canopy Family butterfly guides as we explore the lowlands of the Canal Area and the mist-laden foothills of western Panama and search for butterflies in the rainforest. 

This tour may be combined with Butterflies of Canopy Camp Darien tour for the ultimate Panama butterfly experience!

Rate for this special tour: $1,889.00 

Rate is US$ per person (+ taxes), double occupancy.  This all-inclusive tour includes lodging and meals at the Canopy Lodge and Canopy Tower (and Canopy Camp for the extension), bilingual professional guides, WiFi, wine with dinner, airport transfers to and from Panama City and all tours as per the itinerary.  Please check with our reservations office for the times of our scheduled airport transfers to coordinate your arrival and departure times.

This tour does not include flights to and from Panama City, all taxes, private airport transfers, tips and alcoholic beverages.  

This tour is limited to 12 participants.

To book this special nature package, please contact us.  Spaces are limited so book your spot now!

Tutia Clearwing
Tutia Clearwing (Ceratinia tutia)

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1
Arrival and Orientation

Welcome to Panama!  You will be met at Tocumen International Airport by our driver, and transported 2 hours west of Panama City, to the foothills of western Panama in the town of El Valle de Anton.  As you get settled into your spacious room at the Canopy Lodge, nestled against a cloud forest backdrop, we can admire the luscious gardens on the property, full of butterfly-friendly flowers and plants including verbena, lantana, and firebush.  True Cattleheart, Cattleheart White, Large Orange Sulphur, Mottled Scrub-Hairstreak, Brilliant Greenmark, Common Morpho, Dirce Beauty, Banner Metalmark, One-spotted Prepona, Smooth-banded Sister, White Satyr, Malachite, Hoffmann’s Skipper, Narrow-banded Skipper, Stalling’s Flat, Falcate Skipper, Golden-headed Bolla and Radiant Skipper can be found around the garden and surrounding areas.  We will bait for butterflies by placing a fermenting blend of bananas irresistible to morphos, owl-butterflies, satyrs, preponas and many other species in the garden.  Keep an eye on the bait as it attracts many butterflies, providing great opportunities for photos up close.

Before dinner, we can take a stroll down the road beside the lodge, as the abundant open area roadside vegetation and forest attract a wide variety of species including Thoas Swallowtail, Pale Apricot Sulphur, Black-bellied Anteros (Jewelmark), Yellow-tufted Prepona, Starry Cracker, Zebra Longwing, Erato Longwing, Sara Longwing, Rayed Sister, Blue-and-orange Eighty-Eight, Simple Patch, Narva Checkerspot, Banded Peacock, Pale Daggerwing, Stub-tailed Morpho, Green Flasher and Rita’s Remella.  We will return to the lodge before dusk, to freshen up for cocktails and dinner.  This is a great time to review the butterflies seen for the day on our checklist, and talk about the upcoming days of the tour at the Canopy Lodge.  DINNER AT CANOPY LODGE.

After dark, we will turn on the black light at the lodge in hopes to bring in some nocturnal Lepidopterans—moths!  There are far more species of moths than butterflies in the Neotropics, and although they present challenges when it comes to species identification, we will hope to bring in species in several families of moths, including some large sphinx moths and silk moths! 

Day 2
AM: Las Minas (15 minutes from Canopy Lodge)

Awake as the morning light hits the windows of your spacious room.  The morning chorus of birds starts at dawn, and the garden feeders are full of colorful tanagers, euphonias and hummingbirds.  As you enjoy a hearty breakfast in the open-air dining room, the day continues to warm up and the first butterflies become active.  Around the garden, Golden-snouted Sootywing, White Peacock and Julia butterflies visit the blooming flowers.  After breakfast, we’ll head up the hill to Las Minas Road—this dirt road, only used for foot travel, extends through scrubland, low canopy forest and a matrix of open fields with spectacular views over the countryside.  It is a haven for butterflies!  We will slowly walk the road and scan the roadsides for swallowtails, hairstreaks, brushfoots and skippers, which are particularly abundant here.  Confused Swallowtail, Mexican Arcas, Tricolored Metalmark, Tutia Clearwing (Yellow-tipped Ticlear), Variable Clearwing, Virginia Tigerwing, East-Mexican Banner, Black-bordered Crescent, Isidora Leafwing, Sara, Sapho and Fine-lined longwings, Carolina Satyr, Rufous-margined Satyr, Pasture Skipper, Trailside Skipper, Pompeius Skipper and many more can be found along this road.  This site can be so active with butterflies that in a morning we barely make it a few hundred meters down the road! If time permits, we will also visit the area of La Mesa and Finca Macarena. Forest, field, scrubby pastures and winding gravel roads provide excellent habitat for a great diversity of butterflies. Butterflies particularly favor the roadside forest patches near Finca Macarena.  Here we will look for the tiny yet stunning metalmarks, including Common and Myrtea jewelmarks and Deep-blue Eyed-Metalmark.  Cydno Longwing, Variable Crescent, Smudged Crescent, Crimson Patch and the impressive Rusty-tipped Page and Waiter Daggerwing can all be found here. LUNCH AT CANOPY LODGE.  

PM: Valle Chiquito (20 minutes from Canopy Lodge)

After lunch and a short rest (which most of us will use to look for butterflies around the Canopy Lodge gardens!), we are off to Valle Chiquito! We head out of El Valle and start our way down the slope of the ancient volcano; we descend down a steep road into a lush valley, adorned with ferns and broadleaf trees. At a slightly lower elevation, we hope to see some different species here! There is extensive roadside vegetation here, perfect butterfly habitat. Aquamarine Hairstreak, Phaleros Hairstreak, Zebra Longwing, Thamyra Satyr, Panna Skipper and Sifax Skipper are common here. We will check under broad leaves for the stunning Pixie! As the heat of the day passes and the butterflies settle in to their forest roosts for the night, we will head back down the hill to the lodge where there will be plenty of time to freshen up before cocktails and dinner.  As dusk approaches, we will watch for the crepuscular species—Pale Owl-Butterfly and Scalloped Owlet may be active around the gardens.  DINNER AT CANOPY LODGE.

Day 3
AM: Cerro Gaital (20 minutes from Canopy Lodge)

Today brings us to a new habitat and new butterflies!  After an energizing breakfast, we will make our way uphill to Cerro Gaital, a steep, forested, mist-shrouded mountain that you can see from the lodge.  Cerro Gaital (3,500’) is the namesake of Cerro Gaital Natural Monument, which protects more than 335 hectares of mature cloud forest in the foothills of western Panama.  After disembarking from the van, we will slowly explore the first short forest trail, where even in the morning mist, we may see Giant Forest Owl-Butterfly and Banded Owl-Butterfly as they seek out their daytime roosts.  Mimosa Yellow, Cloud-forest Mimic-White, Blue-patched Eyed-Metalmark, Molina Metalmark, Northern Mimic-Metalmark, Tiger Mimic-Queen and Blue-gray Satyr can be seen flying low in the cloud forest understory.  We will reach a clearing and a small wetland, where a great variety of butterflies can be found, particularly hairstreaks, metalmarks and skippers—Cattleheart White, Togarna Hairstreak, Fine-lined Hairstreak, Golden and Bright-centered euselasias, Azure-winged Eurybia, Lasus Metalmark, Westwood’s Satyr, Thamyra Satyr, Red-headed Firetip, Lyrcaea Eyed-Skipper and Trailside Skipper can be found here.  From here, we will walk a narrow rocky trail through mature cloud forest.  This is not only an excellent area for birds, but also for forest butterflies!  As we walk among the epiphyte and moss-laden trees, we will search for the impressive Rusted Clearwing-Satyr, one of the most beautiful butterflies around!  Deep-blue Eyed-Metalmark, Red-washed Satyr, Northern Antirrhea, White Satyr, Puerta Satyr and the iridescent Menelaus (All-blue) Morpho can be found in these woods.  As mid-day approaches, we will return to the lodge for lunch.  LUNCH AT CANOPY LODGE.

PM:  El Valle gardens, trails & fields

In early afternoon, we will head into the town of El Valle, where there are plenty of grassy fields and meadows, full of wildflowers and attractive butterfly habitat.  From the roadside, we will scan for Shaus’ Metalmark, Alana White-Skipper, Terrestrial Satyr, Monarch and Trailside Skipper.  We will also visit an open field down near the Las Mozas waterfall, where we hope to see Tiger Mimic-Queen, Tropical Checkerspot, Tropical Buckeye, Pale-banded Crescent, Dina and Mimosa yellows, Whitened Crescent and Eastern Tailed-Blue.  As the sun lowers and the butterfly activity quiets for the day, this afternoon is also a good opportunity for us to visit the ever-popular El Valle artisan market in the center of town, a great place to find hand-made Panamanian products and souvenirs to bring home.  As the sun sets, we will head back to the lodge where cocktails, dinner and an enjoyable evening await.  DINNER AT CANOPY LODGE.


Bluish White
Bluish White (Leptophobia caesia), photo by Tino Sanchez

Day 4
Altos del Maria FULL DAY (1 hour from Canopy Lodge)

Today is an exciting day—after an early breakfast, we will embark in our 4x4 vehicles for the highlands of Altos del Maria!  A haven for all forms of wildlife not far from El Valle, this gated community nestled among rich cloud forest offers expanses of forests and trails, open areas and roadsides to explore for a wide diversity of butterflies.  We have the full day to explore this diverse region.  White-patched Emesis, Rounded Anteros (Jewelmark), Common Jewelmark, White-dashed Metalmark, Dirce Beauty, Paula’s Clearwing, Ruddy Daggerwing, Insolata Satyr, Guava Skipper, Two-barred Flasher, Cryptic Mylon, Diversa Skipper, Lotus Ruby-Eye and the impressive Creon Skipper are just a few of the butterflies we hope to see in the highlands today!  We will break for a satisfying picnic lunch alongside a small lake bordered by open areas and wetland plants, where waterbirds, dragonflies, lizards and toads keep our eyes watching for life along the water’s edge.  After lunch, we will explore another trail and some of the roadsides of the area for any species we may have missed, and make our way back to El Valle once the warming sun fades by mid-afternoon.  Back at the lodge, we will have plenty of time to explore the gardens and the road outside the lodge for new butterflies, and watch the activity at the bait placed on the feeder at the lodge, giving great opportunities to take photos and study their behaviors (see the video below).  As the last of the sun’s rays fade for the day, we will enjoy a lovely evening, reviewing today’s butterflies and wildlife with appetizers and cocktails.  DINNER AT CANOPY LODGE.



Day 5
AM: Transfer to Canopy Tower (2 hours from Canopy Lodge)

This morning, we will have some time to explore the gardens of the Canopy Lodge one more time for butterflies, skippers and other wildlife, as there is always something interesting to see!  At mid-morning we will pack our bags and say goodbye to the foothills of El Valle de Anton, as we head towards the lowlands of central Panama, to the unique Canopy Tower, located in Soberania National Park.  The Canopy Tower was a US Air Force radar station built in 1965, now fully renovated and repurposed as a nature observatory and eco-lodge in the heart of the rainforest!  Even better, the 50-foot observation deck above the canopy gives you the opportunity to view many canopy butterfly species as they fly by at eye level, many species of which are very difficult to find from the ground.  Upon arrival at the Canopy Tower, you will be shown to your room and, after a brief orientation, enjoy lunch in the canopy-level dining room.  Make sure you bring your binoculars and camera to lunch—often there are monkeys, sloths, iguanas and toucans right outside the dining room windows!  LUNCH AT CANOPY TOWER.

PM: Canopy Tower gardens

This afternoon we will take advantage of the great observation deck and take our first glances at some incredible canopy butterfly species!  Possibilities include Thoas and Broad-banded swallowtails, kite-swallowtails, Malachite, Dusky-blue Groundstreak, Amyntor (Cramer’s) Greenstreak, Spying Hairstreak, Mexican and Imperial arcas, Tricolor Metalmark, Blue-based and Curve-lined theopes, White-spotted, Three-toned and Two-spotted preponas, Dia Leafwing, Molpe and White-posted metalmarks, Two-eyed Eighty-Eight, Red-patched Leafwing, Orion Cecropian, Double-banded Banner, Banded Orange, Julia, Smooth-banded and Iphicleola sisters, Many-banded Daggerwing, Cramer’s (Canopy) Satyr and the spectacular Regal Hairstreak, Costa-spotted Beautymark and White-tipped Cycadian!  Many species of skippers can be seen from the tower, both up in the canopy and down at ground level, feeding at the verbena.  We will hope to see Dot-collared Firetip, White-tailed Longtail, Gilbert’s Flasher, Corbulo Skipper, Broteas Scarlet-Eye, Canal Scarlet-Eye, Dyson’s Silverpatch and White-trailed Skipper.  After an afternoon of exploring all levels of the canopy for butterflies, we will meet to review our checklist for the day and as dusk approaches, relax with a cocktail before dinner.  DINNER AT CANOPY TOWER.

Just like at the lodge, we will turn on the black light at night to draw in moths and nocturnal insects.  We can check it throughout the evening, and see what's still on the sheet tomorrow morning!

Day 6 
AM: Pipeline Road FULL DAY (20 minutes from Canopy Tower)

After a hearty breakfast at the Tower, we will board our open-air “Rainfomobile” and head to the world-famous Pipeline Road!  Before we arrive at Pipeline, we will make a well-deserved stop at the Ammo Dump Ponds along the way, to scan the grassy roadsides for Tropical Buckeye, Queen, Glassy-winged Skipper, Cassius Blue, Golden White, White Yellow, Bordered Patch, Pompeius Skipper, Banded Longwing, Mimosa Skipper and Yellow-rimmed Skipper.  If it is a sunny morning we should see quite a variety of butterflies here!  Not far from wonderful butterfly-watching spot at the Ammo Dump Ponds, Pipeline Road extends 17 kilometers through Soberania National Park on the Caribbean slope.  This is not only a bird-watcher’s paradise, but the mature secondary forest is home to an incredible biodiversity.  Here we will search for forest and understory butterflies in this lowland rainforest.  Common and All-blue morphos traverse the wide gravel road, while Ilus Swallowtail, Dark Apricot Sulphur, Pale-clubbed Hairstreak, Sky-blue Hairstreak, Periander Metalmark, Barne’s Metalmark, Shaus’ Metalmark, Guyanan Sarota, Irenea Metalmark, Straight-lined Theope, Idae Tigerwing, Pale-banded Crescent, Eunice Crescent, Iphiclus Sister, East-Mexican Banner, Two-eyed Eighty-Eight, Whitened Bluewing, Red and Variable crackers, Many-banded Daggerwing, Terrestrial Satyr, Long-tailed Flasher, Broad Banded-Skipper, Pauper Skipper, Evadnes Skipper and the stunning Glorious Blue-Skipper.  Longwing (Heliconius) butterflies are well represented here, and we will hope to find Tiger-striped, Doris, Mexican, Erato and Cydno longwings.  If we’re lucky, we’ll spot a Pale Owl-Butterfly roosting low on a vertical tree trunk in the understory.  To maximize our time at this fantastic location, we will have a picnic lunch in this beautiful forest, and continue searching for butterflies this afternoon!  DINNER AT CANOPY TOWER.

Glorious Blue-Skipper
Glorious Blue-Skipper (Paches loxus)

Day 7
AM: Metropolitan Natural Park (30 minutes from Canopy Tower)

Before heading out for Metropolitan Park in Panama City this morning, it is a good idea to see what butterflies can be found in the windows of the Canopy Tower, as some of the crepuscular butterflies enter into the tower during dawn and dusk and sit on the windows around the dining room. Common Phanus, Split-banded and Narrow-banded owl-butterflies, Tricolored Metalmark, White-patched Emesis, White-posted Metalmark and Cramer’s (Canopy) Satyr often find themselves inside the Tower, a great opportunity to see these butterflies up close!

In the dry forests and open areas of Metropolitan Nature Park, we hope to come across many new butterflies we have not yet seen!  Tiger Mimic-Queen, Carolina Satyr, Tropical Buckeye, Erato Longwing, Emerald-patched Cattleheart, Great White Longtail, Stigma Skipper, Uzza and Thamyra satyrs, Polydamas Swallowtail, Blue-gray Satyr, Lasus Metalmark, Statira Sulphur, Panna Skipper, Tropical Checkered-Skipper, Whitened Crescent and Brown, Plain and Great White longtails are just some of the butterflies we will hope for today.  The park offers a variety of habitats to explore, so our list here should be extensive!  We will head back to the Tower for lunch.  LUNCH at CANOPY TOWER.

PM: Old Gamboa Road & Summit Ponds (5 minutes from Canopy Tower)

This afternoon we are off to Old Gamboa Road!  This is the original road that extended to Gamboa; once a passageway for traffic, now it is a wide footpath, grown over by tall grasses bordering open areas and surrounded by patches of dry forest and wetlands.  It is a great place to search for Dimorphic White, Golden White, Togarna Hairstreak, Molina Metalmark, Lucianus Metalmark, Green Longwing, Melpomene Longwing, Whitened Crescent, Orange-patched Crescent, Banded and White peacocks, Stub-tailed Morpho, Golden-snouted Sootywing, Two-eyed Eighty-Eight, Dusky Owl-Butterfly, Polymnia Tigerwing, Hecale Longwing, Carolina Satyr, Plain Satyr, Great White Longtail, Trailside Skipper and many more in this fantastic habitat.  After a grand afternoon of "butterflying", we will return to the tower in time to freshen up for cocktails and dinner.  DINNER AT CANOPY TOWER. 

Day 8

After a satisfying breakfast at the Canopy Tower, we can scan the canopy one final time for any butterflies we have missed and those we enjoy seeing daily, before saying “adios” and heading to the airport to catch our return flights home.

Please note that this itinerary may change without prior notice due to weather, alterations in habitat or other conditions.

Banded Owl-Butterfly
Banded Owl-Butterfly (Caligo atreus)
Jenn SinasacTino Sanchez

Meet Our Guides

This tour will be led by Canopy Lodge guide Tino Sanchez and Canopy Family biologist Linda Harrison. Tino has been photographing and learning the butterflies around the Canopy Family lodges for several years now. His knowledge and love for butterflies is obvious. Linda had studied butterflies in Florida for 20 years prior to moving permanently to Panama in 2011. Since then, she has feverishly been learning the butterflies of Panama - along with the plants associated - and, with Tino, are perfect complements to each other in the field. Tino and Linda look forward to sharing the butterflies of Panama with you!

To see our butterfly species list, trip reports and other useful information, please visit our Butterfly Enthusiasts page.

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