Welcome to the Balboa Inn

July 20, 2012 Category: General


A Big thank you.It is a sad day for Simon and I at the Inn. This is our last day today after almost two years. We have had a fantastic time here and have met so many brilliant people and have made a lot of new friends. We would like to thank everyone for choosing The Balboa Inn and thank you for all the stories shared and all the new invites around the world. Thank you to LLaris & Yilli for their continued hard work and wonderful friendship. Also Samuel who has been a great driver for us and the guests and wonderful man. We would like to wish our future guests a great time in this beautiful country of Panama. All the very best to the new administrators Hiram & Sujaila (lovely couple) and hope they enjoy their time here as much as we have. Adios amigos, Love Rosie & Simon (we might be back)

“NOTIFICATION :- We are currently upgrading the booking system. Please use the link below  and NOT the cow. if you encounter any  difficulties please contact me direct at  reservations@thebalboainn.com or you can book through our FACEBOOK page  The Balboa Inn: Bed & Breakfast Panama”

Come and see  “Rocky Balboa” our rescue resident


The Balboa Inn is a small Bed & Breakfast at the foot of Panama’s main landmark, Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancón) in Balboa and around the corner of the Panama Canal Administration building.

Conveniently located between the downtown area “Casco Viejo”, Amador Causeway and just minutes away from the domestic airport (PAC) and the Panama Canal you are away from the city noise yet have access to all its services.

The Balboa Inn is the ideal base from which to explore Panama the place to stay during stopovers in Panama City from Bocas del Toro or San Blas (Kuna Yala).

We welcome families who will find our inn, its gardens and the surrounding neighborhood especially child-friendly and safe.  Birdwatchers will be thrilled with the amount of birds they’ll spot in our neighborhood.

Our Bed & Breakfast has nine rooms with private bathrooms. All rooms have free WiFi Internet access, scable TV, air conditioning, ceiling fans and room safes.

A gorgeous garden, a real breakfast that keeps you going for the day, good value and dedicated customer service set this managed inn apart.

Simon & Rosie, a British expat couple with over 12 years living in Florida and Panama, manage the Balboa Inn to address the need for affordable yet quality accommodation in the Panama Canal area managed by friendly and helpful staff.

For maximum convenience you can check availability and rates. Making a reservation is very easy and can be done in real time online. Of course we take credit cards (Mastercard / VISA & American Express) . European clients may pay by bank giro transfer to our account in Panama .

No more waiting for e-mails to be replied. Need a good place to stay last minute or a base for future explorations of Panama?  The Balboa Inn is your best bet.

Making sure you have a great stay in Panama starts on our highly acclaimed website.   Besides providing extensive information about the Balboa Inn and its location, we  update it regularly with articles of  interest to people wanting to explore Panama.  As you’ll find out, Panama is a lot more than the Canal and we will help you make the most out of your travel experience in Panama.

WhatsApp Image 2016-09-22 at 17.06.57WhatsApp Image 2016-09-22 at 17.07.01


WhatsApp Image 2016-09-22 at 17.06.59

Exploring Gatun Lake

March 20, 2011 Category: Travel guide

The Isthmus of Panama was formed just over 3 million years ago. This land bridge has allowed animals and plants of two continents to mix and mingle. This is why Panama is so rich in flora and fauna. Lake Gatun was created between the years 1906-1914. The lake is part of an aquatic bridge that links the Caribbean sea to the Pacific Ocean. When you consider the nature, history, and the Panama Canal, Lake Gatun is one of the most interesting places found on this planet.

And there’s no better way to visit it than with Jungle Land Explorers.

See the Gatun Lake like nobody else does

This company, led by the passionate Carl Davis, has created an excellent set of tours that will satisfied the need of individuals, families and even companies. Their one day Gatun Adventure is a great way to combine leisure, nature and adventure and it’s only a 25-minute trip from the Balboa Inn. Pick up and drop off included in the price.   For a full-day package that includes a lunch on their floating lodge and all the activities seen below or go to their website. www.junglelandpanama.com  also recommended tours :- trans-isthmus train & tour package and a visit to an Embara village, this is one of our favorites.

If you pictures above don’t get you excited, we don’t know what will!

Trans-isthmus train & tour package

March 15, 2011 Category: Travel guide

We many times get (future) guests asking us about the best way to see the Panama Canal.  Most think that a (partial) canal transit is the best way to do this.  Although we have had great reviews on this, here is another option.


Spanish canon at Fort Lorenzo

  • Pick-up at the Balboa Inn and transfer to Panama Railroad train station (minimum 2 people).
  • Take a comfortable one-hour trip across the Isthmus with great views of the Canal or surrounding jungle.
  • Have a bilingual guide wait for you in Colon.
  • Take a quick tour through Colon, then head for the Gatun locks while passing through the old installations of the Canal zone.
  • Watch huge ships going through the Gatun locks.
  • Cross the locks to go to Ft. Sherman, the former training base of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force and then on to Ft. Lorenzo.   Howler monkeys 90% of the time to been seen and certainly heard!
  • Check out historic Spanish fortress Ft. Lorenzo at its beautiful location at the mouth of the Chagres river.
  • Visit a nearby secluded beach only insiders know about.
  • Return to Panama City in your comfortable van.
  • Get dropped of at the Miraflores locks for a great late afternoon drink at the terrace of the Miraflores restaurant, visit the Albrook Mall or return to the Balboa Inn.

And all this for approx $ 90.00 per person (trip), $ 25 train ticket(one way)  food (not included)

We can also tailor a tour to suit whatever you prefer. Please contact me at reservations@thebalboainn.com

If you have a rental car, you can still do large part of this trip yourself (obviously without the train and no guide). We have detailed maps at the reception desk with instructions to make this a great (family) day.   It’s a very easy drive.

And last but not least, get a copy of the book ‘Path between the Seas‘ byDavid McCullough. A must-read for anybody visiting Panama.  Truly fascinating.


A Day in Panama- What to See?

November 12, 2010 Category: About Panama, Travel guide

Every so often we have guests that come to Panama City with no idea of what to see and only have perhaps 1-2 days to explore. For guests like this we put together a Day in Panama sheet that will quickly give them a few ideas for their time in Panama, it’s not the final word on what to explore but it’s definitely a list of what you don’t want to miss while you’re in Panama City. The best part of this list? Most of these places are within walking distance or a short (5min) taxi ride from the Balboa Inn!

Canal Administration Building

Take a walk up the stairs and see where they hold the canal’s offices but more importantly check out the murals they have in their rotunda of the building. The murals are a tribute to the work and hardship that went into the construction of the canal. The administration building lies on a large hill just a 5 minute walk from The Balboa Inn and can also be a great spot to just relax and enjoy some lunch al fresco.

Cerro Ancon

This hill lies right behind the Balboa Inn. It is an hour hike up or a short taxi ride ($4), you can see great views of the City and of the Canal and maybe even some wildlife (monkeys, ñeques, etc). This might be an early morning trip before heading into the city and enjoy sunrise or a late afternoon hike and take in sunset. To walk up Cerro Ancon, head to the Canal Administration Building, walk up the stairs and around the right-hand side of the building, from there you’ll see a road that heads up the hill. If you’re staying with us just check the front desk for our map. Make sure to wear sunscreen, bug repellent and bring a bottle of water!

Casco Viejo

A beautiful corner of Panama, this is the ‘colonial quarter’ of Panama of which you’ve probably read much about in your Lonely Planet or Frommers. Even if you’re here for just a day we always recommend a stop in Casco Viejo. Ask to be taken to Plaza Francia, walk along the Bovedas, and have ice cream at Granclement. Also try to see the Panama Canal Museum in Plaza Bolivar but remember they’re closed on Mondays. There are also plenty of old churches and beautiful buildings to admire in this old part of Panama along with great restaurants and some bars i.e. Ego/Narciso, Platea, and Relic Bar. Always take a taxi to get to Casco Viejo and when you need to leave. If you can try to arrange a free tour with the Oficina de Casco Antiguo.

Amador Causeway
Rent a bike or talk a walk along the beautiful Causeway and have lunch at Alberto’s (Italian) or Mi Ranchito (Panmanian/seafood). Alberto’s is in Flamenco shopping area, facing the pier and Mi Ranchito is on the first island near the Smithsonian Nature Center. The Causeway is within walking distance from the Balboa Inn although walking to the end will probably take almost an hour. It is safe to walk just be very careful with traffic.

Miraflores Visitors Center
You can’t come to Panama and not see the Canal, but you don’t need to spend $100 either. Take a cab to the Miraflores Visitors Center and check out the great exhibitions they have there (9AM-4:30PM). You should head around opening 9.00 am or

2.30 pm to have a better chance of seeing the large ships.  Enjoy the exhibition then maybe have a drink or late lunch at the Miraflores Restaurant, it’s been described as overpriced but you’ll have great views of the ships passing through.
Metropolitan National Park
A beautiful piece of the Panama rainforest at the city limits, this park is just a 5 minute taxi from the Balboa Inn and will give you a small taste of the natural beauty of Panama. No need to go with a guide, they have maps of the different trails and it’s a safe park, just show up well covered in sunscreen, bug repellant, and bring a bottle of water. You won’t be disappointed.

Mercado de Artesania
You can’t leave Panama without a few gifts to show you were here. Within 5 minutes walking from the hotel, you can find every type of souvenir you would want to bring home. This Artisan Market is located very close to the hotel ; you can ask the front desk for a little map of how to get there.  This market is smaller and focuses only on the artisan goods of the Kuna indigenous tribe (i.e molas).

Want to do some shopping? Check out Panama’s Malls:

Albrook Mall

This is a huge mall located next to the main bus terminal. At just a 5 minute taxi ride you can find most anything you’ll need in Panama. You can get lost for hours shopping deals in the various department stores here. The mall along with tons of shops has pharmacies, several food courts/restaurants, a bowling alley, a movie theater, and a supermarket (Super 99). If you stop by make sure to take the customary picture with the animal statues.

MultiCentro Mall

This is a much smaller and quieter mall with pretty much the same selection as Albrook. The Panama Hard Rock Café is located here along with a small movie theatre.
MultiPlaza Mall

This is definitely the higher-end/designer mall of the 4. It is located by Avenida Balboa, about 15-20 minutes away from MultiCentro. Avoid this mall during rush hour (3-6PM) because getting out of Avenida Balboa at rush hour is very difficult.

Metro Mall
The newest mall in Panama, a large 3 story mall that rivals the Albrook Mall in size and looks, though the location is not as convenient, it is about 10 minutes from the Tocumen Airport and 30 minutes from the city.

For some traditional Panamanian food try on of these two spots:

Las Tinajas-in Bella Vista
This restaurant serves delicious traditional Panamanian food and they have a dancing show nightly that you don’t want to miss (9pm). It is $5 for the show with a minimum consumption of $12 p/person but it’s definitely worth it. Try the yucca pie dish and the corvina.

El Trapiche-on Via Argentina
This is another top restaurant that serves traditional Panamanian food but at more moderate prices. El Trapiche is on a residential street near Via Espana, try the sancocho.

Metropolitan National Park

October 28, 2010 Category: Travel guide

Panama City is probably the only big city in the world that has the jungle coming right up to its city limits! It’s really unique when you see it.

Panama has several national parks. In fact, it has more national parks and protected areas, both in absolute terms as well as percentage wise, than its better known northern neighbor Costa Rica.

If you are staying in the city one of these parks you must visit is the Metropolitan National Park. This is just 10 minutes from Panama City making it one of the only parks in Latin America that lies within an urban area.

It has great views at its “Look Out” points with vistas of the Canal and the city. Not to mention it has five hiking trails to get your heart pumping.The trails range from about an hour to an 1.5 hours, the longest trail with the best views being the Sendero Cienaguita. Although the park is used for research of wildlife this is not the best spot to view mammals however its perfect for birdwatching. Panama itself is popular with birdwatchers and they consider the Metropolitan Park a preferred spot.

Some recent guests also discovered the amazing canopy crane tour that the park offers. The crane has been used since 1990 by the Smithsonian Research Institute for their studies of the national park and the different species that inhabit the area. Now this crane is open to guests as part of a guided tour. You can book this directly through the park for the best rate.

The park also has a library, museum, and of course the gift shop. The hours of the park are from 6am-5pm daily and its $2 per person. They also have a nice website. We recommend going early in the morning when its cooler and you can see more wildlife. All you need is a taxi there, a map of the area, and good hiking shoes and pants.

Visiting the Interior

September 01, 2010 Category: About Panama, General, Travel guide

When reading travel literature about Panama you will often come across a the slightly ambiguous term “the interior”. The interior of course simple refers to the interior of Panama, the countryside, consisting of the provinces of Veraguas, Los Santos, Herrera, and Cocle.

These regions are often skipped over by visitors who head straight to Bocas or Boquete, however, when you miss the interior you’re missing the heart of Panama. The interior holds the key to much of the history and culture of Panama and is the location of some amazing yearly festivals not to mention the infamous Carnaval celebrations. To see if there are any events during your time in Panama go here.

What to See:

Now because we’re talking about various provinces you can pick and choose how to arrange your trip; were to go and what to skip.  However these are a few of the sites that should be part of your itinerary listed by town.

Santa Catalina, Veraguas region. 5 hours from the  city Home of the National Park Coiba great for diving and snorkeling . Santa Catalina offers great surfing, hotel and hostels at affordable prices. You can go straight from the city to Santiago /Sona and then on to Santa Catalina

Penonome (El Cope)

Omar Torrijos National Park


Iglesia de Santo Domingo de Guzmán

Museo de Arte Religioso Colonial

Sarigua National Park


Casa Mueso Manuel F Zarate (994-5644) – polleras, mascaras

Las Tablas

Iglesia de Santa Librada

Isla Iguana

Refugio de Vida Silvestre Cenegon de Mangle (Cenegon de Mangle Wildlife Refuge)

Los Santos

Museo de la Nacionalidad

Sitio Arqueológico Cerro Juan Diaz (cementerios precolombianos)


Isla Las Cañas

Getting Here:

As of now the only way to arrive to these provinces is by land. Previously last year Aeroperlas Airlines was offering weekly flights to Pedasi but has since canceled them until further notice. Truthfully though we highly recommend arriving by land, especially by rental car, it allows a certain freedom during your travels and you can enjoy the changing landscapes as you drive through the country. However you want to permit yourself an itinerary of 8-10 days so you’re not feeling rushed.

By Car:

You can rent a car at the nearby Albrook Airport. We always recommend booking online ahead of time as to ensure the availability of the car and a better rate. For most places mentioned in this post a standard economy sized car is fine except where mentioned. Make sure that you have a decent map on hand, for the most part you will stay on the Interamerican Highway but you keep in mind that road signs are not common in Panama. The drive is about 3-4 hours.

By Bus:

For those who prefer not to drive you can take public transport, there are direct buses to Chitre, Los Santos, and Las Tablas. To get to Pedasi you can take a minibus for $2 or a taxi for $25-$30. The buses that go to the interior have comfortable seating. However we always stress bringing a jacket with you inside the bus and perhaps some headphones because most likely the driver will be playing music at slightly deafening volumes. The bus drive to this region is about 4-5 hours.

Where to Stay

This list comes from our personal experiences and those of our guests. Also if you’re planning this trip be sure to check in with the various hotels about your itinerary since they can give you the most current information on local events and sights.

Posada Cerro La Vieja (Chiguri Arriba-Penonome) – A beautiful eco-resort in the mountains with accessible rates.

Hostal La Qhia (Santa Fe)- A charming guest house with private rooms.

Posada del Mar (Las Tablas) – A small B&B on the beach run by a Canadian/Panamanian couple.

Casita Margarita (Pedasi)- #1 B&B in the area with a very helpful staff.

How to see Casco Viejo

May 31, 2010 Category: About Panama, Travel guide

When Henry Morgan and his pirates raided Panama Viejo (Old Panama)in 1671, a new town was built in what is now referred to as ‘Casco Antiguo’ or ‘Casco Viejo’. As you stroll down the narrow streets of Panama’s colonial quarters you will encounter historic churches, beautiful plazas and plenty of restaurants.

At only a 5 minute drive from the Balboa Inn, the “Casco Viejo” is site you don’t want to miss. The best way to experience the Casco Antiguo/Viejo is through a guided tour. The local Casco Antiguo Office [OCA] offers free guided tours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The tours are usually with local bilingual students and can last from 2-3 hours. Your guide will explain to you the history of the Casco Viejo and it’s different sites thus providing you with a full experience of the area. In order to arrange a tour you can call the OCA office or ask one of our staff to arrange it. Be sure to ask for a bilingual guide.

If you can’t make the guided tour ask one of our staff for our map of Casco Viejo, it has all the main sites marked and we also try to stay up to date on any events going on in the area so don’t hesitate to ask.

Isla Taboga/ Taboga Island

May 30, 2010 Category: Travel guide


This beautiful island is under 30 mins  away; just a boat ride across the Panama Canal entrance. It is sometimes referred to as the “Island of Flowers” because of the abundance of orchids, roses, and other variety of flowers that adorn its beautiful walkways.

Taboga is a perfect day-getaway from the traffic and business of the city. While on the island you can shop, birdwatch, scuba dive or simply spend the day on the beach. There are a couple of public beaches, and one private beach accessible by a nice hike through the jungle. One of the more historically interesting sites is a simple church that lies on the island. It was found in 1550 making it the second oldest church in the western hemisphere.

If you do choose stay overnight at Isla Taboga there are a few small B&Bs and hotels.

Getting to the Island:

To get to the island you can take the fast ferry The Taboga Express. This departs & returns  5 times per day. You can visit them online at www.tabogaexpress.com . You can do online booking. Please   bring cash because there are not ATMs or banks on the island.


El Valle de Anton

April 19, 2010 Category: Travel guide

el valle

El Valle de Anton is a small mountain valley town located in an ancient volcanic crater. The beauty and temperate climate of the area are partly why this is a popular weekend getaway for locals as well as a preferred tourist destination. The best part is that despite it’s popularity it retains it’s sleepy village charm and never feels overrun with tourists.

In spite of its small size El Valle offers plenty of things to enjoy in a few days or weekend, especially for those who come to Panama to enjoy it’s natural beauty.

Activities available include zip lining, hiking, a small zoo, bike riding, thermal waters, horse back riding and nothing has to be planned ahead of time except perhaps the hotel. El Valle is very tourist friendly and if your hotel isn’t much help with information you can check with the local tourist booth on the main street next to the outdoor market.

Getting Here

By Bus:

You can take a direct bus, about 2 hours, from the Albrook Terminal. They leave about every 1/2 hour and it costs $3.50 each way. The latest you want to leave is 6PM, after that you will arrive late in El Valle and there won’t be many options for dinner. Some advice about the bus, while physically the seating is comfortable some find the drivers’ speed to be excessive, the last 1/2 hour is through windy roads in the hills, for those who suffer motion sickness take this into consideration. Also always bring a jacket and perhaps some headphones on the bus, they crank up the air conditioning and the music quite loud.

Be sure to ask your hotel where to have the bus driver drop you off or arrange for them to pick you up in front of the market (el mercado) and to get around once you in El Valle you can rent bicycles, grab a taxi, or talk with your hotel about arranging transport.

By Rental Car:

This is the preferred method of transport to El Valle. The town is just 30-40 minutes from some great beaches, so with the rental car you have the freedom to head to the beach for a day if you choose.

Recommended Accommodation

Casa Di Pietra B&B

You can’t help but feel at home in this beautifully decorated B&B. It’s a small place, 6 rooms, run by a very friendly and hospitable Costa Rican family. Breakfast is included in their prices and they offer dinner for a separate price, we highly recommend you try at least dinner once at the Casa Di Pietra, you won’t regret it. Note: They don’t allow kids so this is a better place for couples and/or friends traveling together. 

Golden Frog Inn

A popular choice in El Valle, this B&B has suites and individual guest rooms. They are famous for their beautiful gardens and surrounding scenery and of course the pool. In addition they have a great staff that will help you with organizing activities during your stay and with any questions or concerns you might have.

Anton Valley Hotel

This small hotel is one of the top rated hotels in the area, it is located right on the main street of El Valle and has it’s own restaurant next door, Bruschetta, which is very popular with locals and tourists.

Visiting Kuna Yala (San Blas)

April 16, 2010 Category: Travel guide

A very popular destination among our guests is Kuna Yala (San Blas).  Our location near the Albrook airport is ideal to catch the mostly early morning flights.  We also allow you to leave luggage in storage until you return to meet baggage weight limitations (25 lbs /12.5 kg) and if you arrive with an early flight from San Blas, drop of your luggage and go explore town and check in later when your room is ready.


Hotels or better, cabanas and lodges, are generally very basic and rustic while rates vary from very affordable $ …. to expensive ($100 per person) We recommend the following two hotels for their quality service provided in the past.

Yandup Lodge – ranges $80-$100 per person per night.

Kuanidup Lodge- $90-$100 per person per night.

An advisory, as mentioned earlier packages range in price. They usually include accomodation, 3 meals a day, and 1-2 daily tours. However we’ve heard of many experiences where the guests feel like they didn’t receive what was promised, so be sure to thoroughly research where you are staying and to make sure you know what you are paying for. A tip, always bring extra snacks and drinks and small bills. Some questions you want to ask when booking a lodge in San Blas:

1) what does the package include?

2) Are the bathrooms shared or private? Is there a shower, shared or private?

3) Is there electricity? what hours of the day?

4) Is the lodge near a village or on it’s own island? Some people want to see local culture/life and other prefer to be more isolated.

5) Does the lodge have it’s own beach?

Getting there:
It’s very important to book early.  Flights run 1 a day to the different islands. The main stops are Carti, El Porvenir, and Playon Chico so be sure to check with the lodge where you need to fly to. Flights leave usually at 6AM but can be delayed so try to check the afternoon before to confirm the flight time. Flights run about $110 per person with taxes.

To certain lodges you can go by car, it’s a 2-3 hour drive in a 4×4 car. Some people might find flying more comfortable but if you don’t mind a bit of adventure go by car. It runs $50 per person Roundtrip and pick ups are usually done around 5/6AM at your hotel. If you arrange this yourself be sure to confirm the hour and get the cell# of the driver, it has occurred in the past with some drivers that they simply don’t show up or arrive about 4 hours later.

Due to our experience with other drivers, for our guests we use our own trusted and licensed tourism taxi driver, Julian. The trip is $75 per person Round-trip.