Birding The Darién, Gamboa, and Cerro Azul

Gold Tours

Gold Tours are schedule during the dry season from November - April.  These tours have the same booking conditions as the Green Tours, but because they occur during the peak season, the price is more expensive.   In Panama in can rain any time of year, so even though it is the dry season, you should always be prepared for rain. 

Want to see Harpy Eagles and Crested Eagles?

…and a whole list of amazing and beautiful birds, then don’t miss our Panama trips.  Our trips to Panama are all about birds, although we also see night monkeys and a lot of interesting critters as well.  We will stay at all the best places for a great experience and fantastic birding.

This tour takes us through the hills of Nusa Gandi east of the Canal, into the province of Darién, Central America’s last true wilderness and one of the world’s main strongholds of the Harpy Eagle. We will have the unique opportunity to visit active nests of Harpy Eagle and opportunities to see the even rarer Crested Eagle, on the same itinerary. On our way we will find many bird species found nowhere else in Central America.  After the Darien visit, we will head to the Panama Canal, Pipeline Road, and Gamboa areas for more birding. 

Key species:  Sapayoa, Harpy Eagle, Crested Eagle, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, Dusky-backed Jacamar, Black Oropendola, Double-Banded Graytail, Yellow-Green tyrannulet, Spectacled Parrotlet, Red-throated Caracara.  

The Darien and Gamboa Printable Bird List
(This is a list of the birds that we have seen in the Darien, Gamboa, and Cerro Azul)

On our last trip to the Darien, we saw 29 different species of raptors and 20 different species of hummingbirds.  

Animals we have seen: Four species of monkeys (Golden-mantled Howler, Geoffroy's Tamarin, Panamanian Night Monkey, Spider Monkey), Anteaters (Northern Tamandua and Giant Anteater), both 2-toed and 3-toad sloths, Coati, Crab-eating Raccoon, Agouti, Panama slender opossum, Rufous soft-furred spiny-rat, Red-tailed squirrel, Variegated squirrel, and Capybara. Many of the mammals will have babies.  We see many reptiles and amphibians including the Spectacled Caiman and the American Crocodile.
You can view photos from someone who was on a previous trip. This is a great example of the trip you will experience if you visit both the Darien and Gamboa. Please click here:  Ersten Imaoka's Photo Album 
  To book a Gold Tour, please contact Nando at: 
  • Group Size: 6 travelers, plus guides
  • Trip Length: 10 days
  • Rates and dates: Contact Nando at: 
  • Included: Transportation on days 2 - 9. Park/refuge entrance fees on days 3 - 8 are included. 
  • Not included: Transportation on days 1 and 10. Park/refuge entrance fees on days 2 and and 9 are not included.   The price of food and hotels are not included. 
  • Adventure level:  Easy to moderate. 

Check out our local guides by clicking here: Nando and Ismael (opens a new page), scroll down to the bottom of the page

Private Trips: We are increasingly taking people on private trips. If a group trip does not interest you, please contact us about a private tour and the dates you prefer.  

Map of the travel route here:  Panama Map  (opens a new page)

Basic Itinerary

Day 1:  Arrival in Panama City
You will need to book your international airfare for arrival on "Day-1" at the Tocumen International Airport (PTY). You are responsible for your taxi to the hotel.  We will start the tour on Day-2 at the Riande Airport Hotel and so you will need to book 2-nights (for days 1 and 2), at the Riande Airport Hotel. The hotel is located a 10-minute drive from the airport, and they have a free shuttle. 

Day 2:  Cerro Azul
Early morning departure to the cloud forest community of Cerro Azul. Cerro Azul is a high elevation habitat where you will see many mountain tanagers, hummingbirds, raptors, and the endemic striped-cheeked woodpecker.  It is about a 30-minute drive to the top at an elevation of 2,600 feet, (800m). After a full day of birding, you will be dropped off at the Riande Airport Hotel. Key species:  Here on the mountain, we will find colorful tanagers, such as Speckled, Emerald, Bay-headed, Rufous-wing, Hepatic, and Black-and-yellow Tanager. A variety of hummingbirds are also easily found, such as Violet-headed Hummingbird, Violet-capped Hummingbird, Purple-crowned Fairy, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and  Hermits, such as White-tipped Sicklebill and Green Hermit. Other birds at Cerro Azul include Yellow-eared Toucanet, the endemic Striped-cheeked Woodpecker, Black-striped Woodcreeper, White-ruffed Manakin, Scaly-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Scaled Pigeon, Spot-crowned Barbet and Slate-colored Grosbeak,  Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle, Speckled Antshrike and Purplish-back Quail-Dove. At Cerro Azul, there is a $21.40 per person entrance fee that is not included with your tour and you're responsible to pay. 

Day 3:  Metetí
Early departure and birding through Nusagandi and Guna Yala provinces in search of Sapayoa, Stripe-cheeked Woodpecker, and several mid-altitude hummingbird and tanager species.  We will stop for lunch in Tortí, roughly half-way to Darién on the Pan-American Highway. We will spend most of our afternoon birding along the Tortí River, searching for Little Cuckoo, Jet Antbird, Red-billed Scythebill, Red-breasted Blackbird. Late in the day we will reach the town of Metetí located in the Darien. We will stay for 3-nights in Metetí.  We will book this hotel reservation for you, but you are responsible for paying for your hotel. The hotel accepts cash only. Current rates are $60/night (breakfast not included)

Day 4:  Metetí
This day is fully dedicated to the Harpy Eagle. We will visit a remote Emberá community where there are active Harpy Eagle nests.  The location of active nests changes every year. Depending on which nest is active, sometimes the location is a long truck ride and a short walk, or sometimes reaching the nest might require a boat trip up the Chuchunaque River and 1-hour walk through mostly level forest terrain. The trip is not physically strenuous, and you don’t have to be in great shape, but you will need to be able to walk along a forest trail in hot and humid conditions.  At some nest site locations, there is an option to ride a horse (a small pony size), either one way or both ways.  The boat ride offers some excellent river and forest birding, with possible Dusky-backed Jacamar, Black Oropendola, Great Curassow and Red-throated Caracara, among many other species.  We will spend enough time at the Harpy Eagle nesting site to secure the best possible views of the adult birds as they come to the nest platform to feed and tend for their chick. Overnight in Metetí.

Day 5: Metetí
We will depart Metetí early in the morning and drive along Salto Road, a dirt road through some excellent secondary forest next to the Chucunaque river, searching for local specialties like Double-banded Graytail, White-eared Conebill, Rufous-winged Antwren, White-headed Wren, and Blue Cotinga. After lunch we will drive to Yaviza, the last stop before the end of the Pan-American Highway, searching for Black Oropendola, Orange-crowned Oriole, Bicolored Hawk, Bicolored Wren and Spectacled Parrotlet, among other species. Overnight in Metetí.

Day 6:  Tortí
A visit to the San Francisco reserve.  A few of the special birds we have seen are:  Yellow-Green Tyrannulet, White Fronted Nunbird, Blue Cotinga, Black-and-White Hawk-Eagle, Black Hawk-Eagle, King Vulture, Barred Puffbird, Rufous-crested Coquette, and Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo. San Francisco is one of the few places in Central America where the critically endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkey can still be seen. We will transfer to the Avicar Hotel.  We will make the hotel reservation for you for 1-night, and you will be responsible for paying for your hotel stay.  Current rates are $40/night, and the hotel accepts credit cards. 

Day 7:  Panama Canal - Amador
There will be a few birding stops in the morning in the Tortí area and then we will head to Panama City. From Tortí, it is a 3 - 4 hour drive to our next lodging located along the Panama Canal.  We will stay at this location for 3-nights.  You are responsible for booking and paying for your hotel stay at the Radisson Hotel Panama Canal.  This location is excellent for easy birding around the hotel and waterfront. 

Day 8:  Panama Canal - Amador
We will spend the day birding the Pipeline Road area:  During WWII, a petroleum pipeline and its service road were built across the isthmus of Panama as an emergency back-up for getting across Panama in case the canal was blocked. The pipeline was never used, but the single-lane, gravel-and-dirt road persists and allows entry through the center of the incredible Soberanía National Park. According to George Angehr, “Pipeline Road is one of the best places to see tropical forest birds in the Americas, with a species list exceeding 400.” Along the Pipeline Road is the Discovery Center Tower and Hummingbird feeder areas; both locations are excellent for birds and photography.  Birds:  Great Tinamú, Pied Puffbird, Blue Cotinga, White-necked Jacobin, Blue-chested Hummingbird and Rufous Motmot, to name a few. At the Discovery Center, there is a $20 per person fee that is not included with your tour and you're responsible to pay. 

Day 9:  Panama Canal - Amador
Early morning departure for a full day of day of birding starting at the Panama City Metropolitan Park and ending at Ancon Hill. Besides a great birding area and being the Hawkwatch station for fall migration, Ancon Hill offers excellent views of the Panama Canal and Miraflores locks. A few notable birds for the day:  Keel-billed Toucan, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Red-lored Parrot, Black-bellied Wren, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Barred Antshrike, White-bellied and Dusky antbirds, many flycatchers and tyrannulets, Lance-tailed Manakin, migratory warblers, Spectacled Owl, Yellow-backed Oriole, Bat Falcon, Double-toothed Kite, Snow-bellied Hummingbird, Green-shrike Vireo, White-bellied Antbird, and Whooping Motmot.  At Metropolitan Park, there is a $5 per person fee that is not included with your tour and you're responsible to pay. 

Day 10:  Fly Home 
Departure day. The Radisson hotel does not have an airport shuttle, but they can call a taxi for you, or we can recommend a taxi service to reserve your transport to the airport.  From the Radisson Hotel, you should budget 1-hour to get to the airport, however it usually takes 30 - 45 minutes. 

To book a Gold Tour, please contact Nando at: 

Crested Eagle

Crested Eagle

Pied Water Tyrant

Pied Water Tyrant