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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Panama: Spring at the Canopy Tower

Tour Information

Note: The information presented below has been extracted from our formal General Information for this tour.  It covers topics we feel potential registrants may wish to consider before booking space.    The complete General Information for this tour will be sent to all tour registrants and of course supplemental information, if needed, is available from the WINGS office. 

ENTERING PANAMA: Panama requires of U.S. citizens a passport valid for at least three months after entry and containing at least one blank page for an entry stamp. Citizens of other countries may need a visa and should check with their nearest Panamanian embassy. 

Anyone coming directly from a country where Yellow Fever is endemic must show proof of a current vaccination.

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at

PACE OF THE TOUR:  We will try to be in the field at dawn. Most days will involve starting close to 6:30 a.m. with the exception of days spent at Achiote Road and Cerro Azul (5:30 a.m.). Mornings at the tower, other than on days with very early departures, will commence with an hour’s vigil atop the building looking out at the surrounding canopy. Many of the birding sites that we visit on the tour are within 30 minutes of our lodges. On about half the days we will return to the tower for lunch and then a mid-day siesta.  The other half of the days we are away all day, to locations further afield. Other than some narrow, slightly uneven trails with the odd rock or root and some steep paved roads at Cerro Azul and Altos de Maria (Lodge), the walking presents no particular problems, and our walks are at most a mile and a half in length. At the Lodge we typically start with a 6:30 breakfast and 7:15 departure, returning for lunch and a 2-hour break in the afternoon and then going out again around 3pm, with the exception of our day at Altos, where we are out all day, and the final morning when we will leave the lodge at 6:00.

Important note: Moving between floors at the Canopy Tower requires climbing several sets of steps repeatedly on a daily basis. Guest rooms are located on the second and third floor of the tower. The dining room and lounge area are located on the fourth floor and the observation deck is five stories above ground level.  There is no elevator. Those with knee problems or mobility issues should take these conditions under consideration. 

On our day at Altos de Maria (on the lodge extension)  is at 6,500 ft. We’ll be walking on steep paved roads at times. The van will be nearby and we’ll try to walk mostly downhill. 

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. 

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. 

Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure. 

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations for Panama can be found on the CDC’s  Travel Health website at

Malaria: It is the opinion of the Centers for Disease Control that travelers to central Panama including the Canal Zone and areas around El Valle are not at risk for malaria. 

Elevation: Maximum elevation reached on the main tour is about 3000 feet. On our day at Altos de Maria (on the Lodge extension) is at 4,000 ft.

Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail. 

Miscellaneous:  Sun in Panama can be very intense. Please bring adequate protection, including a sun hat and a strong sunscreen of at least 15 rating. 

Insects: Biting insects and arachnids are seldom a major nuisance although chiggers and biting gnats can be locally numerous around the Panama Canal and in the dry forests below the Canopy Lodge. Careful application of repellent provides good protection and the leader will advise you when it will be necessary. In general, a repellent should contain 30% of the active ingredient, diethyltolumide (DEET). However, care must be taken to avoid getting the DEET repellent on optics.

CLIMATE: The days will likely be between the mid 70s and low 90s and humid, with the occasional afternoon shower and in some years, steady wind. Rarely do these showers reach the intensity or duration that would impact on a birding excursion. At the higher elevations it can be cool (in the 60s), and, if rainy, the temperatures can feel surprisingly chilly. Bring at least one heavier shirt or light jacket to prepare for such conditions.   In general, conditions at the lodge are about 10 degrees cooler than at the tower during the month of March.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Three hotels are used during the tour. The Canopy Tower near Panama City is a retrofitted U.S. radar tower. Although the rooms are not large and the noise-proofing leaves something to be desired, the novelty of your surroundings makes up for any of the hotel’s somewhat spartan conditions. Guests staying in the single rooms will share bathroom facilities (two toilets, one shower) with up to four other people. If space permits, single travelers may request to stay in a double-occupancy room with ensuite restroom facilities. In these cases, a single-occupancy supplement will be applied to the tour price.

The Canopy Lodge is comparatively opulent, with large staterooms, balconies and all new fixtures. The Canopy Tower has a free public Internet terminal and wifi, and the Lodge has wifi that now reaches into all of the rooms. The single rooms at the Canopy Tower have been recently renovated and are all large and modern with en suite bathroom facilities.

On the last night of the tour will be spent at the Radisson Panama Canal, a fully apportioned hotel just west of Panama City along the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal with good birding potential around the immediate grounds and the newly constructed Natural History Museum within walking distance.

Internet: The Canopy Tower has a free public Internet terminal and Wi-Fi, and the Lodge has a public computer and limited Wi-Fi in the dining area. The Country Inn has Wi-Fi. 

FOOD: Breakfasts will be at the Canopy Tower or Lodge before our morning departures and will involve fresh fruit, cereal, yoghurt, eggs, bread and a meat dish. Some lunches will be picnic and some will be held at the lodges. All dinners will be at either the Canopy Tower or Canopy Lodge, save for the final dinner at the hotel in Panama City (on the extension). The food is of very good quality and features local produce and seasonings.  For our full day outings a mid-morning picnic snack will be provided, and at all times we will have an ice chest with water, soft drinks and juice in our tour vehicles.

Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions. 

TRANSPORTATION: Transportation during the tour is by specially modified rainforest trucks with open seating in the bed, or by vans or comfortable buses. Transfers from the airport and between hotels will be by 15 or 22-passenger vans. Note that the drives to and from Achiote Rd and Cerro Azul are long (about 1.5 hours each way), though most of our birding on the main tour and extension takes place within 20 minutes of the lodges.

Updated: 20 April 2023