Destinations - Things to Do
El Valle de Antón
Just 1.5 - 2 hours from Panama City, El Valle de Antón is a wonderful place for a day trip or weekend getaway.
Panama's Tourism Institute (IPAT) maintains a small office in El Valle de Antón. The small booth resides on the corner just in front of the public market, they should have maps of the local area and most popular tourist attractions.
- Tel: 983-6474
- Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 3:30 p m. (Closed Mon. & Wed.)
Butterfly Haven features a flight house of over 1500 sq feet containing approximately 250 tropical butterflies, including the Blue Morpho - the most beautiful butterfly in all the Americas. There is also a lifecycle education exhibit and both areas include a guided tour at no cost, if desired.
The mission of Butterfly Haven is to have visitors experience an enhanced appreciation of nature.
A major draw to El Valle, for both foreigners and locals alike, is the Sunday market. Apart from vegetables, fruit, plants and flowers, you can buy handicrafts such as wooden bowls, paintings on wood, hammocks, molas, baskets and ceramics. The market takes place in the center of town, under the roof of the recently rebuilt central market.
Hot Water Springs
Located just off the main road, the hot springs consist of five small pools, one of which contains therapeutic mud. The other four are just warm, hot springs.
- Hours: Mon. - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. & 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
- Weekends: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
- Cost: Adults - $1.00 | Children - $0.50
Waterfall "El Macho"
The "El Macho" Waterfall stands 210 ft (70 m) and is located just minutes from town. Open daily, visitors can choose between two different trails, one being longer than the other. During the rainy season the waterfall is quite impressive, with a large pool forming at its base, though you are not permitted to swim.
- Tel: 983-6547
- Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
- Cost: $3.50 - long trail | $2.00 - short trail
El Nispero Nusery & Zoo
The El Nispero Plant Nursery & Zoo is much more of a nursery than a zoo, this in spite of the fact that they have several animal species represented there. Visitors will appreciate the very well maintained trails and extensive array of tropical plants, which include the country's national flower - El Espíritu Santo.
The Zoo is also the best place in El Valle to observe the famous golden toads. Most of their natural habitat has either been destroyed or is inaccessible, so it's virtually impossible to view them in their natural habitat, if they even exist. A new frog exhibit, which is managed by the Smithsonian Institute, has one large showcase for the famous golden toads and an additional 10-15 smaller exhibits for other frog species. It's very well presented and offers visitors a wonderful opportunity to see these fascinating reptiles up close.
- Tel: 983-6142
- Hours: 7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
- Cost: Adults - $2.00 | Children 3-12 years of age - $1.00
Managed by the Association of Orchid Producers from El Valle and Cabuya, this facility concentrates on conserving endangered native orchids and promoting ecotourism and environmental education. Here you'll find a wide assortment of different orchids, in particular endemic species like orchid "El Espíritu Santo", which happens to be the National Flower.
- Tel: 983-6472
- Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 7/week
- Cost: Adults - $2.00 | Students - $1.00
These particular trees have a trunk that is square at their base, and which gradually becomes round as it ascends, taking on the look of a normal tree. There aren't that many trees to see, perhaps a half dozen or so, but it is worth a quick look if time permits. The unmarked trail begins from behind the Hotel Campestre. In the event that you can't find the trail, just ask someone at the hotel and they will gladly assist you. It shouldn't take any more than 10 minutes to reach the trees.
Cerro Gaital Natural Monument
Just north of El Valle de Anton and forming part of the volcano's rim is Cerro Gaital, a vibrant cloud forest offering outstanding views and terrific birding opportunities.
From the park's entrance, your hike begins with a mild uphill climb on a flat, grassy, and often muddy substrate. After a short walk, you'll turn left at the sign and proceed up the stairs to the trail's starting point. The trail, known as "Sendero Convento" is a simple loop that measures 1.5 miles (2.48 km) in length. The trail is mostly uphill and very well maintained, with three not so comfortable resting areas along the way - they're all off to the left side. After reaching the trail's end, you'll need to continue a bit further to reach the lookout (El Mirador). Once there, you'll find a relatively stable wooden platform on which to stand, offering terrific views of El Valle and the Pacific Ocean - weather permitting. You can return on the same portion of the trail, or descend on the other portion, thus completing the loop.
The trail sign reads "2 hours", but most will reach the lookout in less than 45 minutes.
A 20 - 25 minute walk from town, the Petroglyphs (Piedras Pintadas) are located near the base of the same trail that leads to the Sleeping Indian "La India Dormida" (see below). All of the writings can be found on one large vertical rock face.
Cost: $1.25 - Adults
The Sleeping Indian (La India Dormida)
The Sleeping Indian, who acquired her name based on local legend, is a chain of hills who's formation resembles the shape of just that, a sleeping Indian. And like Cerro Gaital, these hills help form part of El Valle de Anton's volcanic rim.
The trail, which begins at the Petroglyphs, is mostly uphill and comprised primarily of dirt, clay and stone. Shortly after passing the petroglyphs you'll reach the first of two waterfalls, "Chorro El Escondido", which sits just off the trail's left side. Though not very high or strong, it's positioned in a well protected cove and there's a nice pool where you can swim. Shortly after resuming your climb, you'll make your way over a cement bridge, and just a bit further ahead you'll reach the second waterfall "Chorro El Enamorado", which is larger and has two distinct sections - unfortunately you'll find no place to swim here. Further ahead, you'll pass a very large boulder off to the right side of the trail, and just after that you'll need to turn left up a steep incline - look for the sign pointing to "La India Dormida", you'll find it up high on a tree trunk just off the left side of the trail. (Note: this same trail you're on continues for quite some time, so make sure you turn left at the appropriate spot, otherwise you'll find yourself a long way from where you want to be.) This next portion of the trail is noticeably steeper, and soon you'll find yourself walking along a barbed wire fence with wooden posts - this is a private farm off to the left. At the top, turn left and stay on the trail as it hugs the farm, this will lead you directly to the Sleeping Indian. Look for a section with hand railings and wooden steps, then you'll know for sure you're heading in the right direction.
Once you reach the top, there are a series of trails connecting the adjacent hills. You'll have terrific views of the town of El Valle, Pacific Ocean and surrounding valley - weather permitting. As with Cerro Gaital, the wind and rain can be quite strong, so wear appropriate clothing.
If you'd prefer to hire a guide, you can do so at the base where you pay to enter.
Cost: Adults - $1.25