Gatun Lake All-Inclusive Experience

When I started planning our Panama trip this past fall, I knew that going into the jungle would have to be part of our experience. I loved staying in the Amazon in Peru and my aunt is a huge birder (it’s her job as a biologist!) so we had to go. Visiting Gatun Lake ended up being the right choice!

I started researching different places to stay and found Jungle Land, and I’m so glad I did! Jungle Land is seriously an awesome experience like nothing else. There are so many things that make it unique, and I’m so grateful that we got to stay two nights there.

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Jungle Land is so much more than just a place to stay. It’s truly an action-packed, adventurous experience. It’s the only floating lodge in Central America and is located ON the Panama Canal which is an incredible way to see Gatun Lake. You heard that right, along the canal! It’s also all-inclusive, and yes I mean everything (besides tips).

I could also go on and on about the amazing staff and fun activities they have. It truly is one of my favorite places I’ve ever stayed. I’m excited to share all the details so keep reading to find out why this is an amazing, all-inclusive jungle experience on Gatun Lake.

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Disclaimer: Thank you to Jungle Land for hosting me while we visited your lodge. As always, all thoughts are my own.

The Location on Gatun Lake

Gatun Lake is a freshwater artificial lake about 1 hour’s drive from Panama City. At approximately 26 m above sea level, it forms a major part of the Panama Canal, carrying ships 33 km of their transit across the Isthmus of Panama. It was created June 27, 1913 when the gates of the spillway at Gatun Dam were closed.

When we got picked up, I wasn’t sure what the boat ride would be like. To our surprise, we sat on our ride as we floated past the giant ships going through the canal! As the boat ride continued, our driver pointed out birds, sloths, monkeys, and more as we continued toward the lodge. We went between trees and through an inlet until we came around a corner to find the lodge. It fits in perfectly with the landscape and is in a very quiet spot. It’s located in a small inlet of Gatun Lake on the water that you can only get to by boat.

This secluded spot is perfect for swimming, fishing, kayaking, SUP, and bird watching. My phone stopped working and I was forced to listen to the sound of parakeets, toucans, and monkeys as we relaxed with snacks and drinks that were waiting for us. I love that you go off the grid while still knowing that everything will be taken care of as you take in a beautiful view.

Gatun Lake is protected land in Panama because of the canal. Since it is so protected it is teeming with wildlife. While there, we saw more than I would have every expected because the land is so well preserved and taken care of. It is truly beautiful and unlike anywhere I have been!

Transportation to the boat dock can be arranged for $30 each way (for your entire reservation) and makes the experience seamless and easy. Everyone was on time picking us up and dropping us off which is not what we experienced with other transport services while in Panama.

The Activities at Jungle Land

There are so many different things that you can do while there and the wonderful staff gives you so many options you will never get bored! You are also free at any time to just stay and relax at the lodge. All the activities are included and you are with a guide at all times. This means safety is kept a priority and you are left to worry about nothing. You can access some of the activities with a day tour at Jungle Land, but staying at the lodge is the best way to experience everything you want to do because you will only have time for two things if you do a day tour!

Activities include:

    • hiking
    • fishing
    • swimming
    • kayaking to waterfalls
    • bird watching
    • animal spotting boat tour (monkey island tour)
    • swimming
    • SUP
    • night safari

I did all the activities because that is the kind of person I am! I love staying busy on vacation and trying new things so it only made sense I did it all. My mom and aunt sat out on a few activities and relaxed at the lodge, swimming and hanging out in hammocks while the day tour groups were out. My favorite activities were definitely the monkey island tour, night safari, and kayaking to waterfalls!

The monkey island tour was amazing because we got up close encounters with monkeys. Many of which are rescued and have been rehabilitated to the area after being pets. Several have gone through mistreatment and are now living happy, healthy lives! It was special to see how Jungle Land and others are helping animals live happily in their natural habitat.

Night safari happens on a boat along Gatun Lake. During the night safari you get the chance to experience a while different set of wildlife that awakens at night. It’s so fun to try and spot different creatures at night!

You also get the chance to see so many stars and experience a dark that is completely different. We saw capybaras, 4 sloths (up close in one night!), tons of birds, caymans, crocodiles, tarantulas, and more. Wear bug spray while doing this activity! This is an experience you can only get if you stay overnight.

There are two waterfalls you can kayak to. There is only one you can go to on the day tour, but if you stay overnight, you get the chance to go to both! We did a private tour to the second waterfall and it was just beautiful. I loved jumping and swimming in such a secluded and beautiful spot.

The Lodge on Gatun Lake

As I mentioned, this is the only floating lodge in Central America, and it is truly a unique experience. You can do a day tour here, but I highly recommend staying overnight. With an overnight stay, you get so much more.

Overnight stays are different. First, you get personalized experiences that are tailored to your needs. They only have six guest rooms so you are really getting a quiet experience where you can make many individualized choices about what you want to do. We were able to go on almost private tours (with other overnight guests) and pick activities that were unavailable to day guests, such as night safari, hiking, and early morning bird watching. The personalization from the guides was incredible and the unlimited food and drinks (full bar available!) made it a really fun experience.

The lodge has four floors. The lowest level is for boats, the kitchen, and lifejackets. On the second floor, you will find guest rooms, the bar, the high dive board, and the dining space. The third floor is all hammocks and swings. The top floor is the sky bridge, where you will want to be for sunset!

The rooms are lovely with a private balcony with a hammock looking into the jungle. Each room can be set up with hanging bunk beds or three beds on the floor. Ours was set up with three separate beds, but others are set up with king-sized beds and more. Each room can be personalized to your needs.

The rooms also have their own private bathroom with a shower. The water comes from Gatun Lake so you will rely on bottled water to drink that is provided! There is no air conditioning, but evenings are cool and each room has two fans to keep you cool at night. We were not hot during the evenings on our visit.

There is something really special about falling asleep and waking up in the jungle on Gatun Lake. You would think the sound is straight from a sound machine (but it’s the actual thing) and the sunrises and sunsets are beautiful.

The Food

The food is almost all locally sourced and they provide different options daily. It was honestly some of the best food we had on our trip! The lunch is traditional Panamanian cuisine and dinner offers many different choices. Everything is created on site in the kitchen downstairs by locals.

Some options included chicken, steak, tilapia, vegetables, lentils, pasta, rice, and more. It was all really delicious and different drinks are available at every meal. They are able to accommodate most diet restrictions and we traveled with vegetarians who were very pleased with their options.

Some drinks include white or red wine, three types of beer, most types of liquor, soft drinks, coffee, tea, and water. If you come as a day guest, you will need to pay for all alcoholic beverages, but as an overnight guest, they are included. Another perk to staying overnight!

We were able to take drinks with us on all excursions from the lodge which made things even more fun. In the afternoon there is “happy hour” where snacks are also served. We were never thirsty or hungry! Jungle Land does a great job keeping you well-fed and happy.

The Staff at Jungle Land

I cannot say nicer things about the staff and guides at Jungle Land. Before our stay, communication was excellent and everything was confirmed and explained with ease. This is a huge plus because we went into the experience with confidence that things would go smoothly. During our stay we had three guides with us.

Matt, Julia, and Shane were all incredibly friendly, knowledgable, and fun. From the moment we arrived they were ready to help us and give us an unforgettable experience. I could go on about how much fun they were to have as guides so I will just a little…

They had a ton of knowledge about the area and were ready to help us do everything we wanted while there. They were kind and friendly as we hung out at the lodge and went on different excursions. My aunt is a biologist and had tons of questions, this was not intimidating to them at all. They worked to answer all of her questions and gave a wonderful insight into the area.

We also loved our boat driver, Luis, who was so good at pointing out different animals that we never even began to see. He was so good at driving the boat around and making sure he stopped whenever he saw something he knew we would want to see.

If you aren’t convinced that this is an incredible experience yet, I’m in shock! I loved Jungle Land and it’s gone to the top of my list of experiences you’ve got to have while in Panama. Gatun Lake is amazing and you won’t find anything else like this.

Ready to book your stay? This amazing jungle experience in Panama won’t disappoint. Head to Jungle Land Panama’s website for the best available rates for your overnight stay or day excursion.

Access my full packing guide for Panama by subscribing here.

Look for the most unique experience on the Panama Canal? Stay this amazing all-inclusive jungle experience in Panama with Jungle Land.

Look for the most unique experience on the Panama Canal? Stay this amazing all-inclusive jungle experience in Panama with Jungle Land
Look for the most unique experience on the Panama Canal? Stay this amazing all-inclusive jungle experience in Panama with Jungle Land

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