Destination – Panama

With No Barriers Youth

No Barriers Youth offers an experience of Panama that combines rich biodiversity with indigenous cultures. Research coral reef ecology and conservation biology while snorkeling in the magnificent reefs of Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos, or:

  • Paddle sea kayaks through mangroves and the emerald waters of the archipelago of Bocas del Toro or step into the neighboring jungle in search of exotic wildlife
  • Develop an understanding of the issues facing indigenous peoples through a visit and community service project with the Ngöbe-Buglé tribe
  • Work alongside local community members to construct school buildings or tutor students in English classes
  • Marvel at the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal or visit the historic Casco Viejo – the oldest city on the Western Pacific Coast.


Panama is a hidden ecological gem connecting Central America and South America. It has a higher percentage of its land area in protected rainforest and bio-reserves than Costa Rica and receives far fewer visitors. Panama is home to many indigenous groups; among them the Kuna of Comarca de Kuna Yala, as well as the Ngöbe-Buglé people of the marine sanctuary of Isla Bastimentos. And of course, the 50-mile-long Panama Canal still stands as one of the most important engineering feats in the world, providing passage for over 14,500 ships every year.


Indigenous Cultures and Sustainability in Panama

8 Days |All Inclusive | Sample Itinerary | Inquire for quote

Day 1: Arrive in Panama City

Afternoon: Arrive in Panama City. Meet your No Barriers Youth Expedition Leader upon arrival and transfer to hotel to settle in and relax.

Evening Location:

Panama City

Day 2: Orientation / City Tour / Panama Canal

Morning: Receive an orientation to Panama culture before seeing the important sights of Panama City. Learn about the pirate history and see the ruins they left behind in the old city, continue on to the new relocated city of Casco Viejo and gain an understanding of what a UNESCO World Heritage site is, followed by a quick tour of the modern capital city filled with shiny skyscrapers.

After lunch, enjoy a private behind the scenes tour of the Panama Canal and visit Miraflores Locks where you will see the ships passing through the world-famous canal. Visit either the Smithsonian’s Punta Culebra Nature Center for a hands-on activity or the newly opened BioMuseo.

Evening: After a busy day of sightseeing and history, cool off and relax at the pool and enjoy a traditional Panamanian dinner of chicken, beans and rice.

Evening Location:

Canal Inn

Day 3: Flight to Bocas del Toro / Snorkeling / Coral Reef Ecology

Morning: Rise early to catch your flight to Bocas del Toro, an archipelago of islands located in the northern Caribbean Sea just below Costa Rica. Upon arrival take a water taxi to our eco lodge on a neighboring island with no roads. Gain an understanding of environmental sustainability and experience what it truly means to live ‘off the grid’ as our lodge collects its own water and generates its own electricity.

Discussion about coral reef ecology before embarking on a snorkeling excursion across the bay to Zapatillas Cays in Bastimentos National Marine Park.

Evening: Presentation and orientation on local Gnobe Bugle culture. Group reflection and journaling before bed.

Evening Location:

Isla Bastimentos

Day 4: Kayak to Gnobe Bugle village / Begin service work

Morning & Afternoon: Kayak through the mangrove forest to visit the neighboring friendly Gnobe Bugle indigenous village in Salt Creek. Visit the community and see the school where previous students have successfully installed two water tanks; hike through the rainforest and identify medicinal plants; and visit a typical thatched roof home built on stilts. Spend the rest of the day working with Floating Doctors treating the people in Salt Creek, many of whom suffer from water borne illnesses, severely infected wounds and upper respiratory chest infections. Afterwards, play a game of volleyball or soccer with the Gnobe youth.

De-brief service project and time for personal reflection. Prepare for the following day’s service activities.

Evening Location:

Isla Bastimentos

Day 5: Continue service work / Discuss sustainable community development

Morning: Boat ride out to scenic Ensenada, where you will install a water tank into another remote Gnobe Bugle village. Understand the relationship between clean water and health and access to education. Meet with the local Peace Corps volunteer and learn about the PC’s role in Panama.

Afternoon: After finishing your service project, time for possible soccer game with local kids or fun in the surf.

Evening: Discussion on community based development and sustainable tourism. De-brief service project, sharing reflections of your stay.

Evening Location:

Isla Bastimentos

Day 6: Beach time / Zip line and canopy tour / Flight back to Panama City

Morning: Beach time to relax then pack your bags.

Afternoon: Depart by water taxi to Bastimentos Canopy Tour for lots of fun and adventure including: zip lining, ropes course and rappelling.
Enjoy a quick stop in Bocas before boarding your flight to Panama City.

Evening: Transfer to hotel and enjoy dinner.

Evening Location:

Panama City

Day 7: Visit Embera Village and the local school

Morning/Afternoon: Full day visit to an Embera Village, swim beneath the waterfalls and meet the local chief, villagers and students. Bring donated school supplies to the local school.

Evening: Stop for dinner en route to hotel. Preparations for departure. Participate in a closing circle and reflect about your experiences in Panama.

Evening Location:

Panama City

Day 8: Return home

Morning: Depart Panama City. Return home with a new appreciation for indigenous cultures and environmental and economic sustainability.

Evening Location:


Getting immersed in the culture of India and getting to know and love the children was the greatest. When the students would cling to me at the end of class, and tell me how much they enjoyed having me there was heartbreaking.

Rachel W., Student

There is so much life, happening all the time. It's crazy to think that, after only three weeks, I feel like I've become accustomed to so much of how the world move.

Saul S., Student

I just wanted to take a moment to formally thank you for another unbelievable and life changing trip. No Barriers Youth made it all possible and took the guesswork out of a potentially nerve wracking and complicated task.

Amanda W., Trip Leader

“The journey not the arrival matters.”

– T.S. Eliot

Facts & Figures

Capital: Panama City
Currency: Balboa
Avg Annual High Temp(F): Jan – 89° July – 87°
Population: 3,608,431
Special Note: Panama Canal took 10 years to complete in 1915 and over 75,000 laborers

Spanish - official




Roman Catholic




Literacy Rate

Unemployment Rate

Below Poverty Line

Life Expectancy


Carbon Emissions (%)