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Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute: Barro Colorado Research Center

Treat your group to a private tour of the tropical forest that is the center of the Smithsonian's extensive and long-term research in Panama. Meet with docents, scientists, students, and support staff who have made this their research grounds.

Red Frog Beach

Zipline through the rainforest near Bocas del Toro, pass centuries-old trees and the exotic animals that live in this habitat. Groups may also hike, surf, or snorkel here.

Your Adventure, Day by Day

Day 1 Arrive in Panama
  • Arrive in Panama City Fly to Panama.
  • Casco Viejo Explore the Casco Viejo, a colonial area that represents the second Panama City, characterized by its spectacular architecture.
  • Guided Walking Tour Your tour will also include the Paseo de las Bovedas; the Plaza de la Independencia; the Cathedral; the Palacio Municipal; the San Jose Church, with its stunning Golden Altar; the Arco Chato; the Convento de Santo Domingo, home to the Religious Artifact Museum; the Plaza de Francia; and Plaza Bolivar, home to the national theater, San Francisco of Asis Church and some newly renovated colonial homes.
Day 2 Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI): Barro Colorado & Gamboa Research Centers
  • Depart for Gamboa
  • Ferry from Gamboa to STRI
  • Breakfast with the STRI Team Enjoy breakfast in the STRI cafeteria alongside the researchers.
  • Special Access: STRI - Barro Colorado Research Center Embark on a private tour of the tropical forest led by a STRI docent describing the work of the Center. Discuss the history of the island and the research conducted on the island.
  • Lunch with the STRI Team Get a glimpse into the lives of the scientists, students, and support staff and join them for lunch provided by kitchen staff on site.
  • Ferry back to Gamboa
  • Special Access: STRI - Gamboa Research Facility Explore the laboratories and accommodations provided for researchers working at this unique facility on the mainland. Research here is largely linked to the nearby Soberania National Park, and includes work with plants and animals in a wide variety of forest and freshwater habitats.
  • Visit the bio domes and learn more about the research connected to them. Then meet with a researcher in the Amphibian Conservation Center.
  • Return to Panama City Enjoy dinner on own and an evening free to explore.
Day 3 Chagres National Park & Embrera Indian Village
  • Depart for Chagres National Park
  • Canoe Ride Travel in a dugout canoe upriver through Chagres National Park, experiencing the flora and fauna of the Panama Canal Watershed.
  • Embrera Indian Village Arrive in the village and immerse yourself in the customs of this indigenous community. Take a tour and see a presentation on traditional music, dance, food, artifacts, and body painting.
  • Lunch like a Local Enjoy a traditional Embrera lunch (normally fruits, fried fish, and fried plantains).
  • Jungle Hike Take a nature hike through the jungle and learn about native medicinal plants and the relationship the community has with the environment.
  • Return to Panama City
Day 4 Galeta Research Facility
  • Expert Access: Galeta Research Facility See conservation in action at this station near Colon, on the Caribbean side of Panama. Receive an overview of the station, meet with researcher, and learn about the work done, particularly in Marine biology.
  • Ecosystem Discussion Discuss threats to ecosystem and remediation (education, protection zone) in environments including the adjacent coral reef, mangrove forest, and seagrass communities. Learn about the education and outreach efforts this unique facility provides, including the student intern program.
  • Lunch in Colon
  • Expert Access: STRI Headquarters’ Tupper Talk Attend a lecture at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Headquarters delivered by a current researcher. Experience the dialogue and peer feedback that occurs at these presentations. Attend a researcher social following the presentation. *Exact day subject to change.
Day 5 Panama City: Environmental Education
  • Special Access: Smithsonian Culebra Education Facility Visit the front lines education facility and learn about how they are taking research from the field, and into local classrooms.
  • Group Lunch
  • Spotlight: BioMuseo Explore the Biodiversity Museum, featuring the research and collections of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, this museum is showcases the origins of the Panamanian isthmus and its impact on the planet’s biodiversity.
  • Dinner and Dancing Enjoy a fully Panamanian night with music, dance, and native customs of the different regions of Panama at a local restaurant.
Day 6 Panama City & Departure
  • Free time Enjoy a free morning to explore Panama City on your own or in small groups.

Optional Enhancements

Customize your program

Consider these other unique opportunities as additional or alternative activities to build a travel program that enhances your syllabus.

Special Access: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), Bocas Marine Research Center

  • Experience life like a scientist! Pending availability, stay in the dorms located on the site of the research field station on the other side of Panama, with a focus on marine life.

Special Access: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Metropolitan National Park Canopy Crane

  • Learn about the history of canopy research and how the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute pioneered the use cranes in canopy research
  • Interact with docents from STRI’s Tropical Canopy Biology Program to learn about the in-situ studies that take place in the canopy on a range of research topics, including plant phenology, pollination biology, the ecophysiology of canopy trees and lianas (including gas exchange, water transport and light limitation), the diversity and feeding behavior of canopy arthropods, biotic interactions, food web ecology, etc.
  • Go up in a crane to witness and learn about the ecosystem of the canopy (3 students and a docent in the crane at one time for approximately 20 minutes)





Special Access: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Headquarters Library

  • Reserve an opportunity for your students to conduct research in the expansive biblioteca at STRI headquarters in Panama City.
  • Tour the collection, which includes research, academic, and highly technical materials in a wide range of disciplines, plus over 600 monographs and a serial title from the late 19th/early 20th century.



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Our Capstone university travel team is just back from a very special tour of the incredible Isthmus of Panama through the eyes of the iconic Smithsonian Institution. It was, in a word, “increíble!” (Be sure to say it in your mind with the appropriate Spanish…

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