Experience the freedom of being in the Panama jungle at Kalu Yala. This is one of my favorite eco-tourism getaways because even though it feels remote, it’s only 1.5 hours from Panama City (you can even use the new metro to get most of the way there).
Days here are spent swimming in the natural pools formed by the river, hiking to waterfalls, drinking rum from their on-site distillery, or just sitting in a hammock and listening to birds and howler monkeys. They do also have solar-powered internet just in case you need to get a little work done.
An Oasis In The Jungle
Kalu Yala is truly a special place for people looking to disconnect and reconnect with nature. Going on the 4X4 monster truck, crossing a river, and finally arriving at this small sustainable community is the start of your adventure.
Upon passing through the hand-painted Bienvenidos a Kala Yala entrance, an immediate calmness is felt as the cell service disappears and the vibrant screen of your phone is replaced with the vibrant green of the jungle for the next few days. The staff is super friendly and guests staying are actually enjoying themselves without the stress of the pandemic in the outside world.
What can you do at Kalu Yala?
Waterfall Hike: Jaguar Falls is a classic Jungle hike. This trail starts in the agricultural fields of the valley and slowly works its way into the untouched rainforest giving you a full perspective on the jungle’s history. This trail follows the Iguana river the entire way and crosses it 14 times! Bring shoes you are ready to get wet in.
Jungle Night Hike: The jungle comes alive at night on this guided tour with a resident biologist.
Farm Tour: On this tour you can learn about over 60 species of plants and fruiting trees that are grown on-site.
Horseback Riding: Explore the jungle on horseback! Great plan for a romantic couple getaway or with a group of friends.
Distillery Tour: One of the coolest things about Kalu Yala is they have an on-site delivery and the rum is top-notch (I can vouch for this). On the tour, you’ll learn about how rum is distilled and get a tasting of the product. This is also only the 2nd distillery in the world to offer Yucca Vodka.
But also on a day-to-day basis you can enjoy nature’s playground. Some of the most pristine rivers can be enjoyed here and you have several swimming holes to choose from. Some even have sand, making a freshwater beach. For me, one of the most serene spots to spend theday is at “Ramone’s Pool”, a naturally formed infinity pool with cristal clear calm water a 10-minute walk from the town.
If you’re up for a hike, Jaguar Falls is a stunning waterfall that is a 3-hour journey round-trip, but once you get there and jump in, your body feels renewed for the way back.
Nights at Kalu Yala are quiet and dimly lit by cozy lights and a starlit sky. Socializing happens around a campfire with a cocktail using rum from their onsite distillery.
Your alarm in the morning is howler monkeys in the distance followed by a nutritional breakfast prepared in the dining area. Much of the food you’ll eat here is grown on location or around neighboring farms.
Next, you could join a yoga or meditation class to jumpstart the day and get a little work done in the co-working area if you need internet. Or just having a lazy day at the river never gets old.
Accomodation & Food Options
Kalu Yala has several accommodation options geared towards a romantic getaway with your partner, a group trip, or the budget traveler looking for a simple place to camp in nature. The nice thing about staying here is that you don’t have to cook! The affordable $15/day per person meal plan includes three meals a day and plenty of coffee. Bathrooms are shared and have been nicely constructed to allow privacy.
Teepee: The Selina Teepee option is perfect for a romantic getaway or for people that want complete privacy. Each teepee is equipped with a queen size bed, comfortable bedding, and solar-powered charging outlets. Book a teepee here —>
Private Dorms: With options for 6-8 people, the bunk bed dorms can be privately booked and are ideal for a group trip with your closest friends or family. Book an entire dorm here —>
Camping: Kalu Yala can provide all the necessary camping equipment (tent, mattress, bedding) for you for $30/Night. Or if you want to bring your own camping equipment you can pay $15/Night. Book a tent here —>
Location & Getting There
Kalu Yala is located in San Miguel, a total journey of about 1.5 hours from Panama City depending on how you arrive making this an easy place to visit from the city.
Car: In Waze or Google Maps you can put “Kalu Yala Basecamp” to arrive. Once you arrive in San Miguel town, take a right at the rock that says “Bienvenidos a San Miguel”, and Kalu Yala Basecamp will be the third house on the left and is bright yellow. They then have a 4 x 4 truck that is $10 one way and you need to have this reserved in advance by emailing email@example.com or WhatsApp +50766738170. You will be able to leave your car at the basecamp during your stay.
Uber: Take an Uber from Panama City to Kalu Yala Basecamp ($40-$60). Once here you can take the 4×4 transportation to Kalu Yala for $10 but this must reserved in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp +50766738170.
Selina: You’ll need two different transportation methods to get to Selina Kalu Yala which will need to be closed 48 hours in advance. The daily shuttle that leaves from Selina Casco Viejo to Kalu Yala Basecamp at San Miguel is a 1 hour 30-minute ride from the city and the shuttle price (based on 1-4 passengers) is $60 (one way) and $110 (roundtrip). Then, a 4×4 transportation will take you from Kalu Yala Basecamp (San Miguel) to Selina Kalu Yala. These 4×4 rides run twice a day. Please contact email@example.com or WhatsApp +50766738170 to reserve this type of transportation.
Public Transit: First take Line 1 of the Metro going in the San Isidro direction to the San Miguelito stop (.35 cents). From here switch to Line 2, taking the metro to Nuevo Tocumen, exiting on the Nuevo Tocumen side. Then you’ll need to take a bus to San Miguel (La Mesa) in the same direction. The bus arrives once every 30 minutes ($1.25) and it’s important to allow 2.5 hours for the entire journey. Instead of taking a bus you can also take a taxi and there are usually several waiting at the base of the Metro stop. The taxi will be $10-$15 and you must negotiate the the price before you get in. Once you arrive in San Miguel town, take a right at the rock that says “Bienvenidos a San Miguel”, and Kalu Yala Basecamp will be the third house on the left and is bright yellow. They then have a 4 x 4 truck that is $10 one way and you need to have this reserved in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp +50766738170.
Watch the below video below for a step-by-step guide on arriving to Kalu Yala via public transit:
Is Kalu Yala For You?
Kalu Yala is for the traveler looking to totally disconnect from the outside world and looking for a holistic experience to connect with nature. The beautiful scenery is perfect for a romantic getaway, group trip, or a super unique place to visit during a trip to Panama. Being able to enjoy private pristine rivers are the ultimate way to relax and you’ll feel completely rejuvenated after your stay.
Ready to stay at Kalu Yala? Book your stay here.