Almost 14 years ago when I first set foot in Panama it was off a cruise on the old Holland America ROTTERDAM, and that is when I met for the first time the people of Embera Puru, never realizing that this chance encounter would lead to an enduring friendship and be the reason that we discovered the benefits of living and retiring in Panama.
Over the years on different ships, and scores of cruises into the Panama Canal, I’ve always touted the Authentic Embera Village Tour offered by Holland America, Princess, and sometimes other cruise lines, as “the best tour in Panama, something right out of National Geographic.” I’ve personally traveled with cruise guests in the dug out canoes across Alajuela Lake and up the Rio San Juan de Pequeni to Embera Puru. I’ve been on tours where it rained most of the day and I came back to the ship with 90 soaking wet and muddy passengers, all raving about the tour as the “best shore excursion ever.”
I had one lady who came back to the ship and choking up with emotion said, “Richard, that was the best experience of my life!”
It’s the whole thing … the dug out canoes, cruising up a jungle river, experiencing a totally different culture … but the most enduring memory is always the warmth and genuineness of the people of the Embera Puru village.
This video is the best I’ve seen that captures the true spirit of the Embera Puru experience.
With the ships different tour operators use about six different villages, some more “touristy” than others, but Embera Puru [not Duru, that’s a different, more touristy village] is the most authentic. The trip is an all-day tour to get to the real village and it will usually be called the “Authentic” village in the tour description.
If you want to visit independently the best operator is EmberaVillageTours.com which is owned and operated by a gringa and her Embera husband, and their home village IS Embera Puru so it is a much more informative and genuine experience.