On this journey to Costa Rica and Panama Canal, you will experience the Pacific filled with remote national parks and biological reserves brimming with colourful wildlife, both in the rainforest and in the surrounding coastal waters – perfect for hiking, kayaking, paddle-boarding, diving and snorkelling. You will also discover Panama City before traversing the iconic Panama Canal on a guaranteed daylight crossing to the Caribbean Sea. Finish the voyage in Cartagena de Indias, where you can soak up the Afro-Caribbean vibes in this vibrant and colourful UNESCO-protected fort city.
Duration: 12 days
Start Location: San Jose, Costa Rica
End Location: Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
Availability: April 25th 2020 to May 6th 2020
Miscellaneous: We are pleased to announce that adventurous and well known explorer, Greg Mortimer, will be our special guest aboard Costa Rica and Panama Canal.
Day 1: San José, Costa Rica- In San José, make your own way to our group hotel and enjoy time at leisure and prepare for the beginning of this Costa Rica and Panama trip. Accommodation: Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Cariari (or similar)
Day 2: Embark the Greg Mortimer in Puerto Caldera – After a leisurely buffet breakfast, check-out of your room and drive two-hours west to Puerto Caldera where your vessel Greg Mortimer awaits. After boarding, you’ll have time to settle into your cabin before our important briefings before sitting down to enjoy lunch as you sail to Isla Tortuga. You can relax on the white sand beach or venture into the warm water to swim, snorkel or dive. The water is teeming with a dizzying array of fish and other creatures including manta rays, spinner dolphins and perhaps sharks. There are even some buried treasures there – literally. There are three shipwrecks off the shore of the island, offering plenty of opportunities to explore the remains of sunken vessels. At Isla Tortuga, we will do our kayak orientation and have our first introductory paddle. This evening, get to know your fellow expeditioners and friendly expedition team and crew at a welcome dinner to celebrate the start of a thrilling adventure to Costa Rica and Panama.
Day 3: Curú National Wildlife Refuge – Curú National Wildlife Refuge is a privately owned and managed nature preserve offering visitors some of the best eco-tourism experiences in Costa Rica. The refuge is the first privately owned refuge in Costa Rica and is an example of a successful sustainable development program, offering over 3700 acres of tropical forests, mangrove swamps, and grassy fields sitting right along the coastline. 17 hiking trails wind through the varied terrain and you may see white-tail deer or catch a glimpse of armadillos or iguanas. Monkeys are prolific including the native capuchin, spider, and howler monkeys.
Day 4: Manuel Antonio National Park – Boasting over 100 species of mammals, 184 species of birds and a plethora of diverse flora, Manuel Antonio National Park is a paradise for wildlife lovers. We anchor off the shores of Espadilla Beach and Zodiac to shore for a wet landing. Walk along this soft-sand beach or follow a trail through the rainforest parallel to the beach to get to Playa Manuel Antonio, which is the most popular beach inside the park. It’s a short, deep crescent of white sand backed by lush rainforest. There are numerous clearly-marked hiking trails to choose from – a circular loop trail (1.4km/0.9 mile) around a high promontory bluff, which includes a visit to the highest point on this hike – Punta Catedral, which offers spectacular views, takes approximately 25 to 30 minutes return. The hiking trails in Manuel Antonio National Park offer excellent opportunities to spot monkeys, sometimes sloths, agoutis, armadillos and coatis.
Day 5&6: Osa Peninsula & Gulf Dulce – Over the next two days, we explore the untamed Osa Peninsula. Considered to be the crown jewel of Costa Rica’s park system, Corcovado National Park is the country’s largest and one of the most remote parks in Costa Rica. It is home to the largest and only tropical primary lowland rainforest in the world, provides habitat for a plethora of endangered plant and animal species including the scarlet macaw, various frogs, and the tapir – the largest terrestrial mammal in Central and South America. We will hike through a private conservation reserve adjoining the national park looking not only for wildlife, but also to experience the incredible wet tropical rainforest filled with tall trees measuring over 60 metres/197 ft, lianas, epiphytes, palms, gingers and orchids. We also visit nearby Caño Island Biological Reserve, located only 20 kilometres/12.4 miles offshore from the Osa Peninsula, an island of incredible geographical and archeological importance.
Visitors are only permitted to visit the island for a maximum of 15 minutes. However, the blue waters surrounding the island are ideal for diving, snorkelling and kayaking. With excellent underwater visibility, it is often possible to spot sea turtles, dolphins, stingrays, manta rays, moray eels, barracudas, tuna, snapper and grouper swimming alongside a variety sharks and humpback or pilot whales.
The following day, we will round the peninsula’ most southern point to enter Gulfo Dulce. The large bay hugs pristine beaches, rivers and tall evergreen forest, a protected area known as the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve. As one of the wettest places on Earth with over 200 inches/5000 mm of rainfall a year, the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve boasts some of the tallest ancient trees. We visit a private reserve called Casa Orchideas (Orchid House), akin to a botanical garden adjoining Piedras Blancas National Park. A hike in Casa Orchideas allows you to appreciate colourful orchids, heliconias, palms, and all the tropical wildlife such as toucans, macaws, tanagers, and honey creepers that feed from the flowers. The warm tropical waters in the gulf are a popular playground for dolphins – perfect for snorkelling, paddle-boarding, kayaking, and Zodiac cruising.
After a full day it’s time to rest and prepare to start the Panama part of this Costa Rica and Panama Canal experience.
Day 7: Coiba National Park, Panama – Leaving Costa Rica behind, we sail through the Panamanian islands of Coiba National Park. The national park protects Coiba Island, 38 smaller islands and the surrounding marine areas within the Gulf of Chiriqui. Protected from the cold winds and effects of El Niño, Coiba’s Pacific tropical moist forest maintains exceptionally high levels of endemism of mammals, birds and plants due to the ongoing evolution of new species. It is also the last refuge for a number of threatened animals such as the crested eagle. Due to Coiba Island (the main island in the archipelago) previously serving as a penal colony, access to the island was heavily restricted. As a result, nearly 80 per cent of the islands’ natural resources have remained untouched and flourished because of limited human contact. Coiba National Park is managed by the National Authority for the Environment (ANAM) and is accessible only by permit from ANAM. With its designations as a National Park and UNESCO protection, Isla Coiba, its surrounding waters and island neighbours have been given a greater degree of protection. Despite being subject to poaching, illegal logging and other trespasses, the Panamanian government has taken a large step in their preservation. On Coiba Island, hike through untouched tropical jungle, home to mantled howler monkeys, crested eagles, and sea turtles. We aim to stop at Granito de Oro islet, a unique place which offers the casual snorkeller a diversity and volume of marine life that many avid scuba divers spend their lives trying to see. The waters surrounding are considered one of the best diving destinations in the world. Enjoy the day snorkelling among abundant marine life, kayaking around rocky outcroppings, and basking on the warm sand.
Day 8: Panama City – Panama is world-famous for its 77km (48-mile) canal that connects the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean. Shore Excursions (choose one of the following):
Day 9: Panama Canal Crossing – Crossing the Panama Canal will surely be a highlight for many travellers. Each year, over a million people visit the canal to witness this engineering marvel at work. Starting in the Pacific Ocean, you will be able to admire the Bay of Panama and Panama City’s splendorous skyline before passing under the ‘Bridge of the Americas’. The vessel will then transit through the first set of locks, the Miraflores Locks, where it will be lifted 16 metres in two distinct steps. Next, your ship will enter Miraflores Lake, which is a small artificial body of fresh water that separates Pedro Miguel Locks from Miraflores Locks.
The vessel will transit through Pedro Miguel Locks, which is one of the two sets of locks on the Pacific side, and here the vessel is lifted 9 metres in one step. After exiting Pedro Miguel locks, your boat will travel through the Gaillard Cut, where the Chagres River flows into the canal. The Gaillard Cut is one of the main points of interest for visitors because it was carved through the Continental Divide and this section of the canal is full of history and geological value. As you transit the cut you will see dredging occurring to control the sediments entering the canal because of the terrain’s susceptibility to landslides. Sail through Gatun Lake, which was formed by erecting the Gatun Dam across the Chagres River, and during your transit through the lake, you will pass the Smithsonian Research Station at Barro Colorado. The last of the three locks in the Gatun Locks, the only set of locks in the Atlantic sector. At Gatun Locks, the vessel will be lowered a total of 26 metres in three distinct chambers. The complete crossing from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean takes approximately 10 hours, a journey that once took almost two weeks to complete, where vessels were forced to sail around the notoriously rough seas around Cape Horn at the bottom of South America to reach the Pacific coast.
Day 10: At Sea – Enjoy a few final presentations from our team of experts including how to edit photos, finish that book you’ve been reading, or simply relax on your private balcony or in one of the many shared spaces on board the ship.
Day 11: Cartagena de Indias – Disembark in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. This passionate and vibrant city, with some of the best-preserved colonial architecture in all of South America exudes character; mix in African rhythms and indigenous influences with the Spanish colonial splendour, and Cartagena is truly an amazing destination to extend your holiday. Cartegena’s walls and fort took a total of 200 years to build and complete, and the Spanish finished them just 25 years before Colombia gained Independence. Carved from a colourful history rife of piracy, sultry Caribbean heat, with fusions of African, indigenous and European culture, Cartagena is Colombia’s living, breathing and pulsating museum. Absurdly photogenic, the old quarter awards even the laziest of travellers. Colour splashes every corner, balconies overflow with blossom, and energy seeps beneath the ancient wooden doors of hotels, restaurants and private houses.
Today’s introductory tour will take you through Cartagena’s old town under the Puerta Del Reloj (Clock tower entrance) into the Plaza de los Coches. Your expert local guide will tell stories of the myths and legends, histories and stories of Cartagena from ancient times right up to the present. From the Plaza San Pedro Claver with its stunning Church, to the Plaza Bolivar with its shady areas, where you can watch the world go by. During the walk you will visit the Inquisition Palace, considered one of the most elegant and characteristic colonial constructions in Cartagena in the 17th century. A short walk away and your final stop is a visit to San Pedro Claver Cloister, monastery and museum. The tour ends with a transfer to our group hotel. After check-in, enjoy the remainder of the last day in this Costa Rica and Panama trip at leisure (breakfast included; lunch and dinner at own expense). Accommodation: Hyatt Regency (or similar)
Day 12: Cartagena de Indias – After breakfast, farewell your fellow travellers and check-out of your room before making your own way to the airport for your onward journey. You will end this trip very satisfied with all you did in Costa Rica and Panama
After you book your experience, you will receive a confirmation email from us confirming that your payment went through. You will then be connected directly to the tour operator, in case you have any further questions. We are also happy to answer any questions about the tour, or travel in general in your country of destination.