Costa Rica & Panama Canal

Start: San Jose Finish: Cartagena de Indias

Visiting: San José, Estación de Puerto Caldera, Curú Wildlife Refuge, Nicoya Peninsula, Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, Espadilla Beach, Osa Peninsula, Golfo Dulce, Coiba Island, Pearl Islands, Contadora Island, Darién Province, Mogué, Panama City, Panama Canal, Cartagena de Indias, Cartagena


Duration: 14 Nights

Physical rating: Medium

Special diets catered: Halal, Meat, Vegans, Vegetarians

Tour Operator: Aurora Expeditions

Group size: 10 - 66

Age range: 8-99

Tour operated in: English


Prices From: $11246

SAVINGS

Tour Overview

Immerse yourself in the remarkable coastlines of Costa Rica and Panama. Costa Rica (the ‘rich coast’) is one of the most biodiverse regions on earth. Discover tropical rainforests teeming with outstanding variety of wildlife, brilliant birds and flamboyant flora. In Panama, discover pristine coral reefs, meet the indigenous people of the Emberá Mogue community, and learn the remarkable history of the Panama Canal on a guaranteed daylight crossing from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. Concluding in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, revel in the vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture and the fascinating and colourful historic centre—a UNESCO World-heritage site.

Highlights

  • icon Panama’s UNESCO-protected Coiba National Park offers superb marine and terrestrial wildlife viewing opportunities
  • icon Hidden in the remote Darién National Park, you will be warmly welcomed by the indigenous people of the Emberá Mogue community
  • iconExplore some of the most biodiverse rainforests on earth, a chance to encounter wildlife including sloths, howler, spider, capuchin and squirrel monkeys
  • iconEnjoy a guaranteed daylight crossing of the Panama Canal

Itinerary

Map Image
icon Day 1 : Arrive San Jose

Location: San José

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: No Meals

Upon arrival at San José international airport, a complimentary airport transfer service is provided by DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cariari. As you exit the international terminal, a representative will guide you to the pick-up point for the transfer located in front of El Malinche restaurant. The free shuttle service departs every hour between 4.30 am until 10.30 pm.

icon Day 2 : Embark the Greg Mortimer

Location: Estación de Puerto Caldera

Accommodation: Ship

Accommodation Name: The Greg Mortimer

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After a leisurely buffet breakfast, transfer to Puerto Caldera (approximately two hours) for embarkation. After boarding, there is time to settle into your cabin before our important safety briefings. Afterwards, enjoy lunch on board as you sail to nearby Isla Tortuga, to snorkel, dive, swim, kayak or stand-up paddleboard. The marvellous marine life includes: tropical fish, pufferfish, turtles, sting rays, white tip reef sharks, and occasionally dolphins. In the evening, get to know your fellow expeditioners, expedition team and crew at a Captain’s Welcome Dinner to celebrate the start of a thrilling adventure.

icon Day 3 : Curú National Wildlife Refuge

Location: Curú Wildlife Refuge, Nicoya Peninsula

Accommodation: Ship

Accommodation Name: The Greg Mortimer

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Curú National Wildlife Refuge is a privately-owned nature reserve offering visitors outstanding eco-tourism experiences. The refuge is the first privately-owned refuge in Costa Rica, encompassing more than 3,700 acres of tropical forests, mangroves, and well-marked paths. 17 hiking trails wind through the varied terrain within the reserve, where you may see white-tail deer, armadillos and iguanas. Various monkey species are prolific within refuge including native capuchin, spider, and howler monkeys. Located on the southern Nicoya Peninsula of north-western Costa Rica, the refuge is brimming with wildlife and hosts one of the most beautiful beaches and protected bays on the Nicoya Peninsula, a great place to Zodiac cruise, kayak, dive or snorkel.

icon Day 4 : Manuel Antonio National Park

Location: Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, Espadilla Beach

Accommodation: Ship

Accommodation Name: The Greg Mortimer

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Boasting over 100 species of mammals, 184 species of birds and an impressive variety flora, Manuel Antonio National Park understandably attracts wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world. Costa Rica’s star attractions - two and three toed sloths, as well as white-faced monkeys, toucans, agoutis, armadillos and coatis are a few of the exciting animals that you may encounter within the park. We anchor off the shores of Espadilla Beach and shuttled ashore by Zodiac. There are a number of clearly-marked hiking trails to choose from—a circular loop trail (1.4 km/0.9 mi) around a high promontory bluff, which includes a visit to the highest point on the hike – Punta Catedral that offers sweeping views of the bay below.

icon Day 5 : Osa Peninsula

Location: Osa Peninsula

Accommodation: Ship

Accommodation Name: The Greg Mortimer

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Over the next two days, we explore the untamed Osa Peninsula, considered by National Geographic to be ‘one of the most biologically intense places on earth’. 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, and provides habitats for a vast number of endangered plant and animal species including the scarlet macaw, various frogs, and the tapir - the largest terrestrial mammal in Central and South America.

icon Day 6 : Gulfo Dulce

Location: Golfo Dulce

Accommodation: Ship

Accommodation Name: The Greg Mortimer

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today, we enter Gulfo Dulce, or Sweet Gulf. The large bay hugs pristine beaches, rivers and tall evergreen forests - 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 features some of the world’s tallest trees. We visit a private reserve called Casa Orquideas, a botanical garden located next to Piedras Blancas National Park. On a walk through the gardens, you can enjoy displays of colourful orchids, heliconias, palms, and a variety of birds including toucans, macaws, tanagers, and honey creepers that feed from the flowers. The warm tropical waters in the gulf are a popular playground for dolphins - great for snorkelling, paddle-boarding, kayaking, and Zodiac cruising.

icon Day 7 : Coiba National Park, Panama

Location: Coiba Island

Accommodation: Ship

Accommodation Name: The Greg Mortimer

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

We continue to Coiba National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, located off the southwest coast of Panama. The national park includes the main 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 forest features exceptionally high levels of endemic mammals, birds and plants. It’s the last refuge for a number of threatened animals including the crested eagle. On Coiba Island, we plan to spend the morning at Granito de Oro islet, a unique place that allows snorkellers to encounter a diversity and volume of marine life that only scuba divers able to experience. This is one of the world’s most sought-after diving destinations. Enjoy the morning snorkelling among abundant marine life or paddling around rocky outcroppings. Along ‘Monkey Trail’, hikers can explore a forest that is home to wildlife including mantled howler monkeys and the threatened crested eagle.

icon Day 8 : Coiba National Park, Panama

Location: Coiba Island

Accommodation: Ship

Accommodation Name: The Greg Mortimer

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning we land at Punta Clara, which served as a penal colony from 1919 to 1996, where Panama’s most notorious criminals and political prisoners were incarcerated. At the peak of its operations, the prison housed up to approximately 3,000 inmates in about 30 camps spread around the islands. You can visit the dilapidated penitentiary buildings or walk along the beach looking for scarlet macaws, yellow caracara and various seabirds. Back on board, enjoy lunch as we set towards the Pearl Islands.

icon Day 9 : Pearl Islands

Location: Pearl Islands, Contadora Island

Accommodation: Ship

Accommodation Name: The Greg Mortimer

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

The Pearl Islands of Panama is an archipelago located in the North Pacific Ocean in the Gulf of Panama, covering around 250 small islands. The Spanish Conquistadors discovered the islands in 1503 and gave the Islands its name due to the great amounts of pearls found on them. The Pearl Islands were originally named by the Spanish explorer Vasco Nuñez de Balboa due to the bountiful pearls that were harvested off the islands’ shores. The Pearl Islands are most famous for their spectacular and tranquil white sand beaches, untouched forests, and colourful coral reefs offshore – ideal for diving, snorkelling and kayaking. The largest of the islands is Isla Del Rey but Isla Contadora is the only destination in the archipelago that is equipped with enough infrastructure to attract a large number of visitors. In addition to Isla Contadora, we plan to visit a few nearby islands including Bartolome to enjoy some aquatic activities before exploring Pachequilla, and Pacheca island, also known as Isla de Los Párajos (Bird Island) because it hosts several colonies of seabirds.

icon Day 10 : Emberá Mogue Village, Darién, Panama

Location: Darién Province, Mogué

Accommodation: Ship

Accommodation Name: The Greg Mortimer

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

There are few places on Earth like the Darién - a region of great interest to biologists, anthropologists, and a notorious route for smuggling narcotics. It is a place of immense natural beauty, where life in the rainforest has remained relatively unchanged for the indigenous communities that live there. It is Panama’s last frontier. The Darién is enormous. The province itself spans some 16,671 square kilometres (6,437 square miles) and contains Panama’s largest national park and most the country’s most extensive lowland tropical forest. However, with only 40,000 inhabitants, the Darién is also the most sparsely populated part of Panama. Its residents live in small, impoverished towns, and include members of the Guna and Emberà-Wounaan indigenous groups. For many, the Darién is little more than the place where the Pan-American Highway ends and the Darién Gap begins. The gap is the only missing link in a system of roads that connects North and South America, all the way from Alaska to Patagonia. Darién National Park, which spans a total of 579,000 hectares (1,430,740 acres), is the largest national park in Central America. Rarely visited, the region is characterized by unspoiled sandy beaches, jagged rocky coasts, mangrove swamps, and tropical forests bursting with endemic and rare species of plants and birds such as the scarlet macaw, toucan and harpy eagle. Mammals include ocelot, jaguar, Baird’s tapir, anteater, sloth, coatis and kinkajou. In an effort to save the Darién from being poached by loggers and developers, UNESCO inscribed the Darien National Park into its list of World Heritage Sites in 1983. You will visit Mogue, an Emberá community in the Darién, a remote destination where you will be rewarded with a unique look at a traditional Emberá village. The village is accessible after a 30-minute Zodiac ride (during high tide) up the scenic and swampy Mogue River surrounded by rainforest. You may see birds such as willets, whimbrels, and laughing falcons. Nearing the village, we will be warmly welcomed by the community leaders who will meet our Zodiacs and personally transfer us to their village using their traditional boats. On arrival, the village is a 15-minute walk from the shore of the river. Mogue was established by the indigenous Emberá in the 1960s and tourism plays a substantial role in sustaining its existence.

icon Day 11 : Panama City

Location: Panama City

Accommodation: Ship

Accommodation Name: The Greg Mortimer

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Three million years ago, the Isthmus of Panama emerged from the sea and changed the world forever. It divided an ocean and joined two continents together, triggering one of the most important natural evolution events in the history of the world. Today, this narrow land bridge in Central America is home to more species of birds and trees than the whole of North America. Panama is of course world-famous for its 77 km / 48 mi canal that connects the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean. Panama’s history has been formed by a rich pre-Columbian era for more than 12,000 years. Early cultures in Panama were the Monagrillo, the Cueva and the Conte, particularly famous for their pottery, which was the first in the Americas. The first European claiming the territory of today’s Panama was Rodrigo de Bastidas, coming from Colombia’s Atlantic coast in 1501. In 1513 Vasco Nuñez de Balboa became the first Spaniard to see the Pacific Ocean from the top of a hill. Four days later he and his men stood at the shores of the Pacific Ocean. In 1519 Panama City was founded, and became an important hub for seized goods making its way from Peru to Spain. In 1671, English buccaneer Henry Morgan looted and completely destroyed Panama City. These ruins of Old Panama (Panama la Vieja) are open to visitors. In the same decade, a new city and what’s today known as Casco Viejo was constructed 10 km / 6.2 mi away from Panama la Vieja. Choice of shore excursions

icon Day 12 : Panama Canal Crossing

Location: Panama Canal

Accommodation: Ship

Accommodation Name: The Greg Mortimer

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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 (also known as Culebra Cut because its curves resemble a snake) 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.

icon Day 13 : At Sea

Location: Panama Canal

Accommodation: Ship

Accommodation Name: The Greg Mortimer

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Sail to Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. While at sea, enjoy a few final presentations from our team of experts. Edit photos, finish the book you’ve been enjoying, or simply relax on your private balcony or in one of the many public spaces on board the ship.

icon Day 14 : Cartagena de Indias

Location: Cartagena de Indias, Cartagena

Accommodation: Hotel, Hotel

Accommodation Name: tbc

Meals: Breakfast

Disembark in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, inscribed by UNESCO as a site of Outstanding Universal Heritage. The city’s rich history, diverse culture and energy captivates visitors with its vibrancy, Afro-Caribbean character, indigenous influences and some of the best-preserved colonial architecture in all of South America. Founded in 1533 by Pedro de Heredia, Cartagena was formerly one of the gateways to the Caribbean for the Spanish. It was here they would store the riches plundered from South America before they were transported back to the old world. It is not surprising therefore that the city drew the attention of buccaneers and pirates who attempted, on many occasions, to seize the city, most notably by Sir Francis Drake who in 1586, "mercifully" agreed not to destroy the city in return for 10 million pesos. It was after the attack by Drake that plans were made to fortify the city and work on the defensive fort walls began. These walls, still stand today, and mark the boundary between the old and new parts of the city. The walls and fort, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, took a total of 200 years to build and complete, and the Spanish finished them just 25 years before Colombia gained Independence.

icon Day 15 : Cartagena de Indias

Location: Cartagena de Indias

Meals: Breakfast

After breakfast, farewell your fellow travellers and check-out of your room before making your own way to the airport for your onward journey.

What's Included

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    Meals – Full Board

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    Drinks with Meals

    Tea, Coffee, water with all meals, Wine & Beer with Dinner.

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    Airport Transfers at Destination

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    Complimentary use of muck boots

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    A 3 in 1 waterproof polar jacket

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    Accommodation

  • icon
    Fully Guided

  • icon
    All Shore excursions

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    Tipping and Gratuities

  • icon
    Entrance Fees

What's Not Included

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    Optional activities, such as Kayaking, Snorkelling & diving.

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    Free Wi-Fi at Accommodation

Book with Confidence

  • icon
    Low Deposit

    Aurora Expeditions requires a deposit of 2500 USD to secure a place on this tour, and the final balance is not due till 90 days before departure..

  • icon
    Secure payments

    All payments to TourHub are deposited into an externally regulated Trust account.


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Travel, Your Way

Good reasons for travelling privately

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    Personalise your trip

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    Increased safety during COVID

    Spend the majority of time amongst your group to reduce exposure to others

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    Travel more exclusively

    Your tour guide can focus all their attention on your group

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    Travel for a special occasion

    Celebrate an important event by only travelling with your friends or family

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Dates & Availability

Saturday Apr 16, 2022

Nights

14

Available

2

$11246.10

SAVINGS