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Panama to Costa Rica + Monteverde, Arenal Volcano & Tortuguero

Costa Rica and Panama Tour

  • National Geographic
    Sea Lion/Sea Bird
  • Expedition Ship
  • 62 Capacity
  • 15 Days
  • 2015, 2016 View Departure>
    • 2015
    • Dec 5 Sat
    • Dec 19 Sat
    • 2016
    • Jan 2 Sat
    • Jan 16 Sat
    • Jan 30 Sat
    • Feb 13 Sat
    • Feb 27 Sat
    • Mar 12 Sat
  • Price from
  • $10,180

Summary : Cloud forests, volcanoes and the sea—the ultimate combination of Costa Rica & Panama. This expedition offers an amazing variety of experiences, including a transit of the legendary Panama Canal, time on land in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, and in-depth exploration at Arenal Volcano, active since 1968. Explore by sea aboard a vessel equipped with Zodiacs, kayaks and snorkeling gear. Join rainforest hikes amid monkeys, sloths and tropical birds. Naturalists accompany every activity and your Undersea Specialist uses state-of-the-art equipment to open up the vibrant undersea world. All departures will have a certified photo instructor onboard.

Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Snorkeling


Free Chronicle: Receive a free video chronicle of your trip, compliments of ExpeditionTrips!

Prices from
$10,180 to $11,910

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Day 1
U.S. / Panama City, Panama / Colón / Embark

Depart the U.S. in late morning on a non-stop flight to Panama City, with a flying time of about three hours. On arrival, drive to Colon to board National Geographic Sea Lion and set sail for the first part of your Panama Canal transit anchoring in Gatun Lake. This unique interruption makes the Sea Lion one of the few ships that make the crossing in two days, as well as the only ship permitted the exclusive opportunity to explore impressive Barro Colorado, which you will visit tomorrow.

Day 2
Barro Colorado Island & Gatun Lake / Panama Canal

Board a Zodiac this morning to explore Barro Colorado Nature Monument, set in Gatun Lake and home to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Inaccessible to most travelers, the island itself is quite unique. Before the building of the Canal, it was actually the top of a mountain, and when the river valley was flooded to form man-made Gatun Lake, it became the island you see today. Hike through the lush forest with Smithsonian guides. As always, the forest is full of surprises: monkeys, anteaters, slow-moving sloths, brilliantly colored birds. Reboard National Geographic Sea Lion to continue your crossing, possibly at night when the Canal is dramatically lit. (A daylight transit cannot be guaranteed since cargo ships have priority over passenger ships.)

Day 3
Gulf of Panama Islets

This archipelago of islands due south of Panama City has a storied past — pearls, conquistadors, buccaneers, and so much more. Explore the turquoise waters via Zodiac or kayak, where dolphins and whales have been spotted. Observe roosting and nesting magnificent frigate birds and Blue-footed Boobies on a deserted stretch of white sand.

Day 4
Isla Coiba National Park

Isla Coiba is one of Panama’s most remote national parks, where you may hike tropical, moist forest trails, and swim or snorkel amid tropical fish. Your staff will assist both novice and expert snorkelers alike. For those preferring a drier clime, naturalists take underwater footage, which animates your evening gathering in the lounge.

Day 5
Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

Make your first landfall in Costa Rica. At Casa Orquideas, a privately-owned garden accessible only by boat and special invitation, see a profusion of orchids, and look for tanagers, parrots and gaudy toucans. Later, explore the bay of Golfo Dulce, ideal for kayaking or swimming.

Day 6
Osa Peninsula & Corcovado National Park

National Geographic Sea Lion anchors off the remote Osa Peninsula and the environs of Corcovado National Park. Your exact landing spot for the day will depend on sea conditions. You may swim in waterfall pools, horseback ride or kayak. Trek through the rain forest for a chance to see three species of monkey in one day: howler, spider and squirrel!

Day 7
Manuel Antonio National Park

The abundant wildlife here is most active in the early morning, so you are sure to get an early start. Monkeys or vividly colored birds can be easy to spot, but it often takes the expert eye of a naturalist to point out lethargic three-toed sloths. In the afternoon, explore Costa Rica’s beautiful coast where you’ll find a great spot for a final hike or swim.

Day 8
Herradura / Disembark / Monteverde

Disembark National Geographic Sea Lion in Herradura and head to Carara National Park, where the less dense rain forests make for easy bird sightings. Lunch at a local restaurant before venturing to the nearby Bat Jungle exhibit or hearing from an early Quaker settler of Monteverde. Check in to a family-owned retreat with privacy, expansive lawns and picturesque views of the cloud forest.

Day 9

Visit a butterfly garden of native species. Explore forest trails with trained naturalists as you search for mantled howler monkeys and the elusive Resplendent Quetzal.

Day 10
Monteverde / Arenal

Visit a family-owned, third generation coffee farm. A local guide will share the culture of coffee farming in Central America, and you’ll have a chance to pick coffee cherries during a tour of the grounds. After the tour, drive to Lake Arenal to cross in 40-passenger boats landing at a restaurant on the lake’s far side. By the time lunch is finished, your motorcoaches will have arrived with your luggage. Check into an elegant hotel surrounded by gardens and pastures with grazing animals, and every room offers a panoramic view of the smoldering Arenal Volcano.

Day 11
Arenal Volcano

Walk the Arenal Hanging Bridges strung more than 3 kilometers through the rain forest canopy, and then explore the Arenal bridges winding through the dense forest. In the evening, relax in thermal pools naturally heated by the volcano. Explore rain-forest trails and take time this afternoon for volcano gazing.

Day 12
Arenal / Tortuguero

Transfer from your hotel to the Arenal airstrip for a charter flight to Tortuguero, a spectacular lowland forest on Costa Rica’s northeast coast, accessible only by water or air. A short boat ride brings you to the rustic Aninga Lodge, set on the water’s edge. Settle into your accommodations in charming private bungalows raised above the rain forest floor and enjoy lunch at the lodge’s restaurant. The lodge also has swimming pools and a walking trail to take advantage of. Later, explore the canals of Tortuguero National Park in small boats with your naturalist guides. Be on the lookout for howler, spider and capuchin monkeys as well as caiman, ibis, tiger herons, curassow and myriad other bird species. Dine tonight at the lodge restaurant, nestled in the middle of the rain forest.

Day 13

Set out by boat to explore more of Tortuguero National Park’s canals. You can choose guided boats or go by kayak for a more personal exploration. In the early afternoon, you’ll have free time to enjoy the lodge’s amenities such as the pool or optional spa treatments before visiting the Sea Turtle Conservancy. There you’ll learn about the history of the region and important conservation work taking place on Tortuguero’s beaches. Later, stroll through the car-less village to see small shops before dining at Miss Junies, a restaurant with a rich heritage and Afro-Caribbean flair.

Day 14
Tortuguero / San Jose

En route to San Jose, visit Sibu Chocolatier, makers of some of the world’s finest organic chocolate. Learn the Aztec & Mayan history of the cacao plant and enjoy a workshop on preparing chocolate. After a picnic lunch of traditional Costa Rican fare, visit one of San Jose’s fine museums. The day ends with a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 15
San Jose / U.S.

Breakfast at the hotel and transfer to the airport for the flight home.


Certified Photo Instructor:
Every expedition aboard the Sea Lion/Sea Bird offers a certified photo instructor. Guests of any interest or skill level can rely on assistance with their camera model, instruction on elements of composition and more, plus useful shooting tips—in the field, where it counts! On select departures, a National Geographic Photographer will join you.

Accommodations aboard ship; hotel nights as indicated; all meals; all non-alcoholic beverages aboard ship; all shore excursions, sightseeing and entrance fees; transfers from airport/ship if traveling on group flights; use of kayaks and snorkeling gear; all port taxes and service taxes during the voyage; gratuities to local guides/drivers; services of natural history staff, local guides and a ship physician.

Not Included:
Air transportation; baggage/accident/cancellation insurance; passport and visa fees; items of a personal nature such as alcoholic beverages and laundry; optional extensions; gratuities to ship’s crew at your discretion; fuel surcharge may apply.

PHOTOS: © Ralph Lee Hopkins (Monkeys, Bird, Parrot, Frog); © David Vargas (Kayakers, Canal)