Panama to Costa Rica + Monteverde, Sarapiqui & Arenal Volcano

Costa Rica and Panama Tour

  • National Geographic
    Sea Lion/Sea Bird
  • Expedition Ship
  • 62 Capacity
  • 15 Days
  • View Departure>
  • Price from
  • $999,999,999

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!
Free Subscription: Complimentary 1-year subscription to National Geographic Magazine (one per booking).

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Day 1
U.S. / Panama City, Panama / Colon / 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 / Carara Biological Reserve / Monteverde

Disembark National Geographic Sea Lion in Herradura and take a 20-minute drive to the Carara Biological Reserve. View monkeys, iguanas, the endangered scarlet macaw and huge American crocodiles. A drive up the mountain takes you to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Bathed in cool, year-round moisture, the forest is covered with lichen, moss and 300 species of orchid. Spend two nights at a charming, family-owned lodge.

Day 9
Monteverde Cloud Forest

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 familyowned, 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 / Sarapiquí

Cross the northern plains leading to the rich rain forests of Sarapiquí, stopping to visit La Selva Biological Station and some of the most immaculate primary tropical rain forest. Check into Sueño Azul, set in a private rain forest reserve at the convergence of two rivers.

Day 13

Float the Sarapiquí River on a relaxing journey or opt for an adventurous whitewater rafting trip. After lunch, you’re free to explore on your own. Ride horseback to secluded waterfalls or pamper yourself with a yoga class or a day in the spa.

Day 14
Sarapiquí / 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; seven 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; fitness center; 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; horseback riding; 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.