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Panama to Costa Rica + Monteverde, Arenal Volcano & Tortuguero

Costa Rica and Panama Tour

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.

This trip operates aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion.

Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins


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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. Visit the facilities at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Meet some of the scientists and learn about their work before we re-board to continue our crossing. Often we have the opportunity to cross part of the Canal during the day, and another when it is dramatically lit at night.

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, and try stand up paddle boarding. 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, stand up paddle boarding, expedition landing craft cruises and 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 join a Zodiac cruise. 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

Breakfast at the hotel before visiting a butterfly farm where you’ll have the opportunity to see dozens of local species in a short time. After lunch, we’ll tour the Monteverde reserve with trained Naturalists, relying on their expertise to spot mantled howler monkeys and possibly the rare 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. The day ends with a farewell dinner.

Day 15
San Jose / U.S.

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


This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.

Special Photo Expedition: 3/19/2018
Join National Geographic photographer, Kike Calvo on board for this special photo expedition. Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices.

Certified Photo Instructor:
On all departures, a certified photo instructor will be at your side and at your service to inspire and assist you. Take advantage of talks, presentations, slideshows and “laptop gallery” sharing events. All skill and interest levels are welcome; the instructors can meet you wherever you are on your journey. All you need to participate is a camera— point-and-shoot, smartphone, DSLR, whatever—and a sense of adventure. And you’re sure to return home with amazing photos.

Accommodations aboard ship; hotel nights as indicated; meals aboard ship; non-alcoholic beverages aboard ship; 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. Subject to change without notice.

Not Included:
Air transportation; baggage/accident/cancellation insurance; passport and visa fees; horseback riding; 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.

Photo Credit: © Ralph Lee Hopkins (Monkeys, Bird, Parrot, Frog);© C. Daley-Clark (Forest); © David Vargas (Canal); © Sven-Olof Lindblad (Kayaker, Flower)

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