Discover Costa Rica & Panama
Highlights of Central America from Costa Rica to Panama
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Leisurely
Group Size Small Group
This busy itinerary takes us through some of the highlights of Central America. Costa Rica’s tropical climate supports a range of ecosystems including dense jungle, cloud forest, coastline and a handful of active volcanoes. The result is a paradise bursting with wildlife and tropical verdant scenery. From the Bocas del Toro Islands, a stunning archipelago with a lively Caribbean culture, to the Panama Canal, one of the world’s most impressive feats of engineering, and the vibrant capital Panama City.
* All breakfasts, 6 lunches and 2 dinners included
* All accommodation
* All transport and listed activities
* Specialist local guides
* Airport transfers (at designated times)
- Single Accommodation (available on request, inquire for supplement)
- Navigate the waterways of Costa Rica’s Tortuguero N.P.
- Pacific beaches and the idyllic Caribbean islands of Bocas del Toro
- Discover the Panama Canal, see the colossal Miraflores Locks in action
- Travel by private minibus, boat, ferry and internal flight
- Group normally 6 to 16, plus local leader and guides
- 13 nights comfortable hotels
Start San Jose
Those on the airport transfer should arrive into San Jose this evening and will be transferred to the start hotel. Land Only clients should aim to arrive at the hotel this afternoon/evening. There will be the opportunity to meet your guide and get to know your fellow travellers.Accommodation: Balmoral Hotel (or similar)*Comfortable Hotel*
Visit Palo Verde National Park; to La Anita Rainforest Ranch close to the region of Rincon de la Vieja.
After breakfast we transfer to La Anita Rainforest Ranch, stopping at Palo Verde National Park en route.Palo Verde is one of the greatest wetland areas of Costa Rica, named after the Palo Verde tree with its green trunk and beautiful yellow flowers. The region combines tropical dry forest with rivers, mangroves and wetlands which creates a wonderful habitat for birdlife. On a boat excursion you’ll likely see Roseate spoonbills and the Jabiru stork, one of the largest birds in Central America. We continue to La Anita Rainforest Ranch, which is nestled in a small valley between the Miravalles, Rincon de la Vieja and Santa Maria Volcanoes and surrounded by an incredible explosion of biodiversity; hidden amidst the dense rainforest live a vast number of species to delight any nature lover. A wide variety of produce is also grown on the property, including cocoa, heart of palm and cardamom as well as tropical fruits, vegetables, medicinal plants and flowers. Accommodation: La Anita Rainforest Ranch (or similar)*Comfortable Hotel*
Organic Chocolate tour at La Anita Cacao Farm
La Anita is the only farm in Costa Rica owned by a Costa Rican family who produce their own organic cacao. Today we have an organic chocolate tour, starting with the cacao pods that grow here, guiding you through the chocolate making process and ending with a tasting session of the famous dark chocolate. In this region the climate supports several varieties of cacao growing in the midst of rainforest and volcanoes – it is a wonderful setting to learn about one of Costa Rica’s tastiest traditions made by a producer committed to using sustainable practices. Save some room as lunch will be provided at the ranch following this chocolate tour! The rest of the day is free to explore the farm, take a walk to discover the local village or other optional activities.Accommodation: La Anita Rainforest Ranch (or similar)*Comfortable Hotel*
Free day at La Anita Rainforest Ranch.
Today is a free day to learn about the history of the region, relax and enjoy the surroundings. There are various optional excursions to choose from which can all be organised and booked locally – hikes at Miravalles or Rincon de la Vieja, or traditional cooking classes. Accommodation: La Anita Rainforest Ranch (or similar)*Comfortable Hotel*
To La Fortuna, near Arenal Volcano; optional visit Ecotermales Hot Springs.
Today we travel to the small town of La Fortuna, near Arenal Volcano. Arenal was Costa Rica’s most active volcano until fairly recently, when it entered a resting phase and can no longer be seen spitting ash, smoke or lava. However there is still a lot of geothermal activity in the area and you’ll have the opportunity to visit one of the excellent hot springs this evening. In clear weather there are great views of the volcano from our overnight base in La Fortuna.Accommodation: Arenal Montechiari Hotel (or similar)*Comfortable Hotel*
Visit Arenal Volcano N.P., La Fortuna Waterfall and Don Juan Farm; afternoon for optional activities
There is a guided hike this morning through Arenal Volcano National Park. The park has a great system of trails passing through secondary forest and near lava fields created by previous eruptions. The high vantage points on this walk allow great views overlooking Lake Arenal, and the birdlife is plentiful. We include a visit to La Fortuna Waterfall and Don Juan Farm today, where lunch is provided along with a tour of the organic farm. The rest of the afternoon is free to sign up for an optional activity, such as the Sky Walk (canopy walk) or Sky Trek (zip wire) excursions. Accommodation: Arenal Montechiari Hotel (or similar)*Comfortable Hotel*
To Tortuguero N.P.
This morning we set off to the north-east of Costa Rica to Tortuguero National Park. Accessible only by boat or light aircraft, Tortuguero’s vast network of waterways, canals and swamps is remarkably tranquil, unspoilt and devoid of noise pollution. On reaching the pier we board a small motorboat for the one hour fifteen minute journey to our lodge, which is nestled on a small strip of land between the Caribbean Sea and the main lagoon. Our afternoon is spent in Tortuguero village, where it’s possible to visit the Sea Turtle Museum (a donation will be requested at the entrance). Tortuguero is probably most famous as a nesting site for the endangered Green turtle, which can be seen arriving onto the beach to lay eggs from late July to October (as part of an optional excursion). Hawksbill, Loggerhead and Giant Leatherback turtles also nest in this region, and during November to January baby turtles start to hatch and make their way towards the ocean.Accommodation: Laguna Lodge (or similar)*Comfortable Hotel*
Boat tour around Tortuguero waterways.
An early morning boat trip enables us to discover the extraordinary flora and fauna of Tortuguero, passing serenely along the waterways. At this time of day wildlife is usually at its most active and with the help of our expert guide we are likely to encounter monkeys, caiman, iguanas, butterflies and many of the 300+ bird species recorded here. We return to the lodge for a hearty breakfast by the river. The lodge is a tranquil spot to relax this afternoon if you want to take some time out to enjoy the facilities, or alternatively you can join a second boat trip (included), visit the beach or follow a short walking trail through the forest.Accommodation: Laguna Lodge (or similar)*Comfortable Hotel*
To the Caribbean coast.
We leave Tortuguero by taking a small boat to the pier. Our bus will be at the pier waiting to drive us to the Caribbean coast, where we check into our hotel located in Puerto Viejo. Caribbean culture pervades this part of Costa Rica and is reflected in the music, food and laid-back lifestyle. Cahuita’s famous white-sand beach is fringed by tall palms, behind which the dense, wet tropical forest of Cahuita National Park is located.Accommodation: Namuwoki (or similar)*Comfortable Hotel*
Cross into Panama; to Bocas del Toro islands.
Our journey continues alongside vast banana plantations, crossing the border on the banks of the Sixaola River and entering into Panama. We transfer through the frontier town of Changuinola and then through steep rainforest hills which are inhabited by indigenous people. Once we arrive at the coast we board a shuttle boat taxi to cross the Caribbean to the wonderful Bocas del Toro Islands, our home for the next two nights.Accommodation: Playa Tortuga (or similar)*Comfortable Hotel*
Free day in Bocas del Toro for optional activities.
Today has been left free to explore the beautiful Bocas del Toro Islands, which are rapidly becoming a popular destination in the Caribbean. Today you will get a chance to see why: spectacular palm-shaded white sand beaches, crystal clear water, wonderful snorkeling and lots of wildlife and kayaking. It’s possible to take boat trips to discover the surrounding islands too. All of these activities can be arranged locally.Accommodation: Playa Tortuga (or similar)*Comfortable Hotel*
Morning to Boquete; afternoon coffee plantation tour.
After taking a shuttle boat taxi back to the mainland, we drive into the mountains that separate Panama’s two coastlines. The change in temperature, humidity and eco-systems is significant as we gain altitude. Our destination is the small village of Boquete, nestled in the highlands and well known for its beautiful scenery, nice weather and high quality coffee. We should arrive at our hotel just before lunch. Afterwards, we have a coffee tour to discover this regions most famous crop: Arabica coffee beans. From gathering beans in the plantation by the expert hands of Ngobe Indians to roasting, you will learn everything about the best coffee in the world!Accommodation: Boquete Tree Trek Mountain Resort (or similar)*Comfortable Hotel*
Fly to Panama City; visit Casco Viejo and the Panama Canal.
From Boquete we take a short transfer to David, where we take a domestic flight with Air Panama to Panama City. This flight takes around 45 minutes and has been included to avoid an otherwise long bus transfer. On arrival into Panama City we have a guided tour of the old town, known as Casco Viejo, with its numerous colonial monuments and churches. This interesting area of the city is gradually being restored and is lovely to wander around, with the modern city skyline as a contrasting backdrop. This afternoon we visit the Panama Canal to see the spectacular ’Miraflores Locks’ in action – marvel at this incredible feat of modern engineering as you watch huge cargo ships navigate the locks.Accommodation: Tryp by Wyndham Panama Centro (or similar)*Comfortable Hotel*
End Panama City.
The trip comes to an end today after breakfast and it’s time to bid the rest of the group goodbye. Transfers to the airport are included for those on the airport transfer.
Hotels & Lodges
We have 13 nights in a variety of colonial, rustic and modern–contemporary properties, all with en suite facilities.
Most of the accommodations that we use are small establishments offering a warm welcome and relaxing surroundings.
Optional single supplement available, please see inquire for prices.
All breakfasts, 6 lunches and 2 dinners included
Hotel breakfasts are normally buffet style. Rice and Beans tends to dominate the cusine of Costa Rica, and can be found for breakfast as the local speciality called “Gallo Pinto”, lunch and dinner – accompanied by a portion of meat and salad. Soups and stews are also common, and fresh fruits are abundant and will no doubt be one of the highlights of your time in the tropics. In Panamá, most dishes have a mixture of Caribbean, African and Spanish flavours. Fish, lentils, shrimps, stews and plantains make up a big part of the local diet. Tropical fruits are also easily available.
Vegetarians are well catered for but please inform us before departure of any special dietary requests.
Activity Level: 1 (Leisurely)
Most of the driving distances are short, but some of the roads can be of poor quality which may occasionally result in slower driving times than expected. There are several included and optional walks on the itinerary which occasionally involve walking on rough paths. These are suitable for most levels of fitness and usually last from two to three hours. During times of heavy rain, trails can be muddy and slippery and extra care should be taken. Many of the areas visited on the trip are hot and humid and there is the chance of heavy rain year-round.
Please note that we require some details from you at least two months prior to departure in order to organise the internal flight with Air Panama. You will be required to provide us with your passport details including your full name, nationality and date of birth. This information will be given to the airline at the point of the tickets being booked and must match the passport that you are using to travel with. Please contact our Customer Operations team to provide these details.