Colón’s history has always been defined by the desire for the riches of its natural resources. From its gold and silver to its value as a trade route made possible by the Panama Canal, Colón is today known for the Zona Libre – the largest free-trade zone in the Americas. The Zona Libre links producers in North America, the Far East, and Europe with the Latin American market. As such, it is home to more than 1,600 companies and several dozen banks. Far less commercial, the area surrounding the city encompasses pristine beaches, lowland rainforests, splendid colonial architecture, and wonders of modern engineering. This variety of environments allows a wide range of activities that include snorkeling in the clear Caribbean waters, exploring ruins, or even marveling at the massive locks on the other side of the Panama Canal. Embark the Wind Spirit this afternoon and settle in for your upcoming Central American tour.
Sometimes referred to as “the eight wonder of the world,” the 51-mile Panama Canal is an engineering marvel that cuts across the Isthmus of Panama, connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Work on the canal, which began in 1880, was completed in 1914. Today your ship begins its 8- to 10-hour Panama canal passage which includes transit through three sets of locks, Gatun Locks, Pedro Miguel Locks and Miraflores Locks through which the water level is adjusted 85 feet. Transiting the Canal from Atlantic to Pacific, a ship enters from Limon Bay at the Cristobal Breakwater, where the channel is 6.5 miles long and 500 feet wide, running through a mangrove swamp, and enters Gatun Locks, 1.5 miles long. The next 23 miles a ship travels through Gatun Lake to Gaillard Cut, formed by an earthen dam across the Chagres River. Pass across the Continental Divide at Gaillard Cut, about 8 miles long and where the major excavation of the Canal took place. Just before reaching the Pedro Miguel Locks, a ship will pass Gold Hill, the highest point along the Canal at 587 feet. Pedro Miguel Locks open to Miraflores Lake, a small artificial lake that separates Pedro Miguel from Miraflores Locks, with the tallest lock gates of the Canal due to the extreme tidal variations of the Pacific Ocean.
This is your invitation to a day of indulgence. Treat yourself to a luxurious spa experience. Stretch out by the pool with your favorite beverage. Grab a great book or your favorite movie from the library. Stretch your muscles with the state-of-the-art fitness equipment. Dine in sumptuous casual style, or wrap yourself in that comfy waffle-weave robe and enjoy your meal in the privacy of your beautiful stateroom. Your delight is the single priority for your day at sea.
Continue your Panama tour with a stop in Coiba, identified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest island in Central America, off the pacific coast of the Panamanian province of Veraguas. The waters adjacent to the island are teeming with marine life. It is surrounded by one of the largest coral reefs in the pacific coasts of the Americas; it is the beginning of the underwater Cordilera mountain chain that also includes Coco's and the Galapagos Islands. This makes for a unique dive experience you shouldn't miss.
Begin your Costa Rica adventures with a stop at the beautifully situated Golfito. Located between the rainforest and Golfito Bay, Golfito has become the gateway to Eco-Lodges, Costa Rica’s newest tourist attraction. While Golfito was a major banana growing region in the mid-1980s, by 2006 sport fishing had become its most important draw. Some of the most attractive beaches in Costa Rica are found around Golfito, like Playa Zancudo with its gentle surf, black-sand beach, and water that sparkles brightly at night with the bioluminescence of plankton, and Pavones, a surfer’s paradise where waves can be ridden for over three minutes. Piedras Blancas National Park is the last remaining home of jaguars. It is a large natural reserve and wildlife refuge with an amazing diversity of plants and animals, some of which include howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, scarlet macaws, toucans, and coatis.
Believed to be a port visited by Sir Frances Drake in the 16th century, Bahía Drake is actually composed of two towns, Agujitas, along the southern shore of the bay; and Drake, to the north. The beautiful and remote coastline of sparkling coves, pristine beaches, and rocky crags extends for miles and the bay can only be reached by road during the dry season. The main attraction of Bahía Drake is Corcovado National Park, a nature preserve and tropical rainforest that occupies almost a third of the Osa Peninsula. Visitors are almost guaranteed to see some of the most incredible wildlife living in the jungles of the reserve including red-eyed tree frogs, tapirs, harpy eagles, white-lipped peccaries, monkeys, and scarlet macaws. Swimmers can have the amazing opportunity to share the warm waters with marlins, dolphins, and humpback whales.
The former banana-exporting town of Puerto Quepos is your basecamp for a day of Central American rainforest adventure. Take a walk along trails that weave up to waterfalls, or ride horseback to a beautiful jungle pool. A float trip through a mangrove swamp populated by monkeys, crocodiles, egrets, and herons is also available. Or you may choose a nature walk through Manuel Antonio National Park, with its lovely beaches, easy trails, and abundant animal life.
An industrial port complex for both cruise ships and cargo vessels, Puerto Caldera belongs to the Puntarenas Province. The unspoiled natural beauty of the region is one of Puerto Caldera's main attractions. Its rainforest, which starts just inside the coastline and continues up into the mountain ranges, contain rivers, waterfalls, parks, and wildlife preserves. Disembark this morning for your continued journey.