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Arenal Volcano

Panama to Costa Rica: Monteverde, Arenal, and Tortuguero

Panama to Costa Rica - Example 15 Day Cruise aboard National Geographic Quest
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Join the National Geographic Quest on this extraordinary, holistic expedition - experience all the wildness and beauty of Costa Rica and Panama on a sweeping 15-day adventure. Transit the historical Panama Canal, with an exclusive visit to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute at Barro Colorado Island. Kayak, snorkel, swim, hike—actively explore every day. Hike in the shadow of the Arenal Volcano, and relax in its hot springs. Visit the remote, car-less town of Tortuguero and venture through rainforest-shrouded canals in small boats.

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : Panama City, Panama | Colón | Embark
Day 2 : Gatún Lake | Panama Canal Transit
Day 3 : Gulf of Panama Islets | Panama Canal Transit
Day 4 : Isla Coiba National Park, Panama
Day 5 : Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica
Day 6 : Golfo Dulce | Osa Peninsula
Day 7 : Corcovado National Park
Day 8 : Puerto Caldera | Monteverde
Day 9 : Monteverde
Day 10 : Monteverde | Arenal
Day 11 : Arenal Volcano
Day 12 : Arenal | Tortuguero
Day 13 : Tortuguero
Day 14 : Tortuguero | San Jose
Day 15 : San José | Home

Highlights

  • Snorkel at Isla Coiba, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with incredible reefs
  • Walk the unique suspension bridges along Arenal Volcano, active since 1968
  • Hike through the mist-shrouded cloud forest reserve in Monteverde
  • Explore the remote town of Tortuguero and explore its canals in small boats
  • Visit Sibú Chocolatier and sample fine handmade Costa Rican chocolate

Ship

National Geographic Quest

Places Visited

Activities

Trip Type

  • Small Ship

Activity Level

Relaxed

Trip Snapshots

Arenal Volcano Quetzal in the Savegre Valley About to go kayaking with my son Coatimundi in the Arenal Observatory Lodge garden Panama

Day 1 Panama City, Panama | Colón | Embark

Upon arrival in Colon, transfer by land to Panama City and embark our ship National Geographic Quest. 

Day 2 Gatún Lake | Panama Canal Transit

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Board our Zodiac to visit Barro Colorado Nature Monument in Gatún Lake by special arrangement. Scientists have worked at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island since 1923, researching its 120 mammals and diverse tree species. It is also the site of a National Geographic supported project that tracks tagged animals using automated radio signals and wireless technology. Join local guides for a walk through the forests. This evening, continue through the complex lock system of the canal. 

Day 3 Gulf of Panama Islets | Panama Canal Transit

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Today, explore the tiny islets of the Gulf of Panama by Zodiac or kayak. Here you might spot frigatebirds, brown pelicans, neotropical cormorants, and brown boobies. Set sail for the Panama Canal this afternoon. Stretching more than 50 miles, the canal was a colossal engineering feat completed in 1914. It is still traversed by some 14,000 ships every year. As cargo ships tend to pass through the canal during the day, we’ll most likely begin our crossing at night, when the canal is dramatically lit. 

Day 4 Isla Coiba National Park, Panama

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The first stop in Panama this morning is at the remote Isla Coiba, one of the many islands of Coiba National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Once a penal colony, the island has long been protected and accessible by special permit only. Among its many endemic species are the Coiba Island agouti and the mantled howler monkey, as well as four varieties of sea turtle. Discover rich marine life while snorkeling, go kayaking or hiking, try stand-up paddleboarding, or simply relax on the beach. 

Day 5 Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enter the mangrove-fringed Golfo Dulce along the southwestern edge of Costa Rica. Visit Casa Orquídeas, a tropical paradise of ornamental palms, bromeliads, heliconias, and orchids, closed to the general public and reached by boat only. Keep your eye out for tanagers, parrots, and toucans. Later, explore the placid bay, ideal for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, Zodiac rides, and swimming. 

Day 6 Golfo Dulce | Osa Peninsula

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Go ashore in the pristine waters of Playa Blanca. Head inland to meet and share with inspiring local families living in remote communities and working with cocoa, heart of palm, and sugar cane. Hike mature rain forest or kayak in peaceful waters in Golfo Dulce, the only tropical fiord in the continent. In the evening, enjoy drinks ashore and, hopefully, a beautiful sunset. 

Day 7 Corcovado National Park

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Anchor off the Osa Peninsula to see some of the most pristine lowland rain forest on the Pacific coast. In the environs of Corcovado National Park, swim in waterfall pools, take an optional horseback ride on the coast, or trek through the rain forest for a chance to see four species of monkeys—howler, spider, capuchin, and squirrel. 

Day 8 Puerto Caldera | Monteverde

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Disembark National Geographic Quest and transfer to the Tarcoles River to bird watch. Later, visit the Bat Jungle exhibit or hear from an early Quaker settler. Stay at a peaceful retreat with plenty of picturesque views. 

Day 9 Monteverde

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
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, you’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

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
You'll enjoy breakfast at the hotel and then visit a family-owned farm practicing sustainable agriculture and traditional sugar processing. A local guide will give you a walking tour of the farm and accompany you as you see the original trapiche sugar press. You'll have a chance to sample the local sugar cane liquor called guaro. After the tour, you'll drive to Lake Arenal, which you'll cross in a 40-passenger boats landing at a restaurant on the lake's far side. Afterwards, you will 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. (B,L,D)

Day 11 Arenal Volcano

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
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. 

Day 12 Arenal | Tortuguero

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
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 Tortuguero

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
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. (B,L,D)

Day 14 Tortuguero | San Jose

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
En route to San José, stop to visit Sibú 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 José | Home

  • 1 Breakfast
After one last breakfast, transfer to the San Jose airport for flights home.

National Geographic Quest

Per person starting at
$10,410
Select a Date
Category 1
Cabins feature two lower single beds that can convert to a Queen, a writing desk, and two portholes. Individual climate controls. Shampoo, lotion, and hair dryer are available in cabin bathrooms, as well as an Expedition Essential Kit.
Select a Date
Category 2
Cabins feature two lower single beds that can convert to a Queen, a writing desk, and two portholes. Individual climate controls. Shampoo, lotion, and hair dryer are available in cabin bathrooms, as well as an Expedition Essential Kit.
National Geographic Quest Cabin
Select a Date
Category 3
Cabins feature two lower single beds that can convert to a Queen, a writing desk, and a large view window. Individual climate controls. Shampoo, lotion, and hair dryer are available in cabin bathrooms, as well as an Expedition Essential Kit.
Select a Date
Category 4
Cabins feature two lower single beds that can convert to a Queen, a writing desk, sliding glass door, and small, private balcony. Individual climate controls. Shampoo, lotion, and hair dryer are all available in cabin bathrooms, as well as an Expedition Essential Kit.
National Geographic Quest Cabin
Select a Date
Category 5
Cabins feature two lower single beds that can convert to a Queen, large view windows, an expanded bathroom, writing desk, ample storage space, and a convertible sofa bed to accommodate a third person. Each cabin has individual climate controls. Shampoo, lotion, and hair dryer are all available, as well as an Expedition Essential Kit.

Notes

Single supplement varies by itinerary. A solo traveler matching program may be available, but is subject to availability. 
 

Cost Includes:
  • Accommodations aboard ship
  • Meals indicated
  • Non-alcoholic beverages aboard ship
  • Excursions
  • Services of Lindblad expedition leader, naturalist staff, expert guides and a ship’s doctor
  • Park fees
  • Use of kayaks and snorkeling equipment
  • All port charges and service taxes

Not Included:
  • Air transportation
  • Personal items such as alcoholic beverages, emails, voyage DVD, etc.
  • Discretionary tips to naturalist staff and crew
Payment & Cancellation Policies
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