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Arenal Volcano

Panama to Costa Rica: Monteverde, Arenal, and Tortuguero

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 | Embark in Colón
Day 2 : Barro Colorado | Panama Canal Transit
Day 3 : Gulf of Panama
Day 4 : Isla Coiba National Park
Day 5 : Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica
Day 6 : Osa Peninsula and Corcovado
Day 7 : Manuel Antonio National Park
Day 8 : Herradura | Disembark | 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 Jose

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 | Embark in Colón

Upon arrival to Panama City, drive to Colón to board the National Geographic Quest and set sail for the first part of your Panama Canal transit, anchoring in Gatún Lake. Quest is one of the few ships that makes the crossing in two days, as well as the only ship permitted the exclusive opportunity to explore impressive Barro Colorado, which you visit tomorrow.

Day 2 Barro Colorado | Panama Canal Transit

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
In the morning, board expedition landing craft and journey to the Barro Colorado Nature Monument in Gatún Lake. The island has been the primary Smithsonian center for tropical rain forest study since 1946. Meet some of the scientists and learn about their work before continuing your crossing of the canal. Often there is an opportunity to cross part of the Canal during the day, and another when it is dramatically lit at night.

Day 3 Gulf of Panama

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The archipelago of islands due south of Panama City has a storied past — pearls, conquistadors, buccaneers, and so much more. Explore the turquoise waters via expedition landing craft or kayak, where dolphins and whales have been spotted. Observe roosting and nesting magnificent frigate birds and blue-footed boobies.

Day 4 Isla Coiba National Park

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Isla Coiba is one of Panama’s most remote national parks. Hike tropical, moist forest trails, swim and snorkel among tropical fish, and try stand up paddle boarding. For those preferring a drier clime, Naturalists take underwater footage which animates the evening gathering in the lounge. 

Day 5 Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Make your first landfall in Costa Rica at Casa Orquídeas, a privately-owned garden accessible only by boat and special invitation. Admire their garden 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, or swimming.

Day 6 Osa Peninsula and Corcovado

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Anchor off the remote Osa Peninsula and the environs of Corcovado National Park. Swim in waterfall pools, horseback ride, or join a expedition landing craft 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

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The abundant wildlife in Manuel Antonio is most active in the early morning, so make 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 and find a great spot for hiking and swimming.

Day 8 Herradura | Disembark | Monteverde

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Disembark the ship and make your way to Carara National Park, where the less dense rainforests make for easy bird sightings. Enjoy 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 Monteverde

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before visiting a butterfly farm where you have the opportunity to see dozens of local species. After lunch, 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
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and then visit a family-owned farm practicing sustainable agriculture and traditional sugar processing. A local guide leads a walking tour of the farm and accompanies you as you see the original trapiche sugar press. Have a chance to sample the local sugar cane liquor called guaro. After the tour drive to Lake Arenal, which you cross in 40-passenger boats, landing at a restaurant on the lake's far side. Afterwards, check into an elegant hotel surrounded by gardens and pastures with grazing animals, where every room offers a panoramic view of the smoldering Arenal volcano.

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. 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 have free time  to enjoy the lodge’s amenities such as the pool or optional spa treatments before visiting the Sea Turtle Conservancy. There 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

  • 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 Jose

  • 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

Included

  • 14 Breakfasts, 13 Lunches, 14 Dinners
Payment & Cancellation Policies
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Kate was great to work with in the planning stage. She was prompt, helpful, and efficient. Our tour guide, Edwin, was knowledgeable and passionate. We were very happy to have traveled with Adventure Life, it made the trip easy and a true pleasure. We could concentrate on enjoying the experience rather than the details of travel.
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