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Colorful tree frog of Costa Rica

Costa Rica and Panama Canal

Example 15 Day Cruise aboard Greg Mortimer
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Take the opportunity to explore Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia & the Panama Canal on this 11-day cruise aboard Greg Mortimer. Hike through virgin rainforest, look out for acrobatic dolphin pods, swim and snorkel in splendid isolation where the jungle meets the ocean, Zodiac cruise upriver to meet Emberá Mogue, an indigenous community living in the Darién jungle, before crossing the iconic Panama Canal. In Cartagena de Indias, soak up the Afro-Caribbean vibes in this vibrant and colorful UNESCO-protected fort city.
Panama City's Bridge of the Americas
Highlights
  • Experience an unforgettable daylight crossing of the extraordinary Panama Canal
  • Enjoy a warm welcome by the indigenous Emberá Mogue community in Panama’s Darién Jungle
  • Meet blue-footed, red-footed, and Nazca boobies at ‘Poor Man’s Galápagos’ – Isla de la Plata
  • Discover the staggering beauty of Colombia’s Chocó region
  • Soak up the colonial splendor of UNESCO-listed Cartagena’s old town
Trip Type:
  • Small Ship
Activity Level: Relaxed
0

Full Itinerary

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Day 1: San Jose, Costa Rica

In San José, make your own way to the group hotel and enjoy time at leisure. 

Day 2: Puerto Caldera | Embark

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
After a leisurely buffet breakfast, check-out of your room and drive two-hours west to Puerto Caldera where your vessel Greg Mortimer awaits. After boarding, you’ll have time to settle into your cabin before the important briefings before sitting down to enjoy lunch as you sail to Isla Tortuga (Turtle Island). You can relax on the white sand beach or venture into the warm water to swim, snorkel or dive. The water is teeming with a dizzying array of fish and other creatures including manta rays, spinner dolphins and perhaps sharks. There are even some buried treasures there – literally. There are three shipwrecks off the shore of the island, offering plenty of opportunities to explore the remains of sunken vessels. At Isla Tortuga, we will do our kayak orientation and have your first introductory paddle. This evening, get to know your fellow expeditioners and friendly expedition team and crew at a welcome dinner to celebrate the start of a thrilling adventure to Costa Rica and Panama

Day 3: Curú National Wildlife Refuge

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Curú National Wildlife Refuge is a privately owned and managed nature preserve offering visitors some of the best eco-tourism experiences in Costa Rica. The refuge is the first privately owned refuge in Costa Rica and is an example of a successful sustainable development program, offering over 3700 acres of tropical forests, mangrove swamps, and grassy fields sitting right along the coastline. 17 hiking trails wind through the varied terrain and you may see white-tail deer or catch a glimpse of armadillos or iguanas. Monkeys are prolific including the native capuchin, spider, and howler monkeys. Located on the southern Nicoya Peninsula of northwestern Costa Rica, the area is teeming with abundant wildlife and hosts one of the most beautiful beaches and protected bays on the Nicoya Peninsula, where you can hope to go for a paddle and swim.

Day 4: Manuel Antonio National Park

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Boasting over 100 species of mammals, 184 species of birds and a plethora of diverse flora, Manuel Antonio National Park is a paradise for wildlife lovers. Costa Rica’s star attractions - two and three toed sloths, white-faced monkeys and toucans can all be found on hikes that weave through the park. Hiking trails snake their way through the parkland offering access to its rainforest, waterfalls and remote white sand beaches whilst from the water we can snorkel, kayak and paddleboard to view the exquisite coral. Anchor off the shores of Espadilla Beach and Zodiac to shore for a wet landing. Walk along this soft-sand beach or follow a trail through the rainforest parallel to the beach to get to Playa Manuel Antonio, which is the most popular beach inside the park. It’s a short, deep crescent of white sand backed by lush rainforest. There are numerous clearly-marked hiking trails to choose from - a circular loop trail (1.4km/0.9 mile) around a high promontory bluff, which includes a visit to the highest point on this hike – Punta Catedral, which offers spectacular views, takes approximately 25 to 30 minutes return. The hiking trails in Manuel Antonio National Park offer excellent opportunities to spot monkeys, sometimes sloths, agoutis, armadillos and coatis.

Day 5-6: Osa Peninsula and Gulfo Dulce

  • Ship
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Over the next two days, explore the untamed Osa Peninsula, considered by National Geographic to be ‘one of the most biologically intense places on Earth’. Considered to be the crown jewel of Costa Rica's park system, Corcovado National Park is the country's largest and one of the most remote parks in Costa Rica. It is home to the largest and only tropical primary lowland rainforest in the world, provides habitat for a plethora of endangered plant and animal species including the scarlet macaw, various frogs, and the tapir - the largest terrestrial mammal in Central and South America. In order to conserve the integrity of the national park, restrictions are placed on the capacity of daily visitors permitted in the park. We therefore hike through a private conservation reserve adjoining the national park looking not only for wildlife, but also to experience the incredible wet tropical rainforest filled with tall trees measuring over 60 metres/197 ft, lianas, epiphytes, palms, gingers and orchids. You will also visit nearby Caño Island Biological Reserve, located only 20 kilometres/12.4 miles offshore from the Osa Peninsula, an island of incredible geographical and archeological importance. This 300-hectare piece of land was formerly a cemetery or burial ground dating back to the pre-Columbian era. Visitors are only permitted to visit the island for a maximum of 15 minutes. However, the blue waters surrounding the island are ideal for diving, snorkelling and kayaking. With excellent underwater visibility, it is often possible to spot sea turtles, dolphins, stingrays, manta rays, moray eels, barracudas, tuna, snapper and grouper swimming alongside a variety sharks and humpback or pilot whales. Since the island is a reserve, scuba diving numbers are regulated to a maximum of 10, and the removal of any marine life is strictly forbidden. The following day, we will round the peninsula’ most southern point to enter Gulfo Dulce, or Sweet Gulf. The large bay hugs pristine beaches, rivers and tall evergreen forest, a protected area known as the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve. As one of the wettest places on Earth with over 200 inches/5000 mm of rainfall a year, the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve boasts some of the tallest ancient trees. Established in 1979, the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve was created to protect the lowland forested areas that surround the gulf – the reserve also connecting other national parks in the area. Visit a private reserve called Casa Orchideas (Orchid House), akin to a botanical garden adjoining Piedras Blancas National Park. A hike in Casa Orchideas allows you to appreciate colourful orchids, heliconias, palms, and all the tropical wildlife such as toucans, macaws, tanagers, and honey creepers that feed from the flowers. The warm tropical waters in the gulf are a popular playground for dolphins - perfect for snorkelling, paddle-boarding, kayaking, and Zodiac cruising.

Day 7-8: Coiba National Park, Panama

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Leaving Costa Rica behind, sail through the Panamanian islands of Coiba National Park, located off the southwest coast of Panama and inscribed as by UNESCO as a place of outstanding universal value. The national park protects Coiba Island, 38 smaller islands and the surrounding marine areas within the Gulf of Chiriqui. Protected from the cold winds and effects of El Niño, Coiba’s Pacific tropical moist forest maintains exceptionally high levels of endemism of mammals, birds and plants due to the ongoing evolution of new species. It is also the last refuge for a number of threatened animals such as the crested eagle. The property is an outstanding natural laboratory for scientific research and provides a key ecological link to the Tropical Eastern Pacific for the transit and survival of pelagic fish and marine mammals. Due to Coiba Island (the main island in the archipelago) previously serving as a penal colony, access to the island was heavily restricted. As a result, nearly 80 per cent of the islands' natural resources have remained untouched and flourished because of limited human contact. Coiba National Park is managed by the National Authority for the Environment (ANAM) and is accessible only by permit from ANAM. With its designations as a National Park and UNESCO protection, Isla Coiba, its surrounding waters and island neighbours have been given a greater degree of protection. Despite being subject to poaching, illegal logging and other trespasses, the Panamanian government has taken a large step in their preservation. On Coiba Island, hike through untouched tropical jungle, home to mantled howler monkeys, crested eagles, and sea turtles. We aim to stop at Granito de Oro islet, a unique place which offers the casual snorkeller a diversity and volume of marine life that many avid scuba divers spend their lives trying to see. The waters surrounding are considered one of the best diving destinations in the world. Enjoy the day snorkelling among abundant marine life, kayaking around rocky outcroppings, and basking on the warm sand.

Day 9: Pearl Island

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The Pearl Islands of Panama is an archipelago located in the North Pacific Ocean in the Gulf of Panama, covering around 250 small islands. The Spanish Conquistadors discovered the islands in 1503 and gave them Islands its name due to the great amounts of pearls found on them. The Pearl Islands were originally named by the Spanish explorer Vasco Nuñez de Balboa due to the bountiful pearls that were harvested off the islands’ shores. The Pearl Islands are most famous for their spectacular and tranquil white-sand beaches, untouched forests, and colorful coral reefs offshore – ideal for diving, snorkeling and kayaking.

The largest of the islands is Isla Del Rey but Isla Contadora is the only destination in the archipelago that is equipped with enough infrastructure to attract a large number of visitors. In addition to Isla Contadora, we plan to visit a few nearby islands including Bartolome to enjoy some aquatic activities before exploring Pachequilla, and Pacheca Island, also known as Isla de Los Párajos (Bird Island) because it hosts several colonies of seabirds.

Day 10: Emberá Mogue Village | Darién, Panama

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
There are few places on Earth like the Darién - a region of great interest to biologists, anthropologists, and a notorious route for smuggling narcotics. It is a place of immense natural beauty, where life in the rainforest has remained relatively unchanged for the indigenous communities that live there. It is Panama’s last frontier. The Darién is enormous. The province itself spans some 16,671 square kilometers (6,437 square miles) and contains Panama’s largest national park and most the country’s most extensive lowland tropical forest. However, with only 40,000 inhabitants, the Darién is also the most sparsely populated part of Panama. Its residents live in small, impoverished towns, and include members of the Guna and Emberà-Wounaan indigenous groups.

For many, the Darién is little more than the place where the Pan-American Highway ends and the Darién Gap begins. The gap is the only missing link in a system of roads that connects North and South America, all the way from Alaska to Patagonia. Darién National Park, which spans a total of 579,000 hectares (1,430,740 acres), is the largest national park in Central America. Rarely visited, the region is characterized by unspoiled sandy beaches, jagged rocky coasts, mangrove swamps, and tropical forests bursting with endemic and rare species of plants and birds such as the scarlet macaw, toucan and harpy eagle. Mammals include ocelot, jaguar, Baird’s tapir, anteater, sloth, coatis and kinkajou, In an effort to save the Darién from being poached by loggers and developers, UNESCO inscribed the Darien National Park into its list of World Heritage Sites in 1983.

Day 11: Panama City

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Three million years ago, the Isthmus of Panama emerged from the sea and changed the world forever. It divided an ocean and joined two continents together, triggering one of the most important natural evolution events in the history of the world. Today, this narrow land bridge in Central America is home to more species of birds and trees than the whole of North America. Panama is of course world-famous for its 77 km / 48 mi canal that connects the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean.

Panama’s history has been formed by a rich pre-Columbian era for more than 12,000 years. Early cultures in Panama were the Monagrillo, the Cueva and the Conte, particularly famous for their pottery, which was the first in the Americas. The first European claiming the territory of today’s Panama was Rodrigo de Bastidas, coming from Colombia’s Atlantic coast in 1501. In 1513 Vasco Nuñez de Balboa became the first Spaniard to see the Pacific Ocean from the top of a hill. Four days later he and his men stood at the shores of the Pacific Ocean. In 1519 Panama City was founded and became an important hub for seized goods making its way from Peru to Spain.

Day 12: Panama Canal Crossing

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Crossing the Panama Canal will surely be a highlight for many travelers. Each year, over a million people visit the canal to witness this engineering marvel at work. Starting in the Pacific Ocean, you will be able to admire the Bay of Panama and Panama City’s splendorous skyline before passing under the ‘Bridge of the Americas’. The vessel will then transit through the first set of locks, the Miraflores Locks, where it will be lifted 16 meters in two distinct steps. Next, your ship will enter Miraflores Lake, which is a small artificial body of freshwater that separates Pedro Miguel Locks from Miraflores Locks. The vessel will transit through Pedro Miguel Locks, which is one of the two sets of locks on the Pacific side, and here the vessel is lifted 9 meters in one step. After exiting Pedro Miguel locks, your boat will travel through the Gaillard Cut, where the Chagres River flows into the canal. The Gaillard Cut (also known as Culebra Cut because its curves resemble a snake) is one of the main points of interest for visitors because it was carved through the Continental Divide and this section of the canal is full of history and geological value.

Day 13: At Sea

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Sail to Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. While at sea, enjoy a few final presentations from our team of experts. Edit photos, finish the book you’ve been enjoying, or simply relax on your private balcony or in one of the many public spaces on board the ship.
 

Day 14: Cartagena de Indias | Disembark

  • 1 Breakfast
Disembark in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, inscribed by UNESCO as a site of Outstanding Universal Heritage. The city’s rich history, diverse culture and energy captivates visitors with its vibrancy, Afro-Caribbean character, indigenous influences and some of the best-preserved colonial architecture in all of South America.

Day 15: Cartagena de Indias Depart Home

After breakfast, farewell your fellow travellers and check-out of your room before making your own way to the airport for your onward journey.

Photo Gallery

Panama City's Bridge of the Americas Colorful tree frog of Costa Rica Spotting wildlife in the jungle Sunset over Cartagena Hiking Costa Rica's stunning rainforests

Map

Ship/Hotel

Greg Mortimer

San Jose - Hotels

Dates & Prices

Per person starting at
$6,395
Greg Mortimer-Aurora Stateroom Triple
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Aurora Stateroom Triple
6 rooms available. All include en-suite bathrooms, three single beds, porthole window, desk area and 42" flat-screen TV
Greg Mortimer
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Aurora Stateroom Twin
Greg Mortimer features 8 porthole rooms, all with private en-suites. Located on Deck 3, they're close to the mudroom and loading platforms, perfect for adventurers who are looking for a comfortable base that's close to the action.
Greg Mortimer
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Balcony Stateroom C
14 rooms available. All include en-suite bathrooms, floor to ceiling windows and balconies and a select number are also connecting rooms, perfect for families or groups.
Greg Mortimer
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Balcony Stateroom B
22 rooms available. All include en-suite bathrooms, floor to ceiling windows and balconies and a select number are also connecting rooms, perfect for families or groups.
Greg Mortimer
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Balcony Stateroom A
22 rooms available. All include en-suite bathrooms, floor to ceiling windows and balconies and a select number are also connecting rooms, perfect for families or groups.
Greg Mortimer
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Balcony Suite
With a bit more room to stretch the legs, the Greg Mortimer's two Balcony Suites are perfect for polar adventurers who travel with plenty of gear. Featuring private balconies, en-suite bathrooms and a comfortable desk area, these will sell out quickly!
Greg Mortimer
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Junior Suite
The Greg Mortimer's four Junior Suites take in some impressive scenery from their vantage points on Deck 7. When you aren't enjoying a landing, you can relax in the suites' separate lounge area, or just watch the world float by from the private balcony.
Greg Mortimer
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Captain's Suite
The largest of all the rooms, the Greg Mortimer's singular Captain's Suite will take you to the polar regions in ultimate style and comfort. Complete with large lounge area, balcony, walk-in wardrobe and en-suite.

Notes

Important note: due to strict regulations enforced by local environmental authorities to conserve and protect the pristine places visited on this voyage, permits can be cancelled by authorities at any time with very little notice. Under such circumstances, Aurora Expeditions reserves the right to change our itineraries with little or no prior notice.

Voyage Inclusions:
  • One night’s hotel accommodation with breakfast in San Jose on day 1
  • Half day San Jose city tour on day 2
  • Luggage transfer from your hotel to ship on day 2
  • One night’s hotel accommodation in Cartagena de Indias on day 11
  • On-board accommodation during voyage including daily cabin service
  • All meals, snacks, tea and coffee during voyage
  • Beer, house wine and soft drinks with dinner
  • All shore excursions and Zodiac cruises mentioned in the itinerary
  • Educational lectures and guiding services from expedition team
  • Access to our onboard doctor and basic medical services
  • Complimentary dry bag backpack
  • Complimentary loan of muck boots during the voyage
  • Comprehensive pre-departure information
  • A printed photo book produced with photos from your voyage
  • Gratuities for crew will automatically be added to your bill. Please advise at the time of settlement if you would like this to be removed
  • Port surcharges, permits and landing fees
Voyage Exclusions:
  • International or domestic flights to or within Central America, unless specified
  • Transfers not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Airport arrival or departure taxes
  • Passport, visa, reciprocity fees and vaccination charges
  • Travel insurance or emergency evacuation charges
  • Hotels and meals not included in itinerary
  • Optional excursions not included in the itinerary
  • Optional activity surcharges
  • All items of a personal nature including but not limited to: alcoholic beverages and soft drinks (except during dinner), laundry services, personal clothing, medical expenses, gratuities, Wi-Fi, email, or phone charges

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This was our first trip to South America and we were a little nervous. But Adventure Life made things so easy! All our questions were answered before we left, and our guide, Vidal, was amazing! He gave us enough space to explore without rushing us along. He also knew where the best picture taking opportunities were, which was great.
Lindsay Gompf

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