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Costa Rica and The Panama Canal

Example 15 Day Cruise aboard Sylvia Earle
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Take in the stunning coasts of Costa Rica and Panama. The 'rich coast' of Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Explore lush tropical jungles teeming with a bewildering array of wildlife, birds, and flora. Sail from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea in the light of day through Panama and see pristine coral reefs, the Emberá Mogue community's indigenous people, and the fascinating history of the canal. In Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, enjoy the rich Afro-Caribbean culture and the interesting and colorful historic center—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—before heading back to Panama.
Panama CanalA beautiful Costa Rican sunsetCuruToucan resting in the treeParrot resting on a tree branchA smiling slothToucan relaxing in the treeExterior
Highlights
  • Experience the unforgettable crossing of the extraordinary Panama Canal
  • Explore one of most biodiverse rainforests on Earth and encounter wildlife
  • Visit Coiba National Park in Panama, a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Encounter the indigenous wildlife of Manuel Antonio National Park
Activity Level: Relaxed
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Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Arrive San Jose

Having made your way to San Jose, you will be met by a representative of Aurora Expeditions and transferred to our group hotel. Upon arrival, you will be provided with Aurora Expeditions cabin tags for your luggage. Please clearly label the tags with your name and ship cabin number.
Enjoy free time, and in the evening, dine at your leisure (dinner not included).

Day 2: Embarkation

This morning, your luggage will be collected from the hotel, transferred directly to the port for sanitization and clearance, and delivered to your cabin before your arrival on board. There is time to settle into your cabin before attending important safety briefings. Enjoy the thrill of departure as we ‘throw the lines and set sail for nearby Turtle Island. Turtle Island offers the first opportunity for you to enjoy the clear, warm tropical waters of Costa Rica, where you can swim and snorkel, or perhaps stroll along the beach. 

Day 3: Curú National Wildlife Refuge

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Curú National Wildlife Refuge is a privately-owned nature reserve offering visitors outstanding eco-tourism experiences. The refuge is the first privately-owned refuge in Costa Rica, encompassing more than 3,700 acres of tropical forests, mangroves, and well-marked paths. 17 hiking trails wind through the varied terrain within the reserve, where you may see white-tail deer, armadillos, and iguanas. Various monkey species are prolific within refuge including native capuchin, spider, and howler monkeys. Located on the southern Nicoya Peninsula of northwestern Costa Rica, the refuge is brimming with wildlife and hosts one of the most beautiful beaches and protected bays on the Nicoya Peninsula, a great place to enjoy water activities. 

Day 4: Manuel Antonio National Park

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Boasting over 100 species of mammals, 184 species of birds, and an impressive variety of flora, Manuel Antonio National Park understandably attracts wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world. Costa Rica’s star attractions - two and three-toed sloths, as well as white-faced monkeys, toucans, agoutis, armadillos, and coatis, are a few of the exciting animals that you may encounter within the park. We explore the park in the cool, early hours of the morning before returning to the vessel for lunch. In the afternoon, you have the option to explore Quepos town or enjoy some water activities. 

Day 5: Drake Bay & Corcovado National Park

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The untamed Osa Peninsula is considered by National Geographic as ‘one of the most biologically intense places on earth. Considered to be the crown jewel in the park system of Costa Rica, 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 tropical primary lowland rainforest in the world and 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. We enjoy a hike along well-marked trails within the national park to not only search for wildlife but also to experience the incredible wet tropical rainforests containing tall trees measuring over 60 meters (197 feet), lianas, epiphytes, palms, gingers, and orchids.

Day 6: Gulfo Dulce

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Golfo Dulce, or Sweet Gulf, is a large bay that hugs pristine beaches, rivers, and tall evergreen forests - a protected area known as the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve. As one of the wettest places on Earth with over 5,000 millimeters (200 inches) of rainfall per year, the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve features some of the world’s tallest trees. 

The warm tropical waters in the gulf are a great place to enjoy aquatic activities, where spinner dolphins are often seen frolicking in the bay. There are ancient coral reefs to explore, where you can see enormous coral gardens and the creatures that inhabit them. On land, there are more pristine rainforest trails for you to explore, where you can marvel at the extraordinary flora and fauna that contributes to Costa Rica’s biodiversity.

By Zodiac, we shuttle ashore to Saladero Ecolodge and explore the gardens and walking trails filled with flowering plants. Keep a watch for birds including toucans, scarlet macaw, caracara, and woodpeckers. 

In Golfo Dulce, we exit Costa Rica and continue our journey as we sail to Panama. 

Day 7-8: Coiba National Park, Panama

  • Ship
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
We continue to Coiba Island, a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage site, located off the southwest coast of Panama. The national park includes the main island of Coiba and 38 smaller islands in the surrounding marine areas within the Gulf of Chiriqui. Protected from the cold winds and the effects of El Niño, Coiba’s Pacific tropical forest features exceptionally high levels of endemic mammals, birds, and plants. It is the last refuge for a number of threatened animals including the crested eagle.  

On Coiba Island, we spend the morning in the area of Granito de Oro islet, a unique place that allows snorkelers to encounter the diversity and volume of marine life that is usually reserved for scuba divers. This is one of the world’s most sought-after diving destinations. The local ranger will guide us on the optimal places to enjoy water activities.   

Coiba Island also served as a penal colony from 1919 to 1996, where Panama’s most notorious criminals and political prisoners were incarcerated. At the peak of its operations, the prison housed up to approximately 3,000 inmates in about 30 camps spread around the islands. You may have the opportunity to visit the dilapidated penitentiary buildings or walk along the beach looking for scarlet macaws, yellow caracara, and various seabirds.  
We exit Panama at Coiba Island and continue our journey as we sail to Costa Rica.  

Day 9: Pearl Islands

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The Pearl Islands of Panama consisting of some 250 small islands and islets are located in the North Pacific Ocean in the Gulf of Panama. The Pearl Islands were originally named by the Spanish explorer Vasco Nuñez de Balboa for the bountiful pearls that were harvested off the islands’ shores. The Islands are renowned for their spectacular and tranquil white-sand beaches, pristine forests, and colorful coral reefs, and at Bartolome Island, we enjoy water activities.  

Day 10: 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 11: Corcovado National Park

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The untamed Osa Peninsula is considered by National Geographic as ‘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 is one of the most remote parks in Costa Rica. It is home to the largest tropical primary lowland rainforest in the world and 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. We enjoy a hike along well-marked trails within the national park to not only search for wildlife but to also experience the incredible wet tropical rainforests that are home to lianas, epiphytes, palms, gingers, orchids, and towering trees measuring over 60 meters (197 feet).

Day 12: Daylight Crossing of the Panama Canal

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Crossing the Panama Canal will surely be a highlight for many travellers. 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 splendid 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 metres (52 feet) in two distinct steps. Next, your ship will enter Miraflores Lake, which is a small artificial body of fresh water 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 metres (29 feet) 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
As we sail to Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, on the only sea day of the voyage, enjoy a few final presentations from our team of experts, edit photos, treat yourself to a massage or stay active in the gym. 

Day 14: Cartagena de Indias

  • 1 Breakfast
Disembark in Cartagena de Indias, inscribed by UNESCO as a site of Outstanding Universal Heritage. The city’s rich history, diverse culture, and energy captivate visitors with its vibrancy, Afro-Caribbean character, indigenous influences, and some of the best-preserved colonial architecture in all of South America. 
Founded in 1533 by Pedro de Heredia, Cartagena was formerly one of the gateways to the Caribbean for the Spanish. It was here they would store the riches plundered from South America before they were transported back to the old world. It is not surprising, therefore, that the city drew the attention of buccaneers and pirates, who attempted on many occasions, to seize the city. Most notable was the attack by Francis Drake, who in 1586, "mercifully" agreed not to destroy the city in return for 10 million pesos. It was after the attack by Drake that plans were made to fortify the city and work on the defensive fort walls began. These walls still stand today and mark the boundary between the old and new parts of the city. The walls and fort, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, took a total of 200 years to build and complete, and the Spanish finished them just 25 years before Colombia gained Independence. 

Day 15: Depart Cartagena de Indias

Farewell, your fellow travelers, and check out of your room before making your own way to the airport for your onward journey.

Ship/Hotel

Sylvia Earle

Sylvia Earle
Sylvia Earle - Sun Deck
Science center

Dates & Prices

My Preferred Start Date

Per person starting at
$13,095
Sylvia Earle Aurora Stateroom Twin
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Aurora Stateroom Twin
215.27 ft2 - There are two Aurora Stateroom Twin cabins featuring portholes, 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. May be converted into a Triple Share cabin with additional bed on request.
Greg Mortimer-Aurora Stateroom Triple
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Aurora Stateroom Triple
22.67m2 (244ft2) - There are two Aurora Stateroom Triple cabins featuring portholes, all with private en-suites. Located on Deck 3, they're close to the mudroom and loading platforms.
Select a Date
Aurora Stateroom Superior
19.9m2 - 20.8m2(214.2ft2 - 223.9ft2) - Located on Deck 7, the Staterooms feature french balconies, floor to ceiling windows, en-suite bathrooms and a comfortable desk area. Perfect for polar adventurers who travel with plenty of gear.
Greg Mortimer-Balcony Stateroom
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Balcony Stateroom C
19.5m2 - 28.7m2 (209.9ft² - 308.9ft2) - 11 Balcony Stateroom C cabins - most economical, fitted with all the necessities and comfortable for up to 2 people. These cabins are scattered throughout Deck 6.
Greg Mortimer
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Balcony Stateroom B
19.5m2 - 28.7m2 (209.9ft² - 308.9ft2) - 17 Balcony Stateroom B Cabins - standard cabin, many fitted with interconnecting features making them great for families or groups. These cabins are located at the fore and aft of Deck 4 and 6.
Greg Mortimer
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Balcony Stateroom A
19.5m² - 28.7m² (209.9ft² - 308.9ft²)- 23 Balcony Stateroom A cabins - premium cabin, and the most abundant on board. These cabins are located in preferred positions on Deck 4 and 6 which provides easy access between Decks via the internal stairs or elevator.
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Balcony Stateroom Superior
29.2m2 - 35.2m2 (314.3ft2 - 378.9ft2) - Located on Deck 4 and 6, the Staterooms feature floor to ceiling windows, en-suite bathrooms and a comfortable desk area. Some of these rooms are equipped with wheelchair accessible bathrooms.
Junior suite
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Junior Suite
Up to 41.6m2 (447.8ft2)- 4 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-Captain's Suite
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Captain’s Suite
43.8m2 (471.5 ft2) - Captain's Suite - the largest of all our rooms, will take you to the polar regions in ultimate style and comfort. Complete with large lounge area, balcony, walk-in wardrobe and en-suite, you'll need to get in early to secure this suite.
Included
  • 13 Breakfasts, 11 Lunches, 12 Dinners
  • 13 Nights Accommodations
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Excursions and activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Comprehensive pre-departure information
  • Complimentary Parka 
  • Gratuities to Onboard Crew
  • Beer, House Wine, and Soft Drinks with Dinner 
  • Educational Lectures and Guiding Services from Expedition Team 
  • Access to Onboard Doctor and Basic Medical Services
  • Port Surcharges, Permits, and Landing Fees
  • Captain's Welcome and Farewell drinks including four-course dinner, house cocktails, house beer and wine, non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Complimentary boot rental is available. However, due to the limited supply of boots available aboard the ship, it is recommended that you bring your own rubber boots for best fit and availability. Youth size boots are not available.
Excluded
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Passport and Applicable Visa Expenses
  • alcoholic beverages and soft drinks (outside of dinner service)
  • Wifi

Map

When to Go

Jan
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May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.

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The trip was terrific with great planning on your part. Most of the adventures were not mainstream and somewhat off the beaten path which made it especially enjoyable!! We felt taken care of and you all were readily available to respond to questions and issues. I would highly recommend your company and friends have already expressed interest based on our pictures and excitement.
Gale Cantor

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