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Get stunning views of historic Cartagena

Costa Rica & Panama Canal

Costa Rica - Colombia - Example 15 Day Cruise aboard Greg Mortimer
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Immerse in the coastal landscapes of Costa Rica and Panama on this 15-day cruise aboard Greg Mortimer with travel photographer Richard I'Anson. Costa Rica stands as one of the world's most biodiverse regions, offering opportunities to explore lush tropical rainforests with a remarkable array of wildlife, vibrant bird species, and exotic plants. In Panama, encounter unspoiled coral reefs, engage with the indigenous Emberá tribe, and delve into the fascinating history of the Panama Canal with a guaranteed daylight passage from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. As the trip ends in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, fully embrace the lively Afro-Caribbean culture and explore the captivating and colorful historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Manuel Antonio National ParkCrossing a stream on Osa PeninsulaExplore Panama CityWatching ships pass through the Panama CanalExplore colorful CartagenaVisit beautiful CartagenaGet stunning views of historic Cartagena
  • Explore the lush tropical rainforests and an array of wildlife of Costa Rica
  • Discover vibrant bird species and exotic plants in the region of Costa Rica
  • Engage with the indigenous Emberá tribe in Panama and learn their culture
  • Immerse in the lively Afro-Caribbean culture of Cartagena de Indias
Activity Level: Relaxed

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 and transferred to your group hotel. Please visit the hospitality desk to collect your luggage cabin tags and to speak with the ground operations team, who may have information to share with you about pre-embarkation or to provide you with information about where to dine, withdraw cash, or purchase last-minute items from a local pharmacy or supermarket.  

Enjoy free time, and in the evening, dine at your leisure (dinner not included). 

Accommodation: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cariari (or similar)  

Day 2: Embarkation

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
This morning, your luggage will be collected from the hotel and transferred directly to the port for sanitization, and clearance and delivered to your cabin ahead of your arrival on board. There is time to settle into your cabin before attending important safety briefings. Enjoy the thrill of departure as you ‘throw the lines’ and set sail for an exciting tropical adventure.  

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 north-western 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 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. 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: Rio Claro Wildlife Refuge

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The untamed Osa Peninsula is considered by National Geographic to be ‘one of the most biologically intense places on earth’. Hike the trails at Rio Claro Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary that encompasses 500 hectares of tropical rainforests, making it one of the most important natural preserves in Central America. Rio Claro is one of the last refuges for pumas, ocelot, jaguarundis, tapirs, white-lipped peccaries and a host of other rainforest animals. The high plateau forests, with trees towering over 43 m (140 ft), supports hundreds of species of ferns, bromeliads and orchids, and creates a biological corridor between palm swamps and mangroves. It is an extension of Corcovado National Park, the country's largest and one of the most remote parks in Costa Rica.  

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 millimetres (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, 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, exit Costa Rica and continue your journey as you sail to Panama.  

Day 7-8: Coiba National Park, Panama

  • Ship
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
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 Chiriquí. Protected from the cold winds and the effects of El Niño, the Pacific tropical forest if Coiba Island 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, spend the morning in the area of Granito de Oro islet, a unique place that allows snorkellers to encounter a 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 provide guidance on the optimal places where travelers can enjoy water activities.  

The following morning, land at Punta Clara, which 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 can visit the dilapidated penitentiary buildings or walk along the beach looking for scarlet macaws, yellow caracara and various seabirds. Back on board, enjoy lunch as you set towards the Pearl Islands. 

Day 9: Pearl Islands

  • 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 the 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.  

Visit Bartolome Island to enjoy some paddle boarding, kayaking, and snorkeling in the warm, turquoise waters. Travelers might also visit nearby Pacheca and Pachequilla islands to enjoy some birdwatching.  

Day 10-11: Panama City

  • Ship
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Three million years ago, the Isthmus of Panama emerged, altering the world by connecting continents and dividing oceans. Today, it's a biodiversity hotspot with more bird and tree species than North America. Panama's history spans 12,000 years, from early cultures like Monagrillo to European exploration. Visitors engage with Emberá tribes, visit the Miraflores Visitor Centre for canal history, explore Gatun Lake for wildlife, and discover Casco Viejo's colonial heritage.

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 foot) 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 foot) 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.  

As you transit the cut you will see dredging occurring to control the sediments entering the canal because of the terrain’s susceptibility to landslides. Sail through Gatun Lake, which was formed by erecting the Gatun Dam across the Chagres River, and during your transit through the lake, you will pass the Smithsonian Research Station at Barro Colorado. The last of the three locks is the Gatun Locks, the only set of locks in the Atlantic sector of the canal. At Gatun Locks, the vessel will be lowered a total of 26 (85 foot) metres in three distinct chambers.  

The complete crossing from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean takes approximately 10 hours, a journey that once took almost two weeks to complete, when vessels were forced to sail around the notoriously rough seas around Cape Horn at the bottom of South America to reach the Pacific coast. 

Day 13: At Sea

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
As you 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 | Disembark

Disembark in Cartagena de Indias, 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. 

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 mark the boundary between the old and new parts of the city and are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After disembarkation, enjoy a guided introductory tour of Cartagena’s old town. Your local guide tells tales of Cartagena from ancient times to present day, while you visit the cities sites, from the Plaza San Pedro Claver with its stunning Church and monastery, to the Plaza Bolivar and Inquisition Palace, considered to be one of the most elegant colonial constructions of its time. The cloister where Pedro Claver lived and died has become a special place of silence, and reflection – a shrine to his life's work which centered around the protection of slaves. Lunch is classic Colombian fare, with time to wander the eclectic streets of colourful terraced homes and classical colonial architecture before transferring to our waterfront hotel mid-afternoon. The remainder of the day is at leisure. (Breakfast and lunch included).

Accommodation: Ermita, Cartagena, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel (or similar) 

Day 15: Depart Cartagena de Indias

  • 1 Breakfast
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. Farewell to your fellow travelers and check out of your room before transferring to the airport for your onward journey. 


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San Jose - Hotels

Cartagena - Hotels

Dates & Prices

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Air Credit
Book by December 31, 2023, and enjoy air credits of up to $2500 per person on select Arctic and Beyon 2024 cruises aboard the Greg Mortimer and Sylvia Earle. The credit varies per voyage; please contact a Trip Planner for full details. This promotion is subject to availability at the time of booking and is capacity-controlled. Additional restrictions may apply. Please contact us for details.

Code: Dream24
Applies to Apr 19, 2024 departure

Per person starting at
Greg Mortimer-Aurora StateroomGreg Mortimer-Aurora Stateroom Triple
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Aurora Stateroom Triple
230.34 ft² - 245.41 ft² - 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 Share
170 ft² - 245.41 ft² - 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.
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Balcony Stateroom C
224.97 ft² - 266.95 ft² - 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-Balcony Stateroom
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Balcony Stateroom B
254.03 ft² - 266.95 f - 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
259.41 ft² - 301.39 ft² - 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-Balcony StateroomGreg Mortimer
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Balcony Stateroom Superior
303.54 ft² - 432.70 ft² - 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 418.71 ft² - 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
478.99 ft² - 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.
  • 14 Breakfasts, 13 Lunches, 13 Dinners
  • 14 Nights Accommodations
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
  • Comprehensive pre-departure information
  • Beer, House Wine, and Soft Drinks with Dinner 
  • Educational Lectures and Guiding Services from Expedition Team 
  • Complimentary access to onboard expedition doctor and medical clinic (initial consult)
  • 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.
  • All shore excursions and Zodiac cruises
  • All airport transfers mentioned in the itinerary.
  • On-board accommodation during voyage including daily cabin service
  • Paddling, Stand-up Paddleboarding, and Snorkeling are all complimentary activities
  • Gratuities
  • 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
  • Airport Departure Tax - Airport arrival or departure taxes
  • Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks (outside of dinner service), laundry services, personal clothing, medical expenses, Wi-Fi, email or phone charges
  • Hotels and meals not included in itinerary
  • Optional activity surcharges
  • Reciprocity and Vaccination Charges
  • Passengers traveling with Aurora Expeditions are required to be covered by a reputable travel insurance policy that includes baggage loss, cancellation & curtailment of the holiday, medical, accident, and repatriation/emergency evacuation coverage worth at least $250,000 USD.


When to Go

Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.

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