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Zapatilla Cay, Panama

Panama and Colombia: Exploring the Caribbean Coast

Example 8 Day Cruise aboard National Geographic Quest
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Discover an astonishing trove of natural and cultural treasures as you navigate the Caribbean coast of Panama and Colombia on this 8-day cruise aboard the National Geographic Quest. Hike into dense rainforests that harbor extraordinary biodiversity, glide through little-explored inlets by Zodiac and kayak, and meet the indigenous inhabitants of a secluded Panamanian archipelago where age-old traditions remain part of everyday life. Experience the diverse heritage of stunning cities and remote towns off the beaten path, from the Arab-influenced architecture of Colombia’s Santa Cruz de Lorica to the bustling shores of Santa Cruz del Islote—the most densely populated island in the world. Sail from Panama City to Cartagena on this unforgettable voyage.
Panama City's Bridge of the AmericasGatun Lock of the Panama CanalA Kuna Yala woman sews a traditional garment.Balconies in CartagenaSunset over Cartagena, ColombiaZapatilla Cay, Panama
Highlights
  • Transit the historic engineering marvel of the Panama Canal
  • Learn about the handcrafted textiles of the Indigenous people of Guna Yala
  • Look for wildlife with your naturalist guide in the Colombian rainforest
  • See historic colonial architecture in Panama and Colombia
Activity Level: Relaxed
Involves minimal physical effort and is typically associated with leisurely activities. Activities are low-intensity or last less than a few hours each day.
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Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Panama City, Panama | Embark

Upon arrival in Panama City, transfer to the port in Fuerte Amador and embark our ship.

Day 2: Gatún Lake, Panama

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
By special permission, our ship anchors overnight in Gatún Lake, a vast artificial lake that forms a major part of the Panama Canal. In the morning, disembark on Barro Colorado, a hilltop transformed into an island by the damming of the Chagres River to build the Panama Canal. Visit the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and learn about initiatives to protect the incredible biodiversity of the surrounding Barro Colorado Nature Monument, one of the most studied areas of tropical forest on the planet and the site of various National Geographic–supported studies. Later, choose to hike into the jungle, navigate the lake by Zodiac, or take a boat ride to the mouth of the Chagres River to explore the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center. Tonight, cruise onward through the complex lock system of the Panama Canal, taking advantage of the nighttime lull in cargo activity. Completed in 1914, the canal is about 50 miles long and sees some 14,000 ships pass through every year. Witness this astonishing feat of engineering under the dramatic golden glow of floodlights.

Day 3: Portobelo, Panama

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
This morning, we arrive along Panama’s Caribbean coast and step ashore at the historic town of Portobelo. Named by Cristopher Columbus in 1502, Portobelo, or “beautiful port,” was one of the most important Spanish trading centers in the New World. Explore the town’s 17th- and 18th-century Spanish colonial fortifications, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Later, hike into Portobelo’s lush jungles in search of mantled howler monkeys, toucans, and a variety of parrots. In the afternoon, our ship sails further down the Panamanian coast, where we’ll set out with snorkel and fins to explore the vibrant undersea world of the Caribbean.

Day 4: Guna Yala (San Blas Islands), Panama

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Wake up amid the archipelago of Guna Yala (also known as the San Blas islands), a constellation of 368 tiny, white-sand isles scattered off the northeast coast of Panama. Get to know the indigenous Guna people, one of the first native groups to achieve political autonomy in Latin America. Spend the morning among the thatched huts of an island village, learning about Guna culture and handicrafts. Marvel at the intricate designs of handmade textiles called molas, which harken back to a female tradition of body painting. In the afternoon, explore the vibrant marine world around the islands by snorkel, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard.

Day 5: Necoclí, Colombia

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Our ship arrives at the mouth of the Gulf of Urabá, where we set out to discover the coastal community of Necoclí and the surrounding region. Our exploration of this little-visited area begins at the Marimonda and Salado Lagoons, part of a protected coastal wetlands area. Keep an eye out for a variety of wildlife, including iguanas; three-toed sloths; and colorful bird species such as scarlet macaws, russet-throated puffbirds, and Agami herons. After lunch, visit a local cocoa farm, where residents are striving to incorporate the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into their agricultural community.

Day 6: Coveñas | Santa Cruz de Lorica | Tuchín

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Disembark in the beach town of Coveñas this morning and drive inland to Santa Cruz de Lorica, a charming riverside town influenced by several waves of immigration from France, Belgium, England, Syria, and Lebanon. Stroll through the central square, overlooked by a stunning Spanish-colonial cathedral and historic buildings in colorful Arabic styles. After lunch, visit Tuchín, an indigenous village celebrated as the birthplace of the sombrero vueltiao, a type of hat considered a national symbol of Colombia. Observe vueltiao makers at work, and then meet with members of the local Zenú community, known for their ingenious irrigation systems.

Day 7: Santa Cruz del Islote | San Bernardo Archipelago

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Santa Cruz del Islote is the most densely populated island on Earth, where some 1,200 inhabitants live squeezed together in an area the size of two soccer fields, surrounded by turquoise seas and coral reefs. Stroll the island’s motor-free streets, past brightly painted houses and bustling docks; and experience daily life on this unusual island as you chat with local residents. Later, our ship cruises into the San Bernardo archipelago, where we’ll spend the afternoon relaxing on white-sand beaches and kayaking or paddleboarding among the mangroves.

Day 8: Cartagena, Colombia | Disembark

  • 1 Breakfast
After breakfast on board, disembark in Cartagena and transfer to the airport to connect with your flight home.

Ship/Hotel

National Geographic Quest

National Geographic Quest
Lounge aboard National Geographic Quest

Dates & Prices

My Preferred Start Date

Per person starting at
$6,290

Please confirm embark/disembark locations before reserving flights, as this itinerary operates in reverse on alternating departures.
Rates are subject to change without notice. Book early to get the best rate.
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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.
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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
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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.
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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
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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. 

Included
  • 7 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches, 7 Dinners
  • 6 Nights Accommodations
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
  • Assistance by the onboard National Geographic Photography Expert
  • Beer, wine, cocktails, and spirits aboard the ship. We are also pleased to offer a selection of super premium wines and liquors that are available for purchase.
  • Complimentary Starlink-enabled Wi-Fi internet is available to all guests aboard Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic fleet, enabling email, messaging, and social media.
  • Park and site entrance fees, special access permits, and port taxes
  • Excursions, hotels, and airport transfers, as indicated in the itinerary 
  • Selection of exploration tools curated to your destination, such as Zodiacs and glass-bottom boats, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, snorkeling equipment (including wetsuits, masks, and fins), and other state-of-the-art gear
  • Guidance and company of leading expedition staff
  • All meals as indicated in the itinerary, both aboard and onshore. Meals are inspired by regional cuisine and locally sourced where possible
  • Hors d’oeuvres inspired by regional cuisine and locally sourced where possible
  • 24-hour access to snacks, premium coffees and teas, non-alcoholic beverages, and filtered water
  • Presentations on your destination by expedition staff and expert guest speakers
  • Complimentary reusable water bottle to fill at onboard water refill stations
  • The services of a physician, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or paramedic  where available
  • Morning stretch classes and 24-hour access to exercise equipment where available
  • 24-hour access to lounges, observation decks, library stocked with regionally relevant literature, and other shared spaces 
  • Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic certified photo instructor
Excluded
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Crew gratuities
  • Laundry, spa treatments, scuba diving, Wi-Fi and phone services (except when indicated as included)
  • We strongly recommend our guests to take Travel Protection Plan. A Plan with comprehensive coverage to protect you from cancellation fees, costs incurred due to trip delays/interruption, damaged or lost baggage, medical assistance, and evacuation during your travels
  • Airfare (except flights when indicated as included), pre- and post-expedition extensions, additional hotel nights, and private transfers (except when indicated as included)
  • Travel protection plans and passport, visa, and immigration fees 
  • Enhanced and premium Wi-Fi plans, which may enable video chat, web browsing, and streaming (connectivity permitting)

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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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