Travel through the tropical paradise of Costa Rica and Panama

Adventure-lovers rejoice! Here is a trip that delivers pure beach bliss, idyllic islands, curious creatures and small towns packed with charm. First travel to Costa Rica to uncover cultural gems in San Jose and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, then journey on to Panama for an intoxicating mixture of relaxation and adventure. Costa Rica and Panama are the very essence of Central American coastal beauty and this tour certainly catches them at their best.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
San Jose, Costa Rica
Finish
Panama City, Panama
Countries
Costa Rica, Panama
Style
Basix
Code
QVRC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • Who hasn't dreamt of snorkelling, sun-baking and cocktail-sipping in the Caribbean? Enjoy plenty of time to do just this in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, as well as seeing sloths, racoons and monkeys in nearby Cahulta National Park

  • Dial the relaxation up a notch in Bocas del Toro, Panama, spending several nights on nearby Isla Bastimentos. There may be no roads or cars here, but there are plenty of mangroves, turtles and white sandy beaches

  • Waterfalls, wildflowers, hot springs and mountains - beautiful Boquete has it all. Tour a coffee plantation, ride a bike along a river or take a relaxing walk through the forest, keeping an eye out for tricksy monkeys and tropical birds

  • Get off the beaten track and ride the waves in surfy Santa Catalina. If you'd prefer to stay dry, there's a beachside hammock with your name on it

  • Explore the eclectic streets of Panama City and admire the engineering masterpiece of the Panama Canal

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip involves some travel by local transport, which can be basic and challenging, but is also a fantastic way to rub shoulders with the locals and get under the skin of a place.

  • While the border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama is usually straightforward, sometimes it can take a while, so please prepare to be patient. You're on Central American time now!

  • The Costa Rican and Panamanian climate is sultry and tropical, so it can get really hot and humid. Wear loose clothing and make sure stay hydrated, especially while out on walking tours.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2018 to 31 December 2018. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Hola! Welcome to Costa Rica. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Home to over half the country's population, San Jose is a bustling city with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. As this trip spends very little time here, we recommend arriving a day or two earlier to see the sights. A good place to start is the main plaza. Artisan booths are common here, so you never know when an art fair will pop up. The Gold Museum has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art. If you're in the mood for a bit of shopping, head to the outdoor market in the Plaza de la Cultura or the city's Central Market, where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood. You might even like to take a full or half-day tour out to Poas Volcano National Park.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - Poas Volcano National Park (half-day tour) - USD55
  • San Jose - Poas Volcano National Park, Doka Coffee Tour & La Paz Waterfalls (full-day tour) - USD120
  • San Jose - Gold Museum - USD11
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Some departures of this trip are part of a combination trip. As such, some of your fellow travellers may have started their trip prior on Best of Central America (QVRQC), Ultimate Central America (QVRRC), Complete Central America (QVBDC), or Amazing Central America (QVRPC). Please contact our sales team if you wish to book or know more information on these longer combination trips.
Today take a five-hour local bus to Puerto Viejo. A small town on the beautiful Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca has two sides to it. The main street has a party vibe, featuring dancehall/reggaeton bars and modern restaurants, while further out you'll find great surf beaches, rainforest fruit farms and family homes. The area is home to a mix of Rastafarian, European and indigenous populations. The next two nights will be situated here.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take your time to explore Cahuita National Park, which is easily accessible from Puerto Viejo. Wander through the park on the lookout for sloths, monkeys, raccoons, snakes and a great variety of birds. While entrance to the park is free, you will be asked for a donation. You can also visit a jaguar rescue centre or wander through the Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve, which is home to birds of prey and medicinal herb gardens. Back in town, consider hiring a bike for the day or hitting the waves for a surf lesson.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Cahuita National Park - USD5
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Jaguar Rescue Centre - USD15
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Surf lesson (1 hr) - USD30
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Bike rental (per day) - USD12
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take a one-hour local bus to the border, then walk across an old railway bridge into Panama. Continue by taxi or collective minivan to Almirante, where you'll take a short boat ride to Isla Colon in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Rapidly becoming a Caribbean favourite, Bocas del Toro has it all - palm-shaded beaches with crystal-clear water, spectacular snorkelling and lots of wildlife. Culturally, Bocas is a melting pot of West Indians, Latinos and expats, resulting in diverse music, nightlife and food scenes.

For the next two nights, stay on Isla Colon, the main town in Bocas del Toro and a great spot from where to start your exploration of the archipelago, with most bars, restaurants and local operators located on 1st, 2nd and 3rd street - meters from your hotel.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There are several beaches within reach from town - between 8 and 14km from your hotel. However, be aware, apart from Starfish, Sandfly and Big Creek beaches, the rest can have very strong riptides.

When the sun goes down, head into town and check out the local bar and restaurant scene. There's no place better to live la vida loca than the Caribbean.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel by boat and local bus to Boquete, keeping in mind that total journey should take eight to nine hours. Boquete is a picturesque town located in the highlands of Panama, surrounded by mountains, crystal-clear creeks and rivers, forest reserves, wildflowers and fauna such as howler monkeys and the resplendent quetzal.

Your hotel is located a short drive away from Boquete. Feel free to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery around the property, which has its own bar and restaurant. There is a free shuttle into town a few times a day and most optional activities can be organised directly from the hotel.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today and tomorrow are free for you to explore Boquete. The area surrounding the town is famous for its coffee. While here, consider taking a visit to a coffee plantation or kicking back in town with a cup of the local brew. Perhaps even take a guided bike tour or check out the mini canyons and hidden waterfalls outside of town – maybe even soak your muscles in the local hot springs.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (2 nights)
Optional Activities
  • Boquete - Calderas hot springs - USD35
  • Boquete - Coffee Plantation tour - USD35
  • Boquete - Guided bike tour - USD55
  • Boquete - Guided tour of hidden waterfalls - USD50
  • Boquete - Mini canyons - USD30
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Catch an eight-hour bus to Santa Catalina, situated on the Pacific coast of Panama. This small fishing village is still a very remote, undeveloped destination and offers some of the best surfing in Central America.

As there is limited accommodation available close to the beach in Santa Catalina, sometimes large multi-share rooms with up to six beds (not bunks) are used.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Aside from surfing, the main pastime in Santa Catalina is relaxing, preferably in a hammock. Enjoy a free day around the area and hunt down some activites in the process. Keen for something active? Perhaps take a trip out to Coiba National Marine Park, where you can snorkel with turtles, angel rays and schools of colourful fish. Alternatively, half-day fishing trips or surfboard bire is available in the town. Lessons are readily avaialble, so there's no reason to fear the waves.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Santa Catalina - Surf lesson (2-3 hrs) - USD35
  • Santa Catalina - Coiba Island & Grano de Oro snorkelling trip - USD100
  • Santa Catalina - Fishing trip (half day) - USD100
  • Santa Catalina - Surfboard rental (per day) - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today, leave the beach and travel by local bus to Panama City for approximately six hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is free for you to discover Panama City. Explore the historic Casco Viejo, or old town, which features an unusual combination of restored buildings, low-income housing, churches and ruins. You may also like to visit the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal or take a stroll through the rainforest in the Metropolitan Nature Park. Panama City is also famous for its shopping centres, the biggest being Albrook Mall. For more traditional souvenirs, head to the National Artisan's Market.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Panama Canal (Miraflores Locks) - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Your adventure ends today. There are no activities planned for the final day.

We recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be happy to assist.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

No meals are included on this tour

Transport

Local bus, private minibus, boat

Accommodation

Hotel (12 nights)

Dates & availability

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Important notes

START AND END TIME:
On Day 1 there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting at approximately 6pm. There are no activities planned for the final day.

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:
A Single Supplement to have your own room is available for purchase on this trip, however it excludes nights 10 & 11 (Santa Catalina)  where you will be in shared accommodation.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

Reviews

Our Costa Rica & Panama Discovery trips score an average of 4.52 out of 5 based on 100 reviews in the last year.

Costa Rica & Panama Discovery, July 2017

Joanne Geraghty

Costa Rica & Panama Discovery, July 2017

Julie Clark