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.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2017:

There will be some minor improvements to the Costa Rica & Panama Discovery itinerary in 2017.

In order to improve our trips we regularly review feedback from past travellers and our local operations team. As a result of that process, we've made a decision to reduce the amount of time spent at the beach on this trip, though you will still have two nights each to enjoy Puerto Viejo, Bocas del Toro and Santa Catalina. We will now spend an extra night in Boquete, where there is broad range of optional activities to choose from, and an extra night in Panama City so you have a chance to explore the city before the tour ends.

The 2017 itinerary will operate as follows:

Day 1 San Jose
Days 2-3 Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Days 4-5 Bocas del Toro
Dasy 6-8 Boquete
Days 9-10 Santa Catalina
Days 11-13 Panama City


Start
San Jose, Costa Rica
Finish
Panama City, Panama
Countries
Costa Rica, Panama
Style
Basix
Theme
Explorer
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 2016 to 31 December 2016. 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 - Costa Rica Pura Vida Experience - Urban Adventures - USD63
  • San Jose - San Jose Bites and Sights Tour - Urban Adventures - USD33
  • San Jose - Cartago Bike & Train Tour - Urban Adventures - USD59
  • 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 - Irazu Volcano, Ososi Valley & Lankester Botanical Garden (full-day tour) - USD90
  • San Jose - National Museum - USD12
  • San Jose - Gold Museum - USD11
  • San Jose - Jade Museum - USD10
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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. While the main street has a party vibe, featuring dancehall and reggaeton bars and modern restaurants, 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. You'll be spending the next three nights here.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
You'll have plenty of time over the next two days 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, why not hire a bike for the day or hit the waves for a surf lesson?
Accommodation
  • Hotel (2 nights)
Optional Activities
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Cahuita National Park - USD5
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve - USD22
  • 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.
Today 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 Bastimentos 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 three nights, stay on Isla Bastimentos. A short boat ride from Bocas Town, the island features a laid-back vibe, excellent beaches, turtle nesting grounds and mangroves. There are no roads or cars here - walking or water taxi are your only transport options. The main town is called Old Bank, home to just a few hundred locals.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
The next two days are free for you to enjoy the islands. There are plenty of optional activities to choose from. Perhaps dip into the underwater worlds of the nearby reefs on a full-day snorkelling excursion. Catch a water taxi to Red Frog or Wizard Beach, or soak up the sun on the popular Starfish Beach. Why not rent a kayak and get your blood pumping for the afternoon, or take a tour of the Oreba Cocoa Plantation? When the sun goes down, head into town and check out the local bar and restaurant scene. Where better to live la vida loca than in the Caribbean?
Accommodation
  • Hotel (2 nights)
Optional Activities
  • Bocas del Toro - Snorkelling trip (full day) - USD70
  • Bocas del Toro - Starfish Beach (Transport) - USD15
  • Bocas del Toro - Red Frog Beach/Wizard Beach (water taxi & entrance) - USD13
  • Bocas del Toro - Oreba Cocoa Plantation tour - USD45
  • Bocas del Toro - Sea kayaking - USD35
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today travel by boat and local bus to Boquete. The total journey should take eight to nine hours. Boquete is a picturesque town located in the highlands of Panama. The town is 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 is a free day to explore. The area surrounding Boquete is famous for its coffee. While here you might like to visit a coffee plantation or kick back in town with a couple of the local brew. Why not take a guided bike tour or check out the mini canyons or hidden waterfalls outside of town? In the afternoon, perhaps soak your muscles in the local hot springs.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
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.
Today catch a local eight-hour bus to Santa Catalina, 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 we have to use large multi-share rooms with up to six beds (not bunks).
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. Today you have the the day to do whatever you like. If you feel like doing 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, you could join a half-day fishing trip or rent a surfboard in town and ride the waves. If you don't know how to surf, fear not, as lessons are readily available.
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. On your last night of the trip, why not head out with your travel crew to dance the night away?
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Your adventure ends today in Panama City. There are no activities planned for the final day so you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.

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. If you extend your stay, 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.
Optional Activities
  • Panama Canal and City Adventure - Urban Adventures - USD99
  • Panama City Jungle Experience - Urban Adventures - USD139
  • Taste of Panama City - Urban Adventures - USD65
  • Panama Canal (Miraflores Locks) - USD15
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

A Single Supplement is available on this trip, except on Days 10-11 in Santa Catalina.

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 4.43 out of 5 based on 42 reviews in the last year.

Costa Rica & Panama Discovery 2016, October 2016

andres eugster

Costa Rica & Panama Discovery 2016, October 2016

Adam Jackson