Explore the beauty of Costa Rica's mountains, volcanoes and valleys before kicking back in vibrant Panama City.

Nature's bounty is at your fingertips in this adventure through the lush, rugged landscaped of Costa Rica. Spend time exploring the cloud forests, jungles and marine environments of the nation's national parks and you’ll be rewarded with incredible wildlife-spotting. It won’t take long before you start recognising different sorts of monkeys, unusual Baird’s tapirs, and the bright crimson and green coat of the elusive resplendent quetzal. From the verdant hills and misty mountains of San Gerardo de Dota and Boquete, to the beachside town of Santa Catalina, the incredible landscape is an adventure-seekers dream. Hike, bike, surf, zipline, rock climb or simply chill out on a hammock–the choice is yours. Then journey to energetic Panama City for a different sort of thrill.


Start
San Jose, Costa Rica
Finish
Panama City, Panama
Destinations
Costa Rica, Panama
Style
Original
Code
QBSPC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • A trip to Costa Rica wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its famous cloud forests. Visit Los Quetzales National Park for a chance to see the cloud forest and the park’s namesake bird, the resplendent quetzal.

  • Costa Rica boasts some of the most biologically diverse places on earth–Corcovado National Park being one of them. Spend time exploring its jungles, lagoons and swamps and be rewarded with incredible wildlife-spotting (including monkeys, sloths and Baird’s tapirs, to name a few).

  • 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 tricky 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

Hola! Welcome to Costa Rica!

Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel 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.

With over half the country's population living within its parameters, San Jose is a bustling city with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. A good place to start exploring is the main plaza, a fantastic place to get comfy and do some people watching. Artisan booths are common here and you never know when there'll be a spontaneous art fair. Have a look at the Gold Museum which has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art. If these cultural gems get you in the mood for a bit of shopping head to the out door market in Plaza de la Cultura or the Central Market where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - Cartago Bike & Train Tour - Urban Adventures - USD59
  • San Jose - Costa Rica Pura Vida Experience - Urban Adventures - USD63
  • San Jose - San Jose Bites and Sights Tour - Urban Adventures - USD33
  • San Jose - Irazu Volcano, Orosi Valley & Lankester Botanical Garden (full-day tour) - USD90
  • San Jose - Butterfly farm - USD27
  • San Jose - Gold Museum - USD11
  • San Jose - Jade Museum - USD10
  • San Jose - National Museum - USD12
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 13 days ago in Antigua on Guatemala & Costa Rica (QVSAC). Please contact our sales team if you wish to book or know more information on these longer combination trips.
Travel by private minibus to Santa Rosa de Pocosol (approx 3 hours) where we spend the night in a homestay. Just down the road is the Juanilama agricultural community where we have the option to get to know the local villagers, help with farm chores or take a cooking lesson. Several villagers have built comfortable rooms for guests next to their homes. All rooms have shared facilities.

In order to make the most of this homestay experience, it may take a bit of effort from your side to break the ice first. Learn as many Spanish words as you can and get ready for some serious hand language signals.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Agricultural tour
Optional Activities
  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Cooking class - USD10
  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Soap-making workshop - USD10
  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Waterfall hike - USD10
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Continue by private minibus to La Fortuna (approx 2 hours).

La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes away from Costa Rica's most famous volcano - the majestic Arenal. Besides the panoramic views the town offers a range of other activities such as the 70-metre-high La Fortuna waterfall, stunning lush forest, rare plants, animal watching and water sports on the lake.

The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area has a number of thermal springs where hot, lava-heated water gushes to the surface. These springs have been turned into a number of thermal pools and waterfalls, often surrounded by foliage, an ideal chance to relax.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • La Fortuna - Hot springs - USD45
  • La Fortuna - La Fortuna Waterfall - USD15
  • La Fortuna - Arenal hanging bridges - USD56
  • La Fortuna - Cano Negro boat tour - USD67
  • La Fortuna - Stand up paddle board - USD65
  • La Fortuna - Tabacon Hot Springs (entrance, dinner and transport) - USD99
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today take the scenic route to Monteverde (approximately 4 hours in total). Travel by shared minibus to Lake Arenal, which we'll cross by boat. On a clear day you'll see fantastic views of the surrounding area. On the other side of the lake, re-board the minibus and continue on to our destination.

Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers; they cleared virgin forest to create verdant pastures ideal for dairy farming. These environmentally aware settlers were conscious of the danger that unrestricted settling and farming could cause to this precious habitat. Consequently they established a small privately-owned wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown to become the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve. These forests are similar to rainforests, but instead of relying on rain for essential moisture, adequate water comes from the semi-permanent cloud that covers the region. It is lush and full of wildlife. This is truly a nature lover's paradise. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Montverde home.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest (Entrance fee & Transport)
Optional Activities
  • Monteverde - Suspension bridges tour - USD47
  • Monteverde - Zip lining - USD90
  • Monteverde - Coffee & Chocolate tour - USD35
  • Monteverde - Night walk - USD35
  • Monteverde - Butterfly garden and insects farm - USD15
  • Monteverde - Serpentarium - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Your leader will take you on a walking tour through the Monteverde National Park. Alternatively, walk through the canopy on suspension bridges or watch butterflies at play in the specially created butterfly garden. The local guides are very knowledgeable about the area and passionate about conservation and in the local communities there are several cooperatives worth visiting. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Montverde home. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel to Quepos by private minibus (approx 5 hours).
Located close to the beautiful Pacific beaches and exotic wildlife of Manuel Antonio National Park, Quepos is a laid-back town with a vibrant nightlife.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Manuel Antonio - Sunset sail - USD80
  • Manuel Antonio - Mangrove tour by kayak (with lunch) - USD80
  • Manuel Antonio - Surf/boogie board rental - USD10
  • Quepos - Local guided tour - USD25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Spend your time here enjoying all that Manuel Antonio NP has to offer. Head out for a hike along its many trails, keeping one eye on the great views and the other looking for the abundant wildlife. Monkeys, armadillos, sloths and hundreds of birds are among the species you maybe be able to spot. The park also boasts turquoise seas and white-sand beaches, perfect for swimming, kayaking, sailing and fishing. It would be easy to spend your whole time here in, or by, the water.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Manuel Antonio National Park - (Entrance fee)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take a local bus back to San Jose (approx 4 hours). The buses in this region of the country are a little more basic but this is a great opportunity to mix with Costa Ricans and get a feel for local life. Arrive back in time for you to pick up some souvenirs at the city's colourful and vibrant markets. Then we can head out for an optional dinner and a night on the town sampling the huge variety of nightlife. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a free day for you to explore. San Jose is a bustling city with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. 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 Mercado Central (Central Market), where you can buy anything from kitschy souvenirs and handicrafts to authentic local cuisine. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - Gold Museum - USD11
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Depart around 8 am for the sleepy town of San Gerardo de Dota (the bulk of this three hour journey will take place on public bus), where crisp mountain air, lush cloud forests and some of the best bird watching in the country await. Nestled in the Savegre River Valley beneath the remote Talamanca Mountain Range, not many tourists venture to this hidden slice of paradise. On top of being a bird watchers haven – spot roughly 200 species of birds including hummingbirds, woodpeckers and the elusive resplendent quetzal – San Gerardo de Dota boasts pristine hiking trails and fantastic trout fishing.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Gerardo de Dota - Orientation walk
  • Los Santos - Don Cornelio Coffee Tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Spend time at Los Quetzales National Park for a chance to see the cloud forest and the park’s namesake bird, the resplendent quetzal. The park contains eight trails of varying length and difficulty, and is usually blanketed in a cloudy haze. The crimson and green resplendent quetzal is notoriously shy, so if you’re really keen on spotting one, consider hiring a local guide. The park is also home to big jungle cats like pumas and jaguars, monkeys, Baird’s tapirs and a slew of other bird species. After some time in the park, travel to Corcovado. It’s a seven-hour journey to this reserve on Costa Rica’s south-west peninsula; spend this time brushing up on your Spanish via an informal lesson from your tour leader, taking in the passing scenery or simply catching some shut-eye.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Los Quetzales National Park - Cloud forest (Entrance fee & Transport)
  • Informal Spanish Lesson
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Visit the Corcovado National Park, the second largest national park in Costa Rica and one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. It has 13 different ecosystems within its boundaries including highland cloud forests, lagoons, mangrove swamps and marine habitats to name just a few. The day is yours to explore the park as you choose.
Optional Activities
  • Corcovado - Lagoon Kayaking - USD75
  • Corcovado - Early Birdwatching - USD35
  • Corcovado - Corcovado Hike - USD80
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Cross the border and journey to Boquete (about 6 hours). A picturesque town in Panama’s verdant highlands, Boquete is surrounded by mountains, rivers, forest reserves and colourful wildflowers, as well as coffee plantations and orange groves. Acquaint yourself with its breathtaking scenery on an orientation walk with your leader, followed by dinner in town with the group. Your accommodation is a rustic Tree Trek lodge five kilometres outside of town. Located in the hills at the edge of the forest, enjoy glorious views over the valley from the property.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Boquete - Orientation walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a free day to explore Boquete. The area surrounding the town is famous for its coffee. Consider a visit to a local coffee plantation for an insight into coffee production, or perhaps kick back in town with a cup of local brew. Get active on a guided bike tour or hike through the mini canyons and hidden waterfalls outside of town. Boquete’s stunning scenery makes it a fantastic location for ziplining. Or for a more relaxing pursuit, soak your muscles at the Calderas hot springs.
Optional Activities
  • Boquete - Mini canyons - USD30
  • Boquete - Rock climbing - USD40
  • Boquete - Zipline - USD65
  • Boquete - Calderas hot springs - USD35
  • Boquete - Coffee Plantation tour - USD35
  • Boquete - Guided tour of hidden waterfalls - USD50
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel to Panama City, Central America's glitziest capital. Depart at 9 am for this five to six-hour journey by private minibus. Arrive late afternoon and explore the historic Casco Viejo (Old Town) on a leader-led orientation walk. The cobbled centre is an alluring mix of crumbling architecture and hip bars and boutiques. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy. You may choose to treat your taste buds to an evening food tour and sample local specialties like Panamanian coffee, craft beer and ceviche.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Panama City - Leader-led walk along part of the Cinta Costera (Causeway) including a visit to the Fish Market
Optional Activities
  • Taste of Panama City - Urban Adventures - USD65
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There are no planned activities today, though we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. You may want to visit the engineering marvel that is the Panama Canal or go wildlife-spotting at Soberania National Park.
Optional Activities
  • Panama City Jungle Experience - Urban Adventures - USD139
  • Panama City - Panama Canal (Miraflores Locks) - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

5 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner

Transport

Private vehicle, Shared vehicle, Public bus, Shared boat

Accommodation

Hotel (12 nights), Homestay (1 night), Lodge (2 nights)

Included activities

  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Agricultural tour
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest (Entrance fee & Transport)
  • Manuel Antonio National Park - (Entrance fee)
  • San Gerardo de Dota - Orientation walk
  • Los Santos - Don Cornelio Coffee Tour
  • Los Quetzales National Park - Cloud forest (Entrance fee & Transport)
  • Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Boquete - Orientation walk
  • Panama City - Leader-led walk along part of the Cinta Costera (Causeway) including a visit to the Fish Market

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time.
2. To have a private room on this trip, a single supplement is bookable; subject to availability.
3. Please be careful when booking flights to/from San Jose; make sure you fly into/out of Juan Santamaría International Airport [SJO]. Please do NOT book flights to/from Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport [SJC] as this is located in California, United States.
4. Hurricane season in this region is June to November, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors any situations that arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to these natural weather occurrences.

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.