Map of Costa Rica & Panama Discovery including Costa Rica and Panama

Chill out in the Caribbean, soaking up the sunshine in Costa Rica and Panama

Get under the surface of Costa Rica and Panama; see it all from jungles, to beaches, to local villages. From San Jose to Panama City in 13 days, this laidback adventure will introduce you to some of the most beautiful spots in two Central American cultures, then give you the freedom to explore them however you want. With your local leader to steer you in the direction of the best bars and surf breaks, plus a small group of adventurers to enjoy them with, you can’t go wrong on this carefree Caribbean journey.


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

Why you'll love this trip

  • Put your chef hat on and help prepare a traditional Caribbean dinner with a local family in their home in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.

  • Clear sea perfect for swimming, shacks serving cold cerveza and sandy shores covered in starfish are waiting in the Bocas del Toro, where you spend three nights on Isla Colon.

  • Head to the coffee plantations, waterfalls and caldera hot springs of Boquete, a highland town so beautiful you won’t miss the beach one bit.

  • Ride some of the region’s best breaks in Santa Catalina. If you'd prefer to stay dry (or horizontal), there's a hammock with your name on it.

  • Get to know Panama City during a guided stroll along the Cinta Costera right to the city’s salty belly – the Mercado de Mariscos (seafood market).

Is this trip right for you?

  • Using public transport is better for the environment and you’ll get an authentic look at daily life, but keep in mind that local transport between certain locations on this trip can be basic.

  • 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 tropical climate of Central America means conditions can be really hot and humid. It makes the beers even more refreshing, but consider what time of the year you wish to travel in if you’re easily affected by weather.

  • Try to learn as many Spanish words as you can before the trip. In many of the destinations we visit, local people are reserved and/or do not speak English. Attempting to communicate in Spanish is a great way of showing you care.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2023 to 31 Dec 2023.
View the 2020 itinerary
Bienvenidos a Costa Rica! Welcome to Costa Rica! Make your own way to the hotel where you adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. As this trip spends very little time here, we recommend arriving a day or two earlier to see the sights or take an Urban Adventure with an expert local guide. 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - Pre-Colombian Gold Museum (entrance fee) - USD16
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
Today we take a local bus to Puerto Viejo. On arrival, get to know this laid-back jungle town during an orientation walk with your local leader, then enjoy the rest of the day explore at your leisure. A small and coastal city, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca has a lively main street featuring dancehalls, reggaeton bars and modern restaurants. If you’re looking for a little relaxation, you'll also find great surf beaches and rainforest fruit farms.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Puerto Viejo - Leader-led orientation walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today’s travel time: 5 hours
Today is free for you to ease into the vibes of the Caribbean coast. You might take your time to explore Cahuita National Park, which is easily accessible from Puerto Viejo and home to sloths, monkeys, raccoons, snakes and a great variety of birds. If the waves are calling but your footing isn’t so sure, surf lessons are also on offer in town. Of course, you could also simply find a cool spot and relax with a beer in hand. To top today off we'll prepare a traditional Caribbean dinner with a local family in their home. Enjoy a mixture of fruits, seafood, tubers and vegetables combined with coconut flavours, ginger, allspice, cinnamon, curry Panamian pepper and thyme.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Puerto Viejo - Hands-on dinner in local home
Optional Activities
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Cahuita National Park - USD5
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Surf lesson (1 hour) - USD57
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Today we take a 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 home to West Indians, Latinos and expats, resulting in diverse music, nightlife and food scenes. For the next three nights, you'll stay on Isla Colon, the main town in Bocas del Toro. It's a great spot to start your exploration of the archipelago from, with most bars, restaurants and local activity operators just metres from your hotel.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today’s travel time: approx. 3 hours
Today is the first of two free days to explore this tropical archipelago. There are several beaches within reach from town, lying between 8 and 14 kilometres from your hotel. With azure waters, pristine coral reefs and a rollicking nightlife, it’s easy to see why these islands are a favourite haunt for so many travellers. The safest beaches are Starfish, Sandfly and Big Creek. Be aware others may have strong riptides. When the sun goes down, why not head into town and check out the local bar and restaurant scene. Ask your leader about the best place to grab a drink.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Bocas del Toro - Jungle Cacao Tour (guide and transport included) - USD35
  • Bocas del Toro - Zapatilla Tour including Sloth Island & snorkelling at Cayo Coral (guide and transport included) - USD45
  • Bocas del Toro - Full-day Tour including Bastimentos island, Jungle hike & Lunch with Ngobe Community (guide and transport included) - USD60
  • Bocas del Toro - Bio-luminescence Boat Tour (guide and transport included) - USD25
  • Bocas del Toro - Colon Expedition including starfish beach & bird island - USD40
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy another free day in the Caribbean sun. Maybe take the opportunity to do some surfing or snorkelling, to rent a bike and explore the main island, or simply soak in the chilled-out vibe while enjoying a cold one on the beach.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel by boat and local bus to Boquete, this is a lengthy journey, be sure to have a book, podcast or daydream to keep you occupied. Boquete is a picturesque town located in the highlands of Panama, surrounded by mountains, crystal-clear creeks and rivers, forest reserves, and colourful wildflowers, as well as coffee plantations and orange groves. Head out on an orientation walk with your leader on arrival and enjoy an informal Spanish lesson to get to grips with the local language. Tomorrow will be a free day, wide open for exploring – most optional activities can be organised directly from the hostel, though it’s a good idea book them on arrival tonight if you know what you want to do.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (multishare) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Boquete - Leader-led orientation walk
  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
For the next two nights you’ll being staying in multi-share accommodation, which typically includes triple and quadruple rooms. You may be required to share with group members of the opposite sex and couples or people travelling together may occasionally be separated due to rooming configurations.

Total travel time: 8-9 hours
There are plenty of ways for you to experience Boquete today, be sure to chat to your leader and hostel front desk to get the best insiders tips. You could discover the secret waterfalls only locals know about on a walking tour in the jungle. Or maybe you’d prefer to soak it up in the caldera hot springs. If you’re a coffee lover, consider taking a visit to a plantation or simply kicking back in town with a cup of the local brew – some of the best coffee in the world is grown and processed right here in Boquete.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (multishare) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Boquete - Guided Tour of Hidden Waterfalls (entrance fee, transport and guide included) - USD50
  • Boquete - Mini Canyons Tour (entrance fee, transport and guide included) - USD30
  • Boquete - Guided Bicycle Tour (guide and bike hire included) - USD55
  • Boquete - Calderas Hot Springs (entrance fee and transport included, no guide) - USD35
  • Boquete - Zipline (guide and transport included) - USD65
  • Boquete - Coffee Plantation Tour (guide and transport included) - USD35
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we catch a bus to Santa Catalina, situated on the Pacific coast of Panama. Remote and somewhat undeveloped, this region offers some of the best surfing in Central America, as well as some of the most relaxed vibes. Enjoy free time upon arrival. It’s going to be late afternoon or early evening by the time you get in, so perhaps find a spot to share a drink and fresh seafood dinner with your fellow travellers, or head to the beach for a sundown swim.
Accommodation
  • Cabins (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Today’s total travel time: 8 hours
Aside from surfing, the main way to pass the time in Santa Catalina is by relaxing, preferably in a hammock. But if you’re 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 hire is available in the town. Lessons are readily available, so there's no reason to fear the waves.
Accommodation
  • Cabins (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Santa Catalina - Surf lesson (2 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.
Trade in the beach for the city and travel to Panama City, Central America's glitziest capital. Arrive late afternoon and head into the city for a leader led walk. Take in great views of the historic Casco Viejo (Old Town) and the Panama City skyline as you stroll past crowded waterfront soccer fields, running paths and food carts. Afterwards, enjoy free time to sample Panama City’s thriving nightlife.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (multishare) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Panama City - Leader-led walk in Casco Viejo
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
For the next two nights you’ll being staying in multi-share accommodation, which typically includes triple and quadruple rooms. You may be required to share with group members of the opposite sex and couples or people travelling together may occasionally be separated due to rooming configurations.

Today’s total travel time: 6 hours
Today, head to the city’s gorgeous waterfront promenade, the Cinta Costera (causeway), for a walking tour with your leader. Stop at the nearby Fish Market, and perhaps grab some fresh ceviche. This afternoon is yours to explore, perhaps 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
  • Hostel (multishare) (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
  • Panama City - Panama Canal: Miraflores Locks (entrance fee only, no guide, no transport) - USD20
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Your adventure ends today, there are no activities planned. If you plan on staying on to check out some more of Panama City, why not do it on an Urban Adventure. With day tours like Taste of Panama City, you can sample local cocktails, craft beers and ceviche under the guidance of someone who knows the city well. Go to urbanadventures.com and search ‘Panama’ for more.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

1 dinner

Transport

Private vehicle, Public bus, Taxi, Shared boat

Accommodation

Hotel (6 nights), Cabins (2 nights) Hostel Multishare (4 nights)

Included activities

  • Puerto Viejo - Leader-led orientation walk
  • Puerto Viejo - Hands-on dinner in local home
  • Boquete - Leader-led orientation walk
  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Panama City - Leader-led walk in Casco Viejo
  • Panama City - Leader-led walk along part of the Cinta Costera (Causeway) including a visit to the Fish Market

Dates & availability

Trip departures are unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our Costa Rica & Panama Discovery trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

Prices may go up, so secure your trip today!
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Important notes

Travellers on Intrepid trips that start on or before 31 December 2022 are required to produce proof of full vaccination against COVID-19. Learn more about Intrepid’s COVID-19 policy.

1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1 in San Jose. 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. The single supplement excludes days 7 & 8 (Boquete), Days 9 & 10 (Santa Catalina) and days 11 & 12 (Panama City) where you will be in shared accommodation, and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.
3. Multishare typically includes triple and quad rooms. You may be required to share with group members of the opposite sex and couples or people travelling together may occasionally be separated due to rooming configurations.
4. Please be careful when booking flights into San Jose; make sure you fly into Juan Santamaría International Airport [SJO]. Please do NOT book flights to Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport [SJC] as this is located in California, United States.

Essential trip information

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