Uncover new ways to chill out in the Caribbean

Come on a zig-zagging adventure through the jungles, beaches, islands and villages of Costa Rica and Panama. From San Jose to Panama City in 13 days, this tour 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 break, 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

  • 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.

  • Cycle around the quiet streets of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca with your leader, the best way to get your bearing in this relaxed town.

  • 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.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2020.
View the 2019 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 - Gold Museum - CRC4490
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.

Please note that this trip can be partnered with other adventures into a ‘combo’, which means that some of your fellow travellers may have begun their journey before today. If you’d like to spend more time in Central America, have a look at the combos that include this trip’s itinerary: 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 want more information.
Today take a 5-hour local bus to Puerto Viejo. On arrival, get to know this laid-back jungle town during a bicycle ride with your leader, then the rest of the day is yours to explore. Small and coastal, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca has a lively main street featuring dancehalls, reggaeton bars and modern restaurants. If you’re after something more relaxed, you'll find great surf beaches and rainforest fruit farms. At some point today, your leader will take you through some must-have phrases during an informal Spanish lesson.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Puerto Viejo - Leader-led orientation bicycle ride
  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a free day to ease into the vibes of the Caribbean coast. If you wish, take your time to explore Cahuita National Park, which is easily accessible from Puerto Viejo home to sloths, monkeys, raccoons, snakes and a great variety of birds. Want to see adorable animals and support an organisation that’s helping the vulnerable among them survive? Maybe check out the Jaguar Rescue Centre, where sick, orphaned and injured animals are rehabilitated. If the waves are calling but your footing isn’t so sure, surf lessons are on offer in town. Alternatively, of course, you can always find a cool spot and relax with a beer in hand.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Cahuita National Park - CRC2035
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Jaguar Rescue Centre - CRC6100
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Surf lesson (1 hr) - CRC12200
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take a 1-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 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 meters from your hotel.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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)
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 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, a lengthy journey that will take 8--9 hours. Be sure to have a book, podcast or daydream to keep you occupied just in case you get sick of swapping stories with your fellow travellers. 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. 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 (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Boquete - Leader-led orientation walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There’s tonnes of ways for you to get among it in Boquete today, so be sure to chat to your leader and hostel front desk about the stuff you’re interested in. 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 (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Boquete - Guided tour of hidden waterfalls - USD50
  • Boquete - Mini canyons - USD30
  • Boquete - Guided bike tour - USD55
  • Boquete - Calderas hot springs - USD35
  • Boquete - Zipline - USD65
  • Boquete - Coffee Plantation tour - USD35
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Catch an 8-hour 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 relaxed vibes. Enjoy free time upon arrival. Of course, it’s going to be late afternoon or early evening by the time you get in. 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
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
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 so that we can secure accommodation in a prime location.
Aside from surfing, the primary way to pass the time in Santa Catalina is relaxing, preferably in a hammock. Enjoy a free day around the area and hunt down some activities 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 hire is available in the town. Lessons are readily available, so there's no reason to fear the waves.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (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 (about 6 hours). Arrive late afternoon and head to the city’s gorgeous waterfront promenade, the Cinta Costera, for a walking tour with your leader. 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. Stop at the nearby Fish Market, and perhaps grab some fresh ceviche. Afterwards, enjoy free time to sample Panama City’s thriving nightlife.
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
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Multi-share 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. Your accommodation here may not always have private en suite facilities or air-conditioning.
Today is free for you to discover Panama City. Perhaps explore the historic Casco Viejo (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
  • Hostel Multishare (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Panama City - 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 today. 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 www.urbanadventures.com and search ‘Panama’ for more.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
If you wish to spend more time in Panama City, we'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).

Meals

No meals are included on this tour

Transport

Private vehicle, Public bus, Taxi, Shared boat

Accommodation

Hotel (8 nights), Hostel (2 nights)

Included activities

  • Puerto Viejo - Leader-led orientation bicycle ride
  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
  • Boquete - Leader-led 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 6 pm 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. 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 from San Jose; make sure you fly out of Juan Santamaría International Airport [SJO]. Please do NOT book flights from Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport [SJC] as this is located in California, United States.

Essential trip information

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