Costa Rica & Panama Blends
Overview / Highlights12 NIGHTS / 13 DAYS
This tour combines the magic and adventure of Costa Rica and Panama, introducing you to the robust eco-diversity of these two Central America Counties. First stop Costa Rica with and the active Arenal Volcano and Monteverde, one of Costa Rica’s premier Cloud Forests, with lots of fun and excitement like soaring along the canopy tops, forest trekking and exhilarating river rafting. Next it’s Panama, more than the Canal Crossing, Panama offers a kaleidoscope of attractions sure to satisfy the most demanding travelers. We visit Bocas del Toro Archipelago close to the border with Costa Rica, where the islands offer numerous attractions; luxurious rain forests with an abundance of fauna and flora, sunny islands beaches with crystal clear water, mangrove islets in a lake-like scenery, indigenous Guaymi Indian villages. We stop in Panama city visiting the Canal and local wildlife; we board a train that takes us back in time along the legendary Las Cruces Trail, a route dating back to the 16th Century across the Panama isthmus mainly transport plundered Inca gold from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast.
CountriesCosta Rica, Panama
CitiesSan Jose, Arenal, Monteverde, Bocas del Toro, Ciudad de Panama, Gamboa
Tour Program Summery Outline
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Adventure / Beaches / Cosmopolitan Cities / Cultural / Eco Tours / Family Adventures / Flora / Historical / Luxury / Nightlife
Day 1 Arrive San JoseUpon arrival in San Jose, you will be transferred to a quiet hotel in the outskirts of the city. Balance of the day at leisure. Overnight.
Day 2 Arenal, the smoking giantThis morning we depart San Jose for the spectacular Arenal area. Once we leave the Panamerican Highway, the road winds through lush rolling countryside with green pastures on one side and sparkling Lake Arenal on the other. As we drive around the lake, Arenal Volcano’s imposing silhouette will start emerging on the horizon. Once at our hotel, there will be time to relax and have lunch on our own. In the afternoon we’ll take a leisurely hike through the forest and across lava fields. Don’t make any plans for the evening. The volcano will probably put on a new show of fireworks and incandescent, flowing lava as it has been doing almost nightly for the last 40 years. (B)
Day 3 Adventures in ArenalWith an active volcano, natural hot springs, a shimmering lake, cloud forests, rivers and waterfalls, this incredible place has something for everybody. We leave today at your discretion to follow your wishes, instincts or mood. Recommendations include rafting trips in the Sarapiqui and Toro Rivers, excursions to Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, horseback rides to La Fortuna Waterfall, canopy tours, lake windsurfing, mountain biking, or just plain relaxing at Tabacon Hot Springs. (B)
Day 4 Monteverde, the cloud forestThe idyllic Monteverde community and natural preserve lie 3 ½ hrs. away from San Jose, straddling the Continental Divide at 4,662 ft. Monteverde is not the image you may have of a tropical country: The mist produced by perennial, hovering clouds and cool temperatures have created perfect conditions for the development of a lush cloud forest, where hundreds of bird and mammal species plus thousands of curious insects and plants thrive. Think of hummingbirds, lichens, orchids, butterflies, bromeliads, mosses, even the elusive quetzal. This afternoon, after an overland transfer, and free time at your hotel, we will start our explorations with a canopy tour to observe the forest from different vantage points. This thrilling experience will have you literally flying from tree to tree as you glide along “zip lines.” Or if you prefer you may walk along trails, and cross suspension bridges to observation platforms offering an easier, still highly rewarding experience. (B)
Day 5 Visiting the Monteverde PreserveThe cloud forest wakes up early, so if we want to experience it at its best, we should too. The Preserve looks and feels like an enchanted forest taken from the pages of a fairy tale book: Sun rays penetrate the forest canopy creating magical scenes as they reflect on streams and misty leaves; a symphony of chirping and tweeting sweeps through the forest; myriad butterflies add a touch of color with their incessant dances; looming strangler figs line trails with their sinister, ghostlike appearance; a velvet carpet of moss and lichens coats rocks and tree trunks. Our local guide will lead the way along well-maintained trails, pointing out birds and orchids as he explains their characteristics and habitats. Keep your ears opened and your eyes peeled and you may spot the multihued quetzal, one of nature’s most beautiful creatures. The rest of the day is free to visit the cheese factory, founded by Quaker immigrants, enjoy the butterfly garden, hike to San Luis Waterfalls, take a horseback riding excursion or peruse the numerous art galleries. (B)
Day 6 Monteverde – San Jose – Bocas del ToroNear the Costa Rican border, there is a small archipelago that has so far been ignored by the tourist hordes that ramble around the Caribbean. Columbus was here in 1502. Centuries later, Jamaican landowners followed. Their slaves were brought along and Bocas del Toro slowly evolved into an isolated melting pot of races and languages. The banana boom hit “Bocas” in the roaring 20s, and the area flourished for a few years. Today, some stately colonial mansions and parks remain, offering a taste of the Caribbean of yesteryear. However, the main draw for visitors is not the historical heritage but the superb, pristine natural environment. You will probably get a glimpse of shimmering greens and azure blues from the airplane on your way from San Jose. The rest you will discover in the coming days. Upon arrival in Bocas, you will be transferred to your hotel. (B)
Day 7 A day in Bastimentos National ParkBastimentos is Panama’s first marine national park and one of the most stunning in the Caribbean. We will start our excursion navigating through clusters of red mangroves as our guide explains the importance of this habitat for the conservation of the park’s marine species. Landing on one of the islands, we hike through lowland forest, admiring numerous tropical birds and mammals including night monkeys, white-faced capuchins and three-toed sloth. The trail ends in an inland lagoon inhabited by caimans and turtles.
We will stop at a nearby indigenous community where you can purchase handcrafts directly from the artisans. After lunch, we grab fins and snorkels and explore the park’s many underwater treasures: sponges, sea fans, corals, starfish and a myriad of tropical fish. In the late afternoon we return to our hotel. (B, L)