Print this trip dossier
Cookies

At Journey Latin America we use cookies to give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse, you accept that you are happy to receive all cookies on our website.
Find out more


Signature Costa Rica and Panama: The Caribbean route

14 days from £2,648pp

Dates & Prices Get in touch

Signature Costa Rica and Panama: The Caribbean route:
Trip Dossier

This sunlit holiday combines natural riches with one of the greatest feats of human engineering, the Panama Canal. Relax in soothing hot springs in the shadow of the picture-perfect Arenal volcano then visit the Caribbean jungle waterways and mangrove forests of the wildlife-rich Tortuguero reserve.  Cross into Panama to spend time on Bocas del Toro, white-sand islands off its Caribbean coast, and in the lush forests of the rugged interior at Boquete. After this, travel to Panama City to sail through the Panama Canal.

Costa Rica has an extraordinary diversity of flora and fauna and its people are extremely welcoming. The comprehensive network of national parks with their extensive trails is always very accessible.  In line with its love and respect for the great outdoors, Costa Rica also has been at the vanguard of adventure tourism, with activities on offer from zip-lining to white-water rafting.

Panama has a different rhythm, and is a real melting pot of cultures as a result of being at the crossroads of oceans. The Panama Canal, one of the world’s most crucial transport corridors, is a stunning piece of engineering.  You will pass through some of the locks on a launch and explore the historic capital, with its history of pirates and naval battles. 

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in San José and transfer to your hotel.

Day 2

Transfer to Arenal volcano area.

Day 3

Excursion to Ecotermales hot springs.

Day 4

Transfer to Sarapiqui via Tirimbina and the hanging bridges.

Day 5

Transfer to Guapiles and Tortuguero

Day 6

Explore Tortuguero National Park.

Day 7

Transfer by road and water to Bocas del Toro.

Days 8,9

At leisure at Bocas del Toro.

Day 10

Transfer to Boquete via Oreba Chocolate Farm.

Day 11

Coffee finca excursion.

Day 12

Transfer to Panama City.

Day 13

Panama Canal partial transit.

Day 14

Transfer to the airport for your international flight.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in San José and transfer to your hotel.
 
Central San José

You will be met at the airport by our local representative who will take you to your hotel in the n capital.

Bustling San José is one of the region's most cosmopolitan cities, built on the profits from the exportation of coffee produced in the surrounding fertile Central Valley. These days, little remains of its colonial or indeed agricultural heritage - it is a modern, US-influenced city, with pavement bars showing baseball and American football games. But there's a Latin vibe too, though, and the city has some fine museums and restaurants as well as a lively nightlife.

Show more Show less
Central San José

Day 2

Transfer to Arenal volcano area.
 
Arenal

Take a shared transfer on the 4 hour drive to Arenal.

Imposing Arenal Volcano last erupted in 1998, but nowadays lava flow and volcanic eruptions are infrequent and there has not been any significant activity since 2010. Sometimes you may see steam and gases emitted from cracks or the lava's surface. High temperatures mean that geysers and hot springs can be very hot: the water is harnessed by local people to heat pools and fountains.

The region is still considered to be one of the highlights of a visit to Costa Rica and there are excellent excursions to be enjoyed in the succulent countryside. including kayaking, biking and horse riding.>

The Arenal Volcano Lodge faces the volcano and is surrounded by exotic flora and fauna. It is likely that you'll spot perky racoon-like coatis rummaging amongst the roots in the forested areas within the grounds.

Show more Show less
Arenal

Day 3

Excursion to Ecotermales hot springs.
 

These hot springs provide a quieter off-the-beaten-track experience than their better known and more overcrowded cousins. The springs, with five free-flowing pools are set in a natural river gorge and vary in temperature from 38ºC to 43ºC. There’s a restaurant and small bar and dressing rooms with private lockers so you can have a delicious dip!

Show more Show less

Day 4

Transfer to Sarapiqui via Tirimbina and the hanging bridges.
 

Your drive takes you through the Tirimbina nature reserve and to the hanging bridges, viewed from a trail through primary forest. Along with the region’s diverse wildlife and plants you can expect good views of the. The trail is linked by 6 hanging bridges and 8 fixed bridges constructed from galvanized steel and aluminium in order to 'blend with the natural environment.'

Sarapiqui is a popular base from which to discover the wonderful forested national parks in the area, dispersed between banana and pineapple plantations. The Rio Sarapiquí runs just east of the main street and is popular for rafting on its rapids and bird-watching. Numerous other activities in the area include mountain-biking, boat trips and canopying.

The small, family-run eco-lodge La Quinta de Sarapiquí is a shady small-holding with tropical gardens bulging with flowers and fruit. This exuberant foliage creates an enticing habitat for many species of bird and so the inn is popular with bird-watching enthusiasts and as well as guests looking to unwind in bucolic surroundings. As part of its conservation programme there are frog and butterfly projects you can visit as you explore the property's walking trails which also pass the organic kitchen gardens.

Show more Show less

Day 5

Transfer to Guapiles and Tortuguero
 

Drive towards the Atlantic lowlands, through a forested backdrop and banana plantations to  board a boat for the two hour trip to Tortuguero along a canal shaded by pristine rainforest where you'll be able to spot birds, monkeys and occasionally crocodiles en route.

This extraordinary marine and coastal wetland national park is a spidery network of waterways meandering through the flat plains fringing the Caribbean sea. The canals are home to a vast number of wildlife species, including bird, caiman and other reptiles while the closely packed trees of the humid forests and strangled mangroves host a variety of monkey, jaguar, frogs, lizards and sloths. The park is famous for the endangered turtles that nest on its beaches, including leatherbacks, green and loggerhead species. 

There are trails, but most visits are made by boat and, in spite of the density of the vegetation, you are more or less guaranteed to see a good variety of this prolific wildlife.   Spend the afternoon exploring the local village; flanked by rivers and waterways on one side and Caribbean beach on the other, this remote village serves as a sleepy hub for visitors to the area, human and otherwise...

Turtle beach lodge is a secluded property on the Caribbean sea, beside lush jungle and a meandering private canal, situated close to the rustic village of Tortuguero. To add to the adventure, it is only accessible by boat. The abundant display of wildlife is the main reason for its popularity - with endangered sea turtles, including hawksbill, loggerheads and leatherbacks a variety of monkeys, crocodiles and insects  hidden amongst the array of trees, colourful flowers and medicinal plants. 

Show more Show less

Day 6

Explore Tortuguero National Park.
 

Head out on foot from the lodge, with your guide, and learn about the jungle flora and fauna that live in this lush tropical rainforest.

The waters of the lodge's private canal - the Canal of Palms - like all those in the National Park are black, due to tannins from trees in the area, and flow slowly.  This is a perfect opportunity to spend a couple of hours gently paddling the canals in your boat to spot wildlife and take in the beautiful scenery.  The early start means you will see the wildlife at its most active.

Show more Show less

Day 7

Transfer by road and water to Bocas del Toro.
 
Bocas del Toro

Depart Tortuguero for Guapiles in the morning. Drive on to Sixaola on the border with Panama and continue Bocas del Toro, an archipelago lying off the northwest coast of Panama. The undeveloped islets of white sand beaches fringed by palms and reeds, with rocky outcrops and reefs ideal for snorkelling and diving, provide a marvellously laid-back hang-out for a few days. The islands shelter profuse wildlife - especially tropical birds, frogs and butterflies, and you can see splendiferous sunsets.

Show more Show less
Bocas del Toro

Days 8,9

At leisure at Bocas del Toro.
 

Your hotel, Bocas Inn, is a relaxed and informal place is on the waterfront. It is constructed from wood, like many of the seafront buildings in Bocas del Toro, and sits above the water. Daily tours including guided snorkelling; bird-watching trips and mangrove jungle walks.  

Show more Show less

Day 10

Transfer to Boquete via Oreba Chocolate Farm.
 
Coffee Plantation in Boquete Panama

From Bocas del Toro, you’ll visit by water taxi the Oreba cacao plantation where al Ngobe Bugle guide will show you around, climbing past indigenous houses upwards to the plantation.  You will not only learn about each step from planting, growing, harvesting, fermenting, drying and producing the actual chocolate, but the guide is also an expert regarding the local plants and their medicinal uses.

Oreba Chocolate is considered among the finest 100% pure unsweetened chocolate in the world. After the tour, you'll be driven to Boquete on a scenic mountain road which crosses the Continental Divide from the Caribbean to the Chiriqui Highlands.

Boquete is a small provincial town within the verdant Chiriquí Highlands. It enjoys a pleasant mountain climate and the surrounding area is very beautiful. The town itself has a few quaint old buildings and some good restaurants.

Your mountain lodge, Boquete Tree Trek Mountain Resort, is set on a hillside surrounded by lush forest with great views of Boquete Valley and Baru National Park. Amongst the activities on offer in the local area the lodge has one of the best ziplines in Panama. There are some superb ornithological opportunities offering good possibilities of seeing the resplendent quetzal and the gardens are abundantly rich with tropical flora making it an ideal spot to just take a walk or relax.

Show more Show less
Coffee Plantation in Boquete Panama

Day 11

Coffee finca excursion.
 

Boquete is to coffee what Bordeaux is to wine. Over several years, Panama's coffee has been rated the best coffee in the world. Visit Finca La Maligrosa, a family-run operation which was started using a roasting machine cobbled together spare parts from an old Mitsubishi car, but now its produce is award-winning. The coffee is destined for Europe and the USA but you'll have a chance to try some.

Show more Show less

Day 12

Transfer to Panama City.
 
Panama City

 Transfer From Boquete to David airport and fly to Panama City. 

Panama City is a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis at the Pacific end of the Panama Canal. The capital dates back to 1519 when it was a base for transporting Peruvian gold back to Imperial Spain. Its subsequent wealth made it a frequent target for pirate raids. These days, soaring skyscrapers, sparkling banks and smart modern offices overshadow forts, Spanish convents and sumptuous French-style mansions, reminders of its colonial heyday.

Your hotel, Hampton by Hilton, sits right in the centre close to the financial district but also with shops, restaurants, bars and nightlife just a short walk or taxi ride away.

Show more Show less
Panama City

Day 13

Panama Canal partial transit.
 
Miraflores Lock, Panama Canal

You’ll be driven to the Port of Balbao, passing under the Bridge of the Americas with its views of Panama Bay and the skyline of Panama City. You'll reach Miraflores Locks where the boat is raised 17m above sea level. At the next set of locks you will be 26m above sea level before entering the Guillard Cut where the Chagres river flows into the Canal. The crossing provides a unique insight into one of the world's greatest engineering feats - including the creation of the largest man-made lake in the world - Gatún - where you will disembark before returning to Balboa by bus and driven on back to your hotel.  

If you’d like a bit more beach time, extend your trip with the Kuna-indian San Blas islands off the Caribbean coast.  

Show more Show less
Miraflores Lock, Panama Canal

Day 14

Transfer to the airport for your international flight.

Essential information

Transport

1 domestic flight, 5 road journeys, 2 boat transfers

Accommodation

This trip combines small, friendly mid-range hotels with well-equipped rooms with private bathroom and comfortable but not luxurious wildlife and beach lodges.

Meals

Breakfast daily.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by clients on their return.

Included excursions

Guided excursion to the Ecotermales hot springs at Arenal.
• Activities in Tortuguero National Park.
• Visit to chocolate plantation at Oreba Farm. 
• Visit to coffee farm Finca Milagro..
• Partial Panama Canal transit.

Summary of nights

14 days, 13 nights: San José 1; Arenal 2; Sarapiqui 1; Tortuguero 2; Bocas del Toro islands 3; Boquete 2; Panama City  2. 

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Costa Rica is the colón and in Panama the US dollar, known locally as the balboa.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$40 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in San José and Panama City: taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip and in many shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds.

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency in San José and Panama City, Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can exchange sterling but the rate may be unfavourable and there are fewer outlets providing this service.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.

Most service industry workers will welcome a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential.          

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

Generally this holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors, including families with children.

Bear in mind it is a relatively active trip. Walks vary in length and cover some uneven terrain. On the whole the trails are good, and paths are linear, so you can turn back if you feel that you do not want to carry on.

Climate

The trip covers climates ranging from tropical lowland to more temperate zones in the highlands. Those travelling between May and October journeys should encounter high temperatures (around 35°C) and high humidity in the lowlands. The ‘official’ rainy (green) season is May to November.

December to April visitors will still encounter high temperatures in lowland areas, but cool evenings around Arenal and San José with temperatures falling to around 5°C. Rainfall and humidity will be much lower at this time.

Clothing and special equipment

Bring plenty of light cotton clothing and good, comfortable walking shoes. A waterproof jacket and/or umbrella is also advisable. We suggest that you plan to ‘layer’ your clothing; it is easier and more efficient to put on a couple of light layers than one thick jumper, and sensible to have long sleeves for areas where mosquitos may be lurking. Sandals are a good informal option for evenings. Protection against the sun (sunblock, sun hat) and mosquito repellant are essential and you should bring swimwear. A daypack is useful for carrying sunblock, guidebook, water and any extra layers.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in Central America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following; typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to, or via, the USA you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online. This costs $14 per person, and must be applied for by you personally.

Passports must also be e-passports with a digital chip. Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

Water-To-Go

We’ve partnered with Water To Go to offer Journey Latin America clients a 50% discount on 7cl filtered, reusable water bottles with every booking. The bottle can be refilled at any water outlet and has a filter that eliminates 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, allowing the water to be safe to drink.
Contact your Travel Consultant for more information and to include the purchase in your booking.
Close

Sign up to our newsletter

Sign up to our twice monthly newsletter and be the first to know about our latest news, offer and competitions.

Sign up with...

Your email

Or...

Using a social account is fast and means you don't need to remember a password.

We never share your data either - see our terms & conditions

Facebook Connect

Remember, you can unsubscribe at any time.

To see how we take care of your data please review our Privacy Policy

Thanks for subscribing – we’ll be in touch!

You are not subscribed. Some error happened.

Share this Page

Social share page will open in new window

Page Full Path: /sitecore/content/JLA/Home/destinations/costa-rica/holidays/Signature-costa-rica-and-panama-the-caribbean-route/trip-dossier

Page ID: {EA1DEFC4-0D30-44ED-B0F0-DE7E0AE49171}

Page Name: trip-dossier

Page Display Name: Trip Dossier

Page Template Name: T054-TripDossier

Page Template ID: {4B17EDBB-85D2-4A79-B178-A0CE05055C05}

Parent ID: {315F672F-B24D-42FA-A3CC-40582D4D7FF7}

Parent Name: Signature-costa-rica-and-panama-the-caribbean-route

Parent Display Name: Signature Costa Rica and Panama: The Caribbean route

Parent Template Name: T013-Tour

Parent Template ID: {9701B79C-85FD-4A45-8072-3FFF55338F72}