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Costa Rica & Panama Discovery


Get under the surface of Costa Rica and Panama with this 12-day Caribbean adventure. See it all, from jungles and beaches to local villages. From San Jose to Panama City, this laidback discovery will introduce you to some of the most beautiful spots in two Central American cultures, and then it’ll give you the freedom to explore however you want, at your own pace. You can't go wrong with your local leader to steer you in the right direction (to the best bars and surf breaks), plus a small group of adventurers to enjoy them with. Make a traditional dinner in a local’s home, look out for wildlife on a night jungle walk and soak in the local hotspots in areas seldom travelled.

12 days, from

$1,270

per person

GROUP SIZE

16 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: QVRC
Style: Basix
Theme: Explorer

Details

Countries Visited:  Costa Rica Panama
Accommodation: Hotel (10 nights), Lodge (1 night)
Transportation: Private vehicle , Public bus , Taxi , Shared boat
Included Meals:

  • 1 dinners

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 16
Minimum Age: 15

  • 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).

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: San Jose

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.

Day 2: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

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.

Day 3: Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

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.

Day 4: Bocas del Toro / Isla Colon

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.

Day 5: Bocas del Toro / Isla Colon

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.

Day 6: Bocas del Toro / Isla Colon

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.

Day 7: Boquete

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.

Day 8: Boquete

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.

Day 9: Santa Catalina

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.

Day 10: Santa Catalina

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.

Day 11: Panama City

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.

Day 12: Panama City

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.

Day 13: Panama City

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.