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Costa Rica & Panama Discovery

13 days with Intrepid Travel   Rating: Budget

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Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices 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. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. 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. San Jose is a bustling city with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. Otherwise, a good place to start is the main plaza. Artisan booths are common here, so you never know when an art fair will pop up. 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 take a five-hour local bus to Puerto Viejo. A small town on the beautiful Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca has two sides to it. The main street has a party vibe, featuring dancehalls, reggaeton bars and modern restaurants, while further out you'll find great surf beaches, rainforest fruit farms and family homes. Get to know this laid-back jungle town on a leader-led orientation bike ride, then the rest of the day is yours to explore.

Day 3 Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Enjoy a free day to get to know this laid-back town on the Caribbean coast. If you wish, take your time to explore Cahuita National Park, which is easily accessible from Puerto Viejo. Wander through the park on the lookout for sloths, monkeys, raccoons, snakes and a great variety of birds. While entrance to the park is free, you will be asked for a donation. You can also visit a jaguar rescue centre or wander through the Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve, which is home to birds of prey and medicinal herb gardens. Back in town, consider hiring a bike for the day or hitting the waves for a surf lesson.

Day 4 Bocas del Toro / Isla Colon
Take a one-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 operators located on 1st, 2nd and 3rd street – meters from your hotel.

Day 5 Bocas del Toro
Today is the first of two free days to explore this tropical archipelago. There are several beaches within reach from town – between 8 and 14 km 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. However, be aware, apart from Starfish, Sandfly and Big Creek beaches, the rest can have very strong riptides. When the sun goes down, head into town and check out the local bar and restaurant scene. There's no place better to live la vida loca than the Caribbean.

Day 6 Bocas del Toro
Enjoy another free day in the Caribbean sun. 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.

Day 7 Boquete
Travel by boat and local bus to Boquete, keeping in mind that total journey should take eight to nine hours. 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. This postcard-perfect town is also home to a variety of fauna such as howler monkeys and the resplendent quetzal. Tomorrow will be a free day for you to explore. Most optional activities can be organised directly from the hotel, though it’s a good idea to choose your activities and book them today.

Day 8 Boquete
Today is free for you to explore Boquete. The area surrounding the town is famous for its coffee. While here, consider taking a visit to a coffee plantation or kicking back in town with a cup of the local brew. perhaps take a guided bike tour or check out the mini canyons and hidden waterfalls outside of town – maybe even soak your muscles in the local hot springs.

Day 9 Santa Catalina
Catch an eight-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. Enjoy free time upon arrival. Perhaps find a spot to share a drink with fellow travellers, or head to the beach for a swim.

Day 10 Santa Catalina
Aside from surfing, the main pastime 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.

Day 11 Panama City
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 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.

Day 12 Panama City
Today is free for you to discover Panama City. Explore the historic Casco Viejo, or 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.

Day 13 Panama City
Your adventure ends today, there are no activities planned for the final day.
Map
All This Included
Adventure-lovers rejoice! Here is a trip that delivers pure beach bliss, idyllic islands, curious creatures and small towns packed with charm. First travel to Costa Rica to uncover cultural gems in San Jose and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, then journey on to Panama for an intoxicating mixture of relaxation and adventure. Costa Rica and Panama are the very essence of Central American coastal beauty and this tour certainly catches them at their best.
  • Transport - Private vehicle, Public bus, Taxi, Shared boat
  • Puerto Viejo - Leader-led orientation bicycle ride
  • Panama City - Leader-led walk along part of the Cinta Costera (Causeway) including a visit to the Fish Market
Highlights
  • Who hasn't dreamt of snorkelling, sun-baking and cocktail-sipping in the Caribbean? Enjoy plenty of time to do just this in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, as well as seeing sloths, racoons and monkeys in nearby Cahulta National Park
  • Dial the relaxation up a notch in Bocas del Toro, Panama, spending several nights on nearby Isla Bastimentos. There may be no roads or cars here, but there are plenty of mangroves, turtles and white sandy beaches
  • Waterfalls, wildflowers, hot springs and mountains - beautiful Boquete has it all. Tour a coffee plantation, ride a bike along a river or take a relaxing walk through the forest, keeping an eye out for tricksy monkeys and tropical birds
  • Get off the beaten track and ride the waves in surfy Santa Catalina. If you'd prefer to stay dry, there's a beachside hammock with your name on it
  • Explore the eclectic streets of Panama City and admire the engineering masterpiece of the Panama Canal
Accommodations
Hotel (8 nights)
Hostel Multishare (4 nights)
Notes
  • Ages: Min 15.
  • Group size: Min 1, Max 16.
  • This trip involves some travel by local transport, which can be basic and challenging, but is also a fantastic way to rub shoulders with the locals and get under the skin of a place.
  • 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 Costa Rican and Panamanian climate is sultry and tropical, so it can get really hot and humid. Wear loose clothing and make sure stay hydrated, especially while out on walking tours.
  • A single supplement is available on this trip.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Intrepid Travel terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.