Costa Rica & Panama Experience
16 days with Intrepid Travel Rating:
Day 1 San Jose
Hola! Welcome to Costa Rica. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. With over half the country's population living within its parameters, San Jose is a bustling city with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. If you arrive with time to spare, a good place to start exploring is the main plaza – perfect for some people watching. Artisan booths are common here and you never know when there'll be a spontaneous art fair. Have a look at the Gold Museum which has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art. If these cultural gems get you in the mood for a bit of shopping, head to the outdoor market in Plaza de la Cultura or the Central Market – stocking anything from handicrafts to seafood.
Day 2 Santa Rosa de Pocosol
Travel by private vehicle to Santa Rosa de Pocosol (approximately 3 hours) where you’ll spend the night in a homestay. Just down the road is the Juanilama agricultural community, where you have the opportunity to get to know the locals, help with farm chores, or take a cooking lesson. Several villagers have built comfortable rooms for guests next to their homes, and you will stay in one of them this evening. Please note that these rooms use shared facilities. In order to make the most of this homestay experience, it may take a bit of effort from your side to break the ice first. Learn as many Spanish words as you can and get ready for some serious hand language signals. The reward for your efforts? An authentic slice of life in the Costa Rican countryside.
Day 3 La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano
Today, continue towards La Fortuna – a small town situated just a few minutes away from Costa Rica's famous Arenal Volcano (driving time approximately 2 hours). Besides its panoramic views, the town offers a range of other activities such as the 70-metre-high La Fortuna waterfall, stunning lush forest, rare plants, animal watching and water-based activities on the lake. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area has a number of thermal springs where lava-heated water gushes to the surface. These springs have been sculpted into a number of pools and waterfalls, making them the ideal place to relax. Spend the rest of the day as you please in this exciting town, perhaps getting active on a stand-up paddleboard or looking for monkeys and caimans during a boat tour of the Cano Negro area.
Day 4 Monteverde
Today you’ll take the scenic route to Monteverde (approximately 4 hours in total). Travel by shared minibus to Lake Arenal, then cross the water by boat. On the other side of the lake, re-board a minibus and continue on to our destination. Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers – they cleared virgin forest to create verdant pastures ideal for dairy farming. These environmentally aware settlers were conscious of the danger that unrestricted settling and farming could cause to this precious habitat. Consequently, they established a small, privately-owned wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown to become the internationally renowned Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve. Perhaps start your exploration with a tour of the suspension bridges that hang in the trees, or head to the Serpentarium to see some crawly critters. More than 2000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Montverde home.
Day 5 Monteverde
Choose how you'd like to spend today in this beautiful area. Watch butterflies at play in the specially created garden, hire a local guide to show you around the area, visit a community cooperative or zip-line through the lush canopy! Whatever you do, be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal – one of the most elusive birds in the world.
Day 6 Quepos
Travel through the mountains to Quepos by private minibus (around 5 hours). Located close to the beautiful Pacific beaches and exotic wildlife of Manuel Antonio National Park, Quepos is a laidback town with a vibrant nightlife. Perhaps get into the spirit with a sunset sail around the glorious coast, looking out for dolphins and whales which sometimes swim close by. Once the sun goes down, why not grab a spot at a waterfront restaurant and sink your teeth into some fresh seafood with your travel crew – this is the life.
Day 7 Quepos / Manuel Antonio NP
Spend your time enjoying all that Manuel Antonio National Park has to offer. Perhaps head out for a hike along one of the many trails on offer, keeping one eye on the great views and the other looking for the abundant wildlife. Monkeys, armadillos, sloths and hundreds of birds are among the species you maybe be able to spot. The park also boasts turquoise seas and white-sand beaches – perfect for swimming, kayaking, sailing and fishing. It would be easy to spend your whole time here in, or by, the water.
Day 8 San Jose
Take a local bus back to San Jose (around 4 hours). The buses in this region of the country are a little more basic than you may be used to, but this is a great opportunity to mix with Costa Ricans and get a feel for local life. Arrive back in time for you to pick up some last-minute souvenirs at the city's colourful and vibrant markets. Then, head out for an optional dinner and a night on the town, getting a taste of the huge variety of nightlife on offer.
Day 9 San Jose
Today is a free day for you to explore. San Jose is a bustling city with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. 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 Mercado Central (Central Market), where you can buy anything from kitschy souvenirs and handicrafts to authentic local cuisine.
Day 10 San Gerardo de Dota
Depart around 8 am for the sleepy town of San Gerardo de Dota (this three hour journey will be by private vehicle), where crisp mountain air, lush cloud forests and some of the best bird watching in the country await. Nestled in the Savegre River Valley beneath the remote Talamanca Mountain Range – not many tourists venture to this hidden slice of paradise. On top of being a bird watchers haven – spot roughly 200 species of birds including hummingbirds, woodpeckers and the elusive resplendent quetzal – San Gerardo de Dota boasts pristine hiking trails and fantastic trout fishing. If you feel like getting caffeinated, you could head on an optional Don Cornelio coffee tour to learn about this renowned Central American export.
Day 11 Drake Bay
This morning, leave the Savegre Valley and travel to Corcovado. Take a private vehicle to the port, ready for an 11 am boat trip to the stunning Drake Bay, part of the Osa Peninsula and close to the Corcovado National Park. There is a bit of travel involved today, so spend this time brushing up on your Spanish with an informal lesson from your tour leader. You’ll know the difference between your buenos and banos in no time. Otherwise, make sure you grab a window take in the passing scenery, or simply catch some shut eye on the journey. With 13 major ecosystems, over 400 species of birds and all the monkeys, turtles and butterflies you’d ever wish to see, Corcovado is a nature-lover's dream, and you’ll have some time to explore tomorrow.
Day 12 Corcovado / Drake Bay
In the morning, visit the Corcovado National Park: the second largest national park in Costa Rica and one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. It has 13 different ecosystems within its boundaries including highland cloud forests, lagoons, mangrove swamps and marine habitats to name just a few. Before departing, get your day pack ready with hiking sandals, boots or tennis shoes (waterproof recommended), hat, bathing suit, towel, sunscreen, insect repellent, water, snacks, toilet paper and a small garbage bag (there are no wastebaskets or bathrooms in the park). First, take a boat from the hotel and be prepared for a wet landing upon arrival at the park. You’ll undertake the San Pedrillo Station Hike today where your guide will lead a 3-hour hike through primary and secondary forest and (hopefully) past unique species of bird, monkey, anteater and the crowd-favourite, sloths. After an included lunch at the ranger park station or at San Josecito beach, take a shorter hike to a beautiful waterfall for a swim! Finishing up in mid-afternoon, you’ll have the evening back in Drake Bay, perhaps with a group dinner if you decide.
Day 13 Boquete
Cross the border and journey to Boquete (about 6 hours). A picturesque town in Panama’s verdant highlands, Boquete is surrounded by mountains, rivers, forest reserves and colourful wildflowers, as well as coffee plantations and orange groves. Acquaint yourself with its breathtaking scenery on an orientation walk with your leader, followed by an optional dinner in town with your group.
Day 14 Boquete
Enjoy a free day to explore Boquete. The area surrounding the town is famous for its coffee. Consider a visit to a local coffee plantation for an insight into coffee production, or perhaps kick back in town with a cup of local brew. Get active on a guided bike tour or hike through the mini canyons and hidden waterfalls outside of town. Boquete’s stunning scenery makes it a fantastic location for ziplining. Or for a more relaxing pursuit, soak your muscles at the Calderas hot springs. The best thing is, you decide!
Day 15 Panama City
Travel to Panama City, Central America's glitziest capital. Depart at 9 am for this 8-9-hour journey by public bus, changing bus in David and continuing on to the capital. Upon arrival in the late afternoon, your leader will take you on a walk along the waterfront and to the fish market. Take some time to also explore the historic Casco Viejo (Old Town); the cobbled centre is an alluring mix of crumbling architecture and hip bars and boutiques.
Day 16 Panama City
There are no planned activities today, though we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. If you wish to spend more time in Panama City, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). You may want to visit the engineering marvel that is the Panama Canal or go wildlife spotting at Soberania National Park. You may choose to treat your taste buds to an evening food tour run by Urban Adventures, which gives you the opportunity to sample local specialties like Panamanian coffee, craft beer and ceviche.
All This Included
Nature's bounty is at your fingertips in this adventure through the lush, rugged landscaped of Costa Rica. Spend time exploring the cloud forests, jungles and marine environments of the nation's national parks and you’ll be rewarded with incredible wildlife-spotting. It won’t take long before you start recognising different sorts of monkeys, unusual Baird’s tapirs, and the bright crimson and green coat of the elusive resplendent quetzal. From the verdant hills and misty mountains of San Gerardo de Dota and Boquete, to the beachside town of Santa Catalina, the incredible landscape is an adventure-seekers dream. Hike, bike, surf, zipline, rock climb or simply chill out on a hammock–the choice is yours. Then journey to energetic Panama City for a different sort of thrill.
Hotel (12 nights)
Homestay (1 night)
Lodge (2 nights)
Terms and Conditions
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* 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.