The Panama Canal & Costa Rica - 12 Days

The Panama Canal & Costa Rica

A 7-night voyage aboard one of Ponant’s new Explorer Class yachts – the sister ships Le Champlain or Le Dumont d’Urville– features a complete transit of the Panama Canal, and an opportunity for cultural exchange with locals in Panama and along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Explore the rich interior and its abundant wildlife with our expert naturalists. Go swimming or snorkeling, land on islands via tender or Zodiac craft, visit a gold museum in San José and learn how coffee beans are harvested and brewed to perfection. Experience the pleasures of Tauck small ship cruising on a Panama Canal and Costa Rica cruise!

Only With Tauck

On-tour film vignettes custom-made for Tauck by BBC Earth natural history experts.

Cruise prices are per person in U.S. dollars. All hotel and cruise ship accommodations, motor coach transportation, port charges, land excursions, admissions, entertainment, sightseeing, special dinners, porterage, and the services of the Tauck Director, hotel and ship staff, and local guides and drivers are included. All-day soft drinks, daily cocktail hour, and wine with dinner aboard the cruise ship are also included. Transportation from San Jose Juan Santamaria International Airport to the Real InterContinental Hotel & Club Tower Costa Rica or the Marriott Costa Rica Hotel is included, regardless of the time you check in to the hotel, provided we have accurate flight arrival information at least three weeks before the start of the your tour. Transportation from the Hilton Panama or the Intercontinental Hotel Panama City to Tocumen International Airport is also included when you check out of the hotel. Transportation to and from airports and train stations may be shared with other Tauck guests.

We pledge to make every effort to operate all tours as advertised. We reserve the right to alter or curtail the itinerary, or substitute sightseeing, hotels, and/or conveyances as deemed necessary. Any savings realized by these changes will be refunded to you. Any resultant added expense will be covered by us. Although not expected, prices on this website may be modified due to unexpected significant external factors not forecast at the time of publication.

Rates and schedules are not guaranteed until booked and will vary based on departure date.

Day 01:
Arrive San José

Tour begins: San José. Welcome to Costa Rica! A transfer is included from Juan Santamaria International Airport to the Costa Rica Marriott Hotel San José or InterContinental Costa Rica at Multiplaza Mall. Join us this evening for a welcome reception and dinner at the hotel.

Meals – Dinner

Day 02:
San José gold & Sarchi crafts

San José city sightseeing today includes visits to the Baroque-style, 19th-century National Theatre, a grand symbol of civic pride dating back to 1897 – its interior glistens with Baroque gold overlays and Carrara marble – and the Gold Museum, which houses pre-Columbian works of gold crafted by indigenous islanders. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit Sarchi, an artisans’ hamlet outside of San José where workshops display the traditional painted carretas (ox carts) and other handmade products bearing the colorful starburst designs that have become a symbol of Costa Rica. After returning to the hotel, the rest of the afternoon and evening is free to spend as you wish in San José.

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch

Day 03:
Coffee, waterfalls, wildlife & your cruise begins

Near-perfect growing conditions have made coffee one of Costa Rica’s most important exports. Begin the day with a visit to a working coffee plantation, where the soil and altitude make for ideal growing conditions. Your guide explains how the beans are produced and roasted and how different microclimates affect the taste. Next, head to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a rainforest eco-park known for spectacular waterfalls and flowing white rivers, where you’ll enjoy lunch and an afternoon of eco- discoveries. This protected reserve buzzes with the sounds and sights of wildlife; residents include toucans, butterflies, spider monkeys, two-toed sloths, red-eyed leaf frogs, pumas and jaguars – to name a few of the 100+ species. Embark your ship late this afternoon in Puerto Caldera for the start of your Panama Canal cruise.

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 04:
Carara National Park & Pura Vida Gardens

Your ship arrives at Playa Herradura for a choice of shore excursions offering a range of eco-activities. One includes a walking tour and a mangrove cruise in Carara National Park with a local naturalist guide. Following your jungle walk through the park, enjoy a local lunch before learning about various coastal bird and wildlife species on a mangrove boat tour. Another choice features a visit to Tropical Forest Sky Walk near the boundary of Carara Biological Reserve, where you’ll hike across suspended cable bridges skimming the top of the rainforest, up to 126 feet above the ground; from your lofty perch, you’ll see the marshlands of the Tarcoles River and views of the ocean in the distance. Your guide will point out species of birds, monkeys, butterflies and other mammals that you may encounter. Still another possibility is a visit to the spectacular Pura Vida Gardens, whose beautifully manicured gardens are bordered by one of the tallest waterfalls in the country. Pura Vida is home to over 60,000 flowering plants, including 60 varieties of heliconia, ten varieties of ginger, and orchids; look for butterflies, macaws, parrots, parakeets, toucans, kingfishers, birds of prey, and waterfowl. After your tour, enjoy a traditional lunch in the garden restaurant. You’ll also stop at the Tarcoles Bridge for a chance to observe an immense population of crocodiles that live just several meters below the bridge. Back aboard ship, join us for the Captain’s Gala dinner tonight.

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Excursion Choices – Hanging Bridges & Pura Vida Gardens

Day 05:
Manuel Antonio National Park

Call on the city of Quepos this morning, a perfect jumping off point for your excursion to Manuel Antonio National Park, where you’ll find coral reefs and white sand beaches, considered among the most beautiful in Costa Rica, lined with rainforest. Your choices here include a walking tour of the park with your local naturalist guide; an exciting river float trip* on the Savegre River (which will include lunch either before or after the trip); or a horseback ride through a mountain forest. Back aboard the ship, enjoy dinner at your leisure tonight, as your yacht sets out from Quepos, bound for the Pacific Ocean.

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Excursion Choices – Horseback Riding

Day 06:
A day at sea on the Pacific

Enjoy a relaxing day at sea today, taking advantage of your Explorer Class ship’s many amenities as you make your way across the Pacific Ocean waters off Panama’s coast, bound for the remote Darien region of Panama. Throughout the day, your Tauck Directors and naturalist guides will circulate about the ship answering questions – sharing their experiences and scanning the horizon for marine mammals and pelagic birds – and will also offer compelling lectures.

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 07:
The Embera people of the Darien

Today you’ll stop in the beautiful but remote Darien region of Panama, calling on Play del Muerto for a wet landing by Zodiac craft to visit an indigenous community of the Emberá people, whose lifestyle remains largely unaffected by modern times. You’ll meet the locals, watch them perform traditional dances, see how they live, and perhaps purchase some of their “Cocobolo” wood or “Tagua” vegetable ivory carvings. Return to the ship for lunch; enjoy a naturalist lecture this afternoon as your yacht begins preparations for tomorrow’s entrance into the Panama Canal.

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 08:
Transiting the Panama Canal

This morning, your ship begins to position for her transit of the Panama Canal. Opened in 1914 and considered an engineering marvel of the 20th century, the Panama Canal opened trade to the Americas by creating a transit path between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Thanks to the canal, today ships traveling from New York to San Francisco save over 7,000 miles by not having to chart a course around South America. Before our crossing, we’ll welcome aboard a canal pilot, the local navigation professional who will guide our ship under the Bridge of the Americas, through Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks, into the narrow Gaillard cut and into Gatun lake, before finally clearing the Gatun Locks on the Atlantic side of the isthmus. Your Tauck Director, Tauck Naturalist and an official of the Panama Canal Authority will provide both technical and historical information about this engineering wonder.

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 09:
The Guna people of the San Blas Islands

Your yacht arrives in the archipelago of San Blas today, where you’ll transfer by Zodiac for a wet landing at Holandes Caye. Here, you’ll visit Guna Indians, whose language and customs reflect lives with few outside influences, women sell handmade molas – reverse-appliquéd fabrics with brilliant images of fish, birds and jungle animals – and fishing is still done by canoe. After your visit to a Guna village, you can spend a leisurely afternoon swimming and snorkeling before returning by Zodiac to your ship. Join us for the Captain’s farewell dinner tonight, as your yacht sails to Colon, Panama.

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10:
Gamboa Rainforest & crossing the Isthmus

After completing the Panama Canal crossing, your Explorer Class vessel arrives this morning at the port of Colón, where you’ll disembark and bid your ship and its crew a fond farewell. Once ashore, learn more about the Panama Canal on a visit to the Agua Clara locks. Then start across across the Isthmus of Panama; during a stop at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, you’ll choose between an aerial tram ride with a naturalist through the rainforest at eye-level with exotic birds and animals (aboard the only gondola of its kind in Panama), or a boat cruise along waterways leading to hidden islands, where you might spot monkeys atplay. Afterlunchatalocalrestaurant,continueacrosstheIsthmustoPanamaCity;checkintoyourhotelinthecity’sheart this afternoon. Spend the rest of the day and evening as you wish in historic Panama City.

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch

Lodging – InterContinental Miramar Panama Excursion Choices – Canal Nature Cruise

Day 11:
Exploring Panama City

Begin today’s exploration of Panama City in its key historic district, Casco Viejo; a walking tour will show you this walled cobblestoned city, built in the 1670s at the foot of Ancon Hill, to provide safety from attack. The area is a gem of Spanish colonial architecture in various stages of redevelopment, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; you’ll also have free time to explore on your own. After lunch at a local restaurant, tour the former Canal Zone, driving through Ancon Hill, a lush residential enclave that was home to US military facilities until a 1977 treaty granted Panamanian sovereignty over the “Zone;” Albrook, a former US Air Force Base; and Clayton, once a US Army base. Then enjoy a fascinating visit to the exhibits and gardens of the Biomuseo, the Panama City biodiversity museum designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. Please join us tonight to cap your memorable Panama Canal cruise experience with a farewell reception and dinner at your Panama City hotel.

Meals – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Lodging – InterContinental Miramar Panama

Day 12:
Journey home

Tour ends: Panama City. A transfer from the Hilton Panama or InterContinental Miramar Panama to Tocumen International Airport is included. Please allow at least 3 hours for check-in formalities.

Meals – Breakfast

What's Included

  • Tauck’s private shore excursions and distinctive inclusions valued at $2,130
  • 7-night cruise aboard one of Ponant's new Explorer Class yachts
  • Your cruise may be a shared ship experience with non-Tauck guests onboard as well; all Tauck guests will be accompanied by one Tauck Director for approximately every 40 Tauck guests, and your itinerary will always be highlighted by exclusive, private Tauck shore excursions
  • Full small-ship transit of the Panama Canal with onboard commentary by a local expert
  • 4 nights’ hotel accommodations with guided sightseeing in San José & Panama City
  • Tauck's experienced naturalist, Tauck Director and local guides join the cruise aboard ship, leading excursions ashore to enrich your experience of the jungle, water and flora & fauna
  • Visits to Manuel Antonio National Park and Carara National Park in Costa Rica, the Darien and the San Blas Islands Aboard ship – alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are available throughout the day aboard ship including house wines and spirits; premium spirits and wines are available at extra cost
  • Airport transfers upon arrival and departure as noted
  • 30 meals; applicable fuel surcharges, service charges, porterage and most taxes

Nights 1-2
San José, Costa Rica

Costa Rica Marriott Hotel San José

Revolutionize the way you vacation at Costa Rica Marriott Hotel San José…showcasing hacienda-style architecture and nestling you within a 30-acre coffee plantation in Costa Rica’s capital city. Guest rooms and suites feature contemporary style and furnishings for your utmost comfort, including luxurious pillowtop beds dressed with duvets, and flat-panel TVs with international cable; many offer serene mountain and skyline views from outdoor balconies. After exploring the hotel grounds and the surrounding area, pamper yourself at the full-service spa, offering massages, facials and more. Dining and drinking options include Hacienda Kitchen, evoking the ancient traditions of Costa Rican cusine; Bar 10, blending the relaxed atmosphere of an American sports bar with a decidedly trendy restaurant vibe; La Isabela, specializing in Peruvian dishes; Casa del Cafe, a coffee house where you can sip some of Costa Rica’s finest blends; and international fare at La Castilla, featuring live music, fresh sushi made right in front of you and exotic cocktails crafted by expert bartenders. And to keep fit throughout your stay, visit the Costa

Rica Marriott Hotel San José’s fitness center, outdoor pool and Sport Court®.

Nights 1-2
San José, Costa Rica

InterContinental Costa Rica at Multiplaza Mall

Set in the elite San José suburb of Escazú, the InterContinental Costa Rica at Multiplaza Mall is the epitome of modern, understated elegance. The hotel is located within Multiplaza, the city’s most important mall, where you will find a variety of stores, bars and restaurants. Spacious guest rooms feature soundproof windows, soft bedding with 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets and feather pillows, individually controlled air conditioning, iron / ironing board, 37-inch LCD TV with cable and satellite stations, a multimedia connector, a spacious work desk, radio with CD player, coffee maker, minibar, bathrobes, hair dryer and a scale. There’s a cool outdoor swimming pool complex surrounded by tropical gardens, tennis court, the largest Urban Spa of Central America, and a fully equipped, state-of-the-art Health & Fitness Centre. You’ll find three trendy concept restaurants from which to choose – Factory, Alfredo Trattoria Italiana, and The Market. And if you’re in the mood for an exotic aperitif, sample one of the 50 sake cocktails at the Nau Bar.

Tauck Guests enjoy complimentary Internet access in guest rooms!

Nights 3-9

Le Champlain

Le Champlain sports six passenger decks that include the elegant, panoramic main dining room serving French and international cuisine on Deck 4; the casual restaurant serving grilled specialties, salads and desserts on Deck 3; a main lounge offering a bar with evening entertainment, and a 188-seat theatre hosting informative lectures and entertainment and featuring the latest sound and lighting technology, both on Deck 3; a panoramic lounge forward on Deck 6; a spa and fitness center on the top deck (Deck 7); and multiple observation areas. Elevators serve all passenger decks. Staterooms (ranging in size from 204 to 296 sq. ft.) and suites (ranging in size from 296 to 484 sq. ft.) have ocean views; 95% have private balconies. Staterooms are decorated by French designers, offering individually controlled air conditioning, twin beds converting to a queen-size bed (or one queen- size bed), DVD / CD player, flat-screen TV with satellite channels, electronic safe and minibar.

Nights 3-9

Le Dumont d’Urville

Le Dumont d’Urville sports six passenger decks that include the elegant, panoramic main dining room serving French and international cuisine on Deck 4; the casual restaurant serving grilled specialties, salads and desserts on Deck 3; a main lounge offering a bar with evening entertainment, and a 188-seat theatre hosting informative lectures and entertainment and featuring the latest sound and lighting technology, both on Deck 3; a panoramic lounge forward on Deck 6; a spa and fitness center on the top deck (Deck 7); and multiple observation areas. Elevators serve all passenger decks. Staterooms (ranging in size from 204 to 296 sq. ft.) and suites (ranging in size from 296 to 484 sq. ft.) have ocean views; 95% have private balconies. Staterooms are decorated by French designers, offering individually controlled air conditioning, twin beds converting to a queen-size bed (or one queen-size bed), DVD / CD player, flat-screen TV with satellite channels, electronic safe and minibar.

Nights 10 – 11 Panama City, Panama

Hilton Panama

Situated at Balboa Avenida and Aquilino de la Guardia, Hilton Panama enjoys an ideal location in downtown Panama City just

steps from the oceanfront walkway… and just minutes from designer shopping, both fine and casual restaurants, numerous historic sites and, of course, the Panama Canal. Neutral hues and a sharp design bring calm to your stay at this recently built Hilton property, which opened in 2014. Each well-appointed guest room offers gorgeous views of the city or Panama Bay, and features amenities including air conditioning, 42-inch HDTV, alarm clock/radio with iPod dock/MP3 connection, arm chair with ottoman, laptop-sized safe, minibar, bathrobe and slippers, hairdryer, black-out curtains, duvet covers, work desk with adjustable lamp and ergonomic desk chair, coffee maker, and iron/ironing board. Dining options at the Hilton Panama include the world-famous Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse – the first in Latin America; an authentic Panamanian dining experience at the Society Café; and modern cocktails at BAR Blue. Other amenities include a casino at the hotel entrance, open 24 hours; the full-service Eforea Spa for massages, treatments and aqua therapy; a 24-hour fitness center with a steam room and sauna; and a heated outdoor rooftop pool, whirlpool and sundeck.

Nights 10 – 11 Panama City, Panama

InterContinental Miramar Panama

The InterContinental Miramar Panama is beautifully set on the shores of Panama Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Welcoming guest rooms offer a minibar, electronic safe, TV with local and international networks, iron and ironing board and amenities such as bathrobes and the finest shampoos, lotions and bath gels. Leisure facilities include a lighted tennis court and an outdoor swimming pool with a great view of Panama Bay. Enjoy a nightcap while you listen to live music in the Sparkles Bar.

Tauck Guests enjoy complimentary Internet access in guest rooms!

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