Immerse yourself in the natural wonders along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Panama on a voyage aboard the new National Geographic Quest. Venture into the rain forest of Corcovado National Park; search for monkeys, frogs, sloths, and brightly colored birds on the Osa Peninsula; or take an optional horseback ride on pristine beaches. Cap off your voyage with a crossing of the legendary Panama Canal.
Traveling aboard the new National Geographic Quest, cross through the historic Panama Canal and examine its fascinating lock system with our onboard experts.
By special permission, take a guided walk through the tropical forests of Barro Colorado Nature Monument, site of a National Geographic-supported wildlife tracking study.
Snorkel the pristine reefs surrounding Isla Coiba, one of Panama’s most remote national parks.
Discover the hidden waterfall pools within the jungles of the Osa Peninsula, and cruise into Costa Rica’s Golfo Dulce to visit Casa Orquídeas, a flowering tropical paradise reachable only by boat.
Itinerary - 8 Days
Day 1 — U.S./San José, Costa Rica/Herradura
Upon arrival in San José, transfer to Herradura and embark the National Geographic Quest. (D)
Day 2 — Osa Peninsula
Anchor off the Osa Peninsula to see some of the most pristine lowland rain forest on the Pacific coast. In the environs of Corcovado National Park, swim in waterfall pools, take an optional horseback ride on the beach, or trek through the rain forest for a chance to see four species of monkeys—howler, spider, capuchin, and squirrel. (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Osa Peninsula/Golfo Dulce
Enter the mangrove-fringed Golfo Dulce, a protected gulf along the southwestern edge of Costa Rica. Venture ashore at the white sands of Playa Blanca. Then head inland to visit remote indigenous communities and experience daily life on the Osa Peninsula. Meet with local artisans working with cocoa, heart of palm, and sugar cane, and watch as they ply their trades. Later, hike in mature rain forest where sloths, monkeys, and brightly colored birds can be spotted, or kayak in the Golfo Dulce, one of the few tropical fjords in the world. In the evening, enjoy drinks ashore and, hopefully, a beautiful sunset. Visit the Casa Orquídeas, a tropical paradise of ornamental palms, bromeliads, heliconias, orchids, and flowering gingers closed to the general public and reachable only by boat. Keep your eye out for tanagers, parrots, and toucans. Later, explore the placid bay, ideal for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, expeditions landing craft rides, and swimming. (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Golfo Dulce
Visit the Casa Orquídeas, a tropical paradise of ornamental palms, bromeliads, heliconias, orchids, and flowering gingers closed to the general public and reachable only by boat. Keep your eye out for tanagers, parrots, and toucans. Later, explore the placid bay, ideal for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, expeditions landing craft rides, and swimming. (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Coiba National Park, Panama
Isla Coiba, one of Panama’s most remote national parks and a UNESCO World Heritage site, offers some of the best reefs for snorkeling in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Observe a vibrant undersea world while swimming, kayaking, or stand-up paddleboarding. (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Gulf of Panama Islets/Panama Canal Transit
Today, explore the tiny islets of the Gulf of Panama by expedition landing craft. Here, we might spot frigate birds, brown pelicans, neotropical cormorants, and brown boobies. Set sail for the Panama Canal this afternoon. Stretching more than 50 miles, the canal was a colossal engineering feat completed in 1914 and is still traversed by some 14,000 ships every year. As cargo ships tend to pass through the canal during the day, we’ll most likely begin our crossing at night, when the canal is dramatically lit. (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Gatún Lake/Panama Canal Transit
Board an expedition landing craft to visit Barro Colorado Nature Monument in Gatún Lake by special arrangement. Scientists have worked at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island since 1923, researching its 120 mammals and diverse tree species. It is also the site of a National Geographic-supported project that tracks tagged animals using automated radio signals and wireless technology. Join local guides for a walk through the forests. This evening, continue through the complex lock system of the canal. (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Colón/Panama City/U.S.
After breakfast, disembark in Colón and transfer to the airport in Panama City for your flight home. (B)
Accompanying each expedition is a diverse team of experts — from naturalists to certified photo instructors — who will share their knowledge and insights on the wildlife, landscapes, and local culture. See one of the members of our extraordinary team below.
Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo has traveled in more than 85 countries, and transformed his fascination with Latin America into a career focus. He is a guest lecturer for the Leica Akademie and a freelancer for the New York Times. His cultural and environmental documentary photography has also been published in National Geographic, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, as well as other publications. His book Habitats, with forewords by famed National Geographic marine photographer David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau and launched at the Reina Sofia Museum, showcases ecosystems from around the world.
Add a three-day pre-trip extension to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve or new seven-day post-trip extension to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Arenal Volcano, and Tortuguero on select departures. Please call for details.
Extend your trip by combining this voyage with our new Costa Rica: Cloud Forest to the Caribbean land-based expedition.
For a single cabin, add $3,000 to Category 1 and $3,300 to Category 2.
Airfare to San José and return from Panama City, or vice versa, is not included in the expedition cost.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.