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Costa Rica & Panama Discovery

  • bocas del toro panama

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.

Day 1

Bienvenidos a Costa Rica! Welcome to Costa Rica!
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you’re going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We’ll be checking your passport details, insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting. If you can’t arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you’re able to attend. We’ll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).

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. Home to over half the country’s population, 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.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Jose – Gold Museum – USD11
Meals Included

There are no meals included on this day.

Day 2

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 dancehall/reggaeton bars and modern restaurants, while further out you’ll find great surf beaches, rainforest fruit farms and family homes. The area is home to a mix of Rastafarian, European and indigenous populations. The next two nights will be situated here.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included

There are no meals included on this day

Day 3

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.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca – Cahuita National Park – USD5
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca – Jaguar Rescue Centre – USD15
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca – Surf lesson (1 hr) – USD30
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca – Bicycle rental (per day) – USD12
Meals Included

There are no meals included on this day.

Day 4

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 two nights, stay on Isla Colon, the main town in Bocas del Toro and a great spot from where to start your exploration of the archipelago, with most bars, restaurants and local operators located on 1st, 2nd and 3rd street – meters from your hotel.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included

There are no meals included on this day.

Day 5

There are several beaches within reach from town – between 8 and 14km from your hotel. 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.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included

There are no meals included on this day.

Day 6

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, wildflowers and fauna such as howler monkeys and the resplendent quetzal.

Your hotel is located a short drive away from Boquete. Feel free to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery around the property, which has its own bar and restaurant. There is a free shuttle into town a few times a day and most optional activities can be organised directly from the hotel.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included

There are no meals included on this day.

Day 7

Today and tomorrow are 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.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Boquete – Coffee Plantation tour – USD35
Meals Included

There are no meals included on this day.

Day 8

Today, 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.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Boquete – Guided tour of hidden waterfalls – USD50
  • Boquete – Mini canyons – USD30
  • Boquete – Guided bike tour – USD55
  • Boquete – Calderas hot springs – USD35
Meals Included

There are no meals included on this day.

Day 9

Catch an eight-hour bus to Santa Catalina, situated on the Pacific coast of Panama. This small fishing village is still a very remote, undeveloped destination and offers some of the best surfing in Central America.

Accommodation
  • Multishare Cabin (1 night)
Meals Included

There are no meals included on this day.

Special Information

As there is limited accommodation available close to the beach in Santa Catalina, sometimes large multi-share rooms with up to six beds (not bunks) are used.

Day 10

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 activites 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 bire is available in the town. Lessons are readily avaialble, so there’s no reason to fear the waves.

Accommodation
  • Multishare Cabin (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Santa Catalina – Surf lesson (2 hrs) – USD35
  • Santa Catalina – Coiba Island & Grano de Oro snorkelling trip – USD100
  • Santa Catalina – Fishing trip (half day) – USD100
  • Santa Catalina – Surfboard rental (per day) – USD15
Meals Included

There are no meals included on this day.

Day 11

Today, leave the beach and travel by local bus for approximately six hours to Panama City. Panama City is Central America’s glitziest with plentiful dining and drinking hotspots. Perhaps mark your first evening in Panama City with a night on the tiles at a samba club.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included

There are no meals included on this day.

Day 12

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.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Panama City – Panama Canal (Miraflores Locks) – USD15
Meals Included

There are no meals included on this day.

Day 13

Your adventure ends today. There are no activities planned for the final day.

Meals Included

There are no meals included on this day.

Inclusions

Prices from:  $1067 USD per person in a twin share room

Land only

Start:  San Jose, Costa Rica

Finish:  Panama City, Panama

Destinations:  Costa Rica, Panama

Style:  Basic

Physical rating 2/5
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time.
2. A single supplement is available for purchase on this trip, except on Days 10 & 11 in Santa Catalina where you will be in shared accommodation. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.
3. Please be careful when booking flights to/from San Jose; make sure you fly into/out of Juan Santamaría International Airport [SJO]. Please do NOT book flights to/from Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport [SJC] as this is located in California, United States.
4. Hurricane season in this region is June to November, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors any situations that arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to these natural weather occurrences.

2019 CHANGES: From 1 January 2019 the starting day of this trip will change as well as a minor itinerary change. To adjust the combination trips slightly, this trip will now depart on Wednesdays and Saturdays. These changes come as a result of our traveller’s feedback that they prefer more time at a beach destination over an inland destination. We have replaced 1 night in Boquete with an extra night in Bocas del Toro. 2019 departures are not guaranteed for this reason as yet.

Tour code: QVRC-Intrepid

About the Author:

Laurie Johnson is travel writer, agent, and founder of Pura Vida Vacations. She finds her inspirations from travelling of the beaten path, meeting the locals, and sharing her travel stories, reviews, and tips with her readers.

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