Biodiversity, lush rainforests, and rich culture await
Visit the magnificent Panama Canal, hike Arenal Volcano, and witness incredible biodiversity in Manuel Antonio National Park
Visiting Panama and Costa Rica is an exceptional travel choice that seamlessly blends natural wonders, adventure, history, culture, and warm hospitality into an unforgettable experience. These Central American gems cater to a diverse range of interests, making them perfect destinations for all types of travelers.
Both countries are renowned for their stunning natural landscapes. Costa Rica boasts lush rainforests teeming with wildlife and numerous national parks, while Panama offers a unique combination of rainforests, tropical islands, and pristine beaches. The world-famous Panama Canal, an engineering marvel, adds to its unique allure.
Adventure-seekers will find plenty to do in both destinations. Activities like zip-lining through rainforests, navigating white-water rapids, and exploring volcanic landscapes cater to adrenaline junkies. Water sports enthusiasts can enjoy surfing, snorkeling, and diving in the azure waters of the Pacific and Caribbean.
Delving into history and culture is a rich experience in Panama and Costa Rica. Explore historic sites like Panama City's Casco Viejo or discover ancient archaeological treasures in Costa Rica. Engage with indigenous communities to learn about their traditions and folklore, gaining a deeper understanding of their heritage.
One of the standout features of both countries is their warm hospitality. Ticos in Costa Rica and Panamanians are known for their friendliness and willingness to share their culture with visitors, making you feel like a welcomed guest wherever you go.
These countries promise extraordinary journeys that cater to the varied interests of travelers, ensuring that your visit is nothing short of unforgettable.
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Day 1: Holiday time!
Board your international flight to Panama City and prepare for an adventure-filled fortnight in the tropics of America.
Day 2: Arrive Panama City
Fly into Tocumen Airport, Panama City where you will be met and privately transferred to the Hotel Central, you will stay for three nights. If you have time you can wander around the beautiful Caso Viejo district in the evening and acquaint yourself with the Central American atmosphere.
Day 3: Casco Antiguo tour
After breakfast, the morning is yours to do as you please in this thriving city - some shopping or museum visits, or even just relaxing in the hotel.
In the late afternoon, your guide will collect you from your hotel to take you to the colonial district of Panama City. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Casco Antiguo brims with continuous energy, merging history, culture, nightlife, and culinary delights. Delve into Panama's rich history as you explore the quarter's main attractions. Wander through this 337-year-old neighbourhood, basking in the warm, golden hues of the setting sun.
Day 4: Panama Canal Cruise
After breakfast at the hotel, embark on a unique adventure with a naturalist guide. Begin by exploring the Metropolitan Nature Park and the Smithsonian Rainforest from a bird's-eye perspective. Afterward, a 20-minute drive takes you to the charming village of Gamboa. There, enjoy a scenic three-hour boat ride on Gatun Lake, a significant part of the Panama Canal. Along the way, spot diverse wildlife and witness massive vessels traversing the canal. Savour a romantic picnic lunch on one of Lake Gatun's islands, making for an unforgettable experience, before returning to the hotel. The rest of the evening is yours to do as you please.
Day 5: San Jose
Transfer to Tocumen airport where you will depart for San Jose, Costa Rica. From San Jose Airport, you will be collected and transferred to Presidente Hotel, where you will stay for one night. Any time left in the day is yours to do as you wish.
San Jose, Costa Rica's capital, was founded in 1738 but it's a bustling modern city with attractions like the National Theatre, art and design museums, and historical architecture. Amid parks and monuments, restaurants range from fine dining to casual cafeterias.
Day 6: La Fortuna, Arenal
After breakfast, transfer to the town of La Fortuna in the Arenal National Park, where you will stay at the Arenal Manoa Hotel for three nights. Upon arrival around midday, you can spend your day as you choose.
La Fortuna is renowned as a gateway to the stunning Arenal Volcano and National Park. Perhaps head to the natural thermal springs for relaxation or take a hike through nearby mountains or the rainforest. You could also head to Monteverde and Guanacaste, if you feel up to more travel, taking in the picturesque landscapes as you journey along the rural roads.
Day 7: Hanging bridges and waterfalls
Start your day with a captivating rainforest adventure encompassing trails and bridges ranging from 5 to 100 metres long, some towering over 70 metres high. Admire the diverse flora and fauna while enjoying magnificent views of the iconic Arenal Volcano.
Afterward, you'll be driven to the La Fortuna waterfall. Take in the beauty from a distance and then enjoy a 600-meter hike to the natural pool at the waterfall's base. After a refreshing waterfall swim, enjoy lunch at a nearby organic production farm. Once you’ve eaten, the afternoon is free for you to relax or do further exploring.
Day 8: Sloths, volcanoes, and hot springs
After breakfast, join a brief guided trek through the tropical rainforest to spot the fascinating sloths that are endemic to Costa Rica.
From here, drive to the El Silencio Private Reserve, venturing as close to the volcano's base as possible by vehicle. Hike along the volcanic stone path which will take you to the viewpoint and revel in exceptional views of the Green Lagoon and Lake Arenal. Descend along the same trail, but take a path through the regenerating forest and primary rainforest along the Arenal Volcano's outskirts. With luck, this trail will unveil, toucans, turkeys, snakes, monkeys, and more.
After a delightful dinner, head to the Ecotermales Hot Springs to soothe your aching muscles from their hard day’s hiking.
Day 9: Head to Manuel Antonio
Partake in a leisurely breakfast at the hotel then take a private transfer south through the Central Pacific to quaint Quepos and follow a picturesque cliff-top road to Manuel Antonio. This famed town, nestled amidst lush hills, boasts Manuel Antonio National Park – a fusion of lush rainforests and pristine beaches. The park safeguards diverse habitats, from forests to marine resources.
Check in at the Parador Boutique Resort and Spa where you will stay for four nights. Explore the vibrant wharf and modern marina for exciting sport-fishing and memorable boat trips.
Day 10: Manuel Antonio Nature Walk
After breakfast, take an expedition to one of Costa Rica's top destinations, Manuel Antonio National Park. Join a leisurely guided stroll led by a knowledgeable naturalist guide, well-versed in biodiversity education. This treasure, preserved for over 40 years, beckons with enchanting beaches and abundant flora and fauna.
Day 11: Catamaran Sunset Cruise
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and the morning for your own activities. Then, in the afternoon, embark on a Catamaran Cruse that will give you amazing views of the Manuel Antonio National Park. As the cruise begins, partake in the provided lunch while navigating along the coast with the ocean breeze and the sun. You might be lucky enough to spot humpback whales or dolphins!
Stop for a snorkelling adventure at one of the beautiful locations along the coast and finally, take in the breathtaking sunset over the Pacific Ocean as the cruise comes to an end.
Day 12: Free day Manuel Antonio
Enjoy a leisurely day with the freedom to partake in optional activities, explore the nearby rainforest, or simply unwind and relish the amenities of the hotel.
Day 13: Depart Costa Rica
After breakfast, you will be transferred via private car from Manuel Antonio to San Jose Airport. Enjoy the scenic journey as you prepare to say goodbye to Central America. Upon arrival at the airport, board your departure flight to return home.
Day 14: Arrive home
As you sit aboard your return flight, take the time to reflect on the precious memories you have formed on your Costa Rica and Panama trip. Once you have landed, it is time to start planning your next adventure!
Duration: 13 nights
Location: Panama Holidays, Central America Holidays
From £6,125 pp based on two people sharing excluding international flights to/from the UK.
The trip includes all accommodations and activities specified above. Rooms and meals are as below:
- 3 nights at Hotel Central Panama City, Premium room, breakfast included.
- 1 night at Presidente San Jose, Standard room, breakfast included.
- 3 nights at Arenal Manoa, Junior Suite room, breakfast included.
- 4 Nights at Parador Boutique Resort & Spa, Garden room, breakfast included.
- All transfers and flight from Panama City to San Jose.
- Excursions and park fees mentioned as included.
- International flights to/from the UK. (expect these to cost from around £700pp depending on travel time and cabin class).
- Park fees and excursions that are not mentioned as included.
- Meals and drinks that are not mentioned as included.
Rainforests, waterfalls and whales
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Adventure highlights of Costa Rica
- Pacuare River
- Arenal Volcano
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Volcanos, hot springs and turtles
- Poas Volcano
- Arenal National Park
- Tenorio National Park (Rio Celeste)
- 8 Days
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When to go to Costa Rica
Discover the best time to visit Costa Rica with our helpful guide.
January is the dry season in Costa Rica (although you can still expect the odd tropical shower) and so a fantastic time to visit, the only downside is it is peak season and so you can expect some crowds and peak season prices.
The dry season is ideal if you want to walk through the jungles of Manuel Antonio National Park. It is also an excellent time to visit the soft sandy beaches as you can see humpback whales, as well as green and leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean.
The dry season continues in February with hot, dry conditions but fewer visitor numbers than in January making it a wonderful time to visit Costa Rica.
If you're hoping to see turtles or humpback whales you want to head to the Pacific Coast, or if you are looking to surf, both the Atlantic and Pacific Coast are great this time of year.
March is still the dry season in Costa Rica, and with fewer crowds, it is a fantastic time of year to visit. March kicks off with Monteverde Music Fest where National and international musicians gather in the cloudforest town for a month of song and dance.
You can see Loggerhead turtles at Parque Nacionale Tortuguero and Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Reserve from March to May.
April is the final month of the dry season, and also one of the hottest meaning many visitors prefer the breezy Pacific coast or visit higher mountainous areas. Easter holidays mean that Costa Rica does get busy, but it quietens after Easter.
Every two years (even numbers), San José plays host to the International Arts Festival where you can expect ten days of theatre shows, concerts, dance performances and art exhibitions.
May is the start of the rainy season, but with it, you benefit from fewer visitors, lower prices and still plenty of good weather. Although there are rain showers, these tend to be in the afternoon, meaning you've bright, sunny mornings to explore - watch wildlife for longer, uninterrupted by other tourists.
Surfers will love this time of year with an increasing swell on the Pacific coast and empty beaches.
June is still part of the rainy or green season, meaning there are tropical showers, but also plenty of lush, vivid vegetation. June is when surfing is at its peak on the Pacific coast.
Whilst July is still part of the rainy season, there is a letup in the volume of rain making it a fantastic time to spot wildlife without the crowds and with amazing plush vegetation.
July is also when green turtles return to their favoured nesting grounds in Tortuguero, with some turtles travelling 2000km to reach their breeding beaches. More turtles can be found at Playa Nancite in Santa Rosa and Ostional Wildlife Reserve, where olive ridleys lay millions of eggs in the black sand, often in the middle of the day.
August still forms part of the wet season, but this doesn't put off families visiting Costa Rica who bring children during the school holidays for the plethora of activities available.
It is a good month to see both green and Hawksbill turtles nesting around Tortuguero. Further up the Pacific coast, olive ridley turtles storm the sands in a synchronized mass nesting event known as arribada which will continue until November. The northern part of the Pacific coast receives the least rain so is ideal for those hunting sunshine.
If you're looking to party, the Virgin of the Seas Fiesta takes place in the Gulf of Nicoya to remember a time when the desperate prayers of storm-shocked sailors were answered.
September and October are the wettest months of the green season meaning that remote areas of Costa Rica can become inaccessible due to the roads and spotting wildlife can be more challenging. The East of the country is the driest so visitors willing to brave the rain head to Tortuguero National Park.
Independence Day occurs on the 15th September which is a big fiesta - across the country, you can expect big patriotic parades celebrating the country’s independence from Spain in 1821.
October is another very wet month in Costa Rica, especially on the west coast which is the best place to see whales and turtles at this time of year.
October is an important month for festivals with Limón Carnival happening. Expect week-long celebrations to mark Christopher Columbus’s landing at Isla Uvita, but be aware these can have an impact on local services.
November marks the end of the wet season - although the exact end date can be difficult to pinpoint, so travel this month can be a gamble, with the upside being lower prices and fewer crowds, plus the potential for glorious sunshine! If you get lucky, November can be the best month to visit.
The Caribbean Coast on the East gets the dry weather first, and if there is rain, it tends to fall in the afternoon so you can easily plan your day around it.
December marks the return of the dry season with visitors flocking to the beaches of sea, sun and sand.
It also means wetter areas of the country reopen with Arenal National Park being one of the most popular for its volcano, hanging bridges and zipwire through the forest, and its magnificent waterfalls.
On the 27th December, there is San José Carnival where you can see huge parades with colourful floats, vibrant music and lots of dancing.
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