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Secrets of Panama & Costa Rica

Billed Toucan, Costa Rica
16 Days from $4,413 per person

The culture, contrasts and epic landscapes of Panama and Costa Rica are revealed on this trip, which ventures from capital to coast via Gamboa, Borinquen and Carrillo Beach.

You'll enjoy Insider moments like... delving into local cultures whether it is riding a canoe to visit with the Embera Indians who live off the land in Panama or enjoying dance performed by local children in Costa Rica.

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Tour Pace: Comfortable
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  1. Bienvenidos a Panama City. You are greeted at the airport by a local host and transferred to your hotel overlooking the Bay of Panama. In the evening, join your fellow travel companions and your Travel Director at 6 p.m. for a Welcome Reception.
    hotel:Le Meridien Panama
  2. Board your vessel to cruise the Panama Canal. As you enter the most important waterway in the world, cruise down from the north end of the Galliard Cut, where the Chagres River flows into the Canal. Cruise over the Continental Divide and under the Centennial Bridge and Bridge of the Americas. Snacks and lunch are included onboard. Once in the beautiful Bay of Panama, prepare for the best views of Panama City's modern, fast-changing skyline. Afterward, enjoy the evening in Panama City to sample local cuisine. Note: The start time of the canal cruise is dependent on ship traffic and in some instances the trip may operate in the afternoon.
    meal(s):FB, L
  3. Visit Panama Viejo, site of the ruins of the original Panama City. Wander the quaint streets of Casco Antiguo—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—in Panama's Historic District. Afterward, stop at the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center and Canal Museum. Then head for the lush vegetation and tropical climate of the rainforest. Once at your resort, join a guide on an exciting nature walk and aerial tram ride. Visit the Observation Tower and admire the panoramic views of the Chagres River and Panama Canal. After dinner, join a discussion with a Smithsonian researcher, a Local Specialist, and learn more about the diversity of Panama.
    meal(s):FB, D
    hotel:Gamboa Rainforest Resort
  4. Embark on a different kind of water adventure and meet your boteros (boatmen) at the edge of the Chagres National Park. Enjoy a ride up river through the jungle, possibly sighting toucans, sloths and monkeys. Arrive at the village of Emberá Drua where you are met with a traditional greeting and learn about the Emberá Indians' fascinating culture. Enjoy a Cultural Insight by tasting delicious patacones (fried plantains) with small samples of fried fish or chicken. Listen to local music and watch traditional shamanic dances. Back at the resort, the afternoon is free.
  5. Fly to David and travel up the mountain slopes of the Chiriqui Province. At Cerro Punta, take in the superb views of the prominent Volcán Barú volcano. An exclusive Be My Guest lunch awaits at a thoroughbred farm situated in Cerro Punta Valley. As guests of the owners, explore the farm and learn how they breed these magnificent horses. Later, arrive at your mountain resort in beautiful Valle Escondido.
    meal(s):FB, BG, D
    hotel:Valle Escondido Resort, Golf and Spa
  6. Visit a coffee plantation and learn how coffee in Panama is making a grand entrance on to the world stage of gourmet grounds. Learn about the coffee-making process with a Local Specialist and see the Ngobe-Bugle, an indigenous group who handpick the red coffee berries when they are perfectly ripe. The rest of the day is free before dinner this evening.
    meal(s):FB, D
  7. Descend from the Chiriqui Highlands to Santiago. Then it's on to Aguadulce and Natá in Cocle Province, the heart of Panama's sugar cane industry. In Natá, view the beautiful basilica, said to be the oldest church in Central America. Arrive at your resort, nestled alongside the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy dinner on your last evening in beautiful Panama.
    meal(s):FB, D
    hotel:JW Marriott Playa Blanca
  8. This morning, transfer to Panama City International Airport for an evening arrival into San José.
  9. Head toward the Poas Volcano area, where you visit a local coffee plantation. Learn about coffee production in Costa Rica from the owner and sample a cup of gourmet coffee. Continue to Sarapiquí, an off the beaten path area surrounded by dense rainforests and wildlife. Here you are welcomed by Don Alberto and Doña Ana Quintana for a Be My Guest experience at their home, Hacienda Pozo Azul. Enjoy a tour of the plantation before sitting down for a luncheon with your hosts. Afterward, continue to La Fortuna de San Carlos, home of the giant Arenal Volcano. The afternoon is free for you to relax before dinner.
    meal(s):FB, BG, D
    hotel:Arenal Kioro Hotel Suites and Spa
  10. Start the day with an informative visit at the Asis Project, a wildlife refuge where you will learn how the center helps preserve the life of endangered animals and get up close and personal with a wide variety of animals. Savor a typical Costa Rican lunch before an entertaining Cultural Insight, brightened by the dances of children at a local education center. Afterward, enjoy a guided visit to the Arenal Hanging Bridges to walk eye-level within the lush canopy. Back at the hotel, there is time to relax.
    meal(s):FB, L
  11. Today, head toward the Guanacaste province. Famous for its cowboys and cattle ranches, you'll be surrounded by breathtaking views of open fields. View Rincon de la Vieja Volcano, a smooth cinder cone volcano made up of 9 contiguous craters before arriving at your hotel in Borinquen. The beautiful resort offers an abundance of relaxing activities.
    meal(s):FB, D
    hotel:Borinquen Mountain Resort and Spa
  12. The day is free for you to pursue your own interests. Thrill seekers can bike the miles of trails, zip line, take a hike, or set off on a horseback ride. The property's thermal hot springs and natural steam room are available if pure relaxation is what you're after.
    meal(s):FB, D
  13. Today, descend to Carrillo Beach. This white sand beach is a secret paradise framed by mountains. En route, enjoy a boat ride on the Tempisque River through the famous Palo Verde National Park. Cruise through 12 different types of habitats including 55 aquatic plants and 150 species of trees. After lunch is served in the park, continue your journey to the hotel where the rest of the day is free.
    meal(s):FB, L
    hotel:Nammbú - Beachfront Bungalows
  14. A white sand beach right off your bungalow, pristine and warm water and a beautiful blue sky–the perfect way to enjoy the "pura vida" way of living like the locals. The options are endless, and the choice is all yours. Your Travel Director is on hand to help you plan the perfect day.
  15. After a leisurely breakfast, travel to the Los Angeles Cloud Forest. Later, join your Travel Director for a different type of experience as you are taken on a nocturnal visit through the Cloud Forest—when the sun goes down, the forest transforms itself like no other habitat in the world. You'll see countless species of animals, birds, insects and plants. Tonight, share experiences with your fellow travelers at a Farewell Dinner.
    meal(s):FB, FD
    hotel:Villa Blanca Los Angeles Cloud Forest
  16. Travel back to San José's Juan Santamaria International Airport for your flight or extend your stay at the Studio Hotel.

30 Day Refund Guarantee

We promise you’ll enjoy a stress-free travel experience from the minute you start your vacation planning or we’ll refund your deposit. Make your reservation with a $350 deposit. If you change your mind for any reason within 30 days of booking, we’ll offer you a full refund.

Add air to your reservation

Let our Air Specialists handle your air reservations. We have direct access to the most current airfare routes and prices, so you’ll get the best value available when we book your flights. We never charge a booking fee and you’ll enjoy the flexibility to pay for air 60-90 days prior to departure.

  • Professional Travel Director Professional Travel Director
  • Sightseeing with Local Experts Sightseeing with Local Experts
  • VIP Access VIP Access
  • WIFI on Coach and in Hotels WIFI on Coach and in Hotels
  • Expertly Selected Hotels Expertly Selected Hotels
  • Cultural Enrichment Cultural Enrichment
  • Hotel Tips Hotel Tips
  • Most Meals Most Meals

Meal Summary

15 nights' accommodations, 15 full breakfasts, 5 lunches, 8 dinners.

Included Highlights

Hidden Treasure

  • Enjoy at least one surprise Hidden Treasure.

Cultural Insight

  • Try patacones and watch a performance by local children.

Be My Guest

  • Dine on a traditional lunch at a family's equestrian estate and enjoy a special lunch at Hacienda Pozo Azul.

Local Specialist

  • Learn from a Smithsonian researcher in Gamboa and discover Panamanian coffee with the Ngobe-Bugle.

Sightseeing Highlights

  • City tour of Panama City
  • Visit Panama Viejo, the historic district of Casco Antiguo, Gamboa Rainforest and Los Angeles Cloud Forest, Chagres and Arenal National Park, coffee plantations in the Chiriqui Highlands and in San José, Sarapiquí, Palo Verde National Park, Borinquen and Carrillo Beach.
  • Cruise a portion of the Panama Canal
  • View the Natá basilica and Volcán Barú and Arenal Volcanoes
Definite Departure
Depart Date Return Date Price AvailabilityPrice
10 Feb 17 25 Feb 17 checkmark $4,750pp
17 Mar 17 1 Apr 17 checkmark $4,750$4,413pp
8 Dec 17 23 Dec 17 checkmark $4,950$4,598pp
$4,950 $4,598 pp

Crossovers: These departures will operate as per the 2016 itinerary; hotels and inclusions may vary.

undefinedFestive Departures: Christmas or New Year's Eve celebration for these departures.

Price is per person and is based on two people sharing a twin bedded room. Single rooms are available at a supplement.

Single Room Supplement: from $1,495.

Guaranteed Room Share is not available on this trip.

Gratuities: Option to pre-pay gratuities for Travel Director and Driver $166 per person.

Land and Intra-Air: prices include economy air and air-related charges for flight between Panama City - David and Panama City - San Jose and are accurate as of May 1st, 2016.

Luggage: For the two night excursion to Tortuguero National Park guests are permitted to bring a maximum of 25 lbs of luggage. Your primary suitcase will be transferred and securely stored at your Sarapiqui hotel.

Early Payment Discount: Pay in full to save the amount listed above. For details, click here.

AARP Members are entitled to an exclusive Member Benefit Discount on all Grand European Travel vacations. Plus receive a free travel gift!  Call Toll Free: 1-866-847-3858 for details.

Past Travelers: Save an additional 5% off the Land Only price of the vacation.

  • U.S. citizens traveling to Panama  and Costa Rica must have a current passport that is valid for six months beyond the conclusion of their trip. You can find information on how to apply for a passport here, and how to renew a passport here. No visa is required for U.S. citizens entering these countries.

  • The currency in Panama is the Balboa and in Costa Rica is the colón.  You can pay with your debit or credit card at many places in Panama and the most convenient way to obtain cash is to use your ATM card at local banks.  We recommend bringing an extra credit card and informing your financial institutions of your travel plans before leaving the country.

  • One of the most enjoyable parts of traveling is sampling the local cuisine. In Costa Rica food mild and simple with many dishes centered on rice, beans, vegetables and meat.  Try the local ceviche prepared with octopus, shrimp, tilapia and seabass cured with lemon juice and spices. You’ll find an abundance of fresh produce to enjoy including plantains, coconut, papaya and mango. Costa Rican coffee is strong and rich; try it black or order it with milk (café con leche).

    In Panama the food is varied and reflects the influence of Spanish, American, and Afro-Caribbean cultures on the country’s cuisine.  A typical meal consists of coconut rice, beans, and meat served with yucca and plantains.  Other popular foods include empanadas, tamales, and sancocho stew packed with meat and veggies.  For dessert, try a piece of decadent tres leches cake.

  • We suggest bringing a variety of comfortable, lightweight clothing that can be layered to save space in your suitcase and give you more options for how to dress. Sturdy walking shoes are important. Insect repellent and sunscreen will come in handy, as well as a light jacket and reusable water bottle. For more helpful information please refer to our Packing Tips & Packing List.

  • It is appropriate to tip 10 percent at restaurants in Panama. Restaurants in Costa Rica are required by law to add 13 percent tax and 10 percent gratuity to the bill. For this reason Costa Ricans do not tip. If you would like to leave an additional tip to reward good service, it’s appropriate to leave 5-10 percent for your waiter.

    At the end of your guided vacation, it’s customary to offer your motor coach driver and Travel Director a gratuity.  We recommend the equivalent of $4 per person/per day for your driver and $6 per person/per day for your Travel Director.  Recommended gratuity for a Local Host and Local Specialist is the equivalent of 1-2 dollars per person, paid at the conclusion of each guided visit.  A convenient option is to prepay your tips before your departure.

  • Baggage on our trips is restricted to one large suitcase per person with dimensions not exceeding 30x19x10 inches and a maximum weight of 50 pounds. You are also permitted one piece of hand luggage, which should be small enough to fit under your coach seat or on the small overhead shelf compartment. Please note that luggage with an adjustable handle and wheels will not fit in the overhead compartment of the coach. Hotel porterage is included in your vacation.

  • You will need to be comfortable on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours in various weather conditions.  All of our vacations involve walking, often on cobblestone and uneven surfaces in historic city centers.  In order to get the most out of your vacation you need to be able to comfortably walk 1-3 miles unassisted in one day, be in good condition and be able to keep pace with the group. 

    If you need any medications, it is important that you bring enough to last you the whole trip and keep them in your carry-on bag while you travel.

  • We highly recommend our optional Travel Protection Plan, which allows you to cancel for any reason up to 48 hours before departure. The plan also includes trip interruption, baggage loss or delay, and medical and emergency assistance. Click here for a summary of coverage details, terms and conditions.


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