17 days

San Jose to Panama

San Jose to Panama

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Manuel Antonio National Park's beaches

See the Panama Canal at Miraflores Lock


Rincónde la Vieja's jungle volcanos and hot springs

Trip rating
  • Squeezed in between the pounding swells of the Pacific and the crystal hues of the Caribbean, dotted with live volcanos and gifted with generous swathes of lush jungle, Costa Rica and Panama often feel like the lands that time forgot. Thanks to some green-minded conservation decisions on the part of progressive governments, this delightful slither of Central America will enchant and enthrall nature boffins and adventure enthusiasts alike. From the smouldering crater of Arenal Volcano to the tranquil beach town of Golfito, the mist-shrouded foliage of the Monteverde cloudforest to the steaming jungle of Manuel Antonio National Park and the contrasting sides of Panama City, this is one journey sure to bestow impressions not easily relinquished.

    Why we love it

    • The stunning national parks of Costa Rica are endowed with some of the greatest diversity of flora and fauna in the world.
    • Depart for La Fortuna where we can explore the base of the mighty Arenal Volcano and its unique surrounds.
    • At Monteverde we discover large areas of untouched forest considered by many to be one of the world's most outstanding tropical cloudforest and wildlife sanctuaries.
    • Finally we come to the Manuel Antonio National Park which features some of Costa rica's finest beaches, with long stretches of beautiful white sand backed by lush jungle.


    Day 1 - San Jose

    • On arrival at San Jose airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel located in the heart of the city. In the evening you will meet your tour leader and the other members of the group for a pre-tour briefing. This is normally held at 6pm but please check the notice board at reception to confirm the time and place. Please bring your passport and travel insurance documents along with you. Following the briefing there is generally an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant.
    • Costa Rica’s capital sits in the centre of a lush, wide valley which has a comfortable subtropical climate. The streets of the town are laid out along a grid iron pattern, with avenidas running east to west and callés running north to south. Many of the most interesting buildings are in the region of Avenida Central – the Teatro Nacional is an elaborate confection of marble staircases, statues, frescoes and mirrors.
    • There are a number of interesting museums in the city; the Museo de Oro has a good collection of golden pre-Columbian figurines. The Mercado Central is the main market which dates back to 1881 – there are some good food stalls here as well as countless artefacts for sale.
    • Elsewhere in San Jose there are some good restaurants – you can dine out on Chinese, Indian, Italian or the more traditional variations on the theme of rice and beans.
    Hotel Plaza Real or similar

    Day 2-3 - La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano

    • An approximately four-and-a-half hour drive will take you to La Fortuna, your base for exploring the Arenal Volcano and its wild surrounds. Vulcan Arenal lay dormant for 400 years until finally erupting in 1968. Today it is the most active volcano in Costa Rica and with some luck you might be able to observe the red lava.
    • The volcano's almost perfect cone, which soars 1,633 metres above sea level, has a crater 140 metres deep formed over an ancient Caldera. Huddled in the shadow of the looming Vulcan Arenal the small town of La Fortuna is an ideal location from which to explore the surrounding region and to witness the volcano’s dramatic fireworks display.
    • During your stay there will be time for some optional activities including a visit to the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge, an excursion to the Arenal Volcano and Tabacon Resort Hot Springs, fishing in Lake Arenal, as well as opportunities for mountain biking, caving and horseback riding.
    • In the evening you will visit hot springs in the area, surrounded by lush foliage and naturally heated by lava from the volcano, teh springs are the perfct way to relax. If you are lucky you may also witness a spectacular pyrotechnic display from the volcano.
    Casa Luna Lodge or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 4-5 - Monteverde

    • You will travel by minibus and boat to the cool cloud forests of Monteverde (approximately 4 hours). Your leader will take you on a walking tour through the Monteverde National Park.
    • In addition, you can choose from some great optional activities. There is the Skywalk, a combination of suspension bridges and platforms built in the cloud forest, that allow you to explore the forest canopy in a safe and easy manner. You can also venture away from the Monteverde Reserve to the Children's Eternal Rainforest, the first international children's rainforest in the world.
    • Then there is the Monteverde Butterfly Garden and the Hummingbird Gallery, a must for those with a penchant for these winged, colored jewels of the forest.
    • At night you will enjoy a night hike in Monteverde, hiking at dusk in the forest. Some of the wildlife you might see include porcupines, toucans and other sleeping birds, owls, agoutis, coati mundis, snakes, walking sticks, tarantulas, katydids, and an array of other cool insects.
    • Of course, there are no guaranteed sightings, so don't expect all these creatures to be waiting just for you! Typically though this time of transition into night offers a good opportunity to view nocturnal mammals as well as diurnal animals as they prepare for night. Look out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
    Historias Lodge or similar

    Day 6-7 - Manuel Antonio National Park

    • It is a four to five hour drive to Manuel Antonio National Park. Situated on the Pacific Coast 132km from San Jose, the area of mangrove swamps and beaches now known as the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio was first documented by Spanish Explorer Ponce de Leon in 1519 during his (unsuccessful) search for the Fountain of Youth.
    • Long, white beaches extending around the headland of Punta Catedral are set against evergreen forest backdrops that grow up right up to the high tide line. Incorporating 12 small islands scattered just off the coast where migrating whales can sometimes be observed, the park is home to 109 mammal and 184 bird species in a region of lagoons and fertile mangrove swamps.
    • Your time here is your own to enjoy some of Costa Rica's finest beaches or you can take to the many fine hiking trails through the tropical forest.
    Los Almendros or similar

    Day 8 - San Jose

    • We have this morning in Manuel Antonio. About midday we travel back to San Jose (approx. 4 hours) in time for a shower, dinner and a night on the town.
    • As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
    Hotel Plaza Real or similar

    Day 9-10 - San Gerardo de Dota

    • Today we drive south, climbing up into the mountains, to San Gerardo de Dota.
    • San Gerardo de Dota is located in the mountains, near one of Costa Rica's highest peaks. It is surrounded by carrot and potato plantations, beautiful wildflowers, and old growth oak trees. This is possibly also the best place in Central America to see the quetzal - a brilliantly coloured but rarely seen bird which was considered sacred to the Mayans. We will head out with a guide to look for the quetzal as well as other tropical birds such as egrets, toucans, kingfishers and cormorants. If you are feeling adventurous, you may wish to go rafting, or try your hand at fly fishing on the Savegre River, the cleanest river of Central America.

    Day 11-12 - Golfito

    • We continue south today to the Pacific coast, and the area around Golfito.
    • Golfito is located on the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica, near the border with Panama. It used to be a centre for banana plantations, however when disease struck the bananas, the plantations shut down and the government turned it into a national reserve, as well as a duty free shopping zone, to help the economy of the area recover.
    • We stay in a rainforest lodge in the Refugio Nacional Golfito, overlooking the Gulf of Dulce. The lodge is designed to fit in with the environment and is constructed from recycled materials, and uses solar power. There are many activities available from the lodge, including kayaking, fishing, snorkelling, hiking, and yoga. Keep an eye out for creatures such as toucans, monkeys, iguanas, dolphins and bright blue butterflies which live in the rainforest surrounding the lodge.
    • While here we take a guided walk through the Piedras Blancas National Park - home to the largest concentration of trees per hectare in Costa Rica. We'll keep an eye out for local fauna, but the real adventure is the hike itself along the muddy trails and through the 90% humidity of the wet tropical rainforest. The walk is 2-3 hours long.

    Day 13-14 - Boquete

    • We cross the border into Panama today and head to the mountain village of Boquete.
    • Boquete is a small, picturesque mountain village, located in a valley in the Panama highlands. The main attractions of the area are the surrounding natural highlights such as mountains, crystal clear creeks and rivers, forest reserves, stunning displays of wildflowers, and fauna such as howler monkeys and the resplendent quetzal. Nearby is Panama's highest point, Volcan Baru, from the top of which it is possible to see both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Activities here include hiking, canopy tours, kayaking, river rafting and zip lining. This is also an area famous for its coffee and while here you can visit a coffee plantation, or kick back in town trying some of the local brew.

    Day 15 - El Valle de Anton

    • Drive approximately 6 hours to El Valle de Anton in Panama's Cocle province.
    • Valle de Antón is a picturesque town located on what was once the crater lake of a now-extinct volcano.
    • Tackle one of the area's many hiking trails, take a soak in the hot springs, or visit the butterfly sanctuary, orchid centre, or La Piedra Pintada petroglyphs - a huge boulder carved with pre-Columbian figures, the meaning of which are still unknown.

    Day 16-17 - Panama City

    • You will drive to Panama's capital today, Panama City. It is approximately a two hour drive.
    • On arrival you will check in to the hotel and then head out on a tour of Panama City, taking in El Casco Viejo, Ancon Hill, Causeway de Amador as well as the Panama Canal Visitors Center
    • Your tour will come to an end after breakfast on Day 17, you are welcome to depart the accommodation at any time.
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • The services of Peregrine's expert English-speaking local leader throughout the tour
    • Arrival transfer
    • La Fortuna - Hot Springs
    • Monteverde - Cloud Forest hike
    • Manuel Antonio National Park entrance
    • San Gerardo de Dota - Quetzal spotting tour
    • Piedras Blancas NP - Mangrove kayak tour
    • Boquete - Coffee plantation tour and hot springs
    • Panama City - City and canal tour
    • Accommodation: Hotel (12 nts), Lodge (4 nts)
    • Meals: 16 breakfasts, 1 dinner
    • Tips for services you receive as part of your trip including drivers, specialist local guides, restaurant staff for included meals, porters, bellboys and other hotel staff (excluding your tour leader)

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Airport departure tax
    • Visas where required
    • Meals not included in the itinerary
    • Travel insurance
    • Laundry
    • Any optional tours or activities during free time
    • Tips for your tour leader
    • Items of a personal nature
  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PSKK
Group size 1 - 16
Start City: San Jose
End City: Panama City
Style: Small Group

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