Panama Canal Passage and Costa Rica Cruise
Explore Costa Rica's natural wonders and cruise the mighty locks and waterways of the 100-year-old Panama Canal.
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Join us for a spectacular cruise featuring the rain forests of Costa Rica and a full transit of the historic Panama Canal. As you journey through its waterways and mighty locks, which officially opened in August 1914, come to understand the worldwide impact of this amazing engineering feat. Board your ship in Costa Rica and stop to explore the magnificent flora and fauna of Manuel Antonio National Park and Curú National Wildlife Refuge, plus the breathtaking orchids of Casa Orquideas. Snorkel at Panama’s Granito de Oro and cruise to the remote island paradise of Coiba National Park. In Panama City, tour the Old Quarter before transiting the awe-inspiring Panama Canal. Once in Colón, cruise to the San Blas Islands, home to the indigenous Guna people. Throughout your cruise, enjoy presentations by top experts. Optional extensions to Panama and Costa Rica are also offered.
UNIQUE TO OUR CRUISE! Take an exclusive behind-the-scenes full-day excursion to the amazing Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). Here, you'll meet with scholars and researchers and learn about the important environmental and ecological studies hosted by the Smithsonian. Watch an engaging video about STRI here!
IN THE NEWS: Smithsonian’s “Jurassic Park” Research Island
Day 1 — U.S., San José, Costa Rica
Depart for San José. Upon arrival, check into the hacienda-style Costa Rica Marriott Hotel San José. The evening is at leisure.
Day 2 — San José, Puerto Caldera
The horticultural diversity of Costa Rica, the “Garden of the Americas,” is evident in the parks of San José. On the city tour, also see the interesting mix of architectural styles, including Spanish Colonial, Moorish and Modernist. The National Theater is a regal Baroque edifice modeled on Milan’s La Scala. The National Museum’s exhibits feature impressive pre-Columbian Central American artifacts.
After lunch in a local restaurant, enjoy a scenic transfer to Puerto Caldera to embark the M.V. Tere Moana. (B/L/D)
Day 3 — Manuel Antonio National Park, Curú National Wildlife Refuge
Experience an unparalleled diversity of wildlife in lush, tropical Manuel Antonio National Park, a captivating combination of rainforest, beaches, and coral reefs, home to more than 100 species of mammals, almost 200 species of birds, and various reptiles and amphibians. In this “Living Eden,” expert naturalists will help you spot colorful toucans, screeching howler monkeys, camouflaged iguanas, squirrel monkeys, and rare and endangered species such as the scarlet macaw and quetzal, protected by law in this natural haven.
Unlike traditional nature reserves, Curú Wildlife Refuge is a unique blend of sustainable agriculture, forest management and wildlife protection, encompassing five distinctly different untouched habitats making it the ideal place to see entire ecosystems coexisting. During a guided walk, look for the diversity of wildlife including pumas, anteaters, ocelots, otters and more than 230 species of birds. Attend the Captain’s Welcome Reception on board this evening. (B,L,R,D)
Day 4 — Golfo Dulce
Located along the southern Pacific coast, this secluded natural wonderland was declared “one of the most biologically intense places on earth.” Explore flora and fauna firsthand on the grounds of the Saladero Eco Lodge, an exclusive, pristine private property accessible only by boat and encompassing nearly 500 acres of primary old-growth rainforest, tropical gardens, and beach, offering spectacular viewing of Costa Rica’s rich wildlife, including scarlet macaws and the endangered spider monkey. Visit Casa Orquídeas, a stunning, maze-like botanical garden of over 100 species of orchids, bromeliads, heliconias and edible plants, visitors can observe colorful toucans, scarlet macaws and jewel‑hued hummingbirds. (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Coiba National Park, Panama
Designated a World Heritage site, Coiba National Park and its Special Zone of Marine Protection has emerged as a rich laboratory for studying coral, mammals, and plants. In addition to 69 species of fish, humpback, orca, sperm, and Cuvier’s beaked whales are known to migrate through the marine park’s perimeter.
Linked by an underwater mountain chain to the Galapagos, Granito de Oro is a small island within the park known as the “live aquarium of Coiba.” Enjoy an afternoon snorkeling among its vast array of exquisite marine life including parrotfish and orange-sided triggerfish.
Visit the largest island in Central America once an isolated political prison, Isla Coiba today is a host of terrestrial wonders—untouched rainforest, rugged headlands, pristine white‑sand beaches, and mangrove thickets—the perfect environment for the evolution of new and endemic subspecies and for the preservation and protection of endangered species. (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama City
Arrive in Panama City and depart the Tere Moana. Transfer by coach to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s (STRI) Punta Culebra Nature Center. STRI is the world’s leading center for basic research in tropical biology and as a premiere U.S. tropical research platform, STRI hosts unusually large scale and long-term studies around the country. STRI scientists contribute to scientific understanding of tropical environments in Panama, in Central and South America and around the world.
Punta Culebra Nature Center is a former military outpost with a breathtaking view of the canal entrance and coast. The site has been converted by STRI into a center for environmental outreach and marine education. Marvel at the diversity of colorful tropical frogs in our new amphibian display. Explore the facilities with experts in marine and terrestrial tropical biology, and learn about the important work and current projects of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Enjoy lunch on the ship, then take a walking tour through Panama City’s Casco Antiguo, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and discover a charming neighborhood with cobblestone streets and a stunning 16th-century cathedral.
In the evening, return to the ship and enjoy a specially arranged lecture by a diplomat from the U.S. Embassy in Panama. (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Panama City, Panama Canal, Colón
Begin the day with a tour of the Miraflores Locks and Visitors Center and the Biodiversity Museum, an affiliate museum of the Smithsonian. Return to the ship and cruise from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea through the mighty locks of the Panama Canal. Enjoy a specially arranged lecture on the history of the canal. Transit times through the canal are controlled by the Panama Canal Authority and traffic conditions; therefore, full transit during daylight hours is not guaranteed. (B,L,D)
Day 8 — San Blas Islands, Panama
Cruise to the sun-drenched San Blas Islands, located on the Caribbean side of Panama and an extraordinary testament to Panama’s commitment to the indigenous Guna Indians, also known as the Kuna Indians, and their centuries-old way of life—language, customs, and culture. Villagers live in typical thatched‑roof huts, barter or trade in fish and agricultural products, and paddle dugout canoes, their main mode of transportation. Guna women continue to hand-stitch traditional colorful molas, reverse appliqué panels, and to wear winis, long strings of tiny beads wrapped around their forearms and legs in striking geometric patterns.
Join the Captain for a Farewell Reception this evening. (B,L,R,D)
Day 9 — Colón, Panama City, U.S.
Disembark in Colón and transfer to Panama City for your return flight to the U.S. (B)