Explore Costa Rica's natural wonders and cruise the mighty locks and waterways of the Panama Canal during a day-time transit, plus meet with scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

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 Ships moving through a lock in the Panama Canal. Credit: Hemis/Alamy  The scarlet macaw. Credit: Harvey Abernathey  Squirrel Monkey  Exotic Poison Dart Frog  Coati found in Panama  Metal Mark butterfly  One of the many locks of the Panama Canal  STRI scientist at work in lab  Flora found in Panama  The delightful beaches of the San Blas Islands  Traditional <i>mola</i> art work of the San Blas Islands Credit: Danita Delimont/Alamy  Display of traditional <i>molas</i> on the San Blas Islands Credit: Hemis/Alamy

A Cruise of Panama and Costa Rica

Featuring a Transit of the Panama Canal

9 days | Full tour details to be announced soon

Explore Costa Rica's natural wonders and cruise the mighty locks and waterways of the Panama Canal during a day-time transit, plus meet with scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

or Call 855-330-1542


Join us for a spectacular cruise featuring the rain forests of Costa Rica and a full daylight transit of the historic Panama Canal. As you journey through its waterways and mighty locks, which opened more than a hundred years ago, come to understand the worldwide impact of this amazing engineering feat. Get up close to spectacular flora and fauna at important national parks. Plus, enjoy an exclusive in-depth visit to the highly respected Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute,* where scholars and scientists take you beyond the visual world to the science of ecology, biology, botany, and more. 

Highlights Include

  • Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute: Visit STRI’s* Punta Culebra Nature Center to view the Institute’s work firsthand. Here, you’ll meet with STRI scientists who discuss their latest investigations in tropical ecology and evolution. 
  • Panama Canal: Make a full daylight transit of the Panama Canal, one of the greatest man-made wonders worldwide. Also, visit the Aqua Clara Visitor Center to view the Panama Canal Expansion (flight times permitting). 
  • Treasures of Costa Rica: Discover the magnificent flora and fauna of Manuel Antonio National Park and Curú National Wildlife Refuge. And in San José visit the National Museum and National Theater. 
  • Active Adventure: Go snorkeling and take a walk on the beach at Panama’s Isla Cebaco. 
  • San Blas Islands: Meet with the indigenous Kuna people in these remote islands. 
  • Le Champlain (2019 Departure): This graceful, state-of-the-art, all-suite yacht is part of the new luxury Ponant expedition cruising fleet. You’ll enjoy viewing the canal from a choice of indoor and outdoor lounges. Plus, exclusive to the Ponant Explorers Fleet is the extraordinary Blue Eye, a multisensory underwater observation lounge where you can view fascinating marine life through the large subaquatic windows.  

*During this voyage, we will share the ship with other leading cultural and educational institutions, which will add to the excitement and energy of the experience. 

*Le Champlain is the ship for 2019, while Le Dumont d'Urville is the ship for 2020.


Day 1­­ — Depart the U.S. for 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, you’ll 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 Le Champlain. (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Curú National Wildlife Refuge

Unlike traditional nature reserves, Curú Wildlife Refuge is a unique blend of sustainable agriculture, forest management, and wildlife protection, encompassing five distinctive untouched habitats making it the ideal place to see the intricacies of co-dependent ecosystems. Board a Zodiac for a wet landing on the beach and enjoy a guided walk in the morning, the best time of day to observe an abundance of wildlife, including spider, howler and capuchin monkeys, the scarlet macaw and more than 230 species of birds.

Attend the Captain’s welcome reception on board this evening. (B,L,R,D)

Day 4 — Quepos for Manuel Antonio National Park

Experience an unparalleled diversity of wildlife in Manuel Antonio National Park’s lush tropical paradise, 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, all of which are protected by law in this natural haven. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Isla Cébaco, Panama

A winding coastline of pristine sandy beaches and towering palm trees front the dense rainforests that dominate the rarely-visited gem of Isla Cébaco in the sparkling Gulf of Montijo. Enjoy opportunities for snorkeling in its emerald waters, where schools of vibrantly-colored fish, giant manta rays and four different species of turtles swim amidst spectacular coral reefs. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Panama City

Central America’s most attractive capital city was founded in 1519 by Spanish explorers and rebuilt in the late 17th-century. By special arrangement, visit the Punta Culebra Nature Center at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), a fascinating, open-air museum focused on marine science and conservation. Here, enjoy a specially arranged, Smithsonian staff-guided tour and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean side of the Panama Canal.

Following the STRI excursion, tour the “old quarter” known as Casco Antiguo, a World Heritage site, and discover a charming neighborhood with cobblestone streets, a stunning 16th-century cathedral and many historic architectural edifices that remain intact. Also visit the new Biodiversity Museum, designed by architect Frank Gehry of Guggenheim fame, showcasing the ecological significance of Panama’s exotic flora and fauna. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Daylight Transit of Panama Canal, Colón

Cruise from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea during a daylight transit 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. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — San Blas Islands, Holandes Cays

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 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 wear winis, long strings of tiny beads wrapped around their forearms and legs in striking geometric patterns.

This afternoon, enjoy an opportunity to snorkel or swim the clear turquoise waters of pristine Golfo de San Blas, populated with vibrant, untouched coral reefs and rich marine life.

Join the Captain for a farewell reception this evening. (B,L,R,D)

Day 9 — Depart Panama City for the U.S.

Disembark in Colón and visit the *Panama Canal Expansion Agua Clara Visitor Center to enjoy panoramic views of the canal’s new longer and wider locks and the impressive Gatún Lake, the 166-square‑mile artificial body of water created a century ago to feed the canal. *Agua Clara visit and lunch if departure flight time permitting.

Transfer to Panama City for your return flights home that will arrive later today. (B) 

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)