A cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT

Delve into the tropical forests of Panama and Costa Rica and cross the legendary Panama Canal on an 8-day cruise, learning about Smithsonian’s scientific studies in the region as you explore a range of pristine ecosystems and meet the indigenous people that call them home. 

Starting at: $6,824 * Price includes special offer Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 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

Panama and Costa Rica by Sea: The Natural Wonders of Central America

Aboard the 184-guest Le Dumont-d’Urville or Le Bellot

8 days from $6,824

A cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT

Delve into the tropical forests of Panama and Costa Rica and cross the legendary Panama Canal on an 8-day cruise, learning about Smithsonian’s scientific studies in the region as you explore a range of pristine ecosystems and meet the indigenous people that call them home. 

or Call 855-330-1542

Tour Details




Smithsonian Journeys packed more fascinating elements into a week-long trip to Panama and Costa Rica than I would have thought possible. Fabulous! 

- Rosalyn, J.


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Post-Cruise program -  Costa Rica: Monteverde & Arenal 4 days, 3 nights

Extend your experience of Central America from the coastline to the mountains on this specially designed program.

Day 1 Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica | Monteverde Cloud Forest

Disembark your ship and meet your guide for a scenic drive to the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, part of the world famous Monteverde Cloud Forest.

You may choose between two ways of experiencing this unique ecosystem: a 2-hour traditional hike along trails through the forest, or a mile and a half 'Sky Walk' through the treetops on a trail including six hanging bridges. In either case, you will enjoy the refreshingly cool air at this altitude while looking out for the fascinating animals that roam here: howler and white-faced monkeys, the three-wattled bellbird, keel-billed toucan, bare-necked umbrellabird, and the gorgeous quetzal.

After your adventure among the clouds, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before continuing to the El Establo Hotel, where you stay the night. Dinner at the hotel is included.

El Establo Hotel

Day 2Monteverde Cloud Forest | Arenal Volcano Area

After breakfast at the hotel, continue your exploration of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve on a 2-hour guided walk through one of the most biodiverse regions of Costa Rica, habitat for over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, and 1,200 species of amphibians and reptiles.

Lunch at a local restaurant is followed by a scenic drive down the mountains to the Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa in La Fortuna, site of Arenal Volcano National Park, and your home for the next two nights.

Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa

Day 3 - Arenal Volcano Area

Depart after breakfast on an hour and a half drive through the Northern plains to Los Chiles, very near the Nicaraguan border, where you will board a boat for a floating safari along the Rio Frio through the rain forest of Caño Negro—a birder's paradise, home to the anhinga, the roseate spoonbill, wood storks, and the jabiru, the largest bird in Central America. Along the shore, you may catch sight of howler monkeys, spider monkeys, and white-faced monkeys, as well as the three-toed sloth and reptiles like caimans, Jesus Christ lizards, and turtles.

Return to your hotel for some time at leisure before dinner.

Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa

Day 4 - Arenal Volcano Area | Homeward

After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José for flights homeward.

Your hotels:

The Hotel El Establo is set on a private 150-acre farm adjacent to the Monteverde and Santa Elena reserves. It houses 155 rooms, two restaurants, a swimming pool, spa, and hiking trails.  

Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa is a hotel dedicated to sustainable practices set on 900 acres of lush tropical reserve near Arenal Volcano National Park. The hotel features 42 rooms; natural thermal mineral river, waterfalls, and pools; a full spa; two restaurants; and four bars.

Your program includes:

  • Transfers and luggage handling from the ship, through the program as described, and on to the airport on Day 4
  • 1 night at the Hotel El Establo, including dinner and breakfast
  • 2 nights at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa, including 2 dinners and 2 breakfasts
  • Lunches on Days 1, 2, and 3
  • Sightseeing and programming as noted in the itinerary
  • Local English-speaking guides
  • Gratuities for guides, drivers, porters, and waiters for included meals

Your program does not include:

  • Transfer from the hotel to the airport on any day other than the scheduled program departure day
  • Personal expenses and other services and meals not mentioned as included in the program

Please note:

  • It is imperative that your flight departure details are communicated at least 30 days prior to the beginning of your cruise in order to secure your transfer from the hotel to the airport.
  • The Juan Santamaria International Airport in San José is a 2 ½ hour drive from the hotel, and check in for flights is a minimum of 3 hours before departure; schedule your return flights to depart at 2pm or later
  • This post-cruise program is offered as a package. There will be no refunds for unused accommodations, meals, or excursions.
  • Program is offered on a space available basis.
  • Program is subject to change without notice.

Smithsonian Journeys packed more fascinating elements into a week-long trip to Panama and Costa Rica than I would have thought possible. Fabulous! 

- Rosalyn, J.


Day 1 — Colón, Panama

Arrive in Colón, Panama’s second largest city, located at the Caribbean entrance of the Panama Canal. Embark this evening and sail east along Panama’s coast. (D)

Day 2 — San Blas Islands

Just off the Caribbean shores of Panama, the San Blas Islands are a string of more than 300 islands and cays. Anchor at Holandes Cayes, sheltered behind a long coral reef, and enjoy a day to explore the treasures of the archipelago. Long white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters invite you to swim and snorkel amid an incredible array of marine life. We may be welcomed by the indigenous people of the San Blas, the Guna, who govern the islands as an autonomous province with minimal interference from Panama’s national government. Learn about the Guna’s traditions, from their distinctive dress to handicrafts. (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Panama Canal

Today, set off on a journey that inspired the imagination of many 20th-century adventurers: a daytime transit of the Panama Canal. This critical passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific allowed ships to avoid rounding South America’s Cape Horn. The canal’s construction started in 1881 under the direction of French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps, who had previously built the Suez Canal. Abandoned then resumed, this marvel of engineering was completed by the United States between 1904 and 1914. Delve into the dramatic history of its construction—and its intricate engineering—as you pass through three levels of locks. (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Playa Muerto and Darién National Park

The most remote and least developed region of Panama, the province of Darién is home to extremely rich biodiversity. A World Heritage site since the 1980s, Darién National Park offers extraordinary landscapes of rocky coastlines, mountains, mangroves, rivers, and creeks. Darién also serves as home to about 30,000 indigenous peoples, mostly from the Emberá tribe. Ride Zodiacs to Playa Muerto, a small coastal village where we’ll meet with men and women who have maintained their lifestyle much as it was before Spain colonized the region. The chief will welcome us with traditional Emberá hospitality, introduce us to their customs, and invite us to witness traditional dances. Before returning to the ship, you may wish to take a short hike to a nearby waterfall. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Panama City

One of Central America's most attractive capitals, Panama City was founded in 1519 by Spanish explorers and rebuilt in the late 17th century by the French. On a full-day excursion from Fuerte Amador, part of a causeway at the Pacific entrance to the canal, tour the Biomuseo, designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. Explore the museum’s interactive exhibition—executed by scientists from the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Panama—which showcases the ecological significance of Panama’s exotic flora and fauna. Also visit the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Punta Culebra Nature Center, an open-air museum dedicated to marine science and conservation. On a specially arranged tour guided by Smithsonian staff, hear about the latest research in tropical ecology, observe marine species up close and explore the unique flora and fauna of the tropical dry forest.  Choose to discover to the charming colonial district of Casco Antiguo for a guided walking tour and lunch, or tour the archaelogical site of Panama Viejo, an important site where numerous excavations have been conducted by Smithsonian researchers. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — At Sea

As the ship makes its way along the length of southern Panama towards Costa Rica, enjoy a day to relax at sea, taking advantage of the ship’s superb amenities. Opt for a treatment in the spa or get a work out at the fitness center. Go for a swim in the pool or read a book on the sundeck. Your Smithsonian Journeys Experts will present lectures on the region. Visit the ship’s upper deck to take in views of the open sea and perhaps spot seabirds or marine species. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Quepos, Costa Rica

Your final port of call is Quepos, gateway to the spectacular Manuel Antonio National Park, where thick rain forests are edged by stunning beaches. Venture into the park with a naturalist to encounter tropical flora and fauna, including sloths; several species of monkey; and both terrestrial and sea birds, such as toucans, pelicans, hummingbirds, terns, and more. The trail emerges from the trees at Espadilla Beach, where you’ll have the opportunity to swim and relax in the sand. Alternatively, choose a riverboat cruise on the Damas Island estuary among coastal mangroves that teem with waterfowl, caimans, and monkeys; or go for a rafting adventure on the pristine Savegre River.  (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Puntarenas / Return Home

After breakfast, disembark in Puerto Caldera, at the mouth of the Gulf of Nicoya. From here, transfer to San José for your flight home, or continue to explore Costa Rica. (B)

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

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