Arrive San José
Tour begins: San José. Welcome to Costa Rica! A transfer is included from Juan Santamaria International Airport to the Costa Rica Marriott Hotel San José or InterContinental Costa Rica at Multiplaza Mall. Join us this evening for a welcome reception and dinner at the hotel.
San José gold & Sarchi crafts
San José city sightseeing today includes visits to the Baroque-style, 19th-century National Theatre, a grand symbol of civic pride dating back to 1897 – its interior glistens with Baroque gold overlays and Carrara marble – and the Gold Museum, which houses pre-Columbian works of gold crafted by indigenous islanders. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit Sarchi, an artisans' hamlet outside of San José where workshops display the traditional painted carretas (ox carts) and other handmade products bearing the colorful starburst designs that have become a symbol of Costa Rica. After returning to the hotel, the rest of the afternoon and evening is free to spend as you wish in San José.
Coffee, waterfalls, wildlife & your cruise begins
Near-perfect growing conditions have made coffee one of Costa Rica's most important exports. Today you'll visit the Doka Coffee Plantation, located on the fertile slopes of Alajuela's Poás Volcano, where the soil and altitude make for ideal growing conditions. Your guide explains how the beans are produced and roasted and how different microclimates affect the taste. Also explore and have lunch at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a private rainforest eco-park and wildlife refuge known for spectacular waterfalls and flowing white rivers; this protected reserve buzzes with the sounds and sights of wildlife including toucans, butterflies, spider monkeys, two-toed sloths and red-eyed leaf frogs – to name a few of the 100+ species. Embark your ship late this afternoon in Puerto Caldera for the start of your Panama Canal cruise.
Carara National Park & Pura Vida Gardens
Your ship arrives at Playa Herradura for a choice of shore excursions offering a range of eco-activities. One includes a walking tour in Carara National Park with a local naturalist guide, after which you'll learn about various coastal bird and wildlife species on a mangrove boat tour just outside the national park; another choice offers a more active, faster-paced walk in the park, followed by the mangrove cruise. A third choice features a visit to Tropical Forest Sky Walk near the boundary of Carara Biological Reserve, where you'll hike across suspended cable bridges skimming the top of the rainforest, up to 126 feet above the ground; from your lofty perch, you'll see the marshlands of the Tarcoles River and views of the ocean in the distance. Your guide will point out species of birds, monkeys, butterflies and other mammals that you may encounter. Still another possibility is a visit to the spectacular Pura Vida Gardens, whose beautifully manicured gardens are bordered by one of the tallest waterfalls in the country. Pura Vida is home to over 60,000 flowering plants, including 60 varieties of heliconia, ten varieties of ginger, and orchids; look for butterflies, macaws, parrots, parakeets, toucans, kingfishers, birds of prey, and waterfowl. After your tour, enjoy a traditional lunch in the garden restaurant.
Adventures at Quepos
Call on the city of Quepos this morning, a perfect jumping off point for a choice of excursions in Costa Rica's eco-wonderland. They include a walking tour with a naturalist guide in Manuel Antonio National Park, where you'll find coral reefs and white sand beaches, considered among the most beautiful in Costa Rica, lined with rainforest; a faster-paced, guided early-risers walking tour of the park; an exciting river float trip* on the Savegre River (which will include lunch); or a horseback ride through a mountain forest. Back aboard the ship, enjoy dinner at your leisure tonight, as your ship sets out from Quepos, bound for the Pacific Ocean.
A day at sea on the Pacific
Enjoy a relaxing day at sea today, taking advantage of your Explorer Class ship's many amenities as you make your way across the Pacific Ocean waters off Panama's coast, bound for the remote Darien region of Panama. Throughout the day, your Tauck Directors and naturalist guides will circulate about the ship answering questions – sharing their experiences and scanning the horizon for marine mammals and pelagic birds – and will also offer compelling lectures.
The Embera people of the Darien
Today you'll stop in the beautiful but remote Darien region of Panama, calling on Play del Muerto for a wet landing by Zodiac craft to visit an indigenous community of the Emberá people, whose lifestyle remains largely unaffected by modern times. You'll meet the locals, watch them perform traditional dances, see how they live, and perhaps purchase some of their "Cocobolo" wood or "Tagua" vegetable ivory carvings. Return to the ship for lunch; enjoy a naturalist lecture this afternoon as your yacht begins preparations for tomorrow's entrance into the Panama Canal.
Transiting the Panama Canal
This morning, your ship begins to position for her transit of the Panama Canal. Opened in 1914 and considered an engineering marvel of the 20th century, the Panama Canal opened trade to the Americas by creating a transit path between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Thanks to the canal, today ships traveling from New York to San Francisco save over 7,000 miles by not having to chart a course around South America. Before our crossing, we'll welcome aboard a canal pilot, the local navigation professional who will guide our ship under the Bridge of the Americas, through Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks, into the narrow Gaillard cut and into Gatun lake, before finally clearing the Gatun Locks on the Atlantic side of the isthmus. Your Tauck Director, Tauck Naturalist and an official of the Panama Canal Authority will provide both technical and historical information about this engineering wonder.
The Guna people of the San Blas Islands
Your yacht arrives in the archipelago of San Blas today, where you'll transfer by Zodiac for a wet landing at Holandes Cayes. Here, you'll visit Guna Indians, whose language and customs reflect lives with few outside influences, women sell handmade molas – reverse-appliquéd fabrics with brilliant images of fish, birds and jungle animals – and fishing is still done by canoe. After your visit to a Guna village, you can spend a leisurely afternoon swimming and snorkeling before returning by Zodiac to your ship. Join us for the Captain's farewell dinner tonight, as your yacht sails to Colon, Panama.
Gamboa Rainforest & crossing the Isthmus
After completing the Panama Canal crossing, your Explorer Class vessel arrives this morning at the port of Colón, where you'll disembark and bid your ship and its crew a fond farewell. Once ashore, learn more about the Panama Canal on a visit to the Agua Clara locks. Then start across across the Isthmus of Panama; during a stop at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, you'll choose between an aerial tram ride with a naturalist through the rainforest at eye-level with exotic birds and animals (aboard the only gondola of its kind in Panama), or a boat cruise along waterways leading to hidden islands, where you might spot monkeys at play. After lunch at a local restaurant, continue across the Isthmus to Panama City; check into your hotel in the city's heart this afternoon. Spend the rest of the day and evening as you wish in historic Panama City.
Exploring Panama City
Begin today's exploration of Panama City in its key historic district, Casco Viejo; a walking tour will show you this walled cobblestoned city, built in the 1670s at the foot of Ancon Hill, to provide safety from attack. The area is a gem of Spanish colonial architecture in various stages of redevelopment, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; you'll also have free time to explore on your own. After lunch at a local restaurant, tour the former Canal Zone, driving through Ancon Hill, a lush residential enclave that was home to US military facilities until a 1977 treaty granted Panamanian sovereignty over the "Zone;" Albrook, a former US Air Force Base; and Clayton, once a US Army base. Then enjoy a fascinating visit to the exhibits and gardens of the Biomuseo, the Panama City biodiversity museum designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. Please join us tonight to cap your memorable Panama Canal cruise experience with a farewell reception and dinner at your Panama City hotel.
Tour ends: Panama City. A transfer from the Hilton Panama or JW Marriott Panama to Tocumen International Airport is included. Please allow at least 3 hours for check-in formalities.