Treasures of Costa Rica and the Panama Canal

Natural History and Cultural Adventures aboard the Variety Voyager

Treasures of Costa Rica and the Panama Canal route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $3190  
Length: 8 days
Arrive: Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Depart: Colon, Panama
Lodging: 7-night cruise aboard a deluxe vessel
Meals: All meals on board
Activity: Small Ship Cruising, Wildlife & Natural History
Trip Level: Cultural explorations and walking tours, snorkeling
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Highlights

  • White-sand beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Coiba Island, a World Heritage Site
  • Panama Canal crossing from the Pacific to the Atlantic
  • San Blas Islands, home to the Kuna Indians

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Journey by 72-guest yacht along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, exploring the natural settings of Manuel Antonio and Isla Coiba, witnessing life in the San Blas Islands, then cross the celebrated Panama Canal. Each day, you’ll discover a new port of call, a hidden cove, crystal-clear waters for a refreshing swim, and rich tropical flora and fauna to intrigue you.

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.

Itinerary


Costa Rica to Panama

Day 1, Sunday
Puntarenas Port, Costa Rica / Curu, Costa Rica

Embarkation at 3:00 to 4:00 pm. Sail to Curu Reserve. Evening arrival in Curu. Overnight at anchor.

Day 2, Monday
Curu, Costa Rica / Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Morning optional walking excursion in the Curu Nature Reserve with the local Rangers and the on board naturalist. In the late morning, rejoin the Voyager for a short sailing to Tortuga Island. Arrive in Tortuga Island at noon for swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of this paradise island before joining in for your Beach BBQ. Later on, have more time for enjoying this amazing island. Overnight at anchor.

Day 3, Tuesday
Quepos, Costa Rica

Very early in the morning, leave Tortuga Island for Quepos. Morning arrival in Quepos and transfer to the Manuel Antonio Reserve, one of the highlights of the cruise. Our optional morning excursion takes you to the Manuel Antonio park which consists of three magnificent white-sand beaches that are backed by a jungle sheltering hundreds of fascinating plant species. Naturalists lead walks to outstanding wildlife viewing. Manuel Antonio offers well-maintained trails where you can explore the jungle on your own or join a walk with one of the naturalist guides. You may wish to see the small shopping area, relax on the white-sand beach, or take a swim. Optional afternoon excursions (an "on your own" expense"): Forest Canopy Tour or Savegre River. Tropical evening with dinner and party. Late evening sail to Puerto Jimenez in Golfo Dulce. Overnight at sea.

Day 4, Wednesday
Puerto Jimenez / Golfo Dulce / Casa Orquideas Private Reserve / Golfito, Costa Rica

Reach Puerto Jimenez early in the morning. Morning optional Osa Peninsula excursion. The park is part of one of the biological corridors leading to the Corcovado National Park and offers the opportunity for a smooth walk in secondary forest and interaction with endemic animal life. Return to the ship for a late lunch while you cross Golfo Dulce towards Casa Orquideas. You reach Casa Orquideas and tender to this beautiful flowers sanctuary. Optional walking excursion  in  extensive and very well-preserved grounds. Time to swim at the end of the visit. Sail into Golfito Bay in Golfo Dulce where you arrive at midnight for immigration procedures and then sail overnight to Coiba Island, Panama. Overnight at sea.

Day 5, Thursday
Coiba Island / Granito De Oro Island, Panama

Morning arrival in Coiba Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest island in Central America. Optional morning walking excursion. Our Ship Naturalist will take you for a short walk up hill to discover the local forest and animal life. After your beach  BBQ on Coiba, sail to nearby Granito de Oro Island for swimming and snorkeling in a pristine environment. The waters are teeming with marine life. It is surrounded by one of the largest coral reefs in the pacific coasts of the Americas and marks the beginning of the underwater Cordilera mountain chain that also includes Coco's and the Galapagos. This makes it a unique underwater experience you shouldn't miss. In the afternoon, leave Granito de Oro and sail to Punta Patino in Darrien. Overnight at sea.

Day 6, Friday
Punta Patino / Darrien, Panama

Morning arrival at Punta Patino in the San Miguel Gulf. Optional excursion to Punta Patino in the Darrien National park  and to the Mogue Embera Reserve. Sail upstream the Mogue river in dugout canoes and reach the Village of Mogue after passing through a mangroves ecosystem. We are welcomed by Embera Indians, one of the 7 indigenous groups living in Panama. They are proud and very friendly and known for their beautiful handicrafts and well preserved traditions. You'll be invited to eat lunch and dance with them. In the afternoon, return to the ship. Afternoon sailing to Panama City. Overnight at sea.

Day 7, Saturday
Amador / Flamenco Marina, Panama / Panama Canal Crossing / Colon, Panama

Arrival in the morning at Flamenco Marina in Amador, Panama City. Morning optional excursion to Casco Viejo, Panama City old Colonial Quarter  and  to the Panama Canal site (Miraflores Locks and Museum). Lunch on board. At 2:00 pm, start preparing for the Panama Canal crossing starting at 5:00 pm. Cross the Miraflores and the San Pedro Locks before reaching the Gatun locks on the Atlantic side. We cross the Gatun Locks in the early hours.

Day 8, Sunday Colon / Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
Colon / Shelter Bay Marina, Panama

Arrival in Colon/Shelter Bay Marina at 6:00 am. Disembarkation 6:30 to 9:30 am.


Panama to Costa Rica

Day 1, Sunday
Colon / Shelter Bay Marina, Panama / Panama Canal Crossing

Embarkation 1:00  to 1:30 pm. At 2:30 pm, sail to the canal entrance area. Cross the Gatun Locks and enter the Gatun Lake. Later during the night, cross the San Pedro and Mirafllores locks and reach Flamenco Marina, Panama City in the early hours.

Day 2, Monday
Amador Marina / Panama City, Panama

Morning optional excursion to Casco Viejo, Panama City, the old Colonial Quarter and, the Panama Canal site (Miraflores Locks and Museum). Time at leisure after late lunch to visit the Amador Marina or go to town for shopping. Late evening sail to Punta Patino in Darrien. Overnight at sea.

Day 3, Tuesday
Punta Patino / Darrien, Panama

Morning arrival in Punta Patino in the San Miguel Gulf. Optional excursion to Punta Patino in the Darrien National park and to the Mogue Embera Reserve. Sail upstream the Mogue river in dugout canoes and reach the Village of Mogue after passing through a mangroves ecosystem. We are welcomed by Embera Indians, one of the seven indigenous groups living in Panama. They are proud and very friendly people, known for their beautiful handicrafts and well preserved traditions. You'll be invited to eat lunch and dance with them. In the afternoon, return to the ship. Early afternoon sailing to Coiba Island. Overnight at sea.

Day 4, Wednesday
Coiba Island / Granito De Oro Island, Panama

Morning arrival in Coiba Island a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest island in Central America. Optional morning walking excursion. Your Ship Naturalist will take you for a short walk up hill to discover the local forest and animal life. After your beach BBQ on Coiba, sail to nearby Granito de Oro Island for swimming and snorkeling in a pristine environment. The waters are teeming with marine life. It is surrounded by one of the largest coral reefs in the pacific coasts of the Americas and marks the beginning of the underwater Cordilera mountain chain that also includes Coco's and the Galapagos. This makes it a unique underwater experience you shouldn't miss. Late in the afternoon, leave Granito de Oro and sail to Golfo Dulce. Overnight at sea.

Day 5, Thusday
Golfito, Costa Rica / Casa Orquideas Private Reserve / Puerto Jimenez / Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

Reach Golfito early in the morning for immigration procedures before continuing your sailing on to nearby Casa Orquideas where you anchor. Reach Casa Orquideas and tender to this beautiful flowers sanctuary. Optional walking excursion and visit of the extensive and very well preserved grounds. Time to swim at the end of the visit. Sail across the Bay to Puerto Jimenez while having a deck BBQ. Optional excursion to the Osa Peninsula Reserve The park is part of one of the biological corridors leading to the Corcovado National Park and offers the opportunity for a smooth walk in secondary forest and interaction with endemic animal life. Return to the ship for dinner. Overnight at sea to Quepos.

Day 6, Friday
Quepos, Costa Rica

Morning arrival in Quepos and transfer to the Manuel Antonio Reserve. Our optional excursion takes us to the Manuel Antonio park which consists of three magnificent white-sand beaches that are backed by a jungle sheltering hundreds of fascinating plant species. Naturalists lead walks to outstanding wildlife viewing. Manuel Antonio offers well-maintained trails where you can explore the jungle on your own or join a walk with one of the naturalist guides. You may wish to see the small shopping area, relax on the white-sand beach, or take a swim. Optional afternoon excursion (an "on your own" expense"): Forest Canopy Tour or Savegre River. Tropical evening with dinner and party. Overnight at sea.

Day 7, Saturday
Curu, Costa Rica / Tortuga Island, Costa Rica


Morning optional walking excursion in the Curu Nature Reserve with the local Rangers and your on board naturalist. In the late morning, rejoin the Voyager for a short sailing to Tortuga Island. Arrive in Tortuga Island at noon for swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of this paradise island before joining in for our Beach BBQ. Later on you have more time for enjoying this amazing island. Overnight at anchor in Tortuga or sailing to Puntarenas depending on  sea conditions.

Day 8, Sunday
Puntarenas Port, Costa Rica

Arrival in Puntarenas Port at 8:00 am. Disembarkation between 9:00 and 10:00 am.

2016 Cruise Collection

We’ve searched the world to find the finest small ships and most active adventures, from Greenland to New Zealand to the great rivers of Europe.

Download our online digital brochure to view on your computer or mobile device, or as a PDF! Or request a printed copy to be sent by mail, or by calling 800-368-2794.

What the Trip is Like

The trip is rated Level 1, Easiest, and is appropriate for anyone in good health who is physically active. Zodiac landing crafts are used to transport passengers ashore for walks to wildlife sanctuaries, scenic nature areas, and local towns and villages. There are also opportunities for swimming and snorkeling. Some agility is required for getting in and out of landing crafts, especially since one or two of the landings may be “wet landings” onto a beach. Additionally, there are no elevators to go between decks.

About Travel to Central America aboard the Variety Voyager
Variety Cruises specializes in small ships that are more like mega-yachts than cruise ships. The Variety Voyager was built in 2012 and is 223 feet in length. It has 36 cabins varying in size from 129-248 square feet. These are smaller than on a big cruise ship, but still quite comfortable with individually controlled air conditioning and en suite marble bathrooms, including hairdryers. The smaller size of the ship can be a real plus as it allows the Variety Voyager to visit ports that larger ships cannot, and at certain anchorages you can swim directly from the water sports platform on the Marina Deck. Additional amenities include a small gym, spa, library with board games, limited internet service, and laundry. With smaller ships, however, one does tend to feel the motion of the ship more keenly than on a large cruise ship, so anyone with a sensitivity to sea sickness should tuck a few Dramamines into their suitcase, in the event that the weather is not cooperative. Typically, however, December through March is warm, dry, and less windy than other months of the year.

From the moment you step aboard you will find the crewmembers and staff to be welcoming and professional. While the crew is mainly Greek and there will likely be passengers from a number of different countries, the majority of passengers on this itinerary are normally Americans and the cruise is always conducted in English. The atmosphere onboard is relaxed. No need to bring fancy clothes as t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops are the norm on board during the day, however, most will dress up somewhat for the Captain’s farewell dinner, and good hiking shoes are recommended for many of the tropical forest hikes. By week’s end you’ll know everyone on a first name basis and it might be hard to imagine returning to your normal routine!

The ship is tastefully decorated in a sleek, modern design with spacious common areas including a comfortable Oceans Lounge on the uppermost deck and a dining area that offers both indoor and alfresco dining on the Horizons Deck. Breakfast and lunches are typically served buffet-style, while dinners are generally ordered from a menu and served by the wait staff who are very friendly and efficient. They will often also do one or two barbecues onshore. Most people find the food to be very good and appreciate both the variety and the fact that special orders are always possible. Having said that, the meal service is not as fancy as on some high profile 5- and 6-star cruise lines.
 
Wilderness Travel enjoys partnering with Variety Cruises as we believe they offer an exceptional value to their passengers. At a fraction of the cost of some of the larger cruise ships, they deliver a product that is highly professional, yet casual. The main difference between Variety and other companies is that they do charge extra for shore excursions. Each afternoon you will receive a briefing about the next day’s options and if you prefer to disembark the ship to explore on your own, that’s fine. Many choose to grab their own taxi and do exactly that. Should you want to participate in the organized tours being offered, they cost on average $70 per person, per tour, but there is no pressure to join. 

Many of the natural history tours are in tropical forest environments where the wildlife is difficult to approach closely. The naturalist guides will often have spotting scopes that you will be encouraged to take a peek through, but it is highly suggested that you bring some good binoculars of your own. As with all boat-based trips, but especially those involving smaller ships and smaller ports or anchorages, the excursions and landings are contingent on the weather cooperating. If you have traveled with Wilderness Travel before, be prepared that your excursion groups with Variety Cruises tend to be larger than the group we put together, so you may be on a rainforest walk with 25+ people instead of our usual 12-15. 

You should be prepared to settle up your bar and laundry bill at the end of the cruise. Beverages outside of the welcome and farewell activities come at a cost.  The purified water on board is free and they provide refillable water bottles for your use on excursions. Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate is available at no cost around the clock. Onboard prices are quoted in Euros, but your bar bill and shore excursions can be conveniently paid by credit card.  

Tips are not included in the price of the trip—and are entirely at your discretion—but keep in mind you can also use your credit card for this expense. The recommended rate suggested is $125-$150 per passenger, per week.

With any luck with the weather you should enjoy some idyllic beaches and stretch your legs on fascinating optional shore excursions. In particular, people love transiting the Panama Canal (even though most of it is done at night), visiting the many parks of Costa Rica, and enjoying the beaches and snorkeling opportunities at Coiba Island. Several swim stops are built into the itinerary for snorkeling, kayaking, or just splashing around. Equipment and life vests are provided at no extra charge.

Explanation of Trip Levels

 

Departures

2016
Feb 7-14, 2016   Costa Rica to Panama

Feb 14-21, 2016   Panama to Costa Rica
Feb 21-28, 2016   Costa Rica to Panama
Feb 28-Mar 6, 2016   Panama to Costa Rica
Mar 6-13, 2016   Costa Rica to Panama

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2016

Cruise Rates by Cabin Category
Per person, double occupancy

CategoriesCruise Price
Category C $3,190
Category B $3,790
Cateogy A $4,190
Category P $5,190
Owner's Suite $6,490
Port Charges: $470
Single supplement: 60% surcharge (limited availability)

Trip Payment Schedule*

At time of reservation: 25% of trip cost
70 days prior to departure: Balance

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

Minimum fee: $140 per person
90-119 days prior to departure: 15% of trip cost
60-89 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
30-59 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
29 days or less: 100% of trip cost

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Deck Plan

Cabin descriptions

Category C (129-140 sq. feet): Marina Deck (Twin Beds or Double Bed)
The category C cabins are located on the lower deck and offer oversized twin port holes, bathrooms with marble floors as well as glass and Corian showers. The cabins are equipped with individual controlled A/C, TV with DVD player, mini fridge, safe deposit box, deluxe toiletries and bathrobes, and they all have WIFI at a charge.

Category B (129-161 sq. feet): Marina & Riviera Decks (Twin Beds or Double Bed)
The category B cabins are located on the lower and main deck and offer oversized twin port holes (lower deck) or double windows (main deck), bathroom with marble floors as well as glass and Corian showers. Seven of the ten cabins offer flexible bedding configuration. The cabins are equipped with individual controlled A/C, TV with DVD player, mini fridge, safe deposit box, deluxe toiletries and bathrobes, and they all have WIFI at a charge.

Category A (150-183 sq. feet): Riviera Deck (Twin Beds or Double Bed)
The category A cabins are located on the main deck and offer double windows, bathroom with marble floors as well as glass and Corian showers. Nine of the eleven cabins offer flexible bedding configuration. The cabins are equipped with individual controlled A/C, TV with DVD player, mini fridge, safe deposit box, deluxe toiletries and bathrobes, and they all have WIFI at a charge.

Category P (205-226 sq. feet): Horizons Deck (Twin Beds or Double Bed)
The category P cabins are located on the upper Horizons Deck and offer double windows, all finished with marble throughout the bathrooms and more luxurious fabrics and special amenities. All cabins offer flexible bedding configuration while four of the seven include an extra sofa bed. The cabins are equipped with individual controlled A/C, TV with DVD player, mini fridge, safe deposit box, deluxe toiletries and bathrobes, and they all have WIFI at a charge.

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Shipboard accommodations
  • Ocean transportation
  • All meals on board
  • entertainment as specified in the cruise program selected

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

Port charges, fuel surcharge, travel insurance, transfers, optional air/sea or land programs (unless noted), shore excursions, airport facility charges, taxes/fees, nor do they include items of a personal nature such as alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, gratuities, gift shop purchases, medical services, phone calls, etc.

Arrival & Departure Information

You are responsible for your own transportation to the arrival and from the departure cities listed below. For more detailed information, including transfers, please call our office at 1-800-368-2794.

Please do not purchase your tickets until you are confirmed on the trip. Once your tickets have been purchased, please send us a copy of your airline schedule.

2016 Departures

Costa Rica to Panama Cruise:

Arrival & Meeting Place
San Jose, Costa Rica
San Jose International Airport (Airport code SJO)
Day 1 of trip by 12:00noon
Embarkation: 3:00pm
Embarkation Location: Puntarenas Port, Costa Rica

Passengers are responsible for their own transfer from the San Jose Airport to the Puntarenas Port (on Costa Rica's West Coast). The drive in a private vehicle (ie; taxi) takes approximately 1 1/2 hours. We recommend you arrive San Jose by noon to have enough time to transfer in one day to the Marina. You may also consider overnighting in San Jose or Puntarenas at least one night before the trip begins. Call for details regarding private transfer to Puntarenas.
Departure
Panama City, Panama
Tocumen International Airport (Airport code PTY)
Suggested time:  after 3:00pm
Day 8 of trip
Disembarkation: 9:00am
Disembarkation Location: Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, Panama

The Variety Voyager will arrive Shelter Bay Marina, Colon in Panama at 8:00am on Day 8 of the trip and passengers will be allowed to disembark at 9:00am. Again, passengers are responsible for their own transfer to the Panama City Airport. The drive could take up to 4 hours (or more depending on traffic) and shuttles can be hired at Shelter Bay without advance reservation.  It is suggested that you book a departing from Panama City after 3:00pm or arrange for an overnight in Panama City.  Call for details regarding private transfer to the airport.

Panama to Costa Rica Cruise:

Arrival & Meeting Place
Panama City, Panama
Tocumen International Airport (Airport code PTY)
Day 1 of trip by 9:00am
Embarkation: 2:00pm (latest due to Canal crossing restrictions)
Embarkation Location: Shelter Bay Marina, Colon, Panama

Passengers are responsible for their own transfer from the Panama City Airport to the Shelter Bay Marina, Colon (on Panama's East Coast). The drive in a private vehicle could take up to 4 hours (or more depending on traffic).  You may consider overnighting in Panama City at least one night before the trip begins. Call for details regarding private transfer to Colon.


Departure
San Jose, Costa Rica
San Jose International Airport (Airport code SJO)
Suggested time: after 1:00pm
Day 8 of trip
Disembarkation: 9:00am
Disembarkation Location: Puntarenas Port, Costa Rica

The Variety Voyager will arrive Puntarenas Port in Costa Rica at 8:00am on Day 8 of the trip and passengers will be allowed to disembark at 9:00am. Passengers are responsible for their own transfer to the San Jose International Airport. The drive takes about 1 1/2 hours and taxis can be hired at Puntarenas without advance reservation.  Call for details regarding private transfer to the airport.

Expedition Details

PASSPORT

A valid passport is required for traveling on this trip. Be sure to check the expiration date. Your passport must be valid for six months after the conclusion of your trip. It is a good idea to carry photocopies of your passport photo page in case your passport is lost or as an additional piece of identification, as well as two extra passport photos.

VISAS

No visa is required for US Citizens traveling to Costa Rica and Panama.

MEDICAL

We recommend checking the Center for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov should you have any international health concerns.

INOCULATIONS

Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before your trip.  Also, the CDC does have suggested vaccines to consider when traveling to Central America. Be sure to consult with your physician or a travel doctor about it.

Variety Voyager

The Variety Voyager yacht, built in 2012, accommodates up to 72 guests. Cabins are all ocean-view and feature twin beds or a double bed, sitting area, en suite marble bathrooms, flat-screen television, mini-fridge, and individually controlled heating/cooling. As on all yachts, cabins are smaller than they are on big cruise ships but are very comfortable. The spacious public spaces include a single-seating dining room, plus a rear deck for outdoor dining, a large lecture lounge, a reference library, and a sun deck with a bar and lounge area. You can get a taste of navigation while visiting the bridge, open to guests most of the day, depending on weather conditions. Additional amenities include a small gym, spa, computer station with internet, and laundry service. The ship carries a crew of 30.