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Vip Tour Group > CostaRica > Itineraries > Costa Rica & Panama Discovery  

Costa Rica & Panama Discovery - 14 Days


There is no better way to spend a couple of weeks than touring two of Central America’s most alluring and exciting destinations.

On our 14-day Panama and Costa Rica Discovery Tour, you’ll begin in Panama City, where you’ll experience the magnificent Canal, native culture and the pristine San Blas Islands, before heading north to the province of Chiriqui. This Highland area is home to Volcan Baru and mystical cloud forests. Then, head north to the border crossing at Pano Canoas, where you’ll enter Costa Rica’s Punta Renas region for a stay at a luxurious eco lodge along the banks of the Golfo Dulce. As if that’s not enough, you’re still in store for a breathtaking visit to the Arenal Volcano region and Costa Rica’s most popular destination— Manuel Antonio. You’ll never want to it to end!
trip details
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Day 1 – Panama City

Surging with the exuberant beat of history yet entirely contemporary and cosmopolitan, Panama’s capital gives its guests a wide array of culture, leisure and adventure activities, including the most renowned of its landmarks— the iconic Canal. Panama City is also home to numerous other monuments and landmarks worth a visit and is home to delicious restaurants, rich culture and a unique breed of street vendor that helps to create an energy like nowhere else.

During your time in this historic city, founded in the early 1500s, you’ll learn firsthand why Condé Nast Traveler consistently calls The Bristol Hotel the Best Hotel in Panama and one of the Top 10 Hotels in Latin America. This storied hotel is situated in an historic mansion smack in the middle of the very best dining, shopping and culture, while still managing to be intimate and upscale. The hotel’s gourmet restaurant, Salsipuedes, is famous for exemplifying Panama’s cheerful and spicy culture. You won’t want to miss trying it!

Today, you’ll arrive to Panama and check into Bristol Hotel.

Day 2 – Colon & The Canal

You’ll begin your private day-long tour by embarking on a train trip on the historic railway to Colon. This one-hour trip winds alongside the Panama Canal and through the jungle en route to the Caribbean seaport of Colon (sometimes called Panama’s second city). Although the rail line was completed in 1855, it wasn’t acquired by the French Panama Canal Company until 1880 to help with the construction of the Canal. By 1904, Americans had purchased the lines and continued its operation until Panama privatized and renewed the lines in 1998; however, the lines were not fully passable again until 2001. Today, this beautiful trip is a unique experience.

After arriving in Colon, you will take a private drive with your guide to the port of Portobelo to explore a ruin complex in the midst of tropical jungle, including castles, military bases and fortresses. Once a gathering point for Peruvian treasures and a center of inspection for goods from Spain, today Portobelo is a historical excursion you won’t want to miss.

Once you’ve enjoyed some time in the Portobelo ruins, you’ll continue with your guide to an Embera Indian Village along Rio Gatun. The Embera are one of seven indigenous tribes living in Panama. You’ll arrive at the village after a short boat ride down the river and will be greeted at the pier by the tribe. The chief will talk to you about the history of the tribe, as well as its culture, traditions, beliefs and handicrafts before you’re served a traditional lunch (fish and plantains) by the Embera women. After lunch, you’ll enjoy a traditional dance and have the chance to shop for crafts in the village. The sale of all local products pays for schools fees for the village children. Don’t forget to get a temporary Embera tattoo painted on your arm or leg before you head back to The Bristol for a relaxing evening.

Day 3 – San Blas Islands

On day three of your amazing adventure, you’re heading to the San Blas Islands for a private full-day trip where you’ll be able to pull the brake, take a breath and slow down in this Caribbean filled with pristine wilderness, coral islands, sandy beaches and sapphire blue waters. The area also is home to one of the best preserved indigenous tribes in the Americas— the Kuna. They have maintained control of the region and also continue their own national government, economic system, culture and language.

You’ll spend the day island hopping, snorkeling and taking in the beauty of the islands, before stopping for lunch. After lunch, be immersed in the Kuna’s culture and learn about the tribe’s native crafts, such as the mola, and experience how these indigenous people practice ancient customs and flourish amidst increasing tourism.

When the day is done, you’ll be privately transferred back to The Bristol for your last evening in Panama City.

Day 4 – Chiriqui, David & Boquete

After your last breakfast at The Bristol, you’ll be picked up at hotel reception for a private ground transfer to the regional airport for a domestic flight into Chiriqui through David. There, you’ll be picked up for a private ground transfer into the community of Boquete, where you’ll be staying at Panamonte Inn & Spa.

Remote and unspoiled, Chiriqui packs a very wide variety of landscape into one fairly small area. Here, you’ll find Panama’s most fertile valleys, longest rivers and tallest mountains, as well as tropical isles, stunning highland rainforests and two huge National Marine Parks, Coiba and the Gulf of Chiriqui. The region is one of the most important ecological regions in all of Central America thanks in large part to its ecosystem diversity.

When you arrive in the town of Boquete within Chiriqui, you’ll be entertained and educated by a private coffee tour at Hotel Finca Lerida— built in the Norwegian countryside style by its original owner. Finca Lerida one of the first farms to export Panamanian coffee and is believed to have begun the community’s reputation as a fine producer of coffee. Located at 5,500 feet above sea level on Volcan Baru’s rolling foothills, Boquete is home to prime weather and rich volcanic soil to create optimal conditions for growing premium coffee. As you tour the processing facilities and grounds, your guide and the farmers will teach you about the growing process, the economics of indigenous culture and labor, what farmers and locals really think about Starbucks, the shade-grown theory for a healthier environment and better bean, and much more. You’ll round out the experience by sampling different strengths, roasts and flavors at the source.

When the day is done, you’ll be driven to Panamonte Inn & Spa, where you’ll uncover quintessential charm, historic ambiance and an unrivaled reputation for gracious hospitality and excellent service. The Panamonte is a delightfully memorable retreat that has played host to all kinds of VIPs— from the business elite and diplomats to celebrities and politicians. Today, both the town and the hotel attract adventurers, explorers and nature lovers to this eco-centric area.

Day 5 – Chiriqui, David & Boquete

After breakfast today, you’ll head out into the breathtaking Chiriqui region for a private Giant Millenary Quercus Tree Hike. This fantastic trek starts at Volcan Baru National Park in a private reserve and traces the footsteps of the pre-Columbian natives who visited this isolated virgin cloud forest, surrounded by the volcano and five of the oldest trees in all of Panama.

During the walk you’ll visit the gigantic Quercus Trees that even survived the volcano erupting 800 years ago. These extraordinary millenary trees grow naturally in the primary forests of both Panama and Costa Rica. The trail you’ll walk borders the gorgeous Quebrada La Mina creek, which meanders through the valleys and ridges above Boquete.

With 220+ native bird species, including the elusive Resplendent Quetzal, birding is a popular activity in this area and on this hike. During the trek, you’ll also be afforded amazing opportunities to see many native mammals, including white faced capuchins, howler monkeys and two-toed sloths. This moderate adventure allows everyone the chance to experience and enjoy the cloud forest like no where else.

Day 6 – Paso Canoas & Golfito

You’ve reached the halfway point of your dream Panama-Costa Rica vacation, and it’s time to head north into Costa Rica. Today, you’ll take private ground transportation from Chiriqui province in Panama across the border crossing with Costa Rica’s Punta Renas at Paso Canoas. Our expert guides will be there to help the whole way but remember there is a year-round one-hour time difference between the two countries. Panama is always one hour ahead of Costa Rica, so plan accordingly. Also, be sure to dress appropriately, as the border offices are not air conditioned and can take some time depending on the time of day and year passing through.

When you arrive in the southern province of Costa Rica en route to Playa Cativo Eco Lodge, where you’ll spend the next three nights, you’ll immerse yourself in nature, as you experience a taste of unimaginable wildlife adventures at an extraordinary eco lodge hidden away on the shores of Golfo Dulce near Osa.

Accessible only by boat, Playa Cativo is a beachfront boutique hotel unique in native beauty and seclusion. Located on 1,000 acres of private rainforest preserve surrounded by the stunning Piedras Blancas National Park, Playa Cativo is strategically situated as a convenient stopover when making the crossing from Panama at Paso Canoas.

The guest rooms at Playa Cativo boast natural luxury, total comfort and spectacular service, as well as magnificent beach views and sunsets. Rooms are mere steps from the water and offer fantastic amenities with local, artisanal handiwork. We recommend the Luxury and Premium rooms for their additional space, enhanced amenities and truly amazing views.

Playa Cativo is all inclusive for our guests, and you’ll enjoy three a la carte meals per day, as well as all the coffee, tea and spring water you can drink. Guests have use of the SUP, kayak and snorkel equipment and can avail themselves of one additional tour (to those noted below) per day. Choose from Energy, Artisanal, Hand Line Pier Fishing or Tropical Wildlife.

Day 7 – Rio Esquinas

Get ready to spend the day on the water on our private Rio Esquinas Mangrove-Ocean Kayaking Tour. Part of the beauty of Playa Cativo is its amazing locale and proximity to one of the most pristine and largest river systems in the country— it’s just a few beaches away!

The Lodge boat will tow your kayaks to the mouth of the Esquinas River, where you and your guide will set out on a private tour of the area’s diverse terrain. You’ll head on an easy-going and peaceful journey through the mangroves, forest, remote farms and more to see some of the best birdwatching in the area— particularly at sunrise and sunset. You’ll be blown away by the magic of nature on this relaxing tour.

In the evening, be sure to enjoy the beachfront gourmet dining available at Playa Cativo’s El Gavilán. They serve up the finest seasonal organic produce direct from their own garden, as well as organic poultry, grass-fed Costa Rican beef and sustainably-caught local seafood.

Day 8 – Piedras Blancas

It isn’t just the neighboring river systems that blesses Playa Cativo with its neighboring presence, and today you’ll find out for yourself why the Piedras Blancas National Park Nature Hike Tour is a can’t miss experience. This area once was part of Corcovado and is very similar to its neighbor but is far less traveled.

Here, you’ll find trails in nearly every direction rated for varying levels, from touring to challenging. Depending on your skill level, you may find steep and rugged trails or more level and moderate trails. No matter what you and your private guide decide on, you’ll spend the day among the richest flora on Planet Earth— several thousand plant species and hundreds of trees with several being very rare and in danger of extinction.

Perhaps more impressive than the flora is the sheer volume of fauna found in Piedras Blanco, including 350 bird species, some 140 mammal species, more than 100 amphibian species and several thousand insects in this massive private reserve. You’ll stroll through virgin rainforest with pristine waterfalls and panoramic views of Golfo Dulce, as well as its beach and wetlands. This experience of a lifetime includes walking stick, snacks and use of rubber boots.

As your day winds to a close, why not enjoy some of the stellar activities available at Playa Cativo? Try a refreshing dip in the pool, an invigorating yoga session, a relaxing massage and simply a stroll along the pristine beach. Tomorrow, you head for your next destination!

Day 9 – Manuel Antonio

You’re more than half way through your amazing Costa Rica and Panama journey, and you’re heading to the most popular destination in the country. Manual Antonio Park is a pristine mecca for nature lovers, while the beaches of Manuel Antonio/Quepos feature something for everyone from families with small children to honeymooning couples. Please note we can also put Manuel Antonio at the end of the itinerary, but it will require at least one private air charter to do so.

There’s a lot to love about the Manuel Antonio/Quepos region, including its wildlife, natural wonders and distinctive lodgings, including the award-winning Arenas del Mar. Located only steps from Manuel Antonio National Park, this exceptional resort has been voted the #1 Family Hotel by Travel + Leisure , awarded a Five Star Award and was the first Costa Rican luxury hotel to be granted a Five Sustainability Leaf Award.

Extraordinary and exotic, Arenas del Mar is a rainforest and oceanfront resort catering to travelers with a zeal for life. Each of its well appointed rooms afford breathtaking views of Manuel Antonio National Park, the rainforest and the Pacific Ocean.

Today, you’ll make the private ground transfer of about four hours to Manuel Antonio and check in to Arenas del Mar.

Day 10 – Manuel Antonio

Get ready for a privately guided half-day hike through the national park Forbes magazine calls one of the World’s Most Beautiful National Parks in the world! Manuel Antonio boasts two white sand beaches, mangrove swamp, coastal rain forest, a dozen islands and even coral structures. Throughout these diverse ecosystems, you’ll find 300 bird species and more than 100 mammals, including sloths, monkeys, agoutis and more. A private tour lets you set your own pace and interact with expert local guides as you hike along stunning beaches and deep into the jungle.

Once back at Arenas del Mar, be sure to grab a bite at the on-site El Mirador Restaurant and Bar or Plaits Restaurant and Bar before taking an evening stroll along the beach. Both restaurants offer delicious fare made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients in amazing settings.

Day 11 – Manuel Antonio

The last day of your time in Manuel Antonio is a free day to enjoy as you please. Feel free to lounge at the pool or the beach, or we can help you book additional activities. Some of our favorites include:

Try sport fishing off the coast.

Take a sea kayak or sailboat to the islands with a guide to see the bird sanctuaries.

Revisit Manuel Antonio National Park on horseback and stop at the spectacular waterfalls and unspoiled lagoons for a refreshing dip.

Go on a canopy tour for a different perspective of this beautiful national park.

Learn to make tortillas in the village of Petatillo.

Take a surf lesson at the amazing Playa Espadilla.

Go white water rafting on the Savegre (good for all ages) or Naranjo (not suitable for young children).

Day 12 – Arenal

There are just a few days left in your dream Costa Rica and Panama vacation and, today, you’re heading to the Arenal region and the Nayara Hotel & Gardens via private ground transfer.

The Arenal Volcano National Park is located within the larger Arenal Conservation Area that encompasses two volcanoes and 16 reserves with some of the best biological and geologic diversity in the world. Arenal is active and is the country’s most active volcano, but there are still trails you’ll be able to access on your visit to the area. Park rangers watch volcanic activity and close trails they deem unsafe.

While in this area, you may see snakes, deer, howler and white-faced monkeys, tapir, parrots, magpies, orioles and more. There is an abundant of activities in the area, including relaxing hot springs and a number of eco and adventure experiences.

During your stay in the Arenal region, you’ll feel right at home at the modern yet luxurious Nayara Hotel & Gardens. This five-star member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World is situated near the national park and boasts picturesque landscapes, delicious food and truly outstanding service. Rooms are freestanding bungalows that afford guests spectacular views of Arenal Volcano or the rainforest. Today, you’ll get settled in after a day of travel, but we still recommend grabbing a bite at one of the on-site restaurants or enjoying a quick dip in the property’s inviting swimming pool.

Day 13 – Arenal

Today, you’ll see the rainforest and Arenal from a bird’s eye perspective as your private guide takes you to experience the Sky Tram gondolas. These gondolas take about an hour to rise through the rain forest for a panoramic view of nature’s magic. You’ll travel 4,100 feet to an elevation of approximately 2,460 feet while learning about the native flora and fauna in the shadow of Arenal Volcano. Feel free to ask the guides to stop at any point should you want a better look at wild life, as this tour goes at your pace!

When you arrive at the top, there is a large observation platform to enjoy the spectacular view. There also is a short trail available for even more exploring.

When you complete your half-day Sky Tram tour, you’re free to spend the afternoon at leisure. Our guide will accompany you back to the hotel, where you can lounge away the afternoon or we can add on an additional afternoon experience for you. Some of our favorites include:

Visit the town of Monteverde to learn about its agriculture, including cheese and coffee at the Monteverde Cheese Factory and Monteverde Coffee Tour.

Go on a guided horseback or ATV tour of the pristine Cloud Forest National Park.

Day 14 – Arenal

We know no one ever wants to say “goodbye” to Costa Rica, but today is the last day of your tour. You’ll be met at hotel reception for a private ground transfer to San Jose’s international airport for the return flight home.

Comparable accommodations may be substituted depending on availability. Alternative accommodations available in some areas (prices may adjust accordingly).


Package Prices and other details
Category Hotel Prices  
  Vip Luxury Bristol Hotel
$ price quote
  Five Star Arenas del Mar
$ price quote
  Four Star Nayara Hotel
Panamonte Hotel
Playa Cativo Eco Lodge
$ price quote


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