Costa Rica & Panamá Experience Guide

One of the 20 most biologically diverse countries in the world, Costa Rica alone is home to around 4% of the earth’s total species. Add in the thousands of species of plants, mammals, and birds found in Panamá, and it’s easy to see just how vital these countries’ habitats are.

Both Costa Rica and Panamá are relatively small in size—just under 20,000 square miles and just over 29,000 square miles, respectively. And narrow Panamá is only 110 miles at its widest point. Despite their small geographic footprint, both countries have dramatically changing landscapes, reaching from the shores of the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, to volcanic peaks that tower above 10,000 feet.

Not far from the equator, the warm tropical climate nurtures the rich tapestry of life… making for an inviting and adventurous exploration.

Wildlife Guide



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Land Animals

The counts in Panamá and Costa Rica are astounding: at least 250 mammal species, approximately 170 amphibian species, and over 220 species of reptiles inhabit each country. Keep your eyes peeled high and low—Central America teems with life.

  • Monkeys – spider, howler, squirrel, and white-faced capuchins
  • Two- and three-toed sloths
  • Anteaters
  • Caimans
  • Tree frogs and giant toads
  • Iguanas
  • Basilisks
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Marine Animals

Whales migrate from both the northern and southern hemispheres making Panamá one of the best places for whale watching. From mangroves of Golfo Dulce to the coral reefs of the Guna Yala, there is a vast diversity of marine life supported in Central America’s waters.

  • Humpback whales
  • Olive Ridley and green sea turtles
  • Reef sharks
  • Bottle-nosed dolphin
  • Spotted eagle rays
  • Brightly-colored tropical fish
  • Corals, sea slugs, urchins, anemones
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Birds

It's a big, wide, colorful world and roughly 800-900 species of birds are supported by Costa Rica and Panamá’s rich ecosystems. One-quarter of Costa Rica’s and over one-tenth of Panamá’s birds are temporary—migrating primarily to and from North America.

  • Scarlet macaws
  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds
  • Scarlet and Western Tanagers
  • Roseate Spoonbills
  • Crested eagles and White hawks
  • Trogons and resplendent quetzal
  • Toucans

Seasonal Variations

Both the Dry and the Green seasons offer much to see in Costa Rica and Panamá. While the “Green” season is characterized by more rain, it is important to note that in the rainforest environments, rain can happen in any season. So close to the equator, the two countries are situated between about 7 degrees and 10 degrees north and temperatures change very little from month to month.

A variety of wildlife and natural interactions are possible anytime of year, while some occur with the changing seasons. From whales to birds, this region is known as a migration crossroads. Our chart offers some insight into what Mother Nature might have in store depending on the time of year you choose to travel.

Seasonal Variations for Central America
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Costa Rica & Panamá Slideshow

Here’s a slideshow of places, peoples, and wildlife you might encounter (depending on your itinerary) as you journey across the bridge of two oceans—the Mogue River, massive Corcovado National Park, historic old Panamá City, awe-inspiring Panamá Canal, and vibrant cultures. Click the image at left to view.

What to See & Do on Our Costa Rica & Panamá Cruises


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On Board

  • Cup of freshly-brewed coffee in hand, watch the sunrise over the isthmus from the Sun Deck
  • As you transit the Panamá Canal, learn the history and challenges of building the canal from your guides and view the lock operations from the bow
  • A soothing massage is the epitome of relaxation
  • With your favorite refreshing beverage in hand, enjoy lively conversation with your shipmates and views from floor-to-ceiling windows during the hors d’oeuvres hour in the lounge
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In the Water

  • Skiff among mangroves watching for birds and marine life
  • How many colors you can count snorkeling among reef fish off the Pearl Islands or Granito de Oro islet
  • Kayak and paddle board along the coast of the picture-perfect islands of the Guna Yala
  • Skiff and kayak on the Chagres River spying on the many bird species in this migration hot-spot
  • Modern engineering's power and might raises—or lowers—your vessel through the Panamá Canal’s locks
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On Land

  • Discover cultural traditions of the Emberá people on a visit to their village
  • Lounge beneath swaying palms on a warm, tropical beach
  • Get to know local “residents” at Curu National Wildlife Refuge—exotic birds, deer, crocodiles, and frogs await.
  • Discover cultural traditions of the Emberá people on a visit to their village
  • Hike through jungle on the Osa Peninsula watching for all four of Costa Rica’s monkey species
  • Take a step into the past on a walking tour of Casco Antiguo and San Lorenzo Fort

Costa Rica & Panamá Travel FAQs


ARRIVAL / DEPARTURE

Q. Do you have specific arrival and departure guidelines I should follow when making my travel plans?

Yes! View our recommended arrival and departure times by clicking here.

ACTIVITIES / GEAR

Q. How physically active are the itineraries?

The activity level can be as active or relaxed as you are comfortable with. There are opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and nature walks. However, it is your choice whether to participate in the activities or just relax on the beach (or on board with a book and a tropical drink.). Keep in mind, Central America is hot and humid--you'll want to be sure to hydrate well during activities.

Q. What adventure gear is provided on these itineraries?

Kayaks, paddleboards, and snorkeling gear (fins/masks/snorkels) are available on board for guest use.

Q. Can I scuba dive?

Sorry, scuba diving is not permitted from the yacht.

Q. How much walking is involved?

These cruises are best enjoyed if you are in good health, fit, and able to enjoy comfortably paced, moderate walks over some uneven terrain and on paths and trails, which can be wet, muddy and slippery. Hiking varies in length from leisurely strolls to 1- to 2-hours-long walks up stair paths in the jungle.

Q. Will we encounter mosquitoes while on the cruise?

Mosquitoes are present all year long in tropical climates, especially in dense, wooded areas. It won’t be a problem while on the boat. Insect repellent is recommend to have on hand for all of our rainforest hikes.

FOOTWEAR

Q. What kind of footwear should I pack?

In addition to comfortable footwear for the boat, we recommend closed-toe waterproof shoes, sandals, or reef shoes with good traction for wet landings and kayaking (or sneakers if you don’t mind getting them wet). Trail conditions can be rugged on hikes (expect roots, rocks, prickly fauna, etc.) and there is always potential for mud. You’ll want fully-enclosed, sturdy hiking shoes with good tread. On some trails, fully-enclosed hiking shoes are required. Bring breathable and/or waterproof hiking shoes--either low-hikers or with full ankle support, as is your preference. You also may want a pair of sandals or shoes with a no-slip sole walking on deck the vessel.

Get more packing suggestions on our packing list.

ONBOARD PAYMENTS

Q. What kind of payments do you accept in Costa Rica and Panama?

The only form of payment for onboard purchases such as additional massages, apparel, and gratuities are cash (Costa Rican Colones, or US Dollars – which are also used commonly in Panama) or credit cards.

  • Currency used in Costa Rica are Colones
  • Currency used in Panama are US Dollars (also referred to as “Balboas”, but using exactly the same bills)

SEASICKNESS

Q. I have a very sensitive stomach and am prone to seasickness. How rough will the cruise be?

The areas in which we cruise may be rough at times. You may want to plan ahead for motion if you are susceptible to motion sickness.

Seasickness medication is kept on board all of our vessels, however, it is not recommended for children. If you are prone to seasickness or traveling with children, you should consult your physician prior to your departure. The captain will update you when there might be extra motion so you can take the medication in enough time to be effective.

TRANSFERS

Q. I am extending my vacation and staying a couple days before and after the cruise. Will you pick me up from the airport and transfer me to and from my hotels?

If your pre-/post-cruise hotel stopovers have been arranged through UnCruise Adventures, yes, airport transfers are included. Otherwise, airport transfers are on your own and we ask that you please meet us at our hospitality suite on the day of embarkation.

VACCINATIONS

Q. What immunizations do I need before travel to tropical destinations?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all visitors of Panamá and/or Costa Rica are up-to-date on vaccinations. Get specific recommendations on the CDC website: Panamá | Costa Rica

* The CDC also provides updated recommendations concerning the Zika virus in destinations around the world.

WATER

Q. Is the water from the tap in my cabin drinkable?

Yes, the vessel filters its own water on board so there should be no concerns about its safety.

Itinerary Comparison

Itinerary Name Pure Panama: Cultures, Coasts & Canal Unveiled Wonders: Costa Rica & Panama Canal Costa Rica Beaches & Jungles Ultimate Costa Rica & Panama
Duration 8 Nights 8 Nights 8 Nights 15 Nights
Begin/End Points Roundtrip Panama City, Panama San Jose, Costa Rica to Panama City, Panama (or reverse) Roundtrip San Jose, Costa Rica San Jose, Costa Rica to Panama City, Panama (or reverse)
Fares From $3,795 $4,395 $3,795 $7,195
Highlights
  • Included one-night pre-cruise hotel stay in Panama City
  • Transit the Panama Canal
  • Kayak, paddle board, and snorkel among Las Perlas and Guna Yala islands
  • Exchanges with Guna and Embera villagers
  • Explore historic Fort San Lorenzo—a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Marine life search in the Gulf of Panama
  • Wildlife viewing in Darien Jungle by motorized dugout canoe and on hikes
  • Bird watching along the Chagres River
  • One-night hotel stay in embarkation city—San Jose or Panama City
  • Transit the Panama Canal
  • Visit national parks, one wildlife refuge, and conservation area
  • Search for untamed wildlife—sloths, howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, white-faced capuchins
  • Snorkel and beachcomb on Panama’s Granito de Oro
  • Stroll a butterfly- and flower-rich tropical botanical reserve
  • Hike, snorkel, kayak, paddle board, and explore by skiff
  • Off-the-beaten path exploration
  • One-night pre-cruise hotel stay in San Jose
  • Costa Rica north to south—discover two distinct coastal, tropical environments
  • National parks and a wildlife refuge
  • Forest hikes in search of wildlife—sloths, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, white-faced capuchins, scarlet macaws, hummingbirds, iguanas
  • Paddle board and snorkel in marine-life rich Papagayo Gulf
  • Kayak and skiff among the mangroves of Golfo Dulce
  • Off-the-beaten path exploration
  • Included one-night hotel stay in embarkation city; Intercontinental Hotel in San Jose or Bristol Hotel in Panama City
  • Transit the 48-mile-long Panama Canal and visit the Agua Clara Visitor Center
  • Two national parks, one wildlife refuge, and a conservation area
  • Hike lush jungle among untamed wildlife—sloths, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, scarlet macaws
  • Stroll a butterfly- and flower-rich tropical preserve
  • Gatun Lake small boat wildlife exploration
  • Snorkel, kayak, and paddle board among Las Perlas, Guna Yala islands, and Granito de Oro
  • Marine life search in the Gulf of Panama
  • Discover indigenous cultures of the Guna Indians and Embera people
  • Wildlife viewing in Darien Jungle by motorized dugout canoe
  • Bird watching along the Chagres River
  • Tour UNESCO World Heritage Site Fort San Lorenzo

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