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


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

Marine Animals

Whales migrate from both the northern and southern hemispheres making the Gulf of 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 these 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


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

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


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
  • 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

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
  • 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

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.
  • 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

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