World Journeys | Costa Rica & The Panama Canal

Immerse yourself in the remarkable coastlines of Costa Rica and Panama. Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse regions on earth – discover tropical rainforests teeming with outstanding variety of wildlife, brilliant birds and flamboyant flora. In Panama, discover pristine coral reefs, meet the indigenous people of the Embera Mogue community, and learn the remarkable history of the Panama Canal on a guaranteed daylight crossing from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. Concluding in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, revel in the vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture and the fascinating and colourful historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Highlights include: Exploring some of the most biodiverse rainforests on earth, with a chance to encounter wildlife including sloths, howler, spider, capuchin and squirrel monkeys, discover Panama’s UNESCO-protected Coiba National Park which offers superb marine and terrestrial wildlife viewing opportunities.

Your ship: Aurora Expeditions ships feature the streamlined Ulstein X-BOW, which cuts through the swell so you feel fewer vibrations and disturbances, making a quicker transits through waves. The ships carry 15 zodiacs, which you can board via four dedicated, sea-level launching platforms. Accommodating an average of 132 expeditioners per voyage within 76 cosy, comfortable cabins – all cabins have a view of the ocean and 85% of cabins have their own balcony. The ship also features a modern lecture lounge, multiple observation areas, zodiac launching platforms, a restaurant serving excellent meals, a gym and wellness centre, jacuzzis, a mudroom and many other amenities.

The Greg Mortimer: Purpose-built for expeditions to remote places, this is the first passenger ship to feature the revolutionary Ulstein X-BOW, allowing it to cross oceans more comfortably and efficiently. Accommodating an average of 132 expeditioners per voyage within 76 cosy, comfortable cabins – all cabins have a view of the ocean and 85% of cabins have their own balcony. The ship also features a modern lecture lounge, multiple observation areas, zodiac launching platforms, a restaurant serving excellent meals, a gym and wellness centre, jacuzzis, a mudroom and many other amenities.

Special Offer

Special valid until 26/12/2025

Solo Traveller Offer

Aurora Expeditions can pair you with a like-minded traveller based on gender and your selected cabin category, to save you paying the solo surcharge. If they are unable to find you someone to share with, the solo surcharge is waived.

Special valid until 28/06/2024

Save 15%!

Book and pay your deposit by 28 June 2024 to save 15% on the 2025 departure. Savings apply to the voyage only. As the promotion is capacity controlled, the offer is subject to availability at the time of booking.

  • Summary


    12 Days / 11 Nights from AUD AU$16,995*


    Multi Country Tours - Central America, Costa Rica, Panama

    Type of Journey

    Cruise, Wildlife, Active
  • Departure Dates

    19 April
  • What's Included

    Tour Includes

    • Cruise journey
    • All transfers as mentioned in the itinerary
    • One night’s hotel accommodation and breakfast in San Jose
    • Transfer from hotel to pier
    • All meals, snacks, tea and coffee during voyage
    • Beer, house wine and soft drinks with dinner
    • Captain’s Welcome and Farewell
    • All shore excursions and Zodiac cruises
    • Educational lectures and guiding services from Expedition Team
    • Onboard expedition doctor and medical clinic (initial consultation)
    • Comprehensive pre-departure information
    • Port surcharges, permits and landing fees

    Not Included

    • International or domestic flights – unless specified in the itinerary
    • Optional excursions and optional activity surcharges
    • All items of a personal nature

  • Gratuity

    • A US$15 per person per day gratuity for the crew is automatically added to your onboard account. It is at your discretion if you would like to remove the tip (or increase/decrease the amount) when you settle your bill. It is not necessary to tip the expedition team members. This gratuity amount is included for suites as part of their ‘Suite Benefits’.

  • Pricing

    Description Twin

    19 Apr, Greg Mortimer
    Aurora Stateroom Twin
    Balcony Stateroom C
    Balcony Stateroom B
    Balcony Stateroom A
    Balcony Stateroom Superior
    Junior Suite

    Sole occupation of a cabin incurs a 60% surcharge.


    Please note: while prices are accurate at time of loading they are subject to change due to currency fluctuations and currency surcharges may apply. Please check price at time of booking
  • Itinerary

    Day 1: San Jose
    Having made your way to San Jose, you will be met and transferred to our group hotel. After check-in, enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.

    Day 2: San Jose > Curu National Wildlife Refuge
    This morning, your luggage will be collected from the hotel and transferred directly to the port for sanitisation, clearance and delivered to your cabin ahead of your arrival on board. There is time to settle into your cabin before attending important safety briefings. Enjoy the thrill of departure as we ‘throw the lines’ and set sail on our adventure.

    Day 3: Curu National Wildlife Refuse
    Curú National Wildlife Refuge is a privately-owned nature reserve offering visitors outstanding eco-tourism experiences. The refuge is the first privately-owned refuge in Costa Rica, encompassing more than 3,700 acres of tropical forests, mangroves, and well-marked paths. 17 hiking trails wind through the varied terrain within the reserve, where you may see white-tail deer, armadillos and iguanas. Various monkey species are prolific within refuge including native capuchin, spider, and howler monkeys. Located on the southern Nicoya Peninsula of north-western Costa Rica, the refuge is brimming with wildlife and hosts one of the most beautiful beaches and protected bays on the Nicoya Peninsula, a great place to enjoy water activities.

    Day 4: Manuel Antonio National Park
    Boasting over 100 species of mammals, 184 species of birds and an impressive variety flora, Manuel Antonio National Park understandably attracts wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world. Costa Rica’s star attractions – two and three toed sloths, as well as white-faced monkeys, toucans, agoutis, armadillos and coatis are a few of the exciting animals that you may encounter within the park. We explore the park in the cool, early hours of the morning before returning to the vessel for lunch. In the afternoon, you have the option to explore Quepos town or enjoy some water activities.

    Day 5: Rio Claro Wildlife Refuge
    The untamed Osa Peninsula is considered by National Geographic to be ‘one of the most biologically intense places on earth’. We plan to hike the trails at Rio Claro Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary that encompasses 500 hectares of tropical rainforests, making it one of the most important natural preserves in Central America. Rio Claro is one of the last refuges for pumas, ocelot, jaguarundis, tapirs, white-lipped peccaries and a host of other rainforest animals. The high plateau forests, with trees towering over 43 m (140 ft), supports hundreds of species of ferns, bromeliads and orchids, and creates a biological corridor between palm swamps and mangroves. It is an extension of Corcovado National Park, the country’s largest and one of the most remote parks in Costa Rica. .

    Day 6: Gulfo Dulce
    Golfo Dulce, or Sweet Gulf, is a large bay that hugs pristine beaches, rivers and tall evergreen forests – a protected area known as the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve. As one of the wettest places on Earth with over 5,000 mm of rainfall per year, the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve features some of the world’s tallest trees. The warm tropical waters in the gulf are a great place to enjoy aquatic activities, where spinner dolphins are often seen frolicking in the bay. There are ancient coral reefs to explore, where you can see enormous coral gardens and the creatures that inhabit them. On land, there are more pristine rainforest trails for you to explore, where you can marvel at the extraordinary flora and fauna that contributes to Costa Rica’s biodiversity.

    By Zodiac, we shuttle ashore to Saladero Ecolodge and explore the gardens and walking trails filled with flowering plants. Keep a watch for birds including toucans, scarlet macaw, caracara and woodpeckers. In Golfo Dulce we exit Costa Rica and continue our journey as we sail to Panama.

    Days 7 & 8: Coiba National Park, Panama
    We continue to Coiba Island, a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage site, located off the southwest coast of Panama. The national park includes the main island of Coiba and 38 smaller islands in the surrounding marine areas within the Gulf of Chiriquí. Protected from the cold winds and the effects of El Niño, the Pacific tropical forest if Coiba Island features exceptionally high levels of endemic mammals, birds and plants. It is the last refuge for a number of threatened animals including the crested eagle.

    On Coiba Island, we spend the morning in the area of Granito de Oro islet, a unique place that allows snorkellers to encounter a diversity and volume of marine life that is usually reserved for scuba divers. This is one of the world’s most sought-after diving destinations. The local ranger will provide guidance on the optimal places where we can enjoy water activities.

    The following morning, we plan to land at Punta Clara, which served as a penal colony from 1919 to 1996, where Panama’s most notorious criminals and political prisoners were incarcerated. At the peak of its operations, the prison housed up to approximately 3,000 inmates in about 30 camps spread around the islands. You can visit the dilapidated penitentiary buildings or walk along the beach looking for scarlet macaws, yellow caracara and various seabirds. Back on board, enjoy lunch as we set towards the Pearl Islands.

    Day 9: Bartolome Island, Pearl Islands
    The Pearl Islands of Panama is an archipelago located in the North Pacific Ocean in the Gulf of Panama, covering around 250 small islands. The Spanish Conquistadors discovered the islands in 1503 and gave the Islands its name due to the great amounts of pearls found on them. The Pearl Islands were originally named by the Spanish explorer Vasco Nuñez de Balboa due to the bountiful pearls that were harvested off the islands’ shores. The Pearl Islands are most famous for their spectacular and tranquil white sand beaches, untouched forests, and colourful coral reefs offshore – ideal for diving, snorkelling and kayaking. We plan to visit Bartolome Island to enjoy some paddle boarding, kayaking and snorkelling in the warm, turquoise waters.

    Days 10: Panama City
    Three million years ago, the Isthmus of Panama emerged from the sea and changed the world forever. It divided an ocean and joined two continents together, triggering one of the most important natural evolution events in the history of the world. Today, this narrow land bridge in Central America is home to more species of birds and trees than the whole of North America. Panama is of course world-famous for its 77 km canal that connects the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean.

    Panama’s history has been formed by a rich pre-Columbian era for more than 12,000 years. Early cultures in Panama were the Monagrillo, the Cueva and the Conte, particularly famous for their pottery, which was the first in the Americas. The first European claiming the territory of today’s Panama was Rodrigo de Bastidas, coming from Colombia’s Atlantic coast in 1501. In 1513 Vasco Nuñez de Balboa became the first Spaniard to see the Pacific Ocean from the top of a hill. Four days later he and his men stood at the shores of the Pacific Ocean. In 1519, Panama City was founded and became an important hub for seized goods making its way from Peru to Spain.

    We visit an Emberá village, an indigenous tribe who have inhabited this region for centuries. There are about 33,000 Emberá living in the Darién, Panama, and 50,000 in Colombia. On our visit to one of the Emberá villages near Panama City, you will be warmly welcomed by the local villagers and enjoy a presentation to learn about their history, culture and way of life. On a guided walk through their village, you will meet more villagers who may show you inside their home, sample local snacks and learn about their medicinal plants. The Emberá are renowned for their exquisite handmade jewellery and woven handicrafts, and you will have the chance to appreciate and to purchase their work.

    In the afternoon, we stop at the Miraflores Visitor Centre overlooking the Miraflores lock of the Panama Canal. Four exhibition halls portray the canal’s history and biodiversity, while three terraces and observation decks are ideal places for observing the canal’s operation and the passage of ships through the locks.

    The following day, we visit Gatun Lake, a large artificial lake with a unique ecosystem that forms a major part of the Panama Canal, carrying ships for 33 km on their transit across the Isthmus of Panama. At the time it was created, Gatun Lake was the largest artificial lake in the world. The vegetation at Gatun Lake offers ideal habitats for a large number of bird species.

    The excursion starts with boat trip that heads north on the canal for 25 minutes where we may get close to some of the larger ships that transit the canal daily. Enjoy a leisurely cruise along the forested banks of Gatun Lake looking for wildlife such as capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, three-toed sloth, various kinds of toucans and other bird life. This is a place to observe the raw regenerative power of the forest as it struggles to claim what was once wild. Enjoy lunch at a resort located in the shores of the Gatun Lake.

    Afterwards, head to Casco Viejo, Panama’s historic old quarter. Inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites in 1997, Casco Viejo is a compact treasure trove of 16th and 17th century colonial architecture. The oldest continuously occupied European city in the Americas on the Pacific coast, also known as Panama Viejo, was founded in 1519. The excursion includes visits to two exceptional sites as well as a guided walk around the historic quarter and the cobblestone streets for a leisurely look at many historic landmarks including: Plaza Herrera, San José Church, Plaza Francia, Plaza Bolívar with the San Francisco de Asis Church, Plaza Mayor (where the Metropolitan Cathedral is located). After the tour, you have the option of exploring Casco Viejo at your own pace or return to the ship. A shuttle service will be available to transfer you to the ship.

    Day 11: Daylight Crossing of the Panama Canal
    Crossing the Panama Canal will surely be a highlight for many travellers. Each year, over a million people visit the canal to witness this engineering marvel at work. Starting in the Pacific Ocean, you will be able to admire the Bay of Panama and Panama City’s splendid skyline before passing under the ‘Bridge of the Americas’. The vessel will then transit through the first set of locks, the Miraflores Locks, where it will be lifted 16 metres in two distinct steps. Next, your ship will enter Miraflores Lake, which is a small artificial body of fresh water that separates Pedro Miguel Locks from Miraflores Locks.

    The vessel will transit through Pedro Miguel Locks, which is one of the two sets of locks on the Pacific side, and here the vessel is lifted 9 metres in one step. After exiting Pedro Miguel locks, your boat will travel through the Gaillard Cut, where the Chagres River flows into the canal. The Gaillard Cut (also known as Culebra Cut because its curves resemble a snake) is one of the main points of interest for visitors because it was carved through the Continental Divide and this section of the canal is full of history and geological value.

    As you transit the cut you will see dredging occurring to control the sediments entering the canal because of the terrain’s susceptibility to landslides. Sail through Gatun Lake, which was formed by erecting the Gatun Dam across the Chagres River, and during your transit through the lake, you will pass the Smithsonian Research Station at Barro Colorado. The last of the three locks is the Gatun Locks, the only set of locks in the Atlantic sector of the canal. At Gatun Locks, the vessel will be lowered a total of 26 metres in three distinct chambers.

    The complete crossing from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean takes approximately 10 hours, a journey that once took almost two weeks to complete, when vessels were forced to sail around the notoriously rough seas around Cape Horn at the bottom of South America to reach the Pacific coast.

    Day 12: Panama city
    Disembark in Colon, on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal, where you’ll farewell your expedition team before transferring to the airport in Panama City for your onward journey.

    Note: At the conclusion of the voyage, we do not recommend booking flights departing Panama City prior to 2.00 pm.

  • Booking Conditions

    • Please enquire about single pricing
    • Pricing is dynamic and subject to change and availability
    • Please enquire about other cabin types

    NB: In true expedition style we encourage exploration and adventure, offering flexibility in challenging environments in a way that puts you among the action to see and do as much as possible. This itinerary is only a guide and subject to change due to weather conditions.


HLO Ref# 19973
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