Discover the magnificence of Costa Rica and Panama during an 8-day expedition cruise. From the winding canals to the lush nature reserves, experience nature at its finest alongside a National Geographic expert and photographer. Your journey in Central America will start with the discovery of the golden sand and crystal-clear waters of the coral islets of the San Blas islands. Sailing through the world-famous Panama Canal, you will journey towards the magnificent Darien National Park in Panama. A UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can enjoy a remarkable selection of flora and fauna. Explore the magnificent selection of sandy beaches, rocky coastlines, mangroves, swamps and tropical rainforests. Make the most of your time with a range of excursions including Manuel Antonio National Park and the Curú Wildlife Refuge as well as meeting with the Emberás, a semi-nomadic community deep in the rain forest in Panama.

This Expedition Cruise is onboard Ponant’s Le Dumont-d’Urville ship, part of the Explorers fleet. View full details including deck plans and features onboard here.

Trip highlights

The unique opportunity to meet with the indigenous Emberás tribe in the Darien National Park and with the Kuna Indians of the San Blas archipelago.

Explore world-renowned National Parks of Central America, including Darien National Park, Manuel Antonio National Park and the Curú Wildlife Refuge.

Spend time at San Blas Islands, a unique archipelago made up of over 300 island and cays all boasting spectacular landscapes of sandy beaches and lush greenery.

Itinerary - 8 Days

1 Colón, Panama

Start your Caribbean expedition cruise in Colón, the second largest city in Panama. Founded in 1850, Colón is one of the most important ports in the Caribbean Sea and was declared a free-trade zone in 1953. Explore the old town, historic churches and the Canal Expansion Observation Centre, a park with viewing platforms over the canal’s Atlantic locks and Gatún Lake.

2 San Blas Islands

A collection of over 300 islands and cays, San Blas Islands offer unrivalled beauty with turquoise waters, palm-lined beaches and a wealth of exotic marine life. Discover the Kunas Indian community who will welcome you in their villages of bamboo houses gathered near the beaches.

3 Crossing the Panama Canal

Sailing the Panama Canal is a unique experience that has inspired the imagination of numerous adventurers in the 20th century. Its construction started in 1880 under the direction of Ferdinand De Lesseps. Abandoned then resumed, this marvel of engineering was completed by the United States in 1887 and opened in 1914. The canal crosses the Isthmus of Panama and links the Atlantic to the Pacific. Including three levels of locks and by raising ships to the level of Lake Gatun, almost as if the water was a lift, it allows them to avoid having to round Cape Horn.

4 Playa Muerto, Darien National Park

Darien is the most remote and least developed region of Panama, yet it's unspoilt, natural beauty makes it one of the most majestic places to visit. Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, Darien National Park offers its extraordinary scenery of rocky coastlines, mountain ranges, rivers and creeks as well a wealth of flora and fauna. Discover Playa Muerto, a tiny coastal village home to the Emberas Amerindian community. You will visit the village, attend traditional songs and dance performances by the locals, and admire beautiful local craft.

5 At Sea

During your time at sea, get acquainted with the luxurious facilities onboard the Le Dumont-d’Urville ship. Treat yourself to a moment of relaxation in the spa or stay in shape in the fitness centre. Depending on the season, let yourself be tempted by the swimming pool or a spot of sunbathing. This day will also be an opportunity to enjoy the conferences or shows proposed on board, to do some shopping in the boutique or to meet the PONANT photographers in their dedicated space. As for lovers of the open sea, they will be able to visit the ship’s upper deck to admire the spectacle of the waves and perhaps be lucky enough to observe marine species.

6 Manuel Antonio National Park

Explore the rich wilderness of Manuel Antonio National Park as we head out on Zodiac® to reach the land. Protected since the 1970s, this small park, only 16 km² and bordered by the idyllic beaches of the Pacific Ocean, is home to rich biodiversity. During our excursion, you may come across a diverse array of wildlife including the discreet sloth to the noisy howler monkey and the mischievous white-faced capuchin. On the fine sandy beaches, you will be amused by the dance of the racoons that race down from the trees to tease visitors.

7 Curú Wildlife Refuge

Discover the oldest protected park in Costa Rica, Curú Wildlife Refuge which is an exemplary site in terms of ecotourism as well as a research centre for scientists from all over the world. After a short Zodiac® trip, you will discover, via the paths that criss-cross the tropical forest and lead to magnificent beaches, the most emblematic species of Costa Rica: monkeys, iguanas and over 200 bird species. Since their recent reintroduction, the scarlet macaw and the spider monkey have thrived in this preserved environment.

8 Tortuga Island & Puerto Caldera

As your expedition cruise comes to an end, on your final day enjoy the wonderful Puerto Caldera on the Pacific coast, in the Puntarenas region. Head inland to explore the natural wonders in the lush rainforest of the Costa Rica’s national parks, Poas and Arena volcanoes tower up in all their majestic glory. In this luxuriant natural setting, Costa Rica protects one of the planet’s richest biodiversity: monkeys, sloths, tropical birds, iguanas, crocodiles, waterfalls, canyons, and more than ten thousand species of tropical plants. Enjoy at your leisure before making your way home.

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