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Navigating Costa Rica: Arenal Volcano and the Pacific Coast

Program Number: 19524RJ
Start and End Dates:
12/7/2012 - 12/17/2012;
Duration: 10 nights
Location: Costa Rica/Panama
Price starting at: $3,195.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Adventure Afloat Study Cruise; Small Ship Cruising
Meals: 28; 10 Breakfasts, 9 Lunches, 9 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Low Fat; Low Salt    

Board an authentic tall ship to sail up Panama's Pacific Coast on your way to Costa Rica, where the natural forces of jungle and ocean meet. Find yourself in the midst of amazing (and fiercely protected) biodiversity on naturalist-led walks, snorkel among tropical fish and learn about rainforest research at a working field station.

Activity Particulars

Up to five hours of physical activities per day including hiking on uneven terrain, swimming and snorkeling.

Please note that the December 2012 departure differs slightly from other departures, beginning in Panama rather than Costa Rica.

Itinerary At-a-Glance

Panama City (Panama), 2 nights; aboard Star Flyer, 7 nights; San José (Costa Rica), 1 night.

Days 1-2: Arrival Panama City (Panama):

Gain an introduction to Panama during visits to the Metropolitan Nature Park and the Panama Canal's Miraflores Locks. Lodging: Comfortable hotel overlooking the Panama Canal and the Bridge of the Americas.

Day 3: Coach to Balboa/Embark Star Flyer:

Delve into the history and architecture of Casco Viejo, Panama City's historic colonial center and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, during a guided walk. Travel to Balboa and board the Star Flyer.

Day 4: Isla Iguana (Panama):

Delight in the white sandy beaches and clear waters of Isla Iguana, a national wildlife reserve situated just a few miles off Panama's Azuero Peninsula.

Day 5: Isla Gamez:

Explore Isla Gamez and the stunning marine environment of Chiriqui Marine National Park.

Day 6: Golfito (Costa Rica):

Meet the scientists who work at the Tropenstation, an Austrian field station in the valley of La Gamba.

Day 7: Drake Bay/Corcovado National Park:

Hike through a reserve dubbed “The Amazon of Costa Rica” due to its great biological diversity.

Day 8: Quepos/Manuel Antonio:

Manuel Antonio National Park, look for residents including the Crab-eating Raccoon, Green Iguana, White-headed Capuchin Monkey and the endangered Central American Squirrel Monkey (or Titi Monkey).

Day 9: Curu Wildlife Reserve / Isla Tortuga:

Look for some of the 234 native bird species on a nature walk in the Curu Wildlife Reserve. Snorkel in the crystal clear waters of Isla Tortuga.

Days 10-11: Puerto Caldera / Disembark / Departure

Board a small boat on the Tárcoles River to observe some of the world’s largest crocodiles up close.

Star Flyer

This authentic, traditionally rigged tall ship is 360 feet long and can carry 170 passengers in comfort. It offers all the amenities of a modern cruise ship and boasts expansive teak decks, two swimming pools, an elegant dining room, piano bar and library.

Meals and Lodgings
   Hotel Amador Country Inn & Suites
  Panama City, Panama 2 nights
   Star Flyer
  At Sea, Costa Rica 7 nights
   Ramada Plaza Herradura
  San José, Costa Rica 1 night
 Hotel Amador Country Inn & Suites
Type: Hotel
  Description: Modern hotel located at Fort Amador, on the boardwalk overlooking the entrance to the Panama Canal and the Bridge of the Americas.
  Ship Information: Not applicable.
  Contact info: Amador Avenue & Pelicano Avenue
Panama City,  00000 Panama
phone: +507-2114500
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, balcony, cable TV, coffee maker, microwave oven, and data ports for Internet/fax.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, pool, jacuzzi, laundry services, health club, spa services, tennis courts, meeting rooms, and tour desk.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Prices subject to change. Additional nights subject to hotel availability. Prices may fluctuate.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM

 Star Flyer
Type: Cruise Ship
  Description: The décor of Star Clipper and Star Flyer is reminiscent of the grand age of sail. Antique prints and paintings of famous sailing ships please the eye, while teak and gleaming mahogany rails are richly reminiscent of Star Clippers’ proud nautical heritage.
  Ship Information: This authentic, traditionally rigged, tall ship is 360 feet long and can carry 170 passengers in comfort. It offers all the amenities of a modern cruise ship and boasts expansive teak decks, two swimming pools, an elegant dining room, piano bar, and library.
  Contact info: USA office: 760 NW 107th Avenue, Suite 100
Miami, FL 33172 USA
phone: 305-442-0550
  Room amenities: Porthole or window, carpeted floors, temperature control, closet, direct-dial phone, and TV.
  Facility amenities: Indoor-outdoor Tropical Bar and Piano Bar, dining room, Edwardian-style library, laundry services (addional cost), and the Sloop Shop
  Smoking allowed: No

 Ramada Plaza Herradura
Type: Resort
  Description: The Ramada Plaza Herradura is 4-star resort nestled in the heart of Costa Rica's Central Valley, only 5 miles from the Juan Santamaria International Airport and a short drive from downtown San José. Beautiful mountain views, lush tropical gardens, and modern amenities provide an atmosphere of tranquility and comfort.
  Contact info: General Cañas Highway
5 km. south from International Airport
San José,   Costa Rica
phone: +506-22099800
  Room amenities: Private bath, air conditioning, satellite TV, direct-dial telephone, room service, and high speed Internet access.
  Facility amenities: Outdoor pools, jacuzzis, restaurants, bar & lounge, casino, fitness center, gift shop, convention center, business center, meeting rooms, spa services, laundry services, money exchange, and beauty salon.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: Prices subject to availability Additional nights are subject to hotel availability. Please contact the program coordinator, Holbrook Travel, at 1-800-866-7111 or for information on availability and prices.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
All-day arrivals into the Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in Panama City, Panama. Hotel check-in starts at 3 p.m. You will be staying at Hotel Amador Country Inn & Suites that night.
  End of Program:
Departures from the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San José, Costa Rica. Hotel check-out by 11 a.m. You will be staying at Ramada Plaza Herradura the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Not applicable.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Panama City
  Transportation to site: Taxi services are available at the Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. For more information about the airport and transportation services, please consult the airport's official website:
  From End of Program
  Location:  San José
  Nearest city or town:  San Jose
  Nearest airport:  Juan Santa Maria International Airport
  Transportation from site: The Ramada Plaza Herradura in San Jose, Costa Rica offers a complimentary airport shuttle service from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Please check at the hotel's front desk about scheduling this service. Taxi services are also available at the hotel. Please ask hotel staff for assistance.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Arrivals in Panama City, Panama.
(Friday, December 7)
 Arrive To: Arrivals in Panama City, Panama.

Proceed through Immigrations, Baggage Claim and Customs before exiting the secured area of the airport. The Road Scholar representative will be waiting outside the exit door with a Road Scholar sign.

Transfer to hotel and check-in.

Note: This is an international travel day. No meals or program activities are scheduled for this day. Hotel check-in starts at 3 p,m.
Accommodations: Hotel Amador Country Inn & Suites

Day 2: Panama City, Panama -
Program Orientation/Metropolitan Park/Miraflores Locks/Panama Canal Interpretive Museum.

(Saturday, December 8)
 Breakfast: At hotel restaurant.
 Morning: Orientation to the program.

Field trip to the Metropolitan National Park.

The Metropolitan National Park's approximately 232 hectares of Pacific dry forest were declared a national park in 1985. Nicknamed the "lung of Panama City," the park is part of an important biological corridor that links the eastern shore of the Panama Canal with Las Cruces Trail and the Soberania National Park. In addition to safeguarding local wildlife, the corridor and nearby protected areas also help to maintain the rivers and forests that supply the Panama Canal with enough water to function.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Field trip to the Miraflores Locks to view ships passing through the first series of locks in the Panama Canal.

Visit the interpretive museum at Miraflores.

The fifty-mile long Panama Canal changed the course of world commerce and travel when it began operating in 1914. Three sets of mechanical locks (Gatun, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores) raise and lower ships between sea level and lake level, guiding them to and from the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans. An elite group of over 250 pilots help maneuver vessels through the locks, using electric locomotives known as mules.
 Dinner: Enjoy dinner and a folkloric show at a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Hotel Amador Country Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Panama City, Panama -
Historic Casco Viejo/Embark on the Star Flyer.

(Sunday, December 9)
 Breakfast: At hotel restaurant.
 Morning: Field trip to Casco Viejo and site lecture.

Panama City's old historic quarter (a.k.a. Casco Antiguo) dates back to the 1670s, when the destruction of Panama Viejo made relocation a necessity. Casco Viejo's parks and narrow streets are lined with colorful buildings representative of Spanish, French and early American architectural styles. This eclectic collection of architectural styles reflects the city's role as an international trade center and cultural melting pot that began well before the building of the Canal. Some of Casco Viejo's must-see sites include the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Municipal Palace, the National Theater, the Panama Canal Museum (originally the Grand Hotel), the French Embassy, and France Plaza.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Transfer to the port and board the Star Flyer.

Set sail.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Star Flyer
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Isla Iguana, Panama -
Beach Activities.

(Monday, December 10)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Time at leisure to enjoy on board amenities.
 Lunch: On board the ship.
 Afternoon: Wet landing at Isla Iguana. Enjoy some beach time and watersports.

Isla Iguana is located a few miles off Panama's Azuero Peninsula. The small Pacific island and the 98 acres of surrounding coral reefs are part of a national wildlife refuge. White sand beaches, mangroves, dunes, coral reefs, and pristine waters provide food and/or shelter to more than 62 species of birds, over 347 species of fish, 16 species of coral, and more than 6 species of terrestrial reptiles. From June to October the waters around the island are visited by Humpback Whales.

Return to the Star Flyer and freshen-up before dinner.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Star Flyer
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Isla Gamez, Panama -
Excursion to Isla Gamez.

(Tuesday, December 11)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Enjoy a morning at your leisure.
 Lunch: On board the ship.
 Afternoon: Wetlanding on the beach.
Excursion to Isla Gamez, within the Chiriqui National Marine Park.

The uninhabited islands of Chiriqui's Gulf National Marine Park boast up to 36,000 acres of extensive coral reef, mangrove swamps and marine meadows. This protected area serves as a refuge for leatherback and hawksbill turtles, tiger-herons, large pelagic fish like white-tipped sharks, howler monkeys and scores of colorful exotic fish.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Star Flyer
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Golfito, Costa Rica -
Field trip to La Gamba Biological Station and La Gamba Community.

(Wednesday, December 12)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Dry landing at Golfito.
Disembark and transfer by bus to Piedras Blancas National Park.

Field trip to La Gamba Biological Station. After enjoying some refreshments, participants will take part in a guided, one-hour jungle hike. This hike will be followed by a tour of the field station and gardens.

La Gamba Biological Station is an Austrian tropical field station located on the edges of Piedras Blancas National Park in Costa Rica. The station is comprised of a botanical garden and several buildings which are used by students and scientists to conduct research projects and provide courses in tropical biology. This facility promotes conservation of the Esquinas Forest, one of the last preserved Pacific lowland rainforests in Central America.
 Lunch: At local lodge or at the field station.
 Afternoon: Field trip to La Gamba community to meet with locals and learn about sustainable service projects in the area.

Return to the ship.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Star Flyer
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Drake's Bay, Costa Rica -
Exploring Corcovado National Park.

(Thursday, December 13)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Board zodiacs for a short ride to Drake Bay and a wet landing.

Just a 20 minute ride by boat from Drake Bay; explore the immense biodiversity of one of Costa Rica's crown jewels, Corcovado National Park. Upon arrival at the beach continue to the Ranger Station via a wet landing. Then hike approximately 3 hours through the primary and secondary forest, to experience the rainforest wildlife and flora. The rich biological diversity of the Corcovado National Park is astounding, and sightings may include as many as 4 types of monkeys, as well as coatis, sloths, anteaters, and much more. Bird lovers will be enchanted by a wide variety of birds, including tanagers, flycatchers, kingfishers, manakins, trogons, crested guans, and spectacular scarlet macaws and toucans.
 Lunch: On board the ship.
 Afternoon: Sailing around Cano Island.

Cano Island is located less than 15 miles offshore from Drake's Bay in the Osa Peninsula. Despite its tropical beauty and attractive vistas, Cano Island's true biological diversity is not found on its land, but in its rich underwater environment.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Star Flyer
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Quepos, Costa Rica -
Manuel Antonio National Park.

(Friday, December 14)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Cruising along Costa Rica's Pacific coastline on your way to Quepos.

Time at leisure to enjoy ship amenities.
 Lunch: On board the ship.
 Afternoon: Arrive in Quepos and disembark (dry landing) for a field trip to Manuel Antonio National Park.

Manuel Antonio National Park is probably the most popular destination for travelers to Costa Rica and is a must on anyone?s itinerary. From sloths to monkeys, the park encompasses an amazing range of biodiversity. Despite the park's fairly small size (about 1,700 acres) visitors can enter in a rainforest and walk straight to a white sand beach. Some of the park's more notable residents include the Crab-eating Raccoon, Green Iguana, White-headed Capuchin and the endangered Squirrel Monkey (also known as the Titi Monkey).
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Star Flyer
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica -
Curu National Wildlife Refuge/Tortuga Island.

(Saturday, December 15)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Sail across the Bay of Nicoya to Tortuga Island, with a wet landing, for a morning of beach activities. Participate in water sports, walk on a short island trail, and relax on the beach.

Despite its misleading name, Tortuga Island is actually composed of two uninhabited islands. Postcard-perfect white sand beaches and clear waters make this a perfect tropical spot for snorkeling and swimming. The islands are located in the Gulf of Nicoya, across from the Curu National Wildlife Refuge and just a few miles southwest of the Negritos Islands.

Return to the ship.
 Lunch: On board the ship.
 Afternoon: Wet landing at the Curu National Wildlife Refuge in preparation for a nature walk and beach activities.

In 1983 this large property was designated a Private National Wildlife Reserve in order to preserve the natural habitat along the fringes of one of the most beautiful beaches in the Nicoya Peninsula. The refuge is a haven for tropical and migratory birds, and two species of monkeys. The five different species of mangroves found in Costa Rica are represented in the inlets that are washed by the gulf waters.

Return to the ship.
 Dinner: On board the ship.
Accommodations: Star Flyer
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: San Jose, Costa Rica
Disembark Star Flyer/Tarcoles River Crocodile Safari/Farewell Dinner.

(Sunday, December 16)
 Breakfast: On board the ship.
 Morning: Say farewell to the Star Flyer and board a bus to Tárcoles. Embark on a Crocodile Safari on the Tárcoles River.

This boat adventure on the Tarcoles River takes visitors past mangrove forests and the Carara National Park--a good place to spot Scarlet Macaws. However, the highlight of this river safari is having the opportunity to observe the large population of crocodiles that call this area home. Some of these prehistoric-looking reptiles have been found to reach lengths in excess of fifteen-feet!

After your river adventure, board a bus to San José.
 Lunch: En route to San José.
 Afternoon: Arrive in San Jose and check-in at your hotel.

The rest of your afternoon will be free of activities. Relax and enjoy the hotel amenities, finish packing, or take the opportunity to explore San Jose on your own.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Ramada Plaza Herradura
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Depart for the U.S. -
Transfer to the Airport.

(Monday, December 17)
 Breakfast: Light snack or breakfast at hotel (dependent on flight times).
 Morning: Transfer to the international airport to check-in for the return flight to the U.S.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

A Brief History of Central America

Author: Hector Perez-Brignoll

Description: A good overview of the region’s economic, political and social history through the 1980s by a professor at the University of Costa Rica. Well-written, informative and concise.

Costa Rica's National Parks and Preserves: A Visitor's Guide

Author: Joseph Franke and Joseph Dimijian

Description: A first-rate source for the Costa Rican park system. Profiles 40 parks and preserves and their distinct tropical habitats. Franke provides regional history as well as tips on what to pack.

Costa Rica, Enchantment of the World

Author: Marion Morrison

Description: Published for the library market, this comprehensive overview of the geography and people of Costa Rica for children ages 9-12 has much to offer the traveler, including illustrated descriptions of the nature, history, religion and economy of the country.

Culture Smart! Costa Rica

Author: Jane Koutnik

Description: A guide to local customs, etiquette and culture.

Culture Smart! Panama

Author: Heloise Crowther

Description: This practical guide to local customs, etiquette and culture is concise and well-illustrated.

Emperors in the Jungle: The Hidden History of the United States in Panama

Author: John Lindsay-Poland

Description: This wide-ranging history examines the actions and impact of the United States in Panama, from the early nineteenth century to the present.

How Wall Street Created a Nation, J.P. Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Panama Canal.

Author: Ovidio Diaz Espino

Description: This book offers a view of the Panama Canal and the formation of Panama from a Latin American perspective. Mr. Espino details all nature of scandals, corruption, and conspiracies behind Panama's fight for independence and the construction of the Panama Canal. Although the accuracy of certain historical accounts has been called into question, this book is likely to force readers to ask themselves interesting questions and maybe prompt further research.

Lonely Planet Costa Rica Country Guide

Author: Lonely Planet

Description: Regional maps, detailed site information and general tips will be useful to travelers of all budgets and interests.

Lonely Planet Costa Rican Spanish

Author: Lonely Planet

Description: A pocket guide to understanding idioms, slang and Spanish as it is spoken by the Ticos.

Lonely Planet Panama

Author: Lonely Planet

Description: Written in the tradition of Lonely Planet travel guides. This book is a good general resource and provides accounts of the Panamanian history and local culture and also detailed descriptions of sites of interest.

Mammals of Costa Rica

Author: Fiona Reid

Description: A palm-sized guide to 65 native mammals with handsome full-color illustrations and helpful descriptions. Includes a map, viewing tips and a checklist.

Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide

Author: Louise H. Emmons & François Feer

Description: This beautifully illustrated field guide contains all you need to know about rainforest mammals in Central and South America. It has color plates, range maps and detailed descriptions of each animal, including information about their biology, behavior and natural habitats.

Panama Map

Author: ITMB

Description: A full-color, double-sided map of Panama for the traveler at the detailed scale of 1:480,000.

The Path Between the Seas, The Creation of the Panama Canal: 1870-1914

Author: David McCullough

Description: Admirably told in vivid, page-turning detail. McCullough reveals the full scope of the Panama Canal, its characters, technical difficulties and Byzantine politics.

The Penguin History of Latin America

Author: Edwin Williamson

Description: Williamson traces 500 years of history from the time of Columbus and the Spanish Conquest to the present day. An excellent and very readable history in a compact size.

The Ticos

Author: Richard Biesanz

Description: This insightful, fact-filled portrait of the Costa Rican people accessibly explores their culture, history and society.

The Wildlife of Costa Rica, A Field Guide

Author: Fiona Reid, Twan Leenders, Jim Zook, Robert Dean

Description: Designed to take along on a walk in the forest, this latest compact Zona Tropical guide includes 450 of the most common, interesting and charismatic mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and arthropods that you are likely to encounter in the field. Each gets an exquisite full color illustration.

Tropical Nature

Author: Adrian Forsyth, Ken Miyata

Description: A lively, lucid portrait of the tropics as seen by two uncommonly observant and thoughtful field biologists. Its 17 marvelous essays introduce the habitats, ecology, plants and animals of the Central and South American rainforest

Tropical Plants of Costa Rica

Author: Willow Zuchowski

Description: Organized by habitat, this photo guide to 400 species has chapters on popular destinations, including Monteverde and Tortuguero.

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