20186
Costa Rica/Panama
Costa Rica and Panama: Rainforest to Canal
Discover the natural and man-made wonders of Panama and Costa Rica, from the Panama Canal to colonial architecture, from rainforest ecology to howler monkeys, toucans and sloths.
Rating (5)
Program No. 20186RJ
Length
13 days
Starts at
3,799
Flights start at
150
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13 days
12 nights
34 meals
12 B 11 L 11 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
Arrivals in San José, Check-in, Dinner on Own
San José
Hotel Balmoral

Activity note: Please note that this is an international travel day; no meals or program activities are scheduled on this day. Hotel check-in usually begins at 3 p.m.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
2
Orientation, La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Transfer to Arenal
Arenal
B,L,D
Arenal Paraiso Hotel Resort & Spa

Activity note: The drive to Arenal is approximately 87 miles; about 3.5 hours by bus.

Breakfast: At the hotel plus coffee, tea, water, juice.

Morning: 8:00 a.m. Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. Meals on our program feature local cuisine. In many cases, they will be plated and served set meals; in others, we will have buffets with multiple options. Beverages include coffee, tea, water; other beverages are usually available for purchase. Unless otherwise specified, transportation during your program will be provided by air conditioned bus. Free time is reserved for your personal independent exploration. Please note that program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. At the hotel, we’ll have a presentation by a local expert to provide an overview of Costa Rica. Next, we'll check out and depart for Arenal. En route, we will enjoy a walking field trip at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Our Group Leader will introduce us to some of Costa Rica's iconic plants and wildlife as we walk through park exhibits and gardens. La Paz Waterfall Gardens is an ecological park located near the Poás Volcano, in a verdant, misty area where cloud and rain forests meet. The park has five beautiful waterfalls that can be admired from various angles through a network of stairways and viewing platforms. Other attractions include a serpentarium, hummingbird garden, frog exhibit, walking trails, and one of the largest butterfly observatories in the world.

Lunch: At La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Buffet meal plus coffee, juice, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Continue with the transfer to Arenal. Mid-afternoon arrival at the hotel, followed by free time. Arenal was once Costa Rica's most active volcano and a main draw to the town of La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano National Park. The volcano lords over the countryside with its perfectly conical shape and occasional smoke and gas emissions. While minor activity excites visitors, they are rarely acknowledged by the locals who have learnt to accept the antics of the volcano as part of their daily lives. The thermal waters emanating from the volcano, the clean air and the energy associated with Arenal, makes this a favorite destination for health spa enthusiasts and nature lovers. Recharge your batteries with a leisurely walk on hotel grounds, a refreshing dip in the swimming pool or take the opportunity to catch some z’s before rejoining the group for dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel plus coffee and water. Other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
3
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges, Life at a Local Farm
Arenal
B,L,D
Arenal Paraiso Hotel Resort & Spa

Activity note: Closed-toe/closed-heel shoes are required for walks on forest trails.

Breakfast: At the hotel plus coffee, tea, water, juice.

Morning: We'll board a bus and drive to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges for a morning of walking explorations in the reserve. The Group Leader will introduce us to local flora and fauna we encounter along the trails. Arenal Hanging Bridges is a private nature reserve in La Fortuna de San Carlos. The site features a network of standing bridges, hanging bridges, and trails that crisscross 250 hectares of tropical rainforest. The park’s mission is to provide natural history education in a responsible and sustainable way. Visitors are able to view the rainforest from different angles and heights, from ground level to canopy level, learning firsthand about this fascinating and biologically diverse environment. Transfer to a local farm for a chance to learn about life in rural Costa Rica.

Lunch: Typical Costa Rican fare at a local farm.

Afternoon: We'll accompany a farm representative on a walking exploration of the property to learn about the farm’s history and gain insights into agricultural practices in this fertile region. The small and painteresque town of Fortuna has changed quite a bit from the village that witnessed Arenal Volcano's destructive power in 1968. Although tourism has surpassed agriculture as the main source of revenue to this town, many plantations in the surrounding areas still produce important amounts of papaya, sugar cane, tapioca and ornamental plants. Return to the hotel, followed by free time to enjoy the thermal pools or other hotel amenities.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
4
Monteverde Coffee Plantation, Local Conservation
Monteverde
B,L,D
Hotel Montaña Monteverde

Activity note: The boat ride across Arenal Lake is about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Bus transfer to Monteverde is about 21 miles, approximately 1.5 – 2 hours; en route stops for lunch and field trip. The Road Scholar bus will travel separately with our luggage. Please pack any items you will need for this day in your daypack, since we won’t have access to our luggage until late afternoon at Monteverde.

Breakfast: At the hotel plus coffee, tea, water, juice.

Morning: After check out procedures we'll drive to a local dock to board a covered boat that will transport us across Lake Arenal. After disembarking, we'll board a bus and continue our journey to Monteverde. Once at Monteverde, we'll stop at a local coffee plantation in time for lunch.

Lunch: At the coffee plantation.

Afternoon: During our coffee farm field trip, we’ll learn about the harvesting and processing of coffee as well as the history of this crop from its beginning in the Arabic countries and Ethiopia. We’ll also gain insights into the importance of the golden bean — grano de oro — and its impact on Costa Rica’s social, cultural, and economic development. Arriving at the hotel, we’ll check-in with some time to freshen up and relax. We’ll regroup for a presentation by a local expert on conservation and development of the Monteverde Area.

Dinner: At the hotel plus coffee, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
5
Cloud Forest Reserve, Bat Jungle, The Quakers of Costa Rica
Monteverde
B,L,D
Hotel Montaña Monteverde

Activity note: Closed-toe/closed-heel shoes are required for walks on forest trails.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After a short bus ride, we'll accompany our Group Leader on a walking exploration of a cloud forest reserve at Monteverde, pointing out sites of interest along the way. During our walk we'll learn more about this special habitat and the unique plants and animals that live in it. The edges of this rich forest system, often cloaked in clouds and blowing mist, are home to more than 350 avian species and a myriad of other creatures and critters. The Monteverde area is perhaps most famous for breeding Resplendent Quetzals, Three-wattled Bellbird, and Bare-necked Umbrellabird. While these charismatic species can be elusive, a host of other cloud forest birds and amphibians are found in the area.

Lunch: At a local restaurant plus coffee, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Next, we'll drive to the Bat Jungle where we'll have the opportunity to view live bats as we learn about their biology. The Bat Jungle is an educational space designed and managed by respected U.S. bat biologist Dr. Richard LaVal. Informative displays help to explain about bat biology, bat diversity, and their crucial role in nature as pollinators. The Bat Jungle also has more than 90 bats, representing 8 different species, housed in a recreated nighttime cloud forest environment. Glass windows give visitors the rare opportunity to look inside the forest enclosure and observe bats feeding, flying, and socializing. Special microphones capture the high pitched bat vocalizations and broadcast them through loudspeakers in the bat viewing area. Return to the hotel to change and freshen-up. Pre-dinner presentation on the Quakers of Monteverde.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
6
Monteverde Butterfly Garden, Tárcoles River Boat Ride
Punta Leona
B,L,D
Hotel Punta Leona

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll board our bus and drive to the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens and Arthropod Education Center. As we accompany a resident naturalist on a walking exploration of the gardens, we will view insects and learn about their life cycles and the roles they play in nature. Since opening its doors in 1989, Monteverde Butterfly Gardens has made it its mission to help educate people about butterflies and other insects, as well as arachnids. The nature center houses more than 20 species of insects and arachnids as well as 30 different species of butterflies in 4 separate habitats. Butterflies are fragile creatures and require extreme care as they develop and grow. Every species feeds on a different variety of plants. Unlike most butterfly gardens, which buy their butterflies as chrysalides, all the butterflies you will see here were bred and raised on the premises. Next, we'll transfer to Punta Leona on the Pacific coast.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: Before we reach our hotel, we'll stop for a crocodile safari boat ride on the Tarcoles River. As we navigate up the river, a local expert will provide background information on the resident crocodiles. The Tárcoles River Basin is one of the most important in the Pacific coastal region, virtually draining the entire western side of the Central Valley. Tárcoles hosts an amazing diversity of wildlife along its banks and in the extensive mangrove ecosystem. Perhaps the most famous of all the river's inhabitants are its enormous crocodiles. These crocodiles have been studied by numerous local and foreign specialists and featured in TV specials, including several episodes of Dr. Brady Barr's "Reptile Wild" series through National Geographic. After arriving at Punta Leona, we'll check in and settle into our rooms. Before dinner, learn about the endangered Scarlet Macaw during a presentation at the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel plus coffee, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
7
Sea Kayaking, Free Time at the Beach
Punta Leona
B,L,D
Hotel Punta Leona

Activity note: Bathing suit, water shoes, sunscreen and a hat are suggested for kayaking activity. Prepare luggage for hotel check out tomorrow.

Breakfast: At the hotel plus coffee, tea, water, juice.

Morning: Sea kayaking from the mouth of the Agujas River to Limones Beach. Opportunity for swimming. Return to the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel plus coffee, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Free time to relax at the beach, hang out with friends, or maybe take a walk on hotel trails.

Dinner: At the hotel, we'll enjoy a farewell dinner. As the first half of our Road Scholar comes to an end, we'll celebrate the memories and friendships we've made in Costa Rica.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
8
Transfer to San Jose, Fly to Panama City
Panama City
B,L,D
Country Inn & Suites by Carlson - Panama Canal

Activity note: Hotel check out. The drive from Punta Leona to San José is approximately 49 miles; about 2 hours by bus. San José to Panama City flight takes approximately 1.5 hours. There will be a Road Scholar notice board in the hotel lobby (Panama City) with daily schedule information, including the location of our Orientation session.

Breakfast: At the hotel plus coffee, tea, water, juice.

Morning: Check out. We'll transfer by bus to the airport in San José in order to check in for our short flight to Panama City, Panama.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: Fly to Panama. Upon arrival in Panama it will be necessary to proceed through Immigration, Baggage Claim and Customs before exiting the secured area of the airport. Your Panamanian group leader will be waiting outside the exit door, holding up a Road Scholar sign. Our bus will take us to the hotel for check-in. After settling into our rooms, the Group Leader will offer a brief orientation to our program in Panama, followed by an expert presentation on the Panama Canal--it's past, present and future.

Dinner: At the hotel plus coffee, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Casco Viejo, Canal History, Biomuseo, Miraflores Locks
Panama City
B,L,D
Country Inn & Suites by Carlson - Panama Canal

Breakfast: At the hotel plus coffee, tea, water, juice.

Morning: Our bus will take us to Casco Viejo, the historic colonial center of the city of Panama, in preparation for a walking exploration led by our Group Leader. This activity will introduce us to Panama’s fascinating history, architecture, and vibrant culture. Panama City's old historic quarter (a.k.a. Casco Viejo or 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.

Lunch: At a local restaurant plus coffee, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Next, we'll ride to the Biomuseo and Miraflores Locks Museum to learn about Panama's natural treasures, plus the history and engineering behind the building of the Panama Canal. The Group Leader will offer expert commentary while guiding us through the exhibits. Panama City’s Biomuseo (aka Biodiversity Museum) is situated on the scenic Amador Causeway—a man-made breakwater found at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. The colorful, eye catching architecture of the museum is the creation of internationally acclaimed architect Frank Gehry. In addition to 8 permanent exhibition galleries, the museum also features a public atrium, temporary exhibits, and a botanical park with outdoor displays. Interactive and multi-media exhibits explain the science behind the formation of the Isthmus of Panama and its crucial role in facilitating biodiversity throughout the Americas. The Miraflores Locks Museum, part of the Miraflores Canal Visitor Center, houses informative exhibits and captivating interactive displays. The open air terrace often steals the show as visitors get to enjoy close-up views of ships going through the locks.

Dinner: At a restaurant in Miraflores, with views of passing ships in the Canal.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
10
Partial Canal Transit, Disembark in Gamboa
Colon
B,L,D
Melia Panama Canal

Activity note: Early morning departure from the hotel to the Panama City dock. The partial transit through the Panama Canal is expected to last approximately 4.5 hours. We'll embark at Panama City and disembark at Gamboa. During the cruise, we'll experience and see the Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gamboa Locks in action and will also sail through the infamous Culebra/Gaillard Cut. Since this cruise is not a private charter, our group will be sharing space on the vessel with non-Road Scholar passengers.

Breakfast: On the boat that will transit the Panama Canal.

Morning: We'll have an early departure from our hotel and drive to the Panama City dock. Upon boarding our vessel, we'll enjoy breakfast and begin a partial transit through the Panama Canal. Our journey will begin in Panama City and end at Gamboa. The transit will leave through the Pacific entrance of the Canal, just outside Flamenco Island. A Panama Canal Commission Pilot will guide us during the transit as we follow our companion vessel through the Miraflores locks (by Canal standards, we are a small vessel, so we rarely transit the locks alone). The transit will take us through Miraflores Lake and Locks, Pedro Miguel Locks and Gailard/Culebra Cut, before disembarking at Gamboa. Throughout the transit there are usually opportunities to see dolphins, birds, monkeys and crocodiles.

Lunch: On board the boat.

Afternoon: After disembarking at Gamboa, we'll transfer by bus to Colon. Colon was originally an island, separated from the mainland until 1852 when the U.S. began building a railroad across the isthmus. Contemporary Colon is known for its status as a Zona Libre, a free trade zone. Next to Hong Kong, Colon is the largest free-trade zone and marks the northern terminus of the Panama Canal. Hotel check in and settle into our rooms.

Dinner: At the hotel plus coffee, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
The Embera People of Panama
Colon
B,L,D
Melia Panama Canal

Activity note: From the hotel to Salamanca town is about 33 miles, approximately 1 hour; dugout canoe ride from Salamanca to the Embera Village takes about 1 hour. The canoes don't have a top to provide shade. Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, lightweight clothing, insect repellent, and water bottle suggested.

Breakfast: At the hotel plus coffee, tea, water, juice.

Morning: We'll travel by bus and dugout canoe to a local Embera village for a full day of activities. Upon reaching the community, the village chief will provide a brief history of the tribe, its traditions, culture and handicrafts.

Lunch: Traditional lunch of fish and plantains prepared by the Embera women.

Afternoon: In the afternoon we'll experience a traditional Embera dance and have the opportunity to view local handicrafts or walk around the village. The sale of local products directly benefits the village and helps to pay the school fees for the children. Do you wish to play a joke on friends and family back home? Get a temporary Embera tattoo painted on your arm or leg (it usually lasts between 1-2 weeks)! The Embera utilize extracts from the jagua fruit (Genipa americana) to make the black ink. Villagers of all ages adorn their bodies--sometimes from head to toe--with interesting geometric designs. Return to the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
12
Fort San Lorenzo, New Lock System, Panama Canal Railway
Panama City
B,L,D
Country Inn & Suites by Carlson - Panama Canal

Activity note: Hotel check-out. From the hotel to Fort San Lorenzo is about 20 miles; approximately 1 hour by bus. Train ride from Colon to Panama City is 47.5 miles and takes about 1 hour. Prepare luggage for check out tomorrow.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Check-out of the hotel. After boarding our bus, we'll travel to Fort San Lorenzo--constructed in the 1500s during the reign of the Spanish King, Phillip the II. As we walk through the ruins, our Group Leader will point out sites of interest and discuss the importance of Fort San Lorenzo during the early years of the Panama Canal. This Spanish fort was once a primary defense against English pirates. While the fort successfully thwarted some (look for a captured British cannon on the fort’s grounds), it is perhaps best known for its failure to stop the infamous pirate, Henry Morgan. In 1672 Morgan defeated the forces at San Lorenzo, sailed up the Chagres River and led his men to Panama where they sacked, looted, and burned the city. By the time they completed their raid, Morgan safely escaped with massive quantities of gold and other treasures.

Lunch: At a local restaurant plus coffee, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After lunch, we'll stop at a viewing point to see the new locks constructed on the Panama Canal's Caribbean side; part of the expansion project meant to accommodate larger and wider, post-Panamax ships. We'll gain insight into the project and, if lucky, we might get to view the new locks in action. Next, the bus will drop us off at the Atlantic Passenger Station and we'll board the train back to Panama City. The historic Panama Railroad paved the way for the construction of a transoceanic canal. It also became the main method for transporting equipment, supplies, and workers for the Panama Canal project. Construction of the railroad began in 1850; the ambitious project cost a total of $7,407,535.00. and took five years to complete. After disembarking at the Panama City station, we'll board a bus to the hotel and check in.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: Return to the hotel and time at leisure. Finish your packing and get a good night’s sleep in preparation for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
13
Program Concludes
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check out by 11:00 a.m. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers and refer to your personal air itinerary for specific flight information. Participants with independent travel arrangements and/or scheduled on later flights can keep their hotel rooms until check-out time on this day. Except for breakfast, all other meals are on your own on this day.

Breakfast: At the hotel (dependent on flight times).

Morning: Transfer to the international airport for flights home. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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