20616
Costa Rica
Birding in Southern Costa Rica: Motmots to Quetzals
Go where the birds are, not where the birders are, as you spot Scarlet Macaws at Carara, the Resplendent Quetzal in San Gerardo de Dota, Motmots in San Vito and much more.
Program No. 20616RJ
Length
11 days
Starts at
2,260
Flights start at
455
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11 days
10 nights
26 meals
10 B 9 L 7 D
Getting There
See travel details and required documents
DAY
1
In Transit to Program
Panama City
Country Inn & Suites by Carlson - Panama Canal

Activity note: Hotel check in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: After arrival and check in at the hotel, freshen up and relax. Please note that as this is an international travel day, nothing else is scheduled.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
2
Biodiversity Museum, History of Panama City, Casco Viejo
Panama City
B,L,D
Country Inn & Suites by Carlson - Panama Canal

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles, approximately 1 hour, with stops at several sites.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Orientation: There will be Road Scholar notice board in the hotel lobby with daily schedule information, including the location of our Orientation session. 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. We will have a snorkeling field trip one afternoon. Equipment will be available but participants may prefer to bring their own for the best fit and comfort. 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. We’ll be joined by a local expert for an introductory presentation and overview of Panama. We’ll then depart by motorcoach for an expert led field trip to Biomuseo — Panama City’s Biodiversity Museum. The strikingly colorful building was designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. It represents the saga of the Isthmus of Panama that united two continents and changed the world’s biodiversity when the Atlantic and Pacific oceans were connected. Inside, eight permanent exhibits tell the story in graphic detail.

Lunch: At a local restaurant featuring authentic Panamanian cuisine.

Afternoon: Next, we will visit Casco Viejo, the historic colonial center of the city of Panama. We will also visit the Panama Canal Administration building, with its historic murals adorning the inner rotunda, and Balboa High School, the former public high school of the Canal Zone located nearby. During a walking field trip, we will learn about Panama’s fascinating history, architecture, and vibrant culture. The 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. 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.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure. Take some time to stroll the hotel grounds along the canal.

DAY
3
Emberá Indigenous Village, Colon
Colon
B,L,D
Melia Panama Canal

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles, approximately 1.5 hours; stepping into/out of small boats.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we will board a motorcoach and begin our transfer north towards Lake Alajuela. En route, we will have commentary about indigenous cultures and their history in Panama. Arriving at the lake, we will step into small boats that will carry us up the Rio Chagres through fascinating, dense jungle until we reach the Emberá Indigenous Village. The Emberá are one of seven indigenous tribes in Panama. The people of the tribe will welcome us at the shore the village’s chief will talk about the history of the tribe, its traditions, cultures, beliefs, and handicrafts.

Lunch: In the village, we will have a traditional lunch of fish and plantains prepared by the Emberá women.

Afternoon: As a special highlight, we will observe a traditional Emberá dance. We will also have an opportunity to see handicrafts such as wood carvings and woven baskets. The sale of their products benefits the village and helps to pay the school fees for the children. If you like, you can also get a temporary Emberá tattoo painted on your arm or leg. We’ll then transfer to Colon by motorcoach and check in to our hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. You are welcome to take a walk on the hotel grounds and admire the topical flora and fauna, hang out with new Road Scholar friends, or relax at the pool.

DAY
4
Fort San Lorenzo, New Caribbean Lock System, Kayaking
Colon
B,L,D
Melia Panama Canal

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles, approximately 1 hour; lake kayaking approximately 1 hour.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll board a motorcoach for a field trip to Fort San Lorenzo, constructed in the 1500s during the reign of the Spanish King, Phillip the II. As we walk around the fort, The group will enjoy a walking excursion around the fort, a local expert will discuss its history. 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. The San Lorenzo National Park — which contains not only Fort San Lorenzo but also Fort Sherman-started in 1911 — covers an area of approximately 9,653 hectares on Panama’s Atlantic coast, along the western banks of the Panama Canal. Up to twelve types of forest are protected by the park, including moist forest, semi-deciduous forest, mangroves, and floodable cativo forest. As many as 81 species of mammals and 430 species of birds have been recorded in the park. The historic Fort San Lorenzo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located on the northern edge of the park. On the way back to the hotel, we will stop at The New Locks Visitor Center to observe some of the work being conducted on the new set of locks on the Caribbean side of the Canal. We’ll gain insights into the construction efforts taking place at this site, then return to the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll embark on a kayaking field trip from the hotel on Lake Gatun. With our local expert, we’ll have a relaxing paddle around the lake as we glide past tropical forests. If we’re lucky, we may spot sloths, monkeys and bird species such as the Snail Kite, Gray-necked Wood-Rail and the often solitary Limpkin. At the hotel, you might like to walk around the lush grounds and take a dip in the large, inviting pool overlooking Lake Gatun.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Transfer to Albrook, Fly to David, Arrive Boquete
Boquete
B,L,D
Hotel Panamonte Inn & Spa

Activity note: The flight to David and the motorcoach transfer are both about an hour.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will check out of the hotel, board our motorcoach, and ride to Albrook Field in Panama City for a late morning domestic flight to San José de David. Upon arrival, we will transfer to Boquete.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: As we make our way from David to Boquete, we will notice the spectacular views of Chiriqui Province. With a moist climate and fertile, volcanic soil, Boquete has a rich agricultural bounty, and is considered to be the “bread basket” of Panama, producing some of the finest coffee in the world. Arriving at the hotel, we will check-in and have some time to freshen up and relax. We will regroup before dinner for a presentation on pollination and biodiversity in Boquete.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Enjoy the mountain views from the hotel, take a stroll around the grounds, or just settle into a comfortable chair with a great book.

DAY
6
Cloudforest Field Trip, Boquete Town, Coffee Farm
Boquete
B,L
Hotel Panamonte Inn & Spa

Activity note: Walking up to 3 miles, uneven forest trails, undulating terrain; maximum elevation 4,000 ft.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will board our motorcoach for a field trip to a cloud forest at Boquete. The Volcan Baru National Park and its surrounding areas are considered by many to be one of the most beautiful hiking spots in Central America. Hiking trails connect Boquete on the western side of the volcano with Cerro Punta on the east. A local expert will lead us on a nature hike along the PipelineTrail—on the Boquete side of the trails. The beautiful cloud forest habitat is also a spectacular place to find numerous bird species such as the Resplendent Quetzal, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Black-faced Solitaire, Volcano Hummingbird, White-Throated Mountain Gem, and many others. Mammals often spotted in the area include sloths, monkeys, and coatimundi. We’ll then return to hotel by coach.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll explore Boquete town with a local expert and our Group Leader and see highlights including the local market. Via motorcoach, we’ll visit a local coffee farm and learn about the process of farming and producing the world-class coffee for which this region is known. We’ll learn about the essentials of coffee growing, its history, origin, secrets of coffee handling, and observe the production process all the way from the tree to the roasted bean. We’ll also take part in coffee “cupping” — the fine art of tasting — with different varieties. We’ll experience a variety of taste tones and learn how to prepare the perfect cup of coffee, then return to the hotel.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Whitewater Rafting
Boquete
B,L
Hotel Panamonte Inn & Spa

Activity note: Class II & III whitewater river runs; approximately 2.5 hours round-trip driving to launch site; approximately 4 hours of rafting including safety orientation and demonstration.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll ride to a nearby river for a whitewater rafting adventure. Class II and III runs offer fun and exciting rafting through a pristine rainforest setting. After a brief safety demonstration, our local expert will lead an adrenaline-filled experience navigating rapids and whitewater along a beautiful river.

Lunch: After our rafting adventure, we will celebrate our accomplishments with boxed lunches riverside.

Afternoon: Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Transfer to Punta Robalo, Boat to Tranquilo Bay
Bocas del Toro
B,L,D
Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge

Activity note: Motorcoach transfer to Punta Robalo is about 82 miles, approximately 2.5 hours. Boarding 28-foot motorboats for 45 minute transfer to Tranquilo Bay. Hiking approximately 2 miles, trails.

Breakfast: Early at the hotel.

Morning: We will board a motorcoach for an early departure as we begin the transfer up over the continental divide to the Caribbean town of Punta Robalo. There, we will board small covered motorboats for the 45-minute ride out to Tranquilo Bay and our lodge.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: We’ll be joined by a local expert for an orientation to the lodge. Located on a 200-acre private reserve adjacent to Bastimentos National Marine Park, Tranquilo Bay offers superb access to nature, both terrestrial and marine. With sloths, monkeys, iguanas, over 180 species of birds, and numerous other animals, it is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts. The lodge offers a variety of free time activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, or climbing the 100-foot canopy tower. During an expert led hike of about 2 miles on the nearby trails, we will have an opportunity to see Poison Arrow frogs, Sloths, a display lek (a communal area in which males of a species perform courtship displays) of Golden-Collared Manakins, and many other birds.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: At leisure. After sunset, the air is alive with the calls of nocturnal inhabitants. Listen to the sounds and try to distinguish one from another as you relax on the porch. Frogs, owls, bats, and various other creatures come out at night as most of us get ready for bed.

DAY
9
Snorkeling Field Trip, Kayaking
Bocas del Toro
B,L,D
Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge

Activity note: Motorboat transfer approximately 30 minutes. Snorkeling 1-2 hours; equipment is available but participants are welcome to bring their own equipment for better fit and comfort.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: We’ll board a boat at the lodge's dock in preparation for our snorkeling field trip. Our local expert will choose a spot for snorkeling based on conditions such as water visibility, tide, and winds. Tranquilo Bay is surrounded by Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park, with some of the most beautiful reefs in the archipelago and more than 200 species of tropical fishes. We may also see crabs, lobsters, conchs, sea horse, puffer fish, rays, and many coral varieties found in the Caribbean.

Lunch: Boxed lunch.

Afternoon: Next, we'll enjoy a kayaking field trip. Launching from our lodge's dock, we'll paddle amid the tranquil beauty of the mangrove forests near the lodge. We'll look for marine life in the water around us while searching for birds and other wildlife that appear from time to time along the coast, where forest and water meet.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
10
Chocolate Farm, Fly to Panama City
Panama City
B,L,D
Country Inn & Suites by Carlson - Panama Canal

Activity note: Motorboat transfer to the cocoa farm and from the lodge to Bocas del Toro each takes approximately a 1/2 hour. Walking up to 2 miles, approximately 2 hours; easily navigated trails around the chocolate farm. Flight from Bocas del Toro to Panama City is about 1 hour.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: We’ll take a boat ride across the bay to a nearby chocolate farm. During our field trip, keep an eye out for wildlife such as Sloths, Trogons, Purple-throated Fruitcrows, or Green and Black Poison Dart Frogs. In 1996, this abandoned 30-acre cacao farm was purchased and restored to working condition. The new owners discovered that one of the rarest strains of cacao plant — the Criollo cacao tree, native to Central America and the Caribbean islands — was present on the farm. This Criollo bean represents only 5 percent of all cacao beans grown and is prized for its complex taste including flavors of caramel, vanilla, nuts, and tobacco. We will learn about cacao farming, the details of chocolate manufacturing techniques, including growth of the trees, a step-by-step process of how chocolate is made from bean to bar, and enjoy a sample of the farm’s product. We’ll then return to the lodge.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: After checking out of the lodge, we will transfer by motorboat to the town of Bocas for our flight back to Panama City. Upon arrival we will board a motor coach and transfer to the hotel for check in.

Dinner: At the Miraflores Locks restaurant, we’ll have a farewell dinner. Share your favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. Say farewells and prepare for departure in the morning.

DAY
11
Program Concludes, In Transit from Program
In Flight
B

Activity note: Check out by 11:00 a.m. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers. If you are an independent traveler (POP status), see “Ground Transportation from Last Location.”

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

Morning: Transfer to the airport to board flights to North America. 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!