PONANT takes you to discover Panama and Costa Rica with an 11-day expedition cruise. A circuit of extraordinary beauty around the isthmus of Panama, a link between two continents, which concentrates a unique biodiversity; from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean between dream islands, natural reserves and encounters with the fascinating local communities.
Your journey in Central America will begin with a port of call in the magnificent Portobelo Bay, which includes mangroves, tropical forest and discovery of the Congo culture. The fortifications of this former gateway to the New World are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You will then explore the golden sand and crystal-clear waters of the coral islets of the San Blas Islands. The Kuna people live among the palm trees and pirogues (small boats); this culture continues, among other things, the traditional craft of molas, weaved textiles in sparkling colours.
After sailing through the world-famous Panama Canal, your ship will stop in the Pearls Islands, which nestle in the Gulf of Panama.
Your ship will then head for the magnificent Darien National Park in Panama. This little corner of paradise is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to remarkable plants and wildlife. Sandy beaches, rocky coastlines, mangroves, swamps and tropical rainforests vie with each other for beauty and offer a feast for photographers. This will also provide an opportunity to meet the astonishing semi-nomadic Emberas community.
The next stage of your cruise: Rio Esquinas. You will ride aboard one of our zodiac dinghies to observe this lush environment where monumental mangroves and emblematic species reign supreme.
You will then enjoy a visit to the Curú Wildlife Refuge. Deep inside the tropical rainforest you may be lucky enough to see multicoloured birds, monkeys, iguanas and sloths.
The encounters with the wildlife described above illustrate possible experiences only and cannot be guaranteed.
Outings and shore visits in zodiac inflatables with a team of experienced naturalist guides. Discover the fabulous National Parks, biodiversity and tribes of Central America. UNESCO sites: The fortifications...
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*Price is per person, based on double occupancy, based on availability, and subject to change at any time. The category of stateroom to which this price applies may no longer be available.
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Important trip details
Boarding conditions and passenger travel abilities
We invite you to read our boarding conditions and passenger travel abilities by clicking here.
Any new reservation implies the acceptance of these conditions.
The information below is current but subject to change at any time without advance notice from government authorities. Please consult your respective government agencies for visa and health information.
Passport valid for at least six (6) months beyond the completion of your trip. Passport must contain at least two completely clear, blank, unused visa pages for each visa required, not including any amendment pages. Visa pages with stains or ink from other pages in the passport are not usable. Guests who deviate from the scheduled embarkation or disembarkation port should research the foreign entry requirements for the port country. Due to government regulations, regrettably, Ponant will have to deny boarding to any guest who fails to obtain the appropriate travel documentation for this trip.
Warning about the use of drones: the use of drones aboard PONANT ships, whether they are sailing at sea, at a port of call or anchored, is strictly forbidden. The use of drones on land in the Arctic and Antarctic regions is also strictly forbidden by international polar regulations. In other regions, it may be possible to use drones on land if permission has been obtained from the relevant authorities of each country and each region travelled through, as well as a pilot’s licence that should be obtained from your home country. Passengers are responsible for obtaining these permits; they should be able to present them at all times. Passengers who do not obtain these authorisations expose themselves to the risk of legal proceedings.
It is recommended that you contact your health professional for any specific medical advise relating to travel through these regions (including compulsory inoculations).
Expedition programmes include activities such as Zodiac® outings and landings (sometimes with "wet landings"), moderate walks to more active hikes, all accompanied by your expedition team of naturalist guides.
Ports of call, visited sites, outings and landings will depend on weather conditions, winds and the state of the sea. These can force a change of plans at any time. The Captain and the Expedition Leader may at any time cancel or stop any activity, or even modify the itinerary. The final itinerary will be confirmed by the Captain, who will take into account the touristic quality of the sites and above all, the safety of the passengers. His decision will be based on advice from experts and authorities.
Travelling to isolated regions is an exhilarating experience. In remote areas, please remember that you are far from modern hospitals with full medical facilities, thus evacuation is extremely expensive. Without adequate medical coverage, all expenses will have to be immediately paid with your personal funds. We urge you to subscribe to full coverage insurance, choose your insurance company very carefully, be extremely vigilant and ensure your insurance is fully comprehensive, especially if you are insured by your credit card. PONANT offers an insurance contract with extensive guarantees, please contact us for more information.
During your visits to some local communities, all guests will be required to dress respectfully. Ladies must have their shoulders and thighs covered. Gentlemen should have their shoulders covered also.
Ideal clothes for life on board:
During the days spent on board, you are advised to wear comfortable clothes or casual outfits. The entire ship is air-conditioned, so a light sweater, a light jacket or a shawl may be necessary. When moving about in the public areas of the ship and the decks, light but comfortable shoes are recommended.
In the evening, you are advised to wear smart-casual attire, especially when dining in our restaurants where wearing shorts and tee-shirts is not allowed.
Depending on the itinerary and the program of your cruise, an Officer’s Evening with a white dress code may be organized. Therefore, we encourage you to bring a stylish white outfit for the occasion (otherwise black and white).
During the cruise, two gala evenings will be organised on board. Thus, we recommend that you bring one or two formal outfits.
A small shop is available on board offering a wide range of outfits, jewellery, leather goods and many accessories.
A laundry service (washing/ironing) is available on board, but unfortunately there are no dry cleaning services. For safety reasons, your cabin is not equipped with an iron.
OUTFITS ON BOARD:
In your hand luggage, remember to bring any medicines that you need, and possibly a small spare bag of toiletries (in case of delay in the delivery of your baggage by the airline). Remember to always have your travel documents with you in case you need them: hotel vouchers, cruise vouchers, return flight tickets... Never leave them in your hold luggage.
All our cabins have a safe. We recommend not to go ashore with valuable jewellery.
Embarkation 24/1/2024 From 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Departure 24/1/2024 at 11:30 pm
Colón is the second largest city in Panama, at the Caribbean entrance of the Panama Canal. Colón is today an important port, and the free trade zone created in 1953 contributed greatly to the development of the city. Colón was founded in 1850 by Americans working on the Panama railroad connecting the Atlantic and Pacific coasts through the isthmus of Panama; the city rapidly overshadowed the older Caribbean ports of Panama when the canal opened.
In the province of Colón, along the magnificent Caribbean coast of Panama, Portobelo is located not far from the famous canal. Given its name of “beautiful port” by Christopher Columbus, who discovered it in 1502, this charming and peaceful bay was one of the most important ports for the shipping of precious metals from the New World to Spain. Don’t miss a visit to its fortifications, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town has preserved the strong religious and cultural traditions of its colonial past, such as the veneration of the Black Christ and a strongly-rooted Afro-Caribbean culture. The Congo ceremonies retrace the story of Spanish domination over black slaves through traditional dances and music.
Located on the north-east coast of Panama, the San Blas archipelago is a string of coral islands in the heart of the Caribbean Sea. More than 300 islands and cays cover an area of 300 square kilometres offering travellers a multitude of treasures. Sheltered behind a long coral reef, the San Blas Islands are full of enchanting anchorages. The long sandy white beaches bound by crystal-clear waters will allow you to relax and enjoy incredible marine fauna before engaging with the Kunas Indian community. Still subsisting on hunting and fishing, they will welcome you in their villages of bamboo houses gathered near the beaches.
Aboard your ship, experience something unique, that has inspired the imagination of numerous adventurers in the 20th century: sailing the Panama Canal. 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 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.
Pacheca is a small uninhabited island in the far north of the Pearl Islands, home to numerous birds that our naturalist guides will help you to observe and recognise from the ship’s deck. The Pearl Islands archipelago, formed by over 220 islands and islets, is named in memory of the pearl oysters present in the Gulf of Panama. In colonial times, the pearls were extracted and used as ornaments or currency. “La Peregrina” was discovered in this archipelago: this pearl is famous for its perfection and for belonging to several royals and, more recently, Elizabeth Taylor.
The Pearl Islands archipelago, formed by over 220 islands and islets, is named in memory of the pearl oysters present in the Gulf of Panama. In colonial times, the pearls were extracted and used as ornaments or currency. “La Peregrina” was discovered in this archipelago: this pearl is famous for its perfection and for belonging to several royals and, more recently, Elizabeth Taylor. While the pearls have now disappeared from the azure waters of this paradise with its history of adventures and piracy, you can still swim from the sandy white beaches and observe shoals of multi-coloured fish performing their gracious ballet.
The most remote and least developed region of Panama, the province of Darien is an unspoilt land with an extremely rich variety of flora and fauna. Listed by UNESCO as World Heritage, Darien National Park offers its extraordinary scenery of rocky coastlines, mountain ranges, mangroves, rivers and creeks. Discover Playa Muerto, a tiny coastal village home to the Emberas Amerindian community. You will visit the village, attend traditional songs and dances of the locals, and admire beautiful local craft.
Off the Pacific coast of Panama, at the entrance to the Gulf of Montijo, Cebaco Island conjures visions of paradise lost. Covered in tropical rainforest, edged by white sandy beaches, home to exceptionally rich plant and wildlife, the island offers a number of hiking routes along which to discover its pristine natural environment. Its magnificent coral reefs, located in the outlying regions of the Coiba National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are the refuge for many marine species and offer stunning underwater landscapes.
The town of Golfito lies on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, in the province of Puntarenas, one of the most humid regions in the world. It was occupied by the indigenous Bruncas tribe during the Pre-Columbian era. Once specialised in the export of bananas, Golfito has today become the starting point for visitors who want to reach one of the largest primary tropical rainforests in Central America. Meanwhile, the beaches of Golfo Dulce are some of the most beautiful in Costa Rica, with the lush forest, home to many tropical birds and monkeys as well as a variety of rare species of plants, as their backdrop.
The beauty of Costa Rica and the richness of its biodiversity reveal themselves at this port of call in the heart of the mangrove. In the meanders of Rio Esquinas, a tropical corner of paradise, you will discover an incredibly dense ecosystem. Aboard your Zodiac dinghy, you will brush past the tangled arms formed by the roots of the mangrove trees. This green and lush gallery forest and its inhabitants welcome you. Watch closely: common squirrel monkeys, white ibis, Eurasian whimbrels, ospreys, toucans, snowy egrets and great blue herons can be found hiding here.
On the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula, the small Curú Wildlife Refuge is the oldest protected park in Costa Rica. This refuge is an exemplary site in terms of ecotourism as well as a research centre for scientists from all over the world. It has been at the heart of an original conservation and sustainable development project since the 1930s. 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.
Arrival 3/2/2024 early morning
Disembarkation 3/2/2024 at 7:00 am
The capital of the eponymous province, Puntarenas is sometimes called “the pearl of the Pacific”, for its unique charm. It sits on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, along the Gulf of Nicoya, lined with long expanses of wild natural environments. Further inland, among the countless natural wonders to be found in the generous rainforest of the Costa Rica’s national parks, Poas and Arena volcanoes towers 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.
Explore the planet’s most remote tropical regions during a PONANT expedition cruise. In the heart of Oceania’s archipelagos or the Indian Ocean atolls, along the wild coastlines of Central America or Australia, our luxury amenities and services will make your expedition cruise an unforgettable experience. Our expedition leaders and their teams of naturalist guides devise exceptional itineraries and organise daily outings, shore visits in Zodiac® dinghies, or snorkelling when the cruises are conducive to it, to take you as close as possible to nature. Aboard the ship, they share their knowledge during lectures on a variety of topics such as the fauna and flora, the history of the great explorations, geology and climatology. On land, using the local transport options or during hikes, discover the must-see natural sites and, for a few hours, partake in the life and ancestral customs of the local populations.