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Explore and Relax Costa Rica and Panama: Wildlife, rainforest and beaches

13 days from £2595pp

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Explore and Relax Costa Rica and Panama: Wildlife, rainforest and beaches:
Trip Dossier

Tiny Costa Rica is a volcanic country of fertile plains, rolling hills supporting acres of coffee plantations and tropical lowlands bursting with fruit. Throughout, it has a friendly, relaxed ambience. Arriving at the modern capital San José, you’ll be taken out into the valley surrounding the city to peer into the steaming crater of Poás volcano. Move on to a wildlife lodge in an area of the Pacific coast where exotic flora and fauna is especially prolific, and follow trails through the rainforest. 

Continue to Panama, an up- and- coming destination for nature lovers with some amazingly unspoilt beaches to boot. You’ll spend time in the glorious, rugged mountain landscapes surrounding Boquete, a centre for active adventures: you’ll be very tempted to pull on your walking shoes and get out on to the wooded trails in search of quetzals.

After this, travel to the Panamanian Pacific coast for a few days’ relaxation based at an intimate boutique beach hotel in low-key Boca Chica, a fishing village at the end of the road opposite a string of tiny islets. The beaches here are powder- white, backed by coconut palms and dense, untouched forest.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in San José and transfer to your hotel.

Day 2

Guided excursion to Doka, Poás volcano and La Paz waterfalls.

Day 3

Osa Peninsula

Days 4-5

At leisure.

Day 6

By road over the border to Boquete, Panama.

Day 7

Guided cloud-forest safari.

Day 8

Transfer to Boca Chica.

Days 9-11

At leisure on the Pacific coast.

Day 12

Fly from David to Panama City.

Day 13

Transfer to Panama City for international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in San José and transfer to your hotel.
You will be met at the airport by our local representative who will take you to your hotel in the modern capital.

Day 2

Guided excursion to Doka, Poás volcano and La Paz waterfalls.

Early departure along the Pan-American Highway towards the city of Alajuela, stopping en route at the Doka coffee mill and plantation for an introduction to the traditional techniques used to produce Costa Rica's most celebrated export. Continuing up through the humid cloud forest that surrounds Poás volcano, you'll notice a change in the temperature and vegetation as the lush tropical foliage gives way to a more forbidding highland landscape.

Eventually you'll reach the impressive volcanic crater, spouting its potent sulphur fumes - it's an awe-inspiring panorama, and one of Costa Rica's most iconic vistas.

From the viewing platform overlooking the crater, begin the hike down to Botos lagoon, before continuing on to La Paz Waterfall Gardens to follow trails through the forest past a succession of waterfalls plunging through tropical greenery. Within these gardens there is also a butterfly observatory, a serpentarium, a bird house and a series of hummingbird feeders where you can photograph the tiny birds at close range.

Poas volcano crater

Day 3

Osa Peninsula

Transfer to the airport for your flight to Puerto Jiménez on the Pacific coast and continue 22km along a bumpy road to your rainforest lodge, El Remanso. This is relaxed and peaceful place set above a delightful, wild beach and within its own tropical reserve near Corcovado National Park - one of the most bio-diverse reserves on the planet. 

Days 4-5

At leisure.

At leisure at the lodge.   The area is abundant with wildlife - expect to see howler monkeys, toucans and macaws. Guided naturalist walks make the most of the flora and fauna, with other activities including waterfall rappelling and zip-lining through the forest canopy.  

Toucan, Osa Peninsular , Costa Rica

Day 6

By road over the border to Boquete, Panama.

By road to the border with Panama and on to Boquete in the Chiriquí highlands. The journey of 135km takes around two to three hours (depending on border traffic) joining the Pan-American Highway for the second half of the drive. Boquete is a small provincial town which enjoys a pleasant mountain climate and the surrounding area is very beautiful.

The cool mountain air, rugged mist-shrouded hills, Alpine forests and boulder-strewn rivers come together to create a delightful landscape, while the fertile volcanic soils produce an abundance of coffee and citrus fruits.

The volcano Barú (3,475m) looms above the town and Caldera river runs through a steep gorge, while the La Amistad National Park straddles the border with Costa Rica with hiking trails, bathing pools and waterfalls.  The town itself has a few quaint old buildings and some good restaurants.

Coffee Plantation in Boquete Panama

Day 7

Guided cloud-forest safari.

Your guided excursion by 4WD vehicle allows you to experience the incredible biodiversity of Boquete's lush, mountainous surroundings. Visit two gardens: Mi Jardín Es Su Jardín, a beautiful private property with lots of water features and quirky statues; and the even more eccentric El Explorador, artistically scattered with recycled everyday items and blessed with panoramic views (accentuated by background classical music).

Continue to a local coffee farm and learn more about its cultivation and production. Stop at some waterfalls before arriving at Volcan Barú National Park. Here, follow the beautiful Sendero de los Quetzales trail, on the lookout for the boldly-coloured Resplendent quetzal. 

Cloud Forest Safari in Panama

Day 8

Transfer to Boca Chica.

Transfer to Boca Chica, a little town at the end of the road on the Gulf of Chiriquí, on the Pacific Ocean side of the country. It’s a modest town of low rise buildings and lovely sand beaches, the jumping-off point for visits to the islands in the gulf, which is famous for excellent fishing opportunities.

You’ll arrive at your accommodation, Bocas del Mar, an exclusive, tiny resort of just 5 cottages all with views over the sea. 
Each cottage has a private terrace with view of the ocean and direct access to the pool, where you may well decide to while away a lot of your time.
Seagull Cove , Boca Chica , Panama

Days 9-11

At leisure on the Pacific coast.
Two whole days at leisure in this idyllic, relaxing spot. Away from the lodge you can take advantage of opportunities to visit Boca Chica and the islands of the national marine park, with sea kayaking, fishing, diving and snorkelling, and bird-watching among the activities on offer.

Day 12

Fly from David to Panama City.
Transfer to David airport and fly to Panama City. Overnight.
Panama City

Day 13

Transfer to Panama City for international flight home.

Essential information

Included in the journey prices

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.


2 domestic flights, 2 road journeys.


This trip combines friendly mid-range hotels with well-equipped rooms with private bathroom and comfortable but not luxurious wildlife and beach lodges. Throughout Costa Rica and Panama accommodation is of a high standard.


Breakfast daily, full board days 3-5.


We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by clients on their return.

Included excursions

• San José: Guided excursion to Doka, Poás vocano and La Paz waterfalls.
• Puerto Jiménez: Activities at the lodge.
• Boquete: Guided cloud forest safari.
• Boca Chica: Activities at the beach resort. 

Summary of nights

13 days, 12 nights: San José 2;  Puerto Jiminez 3; Boquete 2; Boca Chica 4; Panama City 1.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities.
• International flights to and from the UK.
• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Optional excursions.


The unit of currency in Costa Rica is the colón; in Panama, the balboa is interchangeable with the US dollar.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$40  per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in San José taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip and in many shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency in San José. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can exchange sterling but the rate may be unfavourable and there are fewer outlets providing this service.

The national currency in Panama is at parity with the US dollar, and only US banknotes are used. (There are some local coins equivalent to US cents). There are ATMs in most towns,where you can use a UK credit or debit card. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts may be limited, and vary from bank to bank. Notes can be obtained from exchange houses and also from banks which will supply advances on a debit or credit card.


Tips are welcomed and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.


Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

Generally this holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit, visitors including families with children.

If you have a disability or special considerations, please contact our office.


Those travelling between May and October should encounter high temperatures (around 35°C) and high humidity in the lowlands. The ‘official’ rainy (green) season is May to November. 

December to April visitors will still encounter high temperatures in lowland areas, but cool evenings around San José with temperatures falling to around 5°C. Rainfall and humidity will be much lower at this time. 

It’s cooler and less humid at Boquete in the Chiriquí highlands of Panama. 

For your beach wind-down on the Panamanian coast and islands good weather is a priority, so most visits are in the dry season December to April when there is plenty of sun. It’s hot all year round (often over 30°C). The busy times for visitors are the dry season months, especially weekends and Easter week. The green (i.e. rainy) season is much quieter.

Clothing and special equipment

Bring plenty of light cotton clothing and good, comfortable walking shoes.  A waterproof jacket and/or umbrella are also advisable. We suggest that you plan to ‘layer’ your clothing; it is easier and more efficient to put on a couple of light layers than one thick jumper, and sensible to have long sleeves for areas where mosquitos may be lurking. Sandals are a good informal option for evenings. Protection against the sun (sunblock, sun hat) and mosquito repellant are essential and you should bring swimwear. A daypack is useful for carrying sunblock, guidebook, water and any extra layers.

Note that luggage on the domestic flights is limited to 14kg. 

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. 


Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following; typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.


APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to, or via, the USA, you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online. This costs $14 per person, and must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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