This independent getaway pairs adventure and eco-tourism with a dose of city culture and the chance to travel through the famous Panama Canal. After visiting San Jose, journey to Tortuguero National Park, prime nesting ground for the endangered green turtle. Hike along old lava flow trails in Arenal with free time to explore then it’s on to the Canal Zone to see historic Panama City and the world-renowned canal.
• See wildlife on visits to Tortuguero National Park and Arenal Volcano National Park.
• Experience the ins and outs of the Panama Canal by boat.
• Includes international flight from San Jose to Panama City.
The Central American nations of Costa Rica and Panama boast an abundance of pristine ecosystems filled with precious flora and fauna. Costa Rica has long been at the forefront of eco-tourism but neighboring Panama also has its share of natural treasures. From its tropical forests and exotic beaches to the eighth wonder of the world, the famous canal, Panama is packed with opportunities for adventure and discovery. As Kathleen O. of Petaluma, Calif. said of her recent AAA Sojourns vacation to this pristine area: "We chose to go to Costa Rica because our kids love animals and the outdoors....Even at our lodge, there were iguanas walking around, and all kinds of birds and butterflies in the air."
This independent journey lets you discover the rich natural diversity of both countries with a special focus on waterway habitats and wildlife. Visit Costa Rica's capital, San Jose, with its blend of Moorish and Spanish architecture before journeying to Tortuguero National Park. The jungle canals and network of estuaries and lagoons are the most important attractions in Tortuguero. Enjoy a guided boat tour through dense rainforests, spotting wildlife such as monkeys, tree sloths, river otters, crocodiles and caimans. Birdwatchers commonly see keel-billed toucans, Montezuma oropendulas, a variety of parrots and many more beautiful bird species. Plus, Tortuguero is the most important nesting site in the western Caribbean for the endangered green turtle.
Then head inland to spend two days in the Costa Rica's Arenal Volcano area. Here, you'll get to choose your own adventure, from a lava flow hike, canopy tour or horseback ride. You'll also have a chance to sample the area's many natural hot springs before flying to Panama City. Learn about this historic city, the first European city ever established on the Pacific Coast of the Americas, on a comprehensive tour. And marvel at the Panama Canal, a massive feat of human engineering and ingenuity completed in 1914. Watch how boats traverse through the Miraflores Locks, one of the canal's three lock systems, before boarding a boat yourself to experience part of the canal crossing firsthand.
• 7 nights accommodations: 1 night in San Jose, 2 nights in Tortuguero, 2 nights in Arenal and 2 nights in Panama City
• Meals - Daily breakfast, 5 lunches and 2 dinners
• All on-tour transfers and transportation plus one-way flight from San Jose to Panama City
• Costa Rica sights - Visits to Tortuguero Village and the Caribbean Conservation Museum plus guided boat tour of Tortuguero National Park
• Activities - Your choice of one half-day activity in Arenal on Day 5
• Panama sights - City tour of Panama City plus partial boat crossing on the Panama Canal
Create Your Own Costa Rica Itinerary
AAA Sojourns can help you build a vacation that suits your interests and where you set the pace. Talk with your AAA Travel Counselor to begin planning which of the following options will make your journey to Costa Rica one to remember.
• High energy adventures such as whitewater rafting, snorkeling, hiking, zip lining and more
• Visits to Costa Rica’s many national parks
• Nature experiences at waterfalls, on the coasts and in wildlife refuges
• Family adventures that include hikes, hot springs and tours
• Stay at all-inclusive hotels and resorts and/or those that engage in environmentally sustainable practices
Note: Additional nights in San Jose and Panama are available, subject to availability. Please inquire at time of booking.
Day 1 – Arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica
Upon arrival at the San Jose airport, you will be met and taken on a city sightseeing tour before transferring to your hotel for check-in.
Accommodation: Hotel Real Intercontinental – 1 night
Day 2 – Tortuguero
An early morning departure takes you through Carrillo National Park on a shared land and boat transfer to Tortuguero. As you wind your way through dense rainforest, keep an eye out for monkeys, tree sloths and birds. Arrive in Tortuguero in time for lunch. This afternoon visit Tortuguero Village and the Caribbean Conservation Museum.
Accommodation: Mawamba Lodge – 2 nights
Day 3 – Tortuguero National Park
This morning, explore Tortuguero's network of scenic waterways in special boats designed for better visibility in the surrounding jungle and its wildlife. (Note: A $10 per person Tortuguero Park entrance fee is not included and is payable directly at the entrance to the park.) The natural vegetation of the area progresses from swamp forests in the lowlands near the coast to tropical wetlands and forests at higher elevations further inland. Tortuguero is the most important nesting site in the western half of the Caribbean for the endangered green turtle. Nesting season is July through September. Hatching season is November and December.
Day 4 – Arenal Volcano Area
An early breakfast is followed by a boat and land transfer to Arenal, stopping en route to see the huge population of iguanas in the trees at Muelle. After check-in at the hotel, relax and enjoy the hot springs.
Accommodation: Montaña de Fuego Hotel – 2 nights
Day 5 – Arenal Activities
Choose one of the following half-day tours (included in rate):
• Arenal Hike Old Lava Flow Trails - On this outing you may observe the exotic inhabitants of Arenal National Park including toucans, monkeys, oropendolas, eyelash viper, boa and frogs. You will also have the opportunity to see lava paths, cross a stream and, if conditions permit, catch a glimpse of a shower of bright volcanic rocks. (3.5 hours)
• Canopy Tour - The tour consists of a series of platforms mounted in the trees of the nearby rainforest. You move from platform to platform using high-angle equipment and techniques. There are a variety of platforms: 2 horizontal traverses (zip lines), 2 rappels and an inclined glide from the treetops to poolside. (2 hours)
• Horseback Riding to Fortuna Waterfalls - This tour encompasses the perfect combination of light exercise: first a horseback ride to the reserve entrance, then a short hike to the falls followed by a refreshing dip in the crystalline waters at the foot of the waterfall. (4 hours)
• Arenal Suspended Bridges - Experience the rainforest from three perspectives: from the ground, from the midst of a canopy like a white-faced monkey, and high above like an eagle. Follow three kilometers of hanging bridges, one of which extends 98 meters and crosses a waterfall. (4 hours)
Later, enjoy the afternoon at your leisure.
Day 6 – Panama City Sightseeing
Transfer to San Jose to board your flight on Air Panama to the Panama City airport. Upon your afternoon arrival, a city tour takes you to the Three Cities of Panama. Panama Viejo (Old Panama) was founded in 1519 and was the first European city established on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. Learn more on a visit to the museum of Panama Vieja. The city was later destroyed by the gold-seeking English pirate Henry Morgan in the late 1600s. It was rebuilt a few years later on a more defensible peninsula and Casco Viejo (Old Crown) was born. The modern cosmopolitan areas of Panama City added a third dimension to this history-steeped city. Conclude your tour at the visitor’s center of Miraflores Locks, one of the three locks that form part of the Panama Canal.
Accommodation: The Bristol Panama Hotel – 2 nights
Day 7 – Partial Panama Canal Crossing
Today observe the enormous ships crossing the locks at the Miraflores Locks. Then see this engineering marvel from a whole new prospective as we board a boat and pass through the different locks of the canal. Lunch will be served aboard the ship.
Day 8 – Depart Panama
This morning, check-out of your hotel and transfer to Tocumen International Airport for your flight home. (Note: There is a $29 departure tax for all visitors leaving by air. This tax must be purchased prior to check-in.)
*Prices are per person based on double occupancy, are subject to availability at time of booking, and may change without notice. This itinerary must start and end on Sundays only. Air ticket from Costa Rica to Panama must be paid for at time of booking and is non-refundable. Child rate applies to children 10 years of age and younger sharing the same room with two adults; maximum of two adults and two children per room. Single supplement may apply. Except for packages including air transportation, unless stated otherwise, airfare, taxes and government fees are not included. Offers valid for new bookings only. Member Benefits are per person and apply to first and second traveler only. Member Benefits are available only with advertised fare and are subject to change without notice. Your travel arrangements may be modified or canceled subject to the travel providers’ policies. Blackout dates and other restrictions may apply. We make every effort for accuracy at time of printing but reserve the right to correct errors. AAA Travel strongly recommends the purchase of trip protection insurance. Except for packages including air transportation, fares may not reflect additional fuel supplement or port charges and vary by provider.
CST #1003968-80. Registration as seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California.