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Our Top 5 Favorite Experiences in Costa Rica & Panama

Posted on October 25th, 2022 in Central & South America

Our Top 5 Favorite Experiences in Costa Rica & Panama

Costa Rica is a longtime favorite of many travelers for its gorgeous rainforests, captivating wildlife, and stunning beaches. Similarly, Panama delivers fabulous nature, cultural diversity, and the incredible engineering feat that is, of course, the Panama Canal. In addition to the extensive list of eco-tourism and sightseeing activities, both destinations boast luxury hotels, delicious food, and friendly locals. Top it off with idyllic weather and it’s no surprise that over one million tourists visit these awe-inspiring countries each year!

When planning a trip to this Central American tropical treasure, it can become overwhelming to map out which attractions you’ll visit because there is truly no shortage of extraordinary adventures to be had there. Luckily, our dedicated Destination Managers spend an abundance of time researching and communicating with our expert regional contacts to create the perfect itinerary, and we’ve decided to give you the low-down on five of our favorite attractions! You can experience each of these incredible attractions, and many others, on our Costa Rica & Panama Canal Adventure. If you’re ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime, read on to get a glimpse into this wondrous destination.

Arenal Volcano National Park

One of the most breathtaking and fascinating sights in Central America is the Arenal Volcano, formed approximately 7,000 years ago. This is still the most active volcano in Costa Rica, and while you cannot currently see smoke emerging from the opening or lava flowing down the sides, the volcano is simply in a state of rest. There has not been an explosive eruption since 1968 when three small villages were buried in the ash and debris, killing 87 people, but the volcano is still alive. Arenal is actually one of two volcanoes located within the Arenal Conservation Area. The second, smaller Chato Volcano is inactive and formed a caldera roughly 3,500 years after its last eruption. This large depression, created by the volcano erupting and collapsing, has since become a scenic lagoon and popular hiking destination.

Aside from visiting the lagoon, many tourists will head to Lake Arenal, found at the base of the volcano. It is another gorgeous aspect of Arenal Conservation Area and a prime location for activities like paddleboarding, kayaking, windsurfing, and fishing. Beyond providing an ideal adventure spot for tourists, Lake Arenal is also a source of hydroelectric energy. The lake was expanded in 1979 to three times its original size to make room for a dam; now, the lake alone supplies 12% of all Costa Rica’s energy!

After an intriguing day of exploring this fantastic national park, treat yourself to nearby hot springs, a unique feature made possible by Arenal’s geothermal activity. Tourists and locals alike find this a healing and relaxing place to unwind and rejuvenate.

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Since Arenal Volcano National Park is largely comprised of rainforest, not only will you witness the majestic volcano and glimmering waters of Lake Arenal at the park, you will also have the opportunity to spot a variety of fascinating wildlife including deer, sloths, howler monkeys, white-faced monkeys, snakes, parrots, and tapir. Be sure to have a camera ready to capture all the fantastic creatures and views you will get to see! If you’re joining us in Costa Rica, enjoy a delightful two-night stay at Volcano Lodge, Hotel & Thermal Experience, where the private roads are landscaped with natural tropical foliage. In the mornings, savor a delicious breakfast while bird-watching, courtesy of a bird feeder station near the breakfast lounge that attracts exotic birds, like the crested guan.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

The dense rainforest of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve stretches up into the sky, making this a mystical and fantasy-like destination and experience. National Geographic describes it as “the jewel in the crown of cloud forests,” and this destination truly is a hidden gem. In addition, the reserve is one big part of Costa Rica’s sustainability efforts as it had been threatened in the 1970s by farmers hoping to expand their land ownership. Now, it protects 25,946 acres of the natural forest and everything that lives within it.

Here, you will have the chance to explore the gorges, streams, waterfalls, and swamps created by the variance in water drainage and altitude. While the area is mostly damp and wet, there is substantial variability in climate due to the different altitudes throughout the reserve. This diversity in landscape in turn fosters diversity in wildlife. For example, there are more than 420 different varieties of orchids located within this forest! The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is also home to animals including jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, the elusive and spectacular Resplendent Quetzal, white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, porcupines, pumas, and hundreds–yes, hundreds–of other species.

The mist that engulfs the reserve is created from the warm air off Caribbean waters as it reaches the heights of the mountains, forming clouds as it cools. The thick shroud hanging in the trees creates a fantastical, whimsical air that will stick with you long after you leave the area. This excursion is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially since only 1% of the world’s forests can actually be defined as cloud forests. It’s an exceptionally rare experience!

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge

Named the “Wetland of International Importance” in 1991, the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge is a protected area near the Nicaraguan border that is home to a wide variety of animals, birds, and fish, many of which are endangered species. There are over 200 species of birds that reside in the Refuge, and since the area is along the migratory route for several northern birds, visitors have the unique opportunity to see rare species found practically nowhere else in the world.

Throughout the wet season in Costa Rica, typically July to November, the Rio Frio–the river that winds around the refuge towards Caño Negro Lake–overflows and transforms the refuge into a marsh. This is when many of the migratory birds from the north arrive to stay for the winter. The dry season occurs from around December to April, and this is when the water level returns to only the main channel of the Rio Frio, which allows for more of the rare birds to make their

anticipated appearances. Some of the spectacular birds that can be spotted at this time include the Glossy Ibis, White Ibis, Snail Kite, Nicaraguan Grackle, and the Jabirus.

While visitors aren’t able to go inside the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge itself, a stroll around and just outside of the Refuge will provide ample opportunities to see all the wonders it has to offer. Looking into the park from the Rio Frio gives visitors plenty of chances to see the birds and awe-inspiring nature without disrupting any wildlife. Three-toed sloths, turtles, and howler, spider, and white-faced monkeys are among just a few of the notable creatures that reside within the Refuge, often viewable for guests to see along their journey.

This attraction is accessible by boat or plane, and when you travel with us, you’ll enjoy an intriguing riverboat ride through the rainforest to the refuge. This gives you the chance to see the caimans, Emerald Basilisks, and many other fascinating creatures that live within and along the Rio Frio. Getting a glimpse of the rare wildlife within these protected wetlands is a bucket list opportunity you won’t want to miss while traveling through Costa Rica.

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Emberá Querá

We will take a lovely, scenic boat ride to reach the village of the Emberá Querá indigenous community, located in Chagres National Park and established on the shores of Lake Gatún. Many village residents are members of the Emberá tribe, and through tourism, they are able to preserve and teach about their traditional culture and language. While visiting, guests get the rare opportunity to see witness the practices and traditions of the tribe in person.

For decades–up until the 1970s, in fact–the Panamanian government didn’t even recognize tribes such as the Emberá as citizens of Panama. This resulted in the tribes maintaining their language and lifestyle essentially unaffected by political factors. Now, the Emberá tribe utilizes tourism to share their culture and keep their practices alive, and you get to take part in that experience when you visit with us!

Panama Canal Full Transit

In one day, you’ll travel from the Pacific Ocean all the way to the Atlantic Ocean through the Panama Canal! Watch the beautiful Panama City skyline go by and admire the beaches along the Bay of Panama as our ship moves through the water. At the end of the journey, we’ll pass under the majestic Bridge of the Americas.

As we cruise through the Continental Divide, guests will learn the fascinating geological and cultural significance of the area while also learning about the intriguing details of the Canal’s history!

If you’re ready to explore these two iconic Central American countries, witness captivating wildlife, learn about other cultures, and travel through awe-inspiring landscapes, then we’d love to take you on the trip of a lifetime. We make every step of vacation worry-free and fun, with a promise you’ll return home with fond memories to look back on for years to come. Simply reserve your spot with a low deposit of only $200 per person by calling our Tour Sales Consultant team at 1-888-867-2190. We can’t wait to take you on this immersive, nature-focused trip!

Costa Rica & Panama Canal AdventureAll Airfare IncludedImmerse yourself in the tropical treasures and rich culture of two spectacular Central American countries.Click to Learn MoreActive

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