On this trip, you will discover the best the Caribbean has to offer in both countries, Costa Rica and Panama. We will first take you to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, to spot wildlife, hike through the jungle or just enjoy the beach. After three nights in this vibrant place, you will cross the border and take a boat to Bocas del Toro, Panama. This package offers a lot of activities and fun but also provides time to relax and the chance to combine the best part of two countries in one. Here’s what your days will look like.
Day 1: Rafting to Puerto Viejo
Early morning pickup in San Jose for a thrilling whitewater rafting trip down Costa Rica’s most popular rafting river, Rio Pacuare! A hearty breakfast at the rafting company headquarters (about 3 hours away) is provided where your luggage is securely stored in a locked container. This is our most popular rafting trip and Costa Rica’s premier river trip.
This is the ultimate blend of wilderness exposure and invigorating excitement! The Pacuare River is world famous for its pristine beauty. A true river gorge, it is flanked by steep, green walls. Waterfalls cascade into the river from both sides as colorful, tropical birds fly right overhead. The white water is equally exciting (rapids class III-IV). This is truly a memorable rafting trip, and we can guarantee an awesome day with lots of laughs! All instruction and equipment, as well as lunch on the shore of the river, is included. You’ll be back at the rafting company headquarters in time for a drink where transportation back to your Puerto Viejo hotel is provided.
Note: Our usual pickup from San José area hotels leaves San José approximately 6:00 a.m. Unfortunately, this is too early to meet any international flights arriving that same day so you must spend your first night in San José. If you’d like us to book accommodations for you, please let us know.
Day 2 & 3: Puerto Viejo
Jaguar Rescue Center, Chocolate Lady, and Waterfall Tour
After breakfast, you will be picked up at your hotel of choice in Puerto Viejo (please see below the different options) for our popular 3 in 1 tour.
The Animal Rescue Center, Chocolate Lady, and Waterfall tour takes you to the Jaguar Rescue Centre, which offers shelter, treatment and protection to ill or wounded wild animals in the South Caribbean area. It is a sanctuary for wild animals, and they try to accommodate their jungle guests as well as they can: terrariums for the snakes, large spaces for the monkeys to rest in after spending the day playing in the trees, special quarantine cages for the animals, a large supply of medicine and an operating theatre for emergency surgery. Your visit helps support the work of the center.
Next we visit an indigenous family growing cacao trees on their land. They are eager to show you the entire process of cacao fruit becoming a bar of chocolate. You will have the opportunity to purchase some of their chocolate or other indigenous handmade crafts. Please note that only part of the family speaks very limited English so if you don’t speak Spanish, your explanation of the process may be in the form of pantomime!
Our third destination is the Volio Waterfall. It is about a twenty-minute hike through the jungle to a twelve-meter high waterfall in the mountains of Talamanca. You will have the possibility to swim there. Should the waterfall be too dry (this can sometimes happen during the dry season), your tour guide will lead you to a different waterfall in the same area where you can enjoy swimming in the pools there. Your feet may get wet while you’re exploring the waterfall, so we advise you to wear appropriate shoes or bring an extra pair for changing into after the hike.
Day 3: Cahuita National Park Hike or Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge Hike
Cahuita National Park is considered one of the most beautiful protected areas in Costa Rica. It is also one of the oldest national parks of Costa Rica as it was founded in 1970 to protect the coral reef. We will pick you up at your hotel and drive in a microbus to Cahuita National Park; which is located about 20 minutes from Puerto Viejo. The tour will start at the Kelly Creek Ranger Station; from there our naturalist tour guide will use his sharp senses to spot animals. You will meet some new friends along the road such as white-faced monkeys, sloths, snakes, raccoon and numerous other species that you will be able to observe and learn about.
After about 2.5 km, you will reach Cahuita Point where you will have a little break and may have a quick dip into the ocean. From the Cahuita Point, you are going to head to the other park entrance, Puerto Vargas, from where you will return by microbus to your hotel. If the track to Puerto Vargas is not in a good condition, you may return to the starting point instead. Alternatively, you can choose the Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge Hike: The Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge has a great diversity of ecological areas from beautiful beaches to the important mangroves of the Gandoca Lagoon. While you walk into the forest, you will wonder about the exotic vegetation. Most of the trees are covered with mosses, lichens, bromeliads, orchids and other plants that cascade from the branches of these gigantic trees creating a backdrop for life in the jungle. You will spot many different species of birds from the 384 species located in this area. Some examples are hummingbirds, tanagers, owls, and toucans.
Day 4 - 6: Bocas del Toro
After being picked up at your hotel, you will go by microbus to Sixaola, which is the town on the border with Panama. You will cross the Rio Sixaola, pass through immigration and then take another minivan to Almirante where a small passenger boat will take you to Bocastown on Isla Colon. Depending where you stay in Bocas, you will have to take another short taxi boat ride to Isla Solarte or Punta Caracol or walk to your hotel on the main island. You will then have the rest of the day free to visit one of the nearby islands or just explore the town.
On day 5 of your trip, you will go on a full day tour. You can chose of 3 tours of which all include snorkeling and two of them also include deep boarding. After a day on and in the water, you can enjoy the evening in Bocastown or at your lodge and then return to San José the next day after breakfast. For an additional charge, you can also take a flight to San José, or you could take a flight to Panama City, which is also worth a visit! Just ask us and we will be happy to assist you!
Some hints and recommendations from our experienced travel agents:
Want the ultimate in getting away from it all? Choose to spend an additional night on the river by upgrading your rafting choice to a 2-day hike and paddle trip with a night in a river lodge.
If you’d rather just relax switch one of the above tours for a massage on the beach!
If you want an action-filled day, you can choose our Full Day Jungle Adventure, which includes transportation, lunch, a canopy tour, a Tarzan swing, tree climbing, hiking, and rappelling.
If more than one of these sounds good to you, then add extra days in Puerto Viejo, and we’ll be happy to arrange more of our great activities! Or if you just want some days to explore the area (by bicycle is a great option!) and find some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, it is always possible to add an extra night or two in Puerto Viejo, before or after your visit to Bocas.
If you would like to stay a bit longer in Panama, you can, of course, add more nights in Bocas, or you take a flight to Panama City; there is also a lot to be seen! Just ask us – we will be happy to assist you!
Puerto Viejo Accomodation Choices
Blue Conga – Economy
Just outside the center of Puerto Viejo, in a calm and idyllic location, the Blue Conga hotel offers you comfort in a recently refurbished hotel with a colorful Caribbean style. You can choose between king-size beds, queen-size beds or singles.
Every clean and comfortable room is fully-equipped with mosquito nets and fans. You can choose between king-size beds, queen-size beds or singles.
Banana Azul – Midrange
Banana Azul is a small hotel north of town beachfront on Playa Negra. This small boutique hotel has been created with care using local products and philosophy that emphasizes relaxation. Blooming gardens adorn the property, as do several freely-hanging hammocks and a meandering pond inhabited by fish and turtles. There is a restaurant, bar, pool, and beach club.
The hotel consists of fourteen beautiful guest rooms with private baths, fans, and free wireless internet. Most rooms are on the second floor of the main building and open onto a large veranda with sweeping ocean views and of the garden.
Le Cameleon – Luxury
Le Cameleon Boutique Hotel offers upscale accommodations adjacent to the beach on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast. Situated within a rainforest, the boutique hotel’s 23 Rooms encircle a pool surrounded by lush tropical gardens. At Le Caméléon’s NOA Beach Club, guests enjoy classic Costa Rican hospitality with cocktail hours, entertainment, and dining.
The hotel pays homage to the ever-changing colors of the chameleon with all-white minimalist rooms punctuated by a splash of bright color. One thing remains consistent, however, and that’s the comfort and peaceful ambiance of our rooms. We take care of every detail to make your stay the ultimate experience you deserve. All rooms are air conditioned and Wifi is available for free.
Bocas del Toro Accomodation Choices
Bambuda Lodge – Economy
Bambuda Lodge is on Isla Solarte, just a 5-minute taxi-boat ride from Bocastown. It overlooks a private bay with a coral reef and provides incredible views of the mountainous spine of mainland Panama. The lodge is on 14 acres of pristine tropical rainforest. The main building has large spacious decks out front for lounging or sunbathing around the massive swimming pool. The lodge offers a mix of dorm and private rooms. The private rooms are located in the second house at the back of the property, away from the front building. Breakfast and free WiFi are included. Children under the age of 16 are not accepted.
The accommodation offers spacious rooms, private bathrooms, handmade wooden beds, deluxe mattresses and hot water showers. The wrap-around veranda has a huge day bed and offers views of the ocean and jungle.
Tropical Suites – Midrange
This oceanfront boutique hotel offers 16 suites with either inland or ocean view. It is ideally situated in the heart of beautiful Bocas del Toro. Resting on the tranquil Caribbean shoreline, the hotel is a short stroll to fantastic, over the water restaurants, and an eclectic mix of shops. In addition to incredible ocean view suites, the hotel’s modern concrete construction provides a quiet and comfortable refuge for the discerning traveler.
All rooms come with two double beds or a king size bed, private balcony (built over the water or with a town center view), generous bathroom with double sink vanity, premium LCD flat screen TV, fully equipped kitchen with mini fridge, coffee maker, air-conditioning and complimentary WiFi. It also includes an over the water, cooked to order breakfast.
Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge – Luxury
Deep within the heavenly waters of the Caribbean, Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge brings the easy-going rhythms of the secluded Islands. Learn how to coexist with the advance systems of renewable energy like the solar panels that provide electricity to the cabins or the bio-digestor that debugs sewage waters avoiding any type of pollution impact on the environment. At night, the restaurant’s impressive palm leaf roof creates the perfect surrounding for a candlelight dinner that offers a variety of Caribbean and International dishes.
Enjoy one of its exclusive cabins where you will have access to crystal clear waters from your private terrace or you will be able to observe the impressive sunset interrupted only by playful dolphins. Feel immerse by the sounds of nature while laying down on a colonial style bed at the second level master bedroom, or just relax with a hot water shower on your private bathroom after an exited tour of the area.
|Duration:||6 Days/5 nights|
|Cost per person:||from $659 pp (economy)|
from $839 pp (midrange)
from $1329 pp (luxury)
Rates are based on double occupancy and are not valid for holiday seasons.
|Includes:||Round trip transportation from San Jose to Puerto Viejo and your hotel in Bocas del Toro, Panama • 5 nights of lodging in one of our partner hotels • Tours as described above • Gecko Trail Costa Rica service charge|
|Not included:||Exit fees to be paid on Costa Rican side of the border ($8 per person) • Bocas airport departure tax ($15 – $20 pp) for those choosing the return to San Jose by air option • Single supplement if single room(s) needed|
|What to bring:||Shoes or sandals that can get wet for rafting trip, sunscreen, pants, insect repellent, hiking boots/shoes, bathing suit, sunglasses, towel, passport and onward ticket leaving Costa Rica (or Panama if you are ending the tour there) for border crossing|