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Explore Central America: Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama

13 days Nature & Wildlife Tours
Central America offers a feast for the senses. Take a dip in a tropical hot spring. Sip Costa Rican coffee at a coffee plantation. Feel a peaceful breeze off Lake Nicaragua. Experience the eclectic charm of Panama City. See the beauty of nature in its purest forms, from dense rainforests to pristine beaches to verdant volcanic islands. And for a change of scenery, the region’s cities showcase historic architecture and international flair.

Let us handle the details

Expert Tour Director

Local cuisine with beer or wine

Handpicked hotels

Sightseeing with local guides

Private transportation

Personalized flight options

Let us handle the details

Expert Tour Director

Local cuisine with beer or wine

Handpicked hotels

Sightseeing with local guides

Private transportation

Personalized flight options

Your tour includes

  • 12 nights in handpicked hotels

  • Breakfast daily, 3 lunches, 7 three- course dinners; beer or wine is included at the welcome and farewell dinners

  • Multilingual Tour Director

  • Private deluxe motor coach

  • Guided sightseeing & select entrance fees

Granada2 nights Hotel info

Day 1

Your journey begins with a flight to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, aboard an internationally recognized airline. A Go Ahead representative will greet you at the airport after you clear customs and escort you to your hotel in nearby Granada.

Day 2

Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Included entrances: La Merced Church, Fortaleza de la Pólvora, Lake Nicaragua Cruise

Connect & Conserve: Local school visit

Kick off your trip with a full day to soak in the culture of Granada, one of the oldest European-founded cities in the New World. A local guide highlights the city’s Spanish architecture and rich heritage with a tour of the UNESCO-recognized colonial zone, including the 16th-century La Merced Church and the Fortaleza de la Pólvora. In the afternoon, cruise the Islets of Granada, 365 volcanic islands that dot Lake Nicaragua. During various island stops, you can take a walk, bird-watch and mingle with fishermen. Later, visit a local school before enjoying a welcome dinner with your fellow travelers.

San Juan del Sur2 nights Hotel info

Day 3

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Included entrances: Masaya Volcano National Park

Connect & Conserve: Masaya market visit, Community ceramics demonstration, Pueblos Blancos Community Visit

Today is all about Nicaragua’s scenery and traditions. Visit Masaya Volcano for sweeping views of the region, then browse handicrafts at the country’s best open-air markets. Next, tour the “Pueblos Blancos,” local villages with white colonial buildings that are home to rich pre-Columbian roots and traditional craftspeople. While you’re here, enjoy lunch overlooking Apoyo Lagoon and learn about local trades, like ceramics, leatherwork and furniture-making. Then, transfer to San Juan del Sur and enjoy a free evening.

Day 4

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Connect & Conserve: Ometepe Island Biosphere & Coffee Farm

Spend the day on Ometepe, an island in Lake Nicaragua formed by twin volcanoes. Remarkably untouched, the island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, thanks to its verdant hillsides, waterfalls, beaches and wildlife. A local guide shows you the many charms of Ometepe, including visits to the island’s petroglyphs (rock engravings) and an organic coffee farm. Lunch is provided on the island.

Guanacaste2 nights Hotel info

Day 5

Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Included entrances: Santa Rosa National Park

As you cross into Costa Rica this morning, stop at Santa Rosa National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Walk through the park’s signature dry forests to catch a glimpse of the birds, monkeys and sloths that call the ecosystem home. Continue on to Guanacaste, where your Tour Director gives a quick walking tour of the region’s capital of Liberia. Enjoy a free afternoon before joining your group for dinner.

Day 6

Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Known as Costa Rica’s Gold Coast, Guanacaste is a beach-lover’s utopia. Today is free to relax and explore as you’d like. Consider joining an optional excursion for a morning of sailing and snorkeling. After a day in paradise, join your group for dinner.

Optional Excursion - Sailing & Snorkeling $89*pp Details

From Tamarindo, embark on an unforgettable sailing voyage aboard a catamaran yacht. On your cruise, helmed by a crew of three, you’ll head out into Tamarindo Bay to encounter turtles, jumping rays and dolphins. If you're feeling adventurous, take advantage of the available snorkeling equipment and jump right in. The cruise provides plenty of time to sit back and unwind with snacks and beverages as you listen to relaxing music and enjoy the spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean.

Arenal Region2 nights Hotel info

Day 7

Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Included entrances: Palo Verde National Park rafting

Make your way to the Arenal region today, stopping en route at the Tenorio River. Hop aboard a six-person river raft for a ride down the Tenorio, where you may spot crocodiles, otters, monkeys and birds. Tonight, sit down for dinner at a local restaurant in La Fortuna to relax after your adventurous day.

Day 8

Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Included entrances: Arenal Volcano National Park

Start the day with a walk through Arenal National Park, a bird-watcher’s paradise. You’ll be treated to views of Arenal, Costa Rica’s most active volcano. After exploring, unwind in hot springs kept warm by the geothermal energy that created the volcano. With flowing tributaries, waterfalls and jungle surroundings, the hot springs are a piece of tropical paradise. Spend the afternoon as you’d like, or join an optional ziplining tour through the jungle. Dinner is included tonight.

Optional Excursion - Ziplining Tour $49*pp Details

Today's ziplining excursion adds a bit of adrenaline to your Costa Rican vacation. The longest ziplines on this course cover nearly half a mile, and the tallest are almost 600 feet off the ground; in short, you've never traveled like this before! You'll fly silently above the treetops and come home with a renewed sense of adventure.

San José1 night Hotel info

Day 9

Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Connect & Conserve: Espiritu Santo Coffee Plantation

This morning, head to Naranjo to visit the Espiritu Santo Coffee Plantation, run by a large farmers’ cooperative. Take a tour to learn how coffee is picked, processed and roasted; then enjoy a tasting to see how it (deliciously) comes together. In the afternoon, travel to San José. Your Tour Director gives a panoramic tour that includes La Sabana Metropolitan Park and the diverse neighborhood of Barrio Amón, as well as a photo stop at the Bellavista Fortress. Enjoy dinner with your group tonight.

Panama City3 nights Hotel info

Day 10

Included meals: Breakfast

After your flight to Panama City, head out for an afternoon of exploring. The first European settlement on the Pacific coast, Panama City was burned by pirates and rebuilt in the 17th century. Your Tour Director leads the way around the UNESCO-recognized Old City. You’ll see Spanish, French and early American influences as you tour the major highlights, including the Metropolitan Cathedral and Plaza de la Independencia. End your tour with a drive down the palm-lined Amador Causeway for unbeatable views of the modern cityscape and Panama Bay.

Day 11

Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Included entrances: Panama Canal Cruise

Connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Panama Canal changed the way we navigate the world. Discover this great engineering feat on today’s canal cruise. Start at Gamboa pier, cruising through locks and under the Bridge of the Americas and Centennial Bridge, both of which link the continents. After lunch on the ship, disembark at Amador Causeway.

Day 12

Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Enjoy a free day in Panama City, or choose to join our optional excursion to an Embera Village. Tonight, gather together for a farewell dinner.

Optional Excursion - Embera Village Visit: Indigenous Culture $115*pp Details

Get a glimpse into life in an indigenous village during a trip to meet the Embera people. With a name that means “keepers of the rainforest,” the Embera people have stayed true to their community’s traditions for centuries. To get to the village, you’ll cruise up the Chagres River in a dugout canoe, taking in Panama’s vibrant jungle scenery along the way. When you arrive, you’ll have the chance to learn about their way of life. Meet the locals, visit a medicine garden, join in their traditions and maybe even take a dip in the river. A simple lunch will be offered before your return to Panama City.

Flight homefor a day

Day 13

Included meals: Breakfast

A Go Ahead representative helps you transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Add Cartagena, Colombia $1,049 pp

After exploring the diverse natural landscapes of Central America, spend a few extra days to experience sunny South America. Considered the jewel of the Caribbean, Cartagena is a vibrant city with a dynamic culture and heritage. The city has some of the most extensive Spanish colonial walls and fortifications in the region, as well as strikingly colorful colonial buildings. Stroll down cobblestone streets, relax on the beach and let a local show you the city’s most historic sites.

Cartagena3 nights Hotel info

Day 13

Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Fly to Cartagena, a vibrant colonial city on the Caribbean coast. Get settled in before dinner.

Day 14

Included meals: Breakfast

Included entrances: San Felipe de Barajas Castle, Convento de la Popa

Cartagena is home to brightly colored architecture and Spanish colonial walls. On today’s tour, a local leads you by the historic landmarks, starting off at San Lázaro Hill to see San Felipe de Barajas Castle. Continue through the UNESCO-recognized city center, passing by Inquisition Palace and the iconic clock tower.

Day 15

Included meals: Breakfast

Enjoy a free day to stroll the bougainvillea-lined streets or relax on the picture-perfect Caribbean beaches. Alternatively, join an optional cruise of the Rosario Islands for a day of snorkeling and boating.

Optional Excursion - Rosario Islands: Cruise & Snorkeling $89*pp Details

Spend the day island-hopping in the Caribbean. Set off the coast of Cartagena, the Rosario Islands were named a national park thanks to their incredible coral reefs. Enjoy a sightseeing cruise, relax on the pristine beaches, take a dip in the crystal-clear waters and snorkel above the renowned reefs. An authentic Colombian lunch will be served on one of islands.

Flight homefor a day

Day 16

Included meals: Breakfast

A Go Ahead representative escorts you to the airport for your return flight.

Local school visit

Masaya market visit

Community ceramics demonstration

Pueblos Blancos Community Visit

Ometepe Island Biosphere & Coffee Farm

Espiritu Santo Coffee Plantation

How's the weather?

  • Granada, Nicaragua
  • San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
  • Guanacaste, Costa Rica
  • Arenal, Costa Rica
  • San José, Costa Rica
  • Panama City, Panama
  • Cartagena, Colombia
Temperature Precipitation
  • JAN
  • FEB
  • MAR
  • APR
  • MAY
  • JUN
  • JUL
  • AUG
  • SEP
  • OCT
  • NOV
  • DEC

Passport & Visa Requirements

In order to enter Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama   (as well as Colombia on the tour extension), U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport. The expiration date must extend at least six months beyond the date of your return home. No visa is required for U.S. or Canadian citizens. If you’re not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, contact the consulates for your particular entry requirements.

Baggage Allowance

Airlines have varying weight restrictions on luggage. Some airlines may impose additional charges if you choose to check any baggage; be advised that you are responsible for any such costs. Contact your airline for detailed information regarding luggage size and weight restrictions for your flight, but please note that Go Ahead travelers are restricted to one checked bag per person due to storage limitations on motor coaches and other internal transfers, which may include train connections or flights. One carry-on bag is also permitted, provided that it does not exceed 45 total inches (length + width + height).  Make sure you label your baggage and carry valuables, medication and documents in your carry-on bag.

Clothing & Packing Tips

Your itinerary focuses on the outdoors, so your clothing should be casual and appropriate for outdoor use. Loose-fitting, layered clothing that can accommodate varying temperatures will be most comfortable. A sun hat, sunglasses and a bathing suit are recommended, as well as walking shoes or hiking boots. Occasional rain showers are common, so pack lightweight rainwear. Binoculars are very useful for bird- and animal-watching, along with a field guide if you’re particularly interested in the different species you’ll spot. Insect repellent is highly recommended for visits to the rainforests. The sun can be especially strong in the highlands and by the Caribbean coast, so you’ll want to carry sunscreen at all times.

Health

Be sure to take proper care for sun exposure. There‘s also some risk of mosquito-born diseases, especially in the rainforests and national parks. Additionally, there are several boat transfers on your tour which may pose problems if you’re prone to motion sickness. Consult your doctor at least eight weeks prior to departure about possible preventive measures and personal travel requirements.

Walking on Tour

This is an active tour, and travelers should be prepared to walk on some uneven terrain.

Cuisine

Costa Rican cuisine is based on rice, black beans and corn, served with beef, chicken or fish. Fresh, locally grown fruit is abundant and includes such varieties as bananas, mangoes, pineapples and avocados. Traditional desserts include custards, puddings and simple cakes. Locally grown coffee is served very strong and black, though it may be served with hot milk upon request. Nicaraguan cuisine blends Spanish, indigenous and Creole influences. Corn, fruit and vegetables are staples, with the addition of seafood and coconut on the Caribbean coastline. The food in Panama is extremely varied. Spanish and indigenous dishes blend with the flavors of France, Italy, Africa and the Caribbean. Look out for delicious coconut rice, sancocho (chicken stew) and crispy snacks, like empanadas and fried yucca.

Transportation

Flights arrive in Managua, Nicaragua and depart from Panama City, Panama (Cartagena, Colombia on the extension). The tour includes a ferry to Ometepe Island as well as an internal flight between San José and Panama City; the rest of the transportation is by private motor coach.

Electricity

Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama all operate on 110 volts.

Time Zones

Costa Rica and Nicaragua are six hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Panama is five hours behind GMT. None of the three countries observe daylight saving time. 

Currency

The currency you will be using on tour is the colón in Costa Rica, the córdoba in Nicaragua, and the U.S. dollar in Panama. In Panama, the U.S. dollar may be referred to as the balboa, however it is the same bill and value as the U.S. dollar. Panamanian coins may be in circulation, but they are the same value, size and metal as U.S. coins.

Tipping

At the conclusion of your tour, it’s customary to offer your Tour Director and driver a gratuity. We recommend tipping in your tour country’s currency, the equivalent of $3USD/CAD per person per day for your driver and $6USD/CAD to $9USD/CAD per person per day for your Tour Director. If applicable, we also recommend the equivalent of $2USD/CAD per local guide. Tips can only be paid in cash. Please keep current local currency exchange rates in mind when tipping.

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