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Latin America
Highlights of Central...

Highlights of Central America: Costa Rica & Panama

12 days |  15 days with Cartagena extension
12 days |  15 days with Cartagena extension
Group size1222 travelers

4.0 star rating

Physical activity
a smiling woman selling vegetables in boquete panama
a keel billed toucan sitting on a tree branch
people walking along beach lined with palm trees with crystal clear blue water
OverviewItineraryDates & pricesReviewsTraveler photosHotels, flights & FAQ
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Central America offers a feast for the senses.

Experience the best of this vibrant region as you spot wildlife in the magical Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, sip flavorful Panamanian coffee at a local farm, and watch ships pass through the Panama Canal. Whether you’re snapping photos of sloths in Costa Rica or strolling the historic streets of Panama City, the verdant landscapes and irresistible culture of these two nations will shine on this small group Wildlife Tour.

Your tour package includes

  • 11 nights in handpicked hotels
  • 11 breakfasts
  • 4 lunches
  • 5 dinners, some with beer or wine
  • 2 food tastings
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Included highlights

  • Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
  • Heliconia Ranch tree planting
  • Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Gesha coffee tasting
  • Chitré artisan workshops
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Start planning today

An expert specializing in tours of this region is here to help.

Talk to a Tour Consultant

Day-by-day itinerary

Print itinerary
San José1 night
Day 1: Arrival in San José
Included meal: Light dinner

Welcome to Costa Rica! Settle in to your hotel and enjoy an included dinner.

Please note: Travelers arriving at the hotel late this evening will have an informal dinner.

Monteverde2 nights
Day 2: Transfer to Monteverde & hiking tour of Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve
Included meals: Breakfast, Welcome lunch

Leave the city behind and head to the mountainous town of Monteverde, where you’ll sit down with your fellow travelers for a welcome lunch at a local, family-owned ranch.

Join your Tour Director for an afternoon hike through Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, a haven for birdwatchers.

  • Learn about variety of flora and fauna, including orchids and ferns
  • Walk through the misty forest as you explore this rare ecosystem, which gets its name from the constant cloud coverage
  • Try to spot toucans, hummingbirds, resplendent quetzals, and more

Please note: Travelers should be able to hike around two miles over wet, and potentially slippery, pathways.

Day 3: Heliconia Ranch
Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Learn about Costa Rica’s diverse ecology and vibrant culture today.

  • Help with reforestation efforts by planting a native tree at Heliconia Ranch
  • Enjoy an included lunch as you watch traditional Costa Rican dances performed by children from the community

Spend a free afternoon in Monteverde or add an excursion.

Sky Walk

From $65 per person

Manuel Antonio2 nights
Day 4: Manuel Antonio National Park
Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Make your way south to the country’s smallest national park, popular for its breathtaking beaches and scenic hiking trails. Uncover it’s incredible biodiversity and postcard-worthy beaches on a guided tour.

  • Keep an eye out for some of the 109 mammal species and 270 bird species that call the park home
  • Walk to the top of rocky Cathedral Point to view the park from across the Pacific
  • See the blowhole at Escondido Beach
  • Survey the saw cliff and sea caves at Serrucho Point
  • Relax on the beach or take a dip in the Pacific Ocean

Sit down for an included dinner this evening.

Day 5: Tárcoles River cruise
Included meal: Breakfast

Travel to the quiet town of Tárcoles and set out on a riverboat tour of the Tárcoles River led by a local guide.

  • Soak in views of lush mangrove forests and jungle scenery
  • Look out for wildlife such as crocodiles, iguanas, lizards, monkeys, and birds

Enjoy a free afternoon in Manuel Antonio or add an excursion.

Manuel Antonio Catamaran Cruise

From $115 per person

Boquete2 nights
Day 6: Transfer to Boquete
Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Cross the border into Panama today and meet up with your Panamanian Tour Director as you make your way to the town of Boquete, which is located in the mountains and known for its year-round temperate weather.

Then, enjoy an included dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

Day 7: Coffee farm & factory tour
Included meals: Breakfast, Tasting

Spend a free morning in Boquete or add an excursion.

This afternoon, take a guided tour of a local coffee farm and factory to learn about the region’s connection to the flavorful beverage.

  • Explore the farm to learn about the process of growing and harvesting coffee beans
  • Walk through the factory to see how the beans are roasted
  • Sample award-winning Gesha coffee, a rare type of coffee made from beans that are only grown in a few countries across the globe

Cloud Forest Nature Walk & Bird Watching

From $65 per person

Chitré Region1 night
Day 8: Transfer to the Chitré Region & sightseeing tour of artisan workshops
Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Travel south to the Chitré Region to discover why this area is considered the cultural cradle of Panama. You’ll take a guided tour after an included lunch to get to know four local craftspeople located in Chitré and the picturesque town of Parita.

  • Meet a drum-maker and learn how the artisan creates this popular instrument as you enjoy a musical demonstration
  • Step inside a pottery workshop to meet a potter who will demonstrate how to make ceramics in a handmade oven
  • Visit a family of mask-makers to hear how they research and design the traditional Diablico Sucio masks
  • Interact with a family of textile workers who specialize in creating polleras, colorful Latin American skirts, which can take years to complete
  • See the colorful designs, as well as the threading and sewing techniques, as the artisans talk about the history and significance of the skirts

Enjoy an included dinner this evening.

Panama City3 nights
Day 9: Transfer to Panama City, Panama Canal cruise & Miraflores Locks
Included meal: Breakfast

Travel to Panama City and spend the day exploring the legendary Panama Canal —a feat of engineering.

  • Board a covered boat in the town of Gamboa and float alongside commercial and private boats as you sail along Gatun Lake
  • Learn about the manmade lake, which plays an essential role in helping ships pass through the Panama Canal
  • Try to spot wildlife including Panamanian tamarins, green iguanas, crocodiles, and birds along the lake’s jungle-lined shoreline

After your boat ride, head to the Miraflores Locks and enjoy exclusive access to one of the most important areas of the Panama Canal.

  • Step inside the Miraflores Visitor Center to discover how the canal was built
  • Stand within a few feet of incoming ships and watch as they cross through the locks

Please note: On some departures the Miraflores Locks may be replaced with entrance to the Miraflores Museum due to closures.

Day 10: Sightseeing tour of Panama City
Included meals: Breakfast, Tasting

Meet up with a local guide and spend some time exploring Panama’s capital city.

  • Pass the Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo and view the city’s modern architecture as you drive down Amador Causeway
  • Take a walking tour of the UNESCO-listed Casco Viejo neighborhood
  • Visit the Plaza de Francia, a memorial dedicated to the French laborers who lost their lives in the first failed attempt to dig the Panama Canal
  • Visit Plaza de la Independencia to see where Panama declared independence from Colombia
  • Step inside the Church of San Jose to marvel at the ornate Golden Altar and see the Metropolitan Cathedral
  • Stop at shop to sample local chocolates and rum
  • Walk through Parque De Santa Ana and past the historic La Avenida Central shopping street
  • Learn about the culture in El Chorrillo neighborhood, which was bombed during the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989
  • Enjoy free time for lunch in the Casco Viejo neighborhood

Spend a free afternoon in Panama City or add an excursion.

Casco Viejo & Cinta Costera Bike Tour

From $55 per person

Day 11: Chagres National Park & Emberá community visit
Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Farewell dinner

Leave Panama City behind and head into the lush rainforests of Chagres National Park.

  • Board a traditional dugout canoe for a ride up the Chagres River, soaking in the jungle scenery as you go
  • Head to a village where the indigenous Emberá people, known as the keepers of the rainforest, have lived for thousands of years
  • Learn about the Emberá community and way of life, including lessons in traditional medicine and cultural dance
  • See how their culture exists in harmony with the surrounding rainforest
  • Enjoy an included lunch in the village before returning to Panama City

Head to a local restaurant and celebrate your trip during a farewell dinner with your fellow travelers.

Flight Home
Day 12: Departure
Included meal: Breakfast (excluding early morning departures)

Transfer to the airport for your flight home or continue on to Cartagena, Colombia.

Extension to Cartagena
Fly to Cartagena, one of the Caribbean's most historic spots, to continue your adventure. You'll explore the UNESCO-listed city on a sightseeing tour, and even enjoy a little beach time while you're at it.
Cartagena3 nights
Day 12: Flight to Cartagena
Included meal: Breakfast

Fly to Cartagena, Colombia today. Spend a free evening in the city or add an excursion.

Cartagena Cooking Class & Dinner

From $129 per person

Day 13: Sightseeing tour of Cartagena & dance class
Included meal: Breakfast

Set off on a walking tour to explore Cartagena’s colorful and historic UNESCO-recognized Old Town alongside a local guide.

  • Stroll through the beautiful Plaza de Bolívar as you learn about the park’s connection to the fight for Colombian independence
  • Tour the Inquisition Palace to see a variety of artifacts and exhibits that highlight the country’s cultural heritage
  • Visit San Felipe de Barajas Castle, a grand fortress built by the Spaniards that sits atop the Hill of San Lázaro

Enjoy a free afternoon in Cartagena or add an excursion.

This evening, take part in a class led by a local dancer to learn how to dance salsa and cumbia.

  • Follow along as your instructor shows you how to properly perform signature salsa moves
  • Move to the beat as you learn about the roots of cumbia, a local dance style created by enslaved Black and indigenous people

Boquilla Mangroves & Afro-Caribbean Drum Lesson

From $89 per person

Day 14: Free day in Cartagena
Included meals: Breakfast, Farewell dinner

Spend a free day in Cartagena or add an excursion.

Celebrate your trip during a farewell dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

A Day on Isla Barú

From $155 per person

Flight Home
Day 15: Departure
Included meal: Breakfast (excluding early morning departures)

Board your flight home today.

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4.0 star rating

Overall rating 4.0 out of 5

Based on 35 authentic traveler reviews
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    1.0 star rating

    10/13/23 by 1st-time traveler Anonymous

    Some of the buses were not very comfortable for long travel. Many of the days were constantly on the bus and rushed from one activity to another. 3 Cloud forests were repetitive and long bus rides for a one hour excursion was ridiculous. We did not see many of the advertised attractions, blow h...

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    EF Go Ahead Tours replied on 11/8/23

    Hello, Thank you for taking a moment to share you...

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    2.0 star rating

    Tiresome trip!!!
    10/13/23 by 5th-time traveler Rose Ann

    Bus rides were too long especially in Panama. Old, cramped, noisy, poor speakers. The tour of Tarcoles River should have taken place when we passed the bridge the first time instead of taking the log bus ride back to see the same crock. Cloud forest nature walk was only two hours and we didn’t ev...

    Read more +
    EF Go Ahead Tours replied on 11/14/23

    Hi Rose Ann, Thank you for taking a moment to sha...

    Read more +

    4.0 star rating

    Excellent tour
    10/13/23 by 4th-time traveler Athar Nadeem
    Show more reviews

    Traveler photos

    Hotels, flights & FAQ

    Here's the nitty-gritty—where you’ll stay, how you’ll get there, and what to know about your destination before you go.


    We handpick every hotel to strike the balance of comfort, location, and local charm. Specific accommodations will vary based on your departure date, but these are frequently used hotels for this tour and we're confident you'll be satisfied.
    Crowne Plaza Corobici
    Crowne Plaza Corobici

    This bright and spacious hotel is located in San Jose, Costa Rica next door to La Sabana Pakr. Guests enjoy the outdoor pool, fitness center and on-si...

    Read more +
    El Establo Mountain Hotel
    El Establo Mountain Hotel

    This contemporary hotel is located in Monteverde. Guests enjoy a tennis court, indoor pool, and a spa. Nearby, you'll find the Monteverde Butterfly Ga...

    Read more +
    Shana by the Beach Hotel
    Shana by the Beach Hotel

    This boutique hotel is located in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Guests enjoy the private nature trail to Biesanz beach, outdoor pool, and private room b...

    Read more +
    Valle Escondido Resort Golf & Spa
    Valle Escondido Resort Golf & Spa

    This hacienda style resort is located in Boquete. Guests enjoy the golf course, multiple pools, and spacious rooms. Nearby you'll find Boquete Brewing...

    Read more +
    Cubitá Boutique Resort & Spa
    Cubitá Boutique Resort & Spa

    This boutique hotel is located in the La Arena neighborhood. Guests enjoy a restaurant, bar, and outdoor pool. Nearby you’ll find the Museo de Herrera...

    Read more +
    The Executive Hotel
    The Executive Hotel

    This charming hotel is located in the Bella Vista neighborhood of Panama. Guests enjoy the rooftop pool, fitness center, and spacious rooms. Nearby yo...

    Read more +
    Santa Catalina Hotel
    Santa Catalina Hotel

    This boutique hotel is located in the Getsemani neighborhood of Cartagena. Guests enjoy the rooftop pool, restaurant, and private balconies. Nearby yo...

    Read more +


    Round-trip flights are one more thing we handle to make your journey as smooth as possible. Our team of travel experts will find the best flight itinerary for you at a competitive rate, thanks to our partnerships with top airlines.
    Add our airfare package and you'll get:
    • Round-trip flight for your tour
    • Airport transfers at your destination
    • A great price locked in today
    • 24/7 support from our dedicated service team
    • Options for arriving early, staying longer, or requesting an upgrade
    • Flexible rebooking options if your tour itinerary changes
    • Find out more about flights


    Print FAQ
    Passport, visa & entry requirements
    • This tour visits Costa Rica and Panama (as well as Colombia on the tour extension). In order to enter these countries, U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport with an expiration date extending at least six months beyond the date of reentry.
    • We recommend having at least two blank passport pages for entry stamps.
    • There is no visa required for U.S. or Canadian citizens.
    • Travelers on the tour extension to Colombia must complete Migración Colombia’s Online Check-Mig Form within 72 hours of boarding your inbound to Colombia.
    • If you are not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact each country’s consulate for your specific entry requirements.'
    • You can see the most up-to-date entry requirements for the destination(s) you’ll visit on tour by going to and searching the code GTC.
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    Tour pacing & mobility
    • You will walk for at least 2.5 hours daily across moderately uneven terrain, including paved roads, unpaved trails, and muddy paths, with some hills.
    • Travelers should be healthy enough to participate in all included walks without assistance. Adding optional excursions may increase the total amount of walking on your tour.
    • You should feel comfortable managing your own baggage at times, as well as getting in and out of boats.
    • Go Ahead Tours and the Tour Director who accompanies your group are unable to provide special, individual mobility assistance to travelers on tour. The responsibility of the Tour Director is to ensure the group as a whole enjoys a relaxing and informative journey, and he or she cannot be relied upon to provide ongoing, individualized assistance to any one traveler.
    • If you have any mobility concerns or physical restrictions, please contact our Customer Experience Team.
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    Tour Director
    • You will have a different Tour Director in each country on this tour.
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    Transportation & arrival information
    • Round-trip flights booked through Go Ahead Tours arrive in San José and depart from Panama City (or Cartagena on the tour extension). A representative from Go Ahead Tours will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel. Please remain in the arrival lounge, as the representative might be escorting one of your fellow travelers to the bus at the time of your arrival.
    • Transfers to and from the airport at your destination are included for travelers who have purchased their flights through Go Ahead Tours. Travelers who purchase their own flights may request airport transfers with Go Ahead Tours for an additional cost.
    • Boat rides on the Tárcoles River and Gatun Lake are included in the price of your tour. The tour extension also includes a flight from Panama City to Cartagena.
    • All other included transportation on this tour is by private motor coach.
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    Baggage allowance
    • Please note that our travelers are limited to one checked bag and one carry-on bag per person due to storage limitations on motor coaches and other transfers, which may include train connections or flights.
    • Contact your airline(s) for baggage size and weight restrictions for your flights, which may include on-tour flights in addition to your round-trip flights to and from tour. Please note that your included on-tour flights may have more restrictive baggage limits.
    • Some airlines may impose additional charges if you choose to check any baggage or exceed baggage size and weight restrictions. Be advised that you are responsible for any baggage fees incurred on all flights.
    • Make sure you label your baggage and keep valuables, medication, and documents in your carry-on bag.
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    Clothing & packing tips
    • We recommend packing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that can be easily layered. Comfortable, casual clothing and a sturdy pair of walking shoes are a must for sightseeing.
    • A lightweight jacket is recommended, as the temperatures will change with the elevation throughout your tour.
    • A sun hat, sunglasses, and rain gear will help you stay comfortable in all types of weather. You may also wish to pack a swimsuit.
    • Insect repellent is recommended for certain activities.
    • A small bottle of hand sanitizer may be helpful when other facilities are not readily available while on the road.
    • Binoculars are handy for a closer look at local wildlife and scenery.
    • You may want to pack dressier attire if you plan to visit a high-end restaurant or attend a special performance.
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    • At least 60 days prior to departure, check with your doctor or healthcare provider for the latest updates and entry requirements, or visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at
    • Take proper care with sun exposure, as the sun can be especially strong in some of the regions on this tour.
    • There are inherent risks associated with snorkeling and other water sports, particularly for those with pre-existing medical conditions. Discuss your planned activities with your doctor or healthcare provider for the best advice on participation.
    • Drink bottled water only. Refrain from ingesting tap water, including when brushing your teeth.
    • Avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables unless they’re cooked or washed in clean water and peeled.
    • Travelers prone to seasickness should note that this tour includes boat rides.
    • If you have medication that you take daily, be sure you have enough for each day of the tour as well as any possible delays encountered.
    • If you have dietary restrictions and/or food allergies please notify Go Ahead Tours at least 30 days prior to departure by logging in to your account and updating your traveler info. To update this information closer to your departure date, please call our Customer Experience Team.
    • You can see the most up-to-date entry requirements for the destination(s) you’ll visit on tour by going to and searching the code GTC.
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    • Costa Rican cuisine is based on staples like rice, black beans, and corn with beef, chicken, or fish. Fresh, locally grown fruit includes bananas, mangoes, pineapples, and avocados. Traditional desserts include custards, puddings, and simple cakes. Locally grown coffee is served strong and black, but hot milk is often available if you ask.
    • 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 savory snacks, like empanadas and fried yucca.
    • On the tour extension, coastal Cartagena relies on fresh seafood and hearty basics, such as rice and corn, like many neighboring South American countries. Much of the local cuisine contains flavors essential to Caribbean food, which make arroz con coco (coconut rice) and patacones (fried plantains), can’t-miss dishes.
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    Electricity & air conditioning
    • All destinations on this tour operate on 110-120 volts and use Types A or B plugs. As these are the same as the plugs used in the U.S. and Canada, a voltage adapter is not needed.
    • The strength of the air conditioning in hotels in this region is often not as strong or as cool as what you might be used to in the U.S. or Canada. When air conditioning is available, it is usually regulated seasonally and controlled centrally by the hotel.
    • Your hotels may provide hairdryers, irons, and other small appliances. However, these amenities cannot be guaranteed.
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    • Wi-Fi is available in most hotels, though some charges may apply.
    • There is no Wi-Fi on any of the motor coaches.
    • Please contact your mobile service provider for information on roaming charges.
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    Time zones
    • Costa Rica is six hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and one hour behind Eastern Time (ET). Costa Rica does not observe Daylight Saving Time.
    • Panama (as well as Colombia on the tour extension) is five hours behind GMT, the same as ET. These countries do not observe Daylight Saving Time.
    • From November through March, when it’s noon in New York, it’s 11am in Costa Rica and noon in Panama (as well as in Colombia on the tour extension). From April through October, when it’s noon in New York, it’s 10am in Costa Rica and 11am in Panama (as well as in Colombia on the tour extension).
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    • You will use the Costa Rican colón in Costa Rica and the U.S. dollar in Panama (as well as the Colombian peso in Colombia on the tour extension).
    • Better rates of exchange are usually available overseas, although it’s worth ordering some currency from your local bank to use when you first arrive.
    • We strongly advise that you take debit/bank cards and credit cards, which can be used to withdraw cash at local banks as needed.
    • You can use most debit/credit cards at ATMs on the international networks Cirrus and Plus, but make sure to check with your home bank about withdrawal fees.
    • Inform your bank and credit card company of your travel plans so that they won’t confuse your international purchases for fraudulent charges.
    • International banks and businesses primarily accept debit and credit cards that work with the EMV chip system. If you do not already have at least one debit or credit card with a chip in it, we strongly recommend requesting one from your bank prior to your tour.
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    • At the conclusion of your tour, it’s customary to offer your Tour Director and driver a gratuity in local currency or USD. Please keep current exchange rates in mind.
    • We recommend tipping the equivalent of $8USD to $10USD per person per day for your Tour Director and the equivalent of $3USD per person per day for your driver.
    • If applicable, we also recommend the equivalent of $2USD per local guide.
    • Tips can only be paid in cash.
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    Purchasing excursions on tour
    • Most optional excursions will be available for purchase while you are on tour.
    • Your Tour Director will only accept cash (in USD only), Visa, or MasterCard as payment for excursions.
    • Please be advised that if you pay for an excursion by credit card while on tour, it may take up to three months for your card to be charged.
    • Some optional excursions may only be purchased in advance. See page four of your tour itinerary for more information.
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