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Highlights of Central America: Costa Rica & Panama

with Cartagena extension
  • Duration: 12 or 15 days
  • Group size: 15-30
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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.

Your tour package includes
  • 11 nights in handpicked hotels
  • 11 breakfasts
  • 2 lunches
  • 5 dinners, some with beer or wine
  • Guided sightseeing tours
Included highlights
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
  • Heliconia Ranch
  • Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Gesha coffee tasting
  • La Arena artisans market
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Day-by-day itinerary
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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 & Monteverde 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.

Join a local guide this afternoon for a two-mile nature walk through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

  • Walk through the misty forest as you explore this rare ecosystem, which gets its name from the constant cloud coverage
  • Try to spot wildlife such as howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, keel-billed toucans, and the elusive resplendent quetzal
  • See the flora of the forest, home to the world’s highest concentration of orchids
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
Excursion (additional cost)
Manuel Antonio2 nights
Day 4: Manuel Antonio via Tárcoles River cruise
Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

On your way to Manuel Antonio, take 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

Continue on to Manuel Antonio and sit down for an included dinner tonight.

Day 5: Manuel Antonio National Park
Included meal: Breakfast

Get to know the country’s smallest national park, popular for its breathtaking beaches and scenic hiking trails.

  • 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

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

Manuel Antonio Sunset Cruise
Excursion (additional cost)
Boquete2 nights
Day 6: Transfer to Boquete
Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Cross the border into Panama today 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 meal: Breakfast

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
Excursion (additional cost)
Chitré1 night
Day 8: Chitré via Parita & La Arena
Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Travel south to the city of Chitré, stopping along the way to learn about the traditional Panamanian goods created by local artisans.

  • Visit the quaint colonial town of Parita
  • Continue on to La Arena to meet a textile worker who makes polleras, colorful Latin American skirts
  • Head to nearby studios to see how artisans create devil masks and drums
  • Learn how these pieces are connected to the local culture

Continue on to Chitré and enjoy an included dinner tonight.

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

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
Day 11: Free day in Panama City
Included meals: Breakfast, Farewell dinner

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

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

Chagres National Park & Emberá Village
Excursion (additional cost)
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

Each corner of this up-and-coming South American destination offers up history and culture. From the vibrant architecture in the Getsemani neighborhood to the UNESCO-listed city center, colorful Cartagena, Colombia is the perfect place to drop your bags and continue your adventure.

Santa Clara Coast2 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 Market Tour & Cooking Demonstration
Excursion (additional cost)
Day 13: Sightseeing tour of Cartagena
Included meal: Breakfast

Set off on a walking tour to explore Cartagena’s colorful and historic UNESCOrecognized 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
  • Step inside the San Pedro Claver Church
  • 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.

Boquilla Mangroves & Getsemani
Excursion (additional cost)
Day 14: Free day in Cartagena
Included meal: Breakfast

Spend a free day in Cartagena or add an excursion.

Raise a glass and toast to your trip with a farewell drink tonight.

Rosario Corals National Natural Park & Isla Barú
Excursion (additional cost)
Flight home
Day 15: Departure
Included meal: Breakfast (excluding early morning departures)

Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

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Dates & prices
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17 Departures
Tour prices are per person, before flights, and based on two travelers per hotel room.
Feb 14–Feb 25, 2020
Extension available
Mar 18–Mar 29, 2020
Extension available
Apr 10–Apr 21, 2020
Extension available
Jun 5–Jun 16, 2020
Extension available
Jul 10–Jul 21, 2020
Extension available
Nov 13–Nov 24, 2020
Extension available
Dec 4–Dec 15, 2020
Extension available
Only 9 spots left!
Jan 15–Jan 26, 2021
Extension available
Feb 12–Feb 23, 2021
Extension available
Mar 19–Mar 30, 2021
Extension available
Apr 9–Apr 20, 2021
Extension available
May 7–May 18, 2021
Extension available
Jun 4–Jun 15, 2021
Extension available
Jul 9–Jul 20, 2021
Extension available
Oct 15–Oct 26, 2021
Extension available
Nov 12–Nov 23, 2021
Extension available
Dec 10–Dec 21, 2021
Extension available
Our reviews are authentic and unedited.
3 Central American Countries
by 15th time traveler 

I thought I wrote a review last year. ???? to me. My husband & I loved this tour. Ozzy, our Tour Director, was excellent & handled a number of issues with great skill & patience. He offered & did send me pictures he had taken. Nicaragua was a pleasant surprise. It is a poor country with wonderful,...

Read more +
Go Ahead Tours replied on 02/06/2018

Hi Melodee, Thank you so much for your review! W...

Beautiful Central America with a great tour guide
by 3rd time traveler 

I wanted to go to Costa Rica and booked this trip. I had been on one other Go Ahead but met up with two friends. This was my first trip by myself (and I am under 40). It was amazing! I had zero expectations of Nicaragua. Grenada was beautiful and I really enjoyed taking the horse/carriage to th...

Go Ahead Tours replied on 01/24/2018

Thank you for traveling with us and for taking the...

by 1st time traveler 

This was an "interesting" tour. It was nice to visit different locations and learn interesting facts about the 3 countries ( Nicaragua, Costa Rica, w/ Panama extension), however this tour included a great deal of traveling by bus. Some days we rode up to 2-3 hours, did not follow the itinerary due ...

Go Ahead Tours replied on 08/09/2017

Thank you for your thoughtful review, Judith! We a...

Volcanoes, colonial towns and amazing wildlife
by 5th time traveler 

Having just returned from this tour that enabled us to travel to four countries, we are eager to share our enthusiasm for the itinerary, the overall quality of the meals and accommodations, and the caliber of the Tour Director, local guides and drivers. Our exploration took place with a very congen...

Go Ahead Tours replied on 02/08/2016

Hello, and welcome home from tour! Thank you so mu...

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.


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
Local weather
Cartagena, Colombia
Weather averages
High 87°F Low 81°F
Monteverde, Costa Rica
Weather averages
High 87°F Low 69°F
Panama City, Panama
Weather averages
High 85°F Low 74°F
San José, Costa Rica
Weather averages
High 78°F Low 56°F
Print FAQ
Passport & visa 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.
  • If you are not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact each country’s consulate for your specific entry requirements.
Tour pace
  • 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.
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.
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.
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.
  • There are no major health risks associated with traveling to any of the countries on this tour.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Electricity & air conditioning
  • All destinations on this tour operate on 110 volts and use Types A or B plugs with two flat pins or two flat pins and one round pin, respectively.
  • We recommend packing a universal adapter, as well as a voltage converter if you plan on using your own hairdryer or other device without a built-in converter.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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).
  • 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.
  • At the conclusion of your tour, it’s customary to offer your Tour Director and driver a gratuity in local currency. Please keep current exchange rates in mind.
  • We recommend tipping the equivalent of $7USD 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.
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.