Small Ship Cruises
Costa Rica | San José to Panama City | Adult Only
Get wild with the abundant flora and fauna of these jungle nations via the comforts of an expedition cruise!
8 days / 7 nights
Activity Level Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.
Explore Costa Rica and Panama’s coasts and jungle aboard the 174-foot expedition vessel, Safari Voyager. Your adventure basecamp, the ship is fully-geared up with kayaks, paddle boards, inflatable skiffs, hiking poles, and snorkel gear. Your expert guides—many of them are locals—are ready to get you out in the wild and into the action. While there’s a set itinerary, the small size of your ship allows captain and crew to deviate from the plan and go where opportunities are greatest—wildlife encounters, paddling and snorkeling, hiking, and other experiences. Paddle or skiff from ship or shore into mangroves and crystal-clear water of a national park. Hike and snorkel in conservation areas and a wildlife refuge watching for monkeys, sloths, iguanas, hummingbirds, toucans, and butterflies. And take in a star-lighted night transit of the Panamá Canal. This exciting adventure runs from San José to Panama City or in reverse from Panama City to San José depending on the week!
Straddled by both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and, these two, small Central American jungle nations are absolutely packed with adventure, wildlife, history and culture. Your home will be a 174-foot expedition vessel that positions you for the best possible wildlife encounters, paddling and snorkeling opportunities, hiking excursions, and other experiences. The ship’s kayaks, paddle boards, inflatable skiffs, and snorkel gear are your conveyances to adventure. Right from the ship, you’ll launch and paddle or skiff to uncover the wonders of jungles, mangroves, national parks, preserves, and the Panamá Canal itself. This 9-day trip will fill your heart (and your memory cards) with wildlife as you spot monkeys, sloths, iguanas, hummingbirds, toucans, whales, and so much more!
- Step carefully as you cross the swinging bridge surrounded by exotic birds as you overlook deer, frogs, snakes and crocodiles
- Transit from ocean to ocean along the 48-mile Panamá Canal – a story of engineering and human tenacity that took over 75,000 workers to build
- Enjoy superb bird watching on a skiff exploration and watch for mobula rays flying across the water
- Snorkel, kayak or paddle board the vibrant, turquoise waters of Isla Tortuga
- Be awe-struck in the birder’s paradise of Golfo Dulce as bromeliads, heliconias, toucans, hummingbirds, and fluttering butterflies provide a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and tastes in every tree and bush you pass
- Snorkel among abundant marine life, kayak around rocky outcroppings, and lounge on the warm sand of Isla Coiba
Austin Adventures is proudly offering this trip in conjunction with UnCruise Adventures. Headquartered at historic Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle, Washington, UnCruise Adventures has been in the small ship adventure cruise business for over 20 years. The small size of UnCruise’s ships allows them to access remote areas bigger ships can’t get to providing guests with opportunities to experience off-the-map wilderness, up close, hands on, and with boots on the ground. Each day brings opportunity for adventure—kayaking, hiking, skiff explorations, snorkeling, paddle boarding. All activities are included and it’s always your choice—do as many or as few as you want. The expert, knowledgeable, and mostly-local crew enthusiastically lead the way. UnCruise Adventures keeps a constant eye on treading lightly; their small ships introduce adventurers to new and breathtaking destinations sure to leave a lasting impression.
Panama Seasons & Climate
Tours to Panama are available year-round and weather conditions vary according to season, elevation, and geographic location. In general, in the lowlands expect average temperatures from 85-95 F with moderate to high humidity compared to cooler temperatures averaging 72 F in the highlands where you may need a light sweater at night. The peak Panama travel period is December through April and off-peak season for tours to Panama is May through November. These periods generally coincide with the so-called “dry” and “rainy” seasons. However, this is an overly simplistic description of climate and Panama travel seasons. We can help you travel to Panama any time of year based on a well planned itinerary.
Panama has more than a dozen climate zones which often contrast with each other; when rain falls in one region it tends to be drier in another. While the months of December through April tend to be almost rainless on the Pacific coast (March and April are the warmest months), this is the time of year you can expect some rain on the Caribbean coast. On the Caribbean side it tends to be relatively dry in September and October, which is considered the so-called “rainy season” in the rest of the country. We also recommend travel to Panama in July during the annual veranito, or “little summer” as the locals call it, when there is a predictable dry spell in the middle of the green season.
Most people travel to Panama to escape winter in North America when average rainfall throughout the country is low and migrant bird populations are highest. But others who prefer to travel in Panama during the off-peak “green season” will appreciate natural areas more to themselves, lush vegetation, better choice of guides and accommodations, low season rates, greater variety of blooming orchids and flowers, and other benefits. During the green season rain typically falls for a few hours in the afternoon or at night and rarely disrupts Panama tours, unless you are driving on secondary roads which can become impassable. It is impossible to predict weather conditions for any specific place and time in the tropics. The increasing number of tours to Panama during the green season have made it a year round destination.
A few more reasons why you've gotta go:
Explore the vast Osa Conservation Area among monkeys, tree frogs, caimans, anteaters, scarlet macaws, coatis, and 16 different species of hummingbird
Explore the rare flora and fauna of mangroves by kayak and skiff
Explore the Canal’s Agua Clara Visitor Center then take in the views of Lake Gatun and the newly expanded locks
San Jose, Costa Rica SJO
Panama City, Panama PTY
San José / Embarkation
Welcome to the land of pura vida! On arrival in the capital city of San Jose, you’ll be warmly greeted at the airport and transferred to the hospitality suite before boarding the Safari Voyager and meeting your enthusiastic crew.
About Safari Voyager
Discreet, classy, and stealthy, the Safari Voyager is comfortable in warm water regions and built to handle humidity and heat. Tropical adventure, wilderness access, and the natural landscape are always at the forefront. A seamless extension of the places she sails, the ship and her mostly-local crew exude pura vida (pure life). Handcrafted artwork throughout the vessel and in each cabin pays homage to the regions of Costa Rica and Panamá. Casual in nature, the Safari Voyager is a bit of a show-off, too—take in 270-degree views from the top deck or from the windows of the air-conditioned lounge. Onboard features include ‘EZ Dock’ kayak launch platform, bow-mounted underwater camera, kayaks, paddle boards, inflatable skiffs, hiking poles, snorkel gear, fitness equipment and yoga mats, and DVD and book library. Cabins feature TV/DVD player, hair dryer, bathrobes, conditioning shampoo, body wash, binoculars, and reusable water bottles.
Curú National Wildlife Refuge
At the southeastern tip of Nicoya Peninsula—in the tangled mangroves of Curu–the cycle of life is everywhere. Local “residents” include everything from exotic birds and deer to army ants, frog-eating snakes, and hungry crocodiles. Step carefully as you cross the swinging bridge, you don’t want to land on the menu! Land crabs shift in and out of their burrows with such force it’s enough to make the earth move. A hike on the Finca de Monos trail is prime monkey viewing. They are everywhere. Off shore, the vibrant, turquoise waters near Isla Tortuga offer inviting opportunities to snorkel, kayak, and paddle board.
Osa Conservation Area
Adventure lies around every bend in the isolated, wild Osa Conservation Area, home to the country’s largest national park, Corcovado. The area is known for its diverse plant and animal species—a whopping 2.5% of the entire planet’s biodiversity is found here—including all four of Costa Rica’s monkeys, tree frogs, caimans, anteaters, scarlet macaws, coatis, and 16 different species of hummingbird. Explore this vast area putting feet to trail on an invigorating hike through the jungle. At the end of the day, enjoy the sunset with a tropical beverage in-hand during cocktail hour and retell stories of your day with your travel-mates.
A birder’s paradise, explore a tropical preserve exploding with vibrant color. From bromeliads, ginger plants, and heliconias, to toucans, hummingbirds, mischievous monkeys, and fluttering butterflies—there’s a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and tastes in every tree and bush you pass on your walking tour. In Golfo Dulce, which separates Oso Peninsula from the mainland, explore the rare flora and fauna of mangroves by kayak and skiff.
Coiba National Park, Panama / Granito de Oro
Sail through the islands of Coiba National Park, making a stop at the postcard-perfect Granito de Oro islet. Offering a little bit of everything despite its small size, volcanic outcroppings at either end of this tiny landmass and a dense, mini-jungle in the center connect with a dreamy white sand beach. Named one of the world’s top 10 diving sites, your day of play features snorkeling among abundant marine life, kayaking around rocky outcroppings, and lounging on the warm sand. Hop to the park’s main island for a stretch of the legs on a trail in untouched tropical jungle. Mantled howler monkeys, crested eagles, and four turtle species call Isla Coiba home.
Wake up in paradise. Start with fresh-brewed coffee and a little limbering up with guided stretches on deck. As always, the hardest part is picking the “what.” • Your guides know the trails and help you spot monkeys, hummingbirds, and towering balsa trees. Or slip into the drink for a kayak or snorkel. Or, just kick back in a hammock under swaying palms. Then it’s cruising time – settle into a comfy lounge chair and take in the views.
Marine Life Search / Panama Canal
The diverse islands and islets in the Gulf of Panamá are all unique, and on your last day, its captain’s choice as you cruise among them. Hosting hundreds of avian species, you may enjoy superb bird watching on a skiff exploration, and watch for mobula rays flying across the water. Later, transit from ocean to ocean along the 48-mile Panamá Canal (time varies depending on when the lock authority gives the final go ahead for your evening transit). Join your shipmates on deck for a toast as the canal lights up and the temperature subsides. A story of engineering and human tenacity, it took over 75,000 workers to build it. Celebrate this unforgettable voyage with a special farewell dinner, and then join your expedition team for a slideshow highlighting the week’s adventures.
Panama City / Disembarkation / Departure
After an early breakfast, bid adiós to your crew. Make a stop at the Agua Clara Visitor Center. Take in the views of Lake Gatun and the newly expanded locks. Then your transfer continues, taking you to the airport for your flight home or to begin your optional hotel stay.
*Trip itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary and the order of days may occur to maximize your experience. Itineraries are subject to change without notice due to road, weather and other factors outside of our control, for the safety and enjoyment of our guests, as deemed necessary and appropriate by Austin Adventures.
Arrival & Departure
This trip runs from either San Jose, Costa Rica to Panama City, Panama or in reverse from Panama City, Panama to San Jose, Costa Rica depending on the week so please plan accordingly.
Panama City – San José
We suggest that you book your flight to the Panama City, Panama at least one day prior to your trip departure. You may arrive on day of embarkation as long as your flight arrives no later than 11:00 am. If you are arriving on the day of embarkation, your airport transfer is included to the hospitality area in Panama City, Panama (dependent upon your embarkation city). If you arrive independently prior to embarkation day, you will need to check into the hospitality suite no later than 12:00 pm with your luggage. You must be back to the hospitality area NO LATER than 12:45pm for the briefing by the Safari Voyager guide and the group transfer to the Safari Voyager which will leave promptly at 1:15pm. Your trip ends with a drop-off at either the airport or our San Jose hospitality room. Please schedule departing flights for after 1:30 pm.
San José – Panama City
We suggest that you book your flight to the San Jose, Costa Rica at least one day prior to your trip departure. You may arrive on day of embarkation as long as your flight arrives no later than 11:00 am. If you are arriving on the day of embarkation, your airport transfer is included to the hospitality area in San Jose, Costa Rica (dependent upon your embarkation city). If you arrive independently prior to embarkation day, you will need to check into the hospitality suite no later than 12:00 pm with your luggage. You must be back to the hospitality area NO LATER than 2:00pm for the briefing by the Safari Voyager guide and the group transfer to the Safari Voyager which will leave promptly at 3:00pm. Your trip ends with a drop-off at either the airport or our Panama City hospitality room. Please schedule departing flights for after 1:30 pm.
Hiking: Easy to moderate coastal and jungle hikes
Kayaking & Paddle Boarding: Ocean paddling at your leisure and pace. No experience necessary.
Snorkeling: Easy to moderate conditions; no experience necessary.
Austin Adventures guides are experienced facilitators and regional experts. They will take the time to explain the details of each activity, answer any questions, and demonstrate the use of all equipment. Each activity has been carefully planned to include options for all ability and experience levels. Most importantly, your guides will help you select the activity that’s right for you.
- Panama Canal night transit; visit Agua Clara Locks Visitor Center
- Visit a national park, two wildlife refuges, and a conservation area
- Search for untamed wildlife – scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, sloths, white-faced capuchins
- Snorkel and beachcomb at Panama’s Granito de Oro
- Hike, snorkel, kayak, paddleboard and explore by skiff
- Off-the-beaten path exploration
Austin Adventures guides are experienced facilitators and regional experts. They will take the time to explain the details of each activity, answer any questions, and demonstrate the use of all equipment. Each activity has been carefully planned to include options for all ability and experience levels. Most importantly, your guides will help you select the activity that’s right for you
The hallmark of an Austin Adventures vacation is our exceptional dining. All meals: breakfasts, lunches, snacks, dinners, refreshments and receptions are included as indicated by itinerary. (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner). All non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages are included. Super premium wines and spirits and all related gratuities are not included in the trip price.
After receiving your reservation and deposit, we’ll send you a pre-trip planner with general information about the area you’ll be visiting, a packing list, exercise guidelines, a guest information questionnaire and a liability release agreement for you to sign and return within 10 days.
Included in the Trip Price
- All meals aboard ship: Breakfasts, lunches, snacks, dinners, refreshments and receptions.
- Double occupancy cabins with private baths.
- Fully trained, first-aid certified professional guides and knowledgeable local partners.
- All “from-the-boat” adventure activities and equipment.
- Wellness amenities: Fitness equipment, and yoga mats.
- Spirits, wine, beer; non-alcoholic beverages.
- Round-trip transfers and baggage handling between airport/vessel on embark/disembark day.
- Austin Adventures T-shirt and luggage tags.
- Pre-departure and packing information.
- Entry fees to national parks / preserves.
Not Included in the Trip Price
- Gratuities to UnCruise Adventures’ crew.
- Port taxes and fees ($395 per person).
- Airport transfer if not arriving/departing on Day 1 / Day 8.
- Super premium wines and spirits.
- Snorkel gear / wetsuits.
- Pre-and post-trip accommodations and associated expenses.
- Air and land transportation to/from host cities.
- All types of personal insurance.
- Personal expenses.
Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.1 Easy (1)
Activity levels are subjective depending on your general level of fitness and your experience; however, all of our trips are self-paced.2 Moderately Easy (2)
Want to know how to fully experience the depth of beauty and culture in a place? Ask Carol Austin. A Montana native who treasures the land and people in her own backyard—be it Yellowstone, the Beartooths, or the family around her dinner table—Carol knows how to embrace any destination she explores, a feat at 40+ countries and counting. And with more than 20 years in the travel industry, she’s really good at helping guests plan—and fully enjoy—their adventure vacation, too. She co-founded Austin Adventures with her husband, Dan Austin.