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Amazingly diverse flora & fauna—and an engineering marvel
Within the lush and vibrant green of this region lie many discoveries. The flash of scarlet macaw wings amid treetops. The scintillating iridescence on the hummingbirds sipping nectar as they hover. And so many moments that will stay with you long after you leave—the atavistic thrill of hearing howler monkeys call to each other in the trees or the peace of sinking into a pool at the base of a waterfall deep in the jungle. Add to that the privilege of seeing one of the world’s great feats of engineering from the deck of an expedition ship as you cross the Panama Canal—an absolute peak travel experience.
Actively discover the legendary wildness of Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. Hike, paddleboard, kayak, snorkel, and zip line. Go by ship to venture to places far from tourist infrastructure, landing at remote, empty beaches by Zodiac to find exotic birds and flowers. If you venture to Colombia, explore some of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, where endemic species thrive amidst intriguing, modern cultures. If you choose to cross the Panama Canal, do so in a way worthy of the peak experience. Go aboard an expedition ship with open decks to experience it up close. Cross over two days to see the workings of the locks by day and in the coolness of night.
Escape winter, or go to relish one of the world’s most exciting natural environments. The onboard atmosphere is comfortable and casual, akin to that of a large private yacht. And our wellness philosophy is designed to relax and revitalize mind, body, and spirit.
In this episode of our new video series, What to Expect, National Geographic Quest Captain Tim Lyon describes the unique way we cross over from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean while taking in the lush biodiversity of the area.
Expedition Spotlight: Brilliant Biodiversity on the Osa Peninsula
In this episode of Expedition Spotlight, naturalist Zoey Greenberg highlights the brilliant biodiversity of the Osa Peninsula and the species that call it home.
Explore with National Geographic Experts: Volcanologist Arianna Soldati
In this episode of Explore with National Geographic Experts, learn more about Arianna Soldati’s passion for volcanoes and the insights she'll share on two upcoming voyages to Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
Costa Rica by Ship: A Unique Look at Tropical Wildness
With jaguars and toucans in the cool mist of cloud forests, blue morpho butterflies and sloths in tropical rainforests, and a kaleidoscope of marine life swirling around coral reefs, Costa Rica’s varied habitats burst with biodiversity. The wildest of these wild places are also the least accessible—unless you approach by expedition ship.
See, do and learn more by going with engaging experts who have been exploring this region for decades.
Veteran expedition leaders are the orchestrators of your experience. Many have advanced degrees and have conducted research or taught for years. They have achieved expedition leader status because they possess the skills, the experience, and the depth of knowledge necessary to continually craft the best expedition possible for our guests.
Our naturalists, passionate about the geographies they explore (and return to regularly), illuminate each facet through their enthusiasm and knowledge. Our guests consistently cite the expertise and engaging company of our staff as key reasons to repeatedly travel with us.
Undersea specialists are your eyes on the world that lies beneath the waves. Using an array of tools, including a high-definition camera, our Cousteau-like undersea specialists show you strikingly clear images of the seldom-seen world beneath the ship.
Every expedition aboard a ship in our National Geographic-flagged fleet offers an exclusive service—a Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic certified photo instructor. This naturalist is specially trained to offer assistance with camera settings and the basics of composition and to help you become a better, more confident photographer.
Video chroniclers accompany every expedition and shoot vivid HD footage—with no recycled footage ever—to provide you with a professionally edited and completely authentic memento of your expedition. Working during the day and editing into the night, they have your video ready for preview prior to—and available to purchase at—disembarkation.
Our wellness program embodies the belief that nature is vitalizing and that wildness, as Thoreau famously said, supplies a tonic. Wellness specialists are fully accredited and experienced licensed massage therapists and are aboard every ship in the National Geographic-flagged fleet. They lead morning stretch class, aerobic walks ashore, kayak outings, and more.
Making a Difference
Lindblad Expeditions supports stewardship efforts through the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic (LEX-NG) Fund. One hundred percent of traveler contributions to the LEX-NG Fund in Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia support the National Geographic Society’s Early Career Grants, which promote future leaders with novel and exploratory projects that span the fields of conservation, education, research, storytelling, and technology. In awarding each $5,000 to $10,000 grant, preference is given to projects that directly impact Costa Rica, Panama, or Colombia coastlines and communities.
FAQs and Key Information
From climate conditions to water temperature to packing the right footwear, find answers to the questions Expedition Specialists get most often.
We visited the amazing Curu Wildlife Reserve this morning, and guests had the chance to participate in different hikes and nature walks through the forest. Some guests chose to hang out close to the beach. This park offers incredible wildlife sightings, particularly of mammals and birds. After a delicious lunch on board, we repositioned to the nearby Tortuga Island. The island is famous for its white sand beach and turquoise waters. After some leisure time, guests tried fresh coconut water and enjoyed an excellent dinner on the beach. The weather was perfect, and everybody had a great time.
This morning, we made an early landing on Playas del Coco and headed to our destination, Hacienda Guachipelin. Some guests also planned to visit Rincon de la Vieja Volcano (RVV). Located on the northwestern side of Costa Rica, the volcano is one of the largest and most active in the Guanacaste province. Measuring 1,916 meters (6,286 feet) tall and 15 km (nine miles) wide, the enormous, 600,000-year-old geological beauty has at least nine volcanic craters and around 32 rivers flowing down its sides. The RVV and its sleeping sibling, the Santa María Volcano, form the center of the Rincón de la Vieja National Park, which is part of the Guanacaste Conservation Area (ACG) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located 25 km northeast of Liberia, the park's 14,090 hectares (24,800 acres) are divided in two sectors: Las Pailas (the mud pits) and Santa María. The Hotel Hacienda Guachipelín, from where we based our activities today, is located minutes from the entrance of Las Pailas. Legend tells of Princess Curubandá, daughter of the chief of the Curubandé tribe, who fell in love with Prince Mixcoac, son of an enemy. Curubandá’s father ended the life of the forbidden lover by throwing him into the crater of the active volcano. Overcome by pain, Curubandá became a prisoner, living the rest of her life high up on the slope of the volcano. She learned of the volcano's natural medicines and developed healing powers. People seeking medicinal cures were told to go to the “old lady's corner,” or Rincon de la Vieja, on the volcano. The volcano’s name has its origins in this legend. The area of Las Pailas displays the impressive power of the active volcano with its fumaroles, mini geysers, bubbling volcanic mud pits, natural hot springs, and jungle waterfalls. These features give us an unbelievable experience; it is unlike any other volcano in Costa Rica. Although the volcano's last major eruption was in 1998, its activity once served as a natural beacon for ships at sea. Rincón de la Vieja National Park is home to 300 species of birds and many mammals, including howler, white-faced and spider monkeys, armadillos, sloths, and coatis. One can cross from a dry forest to a cloudy one in the middle of a volcanic environment in a short tour. Our day was full of choices, adventures, and activities, including anything from ziplining over the canyon of a river, horseback riding to a waterfall, hiking the trails of the national park, or enjoying the lovely hot springs at the hotel. We could not have had a better day. We will go to bed tired but looking forward to whatever adventures tomorrow brings.
After cruising north along the Pacific coastline overnight, our day began in Bahía Santa Elena (Santa Elena Bay). The bay borders the Área de Conservación Guanacaste, recently designated a Marine Management Area. Such a designation means the bay will be reserved for specific purposes, including the conservation of marine life, the fostering of recreation and tourism, and the sustainable use of its resources, including fishing. With its completely undeveloped shoreline, the 732-hectare bay is a breeding area for many marine species, including dolphins, whales, and turtles, as well as the endangered whale shark and several species of rays. Increasing coastal alteration and overfishing have threatened the bay. With participatory management and conservation, the bay’s designation as a Marine Management Area should aid in its prolonged protection. The process involved the whole community, including the artisanal fishing, sport fishing, longline fishing, and tourism sectors, together with town officials, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations. We got to explore the area by kayaks and then by local pangas and a hike in the forest. We spotted so much diverse wildlife, including shorebirds, sharks, crocodiles, monkeys, ants, and iguanas. After lunch, the ship was repositioned to yet another beautiful spot called Junquillal Beach. This area is part of the Guanacaste Conservation Area, and we found the three-mile-long beach completely empty today. We had a great time walking, hiking, swimming, and just sitting on the beach to watch the beautiful horizon crowned with dark, gray clouds. To finish our day, we were sent on our way with an incredible downpour. It was the first seen in the area in almost five months, marking the end of the very dry season. Back on board and all showered and clean, the beautiful orange, pinks, and reds of a Pacific Ocean sunset closed this amazing day in the best way possible.
Today was our first day discovering the North Pacific of Costa Rica, and what a start! We woke up inside the Gulf of Papagayo in Panama Bay. Our first stop was Panama Beach, where we kayaked, practiced standup paddleboards, swam in the tropical waters, and took our first walk in a tropical dry forest to discover many bird species. In the afternoon, National Geographic Quest repositioned to Bahia Huevos. We enjoyed a Zodiac ride inside Palmares mangrove. We found many different birds and even crocodiles. After the zodiac tour, we took our second walk and observed birds and monkeys. What a day!
Today National Geographic Quest arrived at Caletas Beach in Corcovado National Park. You can see so much here in the protected forest on this peninsula. We organized groups of guests for coastal hikes and enjoyed great views of the beach and the shorelines of the Osa Peninsula. Forest hikes allowed us to experience the rainforest, and various walks were offered to guests. We saw lots of wildlife, including spider monkeys, mantled howler monkeys, and yellow-throated toucans. We returned to the boat for a delicious lunch and relocated to the entrance of Drake Bay. We explored Rio Agujitas in two rounds of Zodiac cruises. This was a highlight for many of our guests. The river was so calm and full of wildlife. We saw green kingfishers, boat-billed and yellow-crowned night herons, American crocodiles, and white-throated capuchin monkeys. We observed the towering canopy trees from the river and the forest’s vegetation, including woody lianas, climber plants, and palm trees with prop roots that anchored them to the very uneven forest floor. We returned to beautiful National Geographic Quest and celebrated the success of another great expedition.
The Panama Canal, which effectively connects more than 144 shipping routes, 1,700 ports, and 160 countries, is much more than its transit locks. It is miles of wild landscape, rich with intrigue and an astonishing biodiversity of wildlife.