Join Phil & Carol on a Smithsonian Journey Discovering Panama and Costa Rica with PONANT on a splendid 8-day cruise. Discover the rare tropical ecosystems of Panama and Costa Rica on a voyage that features a full daylight transit of the Panama Canal. Venture to Panama's pristine Caribbean islands, then cross the historic canal to the Pacific Coast. Visit Darien National Park before calling Fuerte Amador. Smithsonian scientists have conducted research on tropical ecology in Panama since 1910 in part to prepare for the opening of the canal. Gain insight from today's scientists on an exclusive visit to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's Punta Culebra Nature Center. Then cruise to Costa Rica to explore Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park.
Saturday, February 10 - COLON, PANAMA
Colon is the second largest city in Panama, at the Caribbean entrance of the Panama Canal. Colon is today an important port, and the free trade zone created in 1953 contributed significantly to the city's development. Colon was founded in 1850 by Americans working on the Panama railroad connecting the Atlantic and Pacific coasts through the isthmus of Panama; the city rapidly overshadowed the older Caribbean ports of Panama when the canal opened.
Sunday, February 11 - SAN BLAS ISLANDS
Located on the northeast coast of Panama, the San Blas archipelago is a string of coral islands in the heart of the Caribbean Sea. More than 300 islands and cays cover an area of 300 square kilometers offering travelers a multitude of treasures. The San Blas Islands are sheltered behind a long coral reef full of beautiful anchorages. The long sandy white beaches bound by crystal-clear waters will allow you to relax and enjoy incredible marine fauna before engaging with the Kunas Indian community. Still subsisting on hunting and fishing, they will welcome you in their villages of bamboo houses gathered near the beaches.
Monday, February 12 - CROSSING THE PANAMA CANAL
Aboard your ship and experience something unique that has inspired the imagination of numerous adventures in the 20th century: sailing the Panama Canal. Its construction started in 1880 under the direction of Ferdinand de Lesseps. Abandoned then resumed, this marvel of engineering was completed by the United States and opened in 1914. The canal crosses the Isthmus of Panama and links the Atlantic to the Pacific. Including three levels of locks and raising ships to the level of Lake Gatun, almost as if the water was a lift, allows them to avoid having to round Cape Horn.
Tuesday, February 13 - PLAYA MUERTO, DARIEN NATIONAL PARK
the most remote and least developed region of Panama, the province of Darien is an unspoiled land with an extremely rich variety of flora and fauna. Listed by UNESCO as World Heritage, Darien National Park offers its extraordinary scenery of rocky coastline, mountain ranges, mangroves, rivers, and creeks. Discover Palya Muerto, a tiny coastal village home to the Emberas Amerindian community. You will visit the village, attend the traditional songs and dances of the locals, and admire beautiful local crafts.
Wednesday, February 14 - FUERTE AMADOR, FLAMENCO ISLAND
An artificial peninsula - situated at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal, Fuerte Amador is the gateway to several noteworthy sites. Right near there, the impressive Miraflores Locks are a shining example of the engineering feats deployed during the construction of the Panama Canal. Further north, in villages nestling amid dense vegetation, lives the Embera tribe, guardian of the forest and the Chagres River. These proud people have successfully preserved their traditions and ancestral way of life, which pre-date the colonization of the region by the Spanish.
Thursday, February 15 - AT SEA
During your journey at sea, make the most of the many services and activities on board. Treat yourself to a moment of relaxation in the spa or stay in shape in the fitness center. Depending on the season, let yourself be tempted by the swimming pool or a spot of sunbathing. This journey without a port of call will also be an opportunity to enjoy the conferences or shows proposed on board, depending on the activities offered, or to do some shopping in the boutique or to meet the PONANT photographers in their dedicated spaces. As for lovers of the open sea, they will be able to visit the ship's upper deck to admire the spectacle of the waves and perhaps be lucky enough to observe marine species. A truly enchanted interlude, combining comfort, rest, and entertainment.
Friday, February 16 - QUEPOS
Quepos makes for a charming stop-off on the Pacific coast, just next door to the famous Manuel Antonio National Park, an untouched tropical natural reserve lined with white sandy beaches. The town's seafront is an opportunity to stroll through market stalls touting pineapples and bananas in the shade of the manchineel trees. In this coastal town crisscrossed with tree-lined streets in bloom, admire the houses and their incredible sculpted balconies. Enjoy a spot of shopping in the many traditional boutiques: pick up some handmade cotton clothing, ceramics embellished with Costa Rican designs, and home decor pieces in hand-painted wood.
Saturday, February 17 - PUNTARENAS
The capital of the eponymous province, Puntarenas is sometimes called "the pearl of the Pacific" for its unique charm. It sits on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, along the Gulf of Nicoya, lined with long expanses of wild natural environments. Further inland, among the countless natural wonders found in the abundant rainforest of Costa Rica's national parks, Poas and Arena volcanoes tower up in their majestic glory. In this luxurious natural setting, Costa Rica protects one of the planet's richest biodiversity: monkeys, sloths, tropical birds, iguanas, crocodiles, waterfalls, canyons, and more than ten thousand species of tropical plants.