This sample 10-day charter trip from Costa Rica to Panama makes for an unforgettable eco-vacation.

Tournament-level sports fishermen and eco-tourists are equally aware of the allure of the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica and Panama, where land and sea are rich with exotic flora and fauna. Rainforests, desert islands, volcanic backdrops and white sand beaches are abundant here, as are land and sea creatures of all descriptions. Although the distances between stopovers are longer than on “milk run” charter itineraries in the Med and Caribbean, the sights and the sports available here are worth the time guests will spend at sea. For some, the highlight of the trip will be to continue the voyage through the newly improved Panama Canal. 

Day 1:

Arrive by air into San Jose, Costa Rica’s main airport (SJO), which offers the most direct flights. Alternatively, there are smaller airports closer to where guests will meet the vessel in Quepos, gateway to Manuel Antonio National Park. This area offers some of the most spectacular beaches in Costa Rica, as well as lush wilderness with plenty of opportunity for monkey and three-toed sloth sightings, and so much more.

Days 2 & 3:

Cruise (at night if allowed) 95nm south to Gulfo Dulce/Osa Peninsula, an area unreachable by road. Experience rainforests, waterfalls and/or horseback riding on the beach – all part of Corcovado National Park. 

Days 3 & 4:

Cross into Panamanian waters by cruising another 100nm toward the Chiriqui Archipelago. Enjoy amazing snorkeling experiences off Coiba Island (part of Coiba National Park, an UNESCO Heritage Site). Paddle boarding, kayaking, and snorkeling around Coiba are once-in-a-lifetime experiences thanks to the vast amount of marine life. In fact, this is the only place where visitors have spotted the “swimming” three-toed sloth. It’s well worth spending an extra day here to explore the area by tender.

Days 5 & 6: 

Although the cruising distance to Las Perlas is longer at 170nm, the trip can be broken into two segments by exploring the Los Santos Province at the midpoint. Fishing in the region is top-notch and the eco-tour options are abundant – Isla Canas and Isla Iguanas are great for paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, and even zip-lining for the more adventurous.

Days 7 & 8:

Las Perlas’ crystal blue waters are thriving with marine life. Whales, dolphins and turtles are only a few of the many sea creatures guests will likely see here. This is a group of more than 200 islands offering more than one day’s worth of exploration or relaxation on the white sand beaches. The geography here is very different than the Costa Rican and Panamanian coastline, which tend to be more volcanic and rugged. The main islands of Del Ray and Contadora are frequented by tourists, while most of the other islands are uninhabited and peaceful. 

Day 9 &10: 

Speaking of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, the Panama Canal is only about 40nm from Las Perlas. Panama City is an easy departure point, or guests may choose to transit the canal, stopping at the Smithsonian Institute where with permission, vessels may anchor overnight and enjoy a tour. If you are continuing through the canal and want to extend the charter to 14 days, a trip through the San Blas Islands on the other side would be a perfect ending to this spectacular journey!

Article Author: Daphne d’Offay, Senior Charter Manager, OCEAN INDEPENDENCE