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Costa Rica & Panama

A bridge between two continents

Costa Rica and Panama support an enormous variety of wildlife, due in large part to their geographic position between North and South America. This bridge between two continents allowed flora and fauna to mix and has resulted in the highest density of biodiversity in the world. You may expect to see numerous species of birds including toucans, scarlet macaws and hummingbirds, countless tropical blooms including orchids, heliconias and bromeliads, and animals both endemic and native including spider, capuchin and howler monkeys, coatimundis and sloths.

The wildlife list is extensive but this tour offers the discerning traveller much more. You will experience teeming rain forest, cool cloud forest, hot volcanoes and fine sandy beaches. You will stay at the best hotels, dine well, and sail aboard a privately chartered mega-yacht. Our fascinating transit of the Panama Canal will undoubtedly be another highlight.  

Our Inside Track

Our 2015 escorted tour follows three previous sold out trips to Costa Rica and Panama in 2008, 2009 and 2012.

We are delighted to be chartering the luxurious Variety Voyager to cruise the Pacific coast from Herradura in Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal and onto the San Blas Islands. Richard and Dawn have chosen shore visits based on first-hand experience and to ensure just the right balance of activities and free time. Our choice of hotels and lodges are the result of an extensive research trip Richard undertook to inspect numerous accommodations, meet transport suppliers and get local advice from experienced local guides and naturalists. 

We stay three nights in each of two magnificent accommodations in Costa Rica ... the Marriott Costa Rica Resort just outside the capital San Jose, and the beautiful Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Resort which is in the middle of nowhere! This is followed by our seven night expedition voyage aboard our luxury mega-yacht and a final three tour nights feature a relaxing stay at the Inter-Continental Playa Bonita Resort, a 5-star hotel on the Pacific coast of Panama ... complete with your own private beach.

Tour Dates

Monday 9th to Thursday 26th March 2015

Itinerary

Day 1 - UK to Costa Rica
We fly from Heathrow via Madrid to San Jose, capital of Costa Rica. Our luxury accommodation for 3-nights is the 4-star Marriott Costa Rica Hotel.

Day 2 - Poás and La Paz
Excursion included to Volcán Poás. Its main crater is one and a half kilometres wide, 300 metres deep, and full of subtle, moonscape colours. The rest of Poás is ­intensely green and we will visit nearby La Paz Gardens so have your camera ready for the hummingbirds. The gardens are beautifully landscaped and situated next to a series of waterfalls.

Day 3 - Lankester Gardens
Excursion included to the Orosi Valley with entry to Lankester Gardens, famous for its collection of orchids and bromeliads. Orchids are in bloom all year, but the best shows are generally between February and May!

Day 4 - San Ramon
Departing San Jose we drive to the ­agricultural town of San Ramon. Nearby, but entirely secluded, is the Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Resort, our home for the next three nights.

Day 5 - Cloud Forest
Villa Blanca is set in the middle of a 2,000 acre cloud forest sanctuary. We stay in individual “casitas” or cottages with a welcoming central lodge housing the restaurant and lounge. Experienced local naturalists will lead optional nature walks and bird watching.

Day 6 - Cloud Forest
A free day. Just sit and enjoy nature, or perhaps a relaxing treatment at the Spa? If you would prefer something more active there will be optional horse back riding, nature walks, a zip-line experience and a visit to San Ramon.

Day 7 - Embarking Variety Voyager
Today we head for the coast. En route we cross the Rio Tárcoles and it is not uncommon to spot crocodiles! At Herradura we embark our ­privately ­chartered ship, the luxury mega-yacht Variety Voyager.

Day 8 - Curú / Tortuga Island
Curú is located on the southern Nicoya Peninsula in northwestern Costa Rica. The area offers easy access to see some of the most sought after species such as white-faced, howler and spider monkeys, scarlet macaws, white-tailed deer, collared peccary, coati, raccoons, land iguanas and numerous species of tropical and migratory birds. Enjoy a walk with our ship naturalist and local Rangers. This afternoon we visit Tortuga Island to enjoy free time on the beach with time for swimming, snorkelling and a BBQ.

Day 9 - Manuel Antonio National Park
The abundant wildlife in Manuel Antonio National Park is most active in the morning so we plan to explore early. We transfer ashore via rigid Zodiac boats. Monkeys or vividly coloured birds can be easy to spot, but it often takes the expert eye of the local ranger to point out lethargic three-toed sloths!

Day 10 - Golfo Dulce
The Osa Peninsula is a region of immense biological diversity and much of it is only accessible from the sea. In Golfo Dulce, a unique tropical fjord ­surrounded by spectacular forests and mangroves, we drop anchor and visit a wonderful botanic garden called Casa Orquídeas.

Day 11 - Isla Coiba
Overnight we left Costa Rica behind and sailed into the equally lovely country of Panama! Our first port of call today is Isla Coiba. Since 1991 this island has been the centrepiece of a huge national park, most of which is oceanic. In addition to the selection of birds, reptiles and mammals in this park, there are also 69 species of fish. We will also visit the tiny island of Granito de Oro. Here you may swim, kayak and snorkel or simply sit on the white sandy beach and enjoy the view.

Day 12 - Panama Canal Transit
The excitement builds as we approach the modern city of Panama. The construction of the canal was completed in 1914 and is a story of adventure, ordeal and accomplishment. We will proceed through the first two series of locks lifting us 86 feet above sea level into the large, man-made Gatun Lake before descending via a third set of locks into the Atlantic.

Day 13 - San Blas Islands
We arrive early morning in the San Blas archipelago, a chain of over 360 tropical islands of which 50 are inhabited by the Kuna Indians. By special arrangement we hope to visit a local community on Carti Island. This afternoon there will be plenty of time for swimming, snorkeling or just relaxing before we set sail for Colon.

Day 14 - Disembark in Colon, Panama
Farewell to our luxury floating hotel. We disembark in Colon and local guides accompany our journey back to Panama City. With a mini tour en route, our destination is a secluded spot on the Pacific coast, the Inter-Continental Playa Bonita Resort.

Days 15 and 16 - Panama
Two days pure relaxation in the wonderful ­surroundings of our five star hotel resort. Enjoy the ­gardens, a private beach, swimming pools, rainforest walks ­and more. An optional Panama City Tour and other excursions will be available.

Days 18 - Panama
Almost a full day in paradise before our early evening transfer to the airport.

Day 19 - Arrive UK
Via Madrid to the UK.

Variety Voyager

Launched in 2012, VARIETY VOYAGER is very much what one expects from a millionaire’s super yacht. Her sleek lines and ample deck space will seduce you. Her professional and attentive crew will care for you. Cabins and public areas are finished with warm fabrics, lush carpets and soft tone wood panelling. All 36 cabins have a bathroom with shower, individually controlled air-conditioning, TV with DVD player, mini-fridge, room safe, telephone and hair dryer.

Public space includes indoor and outdoor dining areas, a lounge and bar, reception and library. The spacious open sun deck also has a bar and lounge. The spa offers massage, sauna and steam rooms, and a mini-gym. Snorkel equipment for all guests and a number of kayaks are provided to use free of charge.

Meals are served in single seatings with unassigned tables for an informal atmosphere and easy mingling. Breakfast and lunch is served buffet style and dinner is generally a served with a choice of menu. 

Cat E Marina deck 130 sq ft.
Cat D Marina deck 146 sq ft.
Cat C Marina deck 173-189 sq ft.
Cat C Riviera deck 130-146 sq ft.
Cat B Riviera deck 151-184 sq ft.
Cat A Horizons deck 218 sq ft.
Suite Horizons deck 324 sq ft.

Our deck plan is intended only as a guide. Cabin sizes and shapes vary. Further information on request. 

Photo credit: © Variety Voyager

Our hand-picked accommodations

Marriott San Jose Hotel

Near Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, we will stay at the very comfortable, 4-star Marriott Costa Rica Hotel. Built in the style of a 16th century colonial hacienda, this hotel is set amidst a coffee plantation. Hotel bedrooms are luxurious and public facilities include lounges and courtyards, restaurants, two swimming pools, and an outdoor jacuzzi.

Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Resort

A traditional country setting near San Ramon is home to the Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Resort. The resort features “casita” style cottages set in lovely gardens. Each casita has a bedroom with ­traditional open-beam cane ceiling and adobe fireplace. Villa Blanca boasts a beautiful lodge house with lounge, bar, library and restaurant, and the enticing “Cloud Nine” spa! Tour prices include ‘Superior’ casitas. ‘Deluxe’ casitas are an extra £15 per person per night and ‘Premier’ casitas an extra £25 per person per night. 

Inter-Continental Playa Bonita Resort & Spa

The InterContinental Playa Bonita Resort & Spa in Panama is a perfect grand finale to a magnificent tour. This five-star hotel is set on a large secluded, private beach on the Pacific. Luxurious bedrooms each have a private balcony overlooking the ocean and there is a spa, private walking trails and gardens, three restaurants, and four swimming pools.

What's Included?

  • Scheduled ­economy class flights from Heathrow to Costa Rica, and from Panama to Heathrow
  • 3-nights at the Marriott Costa Rica Hotel
  • 3-nights at the Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Resort
  • 3-nights at the Inter-Continental Playa Bonita
  • Breakfast and dinner daily on tour
  • Sightseeing and excursion programme including Poás Volcano, La Paz Gardens, Lankester Botanical Gardens, San Ramon, the Miraflores Locks and Panama City.
  • 7-night cruise on Variety Voyager
  • Breakfasts, ­lunches, ­dinners on board
  • Soft drinks, wine or beer with dinner on board
  • Tea, coffee and water on board
  • National Park visits accompanied by the ship’s Naturalist and/or local rangers and guides
  • Shore landings via Zodiac tender
  • Use of kayaks and snorkelling ­equipment
  • Airport, hotel and ship transfers
  • Current airport and prepaid air taxes
  • Tips including ship crew
  • Comprehensive travel tickets
  • Personally escorted from the UK

Flights included are scheduled services in economy class. Business class upgrades at extra cost are subject to availability. Our final cruise itinerary, landings and port visits are subject to change. 

Tour Prices

Category E Cabins 
Marina deck, cabin numbers 110 to 113
£5,745 per person sharing a twin/double.
Deduct £1000 per couple early booking discount *

Category D Cabins 
Marina deck, cabin numbers 110 to 113
£5,845 per person sharing a twin/double.
Deduct £1000 per couple early booking discount *

Category C Cabins 
Marina deck, cabin numbers 101 to 107
£6,045 per person sharing a twin/double.
Deduct £1000 per couple early booking discount *

Category C Cabins 
Riviera deck, cabin numbers 212 to 215
£6,045 per person sharing a twin/double.
Deduct £1000 per couple early booking discount *

Category B Cabins 
Riviera deck, cabin numbers 201 to 211
£6,345 per person sharing a twin/double.
Deduct £1000 per couple early booking discount *

Category A Cabins 
Horizons deck, cabin numbers 301 to 308
£6,945 per person sharing a twin/double.
Deduct £1000 per couple early booking discount *

Suite 
Horizons deck, Suite number 307
£7,945 per person sharing a twin/double.
Deduct £1000 per couple early booking discount *

Sole Occupancy Prices
Marina deck, Cat E : £8,495.
Marina deck, Cat D : £8,595.
Marina deck, Cat C : £9,195.
Riviera deck, Cat C : £9,195.
Deduct £500 early booking discount *

* Early booking discount is capacity controlled, please enquire at the time of booking.

Frequently Asked Questions

This A-to-Z section gives you useful travel information including health advice, passport requirements and details of our airport services. More detailed "advance holiday information" is provided to all guests prior to travel. If you have any questions not covered here, please don't hesitate to contact us. Richard and Dawn will be delighted to pass on their first hand knowledge.

Flights

Our flight schedule is yet to finalised but is likely to feature scheduled services with Iberia Airlines from London Heathrow via Madrid to San Jose, Costa Rica, and back from Panama City via Madrid to London Heathrow. There is currently no direct, non-stop service between the UK and Costa Rica or Panama. 

Health

A trip to explore Costa Rica and Panama is an active holiday that calls for good health. Some of the shore excursions involve walking on trails and sometimes on uneven and slippery terrain. However, sightseeing options will be offered such as a choice of easy or more strenuous walks.

Please consult your GP or local travel clinic for appropriate health information and vaccination advice. Our local clinic ­recommends immunisations/boosters for Tetanus, Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and Typhoid, with low to no risk precautions for Malaria, but please remember we are a travel company and not experts in health advice so we recommend you consult your local GP or health clinic, show them the holiday brochure and indicate the places you will be visiting. Your GP is most familiar with your personal medical history and is best qualified to determine your particular needs.

For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the NaTHNaC (National Travel Health Network and Centre) and NHS Scotland’s Fit for Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

You may also care to visit The Foreign and Commonwealth Office website http://www.fco.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo which publishes essential travel tips and up-to-date information about travelling abroad. You may also ring them on 0870 6060290.

Heathrow hotel option

Nearer the time we will offer a Heathrow hotel option for those guests wishing to stay over the night before departure.

Insurance

It is a condition of booking that you have comprehensive and adequate travel insurance for this tour. We recommend "Holiday Extras Travel Insurance", but are happy for you to arrange your own cover so long as it provides suitable cover. For details of the recommended insurance please call Holiday Extras direct on 0800 171000 and quote "Furlongs WZ679", or click here.

Meals

On board the Variety Voyager, breakfasts and lunches are buffet style, and evening meals are generally served with a choice of menu. In our Costa Rica and Panama hotels, breakfasts will be buffet style and dinners and any lunches included will be a buffet or a served menu. We are happy to provide vegetarian meals and can cater for most special dietary requirements if you let us know well in advance.

Money

The currency of Costa Rica is the Colon, but US dollars are widely accepted at hotels and stores. The monetary unit in Panama is the US dollar. Major credit cards are also accepted at all our hotels, and at most restaurants and larger stores. We suggest you carry some US currency in small denominations for smaller purchases such as taxis, ­refreshments and miscellaneous expenses. Furlongs Travel offer a commission free currency service for US dollars and full details will be circulated to all guests. 

Passports and Visas

To visit Costa Rica and Panama as a tourist all you need is a valid passport, a return flight ticket, and proof of sufficient funds during your stay (a credit or debit card will do for this). Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after our return date. Visas are not required in advance of arrival. Visitor visas are issued on entry to each ­country and will be valid for the duration of our tour. In addition to bringing your passport it is a good idea to bring one or two copies of your passport photo page so you may care to organise this before departure.

Singles/Twin Shares

Cabins and hotel rooms for sole occupancy are subject to availability and applicable tour prices. If you are travelling alone but happy to share twin accommodation we will be delighted to try to find you a sharer. Please contact us, we often have guests looking to share. The majority of the extra price for a single is the cost of the ship cabin so another possibility is to share a twin cabin on board ship, but enjoy single rooms at the hotels. If this may interest you, please ask for more details.

Terms and Conditions

Reservations are subject to our standard terms and conditions.

Water

Although water is generally safe in Costa Rica and Panama, we recommend that you drink bottled water throughout the tour except on board the MS Sea Lion where the water is purified and safe to drink. If you are susceptible to ­occasional stomach upsets we suggest that you ask your ­doctor or pharmacist to recommend anti-diarrhoea medication.

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All the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, hotels and other services) is listed on it. Please see our booking conditions for further information or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate