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Panama and Colombia: Exploring the Caribbean Coast

Panama and Colombia: Exploring the Caribbean Coast

At a glance

Duration: 9 Days, 8 Nights

Coverage: Panama City, Panama to Cartagena, Columbia

From: $5,990

Season: October

Activities: Culture, History, Wildlife

Book this Trip › or call us toll-free 1-888-815-5428

Lindblad Expeditions in Partnership with National Geographic

Discover an astonishing trove of natural and cultural treasures as you navigate the Caribbean coast of Panama and Colombia aboard the National Geographic Quest. Hike into dense rainforests that harbor extraordinary biodiversity, glide through little-explored inlets by Zodiac and kayak, and meet the indigenous inhabitants of a secluded Panamanian archipelago where age-old traditions remain part of everyday life. Experience the diverse heritage of stunning cities and remote towns off the beaten path, from the Arab-influenced architecture of Colombia’s Santa Cruz de Lorica to the bustling shores of Santa Cruz del Islote—the most densely populated island in the world.

Highlights

  • Transit the Panama Canal, gaining an up-close view of this modern marvel of engineering, and navigate the waters of the man-made Gatún Lake.
  • Discover the coastal treasures and remote wilderness of Colombia, exploring vibrant villages, pristine beaches, and wildlife-rich jungles.
  • Visit the palm-shaded Panamanian archipelago of Guna Yala (formerly San Blas Islands), an autonomous province that is home to the indigenous Guna people, and get immersed in local culture. Encounter timeless artistic traditions from the handcrafted mola textiles of Guna Yala to the famed vueltiao sombreros woven by artisans in the mountain village of Tuchín.
  • With the most bird species of any country (almost 1900) and an astonishing list of approximately 450 mammals, Colombia unquestionably contains within its borders the greatest biodiversity by area on the planet. Experience this wonderfully overwhelming variety of life as we explore Colombian wilderness along jungle trails.

Each expedition is crafted to offer you the most in-depth experience of Panama & Colombia possible and maximize your time in the company of this region's immensely rich biodiversity. Flexibility is a hallmark of our expeditions, and we will change course or linger in our expedition landing craft to take advantage of amazing birds and marine life sightings. Extraordinary adventure is a guarantee.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

Day 1 — Panama City, Panama

Upon arrival in Panama City, transfer to the port in Fuerte Amador and embark our ship. (D)

Day 2 — Gatún Lake

By special permission, our ship anchors overnight in Gatún Lake, a vast artificial lake that forms a major part of the Panama Canal. In the morning, disembark on Barro Colorado, a hilltop transformed into an island by the damming of the Chagres River to build the Panama Canal. Visit the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and learn about initiatives to protect the incredible biodiversity of the surrounding Barro Colorado Nature Monument, one of the most studied areas of tropical forest on the planet and the site of various National Geographic–supported studies. Later, choose to hike into the jungle, navigate the lake by Zodiac, or take a boat ride to the mouth of the Chagres River to explore the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center. Tonight, cruise onward through the complex lock system of the Panama Canal, taking advantage of the nighttime lull in cargo activity. Completed in 1914, the canal is about 50 miles long and sees some 14,000 ships pass through every year. Witness this astonishing feat of engineering under the dramatic golden glow of floodlights. (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Portobelo

This morning, we arrive along Panama’s Caribbean coast and step ashore at the historic town of Portobelo. Named by Cristopher Columbus in 1502, Portobelo, or “beautiful port,” was one of the most important Spanish trading centers in the New World. Explore the town’s 17th- and 18th-century Spanish colonial fortifications, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Later, hike into Portobelo’s lush jungles in search of mantled howler monkeys, toucans, and a variety of parrots. In the afternoon, our ship sails further down the Panamanian coast, where we’ll set out with snorkel and fins to explore the vibrant undersea world of the Caribbean. (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Guna Yala

Wake up amid the archipelago of Guna Yala (also known as the San Blas islands), a constellation of 368 tiny, white-sand isles scattered off the northeast coast of Panama. Get to know the indigenous Guna people, one of the first native groups to achieve political autonomy in Latin America. Spend the morning among the thatched huts of an island village, learning about Guna culture and handicrafts. Marvel at the intricate designs of handmade textiles called molas, which harken back to a female tradition of body painting. In the afternoon, explore the vibrant marine world around the islands by snorkel, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Necoclí, Colombia

Our ship arrives at the mouth of the Gulf of Urabá, where we set out to discover the coastal community of Necoclí and the surrounding region. Our exploration of this little-visited area begins at the Marimonda and Salado Lagoons, part of a protected coastal wetlands area. Keep an eye out for a variety of wildlife, including iguanas; three-toed sloths; and colorful bird species such as scarlet macaws, russet-throated puffbirds, and Agami herons. After lunch, visit a local cocoa farm, where residents are striving to incorporate the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into their agricultural community. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Coveñas/Santa Cruz de Lorica/Tuchín

Disembark in the beach town of Coveñas this morning and drive inland to Santa Cruz de Lorica, a charming riverside town influenced by several waves of immigration from France, Belgium, England, Syria, and Lebanon. Stroll through the central square, overlooked by a stunning Spanish-colonial cathedral and historic buildings in colorful Arabic styles. After lunch, visit Tuchín, an indigenous village celebrated as the birthplace of the sombrero vueltiao, a type of hat considered a national symbol of Colombia. Observe vueltiao makers at work, and then meet with members of the local Zenú community, known for their ingenious irrigation systems. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Santa Cruz del Islote/San Bernardo Archipelago

Santa Cruz del Islote is the most densely populated island on Earth, where some 1,200 inhabitants live squeezed together in an area the size of two soccer fields, surrounded by turquoise seas and coral reefs. Stroll the island’s motor-free streets, past brightly painted houses and bustling docks; and experience daily life on this unusual island as you chat with local residents. Later, our ship cruises into the San Bernardo archipelago, where we’ll spend the afternoon relaxing on white-sand beaches and kayaking or paddleboarding among the mangroves. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Cartagena

After breakfast on board, disembark in Cartagena and transfer to the airport to connect with your flight home. (B)

Please note: All day-by-day breakdowns are a sampling of the places we intend to visit, conditions permitting.

Panama and Colombia: Exploring the Caribbean Coast itinerary map

Dates & Rates

Dates Direction Cat. 1 Cat. 2 Cat. 3 Cat. 4 Cat. 5 Single 1 Single 2
Oct 10, 2020 Panama City to Cartagena $5,990 $6,830 $7,430 $8,390 $9,340 $8,980 $10,250
Oct 17, 2020 Cartagena to Panama City $5,990 $6,830 $7,430 $8,390 $9,340 $8,980 $10,250
Oct 24, 2020 Panama City to Cartagena $5,990 $6,830 $7,430 $8,390 $9,340 $8,980 $10,250
Oct 31, 2020 Cartagena to Panama City $5,990 $6,830 $7,430 $8,390 $9,340 $8,980 $10,250

Ships

National Geographic Quest

National Geographic Quest

National Geographic Quest is a state-of-the-art, purpose-built expedition vessel made for exploring coastal waters, shallow coves, and fast-moving channels where wildlife congregate while sailing with the luxury of supreme comfort. Spacious cabins, open decks for wildlife viewing, and specialty tools for exploration make it the ideal platform for sailing in the remote areas of Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize. View ship details...