Chapter 7: Why Costa Rica and the Panama Canal Make Excellent Cruise Destinations

Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Although it takes up only 0.03 percent of the earth’s surface, Costa Rica contains almost six percent of the earth’s biodiversity. Its location between North and South America has allowed it to function as a bridge for countless plant and animal species for thousands of years. Between 2011 and 2013, 5,000 new species have been discovered.

In Costa Rica, about a quarter of the land is dedicated to national parks and reserves. This includes beaches, islands, rainforests, volcanos, caves, canyons and waterfalls. If you’re a nature lover and want to see it all, you do not want to skip Costa Rica.

Costa Rica stands out from its Central American neighbors due to its stable democratic past and economy. Humans have inhabited Costa Rica for thousands of years, but little is known about its earliest tribes. Its name can be attributed to Christopher Columbus. However, it wasn’t until the mid to late 16th century that the Spanish established a colony in the wondrous land.

By the 1800s the population hit 50,000. Costa Rica did well in agriculture, growing corn, beans and plantains and producing sugar, cocoa and tobacco for sale. Now, this peaceful, relaxing country invites all to visit and explore its varied treasures.

A cruise is an excellent way to explore the shores of Costa Rica. Head south and you can learn about and experience the Panama Canal. A cruise allows you to explore so much diversity in one part of the world, comfortably and luxuriously.

Once you sail down to the Panama Canal, you’ll get to relive the history of one of the most important canals in the world. The Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans and its length is about 40 miles.

Completed in 1914, the Panama Canal is one of the two most strategic man-made waterways in the world. It remains a major trade route, especially for trade between the east coast of the United States and east Asia. Thousands of lives were lost during the construction of the canal and it took nearly a decade to complete. From the canal, you can take in the sights of Panama and feel proud to travel a great feat of humankind.

What else can you expect from a cruise of Costa Rica and the Panama Canal? Did we mention delicious food?

If you’re a chocoholic, Costa Rica is calling you. Learn everything you need to know about the food of the gods at the Tirimbina Biological Reserve from the local chocolate-making process to enjoying the end product.

Chocolate, rare animal species, warm beaches year-around — what more could you ask for? If you haven’t already jotted Costa Rica down on your bucket list, grab your pen. You won’t regret it.

Examples of Windstar Costa Rica and Panama Canal Cruises

We offer a variety of Costa Rica and Panama Cruises to meet your budget, desired trip length and bucket-list needs. Here are some examples of our cruises to the land where animals and people blissfully coexist.

1. Costa Rica and Panama Canal

Come aboard the Star Breeze to embark on our Costa Rica and Panama Canal cruise. For seven days and from $2,999 per person, you’ll sail from Puerto Caldera to Colon. This is a must-do cruise for animal-loving bucket-listers. Experience flora and fauna like you’ve never experienced before. In Costa Rica, you’ll feel alive with joy and surprise everywhere you go.

On day one you’ll feel awe-stricken as you journey through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve where there are 3,021 known species of plants and trees. You’ll never know what creature or plant you’ll encounter in this misty forest whether it be a monkey, sloth or a rare bird that’s as colorful as a jewel box.

You could also head to Tortuguero National Park, home to the nearly-extinct green sea turtles. Other common animals include capuchin monkeys, egrets, toucans and the endangered green macaw. You’ll also be within reach of gorgeous trees and fruit plants.

On the second day, you’ll journey to the banana-exporting town of Quepos, where you’ll also have countless opportunities to view wildlife and rainforest beauty, such as seen in Manuel Antonio National Park.

Before cruising the Panama Canal, you’ll stop at Isla Parida in Panama, which is part of Chiriqui Marine National Park. The park boasts around 25 uninhabited islands and is a refuge for monkeys, turtles and whales.

Clear bath-like waters are abundant with marine life, and fragrant trees and plants from eucalyptus trees to coconut trees surround you in this paradise. You’ll be tempted to sink your teeth into fresh mangoes or bananas.

On day seven you’ll take a guided tour of the Panama Canal where you can relax in the comfortable lounges while observing the glistening waters and everyday workings of this bucket-list item.

2. Adventures in Panama and Costa Rica

Our Adventures in Panama and Costa Rica extends your experience for ten days and starts at $3,999 per person. You’ll start in Colon where you’ll meet with Embera Indians or take a tram ride through the rainforest, and end in Puerto Caldera.

On day two and three you’ll tour the Panama Canal and Balboa, one of the entrances to the Panama Canal on the Pacific side.

On the fourth day, you’ll explore Isla Contadora, an island known for luxury, secluded beaches and a history steeped in pearls. Watch for whales and dolphins or go snorkeling in its deep blue waters. You’ll be invited to party with Windstar on the sixth day before heading to Costa Rica.

While in Costa Rica you’ll enjoy the full experience, traveling from Puerto Jimenez to Puerto Caldera. Throughout the five days in Costa Rica, you’ll have numerous opportunities to view wildlife, go hiking and swimming, explore waterfalls in the rainforest, kayak or go horseback riding. Wind down at a luxury spa or let nature soothe your sore feet.

Though you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore the treasures of Costa Rica in your own time and own way, our excursions can enrich your overall experience.

Go kayaking with the chance to see bottlenose dolphins during the Oceans and Canals Kayaking excursion, or ride to a waterfall by horseback with our Rainforest Horseback and Cascades excursion.

Chocolate lovers can taste homemade chocolate fondue with fresh fruit and banana bread and learn about the chocolate-making process with the Chocolate Farm: A Sweet Experience excursion. Chefs-in-training should sign up for the Let’s Cook a Tico Meal excursion to learn how to cook healthy, delicious meals from market to table.

3. Star Collector: A Double Crossing: Atlantic and Panama Canal

For twenty-four days and $3,399 per person, you’ll get to traverse the Atlantic and the Panama Canal for an adventure of a lifetime. From Lisbon to Puerto Caldera, you’ll see it all and then some.

The journey starts in Lisbon, Portugal, where you can relax at a sidewalk cafe and take in the sights and sounds of this charming old city. You’ll head for sea for days until you reach Antigua to shop, dine, explore and drink in elegantly romantic buildings as sleepy colorful boats gently sway near the shore.

And then off you’ll go to Oranjestad, followed by Colombia, Panama and the Panama Canal. You’ll head to Costa Rica after a trip to Isla Parida, and you’ll end the journey in Puerto Caldera. You’ll have several excursions to choose from along the way, including coffee and chocolate-making and tasting, kayaking and guided walking tours. This cruise takes it all and puts into one amazing and affordable package.

Costa Rica and Panama Canal Cruise Bucket List Ideas

You might consider starting a bucket list of animals you wish to see while in Costa Rica. However, although wildlife-viewing is a sure benefit of this trip, there are other items you can add to your list to change things up. Consider some of these ideas:

  • Take a zip line through the jungle: Adventure-lovers will be thrilled to soar through wildlife-rich rainforest canopies by zip line. A zip line is a cable that starts at a higher point than it ends. You’ll glide down the cable at a speed of up to 100 miles per hour, creating memories that would be hard to forget.
  • Take a skywalk through Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve: Walk among birds and other treetop creatures via a suspension bridge.
  • Take a dip in the Tabacon Hot Springs: Soak in mineral-rich waters at a comfortable 72 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Indulge your senses with tropical flowers, the sounds of chirping birds and the sensation of bathing in the heart of the jungle.
  • Tour the Panama Canal: History buffs might want to make sure to add this to their bucket list.
  • Enjoy a barbecue in Costa Rica: Costa Rica food is about comforting, hearty meals that satisfy your hunger and nurture your soul. Locals eat pork more frequently than beef and often pair it with rice and beans. Enjoy some authentic Costa Rica barbecue during your journey.
  • Kayak through mangroves: Surround yourself with the magic of mangroves and explore waterways and plant life up-close on a kayak.
  • Taste chocolate in Costa Rica: For the longest time, Costa Rica residents recognized the value of chocolate. In the 1930s the cocoa bean was used as a currency. Make sure to treat yourself to locally-made chocolate at least once during your trip to Costa Rica.
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