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Amazingly diverse flora & fauna—and an engineering marvel
Within the lush and vibrant green of this region lie many discoveries. The flash of scarlet macaw wings amid treetops. The scintillating iridescence on the hummingbirds sipping nectar as they hover. And so many moments that will stay with you long after you leave—the atavistic thrill of hearing howler monkeys call to each other in the trees or the peace of sinking into a pool at the base of a waterfall deep in the jungle. Add to that the privilege of seeing one of the world’s great feats of engineering from the deck of an expedition ship as you cross the Panama Canal—an absolute peak travel experience.
Actively discover the legendary wildness of Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. Hike, paddleboard, kayak, snorkel, and zip line. Go by ship to venture to places far from tourist infrastructure, landing at remote, empty beaches by Zodiac to find exotic birds and flowers. If you venture to Colombia, explore some of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, where endemic species thrive amidst intriguing, modern cultures. If you choose to cross the Panama Canal, do so in a way worthy of the peak experience. Go aboard an expedition ship with open decks to experience it up close. Cross over two days to see the workings of the locks by day and in the coolness of night.
Escape winter, or go to relish one of the world’s most exciting natural environments. The onboard atmosphere is comfortable and casual, akin to that of a large private yacht. And our wellness philosophy is designed to relax and revitalize mind, body, and spirit.
In this episode of our new video series, What to Expect, National Geographic Quest Captain Tim Lyon describes the unique way we cross over from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean while taking in the lush biodiversity of the area.
Expedition Spotlight: Brilliant Biodiversity on the Osa Peninsula
In this episode of Expedition Spotlight, naturalist Zoey Greenberg highlights the brilliant biodiversity of the Osa Peninsula and the species that call it home.
Explore with National Geographic Experts: Volcanologist Arianna Soldati
In this episode of Explore with National Geographic Experts, learn more about Arianna Soldati’s passion for volcanoes and the insights she'll share on two upcoming voyages to Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
Costa Rica by Ship: A Unique Look at Tropical Wildness
With jaguars and toucans in the cool mist of cloud forests, blue morpho butterflies and sloths in tropical rainforests, and a kaleidoscope of marine life swirling around coral reefs, Costa Rica’s varied habitats burst with biodiversity. The wildest of these wild places are also the least accessible—unless you approach by expedition ship.
See, do and learn more by going with engaging experts who have been exploring this region for decades.
Veteran expedition leaders are the orchestrators of your experience. Many have advanced degrees and have conducted research or taught for years. They have achieved expedition leader status because they possess the skills, the experience, and the depth of knowledge necessary to continually craft the best expedition possible for our guests.
Our naturalists, passionate about the geographies they explore (and return to regularly), illuminate each facet through their enthusiasm and knowledge. Our guests consistently cite the expertise and engaging company of our staff as key reasons to repeatedly travel with us.
Undersea specialists are your eyes on the world that lies beneath the waves. Using an array of tools, including a high-definition camera, our Cousteau-like undersea specialists show you strikingly clear images of the seldom-seen world beneath the ship.
Every expedition aboard a ship in our National Geographic-flagged fleet offers an exclusive service—a Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic certified photo instructor. This naturalist is specially trained to offer assistance with camera settings and the basics of composition and to help you become a better, more confident photographer.
Our wellness program embodies the belief that nature is vitalizing and that wildness, as Thoreau famously said, supplies a tonic. Wellness specialists are fully accredited and experienced licensed massage therapists and are aboard every ship in the National Geographic-flagged fleet. They lead morning stretch class, aerobic walks ashore, kayak outings, and more.
Making a Difference
Lindblad Expeditions supports stewardship efforts through the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic (LEX-NG) Fund. One hundred percent of traveler contributions to the LEX-NG Fund in Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia support the National Geographic Society’s Early Career Grants, which promote future leaders with novel and exploratory projects that span the fields of conservation, education, research, storytelling, and technology. In awarding each $5,000 to $10,000 grant, preference is given to projects that directly impact Costa Rica, Panama, or Colombia coastlines and communities.
FAQs and Key Information
From climate conditions to water temperature to packing the right footwear, find answers to the questions Expedition Specialists get most often.
Today was the third day of our trip, and we explored inland Costa Rica, specifically the Guanacaste province. Landing at the very popular Playas del Coco (beach), we took local buses up the mountain towards the day’s destination and headquarters, Hacienda Guachipelin. We chose from many different and exciting activities: zip lining, hiking, strolling, hot springs, waterfalls, or just chilling at the ranch. Each activity was sure to leave us content. Monkeys, birds, hot mud, hot water springs, and mud pots were amongst the day’s discoveries. In the morning hours, zip lining was a highlight. After a wonderful buffet of local food for lunch, many of us chose to go to the hacienda’s hot springs in the afternoon. The beautiful, clear blue waters of Rio Negro helped us relax after the hike. We returned to our home away from home with smiles on our faces in the late afternoon.
Today was the first day of our expedition and Costa Rica lived up to its reputation — it was a great day. In the morning we stopped at a beach that was not only gorgeous but also completely pristine; there was nobody there, just the sand and the forest. This beach is named Playa Celestia because of the beautiful turquoise color of the water. At Playa Celestia some of us just enjoyed the beach, while others did a hike to look for wildlife. The walk was very pleasant and some guests even spotted monkeys. After lunch we visited a different beach called Playa Huevos. There we enjoyed Zodiac rides through the mangrove forest, with great bird sightings. We also had a walk in the forest, where we spotted several bird species and learned about the “gallery forest” of this ecosystem. Swimming in Playa Huevos was so fantastic, the white sand and the warm waters made it difficult to leave.
This was the last day of our expedition, and probably the most productive in terms of wildlife sightings. We started early in the morning with some hikes and walks inside the Curu Wildlife Refuge, where it didn’t really matter where you were, there was something interesting to see around every single corner. We discovered white-faced capuchins along with howler monkeys, white-tailed deer, and coatis; for the birdwatchers we found scarlet macaws, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and trogons. We even spotted a few black iguanas, “garrobos,” for the ones that like reptiles. Later in the afternoon we all had a really nice dinner and farewell at Isla Tortuga. We said goodbye to the expedition and the time we shared together that created memories that will last forever.
Today was a very special day. A beautiful morning invited us to disembark onto the dark sandy beach of Playas del Coco. We disembarked to catch two local, very comfortable buses that led us to the day’s adventures. Some of us decided to hike around the area of the active Rincon de la Vieja Volcano. Rugged trails covered in wonderfully dark green trees took us to a couple of viewpoints of bubbly mud pots and waterfalls. The other group chose to enjoy one of the highlights of visiting Costa Rica, a zipline or canopy tour that zips through a magnificent rocky ravine. We headed back to our headquarters for a well-deserved lunch of local foods and a very endearing performance of local dances. Without much time for a break, we headed out once again for our afternoon activities. Some of us decided to take a very relaxing dip in the local hot springs, and the rest decided on another walk towards the Chorreras Waterfall. We returned to the ship fatigued but without a doubt content.
After sailing north, sunrise found National Geographic Quest dropping anchor at Peninsula de Santa Elena. This is the oldest territory of Costa Rica, geologically speaking, and an iconic place where oceanic crust is exposed. We enjoyed the most stunning landscapes. Nurse sharks showed up on our way to Playa Matapalito, where the tilted stratos are evidence of uplifting by tectonic plate action where the forest meets the turquoise waters. We hiked through the dry forest of this UNESCO World Heritage site. Some guests kayaked through the bay. The Tora Carey organization shared about their work for turtle conservation. In the afternoon, snorkeling was an amazing experience. We saw large schools of diverse fish, including parrotfish, king angelfish, Cortez rainbow wrasses, and a sea turtle. Such amazing observations can make our explorers emotional. Cristian Zuniga from Area de Conservacion Guanacaste joined us for dinner and lectured about the organization’s goals and accomplishments. Tomorrow is sure to be another great day.
The Panama Canal, which effectively connects more than 144 shipping routes, 1,700 ports, and 160 countries, is much more than its transit locks. It is miles of wild landscape, rich with intrigue and an astonishing biodiversity of wildlife.