Aerial view of Cartagena, Colombia, with modern high-rise buildings and colorful Caribbean buildings including a church.
Tropical San Blas Islands, Panama, as seen during the Panama & Colombia: Exploring the Caribbean Coast small ship cruise.
Aerial view of Santa Cruz del Islote, Colombia, a small island packed with buildings & surrounded by turquoise reef and brilliant blue waters.
Old Spanish cannon at the fortress ruin of Santiago with a view over the Caribbean Sea in Portobelo near Colon, Panama.
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Central America Caribbean Cruise

Panama & Colombia: Exploring The Caribbean Coast

Spend 8 days discovering natural and cultural treasures of the Caribbean coast of Panama and Colombia aboard the 100-guest 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. Cruise from Panama to Colombia or cruise from Colombia to Panama.

Highlights of these cruises from Panama to Colombia (or reverse) include special permission to anchor at Gatun Lake, which forms a major part of the Panama Canal, and a special nighttime crossing of the complex lock system of the Panama Canal. Visit Portobelo, named by Christopher Columbus in 1502, and hike around lush jungles searching for howler monkeys, toucans and parrots. Meet the people who live in Guna Yala, who are the first native group to achieve political autonomy in Latin America.

In Colombia, explore the little-visited area of Necocli, where wildlife abounds and local residents are striving to incorporate sustainable development goals. Celebrate the birthplace of the sombrero vueltiao in the village of Tushin, observing hat makers at their best. Move from white-sand beaches to the densely populated Santa Cruz del Islote, the most densely populated island on Earth. Every moment of this 8-day small ship cruise, whether eastbound or westbound, is spent exploring the diverse culture, flora and fauna of Colombia, Panama and the Caribbean Coast.

Travel aboard the 100-passenger National Geographic Quest. This purpose-built small expedition ship is ideal for exploring Central America’s Caribbean coastline. Appreciate the onboard expedition technology, including a hydrophone, splash-cam, underwater video camera and video microscope.

Read on for details about these cruises to Colombia and Panama, or learn more about AdventureSmith’s Caribbean cruises and Caribbean trips.



Itinerary

Main Panama & Colombia: Exploring the Caribbean Coast Itinerary

The main, eastbound Panama & Colombia: Exploring the Caribbean Coast cruise begins in Panama City, Panama, transits the Panama Canal, and ends in Cartagena, Colombia.

Route map of Panama & Colombia: Exploring the Caribbean Coast small ship cruise, operating between Panama City & Cartagena, with visits to Gatun Lake, Portobelo, Guna Yala, Capurgana, Sapzurro, Santa Cruz del Islote, San Antero, Tuchin, Santa Cruz de Lorica & Cispata Bay.
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Day 1
Embark Panama City, Panama

Upon arrival in Panama City this afternoon, take a short transfer to the port in Balboa. Embark the ship in the evening to begin the transit of the Panama Canal to the Caribbean Sea.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

dinner

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Day 2
Gatun Lake

By special permission, the 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.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 3
Portobelo

This morning, arrive at 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, sail farther down the Panamanian coast and set out with snorkel and fins to explore the vibrant undersea world of the Caribbean.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
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.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 5
Capurgana & Sapzurro, Colombia

Call at the wonderfully isolated villages of Sapzurro and Capurgana, positioned only 3 miles apart on the stunning coast of Caribbean Colombia. Set out on a nature walk on the Capurgana-Sapzurro trail. In this area, the ranges of two species of howler monkeys overlap as both the mantled and the Colombian red howler monkeys are here. Watch for toucans, parrots, trogons, occasionally scarlet macaws and possibly three-toed sloths while traversing the tropical forest trails between the villages. Or choose a shorter hike across an international, transcontinental frontier to Panama. Pass through the quick, walk-through border crossing perched high on a bluff before descending to the beach at the Panamanian village of La Miel. The sheltered waters of the bay at Sapzurro back in Colombia beckon for a pleasant kayak or paddleboard around this tropical inlet. Finish the day at sunset in the village of Capurgana.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 6
Santa Cruz del Islote, San Bernardo Archipelago, San Antero & Tuchín

Santa Cruz del Islote is one of the most densely populated islands on Earth, where some 600 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 while chatting with local residents. Later, enjoy lunch on-board while cruising through the San Bernardo archipelago calling at San Antero. This afternoon’s excursion is to 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. Return to ship and anchor tonight in San Antero.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 7
Santa Cruz de Lorica & Cispatá Bay

Disembark this morning for a short drive 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. Return to the ship for lunch and time to relax before embarking on a late afternoon cruise in the rarely explored Cispatá Bay, timed for optimum wildlife spotting, as native creatures emerge from their mid-day rest.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 8
Disembark Cartagena, Colombia

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

Accommodations

n/a

Meals

breakfast

Read More
Details
Inclusions, Terms & Notes

Included

Accommodations aboard ship; meals as indicated; beer, wine & full bar; excursions; services of expedition leaders, naturalist staff, expert guides and a ship’s doctor; park fees; use of kayaks and snorkeling equipment; all port charges and service taxes; basic WiFi (enhanced and premium packages available for purchase). Gratuities for all departures of National Geographic Explorer, Orion, Endurance, Resolution, Sea Cloud, Jahan and Lord of the Glens.

Exclusions

Horseback riding; immigration fees; air transportation; extensions; meals not indicated; reserve wines & premium spirits; gratuities for all departures of Delfin II, Endeavour II, Islander II, Venture, Quest, Sea Bird and Sea Lion; personal items such as emails, laundry, voyage DVD, etc.; and insurance of any kind.

Payment & Cancellation

In order to confirm this trip, a deposit of 15% of the total trip cost is required per person at time of booking. The balance of the trip price is due 120 days before the departure date. Special payment terms apply for groups of 8 or more; inquire for details. Guests who must cancel their trip for any reason must do so in writing. Standard cancellations are subject to the following per-person fees, based on number of days prior to departure:
120 or more days – 100% of deposit**
119 to 90 days – 50% of total trip cost
89 to 0 days – 100% of total trip cost
**Advance payments will be credited in the form of a Lindblad Expeditions Travel Certificate, valid for 12 months from the date of cancellation, and which may only be applied towards final payment on any future booking. 

(For expeditions booked prior to May 1, 2023: Please refer to your invoice for your payment and cancellation terms.) 

Terms & Conditions

This trip is subject to AdventureSmith Explorations Terms and Conditions. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A Traveler Information Form, which includes a release of liability, must be completed and signed by all travelers. Your Adventure Specialist will send you a unique link to complete this form along with a packing list and extensive pre-departure and travel insurance information upon booking confirmation.

Arrival & Departure

The main Panama & Colombia: Exploring the Caribbean Coast cruise begins in Panama City, Panama (PTY), and ends in Cartagena, Colombia (CTG). Embarkation time on Day 1 may vary based upon arrival of group flights from Miami, Florida (MIA). Disembarkation is after breakfast on the final day of the outlined itinerary; departure times may vary depending on group flights to Miami, Florida. If you would like assistance with international flights, please visit our Booking Flights resource page.

Activities

Whether you are looking for light activity options or more challenging outdoor pursuits, the ship’s crew can tailor most excursions to suit your skill level. Adventure activities may include hiking, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, inflatable boat/skiff excursions, photography, morning yoga and stretching, land treks and wildlife observation.

Room Configuration

In addition to listed Solo cabin rates, select double-occupancy cabins may be available for single occupancy with a single supplement fee. If you would like to share accommodations with another guest of the same gender, we will be happy to try to accommodate you in select cabin categories. This program allows you to pay the per person double-occupancy rate whether or not a roommate is found. Contact AdventureSmith for further details and availability.

Families & Children

Travelers under the age of 18 at time of travel save $500, at double occupancy. Skilled staff members are trained in organizing activities that inspire curiosity in young people of all ages. Programming for kids may include activities like photo workshops, journaling, scavenger hunts, Zodiac-driving lessons, hands-on nature and science programming and kid-friendly menu options.

Travel Insurance

Protect your travel investment with insurance. Our partners at Travelex Insurance offer a variety of plans and policies to fit every trip and budget. Coverage for a pre-existing medical condition is also available if you purchase the Travel Select plan within 15 days of the initial trip payment; refer to plan details. Learn more about travel insurance or get a free quote.

Itinerary Notes

Use the itinerary as a guide only. Itineraries may be altered due to weather, wildlife, national park regulation or at the captain’s discretion. The ability to be flexible makes this type of small ship cruising unique.

Reverse Panama & Colombia: Exploring the Caribbean Coast Itinerary

The reverse, westbound Panama & Colombia: Exploring the Caribbean Coast cruise begins in Cartagena, Colombia, transits the Panama Canal, and ends in Panama City, Panama.

Route map of Panama & Colombia: Exploring the Caribbean Coast small ship cruise, operating between Panama City & Cartagena, with visits to Gatun Lake, Portobelo, Guna Yala, Capurgana, Sapzurro, Santa Cruz del Islote, San Antero, Tuchin, Santa Cruz de Lorica & Cispata Bay.
Read More
Day 1
Embark Cartagena, Colombia

After arriving in picturesque Cartagena, transfer to the ship and begin this journey along the fabled Caribbean Coast of Colombia, this evening.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

dinner

Read More
Day 2
Santa Cruz del Islote & San Bernardo Archipelago

Santa Cruz del Islote is the most densely populated island on Earth, where some 600 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, cruise into the San Bernardo archipelago and spend the afternoon relaxing on white-sand beaches and kayaking or paddleboarding among the mangroves.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 3
Coveñas, Santa Cruz de Lorica & Tuchín

This morning, disembark at the beach town of Coveñas 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.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 4
Capurgana & Sapzurro

Call at the wonderfully isolated villages of Sapzurro and Capurgana, positioned only 3 miles apart on the stunning coast of Caribbean Colombia. Set out on a nature walk on the Capurgana-Sapzurro trail. In this area, the ranges of two species of howler monkeys overlap as both the mantled and the Colombian red howler monkeys are here. Watch for toucans, parrots, trogons, occasionally scarlet macaws and possibly three-toed sloths while traversing the tropical forest trails between the villages. Or choose a shorter hike across an international, transcontinental frontier to Panama. Pass through the quick, walk-through border crossing perched high on a bluff before descending to the beach at the Panamanian village of La Miel. The sheltered waters of the bay at Sapzurro back in Colombia beckon for a pleasant kayak or paddleboard around this tropical inlet. Finish the day at sunset in the village of Capurgana.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 5
Guna Yala, Panama

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.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 6
Portobelo

This morning, 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, sail farther down the Panamanian coast and set out with snorkel and fins to explore the vibrant undersea world of the Caribbean.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 7
Gatún Lake

By special permission, the 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.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 8
Disembark Panama City, Panama

Disembark in Panama City and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Accommodations

n/a

Meals

breakfast

Read More
Details
Inclusions, Terms & Notes

Included

Accommodations aboard ship; meals as indicated; beer, wine & full bar; excursions; services of expedition leaders, naturalist staff, expert guides and a ship’s doctor; park fees; use of kayaks and snorkeling equipment; all port charges and service taxes; basic WiFi (enhanced and premium packages available for purchase). Gratuities for all departures of National Geographic Explorer, Orion, Endurance, Resolution, Sea Cloud, Jahan and Lord of the Glens.

Exclusions

Horseback riding; immigration fees; air transportation; extensions; meals not indicated; reserve wines & premium spirits; gratuities for all departures of Delfin II, Endeavour II, Islander II, Venture, Quest, Sea Bird and Sea Lion; personal items such as emails, laundry, voyage DVD, etc.; and insurance of any kind.

Payment & Cancellation

In order to confirm this trip, a deposit of 15% of the total trip cost is required per person at time of booking. The balance of the trip price is due 120 days before the departure date. Special payment terms apply for groups of 8 or more; inquire for details. Guests who must cancel their trip for any reason must do so in writing. Standard cancellations are subject to the following per-person fees, based on number of days prior to departure:
120 or more days – 100% of deposit**
119 to 90 days – 50% of total trip cost
89 to 0 days – 100% of total trip cost
**Advance payments will be credited in the form of a Lindblad Expeditions Travel Certificate, valid for 12 months from the date of cancellation, and which may only be applied towards final payment on any future booking. 

(For expeditions booked prior to May 1, 2023: Please refer to your invoice for your payment and cancellation terms.)

Terms & Conditions

This trip is subject to AdventureSmith Explorations Terms and Conditions. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A Traveler Information Form, which includes a release of liability, must be completed and signed by all travelers. Your Adventure Specialist will send you a unique link to complete this form along with a packing list and extensive pre-departure and travel insurance information upon booking confirmation.

Arrival & Departure

The reverse Panama & Colombia: Exploring the Caribbean Coast cruise begins in Cartagena, Colombia (CTG), and ends in Panama City, Panama (PTY). Embarkation time on Day 1 may vary based upon arrival of group flights from Miami, Florida (MIA). Disembarkation is after breakfast on the final day of the outlined itinerary; departure times may vary depending on group flights to Miami, Florida. If you would like assistance with international flights, please visit our Booking Flights resource page.

Activities

Whether you are looking for light activity options or more challenging outdoor pursuits, the ship’s crew can tailor most excursions to suit your skill level. Adventure activities may include hiking, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, inflatable boat/skiff excursions, photography, morning yoga and stretching, land treks and wildlife observation.

Room Configuration

In addition to listed Solo cabin rates, select double-occupancy cabins may be available for single occupancy with a single supplement fee. If you would like to share accommodations with another guest of the same gender, we will be happy to try to accommodate you in select cabin categories. This program allows you to pay the per person double-occupancy rate whether or not a roommate is found. Contact AdventureSmith for further details and availability.

Families & Children

Travelers under the age of 18 at time of travel save $500, at double occupancy. Skilled staff members are trained in organizing activities that inspire curiosity in young people of all ages. Programming for kids may include activities like photo workshops, journaling, scavenger hunts, Zodiac-driving lessons, hands-on nature and science programming and kid-friendly menu options.

Travel Insurance

Protect your travel investment with insurance. Our partners at Travelex Insurance offer a variety of plans and policies to fit every trip and budget. Coverage for a pre-existing medical condition is also available if you purchase the Travel Select plan within 15 days of the initial trip payment; refer to plan details. Learn more about travel insurance or get a free quote.

Itinerary Notes

Use the itinerary as a guide only. Itineraries may be altered due to weather, wildlife, national park regulation or at the captain’s discretion. The ability to be flexible makes this type of small ship cruising unique.

Rates & Dates

Cruise Rates & Dates

Rates are variable per remaining availability and are subject to change.

Oct 13 - Oct 20, 2024
National Geographic Quest • 8 days
From $6612USD
Per Person
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Oct 20 - Oct 27, 2024
National Geographic Quest • 8 days
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From $6612USD
Per Person
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Oct 27 - Nov 03, 2024
National Geographic Quest • 8 days
From $6612USD
Per Person
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Nov 03 - Nov 10, 2024
National Geographic Quest • 8 days
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From $6612USD
Per Person
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Oct 19 - Oct 26, 2025
National Geographic Quest • 8 days
From $6810USD
Per Person
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Oct 26 - Nov 02, 2025
National Geographic Quest • 8 days
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From $6810USD
Per Person
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Nov 02 - Nov 09, 2025
National Geographic Quest • 8 days
From $6810USD
Per Person
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Nov 09 - Nov 16, 2025
National Geographic Quest • 8 days
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From $6810USD
Per Person
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Accommodation

Learn about the Small Ship on Your Itinerary

Expedition Ship
National Geographic Quest

Purpose built to cruise coastal waters, shallow coves and fast-moving channels, the 100-guest National Geographic Quest is a luxurious and state-of-the-art expedition vessel designed for supreme comfort and enhanced wildlife viewing.

Deals

Current Deals on This Trip

Add to Wishlist
Offer expires May 31st, 2024
Kids Save $500 On Select 2024 & 2025 Nat Geo Expeditions Worldwide

Save $500 per kid under 18 when you book your 2024 or 2025 departure from a variety of National Geographic expeditions worldwide.

Add to Wishlist
Offer expires May 31st, 2024
Groups Save 5% On Select 2024 & 2025 Nat Geo Expeditions Worldwide

Save 5% when traveling as a group of 8 or more on a variety of 2024 or 2025 National Geographic expeditions worldwide.

Expert Review

Ship Reviews from our Experts so You Know What to Expect

Mary Montalbano • August 1st, 2023
Expert Aboard: Venture & National Geographic Quest Reviews

Learn from two AdventureSmith experts about identical sister ships Nat Geo Venture and Quest. Tips on choosing your cabin, what the food is like and why choose to sail aboard.

Book with the confidence that comes from experience.

100+ combined years of experience, 7 continents explored, decades of expedition cruising around the world & here to help you find & book your dream trip.

Extend Your Trip

Additional Travel Options Before or After Your Cruise

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6 - 6 Day Cruise
Exploring Costa Rica's National Parks & Preserves: Guanacaste, Santa Rosa & Rincon de la Vieja

Navigate the pristine coastline of Costa Rica’s national parks and preserves on this 6-day voyage aboard the 100-guest National Geographic Quest. Discover tropical forests on foot, horseback, and soaring by zipline throughout wildlife-rich parks and preserves.

Special Offer
From $4408USD
Jan Mar Nov Dec
Add to Wishlist
9 Day Land Tour
Best of Panama

The 9-day Best of Panama land tour explores the Panama Canal and its natural and historic legacy. Zipline through cloud forest environments rich in flora and fauna, discover Chiriqui National Marine Park and experience thriving indigenous cultures.

From $3495USD
Jan Feb Mar Jul Oct Dec
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