Zodiac boat with Panama canal travelers motors past aging historic fort walls backed by jungle as a guide points.
Local dancers in bright, multicolored clothes perform atop a rocky old fort on a Panama Canal, Pearl Islands & Darien Jungle cruise.
Guest stands on bow of small ship Nat Geo Quest as she transits the Panama Canal behind a cargo ship with red hull at night.
Guests on an expedition hike through the jungle of Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Barro Colorado, Panama, as guide points.
National Geographic Quest small ship in blue hull & white upper decks sits in calm sea under sun at Barro Colorado, Panama.
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Central America Panama Cruise

The Panama Canal, Pearl Islands & Darién Jungle

Embark on a Central American expedition that travels solely through Panama, connecting you more deeply with the region’s wildlife, culture and famed modern engineering marvel. Aboard the 100-guest National Geographic Quest, transit the historic Panama Canal, spending time there during both the day and by night.

Learn about the country’s indigenous and colonial history while visiting local communities and two UNESCO World Heritage sites. Encounter monkeys, iguanas, tropical birds, and more as you venture into lush rainforests, a wildlife refuge and an important national park. In the surrounding turquoise waters, snorkel pristine coral reefs which shelter an array of colorful marine life. 

The highlights are many on this Panama expedition. Transit the legendary Panama Canal—plus enjoy an exclusive stop at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Barro Colorado Island. Discover the storied Spanish architecture and fascinating pirate history of Portobelo, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge and spot sea turtles and black and green iguanas on the beach or while snorkeling offshore. Meet the indigenous Emberá people of Darién in Playa Muerto Village and learn about their customs, traditions, and deep reverence for their natural surroundings. Sea kayak, hike, Zodiac cruise, and snorkel in the tranquil Pearl Islands, a network of 200 islands known for turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, and an enduring connection to the pearl trade.

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

Read on for details about this trip, or learn more about AdventureSmith’s Panama small ship cruises and Panama vacations.



Itinerary

Northbound The Panama Canal, Pearl Islands & Darién Jungle Itinerary

The northbound itinerary begins by exploring the Pacific side of the canal first, and ends by disembarking at Colón with an overland transfer back to Panama City.

Route map of soutbound Panama Canal, Pearl Islands & Darien Jungle cruise, operating round-trip from Panama City.
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Day 1
Arrive Panama City, Transfer to Balboa, Panama & Embark

Upon arrival in Panama City this afternoon, transfer by land to Balboa and embark the National Geographic Quest. Enjoy a cocktail and watch the sunset as you sail into the Gulf of Panama.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

dinner

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Day 2
Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge & Pedasí

This morning, arrive at Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge. Once a U.S. Army bombing range, this protected area is home to black and green iguanas, sea turtles, and several species of birds and tropical fish. There is time to enjoy the beach and snorkel. In the afternoon, visit the mainland for a Spanish heritage cultural experience in the town of Pedasí on the scenic Azuero Peninsula.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 3
Playa Muerto, Darién National Park

Playa Muerto village is located in Darién National Park, the largest protected area in Central America and a UNESCO World Heritage site which contains an exceptional array of habitats, from sandy beaches and mangroves to dense tropical forests teeming with wildlife. It is also home to the indigenous Emberá and Wounaan tribes. Be greeted by village leaders from the Emberá who will share their customs, traditions and stories about their deep respect for their natural surroundings. Later on, enjoy short nature walks, go birding, or choose to join a longer hike into the rainforest in search of the elusive harpy eagle, which is one of the world’s most powerful eagles.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Days 4 - 5
Pearl Islands & Panama Canal Transit

Approximately 200 islands make up the idyllic Pearl Islands. Explore several of the islands in the archipelago, including Isla del Rey and Isla Pacheca, as you learn about the history of the native populations and eventually the Spaniards and African slaves who arrived for the pearl trade. Deep rainforests, lush rivers, white sandy beaches and shallow reefs provide great opportunities for hiking, sea kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, Zodiac river cruises, beach activities and snorkeling. Later on, set sail for the Panama Canal. As cargo ships tend to pass through the canal during the day, you’ll most likely begin your crossing at night, when the canal is dramatically lit. By special arrangement, the ship will anchor in Gatún Lake, near Barro Colorado Nature Monument, overnight.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 6
Gatún Lake & Panama Canal Transit

Today, choose hikes and Zodiac cruises at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute facility on Barro Colorado Island, or take a boat ride to Gamboa, where the Chagres River meets the Panama Canal, and hike on the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center trails. This evening, continue through the complex lock system of the Canal.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 7
Portobelo

This morning, explore the area on kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, Zodiac cruises upriver, or go for a snorkel. In the early afternoon, be greeted in town by Congo music and a traditional dance performance. Portobelo is known for its Spanish colonial military architecture, which collectively is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit several of the fortifications as well as the old Customs House, and hear the tales of Portobelo’s rich pirate history. The ship will remain anchored into the evening to enjoy the sunset in the bay of Portobelo and recap the highlights of your expedition.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 8
Disembark Colón, Transfer to Panama City, Panama & Depart

After breakfast, disembark in Colón and transfer to the airport in Panama City 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

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.

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 northbound Panama Canal, Pearl Islands & Darién Jungle cruise begins and ends in Panama City, Panama (PTY). Plan flights to arrive to Panama City by 12:00pm Noon on Day 1 of the itinerary; an overland transfer follows, to embark the ship in Balboa. Disembarkation in Colón is after breakfast on the final day of the outlined itinerary, followed by an overland transfer to the Panama City airport; plan flights to depart Panama City no earlier than 2:30pm on the final day. 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.

Southbound The Panama Canal, Pearl Islands & Darién Jungle Itinerary

The southbound itinerary begins with an overland transfer to embark the ship in Colón, exploring the Caribbean side of the canal first, and ends by disembarking back in Panama City.

Route map of soutbound Panama Canal, Pearl Islands & Darien Jungle cruise, operating round-trip from Panama City.
Read More
Day 1
Arrive Panama City, Transfer to Colón, Panama & Embark

Upon arrival in Panama City this afternoon, transfer by land to Colón and embark the ship. Meet your expedition staff and enjoy a traditional Congo music and dance performance. Marvel at the coastline ahead as you sail to the historic port of Portobelo.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

dinner

Read More
Day 2
Portobelo & Panama Canal Transit

This morning, explore the area on kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, Zodiac cruises upriver, or go for a snorkel. Portobelo is known for its Spanish colonial military architecture, which is designated collectively as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit several of the fortifications as well as the old Customs House, and hear the tales of Portobelo’s rich pirate history. Later on, set sail for the Panama Canal. As cargo ships tend to pass through the canal during the day, you’ll most likely begin your crossing at night, when the canal is dramatically lit. By special arrangement, the ship will anchor in Gatún Lake near the Barro Colorado Nature Monument overnight.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 3
Gatún Lake & Panama Canal Transit

Today, choose hikes and Zodiac cruises at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute facility on Barro Colorado Island, or take a boat ride to Gamboa, where the Chagres River meets the Panama Canal, and hike on the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center trails. This evening, continue through the complex lock system of the Canal and venture into the Gulf of Panama.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 4
Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge & Pedasí

This morning, arrive at Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge. Once a U.S. Army bombing range, this protected area is home to black and green iguanas, sea turtles, and several species of birds and tropical fish. There is time to enjoy the beach and snorkel. In the afternoon, visit the mainland for a Spanish heritage cultural experience in the town of Pedasí on the scenic Azuero Peninsula.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 5
Playa Muerto, Darién National Park

Playa Muerto village is located in Darién National Park, the largest protected area in Central America and a UNESCO World Heritage site which contains an exceptional array of habitats, from sandy beaches and mangroves to dense tropical forests teeming with wildlife. It is also home to the indigenous Emberá and Wounaan tribes. Be greeted by village leaders from the Emberá who will share their customs, traditions and stories about their deep respect for their natural surroundings. Later on, enjoy short nature walks, go birding, or choose to join a longer hike into the rainforest in search of the elusive harpy eagle, which is one of the world’s most powerful eagles.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Days 6 - 7
Pearl Islands

Approximately 200 islands make up the idyllic Pearl Islands. Explore several of the islands in the archipelago, including Isla del Rey and Isla Pacheca, as you learn about the history of the native populations and eventually the Spaniards and African slaves who arrived for the pearl trade. Deep rainforests, lush rivers, white sandy beaches and shallow reefs provide great opportunities for hiking, sea kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, Zodiac river cruises, beach activities and snorkeling.

Accommodations

National Geographic Quest

Meals

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Read More
Day 8
Disembark Balboa, Transfer to Panama City, Panama & Depart

After breakfast, disembark in Balboa and transfer to the airport in Panama City 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

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.

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 southbound Panama Canal, Pearl Islands & Darién Jungle cruise begins and ends in Panama City, Panama (PTY). Plan flights to arrive to Panama City by 12:00pm Noon on Day 1 of the itinerary; an overland transfer follows, to embark the ship in Colón. Disembarkation in Balboa is after breakfast on the final day of the outlined itinerary, followed by an overland transfer to the Panama City airport; plan flights to depart Panama City no earlier than 2:30pm on the final day. 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.

Dec 07 - Dec 14, 2025
National Geographic Quest • 8 days
From $7389USD
Per Person
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Dec 14 - Dec 21, 2025
National Geographic Quest • 8 days
From $7389USD
Per Person
Read More
Read More
Jan 09 - Jan 16, 2026
National Geographic Quest • 8 days
From $7539USD
Per Person
Read More
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Jan 16 - Jan 23, 2026
National Geographic Quest • 8 days
From $7539USD
Per Person
Read More
Read More
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.

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

Choose from a wide variety of other AdventureSmith Costa Rica trips to extend your journey, or opt for a pre- or post-cruise extension with your fellow passengers on this cruise.

Panama City & San Lorenzo Extension is a 3-day pre- or post-cruise expedition offering opportunities to learn about Panama’s history and folklore. Visit the Gehry-designed BioMuseo, tour classic Panama City neighborhoods and visit the Panama Canal locks.

Add to Wishlist
6 - 6 Day Cruise
Wild Costa Rica Escape: Guanacaste Cruise

Navigate the pristine coastline of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste region, 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
3 Day Land Tour
Exploring San Blas & Guna Yala Culture

Spend 3 days Exploring the San Blas & Guna Yala Culture in Panama. Snorkel in Yandup, an island paradise surrounded by coral reefs, and sleep in traditional Guna-style huts with family-style meals served overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

From $635USD
Year Round
Add to Wishlist
9 Day Land Tour
Costa Rica Explorer

The Pacuare River, Arenal Volcano and the beautiful beaches of the Pacific, combine in this Costa Rica land tour that includes river rafting, guided hikes, hot springs, hanging bridges, zip lining, plus a free day to explore tropical Manuel Antonio National Park.

From $5265USD
Year Round
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The Panama Canal, Pearl Islands & Darién Jungle