Panama Canal & Costa Rica

Trip Highlights

After an evening in San José, our journey begins with a passage through the Panama Canal, one of the world’s engineering wonders. We will explore Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio National Park, the Curú National Wildlife Refuge, and the rock reefs of Isla Cébaco.

A tour of Panama City will include Casco Antiguo (the Old Quarter), a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a visit to the nearby San Blas Islands where the indigenous Guna people maintain their centuries-old traditions. Throughout the cruise, optional ship-board lectures will be available.

If you like, you can extend your stay with the Landscapes of Costa Pre-Program and Panama’s Renaissance Post-Program Options.

Shared departure: This departure is shared with other universities.


Day 1 – Depart Gateway City/Panama City, Panama

Depart for Panama City. Upon arrival, enjoy a scenic transfer to Colón to embark Le Dumont-d’Urville. 

Meals: Dinner

Day 2 – San Blas Islands

Cruise to the sun-drenched San Blas Islands, located on the Caribbean side of Panama and an extraordinary testament to Panama’s commitment to the indigenous Guna, also known as the Kuna, and their centuries-old language, customs and culture. Villagers live in typical thatched roof huts, barter or trade in fish and agricultural products and paddle dugout canoes, their main mode of transportation. Guna women continue to hand stitch traditional colorful molas (reverse appliqué panels) and wear winis, long strings of tiny beads wrapped around their forearms and legs in striking geometric patterns.

This afternoon, enjoy an opportunity to snorkel or swim the clear turquoise waters of pristine Golfo de San Blas, populated with vibrant, untouched coral reefs and rich marine life.

Attend the Captain’s Welcome Reception this evening. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Reception, Dinner

Day 3 – Colón/Daylight Transit Panama Canal

Cruise from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean through the mighty locks of the Panama Canal. Enjoy a specially arranged lecture on the history of the canal. By special arrangement, cruise through the fascinating Panama Canal. Transit times through the canal are controlled by the Panama Canal Authority and traffic conditions

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4 – Panama City

Arrive in Central America’s most attractive capital city and visit the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Punta Culebra Nature Center. Nearby, the new Biodiversity Museum, designed by architect Frank Gehry of Guggenheim fame, showcases the ecological significance of Panama’s exotic flora and fauna. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage‑designated “old quarter” of Casco Antigua, a charming neighborhood replete with cobblestone streets and many architecturally significant historical edifices, including a 16th‑century cathedral. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5 – Isla Cébaco

A winding coastline of rarely visited sandy beaches and towering palm trees front the dense rainforests that dominate Isla Cébaco, a gem in the sparkling Gulf of Montijo. Snorkel in its emerald waters, where schools of brilliantly colored fish, giant manta rays and four different species of turtles swim amid spectacular rock reefs. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6 – Quepos for Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Experience an unparalleled diversity of wildlife in this lush tropical haven, a captivating combination of rainforest, beach and coral reef, home to more than 100 species of mammals, almost 200 species of birds and various reptiles and amphibians.

Explore this protected “Living Eden,” where expert naturalists will help you spot colorful toucans, screeching howler monkeys, camouflaged iguanas, squirrel monkeys, two‑ and three‑toed sloths and rare species such as the scarlet macaw.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7 – Curú National Wildlife Refuge/Isla Tortuga

Unlike traditional nature reserves, Curú Wildlife Refuge is a unique blend of sustainable agriculture, forest management and wildlife protection, reestablishing species like the scarlet macaw and spider monkey, both reintroduced into the wild here. Encompassing five distinctive untouched habitats—including mangrove swamps and both dry and humid forests—it is the ideal place to see the intricacies of interdependent ecosystems. Enjoy a guided walk in the morning, the best time of day to observe an abundance of wildlife including capuchin and howler monkeys, white‑tailed deer, iguanas and more than 230 species of birds.

Nestled in a private reserve near the stunning Nicoya Peninsula, idyllic Isla Tortuga is named for its tortoise‑like volcanic rock formations. Against a backdrop of coconut palm trees and white‑sand beaches, enjoy opportunities to swim and snorkel in this protected island’s clear, sheltered waters, home to fascinating marine life such as angel fish, spotted eagle rays and sea horses.

Attend the Captain’s Farewell Reception on board this evening.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Reception, Dinner

Day 8 – Puerto Caldera/San José

Disembark in Puerto Caldera and enjoy a scenic transfer to San José. In the heart of the fertile Valle Central, Costa Rica’s dynamic capital city of San José possesses an eclectic mix of museums, landscaped parks, lively cafés and art galleries and an interesting fusion of architectural styles including Spanish Colonial, Moorish and Modernist. On the city tour, visit the National Theater, a regal Baroque edifice modeled on Milan’s La Scala, with marble staircases, gilded statues and red velvet carpeting, and peruse the National Museum’s impressive pre‑Columbian Central American artifacts, stonework, gold jewelry and statuettes.

After lunch in a local restaurant, check into the hacienda-style Costa Rica Marriott Hotel.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 9 – San José/Depart for Home

Continue on to the Coasta Rica Post-Program Option or transfer to the airport for your return flight home.

Meals: Breakfast


Show Full Itinerary

Your Journey

Panama Canal & Costa Rica

By participating in an Alumni Association of the University of Michigan travel trip, you have stated that the Alumni Association has the exclusive right to use video and other visual/audio portrayals of You or Your likeness taken during Your trip in any medium of any nature whatsoever for any purpose, including advertising or promoting the services of the trip without any compensation being paid to You. Any such portrayal or likeness shall be the exclusive property of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan.

  • Feb. 15–23, 2021
(9 days)
Starting price: $4,995
Deposit per person: $800
Central & South America
Gohagan & Co.
Type: Cruise, Ocean Cruise, Shared Departure

You must be an Alumni Association member to travel with us. Questions? Call Michigan Alumni Travel at 855.764.0064.

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