About This Trip
- Spend three days in the Gulf of Chiriquí exploring the second biggest coral reef in the eastern Pacific. 800 species of fish, 33 species of sharks, and 20 species of cetaceans can be found in this extremely productive ecosystem.
- Travel to Isla Uvas and the Islas Secas Archipelago, two rarely visited gems of the Panamanian Pacific.
- Snorkel the warm, calm seas at Bocas del Toro, home to hundreds of different sponges, seahorses, tropical fish, and almost 80 coral species.
Panama is a country full of hidden treasures. This small country is the bridge between continents and the narrow division between two oceans, a unique position that has bestowed it with enormous biodiversity. Our 9-day expedition will focus on exploring the natural bounty found within Panama’s outstanding marine national parks, with visits to three important marine protected areas—Coiba Island and the Gulf of Chiriquí in the Pacific, and Isla Bastimentos (Bocas del Toro area) in the Caribbean.
Don't miss -> Meet Three of Panama's Best Marine Parks
There will be plenty of opportunities for snorkeling (on 6 different days) and wildlife observation throughout our itinerary. We will also visit the famous Panama Canal and hike along the original road built by the conquistadors to transfer their South American plunder to waiting galleons on the Caribbean coast. Join us for this engaging exploration of Panama’s Pacific and Caribbean marine ecosystems!
Notes on Trip Costs
Trip price does not include international airfare, but does include domestic flight from Bocas del Toro to Panama City. Click here for our full expedition terms and conditions.
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Founded in 1969, Oceanic Society is America’s oldest 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to ocean conservation. As pioneers of “eco travel,” our expeditions have been designed to directly support our mission. They not only positively impact our travelers, but also the people, places, and wildlife we go to see. Your expedition costs include fees that support conservation and promote sustainable livelihoods in the communities we visit, and Oceanic Society's earnings are invested back into our global research and conservation programs. In 2019, we also established our Expedition Impact Fund (EIF) as a way to grow our impact. The fund is seeded annually with money earned from our expeditions, and supplemented by donations from Oceanic Society travelers. Through the EIF, we award grants to our partners for their on-the-ground efforts to protect ocean habitats and the wildlife and human communities that depend on them.
Dates & Prices
The following itinerary is provided for informational purposes and is subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances or circumstances beyond our control. Accommodations may be substituted with comparable hotels based on the final group needs or changes to the itinerary. Note: (B, L, D) denotes the meals provided each day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).
Day 1: Panama City
After arrival you will be transferred to our hotel in the Casco Viejo neighborhood, the historical center of Panama City. Early arrivals can join a walking tour around Casco Viejo. This evening we will have a welcome dinner with introductions and trip orientation. Overnight at Hotel Magnolia Inn Casco Viejo. (D)
Day 2: Panama Canal - Pacific Coast
After breakfast we visit the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal, where the ships from the Pacific will float up towards the level of Miraflores Lake. From the tower of the information center we will have a great view on the historical locks, see the new locks further away, and learn about the recent widening of the canal. For first time visitors, the scale and activity of the canal zone is impressive – huge container ships and parallel train tracks with long trains loaded with piggy-back containers show how important Panama is for global trade. Next, we drive across the Panama Canal and have lunch along the Panamerican highway during our drive towards the West Azuero Peninsula in the province of Veraguas (~4.5 hours). We will stay at a hotel in the Mariato area, from where we depart for two days to Coiba Island National Marine Park. Overnight at Hotel Heliconia. (B,L,D)
Day 3: Isla Coiba National Park
We will spend 4 days on the Pacific coast in the Gulf of Chiriquí area, home to two of Panama's national marine parks. The easternmost park is Coiba Marine National Park, home to the second largest coral reef in the eastern Pacific (~330,000 acres). Coiba Island is often compared to the Galapagos due to its diversity of marine life and similar geology. The large species that inhabit these waters include humpback whales, manta rays, and sea turtles. 800 species of fish, 33 species of sharks, and 20 species of cetaceans are found in this extremely productive ecosystem. The second marine protected area, Chiriquí National Marine Park, is further west in front of the coastal town of Boca Chica.
This morning we depart by boat (~2 hours), passing the north shore of Cebaco Island. We will have the entire island to ourselves in the evening as we camp in tents in our private camp on Coiba Island. This is the ultimate way to explore the island and will give us enough time for safely snorkeling at different tides. Our biologist guide will highlight the unique attributes of this area and discuss marine conservation efforts. Many endemic species have recently been discovered on Isla Coiba, which was previously closed off to researchers due to a prison on the island that has been decommissioned. Depending on local conditions, we will visit different islands with options for snorkeling and wildlife observation. Overnight in shared tents on Coiba Island; each tent has two beds and the camp has basic sanitary facilities (bucket shower and portable toilet) - not quite "glamping" but pretty nice and definitely worth it! (B,L,D)
Day 4: Isla Coiba National Park
A full day of snorkeling and marine wildlife observation at different sites in Isla Coiba National Park, which consists of the big Coiba Island and about 38 small islets. Granito de Oro is a famous snorkeling spot with fields of brain and fan coral. During a hike on an island trail in primary forest, we will look for birds and monkeys. Return in the afternoon to our hotel on the Mariato coast. Overnight at Hotel Heliconia.
Day 5: Boca Chica
Today we drive (~4 hours) to the city of Santiago and along the Panamerican Highway further west into the province of Chiriquí. Our destination today is Boca Chica. In the afternoon we will enjoy the hotel grounds and do a sightseeing boat tour in the nearby lush mangrove ecosystem and look for birds. This area is the eastern most section of an internationally recognized Important Bird Area, David Mangroves. Besides exploring the canals with biodiversity all around us, we will keep an eye out for the globally threatened Yellow-billed Cotinga, Yellow-crowned Parrot, and the regionally endemic Black-hooded Antshrike. This will also be a great opportunity to talk about “Blue Carbon” and mangrove ecosystems are so important. Overnight at the Hotel Bocas del Mar in Boca Chica. (B,L,D)
Day 6: The Islas Secas and Bocas del Toro Archipelago
We start with an early boat tour to the Islas Secas archipelago, a rarely visited group of small tropical islands in the Gulf of Chiriquí Marine National Park with good snorkeling opportunities. In late morning we return to Boca Chica and prepare for departure towards the Caribbean side of Panama. From the Chiriquí province to Bocas del Toro we drive a scenic route crossing the continental divide to the port of Almirante (~4 hours). Small boats bring us to the main island of the Bocas del Toro archipelago, Isla Colón. Our hotel is based right in town, from where we will depart on our snorkeling adventures. Overnight at Hotel Bocas del Toro. (B,L,D)
Day 7: Snorkeling Bastimentos National Marine Park
Today we will spend a full day on the water visiting Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park, home to some of the best snorkeling in the region. Hundreds of different sponges, tropical fish, and almost 80 coral species attract snorkelers to the area’s warm, calm seas. Sheltered areas on the south sides of the islands offer calm waters with varied coral reefs to explore, and we will visit idyllic snorkeling sites at Crawl Cay and Cayos Zapatillas. In the afternoon we meet with an expert at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and learn about the diversity and threats of marine life and Caribbean coastal ecosystems. Overnight at Hotel Bocas del Toro. (B,L,D)
Day 8: Bocas del Toro - Panama City
We will enjoy another snorkel session this morning at Hospital Point on Solarte Island. Afterwards we'll head back to Isla Colon to pack and have lunch before we head to the airport for an afternoon flight back to Panama City. This evening we'll enjoy a farewell dinner in the historical Casco Viejo neighborhood. Hotel in Panama City TBD. (B,L,D)
Day 9: Fly home
Today you will be transferred back to the airport in time for your return flights.
Participants will stay in a variety of hotels that offer a balance of comfort, amenities, and proximity to our planned activities.
- Hotel Magnolia Inn in Panama City
- Hotel Santa Catalina in Santa Catalina
- Hotel Bocas del Mar in Boca Chica
- Hotel Bocas del Toro in Isla Colón, Bocas del Toro
Your expedition will be led by one or more of the following expert naturalist guides: