CRUISE ALONG THE PACIFIC COAST OF CENTRAL AMERICA | 16 DAYS | APRIL 2018
This adventurous Silversea expedition cruise from Panama to Guatemala is a real voyage of discovery which calls at ports in five contrasting Central American countries – Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. Your experiences will be wide-ranging, from the ultra-modern cosmopolitan capital Panama City to off-the-map indian communities and wildlife-saturated tropical rainforest.
The main focus is on wildlife and nature but you’ll also see the colonial gems of Granada, León and Lake Nicaragua. Volcanoes and Mayan ruins in El Salvador just add to the variety of this extraordinary voyage. You’ll be based on a luxurious motor yacht where you can relax in your ultra-comfortable suite after a day out exploring.
Day 1 Arrive in Panama City.
Panama City is a thriving international metropolis sitting at the Pacific end of the Panama Canal. The city dates back to 1519 when it was a settlement base for transporting Peruvian gold back to Imperial Spain. Its subsequent wealth made it a frequent target for pirate raids. From the ship, you’ll be able to observe soaring skyscrapers, sparkling banks and smart modern offices overshadowing forts, Spanish convents and sumptuous French-style mansions, reminders of its colonial heyday.
Day 2 Excursion to the rainforest banks of the Panama Canal.
Soberania National Park is where you board an expedition boat for an adventure on Lake Gatún, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. A naturalist guide is on hand to help spot the wildlife - among which are three-toed sloths, crocodiles, and several species of monkey.
Day 3 Boarding the Silver Explorer and setting sail.
Once all guests have embarked and the mandatory safety drill completed the ship weighs anchor. You will be introduced to the Expedition Team and other members of the crew. In the evening, you have the opportunity to familiarise yourself with the vessel, meet your fellow travellers and enjoy your first meal in the smart restaurant which serves contemporary, international cuisine and regional specialties unique to the voyage destination.
The ship sails from Panama City, a thriving international metropolis sitting at the Pacific end of the Panama Canal.
Day 4 Bay of San Miguel, Darien Jungle, Panama.
We shadow the Pacific coast you are heading into an untamed wilderness: scantily populated, rarely visited territory. The shores of Darien Province are hemmed by impenetrable rainforest - even nowadays fewer than 1,000 tourists visit per year.
There’s a bit of everything wild and wonderful here: steaming swamps, vine-t ravines, hidden coves splashed with sand defined by dark cliffs. You may spot rainbow- and sunset-hued tropical birds of the tanager, macaw, ibis, egret and hummingbird families, as well as tapir and spider monkeys.
The ship will anchor in the Bay of San Miguel. You will explore by Zodiac navigating through mangroves up the tidal Mogue river. Reach Mogue, a settlement of Emberá indians who resist modern civilisation but who will be expecting you with a welcome as you go ashore. Before you leave villagers will perform a native dance and demonstrate basket weaving and carving techniques
Day 5 Isla de Coiba, Panama
Shadow Panama’s Pacific coast to the Gulf of Chiriquí an drop anchor at Coiba National Park, a marine reserve comprising 38 islands including Isla Coiba, once a penal colony so access to the island was very restricted so that 80% of the islands' natural resources have therefore survived untouched Make landfall in Zodiacs and hike in the virgin tropical rainforest, which is cut through by a number of rivers. The jungles of Coiba are home to howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, and crested eagles. The beaches and waters surrounding Coiba Island offer shelter to four turtle species: leatherback, hawksbill, olive and loggerhead.
The north end of the island is the home of the ranger station, where you will walk. Here there are beautiful white sand beaches with clear water. There’ll be a chance to snorkel and, with the help of the ship’s marine biologist, identify parrot, damsel and trumpet fish as well as white-tip reef sharks. Relax on the beach as your butler serve fresh fruit skewers and cocktails.
Day 6 Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica
Cross your first border into the territorial waters of Costa Rica. Today you have a choice of excursion. Golfo Dulce sits between the Osa Peninsula and Costa Rica's southern Pacific coastline. The expansive bay hugs pristine beaches, rivers and tall evergreen forest, protected in the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve. The tropical rainforest is home to spider, white-faced, squirrel and howler monkeys, among other creatures, including anteaters and jaguars. Bird species include scarlet macaws, toucans and hummingbirds. Visit the reserve or alternatively the gardens of Casa Orquideas (Orchid House) where over 100 varieties of orchid are on display in bird-filled gardens.
Day 7 Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica.
This is the jewel in the crown of Costa Rica’s many natural reserves, and has been referred to as ‘the most biologically intense place on the planet’. Situated on the jungle-mantled Osa Peninsula, it offers a huge variety of wildlife, which can be observed from a network of trails. You’ll go ashore at secluded Bahia Drake, where you can choose to explore on horseback reaching a lookout pint with views over Isla Cano. If you fancy a different active pursuit you’ll be taken to ride a rainforest canopy –level zipline for a bird’s eye view over the park or opt for a walk on a well established trail exploring forest, seashore, ponds and gardens which ends over a hanging bridge leading to a viewing platform.
Day 8 Curu National Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica
Travelling north, you’ll arrive at the once isolated Nicoya Peninsula. Drier than the area you have visited to the south, it is nowadays covered in open cattle pasture.
The area embraces Costa Rica’s first private National Wildlife Refuge, an example of a successful sustainable development programme. The hacienda still includes cattle grazing and produces tropical fruits such as mangos on an annual basis; however, tourism is the focus of Curú today. It provides local employment while also protecting endangered forested habitats such as mangroves, tropical moist and dry forests, and coral reefs.
The Curú National Wildlife Refuge however is teeming with abundant wildlife and hosts one of the most beautiful beaches and protected bays on the peninsula. Here, on a guided walk, you may spot some of the wildlife which includes white-faced, howler and spider monkeys, scarlet macaws, white-tailed deer, raccoons, coyotes, iguanas, and hundreds of species of tropical and migratory birds.
Day 9 Puerto Quepos, Costa Rica.
The ship drops anchor at the port of Quepos close to Costa Rica’s most popular national park, Manuel Antonio, with exuberant forest and a stunning shoreline ideal for bird watching or swimming. It is home to a number of plant and animal species including iguanas, sloths, squirrel monkeys, and the ceiba tree, which, according to Mayan culture is the tree of life. Head ashore by Zodiac and, together with your Costa Rican naturalist guides you will stroll through tropical rainforests hoping to encounter monkeys and sloths as they traverse the tree canopy.
Alternatively take a cruise through the mangroves, packed with hundreds of species of marine and land animals. You’ll be taken around shifting sandbanks to reveal the animals, insects and plants which lie hidden from the untrained eye. Pass through wide lagoons where many species of seabirds can be observed, and round narrow passages, hoping for a chance encounter with white-collared capuchin monkeys.
Day 10 San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
Enter Nicaraguan territorial waters and drop anchor at San Juan del Sur. This tranquil Pacific coast village is nestled at the head of a horseshoe-shaped bay peppered with small, private yachts and fishing boats.
From here you will head inland on an excursion to visit Central America’s most beautiful colonial city Granada. Granada is the oldest city in the New World and lies at the foot of Mombacho volcano and on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. The city was regularly plundered by pirates and razed at the beginning of the 19th century but has since been wonderfully restored and its colourful colonial houses and cobbled streets that run down to the shores of Lake Nicaragua are a delight.
After touring the city, take a boat trip on the lake – the largest freshwater lake in Central America. You’ll pass through an archipelago of tiny volcanic islands populated by both fishermen and wealthy Nicaraguans who have established holiday homes there. Many of the islands are covered in forest and populated by abundant wildlife.
Day 11 Corinto, Nicaragua
Just south of El Salvador’s Gulf of Fonseca and west of Lake Xolotlán is the port of Corinto where the ship will drop anchor. 35km to the east is León, Nicaragua’s second-largest city, which you’ll have the opportunity to explore this former capital of Nicaragua, the capital of intellectual thought, art and political revolt in the country. It was once a hotbed of Sandanista activity and some buildings still display bullet holes from this turbulent era. Now a peaceful university town, it is perhaps less visited than Granada but equally impressive in terms of it grandiose baroque architecture.
Day 12 La Union, El Salvador
Sail on the calm waters of the Gulf of Fonseca, where 260km of Pacific Coast line is shared by El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Sail past fishing villages and islands that seem to float in the water, with spectacular reflections and stunning volcano views. This region is a bird sanctuary and with a little luck, you may also see dolphins. The ship will dock at La Unión, the capital of El Salvador's trade. It's a typical ramshackle port town but in 2015 an ambitious scheme was inaugurated: a new, modernised port with a supporting infrastructure involving new roads, hotels and a school.
Here you’ll be able to visit the peak of the prominent Conchagua volcano (1,243m), cloaked in verdant vegetation, from where there are panoramic views of not only El Salvador but also territory in Nicaragua and Honduras.
Day 13 Bahia de Jiquilisco, El Salvador
This glorious bay is fringed by emerald green woodland and mangroves. Its white sand beaches are pounded by surf. The bay is indented with creeks and channels, which you will explore by Zodiac boat or kayak.
Alternatively, you can visit Central America’s largest cacao plantation situated in San Jose Real de la Carrera. There you can not only tour the plantation, but also the plant for processing, drying and fermenting cacao, and can taste the fruit and have a cup of hot chocolate, the delicious final product.
Day 14 Acajutla, El Salvador
Acajutla is El Salvador’s principal harbour and the perfect launch pad for excursions to Mayan sites and colonial towns and villages. El Salvador’s important Mesoamerican sites visited today on a full day tour include Joya de Cerén, a pre-Hispanic farming community that was buried under an eruption of the UNESCO listed Laguna Caldera volcano, and the political and religious centres of San Andrés and Tazumal.
You might visit El Imposible National Park. Criss-crossed by a network of jungle trails, the tropical forest of El Imposible is a strikingly beautiful territory of rippled mountain ridges swathed in luscious vegetation. It lies at an altitude of 1,450m so embraces a variety of foliage. There are viewpoints over the valleys which splice through the park which has 400 types of tree and a number of endangered mammals including puma, wild boar and black crested eagles.
Day 15 Antigua, Guatemala
Disembark your ship and travel by road to Antigua. The city is a colonial work of art, with cobbled streets, overhanging tiled roofs and a beautiful, leafy central plaza. There’s an abundance of huge ruined churches, convents and monasteries, testament to a time when Antigua was the country’s capital and its main religious centre.
You’ll a walking tour of the historic centre. It seems that every doorway opens onto a fragrant tiled courtyard. A dramatic backdrop of smouldering volcanoes and ruined churches and convents surrounded by parkland bear witness to the city’s destruction a volcanic eruption in 1773.
Day 16 Transfer to Guatemala airport for your flight home.