Best way to navigate from Costa Rica to Panama
Replies: 12 - Last Post: Feb 5, 2013 12:43 PM Last Post By: jaguarman_corco...
Nov 20, 2012 10:00 PM
I'm planning a 12-day trip through Costa Rica and Panama from Dec 19 onwards. In Costa Rica, I would like to touch upon Arenal (ziplining, hot springs), Monteverde cloud forest, white water rafting somewhere on Pacuare, Drake Bay (diving), and possibly a day trip to Corcovado. From here, I would love suggestions on making our way to Panama.
0. What is the optimal way of navigating my itinerary, including flying in and out of which airport?
1. Is Arenal worth visiting this time of the year? Are these activities like ziplining just as good at other places in Costa Rica?
2. Any activities we can do in Monteverde besides taking a walk/trek in the cloud forest?
3. Suggestions on where to go white water rafting that will be good and along the way (is it worth it since it is dry season?)
4. Suggestions for diving in Drake bay and exploring for a day in Corcovado?
5. How do I get to Panama from here? Is going back to SJO and flying out the only viable option?
6. Do you suggest we rent a car for this trip in Costa Rica or just go with shuttles? We will be 3 of us.
Thanks so much!
Nov 20, 2012 11:28 PM
1Where in Panama? 12 days total or just for CR?
Arenal has lot of activities, but its not active at present. Monteverde is the place for zip lines though. Rafting the Pacuare can be tied into Arenal with excursion/transfer, or via San Jose.
Time wise Drake Bay is 10 hours bus/drive from SJO, so best to fly. Allow 3 nights for area. Getting to Panama border from DB is not easy, head back via boat to Sierrpe, then bus/taxi to Palmar Sur, then connect with bus to border on Pan Am hwy. The other option is via Pt Jiminez, then water taxi to Golfito, then bus to Panama border.
Where in Panama are you going? The popular route for most backpackers is on the caribe side, you can raft Rio Pacuare ang then get dropped in Pt Viejo, a few nights in this area is a lot to do, then bus to Panama border, cross at Sixoala, bus to ferry and on to Bocas Del Toro. There is also a shuttle between PV and BDT.
Another great area to see on caribe side is Tortuguero canals, then to PV. No cars, access via. Boats.
If going to Corcovado, this highlight of country and region, hike the loop and overnight at ranger stations, requires permits/reservations and guide. Otherwise, DB is ia boats to park, and Isla Cano too.
So either land SJO and raft Pacuare, transfer to Arenal, the bus/boat/bus to Monteverde, then bus back to SJO and fly to DB ot Pt Jimenex and then onward to border, or go SJO and bus or shuttle to Monteverde, bus boat bus to Arenal, then SJO, then raft Pacuare and get dropped Pt Viejo, then head to Panama a few days later.
Do you not have access to a guidebook like LP or Moon or Roughguide? You will need every bit of 12 days for CR if you want see Arenal, Monteverde, raft Pacuare and go to Corcovado.
It's high season too, and peak weeks are those two, Corcovado, and flights, can be sold out and park limited to certain amount of visitors. Get cracking.
You can fly from SJO to David, to Panama City, ot from SJ Pavas to BDT on Nature Air.
Nov 21, 2012 5:13 AM
Nov 21, 2012 5:43 AM
31. arenal is certainly worth visiting if you like: hot springs, waterfalls, rafting, boating or fishing on lake arenal, hiking, horseback, day trips to the rio celeste or cano negro, among others. while the volcano is not active at this time, hiking the old lava fields is certainly an experience. there's no lava right now - but - in the past, seeing the lava flow was always "iffy" - it wasn't a constant stream and the volcano was often shrouded in clouds. http://www.arenal.net
2. for monteverde, http://www.monteverdeinfo.com
3. for whitewater rafting, try the turrialba area. you can check here: http://www.riostropicales.com or http://www.exploradoresoutdoors.com
4. one way to do day trips into corcovado is to stay in the uvita area where you have access to the park as well as snorkeling and diving opportunities. here's one good source of information about that area: http://www.anywherecostarica.com/destinations/uvita-costa-rica
5. from drake bay - follow the information from jirijiri. from uvita, head to san isidro general for the tracopa bus to the border or for the international tica bus that goes into panama.
6. you might consider renting a car for part of your trip and using the shuttles for part of your trip. with three of you, renting a car will probably be more economical for most of the trip. arrange to turn in your car before you head for the southern pacific area.
Nov 21, 2012 10:46 PM
4Thanks all. In Drakes Bay, we want to dive in Isla Caño. In Panama, we would love to surf in Santa Catalina, dive in Isla Coiba, Panama City for a day or so. If we are able to add more days, I would want to go on a 2 day excursion to the Darien.
So follow up questions:
1. Can we fly from SJO to Drakes Bay/Oso (to dive in Isla Caño)? If so, where to and which airlines?
2. If we had to choose between diving at Isla Caño (Costa Rica) and Isla Coiba (Panama), which one would it be?
3. If we had to choose between an excursion to Corcovado or Darien, which one would it be?
4. What is the best way to get to Santa Catalina/Isla Coiba from Drakes Bay? Through David, and then a shuttle/bus?
5. Are these buses safe? Are there overnight buses, like in Peru?
Thanks so much! I really appreciate all your suggestions!
Nov 22, 2012 4:17 AM
#4 Santa Catalina from David, take a bus to Soná ($6; about 5 hr.). Buses from Soná to Santa Catalina leave at 5:15am, noon, and 4pm, and cost $3.75 one-way; or you can take a taxi for around $25 if your timing is off on the connection.
#5 Extremely safe. No night buses.
Nov 22, 2012 2:10 PM
6While it's an option to travel up to Sierpe, I offer this alternative, which offers more regular bus/boat service than found in Palmer.
1. For your last night on the Osa Peninsula, stay in Puerto Jimenez.
2. Take the water taxi from PJ to Golfito. It runs almost every 45 minutes throughout the day.
3. In Golfito, either take the public bus to Cuidad Neiley, and change buses here to Paso Canoas (the border), or, what I prefer to do is try to take a shared taxi from Golfito directly to the border. Should be between $8 and $10 per person, and well worth it as it really speeds this leg of the journey. A shared taxi means that the driver will stop for anyone else looking for a taxi along the way. Be sure to negotiate the price before you start the trip.
4. Exit immigration in Costa Rica, walk down the road and enter immigration at Panama. Be aware that they are now almost 100% of the time looking for you to show proof of $500 and an exit ticket from Panama.
5. After passing immigration in Panama, head out and cross the street on the left side of the building. There you will see a bus station of sorts with mini-vans. Look for the mini van to David, it's usually there waiting for people. Take this to David and make any further connections to your final destination. There is an airport in David incase you wish to fly someplace.
Between diving at Caño and Coiba, I'd choose Coiba. As far as exploring Corcovado or Darian, I'd choose Corcovado because it's accessible, amazing, and safe (well, people wise, anyway). But to really enjoy Corcovado, you want to spend a few days in the park. Many people choose to boat in from Drake Bay, but I think hiking in from La Leona (carate) or Los Patos is the real expedition. You'll want to plan for three days if you hike in.
I checked with Corcovado today regarding space available for December. They are already full for some days, and others have only camping left, with no food service. If you want to hike Corcovado, best check your dates with the park quick to see if space is available.
Pura Vida, Ballardo
Edited by: jaguarman_corcovado
Nov 22, 2012 10:02 PM
7I would not go out of my way to dive Isla Cano, decent, but nothing special, also not cheap, about $125, compared to $35 at Bay Islands Honduras., worlds second longest reef. But you can access Corcovado via boats as day trips from DB and visit San Pedrillo or Sirena ranger stations and enjoy the nearby wildlife and trails.
Sounds to me you don't have enough time to properly see this area, or CR to me, much less Panama. Getting from DB or Pt Jiminez to David Panama with border crossing at the holidays can take most of day when al said and done...
Figure 5-7 hours from PJ to David, even longer from DB.
Nov 23, 2012 8:28 AM
8I travel from Puerto Jimenez to David often and it takes me under 5 hours and this includes the time change from Costa Rica to Panama (Panama is an hour later). The only reason it would be much longer would be a hang up in immigration which can and does happen, especially if they loose power as there are no back up generators. But typically, it is smooth sailing and under 5 hours. Hope this helps clarify #7 above.
Pura Vida, Ballardo
Nov 23, 2012 3:02 PM
Feb 4, 2013 2:36 PM
I have a further question re getting from DB to David... My girlfriend and I are hoping to get the boat to sierpe then bus/taxi to Palmar Norte and then a single bus all the way to David. From Palmar Norte we understand that there are Tracopa busses running to the border but from their website (they wont answer their phone!) and searching the internet it seem there may be a direct San Jose to David bus that MAY stop at Palmar Norte. Can anyone shed some light on whether we can embark at Palmar Norte and go all the way to David ....or is it just to the border (which may mean we are better off going via Rincon then Niely using local buses and collectivos etc)...
Any advice or suggestions appreciated
Feb 5, 2013 4:00 AM
Feb 5, 2013 12:43 PM
12The direct bus from Tracopa from San Jose does not stop in Palmer. The regular bus from San Jose does stop in Palmer. Make sure you check the schedule.
FYI, from my border crossing experience, I find it better to take LOCAL buses from Southern CR to the frontera (border), cross yourself, and then take the LOCAL bus from Canoas to David. This is because you MUST wait for EVERYONE on your bus to clear immigration before you start again. When you travel via local buses, you can cross without having to wait for a whole bus load.
Pura Vida, Ballardo
(3 star Hotel)
From US$190.00 per night
San SalvadorBook now
(4 star Hotel)
From US$113.52 per night
Islita AreaBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$302.75 per night