Expedition Overview

Expedition Overview


Air Credit on Select Expedition Cruises

Book by October 31, 2020 to receive a $450 air credit on all 2020 departures of A Voyage to Panama and Colombia: Exploring the Caribbean Coast. Valid for new bookings only, subject to availability, and may not be combined with other offers, or extensions. Call for details.

  • Transit the Panama Canal, gaining an up-close view of this modern marvel of engineering, and navigate the waters of the man-made Gatún Lake.
  • Discover the coastal treasures and wilderness of Colombia, exploring vibrant villages, pristine beaches, and wildlife-rich jungles.
  • Visit the palm-shaded Panamanian archipelago of Guna Yala, an autonomous province that is home to the indigenous Guna people, and get immersed in local culture.
  • Encounter timeless artistic traditions from the handcrafted mola textiles of Guna Yala to the famed vueltiao sombreros woven by artisans in the mountain village of Tuchín.



Discover an astonishing trove of natural and cultural treasures as you navigate the Caribbean coast of Panama and Colombia aboard the National Geographic Quest. Hike into dense rainforests that harbor extraordinary biodiversity, glide through little-explored inlets by Zodiac and kayak, and meet the indigenous inhabitants of a secluded Panamanian archipelago where age-old traditions remain part of everyday life. Experience the diverse heritage of stunning cities and remote towns off the beaten path, from the Arab-influenced architecture of Colombia’s Santa Cruz de Lorica to the bustling shores of Santa Cruz del Islote—the most densely populated island in the world.

This trip is offered in partnership with Lindblad Expeditions.


Day 1: Panama City, Panama

Upon arrival in Panama City, transfer to the port in Fuerte Amador and embark our ship.

Meals Included:Dinner

National Geographic Quest for the remainder of the voyage

Day 2: Gatún Lake

By special permission, our ship anchors overnight in Gatún Lake, a vast artificial lake that forms a major part of the Panama Canal. In the morning, disembark on Barro Colorado, a hilltop transformed into an island by the damming of the Chagres River to build the Panama Canal. Visit the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and learn about initiatives to protect the incredible biodiversity of the surrounding Barro Colorado Nature Monument, one of the most studied areas of tropical forest on the planet and the site of various National Geographic–supported studies. Later, choose to hike into the jungle, navigate the lake by Zodiac, or take a boat ride to the mouth of the Chagres River to explore the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center. Tonight, cruise onward through the complex lock system of the Panama Canal, taking advantage of the nighttime lull in cargo activity. Completed in 1914, the canal is about 50 miles long and sees some 14,000 ships pass through every year. Witness this astonishing feat of engineering under the dramatic golden glow of floodlights.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3: Portobelo

This morning, we arrive along Panama’s Caribbean coast and step ashore at the historic town of Portobelo. Named by Cristopher Columbus in 1502, Portobelo, or “beautiful port,” was one of the most important Spanish trading centers in the New World. Explore the town’s 17th- and 18th-century Spanish colonial fortifications, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Later, hike into Portobelo’s lush jungles in search of mantled howler monkeys, toucans, and a variety of parrots. In the afternoon, our ship sails further down the Panamanian coast, where we’ll set out with snorkel and fins to explore the vibrant undersea world of the Caribbean.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4: Guna Yala

Wake up amid the archipelago of Guna Yala (also known as the San Blas islands), a constellation of 368 tiny, white-sand isles scattered off the northeast coast of Panama. Get to know the indigenous Guna people, one of the first native groups to achieve political autonomy in Latin America. Spend the morning among the thatched huts of an island village, learning about Guna culture and handicrafts. Marvel at the intricate designs of handmade textiles called molas, which harken back to a female tradition of body painting. In the afternoon, explore the vibrant marine world around the islands by snorkel, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5: Necoclí, Colombia

Our ship arrives at the mouth of the Gulf of Urabá, where we set out to discover the coastal community of Necoclí and the surrounding region. Our exploration of this little-visited area begins at the Marimonda and Salado Lagoons, part of a protected coastal wetlands area. Keep an eye out for a variety of wildlife, including iguanas; three-toed sloths; and colorful bird species such as scarlet macaws, russet-throated puffbirds, and Agami herons. After lunch, visit a local cocoa farm, where residents are striving to incorporate the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into their agricultural community.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 6: Coveñas/Santa Cruz de Lorica/Tuchín

Disembark in the beach town of Coveñas this morning and drive inland to Santa Cruz de Lorica, a charming riverside town influenced by several waves of immigration from France, Belgium, England, Syria, and Lebanon. Stroll through the central square, overlooked by a stunning Spanish-colonial cathedral and historic buildings in colorful Arabic styles. After lunch, visit Tuchín, an indigenous village celebrated as the birthplace of the sombrero vueltiao, a type of hat considered a national symbol of Colombia. Observe vueltiao makers at work, and then meet with members of the local Zenú community, known for their ingenious irrigation systems.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 7: Santa Cruz del Islote/San Bernardo Archipelago

Santa Cruz del Islote is the most densely populated island on Earth, where some 1,200 inhabitants live squeezed together in an area the size of two soccer fields, surrounded by turquoise seas and coral reefs. Stroll the island’s motor-free streets, past brightly painted houses and bustling docks; and experience daily life on this unusual island as you chat with local residents. Later, our ship cruises into the San Bernardo archipelago, where we’ll spend the afternoon relaxing on white-sand beaches and kayaking or paddleboarding among the mangroves.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 8: Cartagena

After breakfast on board, disembark in Cartagena and transfer to the airport to connect with your flight home.

Meals Included:Breakfast