Arica is an oasis, literally. Bordered by desert sand dunes and fertile valleys fed by the melting and life-giving snows of the Andes, this city is located in the heart of some culturally fascinating attractions. The Plaza Colon, Eiffel's iron cathedral of San Marcos, is one such point of interest. Another is the archeology museum in the nearby Azapa Valley. There you'll find pre-Columbian weavings, carvings and mummies from the Chinchorro culture dating back to 10,000 BC.
Bahia Paraiso is located on the far western edge of Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, just bordering the Corcovado National Park to the south.
La Blanquilla is a 72-square-mile limestone island shaped like an arrowhead and named for bright white sand beaches a truly delightful island well off the beaten track of charter boats. It is low lying about 50 feet high. There are some spectacular beaches, clear water and wonderful snorkeling. Blanquilla is also the home of Venezuelan wall diving, sitting as it does on the edge of a deep open trench. The wall starts just 65 feet from shore, and plummets straight down more than 3,000 feet. At some spots, including Piedra del Ahogado (The Drowned Rock), coral pinnacles scratch the water's surface. The walls are also rich with black corals, which are increasingly hard to find throughout the world.
Walls built in the 17th century divide this prosperous city into "new" and "old" sections. Distinctive thick-walled houses with high ceilings and central patios typify the Iberian architecture found in the charming older district with its narrow and crooked streets.
Chiriqui Lagoon is located on the Caribbean coast of Panama close to the border with Costa Rica. The lagoon is protected from the sea by the Bocas del Toro archipelago, and much of this area is designated as the Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos. This marine park has a surface of 13,226 hectares and is one of a few protected areas of Latin America that preserve, simultaneously, the rare wildlife and habitat of beaches, extensive coral reefs, mangroves and tropical forrests.
Isla de Coiba is the largest island of nine islands within the American Pacific, and is located within Coiba National Park. Coiba covers 120,000 acres and is part of one of the most extensive marine parks in the world, protecting three ecosystems of island, marine, and reef systems. The islands are internationally famous as a turtle nesting site, and also offer magnificent flora, fauna, and bird watching. The area is renowned for the giant Blue and Black marlins caught in the surrounding waters.
Colon is a seaport on the Atlantic side of the Isthmus of Panama and gives access to Panama City. Colon is on Manzanillo Island, between Manzanillo Bay and Limn Bay. It is the northern terminus of the Panama Railroad and the Panama Canal. It was founded in 1850 by the builders of the Panama Railroad.
Along with its sister-city La serena, Coquimbo is a popular seacoast resort for South American vactioners. Sample the fresh local seafood, visit the Spanish colonial churches of La Serena, or travel up the lovely agricultural Equi Valley to the home of poet Gavriel Mistral, and the Cerro Tololo Observatory´ hugh telescope.
Corcovado National Park (54,500 hectares) includes a huge range of habitats from wet, mainly impenetrable rain forest to dripping, steamy cloud forest, oak forest seashore and swamp. The park is located on the Osa Peninsula on the southern Pacific coast and fringed to the west by endless, wide, flat sandy beaches.
Nicaragua is the largest nation in Central America, with stunning landscapes, vast cultural treasures, and an intriguing history. Up until recently, Nicaragua had been known for the civil war between the Sandinistas and the Contras, which raged for years before finally ending. Today, the soldiers and guerrillas have been replaced with tour guides eager to show you their beautiful country. Browse the small shops and stroll the many churches of Puerto Corinto. This quiet village on Nicaragua's tropical Pacific coast serves as your gateway to the rest of Nicaragua.
Serving as the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal, Cristobal is one of the country's most important ports. Nearby is the international trade city of Colon, most notable for the Colon Free Zone, an import/export hub and a good place to shop.
Darien National Park consists of several ecosystems, from coastal mangroves to lowland forests, and from mountain rainforest to the highland cloud forest of Pirre Mountain. Replete with endemic and rare species, Darien is the northernmost range of many South American species and the southern range of numerous Northern and Central American plants and animals. The Cana Biological Station protects diverse wildlife habitats and offers phenomenal bird watching. Darien offers a rich cultural history, from the migration of First Peoples between the Americas to its role as the main Spanish transportation route for gold and silver from Peru to Panama.
This recently developed port with its modern shopping plazas is just next door to Panama City, once a vital link along the Golden Main. Be sure to visit both old and new, and shop for duty-free bargains, including the famous "molas" hand-woven by the Cuna Indians of San Blas.
Gamboa lies in the midst of the lush Panamanian rainforest on Lake Gatunl. It is sited on the course of the Panama Canal, at the north end of the Gaillard Cut. Here you can visit the Gamboa Rain Forest Resort. Surrounded by a unique tropical ecosystem, this 340-acre resort is part of Panama's 55,000-acre Soberania National Park, located midway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is a spectacular place, with lush grounds that are home to beautiful tropical foliage and fascinating birds and wildlife. You can board an aerial tram that carries you to an observation tower to view the Chagres River valley and the point at which the river enters the Panama Canal. The tram is almost completely silent, enabling visitors to catch sight of birds and animals along the route who are undisturbed by excessive noise. Alternatively you can take a wildlife watching expedition on Lake Gatn and the Panama Canal.
Cruise on Gatun Lake, the largest man-made lake in the world, where the shores are filled with exotic birds, the calls of wild jungle animals and colorful orchids. It took 33 years to build this eighth wonder of the world, but in one day you´ll discover memories that will last a lifetime.
Gatun Locks raise or lower a ship 85 feet as ships travel between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Your vessel will anchor off Gatun Yacht Club in Gatun Lake and ships tenders will shuttle you ashore. The facility is a small family recreational area used by residents of the Atlantic community and employees of the Panama Canal Commission.
Surrounded by steep hills and tropical rain forest, Golfito has a sheltered position on the Golfo Dulce on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. From here you can explore the Corcovado National Park and the black sand beach at Zancudo. The town was founded in the 1930's as a banana port.
The Golfo Dulce is one of the most unique and interesting areas in Costa Rica. It is home to the largest rain forest in Central America. This unspoiled ecosystem is one of the few places in the world where rain forest covered slops drop directly into an ocean gulf. This combines the diversity and magic of tropical virgin rain forests, with the peace and beauty of private, secluded beaches, set around an incredible world of exotic marine life. The gulf, which is roughly 16 kilometers wide and 48 kilometers long, is very manageable by small boat, while offering an unlimited number of environments and opportunities to explore and discover your "tropical nature" at its best. It is truly quite incredible.
Guayaquil, Ecuador is your port for Quito, the beautiful capital of Ecuador. As you stroll the cobbled streets of the city called "Queen of the Andes", rich legacies of art, history and magnificent Spanhish colonial architecture surround you.
A thriving port in the days of Sir Francis Drake, Huatulco has been reborn as an ultra-modern beach resort with world-class shopping and recreational opportunities. City planners have taken great care to blend the "new" Huatulco into its natural setting, and in fact most of the surrounding area has been set aside as a nature reserve.
Located near where the Caribbean meets the Bay of Honduras is the small and beautiful Hunting Caye. The coral and abundant sea life make for perfect snorkeling or diving. Late in the summer, the cay is home to a large number of nesting Hawksbill sea turtles. Be sure to visit the manned lighthouse station.
Hard against the dramatic coastal desert slopes, little Iquique was the "Queen of the Coast" through the early part of this century, when the nitrate barons built fortunes on fertilizer shipped from here. Today some of their company towns, long deserted, are being preserved as monuments to the bygone era.
Isla San Telmo, a remote, undeveloped island donated to Ancon (National Association for the onservation of Nature) and set aside for preservation. Surrounded by secluded beaches, threaded by exploration trails, and inhabited by thousands of pelicans, frigatebirds and boobies, San Telmo is the incarnation of paradise.
Lima, located seven miles form the port of Callao, was named the City of the Kings. Its grand old quarter is rich with Spanish colonial architecture: The Plaza del Armas has some prime examples. Late in the afternoon, the port of Callao will be filled with fishing boats, returning from a day at sea.
Manuel Antonio National Park is perhaps the most visited park in Costa Rica. The picturesque Punta Catedral was once an island off the coast. Over the years, sedimentation filled in a bar of sand, connecting it to the mainland. The locals call this stretch of white sand beach Tombolo.
The Panama Canal was completed in 1914 under the administration of Teddy Roosevelt at a cost of $533 million, requiring 35,000 men and 10 years to build. An engineering marvel, no pumps are used in filling or emptying the locks or "steps" that rise and fall between the two mighty oceans on either side. The Canal saves 13,000 miles of ocean travel around the tip of South America for vessels that traverse the 51.7 mile course. It takes 58 million gallons of water for a single ship to descend the 85 feet from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and takes a mere 8 hours.
Spain settled Panama City in 1519 on the site of an Indian fishing village. Gold and other valuable goods often passed overland through the city to the Caribbean, making Panama a target for thieves. In 1671 British Pirate Henry Morgan tore through town, leaving behind total ruins. Two years later, Panama was rebuilt on a nearby site. The city was still ravaged repeatedly until 1746, when the trade route was changed. Panamas independence came in 1903, and Panama City was declared the capital. After the Panama Canal was completed in 1914, the city became an important international business centre.
In Paracas reserve, scores of sea lions can be seen lazily basking in the sun align with condors and giants turtles easing their way through the water. The winds, the sea temperature, and other weather factors have created a habitat for thousands of species of marine fauna and flora, ranging from tiny fish and mollusks to great seals. The scenery is beautiful, a fact that ancestral cultures were well aware of, because it was in this rich area that a major civilization flourished. Paracas, famous for its weavings, the finest in the world, inimitable even today.
Pearl Islands (or Archipielago de las Perlas in Spanish) is a group of islands on the Pacific side of Panama, the most notable of which is Contadora Island known for its resorts. Many rivers and springs, the main ones flowing steadily year-round, provide for abundant pure, fresh waters to naturally irrigate San Jose Island. Several waterfalls, up to 60 feet high, and natural caves, further enhance the beauty of the island.
If you're a traveler wanting to relax, or an angler anxious for the exhilarating struggle of a marlin or sailfish, Flamingo is the place for you. The marina is host to some of the best boats and captains for deep-sea fishing in Costa Rica, and fishing charters are readily available. As does the fishing, the recreation around Flamingo revolves around the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
Portobelo (formerly Puerto Bello, also Porto Belo) is a port town in Colon Province, Panama. Portobelo was founded in 1597. From the 16th to the 18th century it was an important silver-exporting port in New Granada on the Spanish Main and one of the ports on the route of the Spanish treasure fleets. Today, Portobelo is a sleepy town with a population of fewer than 5000. It has a deep natural harbor. In 1980 the fortification ruins, along with nearby Fort San Lorenzo, were declared a World Heritage Site.
Puerto Chiapas offers those looking for a close contact with a mystic, exotic and natural world, the door to a magical place with wonderful regional tours enjoying unequalled natural beauties, alternative tourism, ecotourism and archeology.
Located on Costa Rica's Caribbean shores, Puerto Limon is one of the nations largest cities. Columbus stumbled upon the city in 1502, during his final voyage of discovery. Spanish explorers who followed, mistakenly declared this land to be the "rich coast"; however, little gold was found. Today, the city's riches come in the form of bananas, shipped from Limon to destinations around the world.
Drive into the mountains to beautiful old Antigua, once the country's colonial capital, and discover its lovely bougainvilleadraped buildings and breathtaking views of emerald volcanoes. Travel to famed Lake Atitlan and step back in time as you encounter the indigenous people in all their finery still living along the lakeshore. Or better yet, fly to Flores and experience the magnificent and enigmatic Mayan temples and palaces of the Tikal complex, surrounded by jungle.
Puntarenas is the Pacific coast gateway to Costa Rica. From Puntarenas visit the Rain Forest, Cloud Forest and Poas National Park. Also see San Jose, the capital city, located in the central valley at an altitude of 3,450 feet enjoying a "Spring-Like" average temperature of 72 degrees. The country is located on the Central American isthmus and is bounded on the north by Nicaragua, the Southeast by Panama, the east by the Atlantic Ocean and the west by the Pacific Ocean. With its tall mountains, forested slopes, green pasture lands and lush vegetation, Costa Rica is often referred to as the "Switzerland of Central America." A mountainous country, Costa Rica ranges from sea level to peaks as high as 13,000 feet and a succession of white, sandy beaches follow one another along the Pacific Coast. The country was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502. Rumors of vast gold treasures (which never materialized ) led to the country's name - "Rich Coast."
Nestling between two spectacular towering Andean Ranges, Quito-Ecuador's capital, also straddles the Equator and, as such, lays claim to being the 'City at the centre of the world'. It is a city of wonderful juxtapositions! The wonderfully preserved and restored Old Town, a living testimony to Quito's colonial past, is complimented by the modern glass skyscrapers, electric trolleys and mansions to the north of the city. Even the somewhat dominant and highly active Pichincha Volcano, coexists harmoniously on the city's western side.
This is our gateway to the treasures of northern Peru. Named after the Spanish city where conquistador Francisco Pizarro was born, Trujillo's stately mansions and decorated balconies date back as far as 1534. This is the Moche Valley, home to the extraordinary adobe citadels built a thousand years earlier by the Chimus and Mochicas. Most remarkable of all is Chan-Chan. Capital of the Kingdom of the Great Chimu and the largest city in South America to be built of mud, it once covered an area of over 12 square miles. Our guides will pick out the highlights which include murals that tell of the people's ancient rituals and stepped pyramids that rise over 90ft high.
The San Andres and Providencia archipelago comprises Colombia's Caribbean islands, lying some 290 miles north of the South American coast. Palm-dotted San Andres is only eight miles long and two miles wide. It is noted for beautiful sand beaches, crystal-clear waters and good diving sites. At one time the island belonged to Britain and, according to local lore; it was a favorite hideout for the legendary pirate Henry Morgan. In 1822, San Andres came under the control of Colombia. In recent years the original population has greatly increased due to unrestricted immigration from the mainland. The island is best seen via the scenic ring road that offers views of coves, beaches and palm groves. In the interior stands a Baptist church dating from 1847, and the attraction at the southern end is the Hoyo Soplador, a geyser-like hole where the sea shoots jets of water intermittently into the air during the right wind and sea conditions.
The San Blas are an archipelago of more than 350 islands located in the Caribbean off the coast of Panama. These tropical islands, covered with white sand and coconut groves, are pristine environments inhabited only by the Kuna, its indigenous Indians. The Kuna have resisted change and maintained their traditional culture ever since the Spanish made contact over 500 years ago. San Blas province has its own government, and each island has a chief.
San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica, strategically located in the center of the country. In addition to being an intriguing cultural destination, it is the perfect base from which to enjoy a wide variety of activities. Choose your own array of trips to both urban and rainforest areas, then return to the comfort of your ship at the end of each action-packed day.
In the land of Simon Bolivar, visit the plantation where the Great Liberator died penniless, his dreams of a Gran Colombia shattered. Also on the grounds, the Museo Bolivariano, featuring contemporary art donated by artists from the countries he liberated. Celebrate your own freedom in a chic waterfront cafe or tour banana and coffee plantations.
The beautiful Turks and Caicos Islands are situated 575 miles (or 75 minutes) southeast of Miami. Covering 193 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean, the Turks and Caicos Islands has the third largest coral reef system and the best tropical beaches in the world, making it a premier beach, diving and snorkelling destination and an ideal location for romance, family vacations, ecotourism and adventure seekers, which is probably why 60% of our visitors come back over and over again.