51 days in Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama Itinerary

51 days in Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama Itinerary

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Route & dates

51 days in Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Panama Itinerary

Start: London, United Kingdom
Fly + Bus:  18 h 15 min
1
Leon, Nicaragua
— 3 nights
Drive:  5 h 15 min
2
Playas del Coco, Costa Rica
— 4 nights
Drive:  1 h 15 min
3
Tamarindo, Costa Rica
— 6 nights
Drive:  1 h 45 min
4
Playa Samara, Costa Rica
— 4 nights
Drive:  3 h 15 min
5
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
— 2 nights
Bus + Ferry:  2 h 15 min
6
Jaco, Costa Rica
— 5 nights
Drive:  1 h 45 min
7
Uvita, Costa Rica
— 4 nights
Drive:  1 h 15 min
8
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
— 4 nights
Drive:  4 h 15 min
9
La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica
— 6 nights
Drive:  4 h 45 min
10
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica
— 5 nights
Drive + Fly:  3 h
11
Panama City, Panama
— 6 nights
Fly:  16 h 15 min
End: London, United Kingdom

3
nights
Leon, Nicaragua

Leon ©
A cultured and storied city, Leon attracts guests from all over the world, drawn to the second city's style, thriving intellectual life, and liveliness.
Museo de Arte Fundacion Ortiz-Gurdian and Museo Entomologico de Leon are good opportunities to explore the local culture. Get in touch with nature at Playa Las Penitas and Adrenaline & Extreme Tours. There's much more to do: stop by Catedral de la Asunción, get impressive views of Cerro Negro Volcano, and take in the architecture and atmosphere at Iglesia San Juan Bautista de Subtiava.

To find more things to do, photos, and more tourist information, refer to the Leon online driving holiday planner.

London, UK to Leon is an approximately 18.5-hour combination of flight and bus. You can also do a combination of flight, bus, and shuttle. The time zone difference when traveling from London to Leon is minus 6 hours. Plan for much hotter temperatures traveling from London in December, with highs in Leon at 38°C and lows at 26°C. Cap off your sightseeing on the 16th (Wed) early enough to go by car to Playas del Coco.

Things to do in Leon

Parks Outdoors Nature
Find places to stay Dec 13 — 16:
Highlights from your plan
Playa Las Penitas ©
Playa Las Penitas
Cerro Negro Volcano ©
Cerro Negro Volcano
Museo de Arte Fundacion Ortiz-Gurdian ©

4
nights
Playas del Coco, Costa Rica

Playas del Coco ©
A long-established beach community, Playas del Coco has developed a reputation as a favored spot for young travelers and locals to let loose by the sea.
Get in touch with nature at Playa Hermosa and Rincon de La Vieja National Park. Step off the beaten path and head to Hacienda El Viejo Wetlands and Rio Negro Hot Springs. Explore Playas del Coco's surroundings by going to Nahua (in Liberia) and Cataratas Llanos de Cortes (in Bagaces). Spend the 19th (Sat) exploring nature at Palo Verde National Park. There's more to do: see some colorful creatures with a scuba or snorkeling tour and browse the exhibits of Rojas Bros Boruca Indigenous Arts.

To find where to stay, reviews, more things to do, and more tourist information, refer to the Playas del Coco holiday builder site.

Traveling by car from Leon to Playas del Coco takes 5.5 hours. Alternatively, you can do a combination of shuttle, flight, and taxi; or take a bus. When traveling from Leon in December, plan for little chillier days in Playas del Coco, with highs around 32°C, while nights are somewhat warmer with lows around 32°C. Finish up your sightseeing early on the 20th (Sun) so you can go by car to Tamarindo.

Things to do in Playas del Coco

Parks Nature Wildlife

Side Trips

Province of Guanacaste, Playa Hermosa, Hacienda El Viejo Wetlands, Nahua, Cataratas Llanos de Cortes
Find places to stay Dec 16 — 20:
Highlights from your plan
Hacienda El Viejo Wetlands ©
Hacienda El Viejo Wetlands
Playa Hermosa ©
Playa Hermosa
Scuba & Snorkeling

6
nights
Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Surfing remains the main reason to take a trip to Tamarindo, as the beachside town is mostly known for its excellent waves.
Visiting Nature & Wildlife Tours and Off-Road Tours will get you outdoors. We've included these beaches for you: San Juanillo Beach and Playa Danta. You'll find plenty of places to visit near Tamarindo: Playa Conchal (Playa Conchal & Garra de Leon Golf Course) and Adrenaline & Extreme Tours (in Playa Flamingo). Next up on the itinerary: take in the exciting artwork at Lydia Beech Art Boutique, stroll through Playa Avellana, get in on the family fun at Black Stallion Eco Park & Estates, and enjoy the sand and surf at Tamarindo Beach.

To find traveler tips, where to stay, other places to visit, and more tourist information, read our Tamarindo trip planner.

You can drive from Playas del Coco to Tamarindo in 1.5 hours. Alternatively, you can take a bus; or take a bus. In December in Tamarindo, expect temperatures between 32°C during the day and 32°C at night. Finish up your sightseeing early on the 26th (Sat) so you can go by car to Playa Samara.

Things to do in Tamarindo

Outdoors Parks Beaches

Side Trips

Playa Conchal, San Juanillo Beach, Playa Danta, Adrenaline & Extreme Tours, Black Stallion Eco Park & Estates
Find places to stay Dec 20 — 26:
Highlights from your plan
Nature & Wildlife Tours
Playa Avellana ©
Playa Avellana
Playa Conchal ©
Playa Conchal

4
nights
Playa Samara, Costa Rica

Playa Samara ©
A beach town with just enough development to be comfortable for families accustomed to the trappings of modern life, Playa Samara has the resorts you'd expect to find in such a scenic area, but they don't hinder the relaxing atmosphere.
Take a break from the city and head to Barrigona Beach and Horseback Riding Tours. Explore hidden gems such as Playa Carrillo and Dolphin & Whale Watching. Get out of town with these interesting Playa Samara side-trips: Nosara (SIBU Wildlife Sanctuary, MAEL's ABSTRACT ART GALLERY, &more). There's still lots to do: indulge in some personalized pampering at some of the best spas, see Off-Road Tours, kick back and relax at Samara Beach, and take in the dramatic scenery at Belen Waterfall.

To find other places to visit, more things to do, and more tourist information, you can read our Playa Samara online route planner.

Getting from Tamarindo to Playa Samara by car takes about 2 hours. Other options: take a bus; or take a bus. Expect a daytime high around 32°C in December, and nighttime lows around 32°C. Cap off your sightseeing on the 30th (Wed) early enough to go by car to Santa Teresa.

Things to do in Playa Samara

Outdoors Parks Beaches

Side Trips

Nosara, Playa Carrillo
Find places to stay Dec 26 — 30:
Highlights from your plan
Samara Beach ©
Samara Beach
Dolphin & Whale Watching
Horseback Riding Tours

2
nights
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Santa Teresa ©
A coastal getaway popular with surfers and young travelers, Santa Teresa spreads out from the beach and the main coastal road to a ring of newer developments on the surrounding hills.
Start off your visit on the 31st (Thu): glide peacefully along the water with categoryPhrases.alias.some_of_the_best_stand_up_paddleboarding_in_the_area and then enjoy the sand and surf at Playa Carmen. On the 1st (Fri), you'll have a packed day of sightseeing: enjoy the sand and surf at Playa Hermosa, then view the masterpieces at Bri'ah Art Gallery, and then trot along with a tour on horseback.

To find traveler tips, more things to do, and other tourist information, you can read our Santa Teresa trip itinerary builder.

Traveling by car from Playa Samara to Santa Teresa takes 3.5 hours. Alternatively, you can take a bus. Finish your sightseeing early on the 1st (Fri) to allow enough time to travel to Jaco.

Things to do in Santa Teresa

Outdoors Tours Parks

Side Trip

Horseback Riding Tours
Find places to stay Dec 30 — Jan 1:
Highlights from your plan
Playa Hermosa ©
Playa Hermosa
Stand-Up Paddleboarding
Horseback Riding Tours

5
nights
Jaco, Costa Rica

A seaside resort town with plenty of entertaining distractions along its attractive coastline, Jaco has long been a major tourist destination on the central Pacific coast.
Take a break from the city and head to Nature & Wildlife Tours and Playa Bejuco. Tico Pod Art House & Gifts and Bambu are good opportunities to explore the local culture. There's much more to do: explore the wealth of natural beauty at Carara National Park, trot along with a tour on horseback, add some adventure to your tour with a kayaking and canoeing tour, and get outside with Costa Rica SUP'ers.

To find where to stay, reviews, maps, and other tourist information, refer to the Jaco day trip app.

Getting from Santa Teresa to Jaco by combination of bus and ferry takes about 2.5 hours. Other options: drive. Finish your sightseeing early on the 6th (Wed) so you can drive to Uvita.

Things to do in Jaco

Outdoors Tours Parks

Side Trips

Tarcoles, Esterillos Este, Carara National Park, Vista Los Suenos Horseback Riding
Find places to stay Jan 1 — 6:
Highlights from your plan
Canyoning & Rappelling Tours
Nature & Wildlife Tours
Carara National Park ©
Carara National Park

4
nights
Uvita, Costa Rica

Uvita ©
Ideal for visitors looking to escape Costa Rica's busy beaches, Uvita offers a serene atmosphere and plenty of uncrowded sand for a leisurely vacation.
Eschew the tourist crowds and head to Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary and Playa Ventanas. Visiting Nauyaca Waterfalls and Rancho La Merced National Wildlife Refuge will get you outdoors. Step out of Uvita with an excursion to Kokopelli in Sierpe--about 52 minutes away. There's still lots to do: enjoy the sand and surf at Uvita Beach, get up close to creatures of the deep with a dolphin and whale watching tour, take in the dramatic scenery at Uvita Waterfall, and scramble along the landscape with a canyoning and rapelling tour.

To see where to stay, traveler tips, photos, and other tourist information, read our Uvita journey planner.

Traveling by car from Jaco to Uvita takes 2 hours. Alternatively, you can take a bus. Finish your sightseeing early on the 10th (Sun) so you can drive to Manuel Antonio.

Things to do in Uvita

Parks Outdoors Nature

Side Trips

Dominical, Playa Ventanas, Kokopelli
Find places to stay Jan 6 — 10:
Highlights from your plan
Uvita Beach ©
Uvita Beach
Nauyaca Waterfalls ©
Nauyaca Waterfalls

4
nights
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

The rainforest meets the sea at Manuel Antonio National Park, a small but scenic natural preserve on the west coast of Costa Rica.
Escape the urban bustle at Playa Manuel Antonio and Playa Espadilla Norte. You'll explore the less-touristy side of things at River Rafting & Tubing and Rainmaker Park. There's lots more to do: get the lay of the land with Walking tours, walk around Parque Nahomi, relax and rejuvenate at some of the best spas, and take a pleasant ride with a tour on horseback.

To see reviews, more things to do, where to stay, and other tourist information, use the Manuel Antonio trip builder.

Getting from Uvita to Manuel Antonio by car takes about 1.5 hours. Other options: take a bus. Wrap up your sightseeing on the 14th (Thu) early enough to drive to La Fortuna de San Carlos.

Things to do in Manuel Antonio

Outdoors Tours Parks

Side Trips

Quepos, Rainmaker Park
Find places to stay Jan 10 — 14:
Highlights from your plan
River Rafting & Tubing
Playa Manuel Antonio ©
Playa Manuel Antonio
Walking tours

6
nights
La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica

La Fortuna de San Carlos ©
Set against the backdrop of the imposing Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna de San Carlos offers visitors a chance to explore diverse natural landscapes and sample some delicious local produce.
Museum-lovers will appreciate ChocoMuseo La Fortuna and Onirica Art Gallery. Explore hidden gems such as Dave & Dave's Costa Rica Nature Park and Arenal Natura Ecological Park. Explore the numerous day-trip ideas around La Fortuna de San Carlos: Jardins da Cachoeira de La Paz (in Vara Blanca) and Poas Volcano (in Poas Volcano National Park). There's still lots to do: take in the natural beauty of Tabacon Hot Springs, tour the pleasant surroundings at La Fortuna Waterfall, relax and float downstream with a rafting and tubing tour, and surround yourself with nature on a nature and wildlife tour.

To find other places to visit, traveler tips, more things to do, and other tourist information, refer to the La Fortuna de San Carlos trip itinerary planner.

You can drive from Manuel Antonio to La Fortuna de San Carlos in 4.5 hours. Other options are to take a shuttle; or take a bus. Finish your sightseeing early on the 20th (Wed) to allow enough time to drive to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.

Things to do in La Fortuna de San Carlos

Parks Nature Outdoors

Side Trips

Dave & Dave's Costa Rica Nature Park, Poas Volcano, Arenal Volcano, Jardins da Cachoeira de La Paz
Find places to stay Jan 14 — 20:
Highlights from your plan
Tabacon Hot Springs ©
Tabacon Hot Springs
Nature & Wildlife Tours
Arenal Natura Ecological Park ©
Arenal Natura Ecological Park

5
nights
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca ©
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca offers a wealth of entertainment by the sea, attracting a lively international crowd of revelers while maintaining a bright and breezy coastal charm with a local feel.
Discover out-of-the-way places like Punta Uva Beach and Nature Observatorio. Visiting Playa Cocles and Tarantulas Way will get you outdoors. Go for a jaunt from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca to Puerto Limon to see Veragua Rainforest Park about 1h 25 min away. There's lots more to do: take in nature's colorful creations at Tree of Life Wildlife Rescue Center and Botanical Gardens, get a dose of the wild on a nature and wildlife tour, pick up some local products at La Feria Legendaria de Playa Chiquita, and get your game on at Yesland Mini Golf.

To see other places to visit, reviews, and other tourist information, refer to the Puerto Viejo de Talamanca trip itinerary planner.

Drive from La Fortuna de San Carlos to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in 5 hours. Alternatively, you can do a combination of car and bus; or take a bus. Cap off your sightseeing on the 25th (Mon) early enough to travel to Panama City.

Things to do in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Parks Wildlife Outdoors

Side Trips

Cahuita, Nature Observatorio, Veragua Rainforest Park
Find places to stay Jan 20 — 25:
Highlights from your plan
Playa Cocles ©
Playa Cocles
Punta Uva Beach ©
Punta Uva Beach
Nature Observatorio ©
Nature Observatorio

6
nights
Panama City, Panama

Panama City ©
Arguably the most modern of Central American cities, Panama City boasts a shimmering skyline of glass skyscrapers.
Your inner history buff will appreciate Bahai Temple and Iglesia del Carmen. Get a sense of the local culture at Casco Viejo and Iglesia de San Francisco de Asis. Take a break from Panama City with a short trip to Asociacion Panamericana para la Conservacion in Gamboa, about 30 minutes away. Next up on the itinerary: see what you can catch with a fishing tour, don't miss a visit to Panama Canal, take an in-depth tour of Museo del Canal Interoceanico de Panama, and explore the ancient world of Panama La Vieja.

For where to stay and tourist information, use the Panama City online trip maker.

Getting from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca to Panama City by combination of car and flight takes about 3 hours. Other options: do a combination of bus, ferry, and flight; or drive. The time zone difference when traveling from Puerto Viejo de Talamanca to Panama City is 1 hour. In January, daytime highs in Panama City are 36°C, while nighttime lows are 28°C. Wrap up your sightseeing by early afternoon on the 31st (Sun) to allow time for travel back home.

Things to do in Panama City

Historic Sites Neighborhoods Outdoors

Side Trip

Asociacion Panamericana para la Conservacion
Find places to stay Jan 25 — 31:
Highlights from your plan
Casco Viejo ©
Casco Viejo
Panama La Vieja ©
Panama La Vieja
Cinta Costera ©
Cinta Costera

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