Crocodiles sunning on a Terraba River sandbar in Costa Rica
Leisure travel is about your experiences along the way as much as it’s about the destination.
That’s why I recommend side trips or excursions that offer diverse experiences for land travelers as well as for cruise vacationers. The operative word is “diverse” – so make sure you are not experiencing the same thing each day of your trip.
I recently led a small group on a Panama Canal cruise itinerary that began in San Francisco and included six port calls before disembarking in Fort Lauderdale. Our group shared diverse private excursions that provided memorable experiences that included the following:
- A glass-bottom boat cruise around Lands End, the southern tip of Baja California
- A tour of Puerto Vallarta that included shopping and a drive by the home Richard Burton gave Liz Taylor during the 1964 filming of The Night of the Iguana
- A visit to Antigua, the original capital of Guatemala and now a UNESCO site nestled between volcanos
- A tour of the Canal de Panama Mariflores Locks and the Old Town neighborhood of Panama City
- A tour of a 500-year-old monastery overlooking the emerald city of Cartagena, where the French, English and Spanish battled for control centuries ago and now the best place to shop for emerald jewelry
While I enjoyed each of these experiences, my personal favorite occurred in Costa Rica. It was a small-boat jungle cruise on the Terraba River where our group enjoyed close-up views of crocodiles and other wildlife. These crocs, which live 80 to 100 years and grow to 500 pounds, cool themselves in the hot sun by opening their jaws. We were never in any danger (despite the photo above) but everyone kept their hands well within the boat.
We arrived in San Francisco a day in advance of our cruise for cable car rides and a tour of city neighborhoods seldom seen by most visitors to the City by the Bay.
With careful planning and a little luck, you too can turn a good trip into a great one full of magical and memorable moments.