We include Mexico here for its Riviera, while the small ships focus on the Sea of Cortes and Baja California for its wildlife, beaches, history, and local culture. Panama has developed into an important destination on its own that includes the local peoples, wildlife and the Panama Canal, while Costa Rica offers wildlife, hiking, beaches, islands and national parks along its Pacific Coast.
Facing the Caribbean, the country boasts the world’s second longest barrier reef, for diving and snorkeling and on the mainland, to visit the local culture and inland Mayan Empire ruins.
Small ships cruise the Caribbean side but more often the Pacific Coast and off-shore islands for a wide variety of birds and mammals, hiking and watersports, and as an add-on, the interior Cloud Forests.
The country is becoming much more of a destination, especially for small ships, than simply a Panama Canal transit, with visits to wildlife research stations and remote people living in the Darien jungle and along the Chagres River.