Costa Rica and Panama Through the Senses

February 6, 2023   1 Comment »

My hair blew in the wind and I took a deep, long breath; the Safari Voyager moved stealthily through the waves. My eyes focused on the horizon where the water met the sky. I was sitting on the bench looking out over the bow and soaking in the start of my vacation. Even though we were moving forward toward our destination for the day, my world was slowing down.

panama and costa rica uncruise

As we approached land and we were getting ready to drop anchor I looked at all of the trees, it appeared to be one big band of green that melted into the turquoise water. Green. It was as if I had just entered a world of green, or put on green-tinted glasses. I thought to myself I don’t ever recall seeing this much green before, or caring about it either.

When time slows down, our senses speed up.

Sensory Perception and Travel

As a writer, I think I always have my senses on high alert trying to recall how a place feels and smells so I can make it come alive on the 2-dimensional page. However, even I can take some of the senses for granted at times, especially when I’m stressed and busy. When we are on vacation though our whole routine slows down and that gives our senses time to come to the forefront.

I think that’s what my ‘green moment’ was all about; it was my senses coming to the forefront after I let my body slow down. It was such a great feeling of awareness that I decided to try to experience my entire Panama and Costa Rica cruise through all of my senses.


I think it’s easiest to experience a place through our eyes; it’s called sightseeing after all. However, I did find myself taking special notice of things I normally don’t notice – like colors. The rainforest in Costa Rica seemed to glow green from my vantage point on the boat, and when I went ashore things even seemed more colorful!

Our first stop in Costa Rica was for hiking. We split into groups and I made sure to be in a group with our visiting biologist, Victor. On many departures, Uncruise has specialists they bring aboard to further enhance the experience with a theme departure. Victor was a biologist from Costa Rica and I knew he would be a wealth of information on our hike!

Sure enough, Victor’s ability to spot and identify things was incredible; he had a sight superpower! We hiked through the lush vegetation and suddenly he reached out and grabbed something off a leaf. He had snatched an itty bitty frog about the size of his fingernail. And even though seeing a tiny frog was quite a sight, I kept wondering how he even saw it on the leaf!

Victor spotted howler monkeys in trees, spiders, raccoons, deer, and an unthinkable number of birds hidden in the leaves. Many times I couldn’t even spot them once he pointed them out to me!

In addition to the animal sightings, Victor also introduced us to the incredible array of colorful flowers and fauna in the rainforest. It was like a rainbow of flowers and orchids growing everywhere. Most of the varieties I had never seen before. Victor certainly was a big part of why the sights of Costa Rica and Panama were so exciting.

Thinking of taking an Uncruise?  Get $500 off your booking when you use the code OTT500! It’ll be the best Un-cruise you’ve ever taken!


It’s a good thing that Uncruise expeditions are full of adventures and activities because you will need to move after tasting all of the delicious food on the ship! The food and drink started the moment you stepped on the ship with a glass of champagne and strawberries. That night as we went through the Panama Canal we had beef tenderloin and potatoes served buffet style so that we could eat on the top deck while going through the canal. Throughout the week we had fish, BBQ ribs, Lamb, prime rib, and an inordinate amount of colorful, fresh vegetables.

I tried the guanabana (aka Soursop) juice, which is found all around Costa Rica and Panama. I love being introduced to new fruits when I travel! The juice tasted refreshing but subtle, like pear juice. I loved the taste so much that I asked for it each morning.

However, since I have a sweet tooth, I was most excited to learn that there was a pastry chef on board. Every morning Catie would bake fresh bread, scones, rolls, or muffins and I couldn’t pass them up. Really, does anything taste better than fresh baked goods? No.

So be prepared that your taste buds will be on overload during your time on the ship, and be sure to say “yes!” when they offer a longer kayak or a ship-to-shore swim because it means you can then have another delicious cinnamon roll.


When you think of touch, you normally think of reaching out and touching something with your hands. However, as I stood on the beach watching the waves crash on the shore as the water rippled over my feet I suddenly was very aware of the ocean water touching my feet. You spend a lot of time barefoot on this trip, so many of my sensations of touch were associated with my feet.

One of my favorite things to do was simply stand ankle-deep in the water. My feet sunk into the ocean floor giving me the feeling of sinking in quicksand. And I loved every early morning spreading out my toes and grounding myself on the spongy yoga mat getting ready to do a balancing move. I learned that doing morning yoga on a moving ship takes a lot of foot/mat connection and core muscles!

uncruise morning yoga


Whenever we did excursions and lined up to take a skiff ride or go ashore, there was always a flurry of activity as everyone put on their PFDs, grabbed their snorkel gear, and lined up to listen for instructions from our expedition leader, Megan. Among all of that activity arose the smell of sunscreen. There’s something about the smell of sunscreen that triggers happiness in our brains; knowing fun must soon be on the horizon. For me, the smell of sunscreen is associated with the beach, and that seemed fitting since when we did get off the ship it was usually to go to the beach!

Among that familiar smell of sunscreen, you could also get whiffs of lemony citrus as people sprayed bug spray around their ankles. Uncruise graciously provides sunscreen and bug spray to all the passengers by placing big bottles of each out on the deck as we board the skiffs. The smell of sunscreen and bug spray just added to my excitement for our adventures to come.


From the howling monkey that would send shivers through my spine to the sound of the anchor dropping, to the flag flapping in the wind; the Costa Rica Panama cruise was an orchestra of sounds. However, it was the sounds from the Panama Canal that stuck with me the most.

The mules that pulled the ships through the locks had a very specific hum to them. They were electric locomotive engines that controlled the process along the canal by ensuring the lateral position of the ship as it motored through. They even communicated with sound. They use bells to communicate with the canal pilot who is in charge of the ship’s passage. After going through the first two locks, I knew that when I heard the now familiar ding that meant that we were going to start slowly moving again.

By focusing on traveling with my senses I think I was much more aware and had a deeper experience overall. It brought destinations to life for me. I know that whenever I put my feet on a yoga mat, smell bug spray, hear an electric engine, see a rainforest, or have soursop juice it will trigger the memories of Panama and Costa Rica. And those are wonderful memories to relive over and over.

Want to try Uncruising? Here’s How

Uncruise is known for their Alaska cruises, but I took their Panama/Costa Rica journey as well as their Sea of Cortez route. Both were great and full of wildlife!

Thinking of taking an Uncruise? Get $500 off your booking when you use the code OTT500! It’ll be the best Un-cruise you’ve ever taken!


I was a guest of Uncruise for the trip, however all opinions expressed here are my own.

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