Explore the Nature and Culture of Central America’s Pacific Coast (Southbound)

Explore the Nature and Culture of Central America’s Pacific Coast (Southbound)

Explore the Nature and Culture of Central America’s Pacific Coast (Southbound)

Explore the Nature and Culture of Central America’s Pacific Coast (Southbound)

Travel information 14 days MS Fridtjof Nansen
29 September 2023
Price from
3990 €
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

Discover nature, culture, beaches and cities along North and Central America’s Pacific coastline, cruising from San Diego, United States, to Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

Beach life

Your expedition cruise starts in San Diego, the perfect place to get acquainted with the Californian way of life. From there, you’ll sail south along the Baja California peninsula to Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, both excellent gateways to the Mexican coasts.

A national park and Chocolate City

Discover Huatulco National Park, home to nine scenic bays, 36 pristine beaches and rich marine life. The waters are home to radiant reef fish, sea turtles and dolphins. In Puerto Chiapas, you’ll have a variety of possible optional excursions to pick from. Take in Maya ruins at Izapa, enjoy a salivating visit to Chocolate City, or explore nearby mangrove streams and lagoons in a boat tour.

Roasted coffee and colonial architecture

Sample typical Salvadorian food and roasted coffee in Acajutla, before exploring the exquisite colonial architecture of Nicaragua’s former capital, Léon, via Puerto Corinto. Admire the beauty of colourful Victorian-era clapboard houses in San Juan del Sur, a charming Nicaraguan town famous for its dark sandy beaches and top-notch surfing. When your adventure comes to an end in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, you’ll be taking hundreds of great memories with you back home.

Explore the Nature and Culture of Central America’s Pacific Coast (Southbound) Explore the Nature and Culture of Central America’s Pacific Coast (Southbound)
  • Day 1
    San Diego, USA

    America’s finest city

    29 September 2023

    Welcome to San Diego, ‘America’s Finest City’. With its heady mix of diverse urban sophistication, laidback surfer vibe, and year-round sunshine, San Diego has it all.

    Take your time to have some fun and soak up the sun at one of the many beaches. Or you can take a trolley car tour and explore Downtown, from the historic Gaslamp Quarter to the waterfront of San Diego Bay.

    Culture buffs should head straight to Balboa Park, the “Smithsonian of the West”, with 17 museums, art galleries and other performing arts venues. There is exciting foodie culture here, serving up a melting pot of cuisines, local wines and more craft beer flavours than anywhere else in the US.

    Your cruise comes with an overnight stay in a centrally located hotel. Feel free to relax and use its amenities before taking in the city’s famed restaurants, bars and nightlife. San Diego has been called ‘the birthplace of California’, and in celebration of new beginnings, it’s a perfect match for the first day and night of your expedition cruise.

    Day 1
    San Diego, USA

    America’s finest city

  • Day 2
    San Diego, USA

    The start of an adventure

    30 September 2023

    After your hotel breakfast, you’ll enjoy some of San Diego’s standout attractions on a guided city tour. You’ll take in the Gaslamp District, the beating heart of downtown San Diego where Victorian-era buildings and modern skyscrapers stand side by side. Visit Old Town, San Diego’s first settlement and the place for food, folklore, and fun. Wander through lush gardens or check out some of the numerous shopping options.

    The characteristic curve and soaring sweep of the award-winning San Diego-Coronado Bridge are instantly recognisable. You’ll have excellent views of San Diego’s skyline as you drive over this iconic landmark - have your camera ready. Your hybrid-powered ship MS Fridtjof Nansen will be waiting for you at the Cruise Ship Terminal after your tour.

    After you’ve boarded and checked in, you’ll pick up your complimentary expedition jacket and have time to unpack in your cabin. There’s a mandatory safety briefing to attend, but otherwise, you can explore the ship and settle in. After we set sail, the Captain will give a welcome toast, and you’ll enjoy the first of many sumptuous meals as you get to know your Expedition Team.

    Day 2
    San Diego, USA

    The start of an adventure

  • Day 3
    At Sea

    Relax onboard

    1 October 2023

    We wave goodbye to the USA as we sail south along the Baja California coast to Cabo San Lucas. Now’s the time to get to know your fellow explorers better. You can meet with them in the Explorer Bar over a social drink or in the Fredheim bistro over snacks. The crew and Expedition Team will also be on hand and at your disposal, always up for a chat and some friendly banter.

    Part of being on an expedition is knowing how to enjoy living in the moment; taking time out to reconnect with nature and the world around you. So settle into a spot in the panoramic Explorer Lounge or out on deck and bask in the sights and sounds that surround you. The waves might be broken by signs of whales known to swim in the area. Or tune in to the hum of the sea breeze punctuated by the cries of a wide variety of seabirds.

    Our onboard lecture programme offers up a wide range of exciting subjects for you to learn about. We also support a number of Citizen Science projects that you can join. If the weather allows, you can join our yoga and meditation programme or relax in the Wellness Centre at your leisure.

    Day 3
    At Sea

    Relax onboard

  • Day 4-5
    Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

    Land’s End in Baja California

    2 October 2023 - 3 October 2023

    Situated at the southern tip of Baja California where the Sea of Cortés meets the Pacific Ocean, Los Cabos peninsula is a mixture of desert and coastal landscapes. With its stunning beaches and azure waters, Cabo San Lucas has long been the resort of choice among Hollywood stars and wealthy holidaymakers. It has a reputation as a party town, where you can frolic in the sea all day and enjoy the lively bar scene.

    Land’s End, where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific, is Cabo’s most recognisable landmark – spectacular jagged granite rocks in the shape of arches, stacks and needles that form the photogenic El Arco. The waters here teem with sea life. Aside from fish, you might see sea lions, rays, and even whales.

    Join an optional excursion to El Arco and also visit Baja’s most famous beach, the beautiful Playa del Amor, set in a sheltered bay with pristine waters and perfect white sands. Or go to the cynically named Playa del Divorcio on the other side of Land’s End. 

    You can also head to downtown Cabo San Lucas to the Museo de Historia Natural to learn about the geology, botany and anthropology of the region as well as the local conservation efforts for dolphins, whales and sea turtles.

    Make sure you sample the local Baja Californian specialities too, like almejas chocolatas (chocolate clams), and freshly caught fish and shellfish deep-fried and encased in delicious freshly made tortillas. 

    • Included Mariachi Show On Board
    Day 4-5
    Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

    Land’s End in Baja California

  • Day 6
    Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

    Mexican resort city

    4 October 2023

    Situated along Bahía de Banderas, Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico's premier coastal destinations. The town is vibrant and full of personality, while the beaches and marine life offer plenty of nature and watersport options.

    Downtown in El Malecón, the seafront boardwalk buzzes with activity. Stop to admire street performers as you peruse the many stands selling souvenirs and cold refreshments like jalisco tejuino (a regional drink made of fermented corn) and agua frescas.

    Look skywards to catch the death-defying dance of the papantla flyers, swinging upside down like a human maypole. Enjoy the music and dancing of friendly locals in the plazas, and maybe join in if the mood takes you.

    Puerto Vallarta is a great place to pick up local Mexican handicrafts like colourful bags, silver jewellery, wooden toys and leather goods, but expect to enjoy a friendly haggle.

    Check out Isla Cuale, a large open-air market close to downtown landmark the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe or visit Mercado Municipal Rio Cuale, which has 160 stalls and a large food hall serving tamales, tacos, mole, and other traditional Mexican dishes.

    Day 6
    Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

    Mexican resort city

  • Day 7-8
    At sea

    Serenity at sea

    5 October 2023 - 6 October 2023

    It’s now time for a couple of reinvigorating days at sea with no fixed programme. You can relax and admire the scenery from the observation decks or from inside the lounge, go for a refreshing swim, or soothe your muscles in the spa.

    If you’re feeling creative, join an art workshop where you can make your own art pieces inspired by your travels so far. Or maybe you’ll spend some time learning the basics of expedition photography from our onboard photographer, who’ll make sure your digital memories will be as vivid as the ones in your head.

    Our lecture programme led by the Expedition Team continues in the ship’s Science Center. Stop by for in-depth geological and biological insights.

    You can keep active by taking advantage of our Yoga and Wellness Programme. Enjoy early morning mile-long walks on deck taking in the fresh sea air, and join in tension-releasing stretching sessions to strengthen your joints.

    Take part in wellness workshops on achieving physical and mental balance by unblocking barriers to your internal energy or let our massage therapists work their magic to soften any aches and strains.

    Day 7-8
    At sea

    Serenity at sea

  • Day 9
    Huatulco, Mexico (Alongside, Full Day)

    Bays National Park

    7 October 2023

    We spend the day in Huatulco, home to nine scenic bays, 36 pristine beaches, sheltered coves, and a range of eco-lodges and beach resorts.

    The National Park covers three of the nine bays and several ecosystems including deciduous forest, mangroves, savanna, wetlands and coral reefs. The park is home to over 700 plant species, 130 mammals, 300 bird species, and more than 80 types of reptile and amphibians, making it a dream for nature lovers, birdwatchers and photographers alike.

    Optional excursions to explore and experience Huatulco might include visiting Chahué, Tangolunda, Organo, and Maguey bays via romantic catamaran. Or perhaps a coach tour to Conejos Bay, Copalita River, and the arts and crafts museum in the town of La Cruceita.

    Another possible optional excursion dives into Mexican culture by visiting three small communities. Step into a communal kitchen in Piedra de Moros to see how authentic tortillas and tamales are made. Tour a prickly pear cactus plantation in Pueblo Viejo and examine traditional edible and medicinal plants in Las Pozas.

    • Included Huatulco by Land & Sea
    Day 9
    Huatulco, Mexico (Alongside, Full Day)

    Bays National Park

  • Day 10
    Puerto Chiapas, Mexico

    A city founded on coffee and cocoa

    8 October 2023

    We arrive at Puerto Chiapas in Mexico. This is the main port connected to the bustling commercial centre of Tapachula about 30 minutes’ drive inland. The fertile soil of the Soconusco province is famed for producing coffee, bananas, cacao and sugar cane.

    Thanks to the region’s reputation for premium coffee and cocoa plantations, immigrant German, Chinese, and French workers flocked here and their influence is visible, especially in the city. Chinese cuisine has merged with regional Mayan, Mestizo, and Spanish cultures and you might find a few fusion dishes have made their way to Puerto Chiapas’ restaurants from Tapachula’s little Chinatown.

    Some fascinating optional excursions might be possible from Puerto Chiapas, including a tour of culturally diverse Tapachula itself. The ancient ruins of Izapa are thought to be as ancient as 1,500 BCE and could even be where the sacred Mayan Calendar originated. A guided tour may delve into a series of stone carvings here that depict the fabled Tree of Life.

    Another potential optional excursion is the aptly named Chocolate City which offers a glimpse into how locally grown cocoa beans are transformed into the treat we all know, love, and crave!

    For an opportunity to spot the likes of pelicans, herons, hummingbirds, storks and turtles, perhaps it’s the optional boat excursion to the nearby mangrove streams and lagoons, accompanied by a professional captain and guide.

    Day 10
    Puerto Chiapas, Mexico

    A city founded on coffee and cocoa

  • Day 11
    Acajutla, El Salvador

    A day in El Salvador

    9 October 2023

    We dock at Acajutla, El Salvador’s main seaport to export coffee, sugar and balsam of Peru. Originally a Mayan village, there are hints of its history at ruins near the port. Aside from that, you can enjoy the comfortable atmosphere here, treasure hunting in the shops and strolling the dark sand beaches.

    Harbour restaurants will be happy to serve you great seafood and introduce you to typical Salvadoran dishes. Order a pupusa, the national dish of El Salvador; it’s a corn tortilla filled with either cheese, pork or beans and topped with sour cabbage salad and tomato sauce. Don’t forget to try some of the local coffee too. The region is famous for it.

    You may also have a number of optional excursions to choose from here. Take in the cities of Sonsonate or Nahuizalco and Ataco found inland from Acajulta. Another possible excursion brings you to Cerro Verde National Park which is 500 hectares of beautiful nature and home to the towering Izalco and Ilamatepec Volcanos. This excursion may also include a visit to UNESCO-protected Joya de Cerén, a pre-Columbian 600 A.D. Maya village preserved in volcanic ash, also known as the archaeological ‘Pompeii of America’.

    • Included Acajutla - Art with flowers and young people orchestra
    Day 11
    Acajutla, El Salvador

    A day in El Salvador

  • Day 12
    Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua

    Leon: Artistic and Sophisticated City

    10 October 2023

    An hour’s shuttle bus ride from Puerto Corinto is the former capital of Nicaragua, León. With its large student population, León is a cosmopolitan and vibrant city and considered the intellectual and liberal centre of the country. Walk through the streets and immerse yourself in the animated chatter emanating from local coffee houses and bars.

    León showcases some of the most elegant examples of colonial architecture in Nicaragua, especially its many churches and squares. Basílica de la Asunción, the largest cathedral in Central America, while the art museum houses one of the best art collections in Latin America.

    Léon’s streets tell their own story of the city’s revolutionary history through political street art daubed on walls and the sides of buildings. Colourful Sandinista murals depict scenes of protest, civil war, and portraits of revolutionary heroes like Carlos Fonseca.

    For a proper introduction to this nation’s history, a visit to the Museo Histórico de la Revolución is a must. Former revolutionaries act as tour guides providing authentic first-hand commentary of what it was like to live through the different ages. The Museo de Leyendes y Traditiones and the Galería de Héroes y Mártres also offer interesting insights. 

    • Included Colonial Leon
    Day 12
    Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua

    Leon: Artistic and Sophisticated City

  • Day 13
    San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

    South Pacific beaches

    11 October 2023

    Today, you’ll visit the southern Pacific beach town of San Juan del Sur. It’s port is located in a pretty horseshoe bay that has grown in popularity as Nicaragua’s surfing destination hub. This once-sleepy fishing village is known for its dark sand beaches, rolling green hills, colourful Victorian-era clapboard houses, fresh seafood restaurants, and lively surfer lifestyle.

    Lie back and relax on the beach soaking up the sun and people watching. A short walk from the town will lead you to a spectacular 1,500-year-old petroglyph, with a carved depiction of a hunting scene on a large rock. Enjoy an hour-long hike up to Cristo de la Misericordia, a towering 25-metre-tall statue of Jesus where you’ll be rewarded with picturesque views over the town and beach.

    Your included activity for this day is a bus tour of the city of Granada. Located on the shores of Lake Nicaragua and with views of Mombacho Volcano, Granada is home to some of the finest 16th century colonial architecture in the country. You’ll visit the main square by Central Park and admire the ornate cathedral as well as the Convent of San Francisco. Topping off your tour is a visit to a local school where we plan to drop off donated school supplies.

    Alternatively, you could join an optional excursion to Masaya Volcano. The tour bus will take you near to the active volcano’s crater where you’ll likely see steam rising from the fumaroles. There’ll be a stop at Catarina for panoramic views of Apoyo Lagoon and Lake Nicaragua, as well as a handicrafts market.

    • Included Experience Colorful Granada
    Day 13
    San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

    South Pacific beaches

  • Day 14
    Puntarenas, Costa Rica

    End of your expedition cruise

    12 October 2023

    Your expedition cruise ends in Puntarenas, a city on a needle-like strip of land on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. At one time, Puntarenas was the largest and most prosperous cargo seaport in Costa Rica. Now, the city is more of a transit hub for people travelling to places like the white-sand beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula or the waterfall-rich Tortuga Island.

    For Ticos, the nickname for San José’s residents, Puntarenas offers a welcome weekend coastal escape. If you have time, the palm-tree lined oceanfront promenade makes for a pleasant stroll. There are vendors for any last-minute souvenir shopping, and restaurants and food stalls serving some of the freshest and tastiest seafood in Costa Rica.

    Why not try the lobster or ceviche? If you have a sweet tooth, then we’d recommend trying a Churchill – the official snack of Puntarenas - a shaved ice dessert with fruit, syrup and ice cream. If you’re wondering about the name, it comes from the fact that the local inventor of the sweet concoction was thought to be the spitting image of the famous British Prime Minister.

    Before returning home, why not make the most of your trip and add a Post-Programme to the magnificent Arenal Volcano Area where you’ll join activities to see more of Costa Rica’s beautiful flora and fauna. Or join a jungle boat tour with lunch followed by a night in the capital city of San José. Whatever you decide, we look forward to seeing you again soon.

    Day 14
    Puntarenas, Costa Rica

    End of your expedition cruise



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What's included

Included in your voyage


  • Overnight in San Diego before the expedition cruise, including breakfast


  • Transfer from hotel to ship in San Diego including a half day city tour and lunch before the expedition cruise

Expedition Cruise

  • Expedition cruise in a cabin of your choice
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water) in restaurants Aune and Fredheim
  • À la carte restaurant Lindstrøm included for suite guests
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
  • Complimentary reusable water bottle to use at water refill stations on board
  • English-speaking Expedition Team who organise and accompany activities on board and ashore
  • Range of included activities

Onboard Activities

  • Experts on the Expedition Team deliver in-depth lectures on a variety of topics
  • Use of the ship’s Science Center which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
  • Citizen Science programme allows guests to assist with live scientific research
  • Professional onboard photographer gives top tips and tricks for the best landscape and wildlife photos
  • Use of the ship’s hot tubs, infinity pool, panoramic sauna, outdoor and indoor gyms, and outdoor running track
  • Yoga and meditation sessions with an instructor
  • Informal gatherings with the crew such as daily recaps and preparation for the day to come

Landing Activities

  • Escorted landings with small expedition boats
  • Loan of trekking poles and all equipment for activities
  • Complimentary wind and water-resistant expedition jacket
  • Expedition Photographers help with your camera settings

Not included in your voyage

  • International flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Luggage handling
  • Optional shore excursions with our local partners
  • Optional small-group activities with our Expedition Team
  • Optional treatments in the onboard wellness and spa area


  • All planned activities are subject to weather conditions
  • Excursions and activities are subject to change
  • Please make sure you meet all entry and boarding requirements
  • No gratuities expected
Pool area on MS Fridtjof Nansen
Photo: Oscar Farrera
Your ship

MS Fridtjof Nansen

Year built 2020
Shipyard Kleven Yards, Norway
Passenger capacity 528 (500 in Antarctica)
Gross tonnage 20 889 T
Length 140 m
Beam 23,6 m
Speed 15 knots

MS Fridtjof Nansen is the latest addition to Hurtigruten’s fleet of custom built ships – and the next generation expedition ship. She will explore some of the most spectacular corners of the globe.

Read more about MS Fridtjof Nansen

A large boat in a body of water with a mountain in the background

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