Get ready for an adventure through Mexico and Costa Rica's wild heartlands

Mexico and Costa Rica are two sides of the same Aztec coin. Their unique histories, filled with ancient civilizations and conquests, runs deep, and both have emerged into the modern age as colourful, lively cities where you can just as easily stroll the ruins of Teotihuacan as wander the hidden jungles of Sarapiqui. Embark on a Central American adventure past brooding volcanoes, pounding waterfalls, and ruins stuffed with history. Lend a helping hand at a local farm, taste tequila in Guadalajara, salsa the night away in San Jose, and then unwind on the sizzling white sands of Quepos.


Start
Mexico City, Mexico
Finish
San Jose, Costa Rica
Countries
Costa Rica, Mexico
Style
Original
Code
QVSMC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • Stand at the foot of the mammoth Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan

  • Explore the historic streets of Mexico City on a walking tour of the city

  • Spend a day exploring the World Heritage-listed city of San Miguel de Allende

  • Take a tequila tasting tour in the heart of Guadalajara

  • See more butterflies than ever before at the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Reserve

  • Explore the jungle in the Tortuguero National Park

  • Soak off the day in La Fortuna hot springs

  • Get close to the coalface at Arenal Volcano

  • Experience local life on a homestay in Santa Rosa de Pocosol

Itinerary

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Mexico.

This adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1.

Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Modern meets ancient in Mexico City - one of the world's largest urban centres. Although crowded and smoggy, D.F. (Distrito Federal) offers a great variety of impressive museums, galleries and architecture, along with exciting night life and delicious street food. Head to the Zocalo, the city's huge central square, to see Aztec ruins and colonial architecture or relax in one of the many parks, plazas and gardens.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a guided walk taking past some of the most iconic sights of the city, including a visit to the Zocalo in the historic centre of Mexico City, Templo Mayor, the Government Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral.

The rest of today is free to explore. If you prefer to get out of the city and escape the crowds, take a trip to the canals and gardens of Xochimilco. In the evening, explore Mexico's exciting night life. Learn some dance moves from the locals, or try out your own to the music of a mariachi band.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel out of town by subway and bus for a guided tour of the ancient city of Teotihuacan.

Located 50 kilometres northeast of Mexico City are the 'must-see' archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan - the site of the massive Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon which dominate the skyline. This was once the country's biggest ancient city and capital of the Aztec people, who ruled over the largest empire in the pre-Hispanic era. Guarded by mountains this magnificent city is thought to have been founded early in the 1st century AD and reached its peak around AD 500, when its influence extended down to Guatemala and as far north as present-day Texas. With the help of a local guide we have time to stroll down ‘The Avenue of the Dead’, uncover its many wonders and imagine what life must have been like nearly 2000 years ago.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel to Queretaro (approx 3 hrs), where the bustling city streets give way to a pretty scene of plazas and museums. Explore the city at your leisure.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we journey to historic San Miguel de Allende (approx 1.5 hrs), a colonial-era city in Mexico’s highlands known for its baroque Spanish architecture and thriving arts scene. Pay a visit to the Independence Museum and learn about the heroes of Mexico's War of Independence.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Continue on to the colourful streets of Guanajuato (approx. 1.5 hrs). Named a World Heritage site in 1988, Guanajuato was developed with riches acquired from rapid mineral discovery in the 1500s.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Pay a visit to the Museo Casa Diego Rivera, the birthplace of artist Diego Rivera that is now an excellent museum in his honour. The ground floor of the museum is even a faithful recreation of his original home, complete with 19th-century antiques. Afterwards, head to the Granary Museum for a unique glimpse of the history of this area.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Travel further north to Zacatecas (approx. 4.5 hrs). Get acquainted with this historic silver town on a walking tour taking in the towering Cerro de la Bufa and the Revolutionary Museum.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Transfer to Guadalajara and go on a Mexican Murals Painting Tour to view seminal works integral to the history of the area.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Sample the famous drink made from the heart of the blue agave plant on a tequila tour. Enjoy the laidback ambience of Guadalajara in the afternoon – perhaps relax in the central plaza and do some people watching.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Drive south to Paztcuaro (approx. 4 hrs), a quaint 13th century city with terracotta-roofed dwellings, warped red-and-white adobe walls, and narrow cobblestone streets to be explored. If visiting from November to February, make sure to bring warm clothes as the altitude here can lead to cool days and cooler nights. Get to know the city on arrival with an orientation walk.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Visit the stone ruins of Tzintzuntzan today from Morelia. Spend an afternoon exploring this Unesco World Heritage-listed town and its cafes, museums and restaurants.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Get better acquainted with the state capital of Michoacan on a walking tour around the city. The stunning pink-stone cathedral demands a closer look, and you’ll also visit the conservatory and a local high school.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Return to Mexico City with a stop en route to visit the breathtaking El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Reserve (depending on the season). It's home to millions of these colourful creatures from November to March each year.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Fly to Costa Rica, where this tour will be joined by new travellers. There will be another Welcome Meeting at 6pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. 

With over half the country's population living within its parameters, San Jose is a bustling city with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. A good place to start exploring is the main plaza, a fantastic place to get comfy and do some people watching. Artisan booths are common here and you never know when there'll be a spontaneous art fair. Have a look at the Gold Museum which has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art. If these cultural gems get you in the mood for a bit of shopping head to the out door market in Plaza de la Cultura or the Central Market where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - Poas Volcano National Park (half-day tour) - USD55
  • San Jose - Poas Volcano National Park, Doka Coffee Tour & La Paz Waterfalls (full-day tour) - USD120
  • San Jose - Irazu Volcano, Ososi Valley & Lankester Botanical Garden (full-day tour) - USD90
  • San Jose - Butterfly farm - USD27
  • San Jose - National Museum - USD7
  • San Jose - Gold Museum - USD11
  • San Jose - Jade Museum - USD10
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Depart San Jose and descend to the Caribbean lowlands by local bus (approx 4 hours). The final section of this journey to the port at La Pavona is on an unsealed road. Then take a boat to Tortuguero National Park (approx. 1.5 hours).

This National Park has long been associated with turtle catching (in fact, tortuguero means turtle-catcher). The original indigenous inhabitants used turtles as a sustainable resource, but the arrival of Europeans led to major exploitation. Tortuguero National Park, established in 1970, is now home to 13 of Costa Rica’s 16 endangered mammals. Among them are manatees, ocelots and jaguars, as well as over 300 bird species. First and foremost, however, it is the nesting ground of the green turtle, which comes ashore between July and October to lay its eggs on the sandy beaches. Lesser numbers of the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, plus loggerheads and giant leatherback turtles, also nest within the park at different times of year.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Walking tour of Tortuguero National Park
Optional Activities
  • Turtle watching night tour - USD20
  • Tortuguero - Sunrise canoe trip around Tortuguero canals - USD25
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today head out on a walk around the park's main paths. Keep your eyes peeled to spot monkeys, birds, frogs and perhaps a sloth or two. An optional canoe trip or canopy tour offers a different perspective on this amazing, precious ecosystem.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Early in the morning we travel to Sarapiqui in the heart of Costa Rica's banana growing region. First, transfer back to the port by boat (approx 1.5 hours), then continue to Sarapiqui by private minibus (approx 3 hours).

On the banks of the Puerto Viejo River, and next to the Braulio Carrillo National Park, this budding town is surrounded by virgin forests and banana and pineapple plantations. Sarapiqui is also known as one of the richest areas in Costa Rica for bird watching. The diversity of lowland bird life is impressive. A biological research station and several nearby forest lodges have made this undisturbed habitat accessible to scientists and travellers.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Sarapiqui - La Selva Biological Station - USD35
  • Sarapiqui - Bird watching - USD20
  • Sarapiqui - Chocolate tour at Tirimbina - USD25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There is plenty of free time to explore the jungle that surrounds the town by mountain bike or on foot, or find a comfy spot to watch the colourful birdlife glide by. Alternatively you may wish to satisfy your sweet tooth on a chocolate tour.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Travel by private minibus to Santa Rosa de Pocosol (approx 2 hours) and spend the night at a homestay. Just down the road is the Juanilama gricultural community, where there is the opportunity to help the local villagers with farm chores or to take a cooking lesson. Several villagers have built comfortable rooms for guests next to their homes. All rooms have shared facilities. In order to make the most of this homestay experience, it may take a bit of effort from your side to break the ice first. Learn as many Spanish words as you can and get ready to build some serious hand signalling skills.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Agricultural tour
Optional Activities
  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Cooking class - USD10
  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Soap-making workshop - USD10
  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Waterfall hike - USD10
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Continue by private minibus to La Fortuna (approx 2 hours). This small town is situated just a few minutes away from Costa Rica's most famous volcano - the majestic Arenal.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • La Fortuna - Hot springs - USD25
  • La Fortuna - Arenal hanging bridges - USD65
  • La Fortuna - La Fortuna Waterfall - USD10
  • La Fortuna - Cano Negro boat tour - USD80
  • La Fortuna - Stand up paddle board - USD50
  • La Fortuna - Tabacon Hot Springs (entrance, dinner and transport) - USD99
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Besides the spectacular views, La Fortuna offers a range of natural sights to see and things to do – such as visiting the 70-metre-high La Fortuna waterfall and the surrounding lush forests, or animal watching and watersports on the lake.

The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area has a number of thermal springs where hot, lava-heated water gushes to the surface. These springs have been turned into a number of thermal pools and waterfalls, often surrounded by foliage, an ideal chance to relax.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today take the scenic route to Monteverde (approximately 4 hours in total). Travel by shared minibus to Lake Arenal, which we'll cross by boat. On a clear day you can see fantastic views of the surrounding area. On the other side of the lake, re-board the minibus and continue on to Monteverde.

Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers; they cleared virgin forest to create verdant pastures ideal for dairy farming. These environmentally aware settlers were conscious of the danger that unrestricted settling and farming could cause to this precious habitat. Consequently they established a small privately-owned wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown to become the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve. These forests are similar to rainforests, but instead of relying on rain for essential moisture, adequate water comes from the semi-permanent cloud that covers the region. It is lush and full of wildlife. This is truly a nature lover's paradise. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Montverde home.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest hike
Optional Activities
  • Monteverde - Suspension bridges tour - USD35
  • Monteverde - Zip lining - USD45
  • Monteverde - Coffee & Chocolate tour - USD35
  • Monteverde - Night walk - USD35
  • Monteverde - Butterfly garden and insects farm - USD30
  • Monteverde - Serpentarium - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Head out on a guided walking tour through the Monteverde National Park. Alternatively, walk through the canopy on suspension bridges or watch butterflies at play in the specially created butterfly garden. The local guides are very knowledgeable about the area and passionate about conservation and in the local communities there are several cooperatives worth visiting. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Monteverde home. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (2 nights)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Descend from the mountains to the small beach-side hub of Quepos, located on the Pacific coast. Hit the turquoise water for some kayaking, fishing, swimming or surfing, or just bliss out on the beautiful local beaches. When the sun sets, take an opportunity to hit the lively bars and clubs for some local mingling.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Manuel Antonio- Sunset sail - USD75
  • Manuel Antonio - Mangrove tour by kayak (with lunch) - USD80
  • Manuel Antonio - Surf/boogie board rental - USD10
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Spend your time here enjoying all that Manuel Antonio National Park has to offer. Head out for a hike along its many trails, keeping one eye on the great views and the other looking for the abundant wildlife. Monkeys, armadillos, sloths and hundreds of birds are among the species you maybe be able to spot. The park also boasts turquoise seas and white sand beaches, perfect for swimming, kayaking, sailing or fishing. It would be easy to spend your whole time here in, or by, the water.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Return to San Jose on a local bus (approx 4 hours). The buses in this region of hte country are a little more basic but this is a great opportunity to mix with Costa Ricans and get a feel for local life.

Arrive at San Jose in time to pick up some last minute souvenirs at the city's colourful and vibrant markets. Then head out for an optional dinner where, after reliving the memories of this Mexican and Costa Rican adventure, another night of escapades in this energetic capital could well be on the cards.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

11 breakfasts, 1 dinner

Transport

Local bus, Private vehicle, Boat

Accommodation

Hotel (25 nights), Lodge (2 nights), Homestay (1 night)

Included activities

  • Walking tour of Tortuguero National Park
  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Agricultural tour
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest hike

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. The flight from Mexico City to San Jose on day 15 of this trip is not included in the price of the trip and it must be purchased separately. Please contact us if you need assistance booking this flight.
2. A single supplement is available on this trip.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.