See the highlights of Central America, encompassing Guatemala, Belize, Mexico and Costa Rica

Encounter cloud forests and shimmering Caribbean waters on an immersive adventure linking together the best that Central America has to offer. Turn up the heat with a salsa lesson in Guatemala before popping on a snorkel and making friends with manatees in Belize. Take it down a notch with a lazy day on the white powder sands of Tulum (margaritas in hand, of course), or dial it up with night out on the European streets of Playa del Carmen. Chock full of incredible natural and ancient treasures, sizzling beaches and a tantalising world of cuisine – there’s no better way to experience the laid back pace and indelible charm of this region. 

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Antigua, Guatemala
Finish
San Jose, Costa Rica
Countries
Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico
Style
Original
Code
QVSAC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • Explore the narrow lanes, pastel-coloured buildings and rustic shops of Flores

  • Unwind on pristine Caye Caulker island off the coast of Belize

  • Sip a cool margarita in Playa del Carmen after a lazy day's snorkelling

  • Wander through the coastal ruins of Tulum

  • Keep your eyes peeled for the resplendent quetzal in Monteverde National Park

Itinerary

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Guatemala!
Your 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.

As there's a great deal to do in Antigua we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be happy to assist. There is also the option of arranging a day tour tomorrow to Chichicastenango and Lake Atitlan, two of the regions major highlights. Just ask your local leader and they will be able to help arrange this for you. If you would like to experience a Salsa lesson, you can try one of the below Schools for a class:

New Sensation Salsa
7a Avenida Norte #78, Antigua
+502 5033-0921
Open from 9 to 9 every day.

Salsa Con Gloria
6calle Poniente #9 LA Sala Bar y Rest., Antigua
+502 4374-1391
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop - USD24
  • Antigua - Bike tour - USD30
  • Antigua - Santiago Zamora village tour - USD10
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD45
  • Antigua - Salsa lessons (per hour) - USD7
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
As the seat of the Spanish colonial government, Antigua was once the most important city in Central America. In 1773 the city was destroyed by an earthquake but many of the colonial buildings have been carefully restored and the architecture from its glory days can still be admired. Walk through the quiet cobblestone streets past heavy carved-wood entrances. There are many fascinating markets and museums to explore, or if your tastes run to more active adventures hire a mountain bike and ride through the countryside. The views of mountain peaks and deep valleys, covered in lush vegetation are simply beautiful.

Perhaps check out the CHOCOMUSEO located on two blocks away from central park. Here you will learn all about chocolate, its history and nutritional values and you may be lucky enough to get a sample bag of chocolates at the end of the tour. Otherwise just grab a coffee from one of the many coffee shops in central park and just sit back relax and enjoy the beauty of this incredible city and the amazing people you will find. If you want to learn more about the famous Guatemalan coffee you can go on a coffee tour, visit the plantations, do some coffee tasting and even buy some to take back home.

Go out for a stroll and try tamales, a local dish usually prepared traditionally on weekends and served in a corn leaf. You could also give the pepian a try, a meal that consists of a rich dark sauce and three meats (chicken, beef and pork). The best value food you find is next to the artisan market close to the bus station.

Unfortunately, more than half the population of this beautiful Guatemala you are about to discover lives under the poverty line, which may explain why Guatemala has also the lowest literacy rate in Central America. With this in mind, the Intrepid Foundation is proud supporter of CasaSito, an outstanding not for profit organization dedicated to assist youth to reach their academic, personal and professional potential.

If you have two minutes to spare then take a look at this short video about CasaSito – it’s inspiring: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3KBiGdEcV4w

If you want to help CasaSito and Guatemalan’s youth, you can donate through the Intrepid Foundation, which means that your donation will be match dollar for dollar by Intrepid too. No donation is too small. $5, $10, $50 it all goes a long way to help this fantastic organization. Simply visit our website: www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/casasito/
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning we make an early start (around 4:30am) and travel by private minibus to Rio Dulce (approx 8 hrs). Although today is a long day of travel, the early start is aimed at beating most of the traffic to Rio Dulce. Arrive this afternoon to a picturesque hotel beside Lake Izabal. Perhaps treat yourself to a relaxing dip at the local hot springs either this afternoon or tomorrow. If you're feeling up for something more active, there is also the option of tackling one of the nearby forest walks, taking part in a horse riding tour, or hiring a kayak from the hotel to use on the lake. Tonight you can explore town and sample some local Garifuna fare, including dishes such as hudut (coconut fish soup with local spices and mashed greens) or sweet cassava pudding.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take an included boat trip down the river to visit Livingston, a fascinating Garifuna town on the coast. There are no roads to this coastal town, which means the only way to get here is by boat! There will be time to explore town, so why not browse through the local market or pick a spot on the beach to relax with a book.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Depart at 8am this morning to Flores (approx 4 hrs), our jumping off point for exploring the ruins at Tikal. The afternoon is free to explore Flores.
Flores was officially founded by the Spanish in 1700, but had existed in various forms well before. It has long remained isolated with locals relying on subsistence farming of corn and beans and the gathering of chicle from nearby trees to produce gum. Many of the locals still get about in the traditional way, by dug out canoe. Take time to stroll through the cobblestone streets past pastel-coloured buildings, buy local handicrafts or take a dip in Lake Peten Itza.

Today there is also the option of visiting the Yaxha ruins, a Mesoamerican archaeological site that is also the third largest ruin in Guatemala. The optional trip costs approximately USD40.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning we rise early and take a guided tour of the ruins of Tikal National Park. Depending on time, there may also be the option of rising early (around 2:30am) to arrive at the ruins for sunrise. This may involve additional costs so please speak to your local leader if this is something you would like to do.

Towering above the jungle of the Tikal National Park, the five granite temples of Tikal are an awesome sight and one of the most magnificent Maya ruins. Hidden in the jungle growth is a maze of smaller structures just waiting to be explored. The energetic can climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy. You may even spot toucans, macaws and other colourful birds. 

After approximately three hours to explore the ruins, say goodbye to Guatemala and head across the border to San Ignacio (approx 3 hrs). Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America, which will make chatting with locals much easier. The Belizeans are known for their relaxed and easy going way of live. You will be amazed how many different cultures coexist harmoniously here. We have limited time in San Ignacio but you can choose to join one of the optional activities, including the ATM Cave, en route to Belize City on Day 7.

The cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal is a living museum of Mayan relics. Wade through water until you reach the Mayan ceremonial site. Here you will find ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons, preserved by the natural processes of the cave for over 1,400 years.

All guests at our hotel in San Ignacio are required to pay an additional charge of USD20 per night if they choose to use the air conditioner in their room. Electricity in Belize is incredibly expensive so most hotels charge an extra rate to use the air conditioning - and USD20 per night is pretty standard. We could include this extra charge in the trip price but then all of our travellers would have to pay whether they want to use it or not. We believe giving our travellers the option is a fairer way to manage this situation.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Guided tour of Tikal ruins
Optional Activities
  • San Ignacio - Cahal Pech Ruins - USD10
  • San Ignacio - Xunantunich Ruins Entrance only - USD10
  • San Ignacio - Iguana Conservation Project - USD9
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we leave San Ignacio in the early morning and head north to Belize City on a local bus (approx 3 hrs). Get ready for stop and go as there are very few official bus stops in Belize and the bus will keep stopping to pick up passengers. Use this to make conversation with the person next to you on the bus; Belizeans love to talk about their country! Once in Belize City we take a water taxi to Caye Caulker (approx 1 hr).

The Belize Cayes are a group of islands a short boat ride away from the coast. There are a number of these islands to choose from, but we base ourselves on Caye Caulker as this is one of the more popular islands with travellers. From here it is possible to arrange day trips to other cayes, to the best reefs for snorkelling, or simply to take a local boat out to the reef of Caulker itself. Each island has its own particular character, but all of them have the unmistakeable Caribbean pace and charm. If you're lucky, and travelling in the right season, you might even spot manatees frolicking in the water.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Ignacio - Actun Tunichil Muknal: ATM Caves inc. transport to Belize City, guide and lunch (requires a minimum of 2 travellers to run) - USD120
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Relax on the beach or head out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to Shark Ray Alley and the world's second longest barrier reef. Snorkel among the colorful corals and see tropical fish, sharks and manta rays. You could also choose to go manatee spotting. These huge peaceful creatures are often called sea cows and are quite curious to meet their visitors. Please note that manatees are usually only spotted at certain times of the year and sightings can be quite rare. 

If you're interested in sampling local cuisine, Caye Caulker is famous for its lobster. Not the cheapest meal you'll ever buy, but so good. Always make sure that you respect the season: the lobsters can only be caught between June 15th and February 15th. Some of the best meals on the island are cooked on the road side. How about some grilled shrimp and a lovely rum and coke made with the local fire water? Another option is to stop by Maggies Sunset Kitchen for drinks and, of course, a spectacular sunset dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (2 nights)
Optional Activities
  • Caye Caulker - Guided snorkelling trip (full day) - USD75
  • Caye Caulker - Guided snorkelling trip (half day) - USD35
  • Caye Caulker - Sunset sail - USD37
  • Caye Caulker - Manatee tour - USD60
  • Caye Caulker - Sea kayaking (half day) - USD25
  • Caye Caulker - Stand up paddle board rental (per hour) - USD22
  • Caye Caulker - Bike rental (per day) - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Very early this morning (about 6.30am) we head back to Belize City by water taxi, and travel by bus to the border with Mexico (approx. 4 hrs). After crossing the border we head to the Mexican town of Chetumal where we swap buses and head to our final destination: Tulum (approx. 3 hrs).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Tulum - Archaeological site visit - USD10
  • Tulum - Snorkel rental (per day) - USD12
  • Tulum - Bike rental (per day) - USD10
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Tulum is a beach paradise on the Caribbean coast. Spend your time relaxing on the beach or strolling along the white sands. In the evenings kick back and watch the waves with a margarita. For a taste of Mayan architecture take an optional visit of the ruins of Tulum. These ruins sit atop a cliff amid palm fringed beaches and white sand beaches. You can even go for a swim within its ancient walls.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Chichen Itza Ruins - Entrance - USD80
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
The last leg of our journey is a short one after all this travelling. We hop on a local Mexican bus that will take us to Playa del Carmen (approx. 1.5 hours), our departure destination.
With azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city close to Cancun but without the party atmosphere. Spend your time snorkelling among the mangroves, diving in underground caverns or strolling along the white sands. In the evenings kick back and watch the waves with a margarita. For adventures further afield take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Playa del Carmen - Dos Ojos Cenote snorkelling entrance fee - MXN200
  • Playa del Carmen - Bike rental (per day) - USD10
  • Playa del Carmen - Ferry to Cozumel - USD28
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Fly to Costa Rica's bubbling capital, where we will connect with travellers joining this trip. 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. Perhaps pay a visit to the Gold Museum and its amazing collection of indigenous gold art, or head to the out door markets in Plaza de la Cultura and shop for anything from handicrafts to seafood.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - Cartago Bike & Train Tour - Urban Adventures - USD59
  • San Jose - Costa Rica Pura Vida Experience - Urban Adventures - USD63
  • San Jose - San Jose Bites and Sights Tour - Urban Adventures - USD33
  • 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.
Special Information
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Travel by private minibus to Santa Rosa de Pocosol (approx 3 hours) where we spend the night in a homestay. Just down the road is the Juanilama agricultural community where we have the option to get to know the local villagers, help with farm chores or 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 for some serious hand language signals.
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
  • Dinner
Continue by private minibus to La Fortuna (approx 2 hours).

La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes away from Costa Rica's most famous volcano - the majestic Arenal. Besides the panoramic views the town offers a range of other activities such as the 70-metre-high La Fortuna waterfall, stunning lush forest, rare plants, animal watching and water sports 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)
Optional Activities
  • La Fortuna - Hot springs - USD25
  • La Fortuna - La Fortuna Waterfall - USD10
  • La Fortuna - Arenal hanging bridges - USD65
  • 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
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'll see fantastic views of the surrounding area. On the other side of the lake, re-board the minibus and continue on to our destination.

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.
Your leader will take you on a 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 Montverde home. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel to Quepos by private minibus (approx 5 hours).
Located close to the beautiful Pacific beaches and exotic wildlife of Manuel Antonio National Park, Quepos is a laid-back town with a vibrant nightlife.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Manuel Antonio- Sunset sail - USD75
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy the luxury of a leisurely morning. Take a stroll in the easy-to-walk gridded streets perhaps find a "Cevichera" for lunch, in order to try a typical local dish consisting of raw, diced fish in a lime juice broth.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Quepos - Local guided tour - USD25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Spend your morning enjoying Manuel Antonio NP before the crowds arrive. 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 and fishing. It would be easy to spend your whole time here in, or by, the water.

At midday, take a local bus back to San Jose (approx 4 hours). The buses in this region of the 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 in San Jose to head out for an optional dinner and a final night on the town sampling the huge variety of nightlife. The perfect way to end our adventure.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Manuel Antonio - Surf/boogie board rental - USD10
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.
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - San Jose by Night - Urban Adventures - USD74
  • Home Cooked San Jose - Urban Adventures - USD39
  • San Jose - Tropical Rainforest and Chocolate Adventure - Urban Adventures - USD99
  • San Jose - The Art of Craft Beer in San Jose - Urban Adventures - USD68
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

1 breakfast, 1 dinner

Transport

Local bus, Private vehicle, Boat

Accommodation

Hotel (19 nights) Homestay (1 night)

Included activities

  • Guided tour of Tikal ruins
  • Santa Rosa de Pocosol - Agricultural tour
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest hike

Dates & availability

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There are currently no scheduled departures on our Guatemala & Costa Rica trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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Important notes

FLIGHT NOT INCLUDED:
The flight from Cancun to San Jose on Day 13 is not included in the tour cost and you must purchase this separately. When booking this flight, keep in mind there will be a group meeting at approximately 6pm on this day so we recommend arriving prior to this.

COMPLIMENTARY TRANSFERS:
To book your complimentary transfers you must provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel.
- An airport departure transfer is included from Playa del Carmen
- An airport arrival transfer is included from San Jose

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT
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.