Amazing Central America Trip Notes

Amazing Central America

These trip notes are valid for departures from 01 January 2015 to 31 December 2015. View the trip notes for departures between 01 January 2016 - 31 December 2016

Last Modified: 21 Jul 2015
Amazing Central America
Trip code: QVRPC
Validity: 01 Jan 2015 to 31 Dec 2015
Get ready for a fast-paced adventure through the best of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. From oceans teeming with marine life to tropical forests alive with jungle melodies, this pocket of Central America is something of a natural paradise. Whether you're shopping in colonial Antigua, exploring the intricately carved structures at Copan, diving into the crystal blue waters off the coast of Honduras or taking a night hike up an active volcano at La Fortuna, you'll get a wonderful insight into the heart and soul of Central America during this incredible adventure.
There will be a change to the Antigua to San Jose section of this trip for all departures in 2016. Please note that this trip won't visit Roatan in 2016, instead the itinerary will be as follows:
Day 1 Antigua, Guatemala
Day 2 Copan, Honduras
Days 3-4 Suchitoto, El Salvador
Days 5 El Tunco, El Salvador
Days 6-7 El Cuco, El Salvador
Days 8-9 Granada, Nicaragua
Days 10-11 Ometepe Island, Nicaragua
Days 12-13 Monteverde, Costa Rica
Days 14-15 La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Days 16-17 San Jose, Costa Rica
Please contact us for more information.
Table of Contents
StyleDeparture taxEmergency contact
ThemesImportant notesEmergency funds
MapGroup sizeVisas
ItineraryYour fellow travellersIssues on your trip
Also available to purchaseSingle travellersWhat to take
We also recommendAccommodationHealth
Itinerary disclaimerMeals introductionSafety
Culture shock rating MealsTravel insurance
Physical ratingTransportResponsible Travel
Included activitiesGroup leaderA couple of rules
Optional activitiesJoining point The Intrepid Foundation
Money ExchangeArrival complicationsCarbon offset
Spending moneyFinish point Feedback
TippingFinish point instructions
To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures so your leader and the composition of your group may change.
  • Our Basix style trips are designed for travellers who want exceptional value, plenty of free time and having the flexibility to choose where and how their time and money is spent. By working plenty of free time into the itineraries and keeping many of the activities optional, we aim to make travel possible for those on even the most slender of budgets. After all, why pay for an activity or excursion you wouldn’t otherwise be interested in? Or a level of comfort you don’t require? As a wise person probably once said, a bed's just a bed when there's exploring to be done.
Amazing Central America
Day 1 Antigua
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.
This meeting will be followed by an orientation walk, led by your group leader, around some of Antigua's highlights.
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.
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 artesian market close to the bus station.
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. If you are extending your time, perhaps check out the CHOCOMUSEO located on 4th street west, 2 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.
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop at ChocoMuseo - USD24
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD45
  • Antigua - Bike tour - USD30
  • Antigua - Salsa lessons (per hour) - USD7
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 2-3 Copan
Today we travel by local bus to Copan, Honduras (approx. 6 hours). Along the way, we will pass through the wild, dry country side of eastern Guatemala.
The following day you may like to pay an optional visit to the Mayan ruins of Copan.
The ancient ruins of Copan are the southernmost of the great Mayan sites for which Central America is famed. This particular site was listed as a World Heritage site in 1980 and is unique because of the 21 stelae or columns that have been found there. These are heavily carved with reliefs depicting the passage of time and the lives of the royal families. There are also a number of small pyramid-shaped temples and excavated vaults. Walk through the grassy plazas under the gaze of huge carved faces, staring out from ancient walls. As you walk past monuments, statues and staircases it's hard not to wonder at the mysterious disappearance of such a creative civilisation.
Optional Activities
  • Copan archeological visit - USD25
  • Copan - Natural Hot Springs - USD45
  • Copan - Macaw Mountain Bird Park (inc. transport) - USD14
  • Copan - Cultural Awakening Walk - USD15
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 4-6 Roatan Island
Today we head towards San Pedro Sula (approx. 3 hours), then and continue to La Cieba (approx. 3 hours) before taking a ferry to Roatan (approx. 2 hours). The connections make this a long travelling day, leaving Copan early in the morning and arriving to the hotel in Roatan in the early evening.
Roatan Island is one of the famous Bay Islands; an archipelago of coral islands set in the Caribbean known for its laid back atmosphere, crystal blue waters and underwater treasures. Surrounded by over 100km (62 miles) of living coral reef, this is a diving haven. Dive, swim or snorkel through the Caribbean waters to discover thousands of species of multi-coloured fish or chill out on the powdery white sands under swaying coconut palms. For more active adventures, tear yourself away from the beach and venture into the hilly interior by bicycle or scooter. Spot 'Jesus Lizards' in the botanical gardens or visit the nearby Institute for Marine Science. English is the main language in Roatan, so in the evenings chat away with the locals in any of the lively bars and enjoy a cold light house beer.
Optional Activities
  • Roatan Island - Scooter rental (per day) - USD35
  • Roatan Island - Snorkelling trip - USD30
  • Roatan Island - Stand up paddle board - USD15
  • Roatan Island - Botanical Garden (inc. return taxi) - USD20
  • Roatan Island - Transport to West Bay Beach - USD10
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 7 Comayagua
Bidding farewell to our beachside playground very early (approx 5:30 am) this morning, we travel by ferry back to the mainland (approx. 2 hours), and travel on to Comayagua (approx. 4.5 hours), arriving late afternoon.
Picturesque colonial beauty meets modern life in Comayagua. This historic political centre has a wealth of Spanish Colonial architecture, including some of Central America's most impressive churches.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 8-9 Granada
Today is a full day of travel across the border to Granada, Nicaragua (approx. 12 hours). A good book, music, snacks and bottled water are a must to have for today's long journey, as we sometimes (depending on schedules) have to take up to 4 different buses and transfers. The border crossing between Honduras and Nicaragua is easy and quick and your group leader will assist you on what you have to do at the border.
Nicaragua is a beautiful place that surprises most travellers with its friendly people, impressive natural beauty and for many it becomes their favourite country in Central America. The country has flourished in recent years and is an incredibly vibrant and unique country.
Oozing with colonial charm, Granada is the oldest city of the 'New World', having been founded in 1524. The city resides on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and its appearance is a mixture of Moorish and Andalusian. The surrounding countryside includes active volcanoes and lakes.
Bargain hard in the markets, hike, cruise and explore the neighbouring landscapes. Wander the cobblestone streets surrounded by colourful buildings, or tour the islets of Lake Nicaragua by boat. Alternaitively, take a day trip out to Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Park to get up close to some steaming giants.
Optional Activities
  • Granada - Laguna Apoyo kayaking tour - USD45
  • Granada - City tour - USD20
  • Granada - Kayak rental (per day) - USD30
  • Granada - Mombacho Volcano hike - USD40
  • Granada - Bicycle rental (per day) - USD10
  • Granada - Bicycle tour - USD15
  • Granada - Masaya Volcano night hike - USD40
  • Granada - Monkey Island boat tour - USD20
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 10-11 Ometepe Island
From Granada we travel by local bus and boat (approx 6-7 hours) to the island of Ometepe on Lake Nicaragua.
Beautifully located within Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe Island is formed by two volcanoes which rise from the lake. In fact 'Ometepe' literally means two volcanoes in the Nahuatl language. The island's hourglass shape is home to great beaches and a deep jungle. Wildlife abounds here and as well as monkeys and green parrots, and the lake itself is famous for the world's only species of freshwater shark. A great experience is sitting on the shore of the lake when the fishermen come back from their long day bringing in what they have caught.
In your free time perhaps take a hike to Volcano Maderas, which at 1340 metres (4395 feet), is no walk in the park. Alternatively check out the petroglyphs or chill out on the beach.
Optional Activities
  • Ometepe - Concepcion Volcano hike - USD25
  • Ometepe - Maderas Volcano hike - USD25
  • Ometepe - Ojo de Agua natural spring - USD20
  • Ometepe - Petroglyphs - USD15
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 12-13 Monteverde
We continue travelling south by local bus to Monteverde, Costa Rica (7 to 9 hours depending on border crossing conditions).
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. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
Perhaps take a walk through the forest, explore by mountain bike or ride over the rainforest canopy on a zip line. You could also arrange a local guide to take on a walk around the park.or watch the butterflies in the specially created butterfly garden. The local guides are very knowledgeable about the area, and passionate about conversation. In the local communities there are several cooperatives worth visiting.
Optional Activities
  • Monteverde - Night walk - USD35
  • Monteverde - Butterfly garden and insects farm - USD25
  • Monteverde - Coffee & Chocolate tour - USD35
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest hike - USD40
  • Monteverde - Serpentarium - USD15
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest Train - USD60
  • Monteverde - Frog pond - USD15
  • Monteverde - Sky Walk suspension bridges tour - USD30
  • Monteverde - Orchid gardens - USD12
  • Monteverde - Zip lining - USD45
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 14-15 La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano National Park
Travelling by jeep and boat we reach La Fortuna (approx. 4-5 hours), our base for exploring the Arenal Volcano and its wild surrounds.
La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes away from Costa Rica's most famous volcano - the majestic Arenal. The views here are spectacular as the volcano is reflected on the lake for postcard perfect photos. 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 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.
Optional Activities
  • La Fortuna - Hot Springs - USD25
  • La Fortuna - La Fortuna Waterfall - USD10
  • La Fortuna - Stand up paddle board - USD50
  • La Fortuna - Arenal Hanging Bridges - USD65
  • La Fortuna - Nature hike around Arenal Volcano - USD50
  • La Fortuna - Cano Negro boat tour - USD70
  • La Fortuna - Rio Celeste Safari Float tour - USD70
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 16-17 San Jose
A local bus ride (approx 5 hours) takes us to San Jose which sits in the middle of the fertile Valle Central, ringed by volcanoes and jagged mountains just begging to be explored.
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.
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.
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - Irazu Volcano, Ososi Valley & Lankester Botanical Garden (full-day tour) - USD90
  • San Jose - National Museum - USD12
  • 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 - Gold Museum - USD11
  • San Jose - Jade Museum - USD10
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 18-20 Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Today we travel by local bus to Puerto Viejo (approx 5 hrs).
A small town on the beautiful Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca has two sides to it. The main street has a party vibe with dancehall and reggaeton bars and modern restaurants. Off the main street you'll find great surf beaches, rainforest fruit farms, and family homes. The culture here is a real mix of Rastafarian, European and indigenous populations.
Cahuita National Park is easily accessible from Puerto Viejo, and there are good opportunities here to spot sloths, monkeys, raccoons, snakes and a great variety of birds. Entrance to the park is free, although you will be asked for a donation.
Optional Activities
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Bike rental (per day) - USD12
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Cahuita National Park - USD5
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve - USD22
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Jaguar Rescue Centre - USD15
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Surf lesson (1 hr) - USD30
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 21-23 Bocas del Toro
Today we travel across the border to Panama. We travel by collectivo to the border, then walk across an old railway bridge into Panama. We then continue by collectivo to Almirante where we take the local ferry to Bocas del Toro.
Rapidly becoming a Caribbean favourite, Bocas del Toro has it all - palm-shaded beaches with crystal-clear water, spectacular snorkelling and lots of wildlife. Culturally, Bocas is a melting pot of West Indians, Latinos and expats, with a resulting diversity in music, nightlife and food.
We stay on Isla Bastimentos. A short boat tide from Bocas Town, this island has a more laidback vibe with excellent beaches, turtle nesting grounds and mangrove islands. There are no roads or cars here - walking or water taxi are your transport options. The main town is called Old Bank, home to a population of a couple of hundred people, and consisting of just a walking path lined with buildings.
Optional Activities
  • Bocas del Toro - Snorkelling trip (full day) - USD70
  • Bocas del Toro - Oreba Cocoa Plantation tour - USD45
  • Bocas del Toro - Starfish Beach (Transport) - USD15
  • Bocas del Toro - Red Frog Beach/Wizard Beach (water taxi & entrance) - USD13
  • Bocas del Toro - Sea kayaking - USD35
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 24-25 Boquete
Today we travel by boat and local buses to Boquete (approx 8-9 hrs).
Boquete is a picturesque town located in the highlands of Panama. This area's main attractions are the surrounding natural highlights such as mountains, crystal-clear creeks and rivers, forest reserves, stunning displays of wildflowers, and fauna such as howler monkeys and the resplendent quetzal. Nearby is Panama's highest point, Volcan Baru, from the top of which it is possible to see both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This is also an area famous for its coffee and while here you can visit a coffee plantation, or kick back in town and try some of the local brew.
Optional Activities
  • Boquete - Calderas hot springs - USD35
  • Boquete - Coffee Plantation tour - USD35
  • Boquete - Guided bike tour - USD55
  • Boquete - Guided tour of hidden waterfalls - USD50
  • Boquete - Mini canyons - USD30
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 26-27 Santa Catalina
Today we travel by local bus to Santa Catalina, on the Pacific side of Panama (approx 8 hrs).
The fishing village of Santa Catalina is still a very remote, undeveloped destination and one of the best sites for surfing in Central America. Aside from surfing, the main pastime in Santa Catalina is relaxing, preferably in a hammock. If you'd like to be more active, perhaps take a trip out to Coiba National Marine Park, where you can snorkel with turtles, angel rays, and schools of colourful fish.
Optional Activities
  • Santa Catalina - Surf lesson (2-3 hrs) - USD35
  • Santa Catalina - Coiba Island & Grano de Oro snorkelling trip - USD100
  • Santa Catalina - Fishing trip (half day) - USD100
  • Santa Catalina - Surfboard rental (per day) - USD15
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 28-29 Panama City
Today we travel by local bus to Panama City (6 hrs. approx).
As there's a great deal to do in Panama City 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. If you are extending your stay, perhaps explore the historic Casco Viejo,or old town, which dates back to 1673 and is former walled city with an unusual combination of restored buildings, low-income housing, churches, and ruins. You may also like to visit the engineering marvel - the Panama Canal, head up to Cerro Ancon, the best viewpoint in Panama City, with a view of Casco Viejo, the Canal, and the modern city, or take a stroll through the rainforest within the city at the Metropolitan Nature Park. Panama City is also famous for its shopping centres with the biggest being Albrook Mall, or if you are interested in more traditional souvenirs, try the National Artisan's Market.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Optional Activities
  • Panama City - Panama Canal (Miraflores Locks) - USD15
Hotel (1 nt)
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
  • QVRPC Single Supplement (QVRPC)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
  • Best of Central America (QVRQC)
  • Central America Encompassed (QVRYC)
  • Central America Explorer (QVRZC)
Itinerary disclaimer
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.
Culture shock rating

Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
Physical rating

Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
Included activities
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
Optional activities
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Money Exchange
The official currency of Guatemala is the Quetzal (GTQ).
The official currency of Honduras is the Lempira (HNL).
The official currency of Nicaragua is the Gold Cordoba (NIO).
The official currency of Costa Rica is the Colon (CRC).
The official currencies of Panama are the Panamanian Balboa (PAB) and the US dollar (USD).
With ATMs being widely available in major towns and cities, credit and debit cards are the best way to access money in Latin America (note though that charges are made for each transaction). Please check with your bank before departure that your card is accepted in the countries you are travelling to. Also ensure your bank is aware of your travel plans as - suspecting fraud - they may cancel your cards after the first few international transactions.
Be aware that your withdrawing limit may vary from country to country (regardless of your withdrawing limit in your home country) and it can be as low as the equivalent to USD100 per day.
It's also advisable to carry some cash in small denominations bills, for those times when ATMs may not be available. US dollars is the most readily changeable currency.
USD100 bills with serial number CB or BE and any other USD bills that are old, torn, written or stamped on will not be accepted by local banks.
Spending money
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations.
The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest USD2-USD4 per passenger per day.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We suggest USD1-USD2 per day for drivers.
Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline USD2-USD4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
In total, we recommend you budget approx USD5-USD10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
Over the years we have found that many of our travellers find the need for tipping to be both tiresome and embarrassing, especially if they don't have the correct small change. To overcome this, we have established a tipping kitty system. At your group meeting, your tour leader may discuss the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members.
Departure tax
Please allow US$15 when flying into Guatemala City airport and a further US$15 if you are flying out of Guatemala City airport. These payments must be made in cash at the airport and are in addition to the US$30 international departure tax which may be included in your international flight ticket.
If departing Guatemala by land, please allow US$3 for departure tax.
Please allow US$3 each for entrance and departure tax for Honduras.
Please allow US$17 tax when entering Nicaragua by land, and US$10 when entering by air.
Please allow US$26 for international departure tax from Costa Rica.
Departure tax of US$45 from Panama is usually included in your international flight ticket.
Important notes
Please note that Hurricane season in this region is June to November, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors any situations that arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to these natural weather occurrences.
Please be careful when booking flights to/from Antigua making sure you fly into/out of Guatemala City Airport (GUA). Guatemala City Airport is the closest airport to Antigua. Please do NOT book flights to/from Antigua & Barbuda Airport [ANU] as this is an island in the Caribbean.
The minimum age for this trip is 15 at the time of travel. Any travellers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a legal guardian, or in lieu of a legal guardian, by an escort over the age of 18, appointed by their legal guardian. The legal guardian or their designee will be responsible for the traveller under the age of 18 day to day’s care. If a legal guardian elects to designate an escort in their lieu, they will be required to complete and sign a relevant document, to delegate their authority.
Group size
Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
Single travellers
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
A Single Supplement is available on this trip, except on Days 26-27 in Santa Catalina.
Hotel (28 nts)
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
Some of the accommodation along the way is very basic, staying in local guesthouses and homestays with limited facilities. Some facilities are shared and some accommodation has cold water only. Multishare includes triple and quad rooms or even dorm rooms.
Meals introduction
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
No meals included
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
USD 500.00
Bus, Boat, Taxi
Group leader
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Joining point
El Carmen Suites (previously Hotel El Carmen 2)
9a Calle Poniente #17
Phone: 502 78323676
Arrival complications
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operator's emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
Finish point
Hotel Centroamericano
Avenida Ecuador and Justo Arosemena. Apartado 830648, Zone 3
Panama City
Phone: 507 2274555
Finish point instructions
If you have pre booked a departure transfer, please inform your leader and they will notify you of your departure transfer time.
If you are making your own way to the airport the hotel will be able to help book you an airport shuttle or taxi. Please ask at reception.
Emergency contact
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's local ground representative for Central America and Mexico, Viaventure, can be reached on +502 5778 4100 or +502 5778 4052
For all other enquiries please contact our Reservations department which is open 24 hours, 6 days per week. For further contact details please use the following page:
Emergency funds
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Not required
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Not required
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
Please note that although a visa is not required, holders of British, US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and most EU passports are now required to pay US$10 for a tourist card on arrival.
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
Australia: Yes - on arrival
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Yes - on arrival
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Yes - on arrival
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Yes - on arrival
The cost of a tourist card on arrival varies by nationality.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
Night time temperatures can be low in the height of the winter months and at altitude so bring a set of warmer clothes. Thermal underclothes, being small and light, can be very useful. A light water and windproof jacket is useful and a hat essential.
During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos / postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
The World Health Organisation has countries in Latin America registered as zones affected by hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, rabies and malaria.
Dengue Fever is common in Latin America and can occur throughout the year. Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil and parts of Mexico are currently suffering from a serious outbreak. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn.
A valid international certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever is required in many countries. You may need to present this on arrival at the airport or border crossing. Some countries will refuse entry if you are unable to present your certificate. It's also quite common for your home country to request a Yellow Fever certificate on your arrival back home.
It is your responsibility to check with your doctor well in advance of leaving home about the Yellow Fever requirements for the countries you'll be visiting.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
Due to safety concerns, we don't use 'chicken buses' (i.e. repainted US school buses) in Guatemala and Honduras - inter-city coaches are used instead.
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
Please take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water, where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It's expected that anyone taking part in water activities is able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.
Horse riding is an option available to groups on this trip. Please note however that horse riding is usually not covered by your travel insurance and helmets are not always available. If riding without a helmet is a concern then you should bring our own.
Travel insurance
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
Responsible Travel
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
Latin Americans can be very conscious of appearance so try to be casual but conservative in your dress. Outside of beach areas halter tops and very short shorts should not be worn. When visiting churches or religious sites shoulders and knees should be covered.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Carbon offset
Carbon Offset C02-e 544.00 kgs per pax.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.