Amazing Central America Trip Notes

Amazing Central America

These trip notes are valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the trip notes for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Last Modified: 29 Sep 2016
Amazing Central America
Trip code: QVRPC
Validity: 01 Jan 2016 to 31 Dec 2016
Get ready for a fast-paced adventure through the best of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, 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 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.
Table of Contents
ThemesAccommodation NotesWhat to take
Is this trip right for you?Meals introductionClimate and seasonal information
Why we love itMealsHealth
MapMoney mattersTravel insurance
ItineraryGroup leaderA couple of rules
Itinerary disclaimerSafetyResponsible Travel
Physical ratingJoining pointThe Intrepid Foundation
Important notesFinish pointFeedback
Group sizeFinishing point instructions
Your fellow travellersEmergency contact
Is this trip right for you?
- This trip involves some long travel days, especially on Day 8 from El Cuco to Granada. This 14-hour journey includes a boat trip across the Gulf of Fonseca and several hours in a mini-van. Although this can be tiresome, it's a great opportunity to sit back, enjoy the passing scenery and to bond with your fellow travellers. This is a real Central American adventure, after all.
- As this trip covers destinations across six countries, you'll need to make several border crossings. While these are usually straightforward, please prepare to be patient.
- Central America is tropical, so expect a hot and humid climate. Make sure you protect yourself from the sun, wear comfortable, light clothing and stay hydrated - especially when out on walking tours.
- There are many opportunities to get active on this adventure. Some of the the optional activities, especially the volcano hikes, require a moderate level of fitness and sturdy walking shoes. If you'd prefer to take it easy, however, there are plenty of other things you can do instead.
Why we love it
- Discover Central America, a land of mysterious Mayan ruins, active volcanoes, idyllic beaches and emerald jungles. See the sights and engage in a wide range of optional activities across six different countries on this epic Latin adventure
- Experience an El Salvador of the past in the colonial town of Suchitoto, before savouring the blissful present on the black-sand beaches along its Pacific Coast
- Hike, cycle or zip-line through the steamy cloud forests of Monteverde in Costa Rica. Get up close to nature among the hundreds of mammal, bird and plant species that call this place home
- Dial the relaxation up a notch in Bocas del Toro, Panama, spending several nights on Isla Bastimentos. There may be no roads or cars here, but there are plenty of mangroves, turtles and white sandy beaches
- Waterfalls, wildflowers, hot springs and mountains - beautiful Boquete has it all. Tour a coffee plantation, ride a bike along a river or take a relaxing walk through the forest, keeping an eye out for tricksy monkeys and tropical birds
- Get off the beaten track and ride the waves in surfy Santa Catalina. If you'd prefer to stay dry, there's a beachside hammock with your name on it

Day 1 Antigua
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Guatemala. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask 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.

The meeting will be followed by an orientation walk around Antigua with your leader. Antigua was once the seat of the Spanish colonial government and the most important city in Central America. In 1773, the city was destroyed by an earthquake, but many of the colonial buildings have been restored. For dinner tonight, perhaps sample a tamale, a local dish served in corn leaf, or some pepian, a rich, meaty stew. The best value food can be found next to the artesian market near 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're a foodie, head to the CHOCOMUSEO to learn about the history and nutritional value of chocolate. You could even take part in a chocolate-making workshop. You might prefer to relax and indulge in some people-watching in Central Park. If you want to learn more about Guatemala's famous coffee, you might like to take a tour of a plantation and do some coffee tasting. If your tastes run to more active adventures, perhaps hire a mountain bike and ride through the lush surrounding countryside.

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 2’ to spare (2’41’’ to be exact!) take a look at this short video about CasaSito – it’s inspiring:

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:
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop - USD24
  • Antigua - Bike tour - USD30
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD45
  • Antigua - Salsa lessons (per hour) - USD7
    Hotel (1 nt)
    Day 2 Copan
    Today travel by private minibus to Copan in Honduras. The six-hour drive will take you through the wild countryside of eastern Guatemala. Copan is a charming town set into lush surroundings. On arrival, perhaps take a stroll through the cobbled streets and check out the central plaza. You might even like to make an optional visit to the nearby natural hot springs.
    Hotel (1 nt)
    Day 3 Suchitoto
    This morning you may like to pay an optional visit to the Mayan ruins of Copan. These World Heritage-listed ruins are the southernmost of the great Mayan sites for which Central America is famous. Unique because of the 21 stelae (columns) that have been discovered here, they also feature temples, excavated vaults and huge faces carved into the walls. As you stroll past ancient monuments, statues and staircases, it's hard not to wonder at the mysterious disappearance of such a creative civilisation.

    Later, cross the border into El Salvador and head south for six hours to Suchitoto. A beautiful colonial town with colourful houses and cobbled streets, Suchitoto is a world away from modern El Salvador.
    Hotel (1 nt)
    Day 4 Suchitoto
    Today is free to enjoy a range of optional activities around the area. The town of Suchitoto overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande. Also known as Lago Suchitlan, this freshwater lake is a haven for migrating birds, particularly falcons and hawks. You might like to take a boat or kayaking tour of the lake. Alternatively, you could go for a hike in the nearby Cinquera rainforest, or explore the impressive Mayan ruins of Cihuatan. You can even take a tour of the Guazapa Volcano; whether this ancient volcano is still active or not remains a mystery.
    Optional Activities
    • Suchitoto - Lake Suchitlan boat tour - USD20
    • Suchitoto - Cinquera Forest hike - USD35
    • Suchitoto - Cihuatan Ruins - USD3
      Hotel (1 nt)
      Day 5 El Tunco
      Heading south today, pass through the capital of San Salvador on your way to the laid-back surf village of El Tunco. El Tunco is known for its unique black-sand beaches and good nightlife, and is a great place to relax. In the evening, perhaps head to a local restaurant to fill your belly with some delicious pupusas, traditional Salvadorian corn pockets stuffed with cheese, pork and refried beans.
      Hotel (1 nt)
      Day 6 El Cuco
      Head east along the Pacific coast to coastal El Cuco today. There are some great dark-sand beaches close to town, including the beautiful Playa El Esteron and Playa Las Flores, one of the best surf spots in the country. In the evening, perhaps enjoy a seafood dinner along the water, or check out El Salvador's first microbrewery at Intipuca Beach. You'll be spending the next two nights in a beautiful and extensive eco-resort, dedicated to promoting a greener lifestyle in harmony with the local sea turtle, bird, lizard and marine populations.
      Hotel (1 nt)
      Day 7 El Cuco
      Today is free to explore the beautiful coastal scenery around El Cuco. If you feel like getting active, you can kayak among mangroves or give surfing a go at the famous Las Flores beach. You could even take a trip to see the nearby Conchagua Volcano. Alternatively, you might prefer to take a boat out on the ocean, find some inner peace during a yoga class at the resort or simply relax in a hammock on the beach.
      Optional Activities
      • El Cuco - Volcan de Conchagua Lookout hike - USD30
      • El Cuco - Mangrove kayaking - USD40
      • El Cuco - Surf trip to Las Flores beach - USD10
      • El Cuco - Beginners surf lesson - USD10
        Hotel (1 nt)
        Day 8 Granada
        Today is a full day of travel across the Gulf of Fonseca to Nicaragua. Make sure you're stocked up with a good book, music, snacks and bottled water for the long 14-hour journey. After an early transfer to La Union you'll take a boat through the Gulf of Fonseca. Stop at one of the many beautiful islands to relax over lunch before continuing to the Nicaraguan side at Potosi. Once you've had your passport checked, the group will continue by minivan to Granada.

        Nicaragua has flourished in recent years. Home to immense natural beauty and friendly locals, it is often a traveller favourite. Founded in 1524, Granada is the oldest city in the 'New World'. Featuring Moorish and Andalusian architecture and oozing colonial charm, the city is set on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and is surrounded by active volcanoes. You'll have a full day to explore tomorrow.
        Hotel (1 nt)
        Day 9 Granada
        Today is free to explore Granada. You can take a guided tour of the city for around USD 20. Bargain hard in the markets and wander the cobblestone streets, snapping photos of the colourful buildings. You might like to cruise the islets of Lake Nicaragua by boat, stopping to say hello to the lively capuchin monkeys on Monkey Island. Perhaps hire a kayak or a bicycle and find your own way around, or take a hike out in the surrounding countryside. Alternatively, you could take a day trip out to Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Park to get close to some steaming giants.
        Optional Activities
        • Granada - City tour - USD55
        • Granada - Mombacho Volcano hike - USD40
        • Granada - Masaya Volcano night hike - USD40
        • Granada - Monkey Island boat tour - USD20
        • Granada - Laguna Apoyo kayaking tour - USD45
        • Granada - Kayak rental (per day) - USD30
          Hotel (1 nt)
          Day 10 Ometepe Island
          From Granada, travel by local bus to Rivas, where you'll transfer to San Jorge ferry port by taxi (approximately two-and-a-half hours in total). Catch a one-hour ferry across Lake Nicaragua to the island of Ometepe and head to your hotel. Hourglass-shaped Ometepe Island is formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua ('Ometepe' literally means 'two volcanoes' in the Nahuatl language). The island is home to great beaches, deep jungle and exotic wildlife such as monkeys and parrots. The world's only species of freshwater shark circle in the surrounding lake. A great experience is to sit on the shore and watch fishermen return from a long day on the water with their catch.
          Hotel (1 nt)
          Day 11 Ometepe Island
          Today you have a free day to discover the island. Perhaps take a hike up to the summit of either the Concepcion or Maderas Volcanoes. Be warned - at 1,700 and 1,340 metres above sea level respectively, these treks are no walk in the park. You might prefer to splash around in the natural springs, soak up the sun on the beach or check out the island's petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings).
          Optional Activities
          • Ometepe - Concepcion Volcano hike - USD25
          • Ometepe - Maderas Volcano hike - USD25
          • Ometepe - Ojo de Agua natural spring - USD25
          • Ometepe - Petroglyphs - USD20
            Hotel (1 nt)
            Day 12 Monteverde
            Today continue your journey south, first by one-hour ferry to the mainland and then by one-hour taxi to Penas Blancas. After crossing the border into Costa Rica, travel by private minibus for five hours to Monteverde. Proof of onward travel is a requirement for entry into Costa Rica, so if you're flying out of San Jose, bring a printed copy of your flight details in case the border officials ask to see them.

            Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers. These environmentally-aware settlers also established a small wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown into the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve. Cloud forests are similar to rainforests, but instead draw their water from a semi-permanent cloud covering the region.This is truly a nature lover's paradise. More than 2,000 plant species, 320 bird species and 100 mammal species call Montverde home. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
            Hotel (1 nt)
            Day 13 Monteverde
            Today you have a full free day to discover the reserve. Perhaps take a hike through the cloud forest, check out the area by mountain bike or fly over the canopy on a zip line tour. Another way to see the forest from above is to take a Sky Walk tour along a series of suspension bridges. You can explore the park on your own or arrange for a local guide to accompany you. The guides are very knowledgeable and happy to engage in conversation. To see some guaranteed wildlife up close, visit the butterfly and insect gardens or the serpentarium. There are several cooperatives worth visiting in the local communities.
            Optional Activities
            • Monteverde - Cloud Forest hike - USD40
            • Monteverde - Suspension bridges tour - USD35
            • Monteverde - Zip lining - USD45
            • Monteverde - Coffee & Chocolate tour - USD35
            • Monteverde - Night walk - USD35
            • Monteverde - Cloud Forest Train - USD60
            • Monteverde - Serpentarium - USD15
            • Monteverde - Butterfly garden and insects farm - USD30
            • Monteverde - Frog pond - USD15
            • Monteverde - Orchid gardens - USD12
              Hotel (1 nt)
              Day 14 La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano National Park
              Today take the scenic route to La Fortuna (approximately 4-5 hours in total). Travel by shared minibus to Lake Arenal, which you'll then 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 your destination. La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes from Costa Rica's most famous volcano - the majestic Arenal. While you're here, make sure you take some photos of the volcano reflected spectacularly in the lake.
              Hotel (1 nt)
              Day 15 La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano National Park
              There are plenty of optional activities to take part in today. Perhaps take a guided nature hike through the lush forest surrounding Arenal Volcano, keeping an eye out for rare plants and animals. You can also see the forest from a series of hanging bridges. Check out the 70-metre high La Fortuna waterfall, or get active with some water sports on the lake, such as stand-up paddle boarding. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area is home to several thermal hot springs, an ideal way to relax in the middle of nature. Alternatively, a boat safari down the Celeste River offers the opportunity to see lizards, crocodiles and tropical birds in their natural habitat.
              Optional Activities
              • La Fortuna - Hot springs - USD25
              • La Fortuna - Arenal hanging bridges - USD65
              • La Fortuna - La Fortuna Waterfall - USD10
              • La Fortuna - Nature hike around Arenal Volcano - USD50
              • La Fortuna - Cano Negro boat tour - USD80
              • La Fortuna - Rio Celeste Safari Float tour - USD70
              • La Fortuna - Stand up paddle board - USD50
                Hotel (1 nt)
                Day 16 San Jose
                Take a local five-hour bus to Costa Rica's capital, San Jose. Situated in the fertile Central Valley and home to over half the country's population, San Jose is filled with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere.
                Hotel (1 nt)
                Day 17 San Jose
                Enjoy a free day exploring the city. A good place to start your exploration is the main plaza. Artisan booths are common here, so you never know when an art fair will pop up. The Gold Museum has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art. If you're in the mood for a bit of shopping, head to the outdoor market in the Plaza de la Cultura or the city's 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 - 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 - National Museum - USD12
                • San Jose - Gold Museum - USD11
                • San Jose - Jade Museum - USD10
                  Hotel (1 nt)
                  Day 18 Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
                  Today take a five-hour local bus to Puerto Viejo. A small town on the beautiful Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca has two sides to it. While the main street has a party vibe, featuring dancehall and reggaeton bars and modern restaurants, further out you'll find great surf beaches, rainforest fruit farms and family homes. The area is home to a mix of Rastafarian, European and indigenous populations. You'll be spending the next three nights here.
                  Hotel (1 nt)
                  Day 19-20 Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
                  You'll have plenty of time over the next two days to explore Cahuita National Park, which is easily accessible from Puerto Viejo. Wander through the park on the lookout for sloths, monkeys, raccoons, snakes and a great variety of birds. While entrance to the park is free, you will be asked for a donation. You can also visit a jaguar rescue centre or wander through the Kekoldi Indigenous Reserve, which is home to birds of prey and medicinal herb gardens. Back in town, why not hire a bike for the day or hit the waves for a surf lesson?
                  Optional Activities
                  • 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
                  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Bike rental (per day) - USD12
                    Hotel (2 nt)
                    Day 21 Bocas del Toro
                    Today take a one-hour local bus to the border, then walk across an old railway bridge into Panama. Continue by taxi or collective minivan to Almirante, where you'll take a short boat ride to Isla Bastimentos in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. 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, resulting in diverse music, nightlife and food scenes.

                    For the next three nights, stay on Isla Bastimentos. A short boat ride from Bocas Town, the island features a laid-back vibe, excellent beaches, turtle nesting grounds and mangroves. There are no roads or cars here - walking or water taxi are your only transport options. The main town is called Old Bank, home to just a few hundred locals.
                    Hotel (1 nt)
                    Day 22-23 Bocas del Toro
                    The next two days are free for you to enjoy the islands. There are plenty of optional activities to choose from. Perhaps dip into the underwater worlds of the nearby reefs on a full-day snorkelling excursion. Catch a water taxi to Red Frog or Wizard Beach, or soak up the sun on the popular Starfish Beach. Why not rent a kayak and get your blood pumping for the afternoon, or take a tour of the Oreba Cocoa Plantation? When the sun goes down, head into town and check out the local bar and restaurant scene. Where better to live la vida loca than in the Caribbean?
                    Optional Activities
                    • Bocas del Toro - Snorkelling trip (full day) - USD70
                    • Bocas del Toro - Starfish Beach (Transport) - USD15
                    • Bocas del Toro - Red Frog Beach/Wizard Beach (water taxi & entrance) - USD13
                    • Bocas del Toro - Oreba Cocoa Plantation tour - USD45
                    • Bocas del Toro - Sea kayaking - USD35
                      Hotel (2 nt)
                      Day 24 Boquete
                      Today travel by boat and local bus to Boquete. The total journey should take eight to nine hours. Boquete is a picturesque town located in the highlands of Panama. The town is surrounded by mountains, crystal-clear creeks and rivers, forest reserves, wildflowers and fauna such as howler monkeys and the resplendent quetzal.

                      Your hotel is located a short drive away from Boquete. Feel free to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery around the property, which has its own bar and restaurant. There is a free shuttle into town a few times a day and most optional activities can be organised directly from the hotel.
                      Hotel (1 nt)
                      Day 25 Boquete
                      Today is a free day to explore. The area surrounding Boquete is famous for its coffee. While here you might like to visit a coffee plantation or kick back in town with a couple of the local brew. Why not take a guided bike tour or check out the mini canyons or hidden waterfalls outside of town? In the afternoon, perhaps soak your muscles in the local hot springs.
                      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 (1 nt)
                        Day 26 Santa Catalina
                        Today catch a local eight-hour bus to Santa Catalina, on the Pacific coast of Panama. This small fishing village is still a very remote, undeveloped destination and offers some of the best surfing in Central America. As there is limited accommodation available close to the beach in Santa Catalina, sometimes we have to use large multi-share rooms with up to six beds (not bunks).
                        Hotel (1 nt)
                        Day 27 Santa Catalina
                        Aside from surfing, the main pastime in Santa Catalina is relaxing, preferably in a hammock. Today you have the the day to do whatever you like. If you feel like doing something active, perhaps take a trip out to Coiba National Marine Park, where you can snorkel with turtles, angel rays and schools of colourful fish. Alternatively, you could join a half-day fishing trip or rent a surfboard in town and ride the waves. If you don't know how to surf, fear not, as lessons are readily available.
                        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 (1 nt)
                          Day 28 Panama City
                          Today, leave the beach and travel by local bus to Panama City for approximately six hours. On your last night of the trip, why not head out with your new travel crew to samba the night away?
                          Optional Activities
                          • Panama Canal (Miraflores Locks) - USD15
                            Hotel (1 nt)
                            Day 29 Panama City
                            Your adventure ends today in Panama City. There are no activities planned for the final day so you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.

                            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 extend your stay, explore the historic Casco Viejo, or old town, which features an unusual combination of restored buildings, low-income housing, churches and ruins. You may also like to visit the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal or take a stroll through the rainforest in the Metropolitan Nature Park. Panama City is also famous for its shopping centres, the biggest being Albrook Mall. For more traditional souvenirs, head to the National Artisan's Market.
                            Itinerary disclaimer
                            ITINERARY CHANGES 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. 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.

                            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.
                            Physical rating

                            Important notes
                            SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:
                            A Single Supplement is available on this trip, except on Days 26-27 in Santa Catalina.

                            Group size
                            Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
                            Your fellow travellers
                            GROUP TRAVEL
                            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.
                            Hotel (28nt)
                            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.

                            TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
                            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.

                            CHECK-IN TIME
                            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.

                            PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
                            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
                            Money matters
                            The official currency of Guatemala is the Quetzal (GTQ). The US dollar also became an official currency in 2001.
                            US$100 bills with serial number CB or BE and any other US$ bills that are old, torn, written or stamped on will not be accepted by local banks.

                            The official currency of Honduras is the Lempira (HNL).

                            The official currency of El Salvador is the US Dollar (USD).

                            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.

                            VERY IMPORTANT:
                            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:
                            When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).

                            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.

                            Guatemala: 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 for entrance and departure tax in and out of 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.

                            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.

                            EMERGENCY FUNDS:
                            We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you bring an extra USD500 for emergencies (e.g. natural disasters or civil unrest). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to our itineraries, and we can’t guarantee there won’t be some extra costs involved.
                            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.
                            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:


                            FIRE PRECAUTIONS:
                            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!

                            SEAT BELTS:
                            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.

                            PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
                            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.

                            LIFE JACKETS:
                            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.

                            WATER SAFETY:
                            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:
                            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.
                            Joining point
                            El Carmen Suites
                            9a Calle Poniente #17
                            Phone: 502 78323676
                            Finish point
                            Hotel Centroamericano
                            Avenida Ecuador and Justo Arosemena. Apartado 830648, Zone 3
                            Panama City
                            Phone: 507 2274555
                            Finishing 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 general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist. For further contact details please use the following page:

                            For general contact details please use the following page:

                            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.

                            Viaventure: +502 5778 4052
                            Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.

                            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

                            EL SALVADOR:
                            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

                            Whilst for most nationalities a visa is not required, you may be required to purchase a tourist card on arrival, costing approximately US$10. If you do require a visa, please obtain this in advance from your local embassy or consulate.

                            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.

                            COSTA RICA:
                            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.
                            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.

                            Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:


                            CLIMATE & CLOTHING:
                            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.

                            IMAGES FROM HOME:
                            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.

                            WATER BOTTLE
                            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.
                            Climate and seasonal information
                            HURRICANE SEASON:
                            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.
                            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 Travel 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.

                            WHO REPORTS:
                            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:
                            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.

                            YELLOW FEVER:
                            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.

                            Zika Virus:

                            “According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there has been an outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in parts of Central and South America. This virus is mostly concerning to pregnant women as recently in Brazil local authorities have linked the virus to an increase in babies born with microcephaly (smaller than normal skull).
                            In addition to the risk mentioned above WHO have reported that Zika symptoms may include mild fever, skin rash and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
                            In line with the above, Intrepid recommends all women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant to consult with their doctors before booking their trip to Central and South America.
                            At this stage, WHO is not recommending any travel or trade restrictions related to the Zika virus.
                            More information on the Zika virus can be found at the following links:
                            World Health Organisation:”
                            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.

                            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.
                            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.

                            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:


                            The Intrepid Foundation currently supports Casaito in Guatemala - Central America:
                            * CasaSito provides educational opportunities in rural areas of Guatemala for children living in poverty. Guatemala has a very high level of illiteracy, particularly in rural areas which lack schools and educational resources. Our support is for their scholarship program, helping keep children in school.

                            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.