See the best of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica

Get ready for a fast-paced adventure through the best of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. From beautiful black-sand beaches 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, relaxing on the coast of El Salvador or taking a walk through Monteverde's enchanting cloud forest, you'll get a wonderful insight into Central America during this incredible adventure.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2017:

There will be a minor improvement to the Central American Journey itinerary in 2017.

In order to improve our trips we regularly review feedback from past travellers and our local operations team. As a result of that process, we've made a decision to break up the long travel day from El Cuco to Granada with an overnight stop in Leon. In order to accommodate that change the night in El Tunco has been removed.

The 2017 itinerary will operate as follows:

Day 1 Antigua
Day 2 Copan
Days 3-4 Suchitoto
Days 5-6 El Cuco
Day 7 Leon
Days 8-9 Granada
Days 10-11 Ometepe Island
Days 12-13 Monteverde
Days 14-15 La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano National Park
Days 16-17 San Jose


Start
Antigua, Guatemala
Finish
San Jose, Costa Rica
Countries
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua
Style
Basix
Theme
Explorer
Code
QVRJ
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • 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 five 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 its black sand beaches. Stray off the beaten track in El Cuco and summon your inner surfie in El Tunco

  • Volcanoes, wildlife-rich rainforest, stunning beaches and ancient rock carvings - Ometepe Island has it all. You'll have plenty of free time to explore the island, which is set into beautiful Lake Nicaragua

  • 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

  • Encounter Costa Rica's famous Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna. Whether it's reflecting back at you in the lake or heating the thermal pools you're stewing away in, the magnificent volcano always makes its presence felt

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 five 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.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

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, the food market is closed after 6pm.

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: https://youtu.be/v62Ou9czWyE

If you want to help CasaSito and Guatemalan’s youth, you can donate through the Intrepid Foundation, which means that your donation will be match dollar for dollar by Intrepid too. No donation is too small. $5, $10, $50 it all goes a long way to help this fantastic organization. Simply visit our website: www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/casasito/
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Antigua by the Bean - Urban Adventures - USD76
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop - USD24
  • Antigua - Bike tour - USD30
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD45
  • Antigua - Salsa lessons (per hour) - USD7
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today travel by private minibus to Copan in Honduras. The 8 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Copan - Natural Hot Springs & Dinner - USD45
  • Copan - Macaw Mountain Bird Park (inc. transport) - USD14
  • Copan archeological visit - USD17
  • Copan - Tunnels - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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 by private minibus for six hours to Suchitoto. A beautiful colonial town with colourful houses and cobbled streets, Suchitoto is a world away from modern El Salvador.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Suchitoto -Town tour
Optional Activities
  • Suchitoto - Cihuatan Ruins - USD3
  • Suchitoto - Lake Suchitlan boat tour - USD20
  • Suchitoto - Cinquera Forest hike - USD35
  • Suchitoto - Morning kayak bird watching - USD35
  • Suchitoto - Local family dinner - USD20
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Continuing south today, pass through the capital of San Salvador on your way to the laid-back surf village of El Tunco (approx three hours). 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Head east by private minibus along the Pacific coast to coastal El Cuco today (approx 3 hours). 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. You'll be spending the next two nights in a beautiful and extensive eco-hotel, dedicated to promoting a greener lifestyle in harmony with the local bird and marine life.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
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
  • El Cuco – Yoga Class - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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 by boat and minibus. After an early transfer to La Union you'll take a boat through the Gulf of Fonseca to the Nicaraguan town of Potosi (approx 3-4 hours). Once you've had your passport checked, the group will continue by private minibus to Granada (approx 6-7 hours).

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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is free to explore Granada. You can take a guided tour of the city, bargain hard in the markets or wander the cobblestone streets, snapping photos of the colourful buildings. You might like to cruise the islets of Lake Nicaragua by boat. 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Granada - City tour - USD55
  • Granada - Mombacho Volcano hike - USD40
  • Granada - Masaya Volcano night hike - USD40
  • Granada - Laguna Apoyo kayaking tour - USD45
  • Granada - Kayak rental (per day) - USD30
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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 our 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 fruit plantations, 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Ometepe - Concepcion Volcano hike - USD25
  • Ometepe - Maderas Volcano hike - USD25
  • Ometepe - Ojo de Agua natural spring - USD25
  • Ometepe - Petroglyphs - USD20
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
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
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • La Fortuna - Hot springs - USD25
  • La Fortuna - Arenal hanging bridges - USD65
  • La Fortuna - La Fortuna Waterfall - USD10
  • La Fortuna - 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
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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. 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today your Central American adventure comes to an end. There are no activities planned, so you're able to depart the accommodation at any time.

As there's a lot to see and do in and around San Jose, we recommend staying on for a few days to make the most of the city. If you'd like to extend your visit and need further accommodation, our reservations team would be happy to assist (subject to availability). There are some great day tours you can take outside of the city, such as to Poas Volcano National Park, Irazu Volcano and/or the Ososi Valley.
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - Tropical Rainforest and Chocolate Adventure - Urban Adventures - USD99
  • San Jose - San Jose by Night - Urban Adventures - USD74
  • San Jose - San Jose Bites and Sights Tour - Urban Adventures - USD33
  • San Jose - The Art of Craft Beer in San Jose - Urban Adventures - USD68
  • San Jose - Cartago Bike & Train Tour - Urban Adventures - USD59
  • 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
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

No meals are included on this tour

Transport

Private minibus, local minibus, boat

Accommodation

Hotel (16 nights)

Included Activities

  • Suchitoto -Town tour

Dates & availability

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Essential Trip Information

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Reviews

Our Central American Journey trips score an average of 4.39 out of 5 based on 110 reviews in the last year.

Central American Journey, November 2016

Kim Sharp

Central American Journey, November 2016

Teresa Eggemeyer