Discover volcanoes, rainforests and idyllic beaches on this cycling adventure through Central America.

From the deep rainforests of Panama to the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean, witness all the natural splendour of Central America from your unique vantage point in the saddle. Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama are the ultimate trifecta of Central American and Caribbean living, with a diversity of wildlife and rich local cultures waiting to be discovered. This cycling adventure takes you off the beaten path for a journey that's not restricted to the mainland, with voyages to tropical archipelagos and isolated islands surrounded by active volcanoes.


Start
Granada, Nicaragua
Finish
Panama City, Panama
Destinations
Style
Original
Code
QZXBC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 14
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why you'll love this trip

  • Cycle across 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 activities across three different countries on this epic Latin adventure

  • 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, set in beautiful Lake Nicaragua

  • 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 soaking in, the magnificent volcano always makes its presence felt

  • Chill out with Caribbean vibes in Puerto Viejo, a lively village with great food and even better music

  • Cycle the Panama Canal and marvel at the leviathans sailing through the water

Is this trip right for you?

  • To complete this trip it is important that you are both confident and competent in riding a bicycle.

  • This is a new trip - we have researched the itinerary and accommodation extensively but there is the possibility of some last minute changes if improvements can still be made.

  • While the cycling distances on this trip are relatively short, the terrain of Central America is naturally hilly with a warm, humid climate. You’ll need a reasonable level of fitness to enjoy the trip – but remember the support vehicle will be on hand if you need to take a break for an hour or a day.

  • Please note that many of the road we cycle on in Central America are not of the standard you may be used to riding on at home. To avoid riding on main roads with too much traffic, most of our riding is done on gravel/dirt roads (approx 75%) with the remainder on paved roads (approx. 25%).

  • The terrain also varies greatly as we make our way across 3 separate countries, but hills are a constant feature on this trip.

  • Cycling and driving distances may vary due to local circumstances.

  • There’s the possibility of a few hiccups along the way, perhaps a puncture here and there, but there’s no doubt this is an incredibly rewarding adventure.

  • The weather in this region varies seasonally. Be prepared to get sweaty, and even encounter the occasional rainstorm which may require a change of plans.

Itinerary

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Nicaragua. Home intriguing volcanic landscapes, laid-back colonial towns, lush forests and gorgeous beaches, it’s no small wonder Nicaragua has flourished in recent years and is often a traveller favourite. Make you own way to the hotel, where your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. Other than this important group meeting there are no activities planned for today.

Cycling: none
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive in time for today's welcome meeting, 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 have these on hand.
Avoid the heat today with an early cycle (approximately 4 hours) around Apoyo Lagoon. As you leave town, pass by the ‘Fuerte de Polvora’, a white Spanish colonial fort built in the 18th centu-ry. The route takes you off the beaten path, on dirt tracks and up slight inclines, through small settlements in the Nicaraguan countryside. Before arriving at Apoyo Lagoon, stop at a lookout in Santa Catarina and enjoy breathtaking vistas over Apoyo Lagoon and the distant Mombacho Volcano. There are some steep, cobblestoned hills leading up to this viewpoint but the effort is well worth it. Please note that if you are not comfortable with riding the steep hills to Santa Cata-rina you can always use our support vehicle. After soaking in the view, ride along the border of the lagoon before returning to Granada (a route that is mainly downhill). On return to Granada there is time to enjoy lunch at your leisure. Following lunch, hop aboard a tour bus to see the sights of this charming city. This includes a visit to the White Towns – an area where talented local artisans make clay pottery, bamboo baskets, up-cycled flowerpots out of old car tyres and much more. Stop for a quick visit at Masaya Market and then on to Masaya Volcano, where lava can often be seen. The day concludes on return to Granada, where you can take dinner at your leisure.

Cycling: riding distance is about 37 kilometres/23 miles over 4 hours, on hilly terrain with an elevation gain of aprox. 645 metres/2,115 feet
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Head out this morning on a walking tour with a local expert, who will point out traditional historic sites and reveal behind-the-scenes insight into life in Granada. In the late morning, catch a transfer to San Jorge, then take a boat across Lake Nicaragua to Moyagalpa, the main town on Ometepe Island. Formed by two impressive volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua, you will want to pay attention to views of this remarkable hourglass-shaped island during the journey. Upon arrival, enjoy some free time before starting your biking adventure around the north side of Conception Volcano. Stop and marvel at the many stone carvings of Altagracia – evidence of early, culturally developed indigenous tribes who inhabited the island long before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. After another half hour in the saddle, arrive at Santo Domingo Beach in time for a swim and some well-deserved rest at the beach or hotel pool.

Cycling: riding distance is about 23 kilometres/14 miles over 2.5 hours, on rolling terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 345 metres/11,30 feet

Vehicle Transfer: approx. 1 hour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning make a loop around the less populated Madera Volcano. The volcano itself is not active and its crater now contains a lake. Ride through secluded rural areas that are home to howler monkeys, a wide variety of bird species and small mammals. Stop and cool off with a visit to Ojo de Agua, a beautiful swimming spot where the water comes from deep within the Maderas Volcano. Take time to relax and enjoy lunch before transferring to Moyagalpa and boarding the boat back to the mainland. It’s a 2-hour journey (first by boat, and then by bus) to the laidback surf town of San Juan del Sur, on Nicaragua’s south-west coast. Upon arrival, take an easy afternoon ride down to the Pacific beach in time for sunset.

Cycling: riding distance is approx. 50 kilometres/30 miles over 4 hours, on hilly terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 580 meters/1,900 feet

Vehicle Transfer: approx. 2 hours
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Say goodbye to Nicaragua and journey south to Costa Rica. Hit the road before 7 am and cross the border at the sometimes unpredictable Penas Blancas border crossing. Once on the other side, start cycling down and along the shores of Lake Fortuna. The lake sits at the base of the Arenal Volcano in the northern highlands of Costa Rica and is the country's largest landlocked body of water. There are quite a few rivers to cross, with Cano Negro being the biggest one. Most of the hotels in Lake Fortuna are located on the slopes of Arenal Volcano, so expect a little climb towards the end of the day.

Cycling: riding distance is approx. 45 kilometres/28 miles over 4 hours, on rolling terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 490 meters/1,600 feet (mostly towards the end of the ride)

Vehicle Transfer: approx. 4-5 hours
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Take breakfast with clear views of Arenal's gorgeous lake and volcano before saddling up for the day. Your destination is the El Castillo region, an area of great natural beauty, rich in orange groves, banana plantations, sugar cane and other agricultural bounties. Spend a full day exploring this lush and fragrant region before returning to Arenal.

Cycling: riding distance is approx. 60 kilometres/37 miles over 6 hours, on hilly terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 625 meters/2,050 feet

Vehicle Transfer: approx. 1 hour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Cycle from Arenal to Santa Rosa where you’ll spend the night in a homestay. Just down the road is the Juanilama, an agricultural community where you’ll have the opportunity to get to know local villagers, help with farm chores or take a cooking lesson. Several villagers have built comfortable rooms for guests next to their homes. All rooms have shared facilities. In order to make the most of this homestay experience, it may take a bit of effort from your side to break the ice first. Learn as many Spanish words as you can and get ready for some serious hand language signals.

Cycling: riding distance is approx. 45 kilometres/28 miles
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today is a non-cycling day as you make your way by vehicle to Costa Rica’s capital city. San Jose is perhaps Central America’s most surprising capital, where an assortment of interesting museums, galleries, theatres, lively plazas and markets are set amongst glitzy modern shopping malls. Many of the most interesting buildings can be found near Avenida Central, including the Teatro Nacional, an elaborate confection of marble staircases, statues, frescoes and mirrors.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Depart San Jose early this morning on a long driving day (approximately 230 kilometres/143 miles over 4 hours). Make your way to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca for a taste of the Caribbean: think reggae bars and palm-fringed beaches. Once known only for the legendary Salsa Brava surf break, this town maintains its laid-back vibe while being the departure point for a wide range of activities such as snorkelling, chocolate tours or the popular Jaguar Rescue Centre. Stop en route at the famous (and supposedly haunted) Cartago ruins. On arrival in Puerto Viejo, check into the accommodation then stretch your legs on a relaxing ride along the coast to the small beachside town of Manzanillo. Return to Puerto Viejo in time for a sunset beer.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Cycle away from the beach this morning and follow the Sixaola River, a peaceful stream that forms the border between Costa Rica and Panama. Enjoy a longer ride, passing rolling green farmland and the Gandoca Manzanillo National Park before returning to Puerto Viejo for a free afternoon. Hit the surf, rest your riding muscles on the beach or grab a cold drink at one of the town's bamboo bars.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Board a support vehicle this morning and cross the border into Panama, arriving in Caldera some 4 hours later (245 kilometres/150 miles). The area is home to beautiful pine forests, river valleys and streams, with the Baru Volcano serving as a stunning backdrop. Jump back in the saddle for a hilly ride with nice descents and amazing scenery. Once you reach the town of Caldera, board a special all-terrain vehicle that will take you up to the Boquete area, the spectacular mountain town serving as your home for the next two nights. Your hotel is located at nearly 1700 metres/558 above sea level, and the 7 kilometre/4 mile incline to the hotel door may be an appealing challenge for the more energetic cyclists in the group.

Cycling: riding distance is approximately 30 kilometres/18 miles over 3 hours, on hill terrain with an elevation gain of approximately 530 metres/1,740 feet.

Vehicle transfer: approximately 3.5 hours.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy the chance to rest your legs on this free day. Take part in an optional tour of a coffee plantation or visit a nearby hot springs to soothe your muscles. Alternatively, take it easy and simply soak in the serenity surrounding this mountain gem. If you're keen to get back in the saddle, optional rides in the area can be arranged with your leader.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Transfer to Los Portrerillos for today's ride along the slopes of Baru Volcano, an active stratovolcano. There are some undulating sections before a long, fun descent on rarely-used roads and on a clear day you can see the Pacific Ocean. Freshen up at the bottom before boarding your transfer to Panama City.

Cycling: riding distance is approximately 32 kilometres/20 miles over 2 hours, on undulating then downhill terrain with an elevation gain of approximately 270 metres/885 feet.

Vehicle transfer: approximately 7 hours.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
See the highlights of Central America's glitziest capital on a short ride along the Panama Canal. Set out from the hotel, located close to the Pacific end of the Panama Canal, and transfer by bus (approximately 15 minutes) to the Miraflores Locks. The Miraflores Visitor Centre (entrance is included) features a large interactive museum, multiple viewing platforms and a delicious buffet restaurant with views of the canal. After spending some time learning about this intriguing canal, ride into Soberania National Park. Covering 55,000 acres (220 square kilometres), the park spans almost the entire width of the country along the east side of the canal. Take a quick side trip down the plantation trail deep into the jungle. Afterwards, continue to Gamboa, a town which was left deserted following the completion of the Panama Canal. See the remains of the town before ending your ride at the truly spectacular Rainforest Discovery Center. One of the main attractions is a tower way above the canopy where it's possible to observe up to 14 species of hummingbirds. You may also see other animals such as monkeys, crocodiles, coatis and butterflies. Enjoy lunch at the Discovery Center before heading back to town for some free time. Perhaps explore Casco Viejo, the historic old town of Panama City. This evening you have a special farewell dinner to celebrate the end of this cycling adventure.

Cycling: riding distance is approx. 20 kilometres/12 miles over 3 hours, on mostly flat terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 190 metres/625 feet

Vehicle transfer: approx. 1.5 hours
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
You can depart at any time as there are no activities planned for today.

Cycling distance: none
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

14 breakfasts

Transport

Bicycle, Support vehicle, Boat

Accommodation

Hotels (7 nights), guesthouse (6 nights), homestay (1 night)

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip, please see trip notes for details. The single supplement is not available when staying at the homestay on Day 6.
2. Bicycle hire is included in your trip price. Please advise your height at time of booking so as we can organise a suitable sized bike.
3. Bike helmets are compulsory on this trip. We are unable to hire bike helmets locally so please ensure you bring your own bike helmet from home.
4. Border crossing fees are not included in the trip cost

Essential trip information

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