Explore Central American highlights between Mexico and Panama

Explore incredible worlds above and below the water on a journey from the sunny beaches of Mexico, through the jungle ruins of little-known corners of Central America, to the volcanic mountains of Costa Rica and the laidback vibes of Panama. Mix with locals in the buzzing bars. Try your hand at snorkelling or mountain biking. And discover the secrets of the ancient Mayans as you traverse incredible scenery on this fantastic adventure through Central America.


Start
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Finish
Panama City, Panama
Countries
Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama
Style
Basix
Theme
Explorer
Code
QVRQC
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 eight different countries on this epic Latin adventure

  • Whether its slumbering on the sands of Playa del Carmen, gazing at the pyramids of Tikal or haggling in the markets of Chichicastenango, you'll experience multiple sides of Central America

  • A homestay in San Jorge La Laguna invites you to connect with a local family. Sit down for breakfast and dinner with your hosts and work on improving your Spanish

  • 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

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip involves some long travel days, especially 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.

  • This trip also includes some travel by local transport, which can be basic and challenging, but is also a fantastic way to rub shoulders with the locals and get under the skin of a place.

  • As this trip covers destinations across eight 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.

  • Conditions during your homestay in San Jorge La Laguna are basic. Your room will consist of a couple of beds with clean bedding, and the bathroom will most likely be shared with the rest of the family. Hearty home-cooked breakfast and dinner will be served during your stay, which can be a lot more basic than what you're used to. However, corn, rice and beans are very filling.

  • Try to learn as many Spanish words as you can. Locals are very friendly, but also shy, so you'll need to make plenty of effort to break the ice. Attempting to communicate in Spanish is a great way of showing you care.

  • 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 2017 to 31 December 2017. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2018 - 31 December 2018

Welcome to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 7 pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. 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.

In order to make the most of what Playa has to offer, we strongly recommend that you extend your stay in Playa del Carmen for one or two extra days. Please contact us if you need us to assist you with additional accommodation. If you manage a few extra days in Playa, you may want to spend time snorkelling in nearby cenotes (sinkholes), swimming with sea turtles in Akumal or strolling along the white sands. Divers may want to take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving.

You can buy an organized tour to each of these attractions or venture off on your own. Akumal and Cenote Cristalino are easily reached by local transport from Playa del Carmen. Go early in the day to avoid the crowds. Cenote Dos Ojos is perhaps the most spectacular one but it requires a 3 Km walk each way from the local bus drop off.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Playa del Carmen - Mayan Underworld Explorer - Urban Adventures - USD77
  • Playa del Carmen - Bicycle rental (per day) - MXN185
  • Playa del Carmen - Ferry to Cozumel (Round-trip) - MXN300
  • Playa del Carmen - Local colectivo to Akumal & Cenotes (each way) - MXN50
  • Cenote Cristalino - Entrance fee (snorkelling gear included) - MXN150
  • Dos Ojos Cenote - Entrance fee (snorkelling gear included) - MXN300
  • Playa del Carmen - Dos Ojos Cenote snorkelling gear rental - MXN100
  • Playa del Carmen - Akumal snorkelling (1hr tour from Akumal beach) - USD20
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
This trip is part of longer Central America combination trips. As such, some of your fellow travellers may have commenced their trip in Mexico City or continue they journey to Costa Rica or Panama. For more information on these longer trips see: Central American Adventure (32 days), Best of Central America (42 days), Ultimate Central America (58 days) or Complete Central America (65 days)
Travel south today by local bus to Tulum, which should take around 1.5 hours Tulum is a beach paradise on the Caribbean coast, where you can spend your time relaxing on the beach or strolling along the white sands. The town itself is small. Your leader will take you on an orientation walk upon arrival. For a taste of Mayan architecture, take an optional visit of the ruins of Tulum. These ruins sit atop a cliff amid palm fringed and white sand beaches. You can even go for a swim within its ancient walls. In the evening, use the opportunity to kick back and watch the waves with a margarita.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Tulum - Tulum Ruins (Archaeological Site Entrance) - MXN59
  • Tulum - Bicycle rental (per day) - MXN185
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is free to relax, take part in optional activities and to generally do as you wish. Perhaps start your morning by renting a bike and cycling around the area - this is a great way to cover a lot of ground in a short time. If you haven't yet, you may want to head to Akumal Bay for a snorkelling tour of the bay.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Leave Mexico behind early in the morning and head south to Belize. Be prepared for a long day of travel on the road, as the total driving time including the border crossing will take around eight or nine hours. Travel by minivan to the border at Chetumal (3.5 hours approximately). After crossing the border and having lunch (not included) continue onto Belize City by private minivan (3 hours approximately). Once in Belize City take a water taxi to Caye Caulker (1 hour). Expect to arrive at Caye Caulker by 5-6 pm. The Belize Cayes are a group of islands that are a short boat ride away from the coast. There are a number of these islands to choose from, Caye Caulker being one of the more popular islands with travellers.

On arrival there won't be too much time to explore, so perhaps go for an evening stroll to get your bearings of the immediate vicinity. Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America, which will make chatting with locals much easier.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is free to explore. From Caye Caulker, it's possible to arrange day trips to other Cayes or a snorkelling trip to the nearby colorful corals to see tropical fish, sharks and manta rays. Further away, Hol Chan Marine Reserve is home to the magnificent Blue Hole and the world's second longest barrier reef. You could also choose to go manatee spotting. These huge peaceful creatures are often called sea cows and are quite curious to meet their visitors. Otherwise just relax on the beach.

If you're interested in sampling local cuisine, Caye Caulker is famous for its lobster. Not the cheapest meal you'll ever buy, but delicious nonetheless. Always make sure that you respect the season: the lobsters can only be caught between June 15th and February 15th. Some of the best meals on the island are cooked on the road side. How about some grilled shrimp and a lovely rum and coke made with the local fire water?
Accommodation
  • Hotel (2 nights)
Optional Activities
  • Caye Caulker - Guided snorkelling trip (half day) - USD35
  • Caye Caulker - Guided snorkelling trip (full day) - USD75
  • Caye Caulker - Sunset sail - USD37
  • Caye Caulker - Manatee tour - USD60
  • Caye Caulker - Sea kayaking (half day) - USD25
  • Caye Caulker - Stand up paddle board rental (per hour) - USD22
  • Caye Caulker - Bicycle rental (per day) - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today travel by local bus through the forested hills of the highlands to San Ignacio. Catch a ferry back to Belize City (1 hour) before taking a local bus to San Ignacio (3.5 hours approximately). Local buses in Belize are a little more basic and crowded than in Mexico. Get ready for stop and go on the journey, as there are very few official bus stops in Belize and the bus will keep stopping to pick up passengers. On arrival, your leader will take you walking tour of San Ignacio and its twin sister Santa Elena. While San Ignacio may lack the colonial charm of other Central American towns, its streets and markets showcasing a mix of Mayan and Garifuna cultures are well worth exploring.

All guests at our hotel in San Ignacio are required to pay an additional charge of USD20 per night if they choose to use the air conditioner in their room. Electricity in Belize is incredibly expensive so most hotels charge an extra rate to use the air conditioning - and USD20 per night is pretty standard. We could include this extra charge in the trip price but then all of our travellers would have to pay whether they want to use it or not. We believe giving our travellers the option is a fairer way to manage this situation.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Ignacio - Leader led walking tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
You have a full day at your leisure to discover San Ignacio. This beautiful town is surrounded by fast flowing rivers, waterfalls and Mayan ruins, making the ideal base to explore the region. One of the optional activities here is a day trip to Xunantunich, an impressive Mayan ceremonial centre located with panoramic views over the countryside. The east side of one of the temples has a unique stucco frieze and the central plaza has three carved stelae. Getting to the site is half the fun, as you'll need to take a hand-cranked ferry to cross the river.

The cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal is a living museum of Mayan relics, where you'll have to wade through water until you reach the Mayan ceremonial site. Here you'll find ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons, preserved by the natural processes of the cave for over 1,400 years. Other options to fill in your time in San Ignacio include a day trip to the Mountain Pine Ridge area to visit waterfalls and warm swimming holes, as well as a huge cave system, the butterfly garden, canoeing or river tubing.

In the late afternoon and at night perhaps head to Santa Elena (15 minutes walking) where many little street barbecue stalls open, and serve huge portions. Give it a try, sit down next to the road, chat with the locals and enjoy a juicy chicken leg. Closer to town you may want to try tamales, garnachas (crunchy tortillas with fired beans and cheese) and 'foot cow soup' also known as caxlo de res.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Ignacio - Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM Cave - inc. transport, guide and lunch) - USD95
  • San Ignacio - Xunantunich Ruins Entrance only - USD10
  • San Ignacio - River tubing - USD95
  • San Ignacio - Mountain Pine Ridge day trip (inc. transport and guide) - USD80
  • San Ignacio - Butterfly Farm - USD10
  • San Ignacio - Cahal Pech Ruins - USD10
  • San Ignacio - Caracol Ruins (inc. transport and guide) - USD80
  • San Ignacio - Barton Creek canoe trip - USD80
  • San Ignacio - Iguana Conservation Project - USD9
  • San Ignacio - Bicycle rental (per hour) - USD4
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today starts at 8 am with a short taxi ride to the Belize border. Once in Guatemala, take a bus to Tikal National Park (approximately 2.5 hours). In Tikal there will be time for lunch (not included), before visiting the impressive archaeological site. Towering above the jungle of the Tikal National Park, the five granite temples of Tikal are an imposing sight and one of the most magnificent Mayan ruins. Hidden in the jungle growth is a maze of smaller structures waiting to be explored. The energetic can climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy and you may even spot toucans, macaws and other colourful birds. While here, you have the option of taking a guided tour of the area or scale the canopies and explore by zip-line.

Tonight, set up the tents along with sleeping mattresses and camp under the stars by this majestic Maya site. Weather is always warm in this part of the world but a thin blanket is provided for extra comfort. There are also basic shared bathrooms and showers at camp.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tikal National Park - Entrance fee
Optional Activities
  • Tikal National Park - Private guide for Ruins - USD40
  • Tikal - Zipline - USD45
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
If you haven't had enough of Tikal, you have the option to visit the site again (very) early in morning (entrance fee not included). Leave Tikal at 8 am for a 1-hour bus ride to Flores on Lake Peten Itza. Your leader will take you on a walking tour of Flores before continuing travelling by private minivan to Rio Dulce (approximately 4 hours). On arrival in Rio Dulce, transfer to the hotel by boat. The easiest way to get back into town is also by boat, which can be organised through the hotel, or take a 40 minute walk enjoying the jungle.

Your hotel is located right on the river. This is a great place to simply relax on the deck overlooking the water, with reasonably priced meals served in the hotel restaurant.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Use your free day here taking advantage of the optional activities to get out and about. Take a scenic boat trip down the river to Livingston, a laidback town on the Caribbean coast that offers a unique experience of local Garifuna culture. Follow the local trend and go boating on the lake, take a tour to spot the protected manatees or explore nearby San Felipe fort.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Rio Dulce - Boat trip to Livingston (Price dependent on boat available & passengers) - USD30
  • Rio Dulce - Natural hot springs (including transportation) - USD20
  • Rio Dulce - San Felipe Fort - USD1
  • Rio Dulce - Quirigua Ruins - USD30
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Say goodbye to Rio Dulce today and travel by private minibus to the city of Antigua, which should take approximately eight to 9 hours allowing time for lunch. However, the road between Rio Dulce and Guatemala City is one of the busiest in the country. Traffic is slow, there are frequent road works and many, many, many slow trucks. Be armed with patience, music and good book. You'll spend the night here, before heading to Lake Atitlan tomorrow. You won't spend too much time in Antigua today, but you should still go out for a stroll and try tamales - a local dish usually prepared traditionally on weekends and served in a corn leaf. You could also give the pepian a try, which is a meal that consists of a rich dark sauce served with vegetables and meat (usually chicken).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Be read for an 8 am depart. Travel by private transport to the famous market in Chichicastenango, taking approximately 2.5 hours. Home to perhaps the most colourful market in the country, on Thursdays and Sundays locals come from the surrounding villages to sell their wares, and the streets are lined with stalls offering multi-coloured textiles and fresh produce. After visiting Chichi head towards San Jorge La Laguna, a small Maya village overlooking Lake Atitlan, which should take 1.5 hours.

Arriving in San Jorge La Laguna, meet your host family for tonight's homestay. The group may be split in twos or threes, depending on the group size. Locals in San Jorge La Laguna are both very friendly and very shy. In order to make the most of this 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.

Houses in San Jorge La Laguna are very basic. Your room may only consist of a couple of beds with clean bedding, and the bathroom will most likely be outside your room and shared with the rest of the family. The mother of the family will cook dinner and breakfast for you. Meals can be very basic but filling, consisting of corn, rice and beans. You may want to stack up some snacks in Antigua.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chichicastenango Market
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Say farewell to your host family this morning, as you move to the neighbouring town of Panajachel. Located on Lake Atitlan with distant volcanoes looming in the background, Panajachel has a thriving market, good eateries and many water-based activities to enjoy. Once in Pana your leader will take you on a brief walking tour of town. The rest of the time is free for you to explore. Why not go for a swim, hike to San Pedro volcano or kayak on the lake? The surrounding area is dotted with villages, which can be reached on foot or by boat. Watch women weaving at Santa Catarina Palopo or explore the colourful markets of Santiago Atitlan. Your whole day is free to take part in optional activities.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Panajachel - Leader led walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Panajachel - San Pedro Volcano hike - USD65
  • Panajachel - Guided lake and villages tour - USD30
  • Panajachel - Kayak rental (per hour) - USD6
  • Panajachel - Bicycle rental (per day) - USD10
  • Panajachel - Zipline - USD45
  • Panajachel - Water taxi to Santiago, San Pedro or San Juan - USD8
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
At 9 am start travelling back to Antigua by private vehicle, which takes 3 hours hours. In 1773 the city was destroyed by an earthquake, but many of the colonial buildings have been carefully restored and the architecture from its glory days can still be seen. Your leader will take you on a walking tour of Antigua including Cerro de la Cruz lookout, the local market as well as the very colourful and unique chicken bus station next to the market. The rest of the time in Antigua is free for you to explore.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Antigua - Leader led walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Antigua by the Bean - Urban Adventures - USD76
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop - USD24
  • Antigua - Bike tour - USD30
  • Antigua - Santiago Zamora village tour - USD10
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD45
  • Antigua - Salsa lesson (per hour) - USD7
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a free day exploring the city. Perhaps check out the ChocoMuseo located on 4th Street West, two blocks away from central park. Learn all about chocolate, its history and nutritional values and you may be lucky enough to get a sample bag of chocolates at the end of the tour. Otherwise, grab a coffee from one of the many coffee shops in central park and just sit back, relax and enjoy Antigua's city vibe. If you want to learn more about the famous Guatemalan coffee, you can go on a coffee tour, visit the plantations, do some coffee tasting and even buy some to take home. If you're into salsa dancing or if you'd like to learn some moves, Antigua is the place to be. Many dancing schools offer hourly lessons so you'll be able to perfect your moves.
Unfortunately, more than half the population of this beautiful Guatemala you've now come to know so well 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://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3KBiGdEcV4w

If you want to help CasaSito and Guatemalan’s youth, you can donate through the Intrepid Foundation, which means that your donation will be match dollar for dollar by us 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 - Chocolate-making workshop - USD24
  • Antigua - Bike tour - USD30
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD45
  • Antigua - Salsa lesson (per hour) - USD7
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
There is the new procedure to enter Nicaragua which requires information about your group (head count, dates and reservations) to be sent to immigration a week prior to the crossing meaning your tour leader will need to collect some additional information from you today to submit this in time. Apart from passport details, the leader will also ask for your occupation and a copy of your passport.

This trip is part of longer Central America combination trips. As such, some of your fellow travellers may have commenced their trip in Mexico City or Playa del Carmen. For more information on these longer trips see: Central American Adventure (32 days), Best of Central America (42 days) or Complete Central America (65 days)



Today is long travel day. You'll start early (make that very early) in the morning: at about 4 am to avoid rush hour traffic around Guatemala City. You'll 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
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning is free for you to explore city or 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.

Alternatively, 2 kilometers out of town you'll find the Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve which is a reserve dedicated to the conservation of the Central American macaw well worth a visit. Alongside macaws you'll also find toucans, motmots, parrots, kingfishers and orioles. Most of these birds have been donated to the park by owners who can not longer care for them or have been confiscated from smugglers.

At approximately 1pm wave good-by to Copan. Travel by private minibus across the border briefly back into Guatemala, and then on to Suchitoto in El Salvador. The trip should take approximately 7 hours. Suchitoto  is a beautiful colonial town with colourful houses and cobbled streets, and is a world away from modern El Salvador.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Copan - Museum visit - USD7
  • Copan - Ruins (transport & entrance fee) - USD17
  • Copan - Macaw Mountain Bird Park entrance fee - HNL240
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning your leader will take you on a walking tour of Suchitoto. The rest of the is free for you 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 Mayan ruins of Cihuatan.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Suchitoto - Leader led walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Suchitoto - Boat trip to Bird Island in Lake Suchitlan (it requires a minimum of 6 travellers to operate) - USD20
  • Suchitoto - War historic walk at Cinquera Forest (requires a minimum of 4 travellers to operate) - USD35
  • Suchitoto - Cihuatan site entrance fee - USD3
  • Suchitoto - Morning kayak bird watching (requires a minimum of 3 travellers to run) - USD35
  • Suchitoto - Local family dinner - USD20
  • Suchitoto - Town tour (it requires a minimum of 6 travellers to operate) - USD25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
At about 10 am start heading southeast in a private minibus along the Pacific coast to El Cuco (today's drive is approximately 5 hours long). 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.
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 could 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 if that's on offer, or simply relax in a hammock on the beach.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • El Cuco - Volcan de Conchagua lookout (it requires a minimum of 5 travellers to operate) - USD35
  • 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. Leave El Cuco at 5am to La Union (approximately 1 hour drive) before a 3-4 hour boat trip through the Gulf of Fonseca to the Nicaraguan town of Potosi. The boat crossing through the Gulf of Fonseca can get choppy and the boat may take some water. If your pack is not waterproof, please wrap your valuables and electronics in a plastic bag. Once in Potosi, passports are checked before continuing by private minibus to Leon (approximately 4 hours). Upon arrival your leader will take you on a walking tour of Leon.

Nicaragua has flourished in recent years. Home to immense natural beauty and friendly locals, it is often a traveller's favourite.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Leon - Leader led walking tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
The Nicaraguan border crossing can be disorderly. Please pay close attention to your leader instructions. At this border crossing you will need to pay USD12 fee payble in cash.
This morning make the most of Leon. Take off is at 2pm for an easy 3 hour bus ride to Granada. 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. Your leader will take you on a walking tour of Granada visiting busy markets, Parque Central and "La Calzada" a lively pedestrian street which, though a tad touristy, it's busy bars and restaurants.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Granada- Leader led walking tour
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 - USD65
  • Granada - Mombacho Volcano hike - USD40
  • Granada - Masaya Volcano night hike - USD50
  • Granada - Laguna Apoyo kayaking tour - USD45
  • Granada - Kayak rental (per day) - USD30
  • Granada - Mi Museo - USD5
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
At 2pm travel by local bus to Rivas (approximately 1.5 hours) and transfer to the port San Jorge to catch a 1-hour ferry across Lake Nicaragua to the island of Ometepe. 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 - USD45
  • Ometepe - Maderas Volcano hike - USD45
  • Ometepe - Ojo de Agua natural spring - USD25
  • Ometepe - Petroglyphs - USD20
  • Ometepe - Charco Verde tour (includes lunch, Ojo de Agua and Mirador lookout) - USD25
  • Ometepe - Charco Verde Reserve entrance fee - USD3
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is an early start (7am). Take a 1.5 hour ferry to the mainland and a 1.5 hour transfer to Penas Blancas before crossing the border into Costa Rica. A USD3 fee is required when exiting Nicaragua. Reaching the Costa Rican border requires a 1km walk carrying your luggage. Proof of onward travel is normally required to enter 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. For those passengers continuing on to Panama with Intrepid, please stick close to your leader as they will have the documentation to show your confirmed travel plans out of the country and in Panama.

Once in Costa Rica, travel by private minibus for 5 hours to Monteverde. Once in town your leader will take you on an walking of Monteverde. 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)
Included Activities
  • Monteverde - Leader led walking tour
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.
Leave Monteverde at 2 pm and take the scenic route to La Fortuna. Travel by shared minibus for 1.5 hour to the shores of Lake Arenal, which you'll then cross by boat - a further 1.5 hour journey. 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 hotel. 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)
Included Activities
  • La Fortuna - Leader led walking tour
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 - 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. Your leader will take you on a walking tour around the city's main highlights. 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.

There are number of highly recommended Urban Adventures to choose from in San Jose. Ask your leader for assistance on how to book them or call locally on 4000 5730 or email info@sanjoseurbanadventures.com
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Jose - Leader led walking tour
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - Cartago Bike & Train Tour - Urban Adventures - USD59
  • San Jose - The Art of Craft Beer in San Jose - Urban Adventures - USD68
  • San Jose - San Jose by Night - Urban Adventures - USD74
  • San Jose - Costa Rica Pura Vida Experience - Urban Adventures - USD63
  • San Jose - Tropical Rainforest and Chocolate Adventure - Urban Adventures - USD99
  • San Jose - San Jose Bites and Sights Tour - Urban Adventures - USD33
  • San Jose - National Museum - USD12
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.


Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - Gold Museum - USD11
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
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 two nights here.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take your time 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?
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Cahuita National Park - USD5
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Jaguar Rescue Centre - USD15
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Surf lesson (1 hr) - USD30
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Bicycle rental (per day) - USD12
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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 Colon 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 two nights, stay on Isla Colon, the main town in Bocas del Toro and a great spot from where to start your exploration of the archipelago, with most bars, restaurants and local operators located on 1st, 2nd and 3rd street - meters from your hotel.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There are several beaches within reach from town - between 8 and 14km from your hotel. However, be aware, apart from Starfish, Sandfly and Big Creek beaches, the rest can have very strong riptides.

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?
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today and tomorrow are free for you to explore Boquete. 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (2 nights)
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
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Santa Catalina - Surf lesson (2 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
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today, leave the beach and travel by local bus to Panama City for approximately six hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is free for you to discover Panama City. 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Panama City - Panama Canal (Miraflores Locks) - USD15
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

1 breakfast, 1 dinner

Transport

Private minibus, local bus, boat

Accommodation

Hotel (41 nights), Camping (with facilities) (1 night), Homestay (1 night)

Included activities

  • San Ignacio - Leader led walking tour
  • Tikal National Park - Entrance fee
  • Chichicastenango Market
  • Panajachel - Leader led walking tour
  • Antigua - Leader led walking tour
  • Suchitoto - Leader led walking tour
  • Leon - Leader led walking tour
  • Granada- Leader led walking tour
  • Monteverde - Leader led walking tour
  • La Fortuna - Leader led walking tour
  • San Jose - Leader led walking tour

Dates & availability

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Important notes

START AND END TIME:
On Day 1 there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting at approximately 6pm. There are no activities planned for the final day.

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:
A Single Supplement is available on this trip, except on Days 41-42 in Santa Catalina.

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.

Reviews

Our Best of Central America trips score an average of 3.8 out of 5 based on 5 reviews in the last year.

Best of Central America, June 2017

Patricia Campbell

Best of Central America, December 2016

Corey Janse