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.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Granada, Nicaragua
Finish
Panama City, Panama
Countries
Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama
Style
Original
Theme
Cycling
Code
QZXB
Physical rating
Ages
Min 16
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • Cycle across Central America, a land of mysterious Maya 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

  • Experience a real Central American jungle adventure deep inside the Cano Negro wildlife reserve

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

  • Under the guidance of a local cacao farmer, help mill and roast cacao beans to make the greatest hot chocolate you've ever tasted

  • Bliss out in the beautiful Bocas del Toro Islands and enjoy spectacular palm-shaded beaches, crystalline waters, loads of wildlife and plenty of water sports

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • As the riding is done on a mixture of sealed and gravel roads there are no technical cycling skills required. But given the gravel sections, it's best to practice riding off-road so you are comfortable with this once the trip begins.

  • 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

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2017 to 15 December 2017. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2018 - 31 December 2018

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Nicaragua. 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. Nicaragua has flourished in recent years. Home to immense natural beauty and friendly locals, it is often a traveller favourite. Other than the important group meeting there are no activities planned for today.

Cycling distance: none
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Granada - Kayak rental (per day) - USD30
  • Granada - Monkey Island boat tour - USD20
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Avoid the heat today with an early cycle (approximately 4 hours) around Apoyo Lagoon. As we leave town we will pass by the 'Fuerte de Polvora”, a white Spanish colonial fort built in the 18th century. Our route then takes us on dirt tracks up some slight inclines and through small settlements off the beaten track in the Nicaraguan countryside. Before arriving at Apoyo Lagoon, stop at the lookout of Santa Catarina and enjoy breathtaking vistas over the Apoyo Lagoon and 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 Catarina you can always use our support vehicle. After enjoying 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 approx. 37 kms / 4hrs, on hilly terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 645 meters
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Granada - City tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Head out this morning on a historical walking tour with a top local guides who will reveal the behind-the-scenes life of Granada as well as its traditional historical sites. 
In the late morning catch a transfer to San Jorge and from there take the boat to Ometepe Island, which is formed by two impressive volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua. Disembark at the island's main town, Moyagalpa. Enjoy some free time before starting your biking adventure around the north side of Conception Volcano. Stop in 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 approx. 23 kms / 2.5 hrs, on rolling terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 345 meters
Vehicle Transfer - Approx. 1 hour
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
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 inside the Maderas Volcano. Take time to relax and enjoy lunch before transferring to Moyagalpa and boarding the boat back to the mainland. After docking on the mainland, take easy afternoon ride down to the Pacific beach in time for sunset.

Cycling: Riding distance is approx. 50kms / 4 hrs, on hilly terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 580 meters
Vehicle Transfer - Approx. 1 hour
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
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 kms / 4 hrs, on rolling terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 490 meters (mostly towards the end of the ride)
Vehicle Transfer - Approx. 4-5 hours
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Take breakfast with clear views of Arenal's gorgeous lake and volcano before saddling up for the day. Your destination is a home stay in the rural community of San Juan Ilama. This is a region of Costa Rica rich in agricultural bounty, including orange groves, passionfruit, papaya, cacao, rice, corn, bananas, and sugar cane. Several villagers in the San Juan Ilama community 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 you to break the ice. Learn as many Spanish words as you can and get ready to improvise with hand signals! Of course, your tour leader will prepare us well in advance so you can enjoy the best stay possible.

Cycling: Riding distance is approx. 60 kms / 6 hrs, on hilly terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 625 meters
Vehicle Transfer - Approx. 1 hour
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Get ready for a real jungle adventure. Journey deep inside the Cano Negro Wildlife Reserve and see monkeys, sloths, bats, turtles and 'Jesus Christ' lizards – famous for their ability to run on water for extended periods of time before sinking. The wildlife reserve is home to a diverse number of flora and fauna, which you will get a chance to see while floating down the Cano Negro River. After stopping for lunch, cycle through the reserve back to the main road, where your trusty support vehicle will take you and the group back to San Juan Ilama for a soccer match with the locals.

Cycling: Riding distance is approx. 35 kms / 3 hrs, on flat terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 160 meters
Vehicle Transfer - Approx. 1.5 hours
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Bid a fond farewell to your hosts from San Juan Ilama this morning. Ride to La Fortuna, with some short but steep climbs en route offering rewarding views of the region's mountains and volcanoes. Tonight, visit some local thermal springs and spend the evening relaxing with hydro massages before enjoying a delicious dinner. 

Cycling: Riding distance is approx. 30 kms / 4 hrs, on hilly terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 520 meters
Vehicle Transfer - Approx. 1 hour
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Prepare yourself for the sandy beaches and warm waters of the Caribbean. Today you will ride out of La Fortuna and then catch a transfer to the coast. Depending on the arrival time, there will be time for a quick swim before saddling up for a ride along the shores to the town of Puerto Viejo, a lively Caribbean village with great food and music.

Cycling: Riding distance is approx. 40 kms / 2 hrs, on flat terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 40 meters
Vehicle Transfer - Approx. 4 hours
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Pedal from Puerto Viejo to the nearby village of Bribri, located about an hour away. Meet Don Catato and his wife, who have kept the local tradition of growing cacao beans alive and thriving. Learn how to mill and roast the beans, and then drink a delicious hot chocolate together with a typical breakfast in their home. After receiving an energy hit, hop back on your bike and cycle to the Panama border. The ride is mostly flat, wending its way past numerous lush banana plantations. Crossing the border into Panama is, again, a little unpredictable in terms of time so be prepared for some delays. Once across, stop for a light lunch before jungle biking along the historic railroad track, which was once part of an extensive network stretching from Panama to Costa Rica. Arrive in Almirante in the afternoon and board a boat to stunning Bocas del Toro.

Cycling: Riding distance is approx. 70 kms / 4-5 hrs, on flat terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 150 meters
Vehicle Transfer - Approx. 0.5 hour
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Take a free day to explore the beautiful Bocas del Toro Islands, which are rapidly becoming a popular destination in the Caribbean. With their spectacular white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and abundant wildlife, it's easy to see why. Perhaps hire a kayak and explore the coast or learn how to surf like a local. It's also possible to take boat trips to the other islands nearby, or go on a dolphin watching tour. All of these optional activities can be arranged through the hotel or nearby tour agencies with whom Intrepid has long-established relationships. If you'd like to ride today, let your leader know, so your bike can be brought over to the island.

Cycling distance: none
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Bocas del Toro - Starfish Beach (Transport) - USD15
  • Bocas del Toro - Oreba Cocoa Plantation tour - USD45
  • Bocas del Toro - Sea kayaking - USD35
  • Bocas del Toro - Red Frog Beach/Wizard Beach (water taxi & entrance) - USD13
  • Bocas del Toro - Snorkelling trip (full day) - USD70
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the morning, catch a ferry back to the mainland where you will board a support vehicle and drive to Caldera (approximately 2.5 hours). 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 filled with nice descents and amazing scenery. Once you reach the town of Caldera, board a special all-terrain vehicle that will brings you up to the Boquete area, the mountain spectacle where you'll spend the next two nights. Your hotel is located at nearly 1,700 metres above sea level, and the 7-kilometre incline to the hotel door might be an appealing challenge to the more energetic cyclists.

Cycling: Riding distance is approx. 30 kms / 3 hrs, on hilly terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 530 meters
Vehicle Transfer - Approx. 3.5 hours
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Take advantage of a free day to stretch your legs and try some of Boquete's extra activities, such as a coffee tour or sooth your muscles in the nearby hot springs. Alternatively you can take a break and simply enjoy the peace of this mountain gem. If you're still keen to get back in the saddle, optional rides can be arranged. 

Cycling distance: none
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Boquete - Calderas hot springs - USD35
  • Boquete - Mini canyons - USD30
  • Boquete - Guided tour of hidden waterfalls - USD50
  • Boquete - Coffee Plantation tour - USD35
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 and fun descent on rarely used roads. 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 approx. 32 kms / 2 hrs, on undulating then downhill terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 270 meters
Vehicle Transfer - Approx. 7 hours
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
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, close to the Pacific end of the Panama Canal, and then transfer by bus (approximately 15 minutes) to the Miraflores Locks. Entrance to the Visitor Centre is included, which features a large interactive museum, multiple viewing platforms and a delicious buffet restaurant with views of the canal. Departing Miraflores, ride into Soberania National Park, which 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, a non-profit organisation. 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 will also be able to observe 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 kms / 3 hrs, on mostly flat terrain with an elevation gain of approx. 190 meters
Vehicle Transfer - Approx. 1.5 hours
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Panama Canal (Miraflores Locks)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
You can depart at any time as there are no activities planned for today.

Cycling distance: none
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

13 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 6 dinners

Transport

Bicycle, Support vehicle, Boat

Accommodation

Hotels (10 nights), guesthouse (4 nights), homestay (1 night)

Included activities

  • Granada - City tour
  • Panama Canal (Miraflores Locks)

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.

Reviews

Our Cycle Central America trips score an average of 4.75 out of 5 based on 8 reviews in the last year.

Cycle Central America, September 2017

Christopher Millbank

Cycle Central America, September 2017

Garry Cutts