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

Get ready for a fast-paced adventure through the best of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica. From beautiful black-sand beaches to tropical forests alive with jungle melodies, this pocket of Central America is 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.

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Terms & Conditions

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

Why you'll love this trip

  • Discover Central America, a land of mysterious Mayan ruins, active volcanoes, idyllic beaches and emerald jungles. Get a taste of four 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 black sand beaches. Stray off the beaten track in El Cuco and summon your inner surfie in El Tunco

  • 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 04 February 2019 to 31 December 2019. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2018 - 03 February 2019

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Antigua, Guatemala. A small town of crumbling churches, vibrant markets and bohemian cafes set against the backdrop of monumental volcanoes, Antigua is the perfect place to ease into your Central American adventure. Speaking of adventure, yours officialy kicks off with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today at the hotel. Please look for a note in the lobby or ask reception where it will take place.  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.  If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. 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). After the formalities are out of the way, hit the cobblestone streets on an orientation walk with your leader, and get your bearings in the former seat of the Spanish colonial government. In 1773, the city was destroyed by an earthquake, but as you'll see during your walk, many of the colonial buildings have been restored. For dinner tonight, perhaps head out with some of your fellow travellers for a tamale, a classic staple of Mesoamerica that sees dough, meat and sauces steamed and served in in corn leaf. If you do decide to arrive in the city a little early (smart move!), there's plenty to do. Maybe satisfy your cravings and learn a the art of old-world chocolate production at the ChocoMuseo, sit by the fountain and people watch in Central Park or hire a mountain bike and tackle the lush countryside. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop - USD25
  • Antigua - Bike tour - USD40
  • 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
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).

Unfortunately, more than half the population of beautiful Guatemala lives under the poverty line, and one contributing factor is that Guatemala has the lowest literacy rate in Central America. The Intrepid Foundation is proud supporter of CasaSito, a not-for-profit organization that helps youth reach their academic, personal and professional potential. If you have 2 minutes to spare (or 2 minutes 41 seconds to be precise!) take a look at this short video about CasaSito and the inspiring work they do: youtube.com/watch?v=3KBiGdEcV4w.

If you want to help CasaSito assist Guatemalan youth in reaching their potential, you can donate through The Intrepid Foundation an
Rise and shine for a long day of travel, leaving at around 4 am to beat the rush-hour traffic around Guatemala City. All up you'll be spending 8 hours driving to Copan by private vehicle, and while the scenery is breathtaking in sections, it's a good idea to pack a book or download a few podcasts in case you find you need to break up the journey. Head into Honduras through the wild countryside of eastern Guatemala, arriving in the charming town of Copan in the early afternoon. While most people use Copan as a base to explore the nearby ruins, there are plenty of other points of interest, both along the cobblestone streets and set into the lush surrounds. Maybe get started in the Central Plaza and follow your nose to cafe. Or perhaps head to the nearby hot springs on an optional tour. Less than USD 50 gets you hours of soak time in mud baths, steaming natural baths and refreshing pools plus dinner, all set along winding jungle paths.
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 continue explore Copan and its surrounds. Perhaps make an optional visit to the World Heritage-listed ruins of Copan, the remnants of the southernmost of the great Maya sites for which Central America is famous. Unique because of the numerous elaborate stelae – carved columns – still intact on site, there are also temples, excavated vaults and walls inscribed with ancient faces. A stroll through this old-world capital is bound to leave you pondering the mysterious and adbrupt disappearance of such a creative civilisation. Alternatively, nature lovers may wish to travel two kilometres out of town to the Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve. Dedicated to the conservation of the Central American macaw, the reserve also houses toucans, motmots, parrots, kingfishers and orioles. At approximately 1 pm, wave goodbye to Copan and head across the border to El Salvador by private vehicle. There's another substantial amount of time spent on the road this afternoon, so have that book (or your most sparkling conversation) handy to pass the time. All up the drive should take about 7 hours, depending on conditions, and you are expected to reach the colonial town of Suchitoto in the evening. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Copan - Archeological Museum (Entrance fee) - USD7
  • Copan Ruins - Archeological site (Transport & Entrance fee) - USD17
  • Copan - Macaw Mountain Bird Park (Entrance fee) - HNL230
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Begin the day with a guided orientation walk of Suchitoto, widely considered the cultural capital of El Salvador. Stroll past gorgeous colonial facades and get your bearings. Birders will want to crane their necks – Suchitoto lies on a bird migration path. The rest of the day is all yours to get among the optional activities on offer. Suchitoto overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande. Also known as Lago Suchitlan, this freshwater lake is a haven for the aforementioned migrating birds, particularly falcons and hawks. Maybe hustle a crew of four or more together and take a boat trip to Bird Island, or perhaps grab a historically-minded quartet for a guided walk through Cinquera Forest, where guerrilla fighters used the forest as cover during the civil war.
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 4 travellers to operate) - USD20
  • Suchitoto - War historic walk at Cinquera Forest (requires a minimum of 4 travellers to operate) - USD50
  • Suchitoto - Morning kayak bird watching (requires a minimum of 3 travellers to run) - USD35
  • Suchitoto - Town tour (it requires a minimum of 4 travellers to operate) - USD25
  • Suchitoto - Birdwatching Walk (requires a minimum of 3 travellers to operate) - USD25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a sleep in today and head south-east at about 10 am by private minibus to coastal El Cuco (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. Maybe head to a beach for a few beers under shaggy palms and relax while you wait for the sunset. As night falls, perhaps enjoy a seafood dinner along the water, the local crab are some of the best in the country. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today you're free as a bird to explore the beautiful coast around El Cuco at your own pace. If you and a few others feel like getting active, you could take a trip to see nearby Conchagua Volcano. The views from the lookout are stunning, but you'll need a minimum of five people to take part. 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 (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 5 am to La Union (approximately 1 hour) 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 vehicle 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 confusing and disorderly so 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 2 pm for an easy 3 hour local 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 2 pm 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 (7 am). 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 USD 3 fee is required when exiting Nicaragua. Reaching the Costa Rican border requires a 1 km 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. 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 (Entrance fee & Transport) - USD40
  • Monteverde - Suspension bridges tour - USD47
  • Monteverde - Zip lining - USD90
  • Monteverde - Coffee & Chocolate tour - USD35
  • Monteverde - Night walk - USD35
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest Train - USD60
  • Monteverde - Serpentarium - USD15
  • Monteverde - Butterfly garden and insects farm - USD15
  • 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 - USD45
  • La Fortuna - Arenal hanging bridges - USD56
  • La Fortuna - La Fortuna Waterfall - USD15
  • La Fortuna - Nature hike around Arenal Volcano - USD50
  • La Fortuna - Cano Negro boat tour - USD67
  • La Fortuna - Stand up paddle board - USD65
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.
Today your adventure comes to an end. There are no activities planned for the final day. 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).
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

No meals are included on this tour

Transport

Private vehicle, Public bus, Local bus, Taxi, Private boat, Shared boat, Ferry

Accommodation

Hotel (14 nights), Lodge (2 nights)

Included activities

  • 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

1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time.
2. To have a private room on this trip, a single supplement is bookable; subject to availability.
3. Please be careful when booking flights to Antigua; make sure you fly into Guatemala City Airport [GUA]. Guatemala City Airport is the closest airport to Antigua. Please do NOT book flights to Antigua & Barbuda Airport [ANU] as this is an island in the Caribbean.
4. Please be careful when booking flights from San Jose; make sure you fly out of Juan Santamaría International Airport [SJO]. Please do NOT book flights from Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport [SJC] as this is located in California, United States.
5. Hurricane season in this region is June to November, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors any situations that arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to these natural weather occurrences.

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 Central American Journey trips score an average of 4.48 out of 5 based on 357 reviews in the last year.

Central American Journey, June 2018

stephanie williams

Central American Journey, June 2018

JULIE morthanassis