A wildlife-rich paradise brimming with active volcanoes, idyllic beaches and emerald jungles.

From the Guatemalan highlands to the cloud forests of Costa Rica and all the adventure towns and surf spots in between, roll through four Central American countries for a taste of what this incredibly diverse region is plating up. From tropical forests alive with jungle melodies to vast freshwater lakes and active volcanoes, this pocket of Central America is pure, unrefined paradise. Whether you’re climbing a volcanic crater in Cerro Verde, spotting colourful birds perched on the colonial facades of Granada, standing in the shadow of mighty Arenal Volcano or spotting sloths among the canopy of Monteverde Cloud Forest – this trip through Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica is perfect for those who like their adventures 'la forma natural'.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Antigua, Guatemala
Finish
San Jose, Costa Rica
Destinations
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua
Style
Basix
Theme
18 to 29s
Code
QBYJ
Physical rating
Ages
Min 18, Max 29
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Travel solo, together

You're never alone when travelling solo with Intrepid

Why you'll love this trip

  • Oh, Central America, what a land. Get a taste of four different countries on an epic Latin adventure that takes in the sights and offers a whole heap of optional activities too.

  • Cerro Verde is waiting to be explored. Enjoy a full day at leisure in one of El Salvador’s most beautiful national parks – climb a volcano crater or take the plunge in the pristine lake. The choice is yours!

  • Island life doesn’t get much better than Ometepe in Nicaragua – volcanoes, wildlife-rich rainforest, stunning beaches, ancient rock carvings, and a massive lake are all on your plate.

  • Central America likes to keep you on your toes – hike, cycle or zip-line through the steamy cloud forests of Monteverde in Costa Rica and get up close to nature in one of the world’s most incredible landscapes.

  • Costa Rica's famous Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna is unbe-lava-ble. Go with the flow and let off some stream with hikes, waterfalls, watersports, and hot springs in the shadow of this giant.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip involves some long travel days, and while travelling between some locations on local transport on this trip can be hard, it’s super rewarding and a great way to meet the locals.

  • You’ll be crossing the borders between five countries on this trip and, while it is usually straightforward, you may need to be patient. Make sure you’ve got your best car game ready if there are any delays!

  • Is it hot in here? Well you’re in tropical Central America so it can get really hot and humid. Carry plenty of water because hydration is key, especially when you’re walking a lot.

  • There are many opportunities to get active on this adventure. Some of the optional activities, especially the volcano hikes, require a moderate level of fitness and sturdy walking shoes. Want to take it easy? There are plenty of other things you can do instead.

  • It’s a good idea to try and brush up on as many Spanish words as you can. While locals are really friendly, they’re also shy, so knowing some local lingo is a great way to break the ice and show you care.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2020.
View the 2019 itinerary
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Guatemala. There are no planned activities today until your important welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early, why not head out on a caffeine-fuelled coffee quest with Urban Adventures – head beyond the city to explore local plantations and get buzzed and brewed as you learn the history of the bean in Guatemala. Find out more at urbanadventures.com. After the meeting, take an orientation walk around the city with your leader and acquaint yourself with the cobblestone streets and colonial-era plaza. In 1773, the city of Antigua was destroyed by an earthquake, but many of the colonial buildings have been restored. For dinner tonight, perhaps sample a tamale, a local dish served in corn husk, or some pepián, a rich, meaty stew, then surely it’s time for a mojito with your new friends!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Pacaya Volcano hike - GTQ85
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop - GTQ130
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.

Some departures of this trip are part of a combination trip. As such, some of your fellow travellers may have started their trip days ago in Mexico City on Epic Central America (QBYZC) or 17 days ago in Playa del Carmen on Epic Mexico to Costa Rica (QBYXC). Please contact our sales team if you wish to book or know more information on these longer combination trips.
Rise and Shine! Today is an early start as you journey across the Guatemalan border to your next destination, Cerro Verde, El Salvador (approximately 5 hours). From rolling hills to rolling R’s, watch the world go by from the comfort of your private vehicle as you travel through lush volcanic landscape and endless mountain terrain all while learning the local lingo from your leader in an informal Spanish lesson. Arrive in Cerro Verde and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a free day for you to get outdoors! Opt to hike up to the edge of Santa Ana’s Volcano crater for some more spectacular views of Lake Coatepeque, Juayua and Izalco Volcano. Alternatively, instead of admiring it’s view from the volcano crater, why not take a dip in Lake Coatepeque! There are many ways to keep busy in one of El Salvador's most beautiful national parks.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Cerro Verde - Half-day Crater Hike - price from - USD20
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Continuing south by private vehicle today, pass through the capital of San Salvador on your way to San Miguel (approximately 3-4 hours). Resting in the shadows of Chaparrastique, an active volcano that sets the backdrop to this vibrant town, San Miguel has rebuilt itself into one of the largest and most populated cities in the country since facing a severe earthquake in 1917. El Salvador is also home to Papusas, a type of flatbread made from cornmeal and often stuffed with delicious fillings like cheese, chicharrón (fried pork) or refried beans. Today in San Miguel, visit a local street vendor and watch a papusa making demonstration, then try some of course!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Miguel - Salvadoran Pupusa cooking demonstration
Meals Included
  • Lunch
Say a quick hola and adios to Honduras as you cross through two borders to reach ‘the land of lakes and volcanoes’, Nicaragua (or Nica as it’s known as locally). The 6-hour drive (plus stops) will be well worth the ride as you’re welcomed into the charming, artsy and sophisticated city of Leon. Why not refuel after your journey with some traditional Nicaraguan dishes, Gallo Pinto, with its hearty combination of rice and beans, is considered a national symbol – alternatively, perhaps try out some of your new Spanish skills and order a Quesillo, a cheesy treat made of corn tortillas, pickled onion and sour cream. Once the capital of Nicaragua, Leon has long been the heart and soul of the country’s political movements, which is demonstrated through the city’s colourful street murals – an artistic reflection of fallen heroes and revolutionary icons. Home to one of the oldest universities in Central America, Leon is considered a ‘college town’ and is known for its youthful, fun atmosphere and energetic nightlife. This evening, why not head out with the group for some bachata or salsa dancing!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Leon - Leader-led orientation walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning is free to explore Leon, perhaps check out the Basílica de la Asunción – Central Americas largest cathedral – or stop by the Museo Histórico de la Revolución for an insight the revolutionaries who fought hard for the freedom of their country. Alternatively, you might like to go volcano sandboarding! (This is the only place in the world that you can do it). Afterwards, if you’re feeling peckish, why not fill up on the traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs and gallo pinto before jumping on a local bus this afternoon to Granada (approximately 2-3 hours). Founded in 1524, Granada is the oldest city in Nicaragua and home to iconic Moorish and Andalusian landmarks that have survived repeated pirate invasions. Draped in colourful colonial architecture and oozing aesthetic charm, this enchanting city is set on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and is surrounded by active volcanoes.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Leon - Volcano Sand Boarding - NIO1260
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is free to explore Granada, one of Central America’s least spoiled colonial towns. Perhaps you’d like to take a guided tour of the city, bargain hard in the markets, or wander the cobblestone streets, snapping photos of the colourful buildings. If you’re an adventure enthusiast, opt to hire a kayak and paddle around the islets of lake Nicaragua, rent a bicycle and ride to Laguna De Apoyo (a 200 year old lake set into a lush forest crater), or hike through the lush flora and fauna along the Mombacho volcano crater trail. For a cultural insight into the heritage of the Nicaraguan people, the city of Masaya aka ‘City of the Flowers’ offers a mixture of folkloric entertainment, from marimba music to street theatre. If you’re looking to purchase some traditional handicrafts, then you’ll also find ‘Mercado de las Artesanías’ – a craft market offering handmade souvenirs reflective of the Masaya area. After a day of exploration, why not enjoy an evening along Calle la Calzada – grab a drink at one of the many outdoor bars and watch the wandering performers, from mariachis to break dancers, bring the street to life.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Granada - Masaya Volcano at night (Viewpoint for the Lava Lake at Santiago Crater) - NIO1140
  • Granada - Laguna Apoyo kayaking tour - NIO1025
  • Granada - Kayak rental (per day) - NIO685
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning, enjoy an included breakfast at Café de las Sonrisas (Smiles Café), a coffee shop and eatery that’s run entirely by those within the deaf community – from the waiting staff to the chefs. The café is a project of the Tío Antonio Social Center and offers people with hearing disabilities a solution to the difficult work situation in Nicaragua. To help you with your order, letters, words and phrases along with the corresponding illustrations (in Nicaraguan sign language) cover the walls of the café. This fun and educational style of communication means that you can learn while you eat! After breakfast, travel by local bus to Rivas where you'll transfer to San Jorge ferry port by taxi (approximately 2.5 hours). Catch a 1-hour ferry across Lake Nicaragua (the largest in Central America and the tenth largest freshwater lake in the world) to the island of Ometepe, and head to your hotel. Hourglass-shaped Ometepe Island was formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua (Ometepe literally means two volcanoes in the Nahuatl language) and the deep jungle is home to exotic wildlife such as monkeys and parrots. 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 (Multishare with Shared facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Granada - Breakfast at El Cafe de las Sonrisas (Smiles Cafe). A not for profit restaurant employing hearing-impaired staff
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Take advantage of a free day to discover the island. Perhaps take a hike up to the summit of either the Concepcion or Maderas volcanoes, but be warned, at 1700 and 1394 metres above sea level respectively, these are serious volcanoes and the treks are no walk in the park. You might prefer to splash around in the natural springs, soak up the sun on the shore or check out the island's petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings). If you like watermelon, coffee, banana and citrus fruits then Ometepe is the place for you, plantations abound, you’ll have loads of delicious fresh food to feast on. In the evening, head to Los Ramos, an indigenous community situated right in the middle of the island’s volcanos, for a cooking class. Learn traditional techniques used to make Nicaraguan dishes like nacatamales (a dough-based snack often filled with meat and steamed in banana leaves) before sitting down to a meal together.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (Multishare with Shared facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Los Ramos Community - Cooking Class
Optional Activities
  • Ometepe - Concepcion Volcano hike - USD45
  • Ometepe - Maderas Volcano hike - USD45
  • Ometepe - Ojo de Agua natural spring - USD25
  • Ometepe - Petroglyphs - USD20
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Today you’ll take the two-hour journey (by ferry and public bus) to San Juan del Sur, a laidback surf town on Nicaragua’s south-west coast. Though the beach that lines the town’s horseshoe bay itself isn’t particularly great for swimming, you don’t need to travel far to find beautiful golden beaches with year-round waves. Go on an orientation walk with your leader and then enjoy free time to acquaint yourself with this fun little town. Tonight, you’ll be sleeping in style under the cover of a tepee! Connect with nature in these cosy dens and fall asleep to the sound of the ocean.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (Multishare with shared facilties) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Juan del Sur - Surf Board Hire - USD20
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a free day exploring San Juan del Sur’s colourful coastal scenery. If you’re feeling active, San Juan del Sur has plenty to offer. You might like to rent a surfboard and spend the day riding the waves at nearby beaches like Playa Maderas or Playa Marsella, alternatively, head south to La Flor beach reserve, where it’s possible to see olive ridley, hawksbill, leatherback and green sea turtles nesting between July and November. A huge statue of Christ (the largest in Central America) sits atop a cliff above the bay – why not hike to the top for spectacular views of the town and Pacific. In the evening, the city boasts a variety of greats bars and restaurants where you can share a meal with the group.
Accommodation
  • Hostel (Multishare with shared facilties) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • San Juan del Sur - La Flor Beach Reserve - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Say Adios to Nicaragua and continue your journey south to Costa Rica. Take a 1-hour bus to the border and then travel by private vehicle to Monteverde (approximately 5 hours). 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 Cloud Forest Biological Preserve. Cloud forests are similar to rainforests, but instead, draw their water from a semi-permanent cloud covering the region. Constant mist in the forest makes it feel a bit like a nightclub! But with less bass and more fresh air, this is truly a nature lover's paradise. More than 2000 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 orientation walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Proof of onward travel is a requirement for entry into Costa Rica, so if you're flying out of San Jose, bring a printed copy of your flight details in case the border officials ask to see them.
Today you have a full free day to discover the reserve and experience the mystical and fragile environment here. Monteverde is not for the faint-hearted, so bring your sense of adventure, a solid pair of shoes, and have a little fun with the giddy heights. 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 tour along a series of suspension bridges 40 metres up above the jungle. 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 also several cooperatives worth visiting in the local communities.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest (Entrance fee & Transport) - CRC16340
  • Monteverde - Suspension bridges tour - CRC19200
  • Monteverde - Zip lining - CRC36780
  • Monteverde - Coffee & Chocolate tour - CRC13480
  • Monteverde - Night walk through Cloud Forest - CRC21240
  • Monteverde - Butterfly garden and insects farm - CRC6130
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Continue your journey through Costa Rica and take the scenic route to La Fortuna (approximately 4-5 hours). Travel by shared minibus to Lake Arenal, which you'll then cross by boat. On a clear day you'll see fantastic views of the surrounding area. On the other side of the lake, re-board the minibus and continue on to your destination. La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes from Costa Rica's most famous volcano, the majestic Arenal. While you're here, make sure you take some photos of the volcano reflected spectacularly in the lake. Get a good rest tonight, as tomorrow you’ve got a free day to take advantage of all the active activities on offer.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • La Fortuna - Leader-led orientation walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There are plenty of optional activities to take part in today, so when you get home, this isn’t the place to say you sat around! Perhaps take a guided nature hike through the lush forest surrounding Arenal Volcano, keeping an eye out for rare plants and animals, or opt to see the forest from a series of hanging bridges. Check out the 70-metre high La Fortuna waterfall, or get wet 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 - CRC18380
  • La Fortuna - Arenal hanging bridges - CRC22870
  • La Fortuna - La Fortuna Waterfall - CRC6130
  • La Fortuna - Nature hike around Arenal Volcano - CRC20420
  • La Fortuna - Cano Negro boat tour - CRC27360
  • La Fortuna - Rio Celeste Safari Float tour - CRC28590
  • La Fortuna - Stand up paddle board - CRC26260
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take a local bus to Costa Rica's capital, San Jose (approximately 5 hours). Situated in the fertile Central Valley and home to over half the country's population, San Jose is filled with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. A good place to start your exploration is the main plaza. Artisan booths are common here, so you never know when an art fair will pop up. The Gold Museum has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art or 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. Then it's maybe time for a final farewell dinner (or margarita) with your new travel buds and say muchas gracias to your Central American journey.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • San Jose - Leader-led walking tour
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - The Art of Craft Beer in San Jose - Urban Adventures - USD74
  • San Jose - National Museum - CRC4890
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today your Central American adventure comes to an end, there are no activities planned. As there's a lot to see and do in and around San Jose, we recommend staying on for a few days to make the most of the city. If you'd like to extend your visit and need further accommodation, our reservations team would be happy to assist (subject to availability). There are some great day tours you can take outside of the city, such as or Irazu Volcano.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner

Transport

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

Accommodation

Hotel (10 nights), Multishare Hostel (2 nights) Lodge (2 nights), Multishare permanent furnished camp (2 nights)

Included activities

  • Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
  • San Miguel - Salvadoran Pupusa cooking demonstration
  • Leon - Leader-led orientation walk
  • Granada - Breakfast at El Cafe de las Sonrisas (Smiles Cafe). A not for profit restaurant employing hearing-impaired staff
  • Los Ramos Community - Cooking Class
  • Monteverde - Leader-led orientation walk
  • La Fortuna - Leader-led orientation walk
  • San Jose - Leader-led walking tour

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. This is an 18-29s departure.
2. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. There are no activities planned for the final day so you may depart at any time.
3. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement excludes Days 8 & 9 (Ometepe Island) and Days 10 & 11 (San Juan del Sur) where you will be in shared accommodation and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.
4. 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.
5. Please be careful when booking flights from San Jose; make sure you fly out of Juan Santamaria 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.

Essential trip information

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