Epic Central America
It doesn’t get much bigger than this. A 46-day adventure enjoying everything Central America has to offer, from Mexico through to Costa Rica with all the places in between – you better Belize it. Whether you're hitting the waves in El Salvador, trekking the steamy cloud forests in Costa Rica, snorkelling the pristine underwater worlds in Belize or washing down your tacos with mezcal in Mexico, there's no shortage of unforgettable experiences on this trip. You’ll cover six countries, stopping at dozens of towns and beaches and sipping many (many) cervezas. Oh Maya, this is huge.
Finish: San Jose
Ages: 18 - 29
Theme: 18 to 29s
Accommodation: Hotel (32 nights), Overnight public bus (1 night), Cabin (1 night), Camping with shared facilities (1 night), Multishare lodge (2 nights), Lodge (2 nights), Multishare Hostel (2 nights), Multishare permanent furnished camp (4 nights)
Destination: San Jose
Bienvenidos! Where better to start a Meh-i-co exploration than in Mexico City – one of the world's largest urban centres. Forget about the crowds and the smog, Mexico City has got museums, galleries and diverse architecture for you, along with pumping nightlife and delicious street food. Let’s kick things off with a welcome meeting today at 6 pm. If you arrive into the city early, head to the Zocalo, the city's huge central square to see Aztec ruins and colonial architecture, or relax in one of the many parks, plazas or gardens. Another great thing to do is to hop on one of the colourfully painted boats that cruise through the canal district of Xochimilco, or head to the National Palace for a look at the intricate murals painted by Diego Rivera. After the meeting tonight, you’re definitely going to want to seek out some tacos for dinner, and with an informal lesson from your group leader, try to place your order in Spanish!
Maybe grab some chilaquiles (a type of breakfast nachos) in the morning, then join your leader for an orientation walk around the historic centre of the city. Mexico City can feel overwhelming due to its sheer size and volume of people, however your group leader will know where to go. Walking makes you hungry, so it’s time to head on an included taco crawl, sample a couple of tacos from local street food vendors. It’s nothing fancy, but they sure are delicious. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy – if you like art, the Frida Kahlo Museum is a must-see, and for all museum lovers there's the Museum of Anthropology or the Palace of Fine Art. Don’t forget to snack your way around the city too, munching on tostadas, tortas, and chicharrones all day long. Alternatively, you can choose to take an optional day trip to the archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan, 50 kilometres out of the city. A local guide will lead you down ‘The Avenue of the Dead’, pointing out the historic Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon.
Take a public bus to the smaller but no less beautiful city of Oaxaca (around 7 hours). Pronounced ‘wuh-haa-ka’, this colourful town in the south is full of colonial buildings, colourful arcades and busy markets. Your group leader will provide an orientation walk to get your bearings, before giving you the time to visit at your own pace. With two full days to come, you’ll have heaps of time to explore the narrow, cobbled streets in the city, as well as the culture and natural beauty of the surrounding area. Descendants of the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians selling colourful woven blankets and shawls populate the markets – a great place to shop for textiles, as well as margarita flavours. Here you’ll also find some tasty regional food specialties, everything from cactus fruit, to spicy baked chilli and lime grasshoppers and the heavenly Oaxacan cheese. Make sure you pick up a tejate – a maize and cinnamon flavoured chocolate drink served cold. On your walk, be sure to look out for any reference to Oaxaca’s renowned arts scene, including folk art, fine art and dance. Get lost admiring the spectrum of coloured buildings or sit in the main square listening to a street performer, sipping a mezcal and watching the world pass by.
The city (and state) of Oaxaca is yours to explore on this free day, full of optional experiences. Perhaps head to the spectacular mountain top temples of Monte Alban just outside the city. Monte Alban was inhabited for 1500 years by the Olmec, Zapotec and Mixtec peoples, and is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre. The settlement's terraces, dams, canals and pyramids were literally carved out of the mountain. You’d better have your camera ready, because up here you can get an amazing view across the three legs of the valley of Oaxaca. Alternatively, you could take a day tour out to the nearby Mitla Ruins. Mitla (the Nahuatl word for ‘underworld’) is an important Zapotec archaeological site and was the main religious centre for the Zapotec people. For something more relaxing on your way from Mitla, drop by the springs of Hierve el Agua – a series of mineral pools and calcified waterfalls dotted on top of a mountain, providing sweeping panoramic views of the Mexican countryside. Perhaps on the way back to Oaxaca, you could stop into a mezcaleria (mezcal distillery) to learn about the lesser-known but more and more popular hermano (brother) of tequila. It is mainly produced in Oaxaca, but is not for the faint-hearted as it’s generally enjoyed straight-up. Bottom’s up!
Today is another full day in Oaxaca, but be prepared to board an overnight bus later to travel to the mountain-top village of San Cristobal de las Casas. You’ve got today to bask in the colour and sights of Oaxaca, so why not test out your culinary skills at a delicious cooking class? Otherwise, check out the artisan stores in the markets and around town, and head to the historic Templo de Santo Domingo – a grand stone church with a large forecourt. In the evening, hop on a first-class overnight bus to San Cristobal del las Casas (approximately 13 hours in total). First-class buses in Mexico are quite comfortable. They are equipped with toilets and reclining seats with plenty of legroom. They are always air-conditioned, so make sure you take a warm layer with you, as it may get cold on board. While the bus is very comfortable, the road from Oaxaca to San Cristobal has some very winding sections. If you suffer from motion sickness, this will be a good time to have your medication ready.
Say ‘hola’ to San Cristobal, your pastel-hued highland home for the next two days. Arrive early in the morning – check-in at the hotel isn't usually until midday, so leave your luggage and start exploring the city. Today and tomorrow are at your leisure here. Your group leader will point the main things out on a leader-led city tour, and afterwards, will help you arrange any optional activities. With its winding cobblestone streets snuggled in the Chiapas highlands, San Cristobal de las Casas has an old-world feel mixed with strong pre-hispanic roots. Wander to a local cafe and check out their baked goods or try some pox – a traditional corn-based liquor, often flavoured with other ingredients.
Head out of town this morning and take a tour of the nearby San Juan Chamula, a traditional Maya village that serves as a centre for the indigenous folk around here. The villages are home to Tzotzil and Tzeltal groups, who maintain their tribal origins through their traditional dress and customs. Your leader will take you to a church where the floor is covered with pine needles and the air is heavy with incense. Shamans come here to carry out cleansings with firewater, ancient prayer and chickens. Please be aware of a strict ban on cameras as the local people maintain their traditional customs. Afterwards, there's an option to take a trip to Sumidero Canyon, where you can take a boat down the mighty Rio Grijalva. Or you might like to get things pumping with further exploration of the villages by mountain bike. For something more adventurous, try a canyoning trip to ‘El Chorreadero’. This 6-hour excursion will see you venture a kilometre inside a (dry) cave and return following the river through a number of cascades, pools and rappels. A truly memorable experience, but probably not recommended for the claustrophobic or those with fear of heights.
Today travel along a windy road by private vehicle to Lacanja River (approximately 6 hours). You will stop at Agua Azul (blue water) waterfall on the way, where you'll have an option to swim in the cascading pools. Once you've arrived, the afternoon is free for you to relax or explore. There are a few optional activities on offer, including a rafting experience over Lacanja River waterfalls and backwaters and to the nearby archaeological site, then travelling back through the jungle and past the waterfalls of Moctuniha. There are also some awesome guided hikes available to book, so ask your group leader if you would like to organise this. Coming from the city today, you’ll have a much different experience – staying right in the middle of the jungle in an eco-cabana.
This morning is free to explore the Lacanja jungle and surrounding lush trails and waterfalls, before travelling to Palenque in a private vehicle (approximately 2 hours). After arriving, head to the archaeological zone and visit the ruins of Palenque. Sitting on a hilltop surrounded by thick trees, the ruins date back to AD600 and are some of the most impressive Mayan relics in Mexico. As you take a self-guided walk among the temples, listen out for the eerie calls of howler monkeys and screeching parrots echoing from the jungle. There are many ruins that are still un-excavated and remain concealed in the forest. You can opt to take a guided tour of the ruins or through the surrounding jungle to a hidden waterfall (at an extra fee). The area gives you a great idea of what the Spanish invaders must have seen when they first arrived. This feels like real Tomb Raider stuff.
Today, travel by public bus and head north up to the old-world charm of Merida (approximately 7-8 hours in total). Founded in 1542, this city has a large indigenous population, with approximately 60% of Merida residents of Maya background. Take use of an orientation walk on arrival and wander through the Old Town, checking out some museums and stroll the city streets, which are alive with art and culture. Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the 16th-century cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the others. For a taste of Merida's 19th-century glory, go for a walk along the mansion-lined Paseo de Montejo. Mornings are the best time to visit the outdoor markets, where you can stock up on hammocks and Maya replicas. This is also a great place to sample local food specialities, such as cochinita pibil (slow-roasted barbeque pork) or the extremely spicy El Yucateco hot sauce. For a snack, there's a bicycle cart on almost every corner in Merida selling elotes (corn on the cob) doused in salt, chilli, cheese, lemon juice or other toppings. If you haven’t noticed already: yeah, they like corn.
Merida is the gateway to the Maya ruins of Uxmal. Perhaps today a tour of the ruins is on the cards, including a guide and shared transport. Little is known about the site’s origins but it’s thought the city was founded around AD500. Much of the site is decorated with masks of the rain god Chac. Otherwise, you can also visit a nearby bird sanctuary or a variety of other ruins, or hunt down one of the hidden cenotes (stunning natural sinkholes filled with water) and take a dip in the crystal clear fresh water. If you decide to stay in the city, know that Merida's locals love dancing. Every Sunday the town's streets are transformed into an open-air dance floor, with salsa and merengue bands providing the music.
With a second full day in Merida, make sure that you haven’t missed any of the main sights in the city. Otherwise, there is an opportunity to visit the most well-known archaeological site in Mexico: Chichen Itza. Listed as one of the new seven wonders of the world, Chichen Itza is considered the most important example of a fusion of Maya and Toltec tradition and civilisation in Yucatan. See the Caracol (a circular stellar observatory), the Great Ball Court (the largest field in Mesoamerica) the main sight in El Castillo (a step pyramid dominating the centre of the site) and many more historic ruins. Your group leader can organise transport and entrance fees into the archaeological site, however we recommend getting there early in the morning, as this area gets very busy with tourists during the day.
Today, travel to Izamal by local bus (approximately 2 hours), which is known as the City of Yellow, because of the yellow ochre and white hues painted on many of the buildings, as the local’s way to preserve its light and project it to the future. Enjoy a leader-led city tour with a visit the San Antonio de Padua Convent – an imposing colonial structure at the centre of town adorned in the city’s distinct colour. Enjoy some time to continue exploring the city at your own pace and be sure to get another Mexican fix at a local restaurant tonight.
Take a public bus to the resort hub of Playa del Carmen (approximately 2.5 hours). Blessed with azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is relatively close to Cancun but with less of a young party atmosphere. Here you can spend your time snorkelling among the mangroves or in underground caverns, tanning, or strolling along the white sands of the playa (beach). Your group leader will provide an orientation walk to the city, with a visit to a Mexican ice-cream store for an included tasting (of course). You’ll lean more about the flavours and the traditional methods of how it is made. With a free afternoon at your leisure, why not pull up a towel and bask in this tropical paradise? It is also possible to take a ferry from here across to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef. In the evening, feast on seafood, kick back with your group and watch the waves with a margarita in hand.
Today is a free day in Playa del Carmen. Maybe join some optional activities like snorkelling among mangroves and cycling, or just taking a stroll along the awesomely white beaches. There’s always the option to go find a nearby cenote or book yourself on a boat over to Cozumel for the day (if you haven’t already). Later in the afternoon, head back to your hotel for another group briefing, where you’ll meet some new travel pals joining you, plus maybe a new group leader too! Tonight’s again all about introductions, so how about finding a place that does tacos and cervezas, enjoying the vibe of this waterfront haven.
Today, hop on a local bus along the Caribbean coast to Tulum (approximately 1.5 hours), where it's all about laidback life and the white sands of the Yucatan Peninsula. Once you're settled and got your bearings with a leader-led orientation walk around Tulum, there's the chance to visit one of the best-looking and located Maya sites around. Discover the impressive Temple of the Frescoes and see how this pre-Columbian walled ruin city clings to a cliff-top area overlooking the ocean. You can even go for a swim within the archaeological zone. In the evening, perhaps kick back and watch the waves roll in at a beachside bar with a margarita, of course.
With a free day to relax in Tulum, consider the optional activities on offer, and most importantly, relax into the laidback Mexican vibe. Two wheels are a good way to tackle the day, so rent a bike, cruise around the area and cover a lot of ground in a short time, as Tulum is relatively flat. The town is heaving with hip cafes and restaurants and many vegetarian and vegan options, as well as places to relax the mind and body with yoga and meditation. There's also the option of exploring Dos Ojos (two eyes): one of the most famous cenotes (freshwater rock pools) in the area – an underwater world full of stalagmites and stalactites.
New day, new country. Adios Mexico, hello Belize. Much of today will be taken up with travel, driving by local bus to the border, then on to Belize City (approximately 8 hours in total). Let the wind and sea spray wash the travel away with a 1-hour speedboat ride to the palm-fringed island of Caye Caulker. If your idea of paradise is white sand, blue waters and palm trees then you’re going to dig this place, and with a few days to explore, relax and get active, you’re set for an idyllic stay.
Your time in Caye Caulker is all about taking it easy. The pace of life is so incredibly slow it's almost backwards. If being underwater is your thing then head out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to Shark Ray Alley and the world's second longest barrier reef. Snorkel among the colourful corals and see tropical fish, sharks and manta rays. You can also take day trips to other Cayes nearby - each island has its own particular character, but all of them have that unmistakable Caribbean pace and charm. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, which will make chatting with locals much easier.
Today is another free day to take up any other optional activities or to simply pull up a towel and relax along the beach with a book. If you’ve already been snorkelling, then maybe continue the marine exploration with a manatee tour. These huge, peaceful creatures are beautiful in their own way, and are quite curious to meet their visitors. Get more active with sea kayaks and stand-up paddle boards, or go the other way completely and just chill out. The island's also great for food, famed for its lobster and super tasty meals cooked on the side of the road. How about some grilled shrimp and a rum and coke made with the local fire water?
Leave the island paradise behind and return to Belize City by boat (approximately 1 hour), before taking a local bus to San Ignacio via Belize’s capital, Belmopan (approximately 3 hours). The local buses here are a little more basic than in Mexico but this is a great opportunity to mix with Belizeans and get a feel for local life. 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. San Ignacio is a lively town surrounded by fast-flowing rivers, waterfalls and Maya ruins, making it the best base for exploring the region. After you arrive, the rest of the day is free, so perhaps choose to visit the Chaa Creek butterfly garden, and at night, try one of the barbeque street stalls for a char-grilled chicken leg.
There is a heap of optional activities to choose between in San Ignacio. The cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal is a living museum of Maya relics, and you can wade through its waters until you reach a whole bunch of 1400-year-old crystallised skeletons. You could take a day tour to the Mountain Pine Ridge area to visit waterfalls and swimming holes, or go down the Macal river in canoes or tubes. If you prefer a slower pace, take a trip out to Xunantunich, an impressive Maya ceremonial centre with panoramic views. Getting to the site is half the fun, as you'll need to take a hand-cranked boat down the river. Belizeans are super friendly, so in the evening, walk down Burns Avenue and join the locals for a chat in one of the many restaurants, or at a street side stall.
Time to go jungle – Guatemala-style. Leave San Ignacio, cross the border, and get dropped at Tikal National Park by private vehicle (approximately 4 hours). You'll set up camp on the grounds of a hotel near the national park entrance before exploring the super-huge and crazy-cool Maya ruins of Tikal – it’s a bit like the set of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto movie, minus all the violence. Pass through the lush jungle vegetation, and if you've got the energy, climb Temple IV to take in the epic canopy views. While here, there's also the option to check out more of the area with a guided tour, or to fly through the canopies like a toucan with a memorable zipline experience.
From the jungle to the lake this morning, as you’ll head to the lakeside town of Flores (approximately 1 hour). Here there's time to grab some lunch and have a quick explore around the town. Then it's back on the private vehicle to Rio Dulce (approximately 5 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 you can take a short walk through the jungle. Take some time to absorb the atmosphere of this laidback Caribbean town, which feels quite different from the inland communities. A highlight for many guests is the 'Casa Natural' - an open-air accommodation with screened-in rooms, shared bathrooms and a lounge looking out to the surrounding jungle.
There is a load of kick-ass activities to choose between today. 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. Go boating on the lake, relax in the thermal hot springs or explore the nearby San Felipe fort in Livingstone. You could hike through the dense forest of the surrounding Chocon-Machacas Natural reserve and go out to spot the protected manatees of the area. Remember, the best thing is that you’re in laidback Guatemala, and with the flexibility of today’s itinerary, you decide what’s on the agenda.
Travel by private vehicle to the city of Antigua (approximately 8 hours). You'll spend the night here, before heading to Lake Atitlan tomorrow. You won't spend too much time in Antigua, but you'll be coming back here in a few days’ time, so not to worry! Still, take some time for a stroll and tuck into some tasty tamales (a local dish served in a corn leaf) or a dish called Pepian: a spicy meaty stew of chicken, beef and pork in a dark sauce. You'll find the best value food in the square next to the La Merced Church.
Today you'll get a seriously special Guatemalan experience. Start the day by travelling by private vehicle to the famous market in Chichicastenango (approximately 2.5 hours). This is the most colourful market in the country, where on Thursdays and Sundays locals come from the surrounding villages to sell their wares, and the streets are lined with stalls where you can stock up on cool trinkets. After visiting Chichi, head towards San Jorge La Laguna: a small Maya village overlooking Lake Atitlan (approximately 1.5 hours). Here you'll meet a Guatemalan family, and it'll be time to bust out your best Spanish to break the ice with these super friendly but shy locals. The group may be split in twos or threes, depending on the group size. The mother of the family will cook you basic but filling dinner early in the evening and provide you with an insight into Guatemalan family and culture. Bid the family adios before spending the night multishare glamping on the shores of Lake Atitlan.
Lake Atitlan is all yours to explore today when you wake up on the banks of its shimmering blue waters. There will be time to enjoy the other sections of the lake, so hire a kayak, or book in for a volcano hike or a mountain bike tour for a different scenic experience. After a day of exploring, you deserve a relaxing family-style dinner, which is all included on your return. By now, you may have realised that the Spanish name of your glamping experience, ‘Free Cerveza’, means free beer. Enjoy 2 hours of unlimited cervezas with your set menu, including soup, a main dish and dessert. You definitely won’t go hungry (or thirsty, for that matter). To sweat off the day’s activities (and food), be sure to enjoy the free sauna.
After an included breakfast, hit the road back to Antigua (approximately 3 hours). With three nearby volcanoes dominating the horizon, you won't have been to many places quite like Antigua. Experience a leader-led walking tour to orientate yourself around the World Heritage-listed city full of cobblestones, leafy town squares and ornate churches. There are hushed museums and lively indigenous markets to explore, or countryside to be cycled with amazing views of mountain peaks and deep valleys. If you're into salsa dancing, or if you'd just like to learn some moves, Antigua is the place to be. Many dancing schools offer hourly lessons, so you'll be able to move your hips. This is also a city that knows how to party, so bring your best dance moves, shout a round of mojitos and get down with the locals.
Enjoy a chilled-out day exploring the city. The number one stop for chocoholics should be the ChocoMuseo, where there's info all about its history and, more excitingly, a chocolate-making workshop. For those more interested in the other famous Central American bean, you can go on a coffee tour, visit the plantations, do some coffee tasting and even buy some to take home. Keep in mind tonight that there’s a group meeting where you’ll get briefed about the next stage of your epic adventure, and where you’ll meet a new travel crew! Before then, today’s all yours to choose your own adventure.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- San Jose - Leader-led walking tour
Hotel Posada Viena
#28 Calle Marsella, Cuauhtemoc
Phone: +55 55927312
Casa Las Orquideas
Avenida Central Calles 35 y 37
None of the activities featured in this trip require special training or skills, just a reasonable level of fitness and a willingness to participate. Cobblestones and uneven roads are common and you may be required to walk in hot and humid conditions. If you are in any doubt, please share these concerns or issues with your sales consultant so that your leader is aware prior and can pre-empt your needs.
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) with exception of Days 7 (Overnight bus), 16 & 17 (Tulum), 24 & 25 (Rio Dulce), 27 & 28 (Lake Atitlan), 37 & 38 (Ometepe Island), & 39 & 40 (San Juan del Sur) where you would be in shared accommodation.
3. To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures. Your leader and the composition of your group may change with the start of each adventure.
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.
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense, you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trips. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, flight tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests or relax and take it easy. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns. For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY: While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
MONEY WITHDRAWAL: In order to avoid fraud and theft, it is advisable that you withdraw money from ATMs located inside banks or guarded shops during business hours only.
LOCAL LODGINGS: On this trip you will be staying in some restored houses and local lodges - these are one of the charms of this journey, but their staircases, balconies and passages etc may not always comply with western safety standards. Please do not expect elevators in these properties as they are preserved to their original state.
FIRE PRECAUTIONS: Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
SEAT BELTS: Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
WATER SAFETY: Please take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water, where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It's expected that anyone taking part in water activities is able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.
LIFE JACKETS: While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
WhatsApp is a popular way to communicate in Latin America. We recommended downloading WhatsApp prior to departure to communicate with by text with your leader and group members during the tour. Once downloaded, please validate your phone number before leaving home as you will not be able to do this once you arrive, unless you have international roaming enabled. Connections for making phone calls through WhatsApp are not reliable, so please do not use this app to make calls to our emergency phone line.
If you receive an immigration card upon entry, please ensure you keep this safe as it may be requested at point of exit. For further information regarding country entry and exit fees, please refer to the 'Money Matters' section of this document.
Mexico - Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and The United States of America are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Mexico for the most up to date information. You will be required to fill out a Multiple Immigration Form (FMM) upon arrival. This FMM form must be stamped by Mexican immigration and kept until you leave. The maximum stay is 180 days, but they may sometimes put a lower number unless you specify otherwise.
Belize - Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and The United States of America are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Belize for the most up to date information. Although rarely checked, to enter the country visitors are required to have the equivalent of BZ$120 per day for the duration of their stay, as well as a return or onward travel ticket. Visitors generally get a 30-day stamp in their passport upon entering Belize.
Guatemala - Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and The United States of America are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Guatemala for the most up to date information. Under the Central American Border Control Agreement (CA-4), foreigners may travel between Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador for periods of up to 90 days without completing entry and exit formalities once per year. The standard length of stay is 30 days, but please ask for the 90-day option before they stamp your passport. This period begins at the first point of entry to any of these countries.
Honduras - Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and The United States of America are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Guatemala for the most up to date information. Under the Central American Border Control Agreement (CA-4), foreigners may travel between Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador without completing entry and exit formalities.
El Salvador - Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and The United States of America are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. For some nationalities, a Tourist Card must be purchased upon entry. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of El Salvador for the most up to date information. Under the Central American Border Control Agreement (CA-4), foreigners may travel between El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua for periods of up to 90 days without completing entry and exit formalities once per year. This period begins at the first point of entry to any of these countries.
Nicaragua - Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and The United States of America are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. For some nationalities, a Tourist Card must be purchased upon entry. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Nicaragua for the most up to date information. Under the Central American Border Control Agreement (CA-4), foreigners may travel between Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and for periods of up to 90 days without completing entry and exit formalities once per year. This period begins at the first point of entry to any of these countries. There is a new procedure to enter overland into Nicaragua which requires information about your group to be sent to immigration a week prior to the border crossing. Apart from sending details such as head count, dates and reservations, your leader will ask for your occupation and a copy of your passport to include.
Costa Rica - Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and The United States of America are not required to obtain a visa prior to arrival. Some nationalities will require a visa but be aware that you cannot get it at the border. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Costa Rica for the most up to date information. To enter the country visitors are required to have a return or onward travel ticket. Visitors generally get a 90-day stamp in their passport upon entering Costa Rica.
USA Visa Waiver - Applicable if arriving via the United States of America.
Many countries now operate under a visa waiver program, meaning a visa isn't required, however you still need to obtain an authorisation which confirms that you have been approved to travel. This authorisation must be obtained in advance of travel. See https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html
All travellers from Visa Waiver Program countries must obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to their flight from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) website: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov
All ESTA registration applications or renewals require a US$14 fee to paid by card. Apply for ESTA no later than 72 hours (we recommend 1 week prior to travel) before departing for the USA. Real-time approvals will no longer be available and arriving at the airport without a previously approved ESTA will likely result in being denied boarding. If there are any discrepancies between the name on your ESTA, your passport, your tickets or even your frequent flyer membership, you may be detained at Immigration and subject to a secondary inspection which could take a few hours. If you have recently changed your name, please check that your details have been updated everywhere.
If you are from a country eligible for the visa waiver program but are a dual citizen of Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan, or if you have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan since 01 March 2011, you will not longer be eligible for the visa waiver program and will instead need to apply for a non-immigrant visa. Please see the Department of State website for more information: http://travel.state.gov//content/travel/en.html
Why we love it
You’ve never tasted better Mexican food than that on a street food crawl. Get taco-d with your group in Mexico City, learning some local lingo at the same time.
Head deep into the jungle and experience the lush wilderness and cultural significance of Palenque and Lacanja – a real Indiana Jones moment.
Extended time in Caye Caulker and Antigua offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy laidback island vibes as well as buzzing colonial city life.
There's nothing quite like eating with a local family to really experience a place. At dinner you'll be experiencing traditional Guatemalan hospitality while improving your Spanish with the locals.
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, water sports, and hot springs in the shadow of this giant.
Is this trip right for you
Who doesn’t love a challenge? We definitely do here at Intrepid, 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. Our journey across Mexico also includes one overnight bus.
This trip includes time spent travelling in a private vehicle and public bus with your group, including an overnight bus journey. Extra space can be tight, and conditions may feel a little cramped. It’s all part of the adventure and a great way to get to know your fellow travellers. Please read the itinerary carefully for travel time estimates.
You’ll be crossing the borders between six countries on this trip and, while it is usually straightfor-ward, 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.
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.
There are many opportunities to get active on this adventure. Some of the optional activities, espe-cially 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.
All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
There have been reports of transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in this region and we advise all travellers to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Given possible transmission of the disease to unborn babies, and taking a very cautious approach, we recommend all women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant to consult with their doctors before booking their trip.
There is no commercially available vaccination against malaria, which is transmitted by mosquito bites and is a risk in many less-developed tropical areas in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia. Protection against mosquito bites is essential and where the risk is considered high, anti-malarial medications are recommended. Anti-malarial medications should be discussed with experts as there are different medications available and not all medications suit all people or all destinations. Where malaria is considered prevalent in mountainous regions we prefer that trekkers to altitude try to avoid the use of mefloquine (Lariam) if possible.
A valid international certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever is required in many countries. You may need to present this on arrival at the airport or border crossing. Some countries will refuse entry if you are unable to present your certificate. It's also quite common for your home country to request a Yellow Fever certificate on your arrival back home. It is your responsibility to check with your doctor well in advance of leaving home about the Yellow Fever requirements for the countries you'll be visiting.
Dengue Fever is common in Latin America and can occur throughout the year. Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil and parts of Mexico are currently suffering from a serious outbreak. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn.
Food and dietary requirements
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in this region. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat dinner together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
Please let us know your diet requirements before your trip starts.
Generally speaking, in bigger cities/towns vegetarians can expect a reasonable range of vegetarian venues and/or vegetarian options within tourist restaurant menus. However, vegetarianism is not the norm in this part of the world so options can be limited when eating at homestays, small local restaurants, street stalls, markets, etc.
More restrictive diet requirements (vegans, coeliac, gluten intolerance, fructose intolerance, lactose intolerance etc.) can also be accommodated along this trip but you should expect a lesser variety than what you can expect at home. We recommend that, if possible, to bring your own supply of snacks with you.
For those on strict Kosher or Halal diets we understand your dietary requirements are important, however, sometimes due to cultural and language differences these are not always easy to convey when you are travelling. Your guide will do their best to assist you in translating your needs when eating out, but please be aware that these diets are almost unheard of in much of the continent and the best they may be able to accommodate is no pork and shellfish. If this will be a concern for you you may need to consider opting for vegetarian or vegan meals for the included meals in your itinerary. We recommend researching kosher or halal options in your destination country prior to travel to see if you are able to buy snacks once there, otherwise consider bringing some from home.
When it comes to money matters on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like drinks, shopping, optional activities, tipping and laundry. It’s always better to bring a little more than you think you’ll need. Also make sure you’ve read your trip details thoroughly so you know what’s included in the trip price and what isn’t. This should make budgeting a little easier. You’ll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that’s this document).
The recommended amounts are listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers, however the local currency is needed in the countries you are visiting.
We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to the equivalent of an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result there may be some extra costs involved.
MEALS NOT INCLUDED:
For this trip we recommend between USD 25 to 50 per day. How do we work this out?
Breakfast - If breakfast is not included, you can expect to pay between USD5 to USD10 at a local café.
Lunch - If you are happy with a quick snack on the go, you may get away with as little as USD5 to USD10 for a set menu at a local eatery or a sandwich and a drink at a café. On the other hand, a lunch meal at a more tourist restaurant can cost between USD10 to USD15.
Dinner - At dinner time, your leader will normally recommend restaurants where you can safely try the local specialties of the region. Expect meals to cost between USD12 to USD25 for a main.
These are indicative prices only. If you are in a tight budget, are happy to eat just local food and are not afraid of an upset tummy every now and then, you can eat cheaper than this. If you want to try just the finest food at the finest restaurants, then you can expect meals to cost as much as in western countries.
CREDIT CARDS & ATMs:
ATMs are widely available in major towns and cities across Latin America. Credit cards are generally available in tourist shops and restaurants. Visa and Mastercard are generally preferred over American Express, Diners, etc. Smaller venues take cash only.
Check with your bank before departure that your card is accepted in the countries you are travelling to and what their fees and charges are. Also ensure your bank is aware of your travel plans as - suspecting fraud - they may cancel your cards after the first few international transactions. Be aware that your withdrawing limit may vary from country to country (regardless of your withdrawing limit in your home country) and it can be as low as the equivalent to USD100 per day. If bringing over cash, please note USD100 bills with serial number CB or BE and any other USD bills that are old, torn, written or stamped on will not be accepted by local banks.
Mexico currency information - The official currency of Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN). You can pay with major credit and debit cards at many hotels, restaurants and stores but otherwise plan on making cash purchases with pesos. You can use major credit cards and some debit cards to withdraw pesos from ATMs and over the counter at banks. Few businesses accept US dollars however this is the easiest currency to exchange.
Belize currency information - The official currency of Belize is the Belize dollar (BZD). You can pay with major credit and debit cards at many hotels, restaurants and stores. Most businesses accept US dollars without question, but change is usually given in Belizean dollars. You can use major credit cards and some debit cards to withdraw Belizean dollars from ATMs and over the counter at banks (USD$, GBP£ and CAD$ are exchangeable).
Guatemala currency information - The official currencies of Guatemala are the Quetzal (GTQ) and the US dollar (USD). ATMs are not always reliable although you can pay with major credit and debit cards at many hotels, restaurants and stores. Banks offer currency exchange but casas de cambio (currency exchange offices) are usually quicker and may offer better rates. The US dollar is the only currency freely exchanged in Guatemala.
Honduras currency information - The official currency of Honduras is the Honduran Lempira (HNL). You can pay with major credit and debit cards at many hotels, restaurants and stores. ATMs are not widely available in Honduras and they tend to only be inside banks; not making them accessible outside of banking hours (Mon-Fri 09:00-15:00, some banks open until 18:00. Some branches open Sat 09:00-12:00). The US dollar is the only currency freely exchanged in Honduras.
El Salvador currency info - The official currency of El Salvador is the US Dollar (USD). ATMs are widely available but not always reliable. You can pay with major credit and debit cards at many hotels, restaurants and stores.
Nicaragua currency information - The official currency of Nicaragua is the Nicaraguan gold córdoba (NIO). You can pay with major credit and debit cards at many hotels, restaurants and stores. You can use major credit cards and some debit cards to withdraw córdobas from ATMs and over the counter at banks. US dollars are widely accepted, but for smaller items using córdobas is cheaper and easier. Córdobas are not exchangeable outside of the country so we recommend you withdraw carefully and spend before departing the country.
Costa Rica currency information - The official currency of Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colón (CRC). You can pay with major credit and debit cards at many hotels, restaurants and stores. You can use major credit cards and some debit cards to withdraw colones from ATMs and over the counter at banks. US dollars are widely accepted except for taxi fares (so if you arrive by plane please ensure you get some local currency at the airport before taking a taxi).
Costa Rica is the most expensive country in Central America, particularly compared with its neighbouring countries Nicaragua and Panama. Expect meals, souvenirs and optional activities to cost as much as they would in western countries. That said, Costa Rica has done a great job of looking after its natural wonders yet maximising their potential as tourist attractions. So, while optional activities are pricey, you can expect a high standard of service, well maintained gear, clear paths and signalling and well trained local guides that allow you to make the most of every activity.
ENTRY AND EXIT FEES:
The below country specific information was correct at time of writing, however please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information.
Mexico - If you enter Mexico by air, the MX$500 immigration fee is included in your airfare. If you enter Mexico overland, the immigration office will arrange for you to pay this fee at a nearby bank. You will receive an FMM card upon entry which you need to retain and present upon exiting the country. If you exit Mexico overland, there is a Mexican Tourist Fee (DNI - Derecho de No Inmigrante) of MX$558 (US$30).
Belize – There is no entry fee. If you exit Belize by land, there is a fee of BZ$40 charge plus BZ$7.5 Protected Areas Contribution Trust. These can be paid in US$ or BZ$. If you exit Belize by air, a departure tax of US$35 is normally included in the cost of your ticket. Check with your airline.
Guatemala – If you enter Guatemala by air, there is no entry fee. If you exit by air, an airport and security tax of US$3 must be paid in cash at the airport but the USD$30 immigration fee should have been included in your airfare. If you enter or exit Guatemala overland, officially there are no entry or exit fees, however you may be faced with an unofficial fee of GTQ10 or GTQ20 each way (each time).
Honduras – If you enter Honduras overland, there is a US$3 entry processing fee. There is no exit fee.
El Salvador – There is no entry fee if entering by air or overland. If you exit El Salvador overland, there is no exit fee. If you exit El Salvador by air, a departure tax of US$32 is normally included in the cost of your ticket. Check with your airline.
Nicaragua – If you enter Nicaragua by air, you are required to purchase a Tourist Card for US$10. If you enter Nicaragua overland, you are required to purchase a Tourist Card for US$10 and pay a US$3 entry processing fee. If you exit Nicaragua overland, there is a US$3 departure tax. If you exit by air, a departure tax of US$35 is normally included in the cost of your ticket. Check with your airline.
Costa Rica – There is no entry fee. If you exit Costa Rica overland, there is a US$7 departure tax. If you exit Costa Rica by air, a departure tax of US$29 is normally included in the cost of your ticket. Check with your airline.
If you're happy with the service you receive, providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many destinations. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
The recommended tipping amounts are listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers. We do however recommend that you tip in the local currency - Hold on to your smaller notes and coins to make tipping easier. The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
- Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$5. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% of your bill.
- Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide. We suggest US$3-5 per passenger per day.
- Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We suggest US$3-6 per day for drivers.
- Local guides: There might be times during the trip where you’ll have a specialist local guide alongside your trip leader. We suggest tipping these guides about USD$2-3 per day.
- Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline USD$2-4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
In total, we recommend you budget approx USD$5-10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
What to take
Most travellers prefer to take a small to medium wheeled suitcase, which is a great size for the packing capacity in our private vehicles. Whatever you take, be mindful that you will need to be able to carry your own luggage, handle it at airports, take in/out of accommodation and perhaps even walk short distances. Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible. You'll also need a day pack/bag for activities and day trips. In terms of weight, airlines generally allow a maximum of 15-20kg for check in luggage and a maximum of 5kg for carry on.
Other than the items and clothing you always need on a trip, below we have listed packing suggestions specific for this trip:
- Warm as well as light clothing. Central America is often assumed to have hot weather, but it can get cold in the countryside, mountains and at night in the winter so we suggest you check the expected temperatures en route and bring clothing that you can layer
- Closed-in shoes will help to protect your feet from cuts and scratches when walking through cities as well as bush/grass-lands, and will also act as a barrier protection in rare cases against bites or stings
- Sun protection - hat, sunscreen, sunglasses
- Soft and/or hard copies of all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, travel insurance etc. and keep the hard copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a copy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary
- Water bottle. We recommend at least a 1.5 litre capacity. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments
- Electrical adapter plug (view www.kropla.com)
- Personal medical kit. Your guide will carry a large kit but we recommend you carry items such as mild pain killers, electrolytes and Band-Aids.
- Watch/Alarm clock or phone that can be used for both
- Travel beach towel
- Tissues &/or toilet paper &/or wet wipes
- Insect repellent
- Camera with spare memory card, charger &/or batteries
- Ear plugs to guard against a potential snoring room-mate
- Phrase book
Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables, and use your safe if available. It’s also a good idea to purchase a money belt or pouch that is easily hidden.
Laundry is available at many hotels and towns during this trip, although you might need to wait for a two-night stop in order to make sure you get it back in time. While laundry at hotels is usually charged by the item, laundromats usually charge by the kilo, which is generally inexpensive (about USD 2 per kilo).
Climate and seasonal
Please note that Hurricane season is June to October, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors these situations as they may arise, so that itineraries or activities can be amended as necessary.
A couple of rules
Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden.
Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking, and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption.
The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips.
By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. Your group leader has the right to remove any member of the group for breaking any of these rules, with no right of refund.
If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information.
Can’t stop thinking about your adventure? Tell us all about it! We read each piece of feedback carefully and use it to make improvements for travellers like you. Share your experience with us at: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback/
GENERAL ISSUES ON YOUR TRIP
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
BOOKING ENQUIRIES / ISSUES
For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist, or visit us at:
CRISIS AND EMERGENCIES
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please contact our local office:
Intrepid's Local Operator (located in Costa Rica): +506 6022 4721
Travelling responsibly is all about making good choices. It's about ensuring you have an incredible trip while also having a positive impact on the local environment, community and economy you're travelling in. How can you be a Responsible Traveller? See our tips below:
- Choose to travel with a responsible travel company like us! We've already offset the main carbon emissions of your trip, so your footprint is already lighter.
- Consider offsetting your flights when you book your trip/flights with us or your travel agent.
- Bring a refillable water bottle and some water purification tablets (or a Steripen) to cut down on plastic bottle waste.
- Be an animal-friendly traveller. Only go to venues that respect animals by allowing them to live normally in their natural environment. Steer clear of venues that use animals for entertainment or abnormal activities and/or keep animals in poor and unnatural conditions.
- Eat at local restaurants, buy from regional artists and support social enterprises so you can contribute directly to locals and their economy.
- Always be respectful of local customs and ask permission if you want to take a photo of someone.
- Learn a few words of the local language and engage with the people around you.
- Carry a cloth or re-usable bag so you can avoid plastic bags.
- Give back by making a donation to a local project via The Intrepid Foundation.
Share your thoughts with us by completing your feedback form after your trip. This helps us to continue to improve our commitment to responsible travel.
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Throughout the trip we request that our lodgings prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Essential Trip Information. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour.
A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and may be on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Hotel (32 nights),Overnight public bus (1 night),Cabin (1 night),Camping with shared facilities (1 night),Multishare lodge (2 nights),Lodge (2 nights),Multishare Hostel (2 nights),Multishare permanent furnished camp (4 nights)