TOUR: Central American Journey
OPERATOR: G Adventures
DURATION: 32 days
DESTINATIONS: 19 in 6 countries
(Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica)
START: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
END: San Jose, Costa Rica
STYLE: Nature, Adventure, Cultural
AGE: 18 – 39
RUNS: All year round
If you’re interested, I would recommend booking through TourRadar – it’s got the best price guarantee – www.tourradar.com
For a more in-depth look at each of the locations, have a look at my blogs from the Central American Journey tour:
- Playa del Carmen
- Caye Caulker
- San Ignacio
- Tikal & Flores & Lake Peten Itza
- Roatan Island & Leon
- La Fortuna
Itinerary: (The itinerary varies slightly sometimes, depending on conditions during the trip)
Day 1-2: Playa del Carmen (Mexico): You arrive at any time, the group meeting is at 6pm. Time is short in Playa/Mexico so I would recommend coming a few days early if you want to explore a bit more or see other places in Mexico. You have several options while in Playa – there’s Cozumel (great for diving); diving/swimming with whales (this one’s a bit expensive, and not for the sea-sick); Tulum (great cultural site, we had a small group so we organised a whole day outing which also included visiting a cenote and visiting the beautiful beach of Akumal); or you can just spend the day walking around the town and on the beach.
Day 3-5: Caye Caulker (Belize): The first taste of the Caribbean – and in an English-speaking country no less (Belize is part of the Commonwealth)! Spend the days in the crystal clear waters – I would highly recommend the Raggamuffin full-day snorkel tour (you can read my review here). You can also go fishing; or spend the day exploring the island via walking/bicycling/driving a golf cart. Two local hot-spots are The Split (a bar where you can enjoy your beer in the water) and I&I bar (picks up after 11pm). Also – try Lobster Nachos if you see it on the menu!
Day 6-7: San Ignacio (Belize): Travel inland in Belize to an ecolodge (it’s actually quite nice). If you go up into the mountains, you’ll see the landscape change drastically from the jungle scenery you expect (there are pine trees)! There are a lot of activity options at this stop – from horse-riding; canoeing into sacred Mayan caves; swimming in secluded waterfalls; or for the fit and adventurous – a tough canyoning adventure where you will see old Mayan artefacts and sacrificial bones.
Day 8-10: Flores & Tikal & Rio Dulce (Guatemala): Crossing the border you will notice a difference in the culture, with a heavy Mayan and Spanish influence. You stop at Tikal, one of the largest Mayan ruins. You can climb to the top of the largest temple and see some incredible scenery. You might also catch a glimpse of some wildlife, like toucans, monkeys, macaws, and coatis. A guide is organised for this to give you insight into how this great Mayan city functioned. Along the way on this long travel day, you stop at Lake Petén-Itzá, a great place for swimming. The day ends in the island of Flores, a small town that is great to explore – go check out Sky bar if you’d like a view with your beer. The next day you continue on to Rio Dulce, a tiny little island situated in the middle of a lake. This is another location for activities – there’s Yoga; kayaking and monkey-spotting; horse riding through a rubber plantation; and thermal springs.
Day 11-12: Antigua (Guatemala): A beautiful old colonial city in the mountains with cobblestone streets and churches, and one of my favourite stops on the trip. It’s located in a higher altitude, so you get a break from the humidity for a few days. You can visit the market and buy some souvenirs (I got a Mayan-style poncho); go bar-hopping; mountain bike in the country-side; hike the Pacaya volcano; visit Macadamia and coffee plantations, or just explore the town as I did.
Day 13-14: Panajachel & Lake Atitlan Homestay (Guatemala): Unfortunately I had to skip this part of the trip due to being sick and needing a rest, but from what I heard, the scenery is beautiful and the homestay was an enjoyable part of the stay where you get to learn a bit about the locals. This stop also has a lot of optional activities. And you also get to experience the world-famous Guatemalan chicken buses (aka being crammed into a pimped out school bus with locals)
Day 15-16: Antigua (Guatemala): Return to Antigua for a little R&R, and this is when some people in the tour will say goodbye, and you will be joined by new members! Also included in this stop is a planned salsa lesson.
Day 17-18: Copan (Honduras): Visit more Mayan ruins, and go to a natural hot-spring.
Day 19-21: Roatan Island (Honduras): Return to the Caribbean islands (and great/cheap seafood)! Crystal clear waters again which are great for diving and snorkelling. Some cools places to check out are the Sundowner bar in the West End, El Bosque (club) for later in the night, the Blue Marlin (Thursdays are karaoke nights), and take a boat ($3 one-way) to West Bay for a beautiful beach and nice resort-style bars/restaurants.
Day 22: Leon (Nicaragua): The travel day from hell. Leon’s more of a stop to break up the travelling than anything, but it’s always nice to have a quick look around before you leave.
Day 23-24: Granada (Nicaragua): Lots of beautiful churches here! This town is located on the shore of Lake Nicaragua. You can visit markets, go canoeing, or just wander around this old city.
Day 25-26: Ometepe Island (Nicaragua): Another home stay stop. You get to see how the locals live, and eat with them. Lots of activities available, including one of the hardest volcano hikes. Or you can rent a bike and ride around the island and visit a black sand beach, swim in a volcanic spring, and hike in a natural reserve.
Day 27-28: Monteverde (Costa Rica): Another stop for activities! Explore the cloud forests, get up close and personal with hundreds of hummingbirds, enjoy the cooler climate, visit coffee and chocolate plantations, go zip lining, or just walk around the town.
Day 29-30: La Fortuna & Arenal (Costa Rica): Mostly a place for activities. I would definitely recommend the white-water rafting to San Jose on the Pacuare River (there are a few rafting options) – a great last activity to do as a group, and you see some beautiful scenery of the Costa Rican jungle while you raft.
Day 31-32: San Jose (Costa Rica): I wasn’t a big fan of San Jose – it’s a big city, so it doesn’t have a lot of the charm of the other stops made along the trip, but it has an airport so there’s not much you can do about that.
Transportation: Expect long travel days (you are traversing a big distance after all). Transport varies from public transport on buses, to private vans, boats, and planes.
Accomodation: The hotels are basic, but that’s all you really need with such a full schedule since all you really do is sleep at the hotel. You’ll also have a roommate for the entirety of the trip.
Meals: Majority of the meals are not included (but food is affordable in this region anyway).
Value for money: This tour gives you a good bang for your buck. It’s one of the cheapest considering the amount of ground you cover. Don’t forget to leave some extra money for tipping!
Like most other tours, you pay for the basics like accommodation and transport, and extra for whatever activities you want to do. You’re also paying to have a guide – which is a great help when travelling in a region where English is not widely spoken, your guide is also good for suggestions of places to go/eat and things to do. They also take care of the most troublesome part of the trip – transportation and border crossings, ensuring a smooth process.
I’ve marked (*) the optional activities I really recommend doing based on my own experience and feedback from fellow group-members. Overall, the activities they offer are pretty good and if you have any questions I would ask the guide.
- Playa del Carmen (Mexico):
Snorkel rental $5
Ferry to Cozumel $18 roundtrip*
Diving course $350
Scuba diving (for already certified divers) $40-110*
Bicycle rental $16 day
Horseback riding $35-40
Dos Ojos Cenote Snorkeling Tour $35Caye Caulker:
Snorkel trips $35 – $70 (half day/full day)*
Blue Hole dive tour $200*
Manatee & dolphins tour $80
Snorkel equipment rental $10 (day)
Windsurfing $25 (for board & instruction/hour)
Sea kayaking $15 (half-day)
Two-tank dive $60
Sunset Sail Rum cruise $35San Ignacio (Belize):
Canoe rental $12
Barton Creek Cave $25 (4-hour return trip)*
Mountain Pine Ridge $35*
Half-day caving $15
Full-day caving $80*
Horseback riding $20-$50
Bicycle rental $2.50/hour
Butterfly farm $7.50
Boat tour: Lake Petén Itzá $12
Guided tour of Tikal – $60 divided by number of participants – approx. $6-12*
Entrance fee for Tikal ruins $8*
Transport to/from Tikal $8*Rio Dulce:
Hot Springs $18*
Boat trip to Livingston $18 (includes a swim in the hot springs)
El Castillo Fort $5
Horseback Riding $25
Birdwatching Boat Tour $25
Nature Walk $13
Howler monkey kayak morning tour $13-26 (depending on number of people)Antigua (Guatemala):
City tour $20
Pacaya Volcano $20
Bicycle rental/tour $10 / $35
Coffee /Macadamia nut Plantation tour $20
Salsa lessons $4/hr*
Santiago Zamora village tour $10Panajachel:
Boat trip $12 (to Santiago de Atitlán and San Pedro)
Bicycle rental $1.60/hr
Kayak rental $2/hr
Horseback riding $50 (full day)
Volcano climb $10
Nature Hike $5Copan:
Copan ruins entrance $10*
Copan guide $25 for the group*
Copan Museum $5
Horseback riding $15/3 hrsRoatan/Bay Islands:
Intro Open water course $240
One tank dive $25
Snorkel rental $5 – $10
Moped Rental $40*
Boat tours $10 -$20
Bicycle rentals $12
Las Isleatas Boat tour $15
Laguana Apoyo & Mirador Caterina $15
Taxi to/from Masaya market $15
Tour of Mombacho volcano $25
Volunteer at Proyecto Mosaico: $10 donation to EcoARTE Project
Learn how to make handicrafts from recycled materials and help local children put it into practice in Granada’s neighborhoods.
Climb Vocan Masaya with a guide $25
Climb Volcan Madera with a guide $25
Bike Rentals $12
Ojo de Agua spring $2*
Petroglyphs & Chaco Verde $25 (I would not recommend the Petroglyphs)
Horseback riding $20 (4 hours)
Hanging bridges $25*
Horseback riding ($25 for 1 ½ hours, $30 for 2 hours, $45 for 3 hours)
Butterfly garden $12
Trapiche Tour $30
Coffee tour $25*
Frog Pond $12
ATV $50 for a single, $75 for a double
Night Walk $22
Orchid Garden $10
Cheese Factory $10
Bat Jungle $10
La Fortuna/ Arenal:
Rafting Class III and IV (Full day – 7 hours) $75 (includes fruit on the river and lunch)*
Rafting Class II and III (half day – 4.5 hours) $65 (includes fruit on the river and lunch)
Canyoning/Rappelling tour $75 (includes breakfast or lunch depending on tour time – 4 hours)*
Mambo Combo (Rafting II and III with Canyoning) $139.50 (8 hours)
Venado Cave Spelunking $55 (4 hours)
Stand up Paddle $65 (4 hours)
Mountain biking $59 (4 hours)
Caño Negro Reserve $55 (8 hours)
Volcano walk/viewpoint/dinner and entrance to hot springs $45 (incl. transportation)
Viewpoint/dinner/entrance to hot springs $36 (incl. transportation)
Hot springs only $20
Hot springs with dinner $25
Cerro Chato Extreme Hike (6 hours) $59
Safari float $45 (4 hours)
Horse trip to waterfall $42 (4 hours)
Bike Rental $15/day
Volunteer Program at Proyecto Asis (feeding animals, playing with animals, baby monkey, and some physical work, includes snack) $59 (4 hours)
Carara Reserve $60 (full day w break & lunch)
Irazu, Orosi and Lankaster Garden tour $55 (with lunch)
Grecia & Sarchi $40 (oxcart & handicrafts)
City tour $24
Poas Volcano $51
Rafting (Pacuare) $90*
Rafting (Sarapiqui) $75
Braulio Carrillo Reserve $50-$65
Café Britt tour $20-$30
Butterfly Farm $20-$25