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Central American Journey

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highlights
  • The stars of this trip are the dramatic landscapes of Central America. Think active volcanoes, idyllic beaches and emerald jungles
  • Quaint Suchitoto is a contemporary arts hub with a colonial facade. Flower-studded balconies, galleries housed in 19th-century buildings and a lake frequented by thousands of local birds – this little town is a real heart-snatcher
  • Stray off the beaten track in El Cuco, where the dark-sand beaches are secluded and the surf breaks are gentle and reliable
  • Nicaragua is often neglected by travellers in favour of its neighbours, but their loss is your gain! Travel through Central America’s largest country (and one of our favourites) and discover towns untouched by tourism
The Central American Journey tour starts in Antigua and ends in San Jose. The Central American Journey is an Explorer tour that takes 17 days taking you from Antigua to San Jose and through other destinations in North America.

From tropical forests alive with jungle melodies to vast freshwater lakes and active volcanoes, this pocket of Central America is pure, unrefined paradise. Whether you’re relaxing beneath shaggy palms on a dark-sand beach in El Cuco, spotting colourful birds perched on the colonial facades of Suchitoto, standing in the shadow of mighty Arenal Volcano or spotting sloths among the canopy of Monteverde Cloud Forest, this trip through Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica is perfect for those who like their adventures 'la forma natural'.
Welcome to Antigua, Guatemala. A small town of crumbling churches, vibrant markets and bohemian cafes set against the backdrop of monumental volcanoes, Antigua is the perfect place to ease into your Central American adventure. Speaking of adventure, yours officially kicks off with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today at the hotel. Please look for a note in the lobby or ask reception where it will take place.  We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. For dinner tonight, perhaps head out with some of your fellow travellers for a tamale, a classic staple of Mesoamerica that sees dough, meat and sauces steamed and served in in corn leaf. If you do decide to arrive in the city a little early (smart move!), there's plenty to do. Maybe satisfy your cravings and learn a the art of old-world chocolate production at the ChocoMuseo, sit by the fountain and people watch in Central Park or hire a mountain bike and tackle the lush countryside. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop - USD 25
  • Antigua - Bike tour - USD 40
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD 45
  • Antigua - Salsa lesson (per hour) - USD 7
Rise and shine for a long day of travel, leaving at around 4 am to beat the rush-hour traffic around Guatemala City. All up you'll be spending eight hours driving to Copan by private vehicle, and while the scenery is breathtaking in sections, it's a good idea to pack a book or download a few podcasts in case you find you need to break up the journey. Head into Honduras through the wild countryside of eastern Guatemala, arriving in the charming town of Copan in the early afternoon. While most people use Copan as a base to explore the nearby ruins, there are plenty of other points of interest, both along the cobblestone streets and set into the lush surrounds. Maybe get started in the Central Plaza and follow your nose to cafe. Or perhaps head to the nearby hot springs on an optional tour. Less than USD 50 gets you hours of soak time in mud baths, steaming natural baths and refreshing pools plus dinner, all among winding jungle paths.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Optional Activities
  • Copan - Natural Hot Springs & Dinner
This morning is free for you to continue explore Copan and its surrounds. Perhaps make an optional visit to the World Heritage-listed ruins of Copan, the remnants of the southernmost of the great Maya sites for which Central America is famous. Unique because of the numerous elaborate stelae – carved columns – still intact on site, there are also temples, excavated vaults and walls inscribed with ancient faces. A stroll through this old-world capital is bound to leave you pondering the adbrupt collapse of such a creative civilisation. Alternatively, nature lovers may wish to travel two kilometres out of town to the Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve. Dedicated to the conservation of the Central American macaw, the reserve also houses toucans, motmots, parrots, kingfishers and orioles. At approximately 1 pm, wave goodbye to Copan and head across the border to El Salvador by private vehicle. There's another substantial amount of time spent on the road this afternoon, so have that book (or your most sparkling conversation) handy to pass the time. All up the drive should take about seven hours, depending on conditions, and you are expected to reach the colonial town of Suchitoto in the evening. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Optional Activities
  • Copan - Archeological Museum (Entrance fee) - USD 7
  • Copan - Archeological site (Transport & Entrance fee) - USD 17
  • Copan - Macaw Mountain Bird Park (Entrance fee) - HNL 230
Begin the day with a guided orientation walk of Suchitoto, widely considered the cultural capital of El Salvador. Stroll past gorgeous colonial facades and get your bearings. Birders will want to crane their necks – Suchitoto lies on a bird migration path. The rest of the day is all yours to get among the optional activities on offer. Suchitoto overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande. Also known as Lago Suchitlan, this freshwater lake is a haven for the aforementioned migrating birds, particularly falcons and hawks. Maybe hustle a crew of four or more together and take a boat trip to Bird Island, or perhaps grab a historically-minded quartet for a guided walk through Cinquera Forest, where guerrilla fighters used the forest as cover during the civil war.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Optional Activities
  • Suchitoto - Boat trip to Bird Island in Lake Suchitlan (it requires a minimum of 4 travellers to operate) - USD 20
  • Suchitoto - War historic walk at Cinquera Forest (requires a minimum of 4 travellers to operate) - USD 50
  • Suchitoto - Morning kayak bird watching (requires a minimum of 3 travellers to run) - USD 35
  • Suchitoto - Town tour (it requires a minimum of 4 travellers to operate) - USD 25
  • Suchitoto - Birdwatching Walk (requires a minimum of 3 travellers to operate) - USD 25
Enjoy a sleep in today and head south-east at about 10 am by private minibus to coastal El Cuco (approximately 5 hours). There are some great dark-sand beaches close to town, including the beautiful Playa El Esteron and Playa Las Flores, one of the best surf spots in the country. Maybe head to a beach for a few beers under shaggy palms and relax while you wait for the sunset. As night falls, perhaps enjoy a seafood dinner along the water – the local crab are some of the best in the country. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Today you're free as a bird to explore the beautiful coast around El Cuco at your own pace. If you and a few others feel like getting active, you could take a trip to see nearby Conchagua Volcano. The views from the lookout are stunning, but you'll need a minimum of five people to take part. Alternatively, you might prefer to take a boat out on the ocean, find some inner peace during a free yoga class at the resort or simply relax in a hammock on the beach.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Optional Activities
  • El Cuco - Volcan de Conchagua lookout (it requires a minimum of 5 travellers to operate) - USD 35
  • El Cuco - Yoga Class (Subject to teacher availability) - Free - USD 35
Rise early for a full day of travel across the Gulf of Fonseca to Nicaragua. Leave El Cuco at 5 am and drive to La Union (approximately 1 hour) before a 3–4 hour boat trip through the Gulf of Fonseca to the Nicaraguan town of Potosi. The boat crossing through the Gulf of Fonseca can get choppy and the boat may take some water. If your pack is not waterproof, please be sure to wrap your valuables and electronics in a plastic bag. Once in Potosi, passports are checked before continuing by private vehicle to Leon (approximately 4 hours). Upon arrival your leader will take you on a walking tour of this charming city. Though it's the second-largest in the country, Leon is relatively free of tourists, making strolling the mural-lined streets a real pleasure. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Make the most of Leon in the morning. The street food behind the Lady of Grace Cathedral is some of the best in town, so why not grab a 'Nica taco'. Made with maize, rolled and then deep fried, these beauties are usually served with shredded cabbage and smothered in cream in Leon. Board a local bus bound for Granada at 2 pm, making the three-hour journey to the oldest city in the 'New World'. Featuring Moorish and Andalusian architecture and oozing colonial charm, the city is set on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and is surrounded by active volcanoes. Set out on a walking tour with your leader on arrival. Visit busy markets, the leafy Parque Central and 'La Calzada', a lively pedestrian street with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Today is all yours, so explore the city at your own pace. You may want to take a more comprehensive tour of the city, bargain hard in the markets or wander the cobblestone streets snapping photos of the colourful buildings. Hundreds of evergreen islets dot the waters of vast Lake Nicaragua, and you can spend a few hours exploring them by boat. Or perhaps hire a kayak and find your own way around, stopping to wave at fisherman who live in wooden huts on the islets, or the monkeys who live in the trees the huts are built from. Just remember not to take a dip, as freshwater sharks live in the water! Alternatively, you could take a day trip out to Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Park to get close to some hissing giants.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Optional Activities
  • Granada - City tour - USD 65
  • Granada - Mombacho Volcano hike - USD 40
  • Granada - Masaya Volcano night hike - USD 50
  • Granada - Laguna Apoyo kayaking tour - USD 45
  • Granada - Kayak rental (per day) - USD 30
  • Granada - Mi Museo - USD 5
Spend a morning at leisure in Granada. Perhaps start the day with a classic Nicaraguan breakfast of eggs, rice and beans, soft cheese, plantains and strong coffee. Then maybe hit the Convento y Museo San Francisco and view the collection of indigenous stone statues. At 2 pm take a local bus to Rivas (approximately 1.5 hours) and transfer to the port of San Jorge to catch a one-hour ferry across the seemingly endless waters of Lake Nicaragua to Ometepe Island. Hourglass-shaped Ometepe is formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua, one active and one extinct. The island is home to fruit plantations, deep jungle and exotic wildlife such as howler monkeys, caiman and parrots. Spend the evening on the island, and maybe head out for a beer at one of the waterfront bars.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Spend today however you wish on this gorgeous island. Both Concepcion or Maderas Volcanoe are hikable, but be warned that at 1700 and 1340 metres above sea level respectively the treks are no walk in the park. If you are going to tackle them, ask your leader for a recommendation for a local guide. You should also be aware that even for the very fit, both volcanoes will likely take all day (8–10 hours) to summit and then descend. You might prefer to splash around in the clear waters of the natural springs, soak up the sun on the beach or check out the ancient petroglyphs (rock carvings) scattered about the island. While the restaurants on the island are of decidedly mixed quality, your leader can give you the lowdown on which places to avoid and which to make a beeline for. Stick to local fare and you'll have more luck – perhaps try indio viejo, a stew of corn, beef, onion, tomatoes and capsicum.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Optional Activities
  • Ometepe - Concepcion Volcano hike - USD 45
  • Ometepe - Maderas Volcano hike - USD 45
  • Ometepe - Ojo de Agua natural spring - USD 25
  • Ometepe - Petroglyphs - USD 20
  • Ometepe - Charco Verde tour (includes lunch, Ojo de Agua and Mirador lookout) - USD 25
  • Ometepe - Charco Verde Reserve entrance fee - USD 3
Today is another early start in order to grab a 7 am ferry to the mainland (1.5 hours) and a one-and-a-half-hour transfer to Penas Blancas before crossing the border into Costa Rica. A USD 3 fee is required when exiting Nicaragua. Reaching the Costa Rican border also requires a one-km walk, during which you must carry your luggage. Proof of onward travel is normally required to enter Costa Rica, so if you're flying out of San Jose, bring a printed copy of your flight details in case the border officials ask to see them. Once in Costa Rica, travel by private minibus for five hours to Monteverde. Phew. Long day, but you made it! Welcome to beautiful Monteverde, which you can begin exploring straight away on a walking tour with your leader. Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers. These environmentally-aware settlers also established a small wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown into the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve. Cloud forests are similar to rainforests, but instead draw their water from a semi-permanent cloud covering the region. This is truly a nature lover's paradise. More than 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, on your walk. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Today you have a free day to discover the lush reserve at your own pace. Perhaps take a hike through the cloud forest, check out the area by mountain bike or fly over the thick canopy on a zip line tour. Another way to see the forest from above is to take a Sky Walk tour along a series of suspension bridges. You can explore the park on your own or arrange for a local guide to accompany you. Guided tours are particularly helpful for those interested in learning more about the local flora and fauna. You can get guaranteed sightings of exotic insects and snakes at the Butterfly Garden or the Serpentarium.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Optional Activities
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest (Entrance fee & Transport) - USD 40
  • Monteverde - Suspension bridges tour - USD 47
  • Monteverde - Zip lining - USD 90
  • Monteverde - Coffee & Chocolate tour - USD 35
  • Monteverde - Night walk - USD 35
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest Train - USD 60
  • Monteverde - Serpentarium - USD 15
  • Monteverde - Butterfly garden and insects farm - USD 15
  • Monteverde - Frog pond - USD 15
  • Monteverde - Orchid gardens - USD 12
Spend a final morning in the thickets of the jungle, perhaps taking one last walk to search for wildlife. Depart by shared minibus at 2 pm and head to La Fortuna. It takes about one-and-a-half-hours to reach the shores of Lake Arenal, followed by a further one-and-a-half-hour journey across the lake to the little town of La Fortuna. On a clear day you'll have fantastic views of the surrounding area, and watching the massive Arenal Volcano loom larger and larger as you approach is a spectacular sight. Once you reach La Fortuna hop on another minibus to the hotel, then freshen up and head out on a walking tour. La Fortuna is a favourite among travel writers for a reason – words like picturesque and breathtaking spring to mind when trying to describe the town in the shadow of the volcano.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Good morning! Why not start today with a smoothie and plan how you want to explore. Perhaps take a guided nature hike through the lush forest surrounding Arenal Volcano, keeping an eye out for rare plants and animals. You can also see the forest from a series of hanging bridges, which is a great vantage point for spotting wildlife like sloths and rainbow-coloured birds. Or perhaps check out the 70-metre-high La Fortuna waterfall set in the middle of evergreen rainforest. Active types might want to hit the lake on a stand-up paddleboard. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area is home to several thermal hot springs, an ideal way to relax in the middle of nature. Alternatively, a boat safari down the Celeste River offers the opportunity to see lizards, crocodiles and tropical birds in their natural habitat.
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Optional Activities
  • La Fortuna - Hot springs - USD 45
  • La Fortuna - Arenal hanging bridges - USD 56
  • La Fortuna - La Fortuna Waterfall - USD 15
  • La Fortuna - Nature hike around Arenal Volcano - USD 50
  • La Fortuna - Cano Negro boat tour - USD 67
  • La Fortuna - Stand up paddle board - USD 65
Watch the volcano fade into the distance as you begin the five-hour local bus ride to Costa Rica's capital, San Jose. Head out on a walking tour with your leader on arrival to see the main highlights. Later, perhaps visit the Gold Museum, which has an amazing collection of pre-Spanish gold art. If you're in the mood for a bit of shopping, head to the outdoor market in the Plaza de la Cultura or the city's Central Market, where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood. Prefer to have someone else do the organising for you? Check out the Urban Adventures offered in San Jose, from craft beer tours to day-trips to the countryside. Fin out more at urbanadventures.com/destination/San-Jose-tours
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - Cartago Bike & Train Tour - Urban Adventures - USD 59
  • San Jose - The Art of Craft Beer in San Jose - Urban Adventures - USD 68
  • San Jose - San Jose by Night - Urban Adventures - USD 74
  • San Jose - Costa Rica Pura Vida Experience - Urban Adventures - USD 63
  • San Jose - Tropical Rainforest and Chocolate Adventure - Urban Adventures - USD 99
  • San Jose - San Jose Bites and Sights Tour - Urban Adventures - USD 33
  • San Jose - National Museum - USD 12
Today your adventure through Central America comes to an end. There are no activities planned for the final day, but please be aware you must comply with the hotel's check-out time. There's a lot to see and do in and around San Jose, so if you'd like to extend your visit and need further accommodation, our reservations team are happy to assist (subject to availability).
what’s included
Accommodation
  • Hotel (14 nights), Lodge (2 nights)
Transport
  • Private vehicle , Public bus , Local bus , Taxi , Private boat , Shared boat , Ferry
Included Activities
  • Suchitoto - Leader led walking tour
  • Leon - Leader led walking tour
  • Granada- Leader led walking tour
  • Monteverde - Leader led walking tour
  • La Fortuna - Leader led walking tour
  • San Jose - Leader-led walking tour
what’s excluded
  • International Flights
  • Any international flights to Antigua and from San Jose are not included in this price. We always recommend that you arrive 1 day prior to your tour starting date.
  • Travel Insurance
  • Travel insurance is not included in this Central American Journey tour. Travel insurance is mandatory to buy. We recommend purchasing it from World Nomads.
Tour details
Booking Type Instant Booking  
Duration 17 days
Tour Type Group Tour - Max 16 participants
guiding method Live guide/instructor
Guide Language English
Starts/Ends Antigua/ San Jose
image description
Get a PDF file with detailed trip information: Download Trip Notes for Central American Journey
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Good to know
Payment

A deposit of 400 USD is required to confirm this tour. The remaining balance will be charged 57 days before departure. For any departures within 13 January 2019 full payment is required.

Travel Insurance

The Central American Journey tour requires that you have adequate and valid travel insurance covering medical and personal accidents, including repatriation costs and emergency evacuation. We recommend using World Nomads' travel insurance.

Visa

For this Central American Journey tour getting the required visa(s) is the responsibility for each individual traveller, as visa requirements vary depending on your nationality. We recommend to check with your local embassies representing the countries that you are travelling to, as part of this itinerary.

CancellationNo additional cancellation fees apply for this Central American Journey tour. You can cancel the tour up to 58 days prior departure and avoid paying the full amount, but your deposit paid is non-refundable. No refund applies for cancellations within 57 days of departure.
Trip Details
  • Last modified (date)

    16 Nov 2018

  • Trip title

    Central American Journey

  • Trip code

    QVRJ

  • Validity

    Validity: 04 Feb 2019 to 31 Dec 2019

  • Introduction

    From tropical forests alive with jungle melodies to vast freshwater lakes and active volcanoes, this pocket of Central America is pure, unrefined paradise. Whether you’re relaxing beneath shaggy palms on a dark-sand beach in El Cuco, spotting colourful birds perched on the colonial facades of Suchitoto, standing in the shadow of mighty Arenal Volcano or spotting sloths among the canopy of Monteverde Cloud Forest, this trip through Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica is perfect for those who like their adventures 'la forma natural'.

  • Style

    Basix

  • Transport

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

  • Physical Rating

    2

  • Physical preparation

    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.

  • Joining point description

    El Carmen Suites hotel is located in the heart of the beautiful Antigua of Guatemala, only five blocks away from the Central Plaza. The building resembles an old colonial house with the an ample and tranquil garden in the middle of building and all rooms surrounding it. In true colonial style, rooms feature small windows and rooms can be on the darker side. A beautiful terrace is available from the second floor with amazing views of the city. Other features include free Wi-Fi, laundry service, tours and transportation.

  • Joining point instructions

    An arrival transfer from Aurora International Airport to Hotel El Carmen Suites is available if arranged at the time of booking. Please advise your flight details at least 14 days prior to your trip start date. If you plan to arrive earlier, this departure transfer can only be offered in conjunction with pre-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid.

    If you have booked an airport transfer, a driver holding an Intrepid sign with your name will be waiting for you outside the luggage collection area. If you have any problems locating your transfer please contact the emergency number listed in the essential trip information document.

    Alternatively, a taxi to the hotel should cost approximately USD 25-35 and take between 40 minutes to more than 1.5 hours depending on traffic.. Otherwise, door to door shuttle buses operate from the airport to Antigua and it costs USD 10-15. These shuttles operate outside the luggage collection area and depart the airport once they have enough passengers..

  • Finish point instructions

    Intrepid offers a pre-arranged departure transfer service to San Jose International Airport [SJO] at an additional fee. If you require this service, please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your trip departure.

    If you have pre-booked this service, your transfer driver will collect you from your hotel 3.5 hours before your flight time. If your transfer has not arrived within 15 minutes of the scheduled pickup time please ask the hotel reception to call our Intrepid Emergency number, listed under ‘Problems and emergency contact information’ section of your Essential Trip Information document.

    Alternatively, you can travel from the hotel to the airport by taxi. The hotel reception will be able to assist you with a taxi. The drive to the San Jose Airport will take approximately 30 minutes depending on traffic and will cost approximately USD$30.

  • Group leader

    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.

  • Visas

    PASSPORT:
    Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking and airline tickets. As a general rule most countries expect that your passport has a minimum of 6 months' validity remaining. Take a copy of the main passport pages and other important documents with you, and leave another copy at home with family or friends.

    VISAS:
    Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. 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 specific to your nationality. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time. Also remember to check whether a transit visa is required on route to join this trip or on the way home.
    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. 

    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.

  • Is this trip right for you

    This trip involves some long travel days, especially on Day 8 from El Cuco to Granada. This 14-hour journey includes a boat trip across the Gulf of Fonseca and several hours in a mini-van. Although this can be tiresome, it's a great opportunity to sit back, enjoy the passing scenery and to bond with your fellow travellers. This is a real Central American adventure, after all.

    As this trip covers destinations across five countries, you'll need to make several border crossings. While these are usually straightforward, please prepare to be patient.

    Central America is tropical, so expect a hot and humid climate. Make sure you protect yourself from the sun, wear comfortable, light clothing and stay hydrated - especially when out on walking tours.

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

    There will be times when you have to walk with your luggage and for this reason we recommend using a backpack or something easy to carry, plus packing light.

  • 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.

    DIETARY REQUIREMENTS
    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, celiac, 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.

    SIMPLE BREAKFAST
    Some of the included breakfasts along this trip can be quite simple: toasts, spreads, juice and coffee or tea.

  • Money matters

    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.

    CONTINGENCY FUNDS:
    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.


    CURRENCY INFORMATION:

    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.

    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$2 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.

    TIPPING
    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.

  • Climate and seasonal

    WEATHER CONTINGENCIES:
    Please note that Hurricane season is June to November, 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.

  • Accommodation notes

    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.

    If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.

  • 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.

    SINGLE TRAVELLERS:
    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 Trip Notes. 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.

  • Itinerary disclaimer

    Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Essential Trip Information a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.

    OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES:
    A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and 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 it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

  • Accommodation

    Hotel (14 nights),Lodge (2 nights)

  • Finish point description

    Set in a simple stucco building with a tile-roof entrance, this downtown hotel is a minute's walk from a metro station, a 7-minute walk from the National Theatre of Costa Rica and 9 km from Tobias Bolanos International Airport. Unpretentious rooms with subdued decor feature en suite bathrooms, cable TV and ceiling fans; some have air-conditioners.

  • Alternate Finish point description

    Boutique Hotel Casa Orquideas is located a convenient 1.1 miles from the National Theatre of Costa Rica and Pre-Colombian Gold Museum. Juan Santamaría International Airport is 11 miles from the property. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant and free WiFi is available throughout the property. Each room is equipped with a flat-screen TV with cable channels. You will find a 24-hour front desk at the property.

  • Alternate Finish point instructions

    Intrepid offers a pre-arranged departure transfer service to San Jose International Airport [SJO] at an additional fee. If you require this service, please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your trip departure.

    If you have pre-booked this service, your transfer driver will collect you from your hotel 3.5 hours before your flight time. If your transfer has not arrived within 15 minutes of the scheduled pickup time please ask the hotel reception to call our Intrepid Emergency number, listed under ‘Problems and emergency contact information’ section of your Essential Trip Information document.

    Alternatively, you can travel from the hotel to the airport by taxi. The hotel reception will be able to assist you with a taxi. The drive to the San Jose Airport will take approximately 30 minutes depending on traffic and will cost approximately USD$30.

  • Alternate Joining point description

    This 150 year old property offers a classic colonial sytle of architucture with ample internal gardens and galleries. This hotel is perfectly located just meters from the city centre and the famous Arch of Antigua. True to its colonial style, rooms can be on the darker side with small window facing outside. The hotel features 24hr reception, cable tv, safety box, free Wi-Fi, access to free water dispensers and coffee and tea facilities.

  • Alternate Joining point instructions

    Intrepid offers a pre-arranged arrival transfer service from Guatemala City International Airport [GUA] at an additional fee. If you have pre-booked this service, please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised.

    If you have pre-booked this service; please look for the sign with the Intrepid brand and your name on it after exiting customs. If you have any problems and cannot locate your driver on arrival, please call our Intrepid Emergency number listed under the ‘Problems and emergency contact information’ section of your Essential Trip Information document. If you don’t have a device or mobile coverage, Guatemala City Airport has a free Wi-Fi connection so you can call that same number via an online application such as Skype. There are also several information desks and tourist information desks around if you require further assistance.

    Otherwise, you can travel from the Guatemala City Airport to the hotel by taxi. We recommend you use the authorised taxi services organised from inside the terminal. They will charge you approximately GTQ250-285 (USD$35-40) for a trip to Antigua. The drive to where the hotel is located is approximately 1.5 hours depending on traffic.

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