Discover Central America, Playa Del Carmen to San Jose - 32 Days
Well you don't get much better than this, 32 days exploring Central America! Sign me up, I hear you say?! Starting in the beautiful Playa Del Carmen, soak up those sun rays in Tulum - think Caribbean coasts- think Tulum! Turquoise waters, pristine beaches not a bad way to start if you ask me! There will be visits to colonial ruins a plenty on this trip. The infamous ancient Mayan ruins of Copan will make for fine photograph! There will be rainforests, Volcano's, taste the local cuisine when dining with your Guatemalan host family. If you would like a trip with many contrasts then this trip will be perfect!
- Visit the Mayan ruins
- Relaxing on the tropical island of Caye Caulker
- A visit to the Chichicastenango Market
- Kayak among mangroves at the famous Las Flores beach
- Volcano hike
Is this trip for you?
- If you like a bit of everything then YES!
- This is an organised group tour - perfect for solo travellers or groups of friends!
- Group size will be appox 1- 16 people
- Age range will be 18 - 39 year olds
- The accommodation on this tour will be comfortable hotels (29 nights), homestay (1 night) and camping with facilities (1 night)
- The transport on this tour will be boat, local bus and private mini bus
- Transport on tour
- Local guide
- Some activities
- Some meals (1 Dinner, 1 Breakfast)
What's Not included?
- Flights (Request a quote)
- Travel insurance - We can help you with this
Day 1 - Playa del Carmen
As with pretty much most of our tours, we like to take it easy on the first day. Make the most of our optional activities and suggestions of things to do, or just chill out and sleep off the jet lag before the fun begins in the evening. Orientation takes place at 6pm with your awesome guide who will show you the best of what Playa del Carmen has to offer after the sun has set.
Some optional activities include heading over to Cancun for a good party, or a ferry to Cozumel (famous reefs), or even go for a snorkel nearby.
Day 2-3 – Tulum
Tulum is pretty epic! Ruins that hug a cliff-top overlooking a pristine beach? Yes thank you. We definitely recommend taking the optional trip. It is going to be your Facebook cover page for weeks!
- Enjoy the coastal bus ride to Tulum
- (Optional) Visit city ruins from the pre-Columbian era
- Try and get the best picture ever of the seashore from atop the cliff
- Explore the Temple of the Frescoes
- Beach time, bring your towel and sunscreen only because you’ll want a little walk along the fabulous beach
- Experience the chilled out vibe of beachfront nightlife with a margarita in hand, or try to find the best mojito in town!
Day 4-6 - Caye Caulker
We enter Belize via land, but we are going to catch some waves by boat as we head out to Caye Caulker. Every dream you have had of islands and clear blue waters comes true here. Caye Caulker is only home to the second biggest barrier reef in the world, so expect to do some snorkelling!
- We will be getting the local bus to Belize, so we will have to make a few changes as it will not be a direct bus, but it is well worth the effort (8 hours of travel).
- There will be plenty of free time to explore the reefs and beautiful shores of Caye Caulker
Day 7-8 - San Ignacio
We catch the local bus to San Ignacio, but pass through the Belizean capital of Belmopan. This quick pit stop means you can visit the Mayan ceremonial centre of Xunantunich, or if you are not faint of heart, head to the caves of Actun Tunichil Muknal where you wade through water in search of crystallised skeletons…shiver but oh so cool!
- If you like, take a boat to Xunantunich (yes another place you can’t pronounce until you learn it from the locals) to visit another ancient Mayan centre, seriously you cannot get enough of the amazing views.
- There is also an optional day trip to the Mountain Pine Ridge area. There are waterfalls, swimming holes (that are warm!), and the caving system where you can find Tunichil Muknal.
- There is also tubing and canoeing through this beautiful, lush region
- If insects are your thing, there is also a butterfly garden
- The best thing about the local food is the barbecue street stalls - experience road side eating in Central America!
Day 9 – Tikal
We now tick off country number 3 and get to start off by camping in Tikal National Park (don’t worry- camping equipment is on us!)
Remember the movie Apocalypto? Yeah, me neither, but everyone says the Tikal ruins looks like that. Maybe watch the movie in preparation for the trip (hard work I know!)
- Dense jungle vegetation got its reputation here, so make sure you’ve got the right walking boots
- There is also a chance to climb to the peak of Temple IV for some more amazing jungle views from a high.
Day 10-11 - Rio Dulce
We reach ‘Sweet River’, or Rio Dulce, by bus. Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for… manatee-spotting (YAAAA!!!!), hot springs, the San Felipe fort, boating…This laid back town has got a bit of a different vibe from places we are heading further inland, so soak up the Caribbean vibes! You can also check out the Chocon-Machacas Natural Reserve, which is actually a really nice hike!
Day 12 – Antigua
Antiguaaaaa, what a place!
It’ll take us about 7 hours to get to Antigua, where we spend the night before heading over to Panajachel (don't worry we'll come back to Antigua).
- There will be enough time to take a little stroll around the centre and taste Tamales. You cannot go to Guatemala and not have had this world-famous dish (served in a corn leaf). There are also Pepian to try for the meat lovers, which is a mixture of 3 meats- pork, beef, and chicken- served in a dark sauce.
Day 13 - Chichicastenango - San Jorge La Laguna
Dinner is included today, happy days...and the best part? You get to eat with a Guatemalan family! Now, meals will not be extravagant, but you get to taste the local cuisine while you have the time of your life experiencing Guatemalan family life. Also keep in mind that your homestay might be very simple and basic: A bed, clean bedding, and a shared bathroom.
- Make sure you head to the famous Chichicastenango market. Be adventurous and try the local bus.
- There is also San Pedro La Laguna about an hour and a half away, a gorgeous little lakeside town to explore
Day 14 – Panajachel
You wake up this morning to breakfast provided by your host family. We head over to Panajachel town where you can do lots of exciting activities such as wind surfing, paragliding, kayaking, horse riding and hiking. There is also a community cooperative you can visit, a great way to witness what it means for people to work together towards a common good. Take a boat out to nearby villages for a taste of true village life here in the heart of Guatemala.
Day 15-16 – Antigua
From Antigua you can see not one, not two, but three smoking volcanoes. Even so, Antigua is not quite like any other place you’ve been. The city is listed as a World Heritage town. If you want, you can try and scale one of the volcanoes. Take some time to get lost on the romantic streets of Antigua.
Day 17 – Copan
The ancient Mayan ruins of Copan were discovered way back when in 1570, and will be some of the best pre-Columbian artwork you’ll probably ever see in your life. A lot of people think that this is actually a better experience then Chichen Itza, so, you know, you’re welcome. Copan is in the Honduras and there is also some wonderful hot springs to relax in.
Optional Tour: Mayan ruins of Copan
Day 18-19 – Suchitoto
Spend the morning taking in a bit more of Copan, because further south than this you will not be enjoying Mayan ruins and wonders listed on the World Heritage Site database. We still don’t know how they so mysteriously disappeared - maybe you’ll figure out the answer?
We cross the border in to El Salvador and it will take six hours to reach Suchitoto. Colonial, colourful, and beautiful, you will feel like you are walking in history rather than just observing.You will have a free day here to take part in all the crazy activities we can find in the area. The town actually looks over Lago Suchitlan, or a freshwater lake that is frequented by falcons and hawks migrating. You can get aqua-rious (haha, punny right?) by boat or kayak, or you can hike through the Cinquera rainforest. There are some more Mayan ruins for you to take in at Cihuatan, or if you prefer, there’s also the Guazapa volcano… we cannot actually confirm whether or not it is active, and scientists cannot neither.
Day 20 - El Tunco
Heading further south, we literally breeze through San Salvador for better waves, or the surf village of El Tunco, because who doesn’t love a good surf village with a laid back vibe and chillaxed attitude? There are some great restaurants to try local delicacies such pas pupusas (traditional corn pockets stuffed with pork, cheese, and refried beans).
Day 21-22 - El Cuco
We go eastwards today for the costal town of El Cuco. Dark sand beaches put this place on the map, and again, it’s time to get that surfboard out here. Playa Las Flores is actually one of the best surfing hot spots. El Salvador’s first microbrewery also resides here at Intipuca Beach… it’s pretty darn cool. Here we also get to stay in an eco-resort. This will give you an insight into how amazing it really is to adapt a greener lifestyle and how to truly live in harmony with local wildlife.
If surfing isn’t your thing then you can kayak here in the mangrove or head to Conchagua Volcano nearby.There is an opportunity to take a boat out to the ocean (sea-sickness alert!), or really get in touch with your inner self and take a yoga class at the resort.
Day 23-24 – Granada
No, you’re not in Spain, but you’re in Nicaragua! You will get a whole day in Granada to explore, recommended stuff to do includes heading out to Lake Nicaragua or visiting the national parks nearby like Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Parks. Fun fact: Founded in 1524, Granada is actually the big daddy, or oldest city of the ‘New World’ that was found at the time. A night on a town is probably on the cards here too! To travel from Comayagua it will be a full day of travel again, from bus to taxi to bus… make sure you bring a good book!
Highly recommended: check out the cobblestone streets of the city, or actually, head to the ‘islets’ that exist on Lake Nicaragua!
Day 25-26 - Ometepe Island
Another day, another bus and boat. We’re heading to the island of Ometepe which is on Lake Nicaragua. Compare volcanoes from Antigua with the one here. Fun fact: Lake Nicaragua is the largest fresh water lake in Central America, and even tenth largest in the world.There are also capuchin monkeys on Monkey Island! This island is largely agricultural so make sure you try the local food, it will not come fresher than this! If you haven’t tired of beaches yet, go sit on the beach by the lake, nice and calm and relaxing.
Day 27-28 – Monteverde
WELCOME TO COSTA RICA!!! The big daddy of activities here is the Sky Walk - suspension bridges hanging 40m above the jungle, making you essentially walk through the clouds. Sounds pretty cool, I know! Get active and hike a mountain and definitely do some bird watching here, It is going to be even better than Hyde Park, London.
Day 29-30 - La Fortuna – Arenal
Activities here are aplenty, you will not know where to start. Costa Rica is known for its amazing adventure activities and this is the place to do it. Riding a sky tram, zip-lining, mountain biking, kayaking, bungee jumping, swimming, paddle-boarding, whitewater rafting… excuse me while I rehydrate! Actually, before we go, just make sure you head to La Catarata de Fortuna for some amazing waterfalls.
Day 31-32 - San Jose
Last local bus of the trip and it’s down to San Jose. For a walk around town, start at the main plaza and from there, check out beautiful people in a beautiful city. There’s also a Gold Museum (if you skipped out on some culture before, here is your last chance to get in touch with the cultural side of you!). If you need last minute shopping to be done, head to Plaza de la Cultura to get handicrafts, or get your last taste of Central American seafood. Our trip ends on day 32 so nothing is planned, make sure you remember to say goodbye to your friends before you make any plans for the day.