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Epic Mexico to Costa Rica

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Epic Mexico to Costa Rica

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Description

From cloud forests and volcanic peaks to sun-drenched island beaches and lost temples, Central America is bursting with natural wonders and converging cultures. On this 32-day adventure, you’ll kick off in Mexico’s Playa del Carmen and snake through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Relax by colourful architecture in San Miguel, trek to the jungle ruins of Tikal, brush up on your Espanol over an icy cerveza and stay in villages dwarfed by volcanoes. Whether you’re haggling in the markets of Chichicastenango, chilling in a Caribbean town on the Rio Dulce or wandering cobblestone streets in Antigua, this tour gives you a taste of Central America’s myriad of flavours. From ancient Maya ruins to modern nightlife, you’ll explore the sights and sounds of Latin life and dive into the wilds of seldom-seen hotspots.

Trip Name
Epic Mexico to Costa Rica
Last Updated
2024-07-23
Days
32
Capacity
16
Highlights
  • Enjoy traditional Guatemalan hospitality with a homecooked lunch in a local home in San Juan La Laguna, after visiting a local midwife, walking through medicinal gardens and experiencing a weaving and dying workshop. 
  • Head to Tikal National Park within the dense Maya forest to explore ancient Maya ruins at the archaeological site – you might like to opt to swing through the canopy on the optional zipline experience! 
  • Hike, cycle or zip-line through the steamy cloud forests of Monteverde in Costa Rica and commune with nature in one of the world’s most incredible landscapes. 
  • Island life doesn’t get much better than Ometepe in Nicaragua and Caye Caulker in Belize – volcanoes, wildlife-rich rainforests, stunning beaches, ancient rock carvings, laidback vibes, palm tree forests and a massive lake are all at your disposal. 
  • Get a taste of six different countries in Central America on an epic Latin adventure that takes in the sights and offers a whole heap of optional activities too! You’ll have loads of free time to choose your own hike, snorkel, kayak, swimming or dancing adventure.  

Itinerary

ITINERARY CHANGES 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's important that you review this information prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays, political unrest or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in-country. Your group leader or local representative will keep you up to date with any such changes once your trip is underway. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES 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 fees only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and maybe 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 group leader or local representative know you are interested at the Welcome Meeting 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 group leader or local representative 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.

Day 1 - Playa del Carmen
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Mexico. You’ll kick things off in Playa del Carmen – it’s recommended that you book a couple of extra days here to chill on the coast and explore at your own pace before the trip starts. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm at your hotel. If you arrive early, maybe go snorkelling or cycling, or simply stroll along the sandy playa (beach). Tonight, head out with your group leader for an included dinner at a local taquisa for a selection of delicious tacos – make sure you order one with freshly caught fish! To improve your lingo, your group leader will conduct an informal Spanish lesson between bites, so that you can understand your burritos from your banos.
Day 2 - Tulum
Today, you’ll hop on a local bus and travel along the Caribbean coast to Tulum, where it's all about that laidback life on the white sands of the Yucatan Peninsula. Head out on a leader-led orientation walk around Tulum and maybe visit one of the best-looking Maya sites – the Temple of the Frescoes. See how this pre-Columbian walled ruin city clings to a clifftop overlooking the ocean and grab some cool photos before heading for an optional swim in the archaeological zone. Tonight, maybe kick back and watch the waves roll in at a beachside bar with a margarita.
Day 3 - Tulum
With a free day to relax in Tulum, you can settle into the laidback Mexican vibe. Maybe rent a bike and cruise around the area on two wheels. The town is heaving with hip cafes and restaurants with many vegetarian and vegan options. There are also plenty of places to relax the mind and the body with yoga and meditation. Maybe you’d like to explore Dos Ojos (two eyes) – one of the area's most famous cenotes (freshwater rock pools) and an underwater world full of stalagmites and stalactites. Tonight, explore the vibrant nightlife of Tulum with your fellow travellers.
Day 4 - Caye Caulker
Say adios to Mexico and hello to Belize. You’ll have a long travel day today, so make sure you grab a window seat if you can or get stuck into a good book. This is also the perfect opportunity to get to know your fellow travellers a bit better! Drive by local bus to the border, then carry on to Belize City. Let the wind and the sea wash the travel sweat away with a 1-hour speedboat ride when you arrive – to the palm-fringed island of Caye Caulker.
Day 5 - Caye Caulker
Your time in Caye Caulker is all about taking it easy. It’s said that the pace of life is so slow here that it's almost backwards! If being underwater is your thing, maybe head out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, 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 as each island has its own Caribbean charm. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, which makes chatting with locals much easier here.
Day 6 - Caye Caulker
Today is another free day to take up any other optional activities you like, or to simply pull up a towel and relax on the beach with a book, a cocktail or some friends. If you’ve already been snorkelling, maybe continue the marine exploration with a manatee tour. Get more active with sea kayaks and stand-up paddle boards or go the other way 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.
Day 7 - San Ignacio
Leave island paradise behind today and return to Belize City by boat, before taking a local bus to San Ignacio via Belize’s capital, Belmopan. 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. Arrive in San Ignacio – a lively town surrounded by fast-flowing rivers, waterfalls and Mayan ruins, making it the best base for exploring the region. Your afternoon is free, so maybe visit the Chaa Creek butterfly garden, or try one of the barbeque street stalls for a char-grilled chicken leg for dinner.
Day 8 - San Ignacio
There is heaps to do in San Ignacio, so your free day has endless possibilities. The cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal is a living museum of Maya relics and you can wade through its waters until you reach a bunch of spooky 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, maybe take a trip 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 tonight, maybe walk down Burns Avenue and join the locals for a chat in one of the many restaurants or streetside stalls.
Day 9 - Tikal National Park
Today you’ll leave San Ignacio, cross the border and get dropped off at Tikal National Park – often referred to as the Maya forest. Check-in at your hotel before exploring the Maya ruins of Tikal. 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 zipline.
Day 10 - Rio Dulce
Head from the jungle to the lakeside town of Flores this morning. Here, there's time to grab some lunch and quickly explore the town. Then it's back to the private vehicle to Rio Dulce. When you arrive, you’ll 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.
Day 11 - Rio Dulce
There is a load of kick-ass activities to choose from in Rio Dulce today. Take a scenic boat trip down the river to Livingston – a laidback town on the Caribbean coast that offers the 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 Livingston. You could also hike through the dense forest of the surrounding Chocon-Machacas Natural Reserve and spot the protected manatees of the area.
Day 12 - Antigua
This morning you’ll travel to Antigua, where you’ll spend the night before heading to Lake Atitlan. When you arrive, maybe stroll around the city and tuck into some tasty tamales (a local dish served in a corn leaf) or pepian (a spicy meat 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.
Day 13 - Chichicastenango / Lake Atitlan
Travel by private vehicle to the famous market in Chichicastenango (nicknamed Chichi market). 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 to Panajachel on Lake Atitlan, where you'll check in to your hotel. Tonight, you’ll join your group for dinner at a local pupuseria.
Day 14 - Lake Atitlan
This morning, make a trip to San Juan La Laguna to immerse yourself in Mayan village life. Visit a local midwife to learn about this traditional and sacred art. Then visit the village's medicinal garden before a hands-on workshop where you'll learn about Mayan textile weaving and dyeing techniques. Hungry yet? Settle in for a homestyle lunch with your hosts and chat about life in the village. This is the perfect way to really immerse yourself in local culture and get off the beaten track. In the afternoon, you’ll return to Panajachel and soak up the views of deep blue Lake Atitlan with a free evening.
Day 15 - Antigua
After breakfast, hit the road back to Antigua – three nearby volcanoes dominate the horizon, creating a truly unique landscape. Join your leader on a walk 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 here, or you can cycle the countryside and chase 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 maybe sign up and move your hips. Tonight, why not bring your freshly learned dance moves, shout a round of mojitos and dance the night away.
Day 16 - Antigua
You have a free day in Antigua today, so why not explore the vibrant buildings and curved archways further, or hike around the puffing volcanoes of Pacaya, Agua and Jumaytepeque. The number one stop for any chocoholic should be the ChocoMuseo, where you’ll get a history lesson and, more excitingly, participate in 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 tastings and even buy some for the road. Tonight, you’ll have a second welcome meeting at 6 pm to meet your new fellow travellers.
Day 17 - Cerro Verde
Today will be an early start as you journey across the Guatemalan border to your next destination, Cerro Verde, El Salvador. 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 landscapes and endless mountain terrain while learning the local lingo from your leader in an informal Spanish lesson. Arrive in Cerro Verde in the afternoon and enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure.
Day 18 - Cerro Verde
Today is all about fuelling up with local favourites and getting outdoors! Maybe visit Santa Ana’s volcanic crater for spectacular views of Lake Coatepeque, Juayua and Izalco Volcano. Or, instead of admiring the view from the 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. El Salvador is also home to pupusas (a flatbread made from cornmeal and often stuffed with fillings like cheese, fried pork or refried beans), and tonight, you’ll watch a pupusa-making demonstration, then try some for yourself! Yum!
Day 19 - San Miguel
This morning you’ll continue south by private vehicle, passing through the capital of San Salvador on your way to San Miguel. Resting in the shadows of Chaparrastique, an active volcano sets the backdrop to this vibrant town. San Miguel has rebuilt itself into one of the country's largest and most populated cities since facing a severe earthquake in 1917. This afternoon, explore the city on foot, opt to take a swim at the Cuevas de Moncagua or find a good dinner spot to hole up with a few new travel buddies.
Day 20 - Leon
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 locally). The drive will be well worth the ride as you’re welcomed into the artsy and sophisticated city of Leon. Why not refuel after your journey with some traditional Nicaraguan dishes like gallo pinto (this hearty combination of rice and beans is considered a national symbol) or quesillo (a cheesy treat made of corn tortillas, pickled onion and sour cream). 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 nightlife. Why not head out with the group tonight for an optional salsa dance class.
Day 21 - Granada
You’ll join your leader on an orientation walk around Leon this morning. Then, take some time to explore on your own, maybe checking out the Basílica de la Asuncion – Central America’s largest cathedral. Or stop by the Museo Historico de la Revolucion for an insight into revolutionaries who fought hard for the freedom of their country. You might like to go volcano sandboarding (this is the only place in the world where you can do it) in the dunes. If you’re feeling peckish, why not fill up on the traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs and gallo pinto before jumping on some local busses to Granada – founded in 1524 and draped in colourful architecture, this city is set on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and surrounded by active volcanoes.
Day 22 - Granada
This morning you’ll have breakfast with your group at Cafe de las Sonrisas – a local café run entirely by deaf people. The café's owner is aiming to bridge the gap and inspire other business owners to employ local people living with disabilities. Then, you’re free to explore Granada – one of Central America’s least spoiled towns. Maybe you’d like to take a guided tour of the city, visit 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 bike and ride to Laguna De Apoyo (a 200-year-old lake set into a lush forest crater), or hike through the flora and fauna along the Mombacho volcano crater trail. For a cultural insight into the heritage of the Nicaraguan people, the city of Masaya or the ‘City of the Flowers’ offers a mixture of folkloric entertainment, from marimba music to street theatre. Tonight, maybe spend your evening along Calle la Calzada, where you can grab a drink at one of the many outdoor bars and watch the wandering performers bring the street to life.
Day 23 - Ometepe Island
This morning, travel by local bus to Rivas, where you'll transfer to San Jorge ferry port by taxi. 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. Sit on the shore and watch fishermen return from a long day on the water with their catch or hike to a nearby waterfall.
Day 24 - Ometepe Island
Take advantage of a free day in this bucket list location to discover the island at your own pace. Maybe hike to the summit of Maderas volcano – but be warned, at 1394 m above sea level, this trek is 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, this is the place for you as you’ll have loads of delicious fresh fruit to feast on. Tonight, head to Los Ramos – an Indigenous community 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 for a meal together.
Day 25 - San Juan del Sur
Today you’ll journey by ferry and public bus to San Juan del Sur – a laidback surf town on Nicaragua’s southwest coast. Though the beach that lines the town’s horseshoe bay isn’t particularly great for swimming, you don’t need to travel far to find beautiful golden beaches with year-round waves. You’ll have some free time today to acquaint yourself with this fun town.
Day 26 - San Juan del Sur
Enjoy a free day exploring San Juan del Sur’s colourful coastal scenery. San Juan del Sur has plenty to offer if you're feeling active. You might like to rent a surfboard and spend the day riding the waves at nearby beaches like Playa Maderas or Playa Marsella, or 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 massive statue of Christ (the largest in Central America) sits atop a cliff above the bay, so why not hike to the top for spectacular views of the town and the Pacific. In the evening, the city boasts a variety of great bars and restaurants where you can share a meal or a few drinks with the group.
Day 27 - Monteverde
Say adios to Nicaragua and continue your journey south to Costa Rica this morning. Take a bus to the border and then travel by private vehicle to Monteverde. 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 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.
Day 28 - Monteverde
Today you have a free day to discover the reserve. Monteverde is not for the faint-hearted, so bring your sense of adventure, and a solid pair of shoes and have a little fun with the giddy heights. Maybe 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 m 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.
Day 29 - La Fortuna
Continue your journey through Costa Rica and take the scenic route to La Fortuna. Travel by shared minibus to Lake Arenal, 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 to your destination. La Fortuna is a small town just a few minutes from Costa Rica's most famous volcano – Arenal. While you're here, you might like to take some photos of the volcano reflected in the lake.
Day 30 - La Fortuna
There are plenty of optional activities to participate in today. Maybe 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 m high La Fortuna waterfall or get wet with some water sports on the lake, like 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.
Day 31 - San Jose
This morning you’ll take a local bus to Costa Rica's capital – San Jose. Situated in the fertile Central Valley and home to over half the country's population, San Jose has lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. A good place to start your exploration is the central plaza. The Gold Museum also has a fantastic collection of Indigenous gold art. If you're in the mood for some shopping, head to the Mercado Municipal de Artesanias or the city's Central Market, where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood. This afternoon you might want to rejoin your group for a final farewell dinner (or margarita) and say muchas gracias to your Central American journey.
Day 32 - San Jose
Today your Central American adventure comes to an end, and there are no activities planned. As there's a lot to see and do in and around San Jose, it’s recommended you stay here for a few days to make the most of the city. If you'd like to extend your visit, just speak to your booking agent ahead of time.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
13-08-202413-09-2024AUD $ 3,537-
10-09-202411-10-2024AUD $ 3,604-
08-10-202408-11-2024AUD $ 4,025-
22-10-202422-11-2024AUD $ 4,700-
05-11-202406-12-2024AUD $ 4,345-
19-11-202420-12-2024AUD $ 4,470-
03-12-202403-01-2025AUD $ 4,345-
17-12-202417-01-2025AUD $ 4,140-
07-01-202507-02-2025AUD $ 4,450-
14-01-202514-02-2025AUD $ 4,450-
21-01-202521-02-2025AUD $ 4,450-
04-02-202507-03-2025AUD $ 4,290-
18-02-202521-03-2025AUD $ 4,290-
04-03-202504-04-2025AUD $ 4,290-
01-04-202502-05-2025AUD $ 4,290-
15-04-202516-05-2025AUD $ 4,120-
22-04-202523-05-2025AUD $ 4,120-
06-05-202506-06-2025AUD $ 4,290-
27-05-202527-06-2025AUD $ 4,290-
10-06-202511-07-2025AUD $ 4,290-
24-06-202525-07-2025AUD $ 4,120-
15-07-202515-08-2025AUD $ 4,120-
29-07-202529-08-2025AUD $ 4,120-
12-08-202512-09-2025AUD $ 4,120-
26-08-202526-09-2025AUD $ 4,120-
23-09-202524-10-2025AUD $ 4,290-
21-10-202521-11-2025AUD $ 4,290-
04-11-202505-12-2025AUD $ 4,450-
11-11-202512-12-2025AUD $ 4,450-
18-11-202519-12-2025AUD $ 4,450-
25-11-202526-12-2025AUD $ 4,450-
02-12-202502-01-2026AUD $ 4,450-
09-12-202509-01-2026AUD $ 4,450-
23-12-202523-01-2026AUD $ 4,450-
06-01-202606-02-2026AUD $ 4,970-
13-01-202613-02-2026AUD $ 4,970-
03-02-202606-03-2026AUD $ 4,970-
17-02-202620-03-2026AUD $ 4,970-
03-03-202603-04-2026AUD $ 4,790-
31-03-202601-05-2026AUD $ 4,790-
05-05-202605-06-2026AUD $ 4,600-
09-06-202610-07-2026AUD $ 4,600-
23-06-202624-07-2026AUD $ 4,600-
14-07-202614-08-2026AUD $ 4,600-
28-07-202628-08-2026AUD $ 4,600-
11-08-202611-09-2026AUD $ 4,600-
25-08-202625-09-2026AUD $ 4,600-
22-09-202623-10-2026AUD $ 4,790-
20-10-202620-11-2026AUD $ 4,790-
03-11-202604-12-2026AUD $ 4,790-
24-11-202625-12-2026AUD $ 4,970-
15-12-202615-01-2027AUD $ 4,970-

Accommodation

Hotel (23 nights),Multishare lodge (2 nights),Multishare Hotel (2 nights),Multishare Hostel (2 nights),Camping (2 nights)

Transport

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

Map