Real Guatemala to Costa Rica
|Resort:||Real Guatemala to Costa Rica|
|Destination:||Caribbean and Central America|
From the Guatemalan highlands to the cloud forests of Costa Rica and all the adventure towns and surf spots in between, roll through four Central American countries for a taste of what this incredibly diverse region is plating up. From tropical forests alive with jungle melodies to vast freshwater lakes and active volcanoes, this pocket of Central America is pure, unrefined paradise. Whether youre climbing a volcanic crater in Cerro Verde, spotting colourful birds perched on the colonial facades of Granada, standing in the shadow of mighty Arenal Volcano or spotting sloths among the canopy of Monteverde Cloud Forest this trip through Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica is perfect for those who like their adventures ‘la forma natural’.
Day 1 Antigua
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Guatemala. There are no planned activities today until your important welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early, why not head out on a caffeine-fuelled coffee quest with Urban Adventures head beyond the city to explore local plantations and get buzzed and brewed as you learn the history of the bean in Guatemala. Find out more at urbanadventures.com. After the meeting, take an orientation walk around the city with your leader and acquaint yourself with the cobblestone streets and colonial-era plaza. In 1773, the city of Antigua was destroyed by an earthquake, but many of the colonial buildings have been restored. For dinner tonight, perhaps sample a tamale, a local dish served in corn husk, or some pepin, a rich, meaty stew, then surely its time for a mojito with your new friends!
Day 2 Cerro Verde
Rise and Shine! Today is an early start as you journey across the Guatemalan border to your next destination, Cerro Verde, El Salvador (approximately 5 hours). From rolling hills to rolling Rs, watch the world go by from the comfort of your private vehicle as you travel through lush volcanic landscape and endless mountain terrain all while learning the local lingo from your leader in an informal Spanish lesson. Arrive in Cerro Verde and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.
Day 3 Cerro Verde
Today is a free day for you to get outdoors! Opt to hike up to the edge of Santa Anas Volcano crater for some more spectacular views of Lake Coatepeque, Juayua and Izalco Volcano. Alternatively, instead of admiring its view from the volcano crater, why not take a dip in Lake Coatepeque! There are many ways to keep busy in one of El Salvador’s most beautiful national parks.
Day 4 San Miguel
Continuing south by private vehicle today, pass through the capital of San Salvador on your way to San Miguel (approximately 3-4 hours). Resting in the shadows of Chaparrastique, an active volcano that sets the backdrop to this vibrant town, San Miguel has rebuilt itself into one of the largest and most populated cities in the country since facing a severe earthquake in 1917. El Salvador is also home to Papusas, a type of flatbread made from cornmeal and often stuffed with delicious fillings like cheese, chicharrn (fried pork) or refried beans. Today in San Miguel, visit a local street vendor and watch a papusa making demonstration, then try some of course!
Day 5 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 its known as locally). The 6-hour drive (plus stops) will be well worth the ride as youre welcomed into the charming, artsy and sophisticated city of Leon. Why not refuel after your journey with some traditional Nicaraguan dishes, Gallo Pinto, with its hearty combination of rice and beans, is considered a national symbol alternatively, perhaps try out some of your new Spanish skills and order a Quesillo, a cheesy treat made of corn tortillas, pickled onion and sour cream. Once the capital of Nicaragua, Leon has long been the heart and soul of the countrys political movements, which is demonstrated through the citys colourful street murals an artistic reflection of fallen heroes and revolutionary icons. Home to one of the oldest universities in Central America, Leon is considered a college town and is known for its youthful, fun atmosphere and energetic nightlife. This evening, why not head out with the group for some bachata or salsa dancing!
Day 6 Granada
This morning is free to explore Leon, perhaps check out the Baslica de la Asuncin Central Americas largest cathedral or stop by the Museo Histrico de la Revolucin for an insight the revolutionaries who fought hard for the freedom of their country. Alternatively, you might like to go volcano sandboarding! (This is the only place in the world that you can do it). Afterwards, if youre feeling peckish, why not fill up on the traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs and gallo pinto before jumping on a local bus this afternoon to Granada. First, take a taxi from the hotel to the bus station, next board a local bus bound for Managua that will depart when it’s full and takes around 2-3 hours depending on the amount of stops it needs to make and the complexity of onloading and offloading the passengers luggage. There will be about a 30-45-minute transit in Managua before taking the next public bus to Granada with a duration of approximately 1.5 hrs, and finally taking a 20-minute taxi ride to the hotel.Founded in 1524, Granada is the oldest city in Nicaragua and home to iconic Moorish and Andalusian landmarks that have survived repeated pirate invasions. Draped in colourful colonial architecture and oozing aesthetic charm, this enchanting city is set on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and is surrounded by active volcanoes.
Day 7 Granada
Today is free to explore Granada, one of Central Americas least spoiled colonial towns. Perhaps youd like to take a guided tour of the city, bargain hard in the markets, or wander the cobblestone streets, snapping photos of the colourful buildings. If youre an adventure enthusiast, opt to hire a kayak and paddle around the islets of lake Nicaragua, rent a bicycle and ride to Laguna De Apoyo (a 200 year old lake set into a lush forest crater), or hike through the lush flora and fauna along the Mombacho volcano crater trail. For a cultural insight into the heritage of the Nicaraguan people, the city of Masaya aka City of the Flowers offers a mixture of folkloric entertainment, from marimba music to street theatre. If youre looking to purchase some traditional handicrafts, then youll also find Mercado de las Artesanas a craft market offering handmade souvenirs reflective of the Masaya area. After a day of exploration, why not enjoy an evening along Calle la Calzada grab a drink at one of the many outdoor bars and watch the wandering performers, from mariachis to break dancers, bring the street to life.
Day 8 Ometepe Island
This morning, enjoy an included breakfast at Caf de las Sonrisas (Smiles Caf), a coffee shop and eatery thats run entirely by those within the deaf community from the waiting staff to the chefs. The caf is a project of the To Antonio Social Center and offers people with hearing disabilities a solution to the difficult work situation in Nicaragua. To help you with your order, letters, words and phrases along with the corresponding illustrations (in Nicaraguan sign language) cover the walls of the caf. This fun and educational style of communication means that you can learn while you eat! After breakfast, travel by local bus to Rivas where you’ll transfer to San Jorge ferry port by taxi (approximately 2.5 hours). Catch a 1-hour ferry across Lake Nicaragua (the largest in Central America and the tenth largest freshwater lake in the world) to the island of Ometepe, and head to your hotel. Hourglass-shaped Ometepe Island was formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua (Ometepe literally means two volcanoes in the Nahuatl language) and the deep jungle is home to exotic wildlife such as monkeys and parrots. A great experience is to sit on the shore and watch fishermen return from a long day on the water with their catch.
Day 9 Ometepe Island
Take advantage of a free day to discover the island. Perhaps take a hike up to the summit of either the Concepcion or Maderas volcanoes, but be warned, at 1700 and 1394 metres above sea level respectively, these are serious volcanoes and the treks are no walk in the park. You might prefer to splash around in the natural springs, soak up the sun on the shore or check out the island’s petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings). If you like watermelon, coffee, banana and citrus fruits then Ometepe is the place for you, plantations abound, youll have loads of delicious fresh food to feast on. In the evening, head to Los Ramos, an indigenous community situated right in the middle of the islands volcanos, for a cooking class. Learn traditional techniques used to make Nicaraguan dishes like nacatamales (a dough-based snack often filled with meat and steamed in banana leaves) before sitting down to a meal together.
Day 10 San Juan del Sur
Today youll take the two-hour journey (by ferry and public bus) to San Juan del Sur, a laidback surf town on Nicaraguas south-west coast. Though the beach that lines the towns horseshoe bay itself isnt particularly great for swimming, you dont need to travel far to find beautiful golden beaches with year-round waves. Go on an orientation walk with your leader and then enjoy free time to acquaint yourself with this fun little town. Tonight, youll be sleeping in style under the cover of a tepee! Connect with nature in these cosy dens and fall asleep to the sound of the ocean.
Day 11 San Juan del Sur
Enjoy a free day exploring San Juan del Surs colourful coastal scenery. If youre feeling active, San Juan del Sur has plenty to offer. You might like to rent a surfboard and spend the day riding the waves at nearby beaches like Playa Maderas or Playa Marsella, alternatively, head south to La Flor beach reserve, where its possible to see olive ridley, hawksbill, leatherback and green sea turtles nesting between July and November. A huge statue of Christ (the largest in Central America) sits atop a cliff above the bay why not hike to the top for spectacular views of the town and Pacific. In the evening, the city boasts a variety of greats bars and restaurants where you can share a meal with the group.
Day 12 Monteverde
Say Adios to Nicaragua and continue your journey south to Costa Rica. Take a 1-hour bus to the border and then travel by private vehicle to Monteverde (approximately 5 hours). Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers, these environmentally aware settlers also established a small wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown into the internationally renowned Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve. Cloud forests are similar to rainforests, but instead, draw their water from a semi-permanent cloud covering the region. Constant mist in the forest makes it feel a bit like a nightclub! But with less bass and more fresh air, this is truly a nature lover’s paradise. More than 2000 plant species, 320 bird species and 100 mammal species call Montverde home be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
Day 13 Monteverde
Today you have a full free day to discover the reserve and experience the mystical and fragile environment here. Monteverde is not for the faint-hearted, so bring your sense of adventure, a solid pair of shoes, and have a little fun with the giddy heights. Perhaps take a hike through the cloud forest, check out the area by mountain bike, or fly over the canopy on a zip-line tour. Another way to see the forest from above is to take a tour along a series of suspension bridges 40 metres up above the jungle. You can explore the park on your own or arrange for a local guide to accompany you. The guides are very knowledgeable and happy to engage in conversation. To see some guaranteed wildlife up close, visit the butterfly and insect gardens or the serpentarium there are also several cooperatives worth visiting in the local communities.
Day 14 La Fortuna
Continue your journey through Costa Rica and take the scenic route to La Fortuna (approximately 4-5 hours). Travel by shared minibus to Lake Arenal, which you’ll then cross by boat. On a clear day you’ll see fantastic views of the surrounding area. On the other side of the lake, re-board the minibus and continue on to your destination. La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes from Costa Rica’s most famous volcano, the majestic Arenal. While you’re here, make sure you take some photos of the volcano reflected spectacularly in the lake. Get a good rest tonight, as tomorrow youve got a free day to take advantage of all the active activities on offer.
Day 15 La Fortuna
There are plenty of optional activities to take part in today, so when you get home, this isnt the place to say you sat around! Perhaps take a guided nature hike through the lush forest surrounding Arenal Volcano, keeping an eye out for rare plants and animals, or opt to see the forest from a series of hanging bridges. Check out the 70-metre high La Fortuna waterfall, or get wet with some water sports on the lake, such as stand-up paddle boarding. The volcanos 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 16 San Jose
Take a local bus to Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose (approximately 5 hours). Situated in the fertile Central Valley and home to over half the country’s population, San Jose is filled with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. A good place to start your exploration is the main plaza. Artisan booths are common here, so you never know when an art fair will pop up. The Gold Museum has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art or if you’re in the mood for a bit of shopping, head to the outdoor market in the Plaza de la Cultura or the city’s Central Market, where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood. Then it’s maybe time for a final farewell dinner (or margarita) with your new travel buds and say muchas gracias to your Central American journey.
Day 17 San Jose
Today your Central American adventure comes to an end, there are no activities planned. As there’s a lot to see and do in and around San Jose, we recommend staying on for a few days to make the most of the city. If you’d like to extend your visit and need further accommodation, our reservations team would be happy to assist (subject to availability). There are some great day tours you can take outside of the city, such as or Irazu Volcano.