Guatemala & Costa Rica

Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico,

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16 people
21 days
Code: QVSAC
Activity and Adventure
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Overview of Guatemala & Costa Rica

Encounter cloud forests and shimmering Caribbean waters on an immersive adventure linking together the best that Central America has to offer. Turn up the heat with a salsa lesson in Guatemala before popping on a snorkel and making friends with manatees in Belize. Take it down a notch with a lazy day on the white powder sands of Tulum (margaritas in hand, of course), or dial it up with night out on the European streets of Playa del Carmen. Chock full of incredible natural and ancient treasures, sizzling beaches and a tantalising world of cuisine – there’s no better way to experience the laid back pace and indelible charm of this region. 

Trip Summary for Guatemala & Costa Rica

Start Location: Antigua,   End Location: San Jose

Countries Visited: Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, 
Meals Included: Breakfast: 1   Lunches: 0   Dinners: 1
Highlights:

    • Explore the narrow lanes, pastel-coloured buildings and rustic shops of Flores
    • Unwind on pristine Caye Caulker island off the coast of Belize
    • Sip a cool margarita in Playa del Carmen after a lazy day’s snorkelling
    • Wander through the coastal ruins of Tulum
    • Keep your eyes peeled for the resplendent quetzal in Monteverde National Park

 

Day 1 - Antigua
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Guatemala!

This adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. 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.

As there's a great deal to do in Antigua we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. If you would like to experience a salsa lesson, you can try contacting one of the below schools for a class:

New Sensation Salsa
7a Avenida Norte #78, Antigua
+502 5033-0921
Open from 9am to 9pm every day.

Salsa Con Gloria
6calle Poniente #9 LA Sala Bar y Rest., Antigua
+502 4374-1391

Day 2 - Antigua
As the seat of the Spanish colonial government, Antigua was once the most important city in Central America. In 1773 the city was destroyed by an earthquake but many of the colonial buildings have been carefully restored and the architecture from its glory days can still be admired. There are many fascinating markets and museums to explore or, if your tastes run to more active adventures, perhaps hire a mountain bike and ride through the countryside. The views of mountain peaks and deep valleys covered in lush vegetation are simply beautiful.

Alternatively, why not check out the Chocomuseo located only two blocks away from Central Park. Here you will learn all about chocolate, its history and nutritional values and you may be lucky enough to get a sample bag of chocolates at the end of the tour. Otherwise just grab a coffee from one of the many coffee shops in the park and just sit back and relax. If you want to learn more about the famous Guatemalan coffee you can go on a coffee tour, visit the plantations, do some coffee tasting and even buy some to take back home.

Day 3 - Rio Dulce
Make an early start this morning and travel by private minibus to Rio Dulce (approx 8 hrs). This small river town is found on the east end of the Lago de Izabal and was once the last sight of civilization before departing on the long journey into El Peten. Today Rio Dulce is a popular yachting destination.

Day 4 - Rio Dulce
Take an included boat trip down the river through lush forests to Livingston, a fascinating Garifuna town on the coast. Sprawl out on one of the many splendid beaches or perhaps sample some fresh seafood at one of the local restaurants.

Day 5 - Flores
Continue on to Flores (approx 4 hrs), the jumping off point for exploring the ruins at Tikal. After a day spend crossing the countryside, the afternoon is then free to explore Flores.

Flores was officially founded by the Spanish in 1700, but had existed in various forms well before. It has long remained isolated, with locals relying on farming corn and beans and gathering chicle from nearby trees to produce gum. Many of the locals still get about in the traditional way, by dug out canoe. Take time to stroll through the cobblestone streets past pastel-coloured buildings, buy local handicrafts or take a dip in Lake Peten Itza.

Day 6 - Tikal/San Ignacio
Rise early early in the morning and prepare for a guided tour of the ruins of Tikal National Park. Towering above the jungle of the Tikal National Park, the five granite temples of Tikal are an awesome sight and one of the most magnificent Maya ruins. Hidden in the jungle growth is a maze of smaller structures just waiting to be explored. The energetic can climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy. 

Following the visit to the ruins, it's time to say goodbye to Guatemala and head across the border to San Ignacio, Belize (approx 3 hrs). Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America, which will make chatting with locals much easier. The Belizeans are also known for their relaxed and easy going way of life.

There is only limited time to spend in in San Ignacio but there will be a number of optional activities on offer to help make the most of your time here. You can also choose to visit the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave en route to Belize City on Day 7. The cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal is a living museum of Mayan relics. Wade through water until you reach the eerie Mayan ceremonial site, where you'll find ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons, preserved by the cave's natural processes for over 1,400 years.

All guests at our hotel in San Ignacio are required to pay an additional charge of USD20 per night if they choose to use the air conditioner in their room. Electricity in Belize is incredibly expensive so most hotels charge an extra rate to use the air conditioning  – USD20 per night is considered standard. We could include this extra charge in the trip price but unfortunately this would then mean all travellers would have to pay whether they want to use it or not. We believe giving travellers the option is a fairer way to manage this situation.

Day 7 - Caye Caulker
Today leave San Ignacio in the early morning and head north to Belize City on a local bus (approx 3 hrs). Get ready for a lot of stop and go as there are very few official bus stops in Belize and the bus will keep stopping to pick up passengers. Use this to make conversation with the person next to you on the bus; Belizeans love to talk about their country! Once in Belize City, catch a water taxi to Caye Caulker (approx 1 hr).

The Belize Cayes are a group of islands only a short boat ride away from the coast. There are a number of these islands to choose from but we base ourselves on Caye Caulker as this is one of the more popular islands with travellers. From here it is possible to arrange snorkelling trips to nearby reefs, visits to the other cayes, or a boat out to the Caulker Reef itself. Each island has its own particular character, but all of them have the unmistakeable Caribbean pace and charm.

Day 8-9 - Caye Caulker
Another day in paradise to do as you please. Relax on the beach or head out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to Shark Ray Alley and the world's second longest barrier reef. Snorkel among the colorful corals and see tropical fish, sharks and manta rays. You could also choose to go manatee spotting. These huge peaceful creatures are often called sea cows and are quite curious to meet their visitors.

If you're interested in sampling local cuisine, Caye Caulker is famous for its lobster. It's not the cheapest meal but it's well worth the price tag. Always make sure that you respect the season: the lobsters can only be caught between June 15th and February 15th. Some of the best meals on the island are cooked on the road side, so perhaps stop for some grilled shrimp and a lovely rum and coke made with fire water. 

Day 10 - Tulum
Rise early this morning (about 6.30am) and return to Belize City by water taxi. Travel by bus to the Mexican border (approx. 4 hrs) then head to the town of Chetumal, where we swap buses for the final leg towards Tulum (approx. 3 hrs). Tulum's legendary beaches and pristine waters feel like they're worlds away from the industrious town centre. Stretch your legs after a long day on the road and perhaps grab some tacos at Taquería Honorio, a local favourite that started life as a stall and is now a bona fide restaurant!

Day 11 - Tulum
Spend time relaxing on the beach or strolling along the white sands because today is free to take at your leisure. In the evening, kick back and watch the waves with a margarita in hand. For a taste of Mayan architecture, take an optional visit to the ruins of Tulum. These ruins sit atop a cliff amid palm fringed beaches and powdered beaches. You can even go for a swim within its ancient walls.

Day 12 - Playa del Carmen
Hop on a local bus to Playa del Carmen (approx. 1.5 hours). With azure waters, white sand beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city close to Cancun but without the party atmosphere. Spend your time snorkelling among the mangroves, diving in underground caverns or strolling along the beach. For adventures further afield take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving.

Day 13 - San Jose
Fly to Costa Rica's bubbling capital, where we will connect with travellers joining this trip. With over half the country's population living within its parameters, San Jose is a bustling city with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. A good place to start exploring is the main plaza, a fantastic place to get comfy and do some people watching. Artisan booths are common here and you never know when there'll be a spontaneous art fair. Perhaps pay a visit to the Gold Museum and its amazing collection of indigenous gold art, or head to the out door markets in Plaza de la Cultura and shop for anything from handicrafts to seafood.

Day 14 - Santa Rosa de Pocosol
Today travel by private minibus to Santa Rosa de Pocosol (approx 3 hours). Here the group will experience a slice of local life by spending the night at a homestay. Just down the road is the Juanilama agricultural community where you can get to know the local villagers while helping with farm chores.

Several villagers have built comfortable rooms for guests next to their homes. All rooms have shared facilities. In order to make the most of this homestay experience, it may take a bit of effort from your side to break the ice first. Learn as many Spanish words as you can and get ready for some serious hand language conversations.

Day 15 - La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano
Continue by private minibus to La Fortuna (approx 2 hours).

La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes away from Costa Rica's most famous volcano - the majestic Arenal. Besides the panoramic views, the town offers a range of other stunning natural sights such as lush forests, rare plants, and the 70-metre-high La Fortuna waterfall. Optional activities include animal watching and even water sports on the lake. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area has a number of thermal springs where hot, lava-heated water gushes to the surface. These springs have been turned into a number of thermal pools and waterfalls, often surrounded by foliage – an ideal chance to relax.

Day 16 - Monteverde
Today take the scenic route to Monteverde (approximately 4 hours in total). Travel by shared minibus to Lake Arenal, then cross the lake by boat. On a clear day you can see fantastic views of the surrounding area. On the other side of the lake, re-board the minibus and continue to Monteverde.

Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers; they cleared virgin forest to create pastures ideal for dairy farming. These environmentally aware settlers were conscious of the danger that unrestricted settling and farming could cause to this precious habitat. Consequently they established a small privately-owned wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown to become the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve. These forests are similar to rainforests, but instead of relying on rain for essential moisture, adequate water comes from the semi-permanent cloud that covers the region. This is a nature lover's paradise, with more than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals calling Montverde home.

Day 17 - Monteverde
Head out on a guided walking tour through the Monteverde National Park. Alternatively, walk through the canopy on suspension bridges or watch butterflies at play in the specially created butterfly garden. The guides are very knowledgeable about the area and passionate about conservation. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Montverde home. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.

Day 18 - Quepos
Journey to Quepos by private minibus (approx 5 hours). Located close to the beautiful Pacific beaches and exotic wildlife of Manuel Antonio National Park, Quepos is a laid-back town with a vibrant nightlife. Why not take a stroll and explore the town's growing restaurant scene. 

Day 19 - Quepos/Manuel Antonio NP
Make the most of today to enjoy all that Manuel Antonio National Park has to offer. Head out for a hike along its many trails, keeping one eye on the great views and the other looking for the abundant wildlife. Monkeys, armadillos, sloths and hundreds of birds are among the species you maybe be able to spot. The park also boasts turquoise seas and white-sand beaches, perfect for swimming, kayaking, sailing and fishing. It would be easy to spend your whole time here in, or by, the water.

Day 20 - San Jose
Take a public bus back to San Jose (approximately 4 hours). The buses in this region of the country are a little more basic but this is a great opportunity to mix with Costa Ricans and get a feel for local life.

Arrive back in the capital with some spare time to pick up last minute souvenirs at the city's colourful and vibrant markets. Later, perhaps head out for an optional dinner and a final night on the town sampling the huge variety of nightlife on offer. The perfect way to end this adventure.

Day 21 - San Jose
This Guatemalan and Costa Rican adventure comes to an end in the morning. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.

If you'd like to spend more time in San Jose, we can arrange additional accomodation for you during booking. Alternatively, why not join one of our Urban Adventure tours for an in-depth look of this incredible city.

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