Playa del Carmen to San Jose

Travel from the laid-back good time beach town of Playa del Carmen down to Costa Rica's capital, crossing seven countries and a multitude of diverse landscapes. See smoking volcanoes, spot rare jungle wildlife, uncover the history of the Maya and swim in clear Caribbean waters on this month long Central American journey.

  • Duration: 32 Days
  • Guaranteed Departure: Yes
  • For lovers of: Walking Tour, Sightseeing, Parks & Nature Reserves, Wildlife
  • Physical rating: Average
  • Supplier Tour ID: BPS/208565
  • Your Guide: English speaking
  • Starts: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
  • Finishes: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
  • Age requirement: 18 +
You will Visit
  • Playa Del Carmen
  • Tulum
  • Caye Caulker
  • San Ignacio
  • Tikal
  • Rio Dulce
  • Antigua
  • Chichicastenango
  • Panajachel
  • Suchitoto
  • El Tunco
  • El Cuco
  • Leon
  • Granada
  • Ometepe Island
  • La Fortuna
  • San Jose



Day 1: Playa Del Carmen

Early arrivals will need to tear themselves from the beach before getting together with fellow travellers at today's late afternoon welcome meeting. Aside from hanging with the locals at the epic beaches there's loads of stuff to do in Playa with snorkelling and an awesome pedal around town, always proving popular.

Meals Included: Meals paid locally

Optional Activities:

  • Bike rental US$10 per day
  • Dos Ojos Cenote snorkelling tour MXN350
  • Ferry to Cozumel MXN326


Day 2-3: Tulum

Take a scenic local bus trip south to even more gorgeous beaches and the warm waves of Tulum. White sand, cocktails and palm trees have never looked so sweet and if you'd like the opportunity to get your first taste of Mayan ruins then Tulum is the best place to start. Renting a mask and snorkel is a great idea to see the colourful fishes up close and personal. One of the best spots for snorkelling are the ruins of Tulum where you can actually swim around some of the ancient walls that have made their way into the sea, this trip just keeps on getting even more epic!

Meals Included: Meals paid locally

Optional Activities:

  • Bike rental MXN185per day
  • Archaeological site visit MXN65
  • Snorkel rental US$15 per day


Day 4-6: Caye Caulker

Say "adios" Mexico and "what's up?" `Belize as you journey across the border on a combination of public and private transport on what promises to be a real culture jolt to remember. Once in Central America you'll be whisked over to the Caribbean island of Caye Caulker where you'll be able to swim and snorkel amongst some of the most incredible marine reserves on the continent. This is pretty much where things go all Captain Jack Sparrow, from grilled shrimp to rum with absolutely everything, keep your eyes peeled for the Jolly Roger flag and you won't go far wrong. If you've had enough of landlubbing and fancy a trip out to sea then there are plenty of options to sail, kayak and snorkel out on the ocean wave, this is the life!

Meals Included: Meals paid locally

Optional Activities:

  • Guided snorkelling trip US$35
  • Manatee tour US$85
  • Sunset sailboat cruise US$38
  • Stand up paddle board rental US$25 per hour


Day 7-8: San Ignacio

After bidding the manatees and coral reefs a fond farewell it's time to travel inland by local bus as you encounter the forest covered highlands that sit beyond Belize's capital city, Belmopan. Get ready for rushing rivers, tumbling waterfalls and ancient ruins, with a chance to visit the ceremonial temples of Xunantunich and the incredible caves of Tunichil Muknal. This is a true outdoor adventure playground and for many will prove to be one of the active highlights of the whole tour. Tubing, caving and canoeing are all excellent optional activities for the energetic and the opportunities to have awesome adventures whilst in Belize is going to stay with you for years to come. If you're not that into the extreme side of life then don't panic - there are plenty of more laid-back alternatives with bike hire, butterfly gardens and trips to nearby ruins always proving excellent for learning more about the area.

Meals Included: Meals paid locally

Optional Activities:

  • Guided Caracol Ruins tour US$95
  • Cave tubing US$95
  • Xunantunich Ruins US$10
  • Cahal Pech Ruins US$10
  • Iguana Conservation Project US$9
  • Mountain Pine Ridge tour (day trip) US$85


Day 9: Tikal

Travel by 'collective minibus' and step back in time by opting to visit the awesome Tikal temples - don't miss this one! The Tikal Temples are magnificent and although the pilgrimage does involve a climb through the jungle the views from the top of the ruins are nothing short of jaw-dropping.

Meals Included: Meals paid locally

Optional Activities:

  • Guided private tour of ruins US$45
  • Zipline tour US$45


Day 10-11: Rio Dulce

Next stop is one of the absolute legends of the Central American circuit - the awesome Rio Dulce. This has long been a draw for boaters and if you're looking for things to do on your free day then why not take a tour of Lake Izabel or explore up river in search of manatees and hot springs. If you'd prefer to keep your feet on dry land then there are loads of other choices to do just that. With other options including nature reserves and the San Felipe fort at Livingstone, you're bound to find the right pace to suit your mood and whatever you're into you're sure to come away happy, experienced and hungry for more.

Meals Included: Meals paid locally

Optional Activities:

  • Natural hot springs US$25
  • Boat trip to Livingston US$30
  • Quirigua ruins US$41
  • San Felipe Fort US$1


Day 12: Antigua

Take the bus to Antigua for a taste of delicious local street food before settling down for the night in preparation for tomorrow's meeting with your host family and your stay in a traditional Guatemalan home, things are about to get crazy good!

Meals Included: Meals paid locally


Day 13: Chichicastenango - San Jorge La Laguna

Pick up a gift for your host family at the handicraft stalls of Chichicastenango before heading by private minibus to San Jorge La Laguna and a real opportunity to practise your Spanish and learn more about the customs and lifestyles of Guatemala. Although living conditions can be pretty basic this is a genuine chance to see what life is like for local people and through a combination of hand gestures and phrase books you'll be surprised what you can learn during just a short period of time.

Meals Included: Dinner included


Day 14: Panajachel

Today it's time to make the most of Guatemala's natural beauty as you swim, hike or kayak within a stunning volcanic backdrop.

Meals Included: Breakfast included

Optional Activities:

  • San Pedro Volcano hike US$75
  • Bike rental US$10 per day
  • Kayak rental US$8 per hour
  • Lakes & villages tour US$36
  • Mountain bike tour US$75
  • Water taxi to Santiago, San Pedro or San Juan US$8
  • Zipline ride US$52


Day 15-16: Antigua

Travel onwards by private transport to Antigua. Salsa lessons, coffee tours and strolls over cultural cobbles are all possible in Antigua and as you prepare for the next leg of your journey through this irresistible part of the world, you won't forget Antigua anytime soon.

Meals Included: Meals paid locally

Optional Activities:

  • Coffee & Macadamia Plantation US$45


Day 17-18: Suchitoto

Today you cross the border into El Salvador heading south to Suchitoto, a reminder of El Salvador's historical past. A beautiful town with painted houses and cobbled streets, it's a world away from the modern country which El Salvador is today. The town overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande, also known as Lago Suchitlan, which is a haven for migrating birds, particularly falcons and hawks. The following day is free for optional activities such as boat or kayaking trips on Lago Suchitlan.

Meals Included: Meals paid locally

Optional Activities:

  • Cihuatan Ruins US$3
  • War historic walk at Cinquera Forest (min of 4 people) US$50
  • Lake Suchitlan boat tour (min 6 people) US$20


Day 19: El Tunco

Heading south today, you pass through the nation's capital San Salvador, and head for the beautiful laid-back beaches of El Tunco. Here you'll find a rare side to El Salvador, a place so laid-back and relaxed you'll never want to leave. Go for a surfing lesson, grab a fresh fruit smoothie, try street food (especially a pupusa) but make sure you head to Monkey La La for sunset and a drink, for the perfect end to this awesome day adventure.

Meals Included: Meals paid locally


Day 20-21: El Cuco

El Cuco is a beach town with dark sand, lined with vendor huts, delicious seafood restaurants and surrounding palms. Take time to enjoy the beach away from the crowds and see a different side to El Salvador. Kayak among the mangroves, give surfing a go or just relax in a hammock, this is beach life at its best!

Meals Included: Meals paid locally

Optional Activities:

  • Volcan de Conchagua hike (min 5 people) US$35
  • Yoga class US$Free
  • Beginners surf lesson US$20
  • Mangrove kayaking US$50
  • Surf trip to Las Flores beach US$10


Day 22: Leon

After an early transfer to La Union you'll take a boat through the Gulf of Fonseca to the Nicaraguan town of Potosi. Once you've had your passport checked, the group will continue by private vehicle to Leon. It’s a long old journey today but the end point is entirely worth it! Nicaragua is a beautiful place and for many people it becomes their favourite country in Central America with its friendly people and impressive natural beauty. The country has flourished in recent years and is an incredibly vibrant and unique country.This city is buzzing with energy and with its faded decadence and crumbling buildings you are sure to fall in love with this city. Spend time walking around exploring the ornate churches, people watching from the street cafes, eating good food and enjoying the nightlife.

Meals Included: Meals paid locally


Day 23-24: Granada

Today is a full day of travel through Gulf of Fonseca (approx. 14 hrs). A good book, music, snacks and bottled water are a must to have for today's long journey. You'll take a short transfer to La Union where you'll take a boat through the Gulf of Fonseca stopping at one of the islands where you can have lunch and relax before continuing to the Nicaraguan side at Potosi. Once you've had your passports checked you take a minivan to Granada. Nicaragua is a beautiful place that surprises most travellers with its friendly people, impressive natural beauty and for many it becomes their favourite country in Central America. The country has flourished in recent years and is an incredibly vibrant and unique country. Oozing with colonial charm, Granada is the oldest city of the 'New World', having been founded in 1524. The city resides on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and its appearance is a mixture of Moorish and Andalusian. The surrounding countryside includes active volcanoes and lakes. Bargain hard in the markets, hike, cruise and explore the neighbouring landscapes. Wander the cobblestone streets surrounded by colourful buildings, or tour the islets of Lake Nicaragua by boat. Alternatively, take a day trip out to Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Park to get up close to some steaming giants. There really is so much to do, you won't know where to start!

Meals Included: Meals paid locally

Optional Activities:

  • City Tour US$65
  • Laguna Apoyo kayaking tour US$45
  • Mombacho Volcano hike US$40
  • Kayak rental US$30 per day
  • Masaya Volcano night hike US$50
  • Mi Museo US$5


Day 25-26: Ometepe Island

Next stop is the agricultural island of Ometepe which sits in the largest lake in Central America - Lake Nicaragua. This is a simply breathtaking experience and will bring you closer to the wildlife, the people and the volcanic landscapes of this remarkable country. If you can't get enough of that volcanic stuff then there are more optional hikes available up the side of both Maderas and Concepcion however, after all that huffing and puffing a trip to the Ojo de Agua springs is the place to be after a hard day exploring the wonderful sights!

Meals Included: Meals paid locally

Optional Activities:

  • Ojo de Agua natural spring US$25
  • Concepcion Volcano hike US$45
  • Maderas Volcano hike US$45
  • Petroglyphs US$20


Day 27-28: Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Wave farewell to the monkeys and beaches of Ometepe Island as you continue your travels south to the lush green cloud forests of Monteverde, Costa Rica. This is the home of hundreds of species of plants, birds and mammals which means that however you choose to explore, by foot, bike or zip-line, you'll be in for a really wild time. There are so many additional ways to enjoy the gorgeous landscapes of Monteverde and from cloud forest walks to night time nature rambles, this is an exciting and captivating area of Costa Rica. Coffee and chocolates or butterflies and insects - you name it and you'll have the opportunity to find out more over this exciting two day stopover.

Meals Included: Meals paid locally

Optional Activities:

  • Butterfly garden US$15-$30
  • Zip lining US$40-50
  • Frog Pond Museum US$15-$20
  • Night hiking US$35
  • Serpentarium US$15
  • Cloud Forest hike US$40
  • Cloud Forest Train US$60
  • Coffee & Chocolate tour US$35


Day 29-30: La Fortuna

Monkeys, lakes and volcanoes - oh my! This is what it's all about and with a whole host of different activities to try, within the realm of the active Arenal Volcano, you'll never forget Costa Rica. This is pretty much an adventure playground for big kids and if you're interested in learning how to paddle board then where better to give it a go than here? This is also the perfect place to rest your bones in the hot springs and relax, Costa Rica has it all including the ever so loveable Sloth!

Meals Included: Meals paid locally

Optional Activities:

  • Hot springs US$45
  • Fortuna waterfall US$15
  • Hanging bridges US$56
  • Nature hike around Arenal Volcano US$50
  • Rio Celeste Safari Float tour US$70
  • Stand up paddle board US$65


Day 31-32: San Jose

Do you know the way to San Jose? You most certainly do! Take your time to relax and explore amongst the artisan markets and cultural museums of Costa Rica's capital city. Gold, handicrafts and seafood are all on offer on your final day in Central America and as you bid adios to San Jose don't forget to finally get round to sending those postcards.

Meals Included: Meals paid locally

Optional Activities:

  • National Museum US$12

  • Services of a professional bilingual tour leader
  • All transport by BOLT (Buses or Local Transport)
  • Accommodation: Hotel 1, Budget Lodging: 3, Hotel: 27
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Tour Highlights:
  • Visit Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica
  • Travel south through legendary Central America
  • Enjoy sand, sun and fun in Playa del Carmen
  • Learn the history of ancient Guatemalan ruins
  • Kick back on the beautiful coast of Belize
  • Enjoy colonial buildings and volcanoes in Antigua
  • Haggle in the markets of Chichicastenango
  • Spot wildlife on Ometepe Island
  • Bargain hard in the markets in Granada and Costa Rica
  • Explore the steamy Monteverde Cloud Forest
  • Enjoy a laid back day sightseeing in Antigua and Granada
  • Admire the dramatic scenery surrounding San Jose
  • Experience traditional Guatemalan life with a local homestay
  • Swim in the warm Pacific waters in El Tunco and El Cuco