More Than Just a Hat

1200-year-old cliff-top ruins of Tulum
Flores on Lago Petén Itzá
Monteverde Cloud Forest
Ometepe Island
UNESCO World Heritage-listed Antigua Guatemala
The carvings of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Copan
Chichicastenango native market
Boquete
See the Panama Canal at Miraflores Lock
The palm-fringed island of Caye Caulker
The Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán and Spanish city of Oaxaca
UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mayan city of Tikal
Panama's massive freight ships
  • Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama. You’re welcome.

    Itinerary

    Day 1 - Playa del Carmen

    • Playa del Carmen's a pretty awesome place to begin a trip. In fact, it's so awesome that the rest of the trip runs the risk of being a disappointment. Luckily, our guys at Geckos HQ strive to make every single trip equally awesome from start to finish. Kind of like a burrito.
    • Arrive at any time on Day 1, there are no activities planned until the evening
    • Tour orientation at 6pm with your guide

    Day 2-3 - Tulum

    These are some impressive ruins. They're all crumbly and clinging to a cliff-top over a lovely beach. It's an optional visit, but it's a good visit.

     

    • Take a bus along the Caribbean coast to Tulum
    • Visit the pre-Columbian walled city ruins (optional)
    • Gain spectacular views over the tropical shores below
    • Discover the Temple of the Frescoes
    • Spend time relaxing on the beach or strolling along the white sandy shore
    • Kick back and watch the waves with a margarita at night

    Day 4-5 - Caye Caulker

    Head into Belize and catch a boat to Caye Caulker. Free time to dive/snorkel in the second largest barrier reef in the world or swing in a hammock under a palm tree.

    • Travel by local bus to Belize (you may have to change bus a few times, approximately 8 hours travel)
    • Take a speedboat to the palm-fringed island of Caye Caulker
    • Enjoy this idyllic island and the nearby reefs during free time
    • Perhaps explore the coral reefs and their abundance of underwater life, or just relax on the beach

    Day 6-7 - San Ignacio

    • Travel by local bus to San Ignacio, passing through the capital, Belmopan, en route. Here, you can head to Xunantunich, a Mayan ceremonial centre, or wade through the waters of Actun Tunichil Muknal until you reach a whole bunch of 1,400-year-old crystallised skeletons. Creepy and amazing. Cremazing.
    • Travel by local bus to San Ignacio
    • Perhaps take a hand-cranked boat to Xunantunich, an impressive Mayan ceremonial centre with panoramic views
    • Go on an optional day trip to the Mountain Pine Ridge area to visit waterfalls, warm swimming holes and a huge cave system including the Mayan relic in Tunichil Muknal
    • You can also go tubing or canoeing through the region
    • Choose to visit San Ignacio's butterfly garden
    • Try one of the barbecue street stalls for dinner, sit on the street gnawing on a chicken leg

    Day 8-9 - Flores - Tikal

    Arrive in Guatemala and stay in Flores, an island town on Lake Peten Itza. There's an optional visit the the Tikal ruins, which is a bit like the set of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto movie, minus the violence.

    • Head into Guatemala and visit the town of Flores
    • Stroll the cobblestone streets, buy local handicrafts or take a dip in Lake Peten Itza.
    • Optional visit the ancient city of Tikal - deserted Mayan ruins in the heart of the Guatemala jungle
    • Journey to the temples in Tikal National Park
    • Pass through dense jungle vegetation
    • Perhaps climb to the peak of Temple IV and take in the spectacular views

    Day 10-11 - Rio Dulce

    • Kick-ass activities on offer: Boating on the lake, manatee-spotting, thermal hot springs, hiking jungle trails, riding horses, exploring San Felipe fort, relaxing. Rubbish activities on offer: Absolutely nothing.
    • Head to Rio Dulce, the sweet river, by local bus
    • Go out and absorb the atmosphere of this laid back Caribbean town, quite different from the inland communities
    • Partake in optional activities, maybe boat on the lake, tour to spot the protected manatees or travel to the thermal hot springs
    • Perhaps hike through the Chocon-Machacas Natural Reserve, ride a horse through a nearby rubber plantation or travel to Livingston to explore the San Felipe fort

    Day 12 - Antigua

    • Travel through Antigua. You won't have much time to do anything as this is just a nightstop, but you'll be coming back here soon, so don't stress.
    • Travel to Antigua by local bus (approx. 7 hours), spend the night before continuing to Panajachel
    • Maybe go for a walk and taste Tamales, a local dish served in a corn leaf, or try Pepian, three meats (chicken, beef and pork) in a dark sauce

    Day 13 - Chichicastenango - San Jorge La Laguna

    • Chichicastenango's market is really famous, so you should go there before you stay with a family at San Pedro La Laguna. They'll cook you dinner and breakfast, and you will never forget your experience with them. At least, that's how it's supposed to work.
    • Take a local bus to famous market in Chichicastenango
    • Head to San Pedro La Laguna (approx. 1.5 hours)
    • Meet your host family for tonight's homestay, the mother of the family will cook dinner and breakfast for you, meals are basic but filling
    Dinner

    Day 14 - Panajachel

    • Panajachel is surrounded by volcanoes and villages. Here, you can go swimming, wind surfing, hiking, kayaking, horse riding or paragliding. You can visit a local community cooperative or take a boat out to some of the nearby villages. Whatever you do, you'll have a ball.
    • Travel to the neighbor town of Panajachel
    • Go for a swim, wind surf, hike, kayak, go horse riding, or for the really adventurous, paragliding
    • Perhaps visit a small neighbouring village by boat
    • Go on an optional trip to visit a community cooperative, proceeds from these will return directly to the community
    Breakfast

    Day 15-16 - Antigua

    With three nearby volcanoes puffing out white smoke, you won't have been to many places quite like Antigua. You'll regret hitting the beach here about as much as you'd regret buying a winning lottery ticket.

    • Wind up in Antigua, a World Heritage-listed townk
      Perhaps journey to the summit of one of the nearby volcanoes
    • Maybe take a scenic horse ride, a bike ride or go white-water rafting on one of the highland rivers
    • Opportunity to explore the city’s cobblestone streets at your leisure

    Day 17-18 - Copan

    • The Mayan ruins of Copan were discovered in 1570 and feature some of the most impressive pre-Columbian artwork you'll ever see anywhere. Some people even think this place is more impressive that Chichen Itza, which is saying something.
    • Travel by local bus to Copan, Honduras
    • Go on an optional trip to the Mayan ruins of Copan

    Day 19-21 - Roatan Island

    Roatan is an island, which means it's surrounded by water, which means there are loads of water-based adventures to be had here. Don't forget this is the Caribbean, so the water is clear and there are tonnes of multi-coloured fish and heaps of white sand beaches around. Google 'Roatan Island' and see for yourself.

    • Head to San Pedro Sula by local bus (approx. 3 hours), then continue to La Cieba (approx. 3 hours) before taking a ferry to Roatan (approx. 2 hours)
    • Spend the following two days relaxing and taking part in the many water based optional activities
    • Dive, swim or snorkel through the Caribbean waters
    • For more active adventures, tear yourself away from the beach and venture into the hilly interior by bicycle or scooter
    • Spot 'Jesus Lizards' in the botanical gardens or visit the nearby Institute for Marine Science
    • In the evenings chat with locals in any of the lively bars and enjoy a cold light house beer

    Day 22 - Comayagua

    • Say goodbye to Roatan and hello to Comayagua, which is, according to some travel sources, "a great place to witness colonial architecture meeting modern day life". Which basically means it's a really good-looking old town that people still live in. That's kind of it. Grab a beer and take it all in.

    • Leave early (approx 5:30 am) and travel by ferry back to the mainland (approx. 2 hours), then travel on to Comayagua by local bus (approx. 4.5 hours)
    • Witness colonial architecture meeting modern day life

    Day 23-24 - Granada

    Spend one whole day travelling across the border into Nicaragua, then one whole day in Granada exploring as you please. Grabbing a boat and heading out to Lake Nicaragua is a great shout - as is visiting the Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Parks.

    • Travel across the border to Granada, Nicaragua, you'll take a local bus, Tica Bus, taxis and another local bus (it's a full day of travel)
    • Enjoy a full free day to bargain hard in the markets, hike, cruise and explore the neighbouring landscapes
    • Explore the cobblestone streets surrounded by colourful buildings or tour the 'islets' on Lake Nicaragua by boat
    • Perhaps partake in the optional day trip to Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Parks
    • Perhaps enjoy a night on the town

    Day 25-26 - Ometepe Island

    Travel by bus and boat to the island of Ometepe on Lake Nicaragua. There's another volcano to hike, which is no walk in the park (because it's a freaking volcano). There are some fishermen to watch too, which is much more interesting than it sounds.

    • From Granada travel by local bus and boat (approx 6-7 hours) to the island of Ometepe on Lake Nicaragua
    • Lake Nicaragua is the largest in Central America and the tenth largest freshwater lake in the world
    • Ometepe is a mainly agricultural island with rural villages and watermelon, coffee, banana and citrus plantations, wildlife abounds including the world's only species of freshwater shark
    • Sit on the shore of the lake and watch the fishermen come back from their long day
    • You have a free day here, perhaps take an optional hike to Volcano Maderas, or check out the petroglyphs or chill out on the beach

    Day 27-28 - Monteverde

    Constant mist in the cloud forest makes it feel a bit like a nightclub, but with less Katy Perry and more fresh air. Take the giant Sky Walk - a series of suspension bridges dangling 40m above the jungle.

    • Climb up the mountains to the village of Monteverde
    • Experience the mystical and fragile environment here - a highlight of Costa Rica
    • Enjoy incredible bird-watching opportunities
    • Perhaps embark on the giant 'Sky Walk', a walk through the forest canopy 40 metres above ground

    Day 29-30 - La Fortuna - Arenal

    Horse riding, whitewater rafting, riding the sky tram, zip-lining, mountain biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, bungee jumping and swimming. If you get home and say you sat on your bum in La Fortuna you should be very ashamed.

    • Stop by La Fortuna, whose main attraction is the spectacular Arenal Volcano
    • Enjoy a hike around the volcano and absorb the surrounding scenery
    • Perhaps go white-water rafting and horse riding
    • Take a dip at the waterfalls of La Catarata de Fortuna

    Day 31-32 - San Jose

    • eople watching is good, but you know what's even better? People talking. As in, conversing with people. If you can't do that, maybe just compliment one. "Yo no hablo mucho español, pero maldito que busca volar hoy," means "I don't speak much Spanish, but goddamn you're looking fly today." And you should definitely never say that. 
    • A local bus ride takes us to San Jose
    • A good place to start exploring is the main plaza, get comfy and do some people watching, artisan booths are common here there could be a spontaneous art fair
    • Perhaps visit the Gold Museum, home to an amazing collection of indigenous gold art.
    • Maybe head to the out door market in Plaza de la Cultura or the Central Market where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood

    Day 33-35 - Puerto Viejo

    Get to know your Caribbean: reggae, snorkel, surf, mountain bike, dive and meet sloths and howler monkeys at Cahuita National Park.

    • Spend three nights in Puerto Viejo, located on the Caribbean Sea
    • Enjoy optional activities including hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, diving and snorkelling
    • Soak up the local culture, discover the local reggae or sample the indigenous handicrafts on offer
    • Take a day trip to Cahuita by public bus
    • Visit Cahuita National Park to see wildlife

    Day 36-38 - Bocas del Toro

    There's plenty of time here to get acquainted with Panama's favourite drink, seco. It's a lot like vodka or rum, but it's about 80 proof. Mix it with milk like the locals or order a 'chichita Panama' with pineapple and grapefruit juice.

    • Cross on foot into Panama over an old train bridge (which serves as the border)
    • Perhaps wander across to Red Frog Beach, rent a bike or go dolphin-spotting

    Day 39-40 - Boquete

    Don't ask why we're driving you to the village of Boquete on a yellow school bus, just enjoy the randomness. If you feel you've earned a bit of pampering, head to the Caldera Hot Springs for a massage.

    • Journey on a public bus to Boquete
    • Perhaps visit the Paradise Gardens Wildlife Rescue Center, climb the rim of the Baru Volcano, take a dip in the Caldera Hot Springs or go whitewater rafting or kayaking
    • Go on a coffee tour

    Day 41-42 - Santa Catalina

    • One of the best sites for surfing in Central America, Santa Catalina is a good place to get critical. Or, you can go fishing, diving and visit Coiba National Park, and not get critical at all.
    • Travel by local bus to Santa Catalina, on the Pacific side of Panama (approx 8 hrs)
    • Santa Catalina is still very remote and undeveloped, it's one of the best sites for surfing in Central America
    • Next day is free
    • Perhaps surf, fish, dive or visit Coiba National Park

    Day 43-44 - Panama City

    • See the mad engineering feat of the Panama Canal. Finish things up with a Balboa beer and a final plate of yuca frita and sancocha.

      Travel on the Pan-American highway on a public bus to Panama City

    • Cross the Bridge of the Americas (finished in 1962) before arriving in Panama City
    • Perhaps jump aboard a ‘chiva’ (party bus) or head down to Calle Uruguay
    • See the Kuna Indians sell their ‘molas’ (part of their traditional costume) 
    • Walk around the French Quarter
    • Stop by the San Jose Church, the Plaza Bolivar and the Presidential Palace
    • Visit the Panama Canal at the Miraflores Locks
    • Trip finishes after breakfast on Day 44
  • What's Included

    • The services of local tour guides plus the services of local site guides at some sites. All transport, accommodation, and sightseeing as indicated.

    Not Included

    • Departure taxes, visas, insurance, meals, drinks, entrance fees, optional additional tours or activities during free time, tips and items of a personal nature.

    Safety Information

    Active Volcanoes
    This tour passes through volcanic areas.  In the instance, a volcano becomes potentially dangerous and authorities declare nearby towns unsafe for travel, the itinerary will be re-routed. Where possible, Gecko’s will provide advance notice of such changes. At short notice, when this is not possible, your tour leader will provide up to date information on behalf of Gecko’s.

  • Map Itinerary

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Boat, Bus, Taxi
42 nights Budget/tourist class hotels, 1 night Homestay
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Panama City

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