More Than Just a Hat
Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama. You’re welcome.
(Was Mexico & Central America)
Day to Day 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
- ravel 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
Meals included: 1 dinner
- 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
Day 14: Panajachel
Meals included: 1 breakfast
- 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
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
- Trip finishes after breakfast on Day 44
Nuts and Bolts
The services of local tour guides plus the services of local site guides at some sites. All transport, accommodation, and sightseeing as indicated.
Summary of accommodation, transport & meals
- 42 nights Budget/tourist class hotels
- 1 night Homestay
Departure taxes, visas, insurance, meals, drinks, entrance fees, optional additional tours or activities during free time, tips and items of a personal nature, the flight from Antigua Guatemala to San Jose Costa Rica.
Important - A Word on Central America
Central America is different and that’s what makes it such an fascinating destination. You will find that things don’t always go according to plan or work the way they do back home. Buses and planes often run late and sometimes the water in your bathroom can run cold and the electricity fail. The locals live with these issues everyday. In order to get the most out of your holiday, a degree of patience, good humour and understanding is a definite advantage. If you approach your holiday with an open and enquiring mind, the warm welcome you receive from Central Americans will ensure you a rich and rewarding holiday experience.
Public Holiday Inconveniences
Please be prepared for the inconvenience of sights such as museums and churches being closed to tourists on public holidays (ie. Christmas Day and New Years Day). Throughout Latin America, most museums also tend to be closed on Mondays.
About this Information
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
19 December 2013
General Contact Details
Web: Visit Geckos