Central America is perfectly proportioned to combine several countries in a reasonably short trip. From the Pacific to the Caribbean coast, coffee-covered highlands to tropical archipelagos, cloud forest and jungle clad volcanoes. Our three week Central American Explorer tour is fabulous for nature-lovers as it combines a diversity of ecosystems and landscapes! Travel between November to May and enjoy sunny days and dry conditions. June to October is the ‘green season’ with lush foliage and abundant bird life.
Our three week Central American Explorer sample itinerary starts in the Old Panama city. Explore the cobblestone streets of Casco Viejo and experience a partial transit of the Panama Canal. Afterward, visit the Panamanian highlights of Boquete, the Coffee region in Panama, and Bocas del Toro for some great snorkelling opportunities. Across the border in Costa Rica, visit Cahuita to learn about the traditional communities before travelling to Tortuguero. Paddle the canals of Tortuguero while you search for sloths, monkeys and toucans. Continue seeing some of Costa Rica’s famous wildlife as you hike through cloud forest of Monteverde. For those more adventurous, you can zip line through the canopy or hike the trails around Arenal Volcano. Then travel to Nicaragua and onto Ometepe Island where you will spend a few relaxing overlooking the beautiful Lake Nicaragua. Finally, enjoy some of Central America’s finest colonial architecture in beautiful Granada and travel to Leon.
Arrive Panama City and transfer to your hotel.
After breakfast depart on a half-day walking tour exploring Panama City. We’ll stop at a local market where you can try sugarcane juice or fresh coconut, before continuing to Casco Viejo and its beautiful colonial buildings. Continue to the fish market where fishermen bring their morning catch. Later we’ll take the bus to Old Panama, where the city was originally constructed before being sacked by pirates in 1671.
Today’s partial transit of the Panama Canal is sure to be a highlight! Experience one of the man-made wonders of the world as you sail from Gamboa to the Pacific Ocean, travelling through the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores Locks. Lunch is included on board.
Fly to David and transfer by road to the charming town of Boquete. The temperate climate means this is the perfect place for growing coffee – treat yourself to a local brew and enjoy the stunning scenery.
Depart with your guide for a tour of one of the region’s coffee plantations. Discover the process of growing, picking, drying and roasting delicious Panamanian coffee before enjoying a sample of different locally grown beans.
Transfer to Almirante where you will board a shared service boat for the Bocas del Toro Archipelago. Afternoon at leisure to explore the laid back town of Bocas on the main island of Isla Colon.
Enjoy a full-day tour of some of the archipelago’s prettiest spots, including dolphin spotting at Dolphin Bay, snorkelling at Coral Cay and some time to relax at Red Frog Beach.
Take the boat back to Almirante this morning and continue by private vehicle to the Costa Rican border. You’ll meet your Costa Rican driver and continue along the coast to Cahuita. Afternoon at leisure.
Day at leisure. A visit to Cahuita National Park is highly recommended, located at the southern end of town with easy to follow self-guided trails. Best time to visit is early morning when sightings of monkeys, sloths and other mammals are common. If you wish to enlist the help of a local guide, ask at the park office.
Transfer to Guapiles this morning where a boat will be waiting to transport you to Tortuguero National Park. A two hour boat ride through canals, fringed by rainforest, is a great start to your adventure – keep your eyes peeled for monkeys in the treetops and turtles basking on logs.
Depending on local conditions your day may start with a canoe ride or a hike through the National Park. From July to September, the nesting of sea turtles is a must-see event.
Transfer by boat back to Guapiles and have lunch in a local restaurant. Afterwards, shuttle transfer to La Fortuna Village, dominated by the mighty Arenal Volcano.
A full-day tour starts with a visit to Arenal’s Hanging Bridges for a walk through the rainforest canopy. Next we’ll head to La Fortuna Waterfall for an inviting dip in the cool waters. Continue to Arenal Volcano for a hike to a lava lookout point. Finally we’ll drive to Tabacon Hot Springs to soak in the natural pools and enjoy dinner in this beautiful setting.
Day at leisure to relax and explore. Optional excursions include Cano Negro Wildlife Reserve, horse-riding and hiking.
Sail across Arenal Lake and continue up a steep mountain road, arriving into Monteverde in time for lunch. Later this evening, enjoy a night tour of the region’s famous cloud forest.
Today’s half-day tour will take you up above the canopy, travelling on the Sky Tram to one of the highest mountains in Costa Rica. Enjoy wonderful views of surrounding volcanoes, all the way to the Nicoya Gulf on clear days. From the top we’ll take the Sky Trek along a series of zip lines and cables and visit 5 observation towers with sweeping views. A specialised canopy guide will be with you the whole way to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable tour.
(Alternative options available for those who like to keep their feet on the ground!)
Depart Monteverde by private vehicle for the border with Nicaragua and continue to San Jorge. From here it’s a short ferry ride to the twin volcanic island of Ometepe.
A full-day tour of Ometepe includes visits to Altagracia Church and Museum, Santo Domingo’s beach petroglyphs and the verdant hiking trails of Charco Verde. Enjoy impressive views of Concepcion and Maderas Volcanoes as you make your way around this stunning island.
After breakfast, take the ferry back to the mainland and continue by private vehicle to one of the America’s oldest and best preserved colonial cities, Granada.
Explore Granada’s charming colonial centre on this morning’s walking tour, including the leafy Parque Central, San Francisco Convent and the pedestrianised Calle de Calzada. Afterwards, board a boat and explore Las Isletas, a group of around 365 tiny islands formed when Mombacho Volcano exploded more than 20,000 years ago.
Day at leisure to relax and continue exploring the city. Ask us about optional tours to visit Mombacho Volcano, just 10km from the city and covered in dense cloud forest.
Depart for Masaya Volcano, where you can peek over the edge of the crater and see clouds of sulphurous gases. Continue to Masaya Craft Market, a fantastic place to purchase one of Nicaragua’s famous handmade hammocks. After lunch, we travel to Leon, Nicaragua’s cultural capital.
Explore the rich history of this important city. We climb to the top of Central America’s largest Cathedral and enjoy stunning views across the city. Visit San Francisco Convent and the indigenous neighbourhood of Sutiaba. Along the way you’ll see some striking political murals.