The best of Central America; Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras
Tour type: Discovery
* Visit the Mayan ruins of San Andres and Copan in Honduras
* Multi-active: Surfing, ash boarding, canopy tour & jungle walks
* Explore colonial Granada, lively Leon and colourful Suchitoto
* Kayaking through mangroves and with crocodiles in Honduras
* Now with ?120 price reduction (price shown reflects this)*
Featured in Wanderlust Magazine's 50 Best Trips for 2014 and in National Geographic Traveler's 50 Tours of a Lifetime, this unique adventure holiday takes us on a whirlwind Central American discovery tour, from Nicaragua, through El Salvador, to finally end up on the Caribbean coast in Honduras. We fit a lot into this amazing holiday, including; sightseeing, exploring, easy jungle hiking, a canopy-level tour, volcano-boarding, surfing and wildlife spotting, as well as chilling out in peaceful cafes in brightly painted provincial towns.
Starting in Nicaragua we stay in the beautiful colonial town of Granada where we start the action with a zipwire tour through the forested slopes of Volcan Mombacho, before enjoying a boat tour of Lake Nicaragua's islets, and on to the waterfalls & twin volcanoes of Ometepe Island. A stop in Leon allows us to walk up the volcano of Cerro Negro and then ash board down! We arrive into El Salvador by boat and then enjoy a couple of nights in the sleepy and laid back surf town of El Cuco with its white sandy beaches, where we can relax in hammocks or take the opportunity to learn to surf! Travelling inland we visit coffee plantations and the colourful town of La Palma. Once in Honduras, our first stop is the famous Mayan ruins of Copan before we transfer to the Caribbean coast for three days with activities that include kayaking through the mangroves in search of crocodiles! Sign up for a wonderful insight to the delights of vibrant Central America!
Is this holiday for you?
Walking, surfing, kayaking and canopy tours in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras; with activities almost every day, this Central American adventure holiday has something for everybody. The surf lesson and kayaking are at a level where previous experience is not required (although you must be able to swim at least 25m unaided). The walks are mostly quite short (2-3hrs), but can be hot in the humid climes. The canopy tour and zip wires are between 3 and 30m high from platform to platform and you are required to climb a ladder to get to some of the platforms. Safety harnesses and karabiners are used for the duration of the canopy tour, no previous experience is required but you should not be afraid of heights! Again, no experience is required for the ash boarding on Cerro Negro, but you have to be prepared for a hot hike up the volcano whilst carrying your equipment. The majority of the activities are included in the price, although some are at an additional cost; please see the detailed itinerary for further information. You can of course opt out of any activity. In order to cover the best of these three countries in just two weeks, we have a lot of distance to cover and there will be a reasonable amount of driving. The longest day's drive is 7-8hours, but the majority of the others are around 3-4hrs. We've tried to balance the driving with activities and, where ever possible, relaxation time to ensure you can get the most out of your holiday. Tourism is still in its infancy in Central America and you need to be prepared for unexpected delays, especially when crossing borders. Participants should be fit and active and most importantly have a spirit of adventure.
➕ Day 1 Meet at the group hotel in Granada, Nicaragua. A single transfer from Managua Airport is provided.
We arrive in Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua. KE Land Only package services begin with a single timed transfer from the airport to our overnight accommodation in Granada. Founded in 1524 during the Spanish Conquest, Granada is one of the oldest established cities in the New World. During colonial times Granada saw much unrest, with the city being attacked by pirates on several occasions. Nowadays Granada is most famous for its striking, multihued Spanish-colonial architecture, which decorates the city centre. We check into our hotel. Drive time: 1hr.
➕ Day 2 Cloud forest zip wire canopy tour. Local project. Boat trip on Lake Nicaragua, Las Isletas.
A reasonably early morning and a busy first day as we head off after breakfast at 8am to the Mombacho Volcano Natural Reserve, just 18km from Granada. This dormant volcano is home to more than 700 different plants, 173 species of bird, 46 species of reptile and amphibians and 47 different mammals. We will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the views on our adventurous canopy tour. We follow 2 km of zip wires through the tree tops as we proceed from platform to platform (17 in total) ranging in height from 10 to 100 feet above the canopy floor! Next we will visit a local project which provides education for children on the volcano of Mombacho or in the suburbs of Granada. These projects aim to break cycles of poverty, violence, social and gender injustices. We spend some time with the children and take lunch there. We return to the hotel after lunch, where we should have a little free time. Your guide will be able to accompany you to exchange currency, or pick up any forgotten items from shops/pharmacy etc.. Meeting our bus, we then drive to the main port on Lake Nicaragua. With an area of 8,264 square km, this is the largest lake in Central America and reaches a depth of some 26 metres. Despite being a fresh water lake, the waters are bursting sawfish, tarpon, sharks and numerous other species of fish; including at least 16 endemic species of chichlids. Boarding our boat we head out on a 1-2hr tour of the Islets of Granada; 365, volcano made, islets make up this miniature archipelago. The islands are teeming with colourful vegetation and are a haven for bird and animal life. We should look out for Castillo San Pablo, built in the 18th century to protect Granada against English pirates; and we can also try and spot the friendly residents of Isla de Los Monos, or Monkey Island, a small sanctuary for monkeys previously held as pets but now released into the wild. We return to Granada and spend a second night in the group hotel.
➕ Day 3 Walking tour of Granada. Ferry to Isla de Ometepe.
We'll rendezvous for breakfast at hotel before meeting our local guide in the morning for our walking tour of the city. We'll see the beautiful Merced Church, the town hall, the brightly coloured Cathedral of Granada before ending at the the San Francisco Church and neighbouring San Francisco Convent built in 1529. Now functioning as a museum, the Convent is home to an impressive collection of pre-Columbian art. From here there is a beautiful view across the city to Volcan Mombacho. After lunch we take the 1hr 30min drive to the port of San Jorge, Lake Cocibolca, and take the ferry journey to the Isla de Ometepe, the journey takes just under 2hrs. This beautiful island is integral to many native legends; the name Ometepe, means "Two Hills" in native nahuatl and the island houses two immense volcanoes, which seem to magically hover above the lakeA's surface. Life on Ometepe revolves around its "Two Hills" and, though separated by a small isthmus, each impressive volcano has its own unique climate and vegetation, making each side of the island different from the other. Arriving on the island we have a further 1-2hr drive to our accommodation. After checking in to our island accommodation we have the late afternoon free to relax or enjoy the beach. Drive time: 3-4hrs.
➕ Day 4 Exploring on Isla de Ometepe; walk to San Ramon waterfall. Afternoon free to relax or explore at our own steam.
Ometepe is an island best explored on foot. Today we have the chance to take the 2-3hr walk up to the beautiful San Ramon waterfall. We transfer to the trailhead by 4x4 before starting our walk at the forested foot of the southern slope of Maderas volcano as we follow a steep but well marked path up to the 50m waterfall. The reward for our efforts is a dip in the pools as we cool off under the force of the falls. We've a picnic lunch today so we can choose to stop and eat this during the walk, or stop somewhere lakeside and scenic on the way back to the hotel. We return to the hotel and have the afternoon free to explore or relax. Drive time: 3hrs.
Time 2 - 3hrs walking
➕ Day 5 Boat and transfer to the town of Leon. Optional ash boarding down Cerro Negro volcano.
We're up early to catch the first ferry of the day back to the mainland. We leave Ometepe and take the ferry back to the mainland (1-2hrs) before meeting our vehicle and driving to Leon. This thriving university town, the original capital city of Nicaragua, is seeped in history. Less visited than Granada, the Leonese ambiance is quiet and gentle offering more opportunities to connect with the locals. With much to do in the surrounding areas, Leon is a wonderful place to spend time. After checking into our central hotel and taking lunch we have the option to stay and explore this fascinating city or visit the nearby volcano Cerro Negro; formed in 1850, this is one of the youngest volcanoes in the world! This exciting optional (payable locally) tour, beginning in the late afternoon, is not for the fainthearted! Cerro Negro last erupted in 1999 and we have the opportunity to ash board down the slopes of this active volcano (220m ascent/3km/50mins walking). After the boarding we have time to enjoy the sunset before returning to Leon. There is always something to do at night in this bustling town and those with enough energy can head out to enjoy the atmosphere. Drive time: 4-5hrs.
➕ Day 6 Boat trip across Gulf of Fonseca and into El Salvador. Drive to El Cuco on the beach.
Another early start and after breakfast we check out of our hotel and make the 2.5hr drive to the tiny harbour of Potosi. After negotiating the border formalities (delays are possible!), we leave Nicaragua behind us and take the 2-3hr boat trip across the Gulf of Fonseca to La Union in El Salvador; stopping en route to take lunch on the Island of Zacatillo. During the journey we may chance to see migrating birds, turtles, dolphins, pelicans and occasionally even whales! La Union, a small but busy commercial port, is the main access to the Gulf Islands. On arrival here we head to immigration to officially enter El Salvador. It is a further 1hr drive to our accommodation at El Cuco on the Pacific Coast, where we will stay for the next 2 nights. Drive time: 4 - 5hrs.
➕ Day 7 Free day to relax and enjoy the beach. Optional surf lesson or kayaking through mangroves.
Today is free to relax and enjoy the beach. Those keen to take advantage of the optional surf lessons (payable locally) will have their first surf class from a professional surf instructor. This will unusally be in the morning. If surfing is not your think, you may want to take advantage of the alternative option, some guided kayaking through the mangroves (payable locally). However, you may prefer just to relax in a hammock and recharge your batteries today! We spend a second night at our accommodation.
➕ Day 8 Visit Laguna de Alegria, Coffee plantation walk/tour, lunch and coffee demonstration at Berlin. Drive to Suchitoto.
This morning we take a 2-3hrs drive to the Laguna de Alegria, inside the crater of the now dormant Volcan Tecapa, where we can hop out and stretch our legs with a walk around this vivid green and sulphurous lake. The silt and clay from the lake is believed to have special healing qualities, though the water in the lagoon has a high sulphur content, which gives the water a bright turquoise hue (and the air a pungent aroma!) and means that it is unable to support fish or other life forms. After a little time to walk around we have back to our vehicles and on to the picture perfect town of Alegria where we can have a wander around the colourful stalls, cobbled streets and mural decorated walls. Alegria has a population of 15,000, and holds a territorial extension of 40.4 km?. Though surrounded by coffee plantations, which constitute its main source of income, Algeria is also famous for the export of vibrant ornamental plants and the colourful evidence is everywhere to be seen. Heading on to Berlin, we have the option to walk to a nearby coffee plantation/processing plant where we will have a tour and learn about how the coffee is processed. This is a uphill walk and it will be hot and dusty. You will need sturdy walking shoes, sunhat, water and sunscreen. Those opting not to walk can have some time to look around Berlin, where we will all rendezvous for lunch in a local coffee shop. Here we can sample some of the locally grown coffee and enjoy a demonstration from a trained barista. We then depart for the charming colonial town of Suchitoto (drive time 1.5hrs), where we will overnight. Dinner is not included tonight, but we can recommend heading out to a 'pupuseria'' to sample some pupusas - a must when is El Salvador! Drive time: 4 -5hrs.
Time 1 - 2hrs walking
➕ Day 9 Explore colonial Suchitoto on foot. Visit Joya de Ceren the 'Pompeii of America' and the Mayan ruins of San Andres.
Suchitoto, around 47 km north of San Salvador, is brimming with colonial buildings and cobblestone streets and after breakfast we have a chance to enjoy a short walking tour with our guide. We explore the town centre with its impressive colonial church, the Iglesia Santa Lucia, and we'll get some lovely views down to Lake Suchitlan. Suchitoto is known as a cultural capital and we will also and, if there's time, we might want to pop into a couple of art galleries during our tour. Afterwards we drive across to the archaeological site of Joya de Ceren, which was declared a world heritage by UNESCO in 1993. Discovered buried under 5 meters of volcanic ash, Joya de Ceren has become known as the 'Pompeii of America'; the artefacts found here have given a unique insight into day to day life in a Mayan community. We will also visit another of El Salvador's Mayan ruins, the step pyramid of San Andres, which was inhabited by the Mayans between AD 600 and 900 and we will have a little time to take a look around the small museum. We'll enjoy a late lunch at a nearby restaurant before returning to our hotel in Suchitoto. Depending on how long we choose to spend at the ruins we may have some free time in the late afternoon. Drive time: 2.5hrs.
➕ Day 10 Leave El Salvador and transfer to Copan in Honduras. Visit the colourful art town of La Palma enroute.
This will be our longest driving day as we drive for 7-8hrs from Suchitoto, El Salvador to Copan, Honduras; stopping off briefly in the mountain village of La Palma on the way (Suchitoto to La Palma approx 1.5 hrs drive). Salvadorian painter, Fernando Llort moved to La Palma in 1977 and his colourful and childlike images of village life can be seen all over the town, adorning the walls and buildings. These days the majority of the population make their living from reproducing this art, which is available all over town in the local art shops. We will have a few minutes to look around before we board our minibus again and head on to Copan (a further 6hrs drive plus time to negotiate border formalities). Today may be protracted as we will have several border crossing to contend with and timings can be unpredictable. It may be that we decide cross into Guatemala to take advantage of the better roads and then back into Honduras - an excellent opportunity to pick up a few more stamps in our passports! We arrive into the tourist town of Copan in the late afternoon/early evening where we spend our first night in Honduras. Because of the unpredictability of the timings today, we will travel with a packed lunch to avoid any unnecessary delays. Drive time: 8-9hrs.
➕ Day 11 Morning visit to the Maya Ruins at Copan. Afternoon drive to the town of Tela on the Caribbean coast of Honduras.
The town of Copan Ruinas is a hive of activity year round, with travelers from around the globe coming to discover the secrets of the Maya civilization and enjoy the beautiful scenery surrounding this small town. We take breakfast at the hotel and drop our packed bags in reception before heading on foot to the Mayan ruins of Copan; the most important cultural destination in Honduras, Copan is believed to have been the capital city of the kingdom from the 5th to 9th centuries. We have a guided tour followed by a little free time to explore the monuments and temples. Heading back to the entrance our bus and bags will be there to meet us in the car park and we head straight off on our drive to the Caribbean town of Tela, on the north coast, we'll stop somewhere en route to pick up some lunch. Arriving into Tela we check into the accommodation that will be our base for the next 3 nights. Drive time: 6-7hrs.
➕ Day 12 Speed boat journey, walking tour of Jeanette Kawas National Park. Traditional lunch on secluded beach with opportunity to snorkel.
After breakfast we head to the dock and set of on our boat tour to Jeanette Kawas National Park. The park was renamed in 1995 in honour of the heroic activist Jeanette Kawas, who lost her life during the campaign to prevent the palm plantations from destroying the park. Formally known as Punta Sal, the park exhibits a diverse array of both marine life and tropical forest ecosystem. On our fast boat we journey across the Bay of Tela (1.5hrs) to one of the most protected parts of the National Park; we may be lucky enough to see dolphin en route. Arriving in the bay we traverse the peninsula on foot, through mangrove and tropical forest, and we should be on the lookout for both white-faced and howler monkeys. Returning to our boats we head a short distance on to a secluded beach at Cocalito where we can enjoy a traditional Garifuna lunch and some time to relax on the beach Caribbean style. Snorkels will be provided and those keen for a swim can head out into the turquoise waters of the coral reef. We take our boat back to Tela in the late afternoon.
Time 1hr walking
➕ Day 13 Visit Lancetilla botanical gardens. Afternoon kayak through forest and mangroves in Punta Izopo NP.
This morning we visit Lancetilla Botanical Garden, the 2nd largest tropical botanical garden in the world! We'll learn all about the exotic fruits growing in the park, and even get to sample a few. Returning to Tela we have lunch and early afternoon at our leisure before we head to the Punta Izopo National Park, where we have the option to explore the mangroves by Kayak. This exciting excursion involves kayaking through the maze of mangrove creeks and rivers, which make up the Rio Pl'tano and the Rio Hicaque Lagoon, in the central zone of the Park. The wildlife in the mangroves is most lively during sunset and sunrise and our late afternoon/evening tour takes advantage of this. As well as countless species of bird we will hope to have the chance to observe (from a safe distance!) the crocodiles that inhabit the canals and mangroves. We'll want to have our head torches with us and our guide will also have a powerful torch, hoping help us catch a glimpse of those reptilian eyes shining back from us from in amongst the mangroves! On the way back to the hotel we stop a traditional eatery in the village of Triunfo de La Cruz to enjoy a celebratory Garifuna dinner with the sound of the Caribbean sea providing the sound track. We return to our hotel in Tela for one last night. Drive time: 1hr.
➕ Day 14 Departure day. A single transfer to San Pedro Sula Airport is provided.
After breakfast there will be a single group transfer to San Pedro Sula Airport. KE Land Only package services end after breakfast. Time permitting we can enjoy a last swim and a coffee in the small town of Tela. Drive time: 1-2hrs.