Explore Central America: Nicaragua & Costa Rica

10 days Nature & Wildlife, Multi-country
See the best of this vibrant region when you sip Costa Rican coffee at the plantation. Get a glimpse of Nicaragua’s rich heritage in Granada and stroll the historic streets of San José. You’ll see nature in its purest forms, from dense rainforests to verdant volcanic islands, as well as historic cities.

Let us handle the details

Expert Tour Director

      Local       cuisine

Handpicked hotels

Sightseeing with local guides

Private transportation

Personalized flight options

Tour group size: 15 - 30 travelers

Tour pace: You will walk for about 45 minutes daily across moderately uneven terrain, including gravel paths and paved roads, with some hills.

Let us handle the details

Expert Tour Director

      Local       cuisine

Handpicked hotels

Sightseeing with local guides

Private transportation

Personalized flight options

Your tour includes

  • 9 nights in handpicked hotels

  • Breakfast daily, 2 lunches, 7 three- course dinners; beer is included at the welcome and farewell dinners

  • Multilingual Tour Director

  • Private deluxe motor coach

  • Guided sightseeing and select entrance fees

Granada 3 nights Hotel info

Day 1: Arrival in Nicaragua

Fly to Managua and transfer to Granada to settle in to your hotel.

Day 2: Sightseeing tour of Granada

  Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Get to know the city’s Spanish architecture and rich heritage on foot and by boat.

• Take a guided tour of Granada’s UNESCO-recognized colonial zone

• Step into the 16th-century La Merced Church 

• Enter the Fortaleza de la Pólvora, the fort which once housed the city’s gunpowder 

• Cruise the Islets of Granada, viewing a few of the 365 volcanic islands that dot Lake Nicaragua along the way 

• Visit a local school with a guide before returning to Granada (Please note: On select departures, school may be closed for holidays and breaks.)

Celebrate the start of your Central American journey at tonight’s welcome dinner with your fellow travelers.

Day 3: Masaya Volcano, markets & village visit

  Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Leave the city behind to experience the scenery and traditions of rural Nicaragua

• Visit Masaya Volcano for sweeping views of the region

• Browse handicrafts at the country’s best open-air markets

• Tour the “Pueblos Blancos,” local villages of white colonial buildings that are home to rich pre-Columbian history and traditional craftspeople

• Enjoy lunch overlooking Apoyo Lagoon 

• Learn about local trades, like ceramics, leatherwork and furniture-making

Guanacaste 2 nights Hotel info

Day 4: Santa Rosa National Park & Liberia

  Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Cross into Costa Rica this morning and get to know the country on guided tours. 

• Stop at Santa Rosa National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to walk through the park’s signature dry forests and catch a glimpse of the birds, monkeys and sloths that call the ecosystem home

• Continue on to Guanacaste, crossing the Guanacaste Pampa, where your Tour Director will lead a quick walking tour of the region’s colonial capital of Liberia

Day 5: Free Day in Guanacaste

  Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Enjoy a full free day in Guanacaste or add an excursion.

Optional Excursion - Sailing & Snorkeling $99pp* Details

Sailing & Snorkeling

From Playa Flamingo, embark on an unforgettable sailing voyage aboard a catamaran yacht. On your cruise, helmed by a crew of three, you’ll head out on the bay to encounter turtles, jumping rays and dolphins. If you’re feeling adventurous, take advantage of the available snorkeling equipment and jump right in. The cruise provides plenty of time to sit back and unwind with snacks and beverages as you listen to relaxing music and enjoy the spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean.

Save $10 when you book this excursion up to 3 days before your tour departs. (On-tour price: $109)

Arenal 2 nights Hotel info

Day 6: Tenorio & Corobici river rafting

  Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Make your way to the Arenal region today, stopping en route at the Tenorio River. Hop aboard a six-person raft for a ride down the river, where you may spot crocodiles, otters, monkeys and birds.

Day 7: Arenal National Park

  Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Start the day with a walk through Arenal National Park, home to one of Costa Rica’s most active volcanoes. Then, enjoy a free afternoon in Arenal or add an excursion.

Optional Excursion - Ziplining Tour $55pp* Details

Today's ziplining excursion adds a bit of adrenaline to your Costa Rican vacation. The longest ziplines on this course cover nearly half a mile, and the tallest are almost 600 feet off the ground; in short, you've never traveled like this before! You'll fly silently above the treetops and come home with a renewed sense of adventure.

Save $10 when you book this excursion up to 3 days before your tour departs. (On-tour price: $65)

Central Coast 1 night

Day 8: Tarcoles & Carara National Park

  Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

This morning, drive along the Pan-American Highway, a roadway that stretches across the Americas, making your way to Tarcoles. En route, visit the Carara National Park for an afternoon excursion.

• Enjoy a hike at your own pace on trails through a private reserve bordering Carara National Park. 

• Catch sight of tropical birds like scarlet macaws, yellow-billed cotingas and black-hooded antshrikes

• Cross the Villa Lapas Skyway, a series of five bridges suspended 180 feet above the rainforest floor for unmatched views of the wildlife, the Tarcoles River and Pacific Ocean

San José 1 night Hotel info

Day 9: Coffee plantation visit & San José sightseeing tour

  Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Depart the Central Coast and visit a coffee plantation before reaching San José.

• Tour the family-owned Doka estate to learn about coffee harvests during a demonstration and enjoy a tasting

When you arrive in San José, get to know the city on a panoramic tour.

• See La Sabana Metropolitan Park, the National Stadium and the Rohrmoser residential area

• Stop at the Plaza de la Cultura, site of many performances and celebrations, and admire the National Theatre of Costa Rica 

• Pass Bella Vista Fortress, home of the National Museum, and learn about the city’s pre-Columbian history

• Marvel at the steel exterior of the Edifico Metálico, a century-old building prefabricated in Belgium, and admire the historic streets of Barrio Amón

Day 10: Departure

  Included meals: Breakfast (excluding early morning departures)

Board your flight home or continue your tour in Panama.

Add Panama Starting from $699 pp

From historic Panama City to the postcard-worthy beaches of Santa Clara, discover Panama from all sides. Stroll past UNESCO-recognized landmarks, explore the famous Panama Canal, then enjoy a little free time to bask in the tropical breeze.

Santa Clara Coast 2 nights

Day 10: Sightseeing tour of Panama City

  Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Fly to Panama City, the first European settlement on the Pacific coast. Get to know Panama’s capital city on a guided tour before continuing on to Bijao Beach on the Santa Clara coast. 

• See Spanish, French and early-American influences in the UNESCO-recognized Old City

• View major highlights, including the striking Metropolitan Cathedral and regal Plaza de la Independencia

• Drive down the palm-lined Amador Causeway for unbeatable views of the modern cityscape and Panama Bay

• End your tour by visiting  Miraflores Locks on the famous Panama Canal

Day 11: Free day in Santa Clara

  Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Spend a leisurely day soaking up the sun in Santa Clara, enjoying the tropical weather and postcard-worthy beaches.

Panama City 1 night

Day 12: Free day in Santa Clara & Panama City

  Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Enjoy a free morning and included lunch in Santa Clara before heading back to Panama City, where you’ll have time to explore the city at your leisure.

Day 13: Departure

  Included meals: Breakfast (excluding early morning departures)

Board your flight home today.

How's the weather?

  • Granada, Nicaragua
  • Guanacaste, Costa Rica
  • San José, Costa Rica
Temperature Precipitation
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Passport & visa requirements

  • This tour visits Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama (plus Colombia on the tour extension). In order to enter these countries, U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport with an expiration date extending at least six months beyond the date of reentry.
  • We recommend having at least two blank passport pages for entry stamps.
  • There is no visa required for U.S. or Canadian citizens to enter any of the countries visited on this tour.
  • If you are not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact each country’s consulate for your specific entry requirements.       

Tour pace

  • You will walk for about 2 hours daily across moderately uneven terrain, including gravel paths and paved roads, with some hills.
  • Travelers should be healthy enough to participate in all included walks without assistance. Adding optional excursions may increase the total amount of walking on your tour.
  • You should feel comfortable managing your own baggage at times, as well as getting in and out of small boats.
  • If you have any mobility concerns or physical restrictions, please contact our Customer Experience Team.         

Transportation & arrival information

  • Round-trip flights booked through Go Ahead arrive in Managua and depart from Panama City (or Cartagena on the tour extension). A Go Ahead representative will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel. Please remain in the arrival lounge, as the representative might be escorting one of your fellow travelers to the bus at the time of your arrival.
  • Transfers to and from the airport at your destination are included for travelers who have purchased their flights through Go Ahead. Travelers who purchase their own flights may request airport transfers with Go Ahead for an additional cost.
  • A flight from San Jose to Panama City is included in the price of your tour. (The tour extension also includes a flight from Panama City to Cartagena).
  • All other included transportation on this tour is by boat or private motor coach.     

Baggage allowance

  • Airlines have varying weight restrictions on baggage. Some airlines may impose additional charges if you choose to check any baggage; be advised that you are responsible for any such costs.
  • Contact your airline for detailed information regarding baggage size and weight restrictions for your flight, but please note that Go Ahead travelers are restricted to one checked bag per person due to storage limitations on motor coaches and other transfers, which may include train connections or flights.
  • One carry-on bag is also permitted, provided that it does not exceed 45 total inches (length + width + height).
  • Make sure you label your baggage and keep valuables, medication and documents in your carry-on bag.

Clothing & packing tips

  • We recommend packing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that can be easily layered. Comfortable, casual clothing, a lightweight jacket and a sturdy pair of walking shoes are a must for sightseeing.
  • Waterproof shoes or sandals, a swimsuit, sunscreen and insect repellent are recommended for daily activities.
  • Binoculars are handy for a closer look at local wildlife and scenery.
  • You may want to pack dressier attire if you plan to visit a high-end restaurant or attend a special performance.
  • It is preferable not to visit churches or other religious sites with bare legs and shoulders (and entrance may be denied on this basis).         

Health

  • At least 60 days prior to departure, check with your doctor or healthcare provider for the latest updates and entry requirements, or visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov.
  • Take proper care with sun exposure, as the sun can be especially strong in some of the regions on this tour.
  • Drink bottled water only. Refrain from ingesting tap water, including when brushing your teeth.
  • Avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables unless they’re cooked or washed in clean water and peeled.
  • Travelers prone to seasickness should note that this tour includes several boat transfers.
  • If you have medication that you take daily, be sure you have enough for each day of the tour and any possible delays encountered.
  • If you have dietary restrictions and/or food allergies please notify Go Ahead at least 30 days prior to your departure by logging in to My Account and updating your traveler info. To update this information closer to your departure date, please call our Customer Experience Team.            

Cuisine

  • Costa Rican cuisine is based on staples like rice, black beans and corn with beef, chicken or fish. Fresh, locally grown fruit includes bananas, mangoes, pineapples and avocados. Traditional desserts include custards, puddings and simple cakes. Locally grown coffee is served strong and black, but hot milk is often available if you ask.
  • Nicaraguan cuisine blends Spanish, indigenous and Creole influences. Corn, rice and beans are the most common staples, with seafood and coconut added to most menus on the Caribbean coastline. Popular local fruits include mangoes, papayas, bananas, avocados, yucca and tamarind.
  • The food in Panama is extremely varied. Spanish and indigenous dishes blend with the flavors of France, Italy, Africa and the Caribbean. Look out for delicious coconut rice, sancocho (chicken stew) and savory snacks, like empanadas and fried yucca.

Electricity & air conditioning

  • Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama (plus Colombia on the tour extension) operate on 110 volts and use Types A or B plugs with two flat pins or two flat pins and one round pin, respectively.
  • The strength of the air conditioning in some hotels in this region may not be as strong or as cool as what you might be used to in the U.S. or Canada. When air conditioning is available, it is usually regulated seasonally and controlled centrally by the hotel.
  • Your hotels may provide hairdryers, irons and other small appliances. However, these amenities cannot be guaranteed.

Connectivity

  • Wi-Fi is available in most hotels, though some charges may apply. In more remote locations, internet access may be limited and is not guaranteed.
  • There is no Wi-Fi on any of the motor coaches.
  • Please contact your mobile service provider for information on roaming charges.   

Time zones

  • Nicaragua and Costa Rica are six hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and one hour behind Eastern Standard Time (EST). These countries do not observe Daylight Saving Time.
  • Panama is five hours behind GMT, the same as EST. Panama does not observer Daylight Saving Time.
  • From March through November, when it’s noon in New York City, it’s 11am on in Nicaragua and Costa Rica and noon in Panama. From April through October, when it’s 10am in Nicaragua and Costa Rica and 11am in Panama.            

Currency

  • You will use the colón in Costa Rica, the córdoba in Nicaragua, and the U.S. dollar in Panama (plus the Colombian peso in Colombia on the tour extension).
  • In Nicaragua, U.S. dollars are accepted in most instances, though change may be given in córdoba.
  • Please make sure that you bring crisp U.S. dollars printed in 2004 or later. Older or worn bills will not be accepted.
  • Better rates of exchange are usually available overseas, although it’s worth ordering some currency from your local bank to use when you first arrive.
  • We strongly advise that you take debit/bank cards and credit cards, which can be used to withdraw cash at local banks as needed.
  • You can use most debit/credit cards at ATMs on the international networks Cirrus and Plus, but make sure to check with your home bank about withdrawal fees.
  • Inform your bank and credit card company of your travel plans so that they won’t confuse your international purchases for fraudulent charges.
  • International banks and businesses primarily accept debit and credit cards that work with the EMV chip system. If you do not already have at least one debit or credit card with a chip in it, we strongly recommend requesting one from your bank prior to your tour.        

Tipping

  • At the conclusion of your tour, it’s customary to offer your Tour Director and driver a gratuity in local currency. Please keep current exchange rates in mind.
  • We recommend tipping the equivalent of $7USD/CAD to $10USD/CAD per person per day for your Tour Director and the equivalent of $3USD/CAD per person per day for your driver.
  • If applicable, we also recommend the equivalent of $2USD/CAD per local guide.
  • Tips can only be paid in cash.       

Purchasing excursions on tour

  • Most optional excursions will be available for purchase while you are on tour.
  • Your Tour Director will only accept cash (in USD only), Visa or MasterCard as payment for excursions.
  • Please be advised that if you pay for an excursion by credit card while on tour, it may take up to three months for your card to be charged.
  • Some optional excursions may only be purchased in advance. See page four of your tour itinerary for more information.

See what our travelers say about this tour—all reviews are authentic and unedited.

Have you been on tour with us? Visit My Account to submit a review.

5 / 5

5 / 5

Tour Date: 1/13/2016

Number of Past Tours: 8

From: OH

Tour Director: 5 / 5

Tour Value: 5 / 5

Volcanoes, colonial towns and amazing wildlife

Having just returned from this tour that enabled us to travel to four countries, we are eager to share our enthusiasm for the itinerary, the overall quality of the meals and accommodations, and the caliber of the Tour Director, local guides and drivers. Our exploration took place with a very congenial group of 18 travelers, and we are grateful for the conversations, the laughter, and the general helpfulness that made the trip even more enjoyable. The itinerary was one that provided an excellent introduction to each of the four countries and brought us in contact with nature and wildlife. Nicaraguan highlights included the walking tour of the colonial city of Granada with its lively market and panoramic views from the bell tower of the Iglesia de la Merced, the Lake Nicaragua boat trip to some of Las Isletas, standing on the upper edge of a steaming volcanic crater, visiting the workshop of a renowned potter, pulling off of the roadway onto a beach at sunset for a breathtaking (cloudless) view of the Concepción and Maderas volcanoes, and viewing some of the petroglyphs of Ometepe Island. On our outings we were accompanied by the joyful whistles and chirps of the grackles; we also saw capuchin and spider monkeys, bats, entertaining blue-tailed magpies that joined us for lunch, many other bird species (egrets, herons, kingfishers, jacanas, …), and trees heavily draped in Montezuma Oropendola nests. Crossing the border from Nicaragua into Costa Rica was an enlightening experience in itself! Travel in Costa Rica provided the opportunity to compare the Guanacaste region (dry tropical forest and Pacific beaches), the Northern region (Arenal, rain forests, hot springs) and the Central Valley (rolling verdant hills and rich volcanic soil). We particularly enjoyed the turquoise beauty of Flamingo Beach (and the sailing outing), activities in the La Fortuna/Arenal area (ziplining at Arenal Mundo Aventura that included a cable over the stunning La Fortuna waterfall, a visit to an organic farm that was proposed by our Tour Director, a hike in the Arenal Volcano National Park), and the opportunity to see some of San José. Our wildlife list continued to lengthen: iguanas, coatis, two types of snake including a bright yellow Eyelash viper, and many more birds, with a thrilling sighting of several Great Curassows. In Panama, our tour included three Panama Cities: the site of the 16th-century city, the Spanish colonial city and the modern city with a growing number of skyscrapers and shopping malls. We took great pleasure in the Panama Canal cruise and the opportunity to be on the water and going through the locks. The commentary provided was excellent. Our outing to the indigenous Emberá community of Tusipono was informative and pleasurable. Three of us continued to Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, a colonial gem! Our hotel was located in the walled Old Town (UNESCO World Heritage Site) with its sixteenth-century plazas and colorful, balconied buildings. On the afternoon of our arrival, we had a plaza-to-plaza walking tour of the Old Town during which we were introduced to a number of local celebrities (fruit vendors, candy vendors, artists, …) The following morning, a van took us to the San Felipe fortress (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the greatest Spanish colonial fort. While in Cartagena, we participated in the optional tour to the Rosario Islands. We enjoyed the outing but would warn others that almost every activity proposed on our destination island, Isla Grande, involved additional expense. On the trip back to the hotel, we spotted participants in the TV show, “The Amazing Race” enjoying the city as much as we were! With very few exceptions, the accommodations and meals provided were truly excellent, and a number of them were outstanding! The Hotel Plaza Colón in Granada is a grand colonial building with lovely rooms and a helpful staff located right across from the central park. The Flamingo Beach Resort is right on the beach and has a beautiful pool area. The Hotel Bantú in Cartagena de Indias is a beautiful boutique hotel in a great location in the old city. The staff welcome was warm, and there are two toucans in residence who wander the lobby! We greatly appreciated our Tour Director, Rafa, who was with us in three countries and the local guides in Nicaragua (Jorge), Panama (Lise) and Colombia (Eusebio). They were extremely knowledgeable (including their information about wildlife); they truly helped us understand much about each destination; they tried to respond to wishes and needs to make the trip the best possible one for everyone. We highly recommend this tour for all of the reasons mentioned above. Furthermore, participation in this tour provides fewer complications than for many other tours. The voltage and wall plugs are the same as in the United States; no visas are required; travelers can drink the water in Costa Rica and Panama; there is no problem with jet lag as you are on Eastern or Central time during the entire trip. We would simply mention that when you go through immigration in Nicaragua a $10.00 payment (in American dollars) is required. Also, when walking in any city, you need to pay very careful attention to the uneven surfaces and holes in the sidewalks (some of which were a foot deep and a foot wide!). We hope that these comments will inspire others to book travel to these countries and that any travelers who choose this trip will have an experience as memorable as ours was!

1 / 6
 

Hello, and welcome home from tour! Thank you so much for your thoughtful and detailed review. We’re thrilled to hear about all the amazing things you experienced. We’re happy you enjoyed the accommodations and cuisine, as well as the itinerary itself. Between the wildlife, the cultures, and the beautiful landscapes, we definitely share your enthusiasm for this tour. We’re especially glad you were able to experience it with such a fantastic group, making unforgettable memories along the way! Furthermore, it sounds like your Tour Director did a fabulous job leading the group and meeting everyone’s needs. We’re honored you would recommend this tour, and we hope to welcome you on another soon. Again, thank you for taking the time to share your experience, including your breathtaking pictures!

Posted by Daniela, Director of Quality Control | February 08, 2016