Central America timing- Costa Rica to Yucatan

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Central America timing- Costa Rica to Yucatan

1. Posted by oddgrace (Budding Member 39 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Hi travel buddies!

I am starting a new series of questions with regards to a Central America trip I’d planned last year and had so much awesome help from you guys! I had 3 and a half months away from February through to the end of April this past year but quite unfortunately, a few days before my flight, my business (I have a restaurant in New Zealand!) was devastated by a cyclone and closed for 5 months so I cancelled the trip. Anyway....I’m just starting to reschedule the trip for Jan/Feb though have changed up my direction a bit and had a few questions.

-Flying into Costa Rica around the 2nd January and heading to Monteverde/Arenal, and some of the beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula. How busy IS it really that time of year? I never travel during peak season and it makes me a bit nervous! Also...I hear so many mixed things about Costa Rica. Many call it their favourite country in the world and others say it is too westernised for their tastes. I will decide for myself but is two weeks enough/too much for the above itinerary in your opinions (and happy for all opinions!)

-Taking this route through overland to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, into Belize and up the coast of the Yucatan to fly out of Cancun- I like to travel slowly but steadily, never rushed but also not overstaying. Is 9 weeks enough? Costa Rica as above. In Nicaragua I want to spend time in San Juan, Ometepe (especially), Granada, Masaya, Leon, and some of the beaches around Las Penitas. In El Salvador pretty specifically El Tunco and the Ruta de Los Flores. Guatemala- Antigua, Atitlan, Semuc Chapman, Flores and Tikal. Belize- San Ignacio and Caye Caulker. Yucatan- Laguna Bacalar and Tulum en route to fly out of Cancun (no time there!). Do I need longer? I can’t seem to figure out the proper timing for a region that is small yet vast and traveling by busses will add travel time.

Sorry to re-post a year later but hey....life happened! I just had to go with it!

Thanks for the help


2. Posted by Teoni (Travel Guru 810 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

I don't think westernised is the right way to describe Costa Rica. It is more developed than its counterparts north of the border so as a result it has a different vibe, feel and culture that comes with that developement. In tourist areas you will find the American culture more pronouced but overall I found Costa Rica does have its own unique identity which may not necesarily fit with what people's idea of Latin American culture should be. I don't know what your plans are for each location in Costa Rica but for two weeks I kind of feel like you could add a another place or two.

For your whole trip I would think three and half months should be adequate. Though I would swap around Atitlán and Antigua. If you are using buses there is more regular service from Antigua to Lanquin than from Atitlan.

3. Posted by Piecar (Inactive 1218 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Hey there. I have done similar routes half a dozen times. A couple coming FROM Cancun, a couple going to Cancun from Panama (and a couple just bumping around until I was done and flying from wherever I was close to.)

I agree with Teoni. Costa Rica isn't "Westernized" as much as it is the more developed of the region. There are still little villages and unspoiled green and great people and they still say "pura vida." to each other and really mean it.

I mostly like your route. I agree, again, with Teoni on busing out of Antigua...(now THERE is a village, lovely though it is, the betrays marks of becoming overly Westernized. I was there earlier this year. Some of it's ruins have been turned into corporate convention spots. Still. A great town.)

Your route up through El Salvador I can't remember. El Salvador is country I haven't been back to for twenty years. I used to go through Honduras to dive on the Caribbean side. If you are a surfer, your route is good, though. I see you had San Juan del Sur, so I suspect.

Guat thru to Belize is good routing. Don't discount San Pedro, though. You can at least look at it when you are on Caulker. Caulker, by the way, has sand fleas. Lather up. EDIT: Thinking about it, now. I think you'll have to go to San Pedro anyway, to catch the Thunderbolt to route across to the Corozal/Chetumal border crossing.

Tullum is my fave Mayan Ruin. It's tiny, but gorgeous.

To your ultimate question: 9 weeks is a great amount of time to at least get a decent taste of CA. You won't have to rush, you won't get bored. Stay flexible. Remember, you can rocket to Cancun in a couple of days from pretty much anywhere, so you can slightly overstay your timetable and still get out.

Have a great time. This was my entry into the world of travel, back in my early twenties. I love it and I think you'll really dig your time there.

[ Edit: Edited on 29-Jul-2018, at 11:54 by Piecar ]

4. Posted by oddgrace (Budding Member 39 posts) 1y 1 Star this if you like it!

Thank you so much for the amazing replies! It really helps feel confident with the itinerary and helpful on all ends. I will certainly take the advice on Antigua and feel exceptionally excited about Costa Rica and your feeling about it. And how accessible the route is in and out for taking it slower in certain areas! I’m actually not a surfer at all, though I do hope to learn better as I’ve only been once or twice but I love the Sea. Choosing the El Salvador over Honduras route was actually simply a suggestion from a fellow traveler who said it was their favourite. I have been traveling for 14 years in some interesting places in the world and my hope for Central America is to go somewhere that still has awesome culture, interesting experiences, and a bit of a challenge, with the ease, friend and fellowship, beaches, and beauty of a vacation. Just what I’m in the mood for travelling at the moment. :). Happy for any feedback to keep coming but than you guys so much for what you’ve given so far....I’ve bought my tickets!