- Get up close and personal with the country's diverse heritage, from the magnificent Aztec temples of Teotihuacan to the brightly-dressed Maya folk of the hills of San Cristobal.
- Compare Mexico City's heady street-food scene to the subtler fare found in Oaxaca.
- Take in the atmosphere and culture of San Jose: Costa Rica’s bustling capital nestled between the mountains and volcanoes.
- Hike to San Pedrillo in Corcovado National Park and explore one of the world's most biodiverse regions.
- Swim at white-sand beaches in Manuel Antonio National Park, after searching for exotic birdlife in the depths of the jungle.
- Learn about the trade of one of Costa Rica’s largest exports: coffee. Take a visit to a family's coffee farm and learn the process from cherry to cup (with a tasting, of course).
- Discover the diverse and unique wildlife of Costa Rica: butterflies, birds, iguanas, sloths and caimans, to name a few.
Raise glass of mezcal to the diversity of Mexico, then embrace ‘pura vida’ (the simple life) in the rainforests and on the beaches of Costa Rica. Discover history in the ruins of Chichen Itza, then visit a contemporary Maya village to see how ancient Mesoamerican traditions have evolved. Savour simple fare during lunch with a Zapotec family and sip smoky mezcal at a distillery in Oaxaca. Unwind in a small village near Corcovado National Park, hiking jungle trails in the morning and cooling off in the waters of the Osa Peninsula in the afternoon. Explore sloth country (AKA Manuel Antonio National Park) and match their leisurely pace as you relax among natural splendour of Costa Rica. Ancient cultures, incredible food, wildlife and wilderness – this 22-day trip has it all.
Day 1: Mexico City
Arrive at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport and be transferred to your hotel. A complimentary transfer is included with your trip. Please ensure you provide your flight details to your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel so the transfer can be organised. Settle in and, if you have time, take a stroll to get a feel for this vibrant and rapidly growing capital where the ancient and modern collide. You'll meet your leader and other members of your group this evening for a welcome meeting at 6 pm; the place of the meeting can be found at the hotel reception. This meeting will be followed by an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Day 2: Mexico City
Enjoy a guided city tour of Mexico City. You'll visit the Metropolitan Cathedral, Zocalo, National Palace and Museum of Anthropology. After that, the day is yours to spend as you please. The Leon Trotsky and Frida Kahlo (La Casa Azul) museums are two popular sights worth checking as an optional activity. Trotsky, having come off second-best to Stalin in the race to the helm during the Soviet era, was expelled and found refuge in Mexico City where he was eventually murdered, while Frida Kahlo is perhaps the most renowned Mexican artist in history. Both of which can be reached by Uber. Otherwise, just outside of the city, the colourful Xochimilco gardens and canals are especially fun on weekends.
Day 3: Teotihuacan / Oaxaca
Leaving the hotel at 8 am, today you'll visit the Teotihuacan ruins, about 50 kilometres northeast of Mexico City (1.5 hour drive). Discover the amazing ruins known as the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon which dominate the skyline. This was once one of the biggest cities in the world. Stroll down ‘The Avenue of the Dead’ and see the clues to what life was like here nearly 2000 years ago. Continue to Oaxaca (5 hours) learning some Spanish phrases from your leader on the way. This beautiful colonial city is known for its cuisine and lively art scene, but it's also a great place to browse for traditional Mexican handicrafts, with descendants of the Zapotec and Mixtec selling an array of bright woven blankets and shawls. Upon arrival, your leader will take you on a short walk around the hotel to help orientate you, and to point out useful services such as bus stops or ATMs.
Day 4: Mitla / Oaxaca
Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Oaxaca has much to offer travellers so today you’ll take a full day tour of the city and its surrounds, including lunch at a local family’s home. Be ready at 8 am for your local guide will take you to the Mitla ruins, which were once the religious centre for the Zapotec. Sip on the famous, tequila-like local liquor, mezcal, at a mezcal factory and visit the Tule Tree, a 1500-year-old tree that's over 11 metres in girth. Returning to the hotel about 8 pm, if you still have the energy, the evening is free for you to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy Oaxaca’s nightlife.
Day 5: Oaxaca
Today is a free day to explore Oaxaca at your own pace, with a range of optional activities to consider. Perhaps pay a visit to the archaeological site of Monte Alban. The Zapotec civilisation began construction of this city around 200 BC, and Olmecs and Mixtecs have inhabited it at different times. Have your camera ready to go, because up here you can get an amazing view across the three legs of the valley of Oaxaca. Or check out Hierve el Agua: a group of stunning natural rock formations and mineral pools perched high in the hills overlooking the surrounding countryside. Hierve el Agua is known for its ‘petrified’ waterfalls, where many years ago the water calcified over the rock faces and now, they resemble frozen waterfalls. Otherwise, enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the streets and take the opportunity to feast on some regional delicacies. Season depending, a folkloric ballet performance is an also a great optional activity. The Santo Domingo Cultural Centre is also worth a visit.
Day 6: San Cristobal de las Casas
Depart Oaxaca for the airport at approximately 5.30 am, then take the 8 am flight to Tuxtla airport (1.5 hours), before driving to the charming city of San Cristobal de las Casas (approximately 1 hour). Once in 'San Cris', as it's known, take a walk and soak up the strong old-world atmosphere of this town, which is due in no small part to the grand Spanish colonial architecture, prominent indigenous cultures and winding cobblestone streets. Your leader will help orientate you with a walk around the hotel, then you are free to venture further into the city.
Day 7: San Juan Chamula / San Cristobal de las Casas
This morning, your leader will take you on a walking tour of the city, passing impressive cathedrals, green plazas and countless museums. Next, head to the nearby Maya village of San Juan Chamula (30 minutes’ drive). Nestled in the highlands, this village serves as marketplaces and religious ceremonial centres for the indigenous folk who live in the surrounding hills. The local people have retained their traditional way of life and can often be seen wearing their own distinctive, colourful clothes. Journey another 15 minutes to visit the next town of Zincantan. As you explore with your leader, we'll learn more about these mostly Maya communities. Later, during free time back in San Cris, perhaps rent a bike to explore the town further.
Day 8: San Cristobal de las Casas
The rest of your time in San Cristobal de las Casas is free for you to explore on your own. You may want to pay a visit to the Na Bolom Museum: a small museum and research centre which was the home of anthropologist and photographer Gertrude Duby-Blom and her archaeologist husband Frans Blom. While Frans explored Mayan sites all over Chiapas, Trudy studied, photographed and fought to protect the scattered Lacandon people. Today, as well as being a hotel and a museum, the house provides free accommodation to Lacandon people who make their way to San Cristobal for work, studies or medical reasons. Alternatively, you may want to visit the amber (jade) museum, which displays and sells beautifully carved items and insect- embedded pieces or venture to the Sumidero Canyon to get a dose of nature.
Day 9: Palenque
Say goodbye to San Cristobal de Las Casas as you head for Palenque and its surrounding jungle. It will be an early start to minimise the chance of hitting road closures common in the area. There will be a stop or two to stretch your legs, before arriving (4-5 hours) at the low and wide Agua Azul Waterfalls, which flow slowly over limestone rocks. There's time for lunch and a quick dip, so remember to pack your swimsuit! Otherwise, enjoy a scenic stroll around the beautiful surroundings, before continuing to Palenque (1.5-2 hours). A group dinner is included tonight.
Day 10: Palenque Ruins / Merida
At 8 am this morning you'll drive 30 minutes to visit the archaeological site of Palenque. Located on a hilltop in an area of hot jungle, these are some of the most astounding Maya ruins in the region, dating back as far as AD600. Some of the ruins remain unexcavated and are hidden in the surrounding forest. Enjoy a 2-hour guided tour of the site and keep an ear out for the strange calls of howler monkeys as you explore this lost city. At about 11 am, take a 3-hour drive to the lunch stop. Enjoy the chance to stretch your legs as there is another 4-5 hours' drive before reaching Merida about 8 pm, the capital of the Yucatan region.
Day 11: Merida
Today is a free day to explore the many sights of Merida. Perhaps visit some of the museums, including the impressive Regional Anthropology Museum of the Yucatan, and stroll the city streets which are alive with art and culture. Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the 16th-century cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the other. The outdoor market is another essential visit, with an array of hammocks and Mayan replicas for sale, plus a selection of enticing local cuisine, including the dish cochinita pibil ('little pig') or the incredibly spicy El Yucateco hot sauce. If you can't visit enough Maya sites, you may want to head for the ancient ruins of Uxmal. Here you'll visit the amazing Palace of the Governors, considered by many to be the best example of classic Maya architecture. You may choose to travel west out to the coast to take a boat ride and visit the Celestun Bird Sanctuary and Biosphere Reserve. Here, near extensive beaches lined with coconut trees, you'll see a variety of coastal birds. Depending on the season (usually November to March), you may be able to witness the magnificent sight of thousands of flamingos painting a pink streak across the landscape.
Day 12: Izamal
In the afternoon, transfer by private vehicle to Izamal, a small city 1 hour’s drive from Merida. Izamal is an important pre-Columbian Maya site and your leader will take you for a guided walking tour of the city including a visit to the Convento de San Antonio de Padua, a Spanish monastery built on the site of a destroyed Maya temple in 1561. Take the opportunity to spend a lazy afternoon people-watching and soaking it all in.
Day 13: Chichen Itza / Playa del Carmen
Departing early, our first stop today is Chichen Itza, an hour's drive from Izamal. This is possibly the most famous Maya site in Mexico. You'll see the marvellous Temple of Kukulkan standing over the ruins and not far from the temple is the ‘ball court’, where many disputes are known to have been settled by way of a ball game that employed only the elbows, hips and wrists. Stone carvings depicting violence suggest it was not such a casual sport. Following a guided tour of the site, we'll continue to the resort town of Playa del Carmen (2 hours).
Day 14: Playa del Carmen
Take today to enjoy Playa del Carmen as you see fit. Kick back with a book, stroll along the white sands or snorkel in crystal-clear waters. Blessed with azure waters, powdery beaches and an almost European feel, Playa del Carmen is a popular resort town famed for its coral reefs. For adventures further afield, take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving, or perhaps check out the Tulum ruins, an ancient Maya city protected against invaders by a high wall and situated on a cliff overlooking a white sandy beach. In the evening, settle in beachside and watch the world go by with a margarita in your hand or take advantage of the famous nightlife and let your salty hair down.
Day 15: San Jose
Say Adios to Mexico today and head over to Costa Rica. The flight, a complimentary departure transfer to Cancun Airport and a complimentary arrival transfer in Havana are included with your trip. There will be a welcome meeting at approximately 6 pm this evening followed by an optional group dinner. San Jose is this dreamy country’s capital, a bustling city flanked by mountains to the south and more mountains to the north, with a few volcanoes thrown in for good measure. This rapidly expanding city contains lively markets, historic neighbourhoods and a chorus of beautiful old theatres, with a big chunk of the country’s population living within its boundaries. You’ll get things started with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, after which you can look for your first taste of Costa Rican cuisine in the surrounding streets.
Day 16: Copey de Dota
At 9 am, after breakfast, take a leader-led walking tour of San Jose’s dynamic downtown area (around 1.5 hours). Around 11 am, you’ll take a private vehicle on a 2-hour drive to Costa Rica’s coffee capital, Zona Los Santos in Frailes. Here, visit the Don Cornelio farm, where you’ll learn how this expensive bean makes it from cherry to cup, with lunch and a delicious coffee tasting. In the afternoon, continue driving another 2 hours to Copey de Dota, and along the way, why not learn some Spanish phrases with an informal language lesson from your leader. The locals will love you for it! Spend the evening at a lodge close to the lush cloud forest.
Day 17: Drake Bay
Wake bright and early to depart San Gerardo de Dota at 6 am in a private vehicle and drive 2 hours to the Finca 6 museum and archaeological site. Spend some time learning about the mysterious, pre-Columbian spheres whose significance remains unknown to this day. Onwards to the port, ready for an 11 am boat trip to the natural beauty of Drake Bay, part of the Osa Peninsula and close to the Corcovado National Park. This is a great time to speak to your group leader about the activities on offer in the Osa Peninsula, including birdwatching, hiking, or snorkelling off the coast. Please note that most of the activities need to be pre-booked, so if there is something you want to tick off your bucket list, it’s best to get in early. With 13 major ecosystems, over 400 species of birds and all the monkeys, turtles and butterflies you’d ever wish to see, Corcovado is a nature-lover's dream. Enjoy dinner at a lodge hidden away in the rainforest.
Day 18: Corcovado / Drake Bay
Wake up in the lush jungle, ready for a hike at San Pedrillo. San Pedrillo is the northernmost park station in Corcovado, and there are multiple hiking trails that you can take, either along the beach or through the forest. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the forest, and maybe spot some spider monkeys, black-cheeked ant tanagers and tapir. Enjoy a lunch during your hike, and make sure you cool off in the Pacific shores of Llorona or Sirena Beach. At night, Corcovado comes alive in other ways, with new sights and sounds to be experienced. Consider an optional night jungle Walking tour, where you’ll see a great variety of reptiles, amphibians and insects that aren’t often seen during the day.
Day 19: Manuel Antonio
Depart at 7.30 am to take the boat and then drive 6 hours north to Manuel Antonio, a town nestled by a national park of the same name on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast. You’ll find yourself in certified sloth country. There’ll be an optional lunch stop on the way and the afternoon is yours to relax. Drop a towel on the white-sand beaches, take a swim or swing life away in a hammock. In the evening, you could choose to enjoy the Pacific sunset from the water on a sail boat, wishing another night away on your Costa Rican adventure.
Day 20: Manuel Antonio
Take today to experience the lush national park surrounding Manuel Antonio. Your park entrance fee is included and joining you will be a naturalist guide with all the info and knowledge that you need, so spend some more time discovering and learning about the beauty of the jungle, keeping an eye out for sloths and iguanas. Wander into the depths of the rainforest, and be aware of where your naturalist guide is telling you to look – they know exactly where to find the weird and wonderful that call this place home. Later in the day, you could book yourself in a kayak tour of the waterways and mangrove habitat, seeing the park from the water. You could also head to one of Manuel Antonio's famed beaches, rent a surfboard and spend some time catching waves in the water, and rays on the sand.
Day 21: San Jose
Good morning from beautiful Manuel Antonio. You'll have a free morning here before you head on your way to Costa Rica's capital. Why not hit the sand and go for a morning swim? Otherwise, the town of Manuel Antonio has some cool hangouts for a coffee. If you'd like to take a morning hike through the national park, we don't blame you! Please be aware that you'll have to cover your own entrance fees today. Later on, continue back to San Jose, where you'll arrive in the late afternoon. The rest of the evening is free for you relax and pick up where you left off exploring the city, but be sure to catch up with your travel buddies for dinner.
Day 22: San Jose
There are no activities planned, so once you’ve enjoyed your breakfast, you are free to leave at any time. Haven’t seen enough in San Jose? Check out the offerings of Urban Adventures tour, from craft beer tours to day-trips to the countryside. Find out more at urbanadventures.com/destination/San-Jose-tours. There's a lot to see and do in and around San Jose, so if you'd like to extend your visit and need further accommodation, we’ll be happy to assist (subject to availability).
- Comfortable Hotel (18 nights)
- Lodge (3 nights)
- Merida - Uxmal Ruins tour (inc. shared transport and guide)
- Merida - Fernando Garcia Ponce-Macay Contemporary Art Museum (entrance fee) - Free
- Manuel Antonio - Sunset sail
- Oaxaca - Cooking Class
- San Jose - San Jose Bites and Sights Tour - Urban Adventures
- Copey District - Finca Las Ovejas Guided Hike
- Oaxaca - Folkloric ballet (seasonal)
- San Cristobal de las casas - Bicycle rental (per hour)
- Manuel Antonio - Boogie board rental
- Monte Alban - Archaeological Site (entrance fee)
- Hierve el Agua - Petrified waterfalls (Entrance fee, Guide & Transport)
- Mexico City - Boat ride through Floating Gardens of Xochimilco (Approx. per boat per hour)
- Playa del Carmen - Ferry to Cozumel (Round-trip Ticket)
- Merida - Celestun Bird Sanctuary (entrance and transport)
- Tulum - Archaeological Site (entrance fee, no guide)
- Copey District - Agricultural Production Tour
- Sumidero Canyon - Boat Excursion (entrance and transport)
- Mexico City - Leon Trotsky Museum
- Copey District - Guided Bird-watching Tour
- Playa del Carmen - Bicycle Rental (per day)
- Mexico City - Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes) (entrance fee) (Closed Mondays)
- Dos Ojos Cenote - Fresh Water Rock Pool (entrance fee with snorkelling gear & life jacket included)
- San Jose - The Art of Craft Beer in San Jose - Urban Adventures
- Manuel Antonio - Mangrove Kayak Activity (with lunch)
- San Jose - Cartago Bike & Train Tour - Urban Adventures
- San Cristobal de las Casas - Jade Museum
- San Jose - National Museum (entrance)
- Oaxaca - Santo Domingo Cultural Centre (entrance fee)
- Mexico City - Frida Kahlo Museum (entrance fee)
- San Cristobal de las Casas - Na Bolom Museum
- San Jose - San Jose By Night: Food and Culture - Urban Adventures
- Corcovado - Guided Night Walk
- Teotihuacan / Oaxaca
- Drake Bay
- Corcovado / Drake Bay
- Copey de Dota
- San Jose
- Playa del Carmen
- Palenque Ruins / Merida
- Mitla / Oaxaca
- San Cristobal de las Casas
- Chichen Itza / Playa del Carmen
- Manuel Antonio
- San Juan Chamula / San Cristobal de las Casas
- Mexico City
Intrepid Travel is the world's largest small group adventure travel company. Intrepid trips are of the grassroots type and include travel via public transport, local food, and locally-owned accommodation Intrepid Travel has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1989. A company that began with two bearded backpackers, a typewriter and a kitchen table now leads 100,000 travellers across the globe each year. And although we’re a bit larger these days – with 1,000 local staff based around the world and over 800 different trips across every continent (not to mention multiple kitchen tables) – our mission remains the same. We still get a kick out of responsible travel, small groups and very (very) big adventures.