Itinerary: Bocas del Toro, Panama (3 days)

Itinerary: Bocas del Toro, Panama (3 days)

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 3 day itinerary for Bocas del Toro, Panama by A4A guest writer, Darrell Whaley.

Just south of the Costa Rican border, on the Caribbean side of Panama, sits a piece of paradise. The province of Bocas del Toro consist of multiple islands and is considered Panama’s top destination. Here you can experience everything from wildlife, beautiful beaches, snorkeling, surfing, and so much more.

On our recent trip through Central America, Chantell and I heard so much about Bocas del Toro from other travelers we came across. Bocas soon was included to our list of places to visit along the way. Although Bocas del Toro has enough to keep you busy for weeks, we elected to stay 4 full days. One of the days we were there, we were rained out, which happens in the rainy season. Because of this, our recommended itinerary is for three days of serene beaches, relaxation, and sloths!

Planning a trip to Central America? Check out our posts on BelizeGuatemalaHondurasEl SalvadorNicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Day 1: Isla Colon

Bocas Town is a perfect hub to explore the area. Set on the southern tip of Isla Colon, the main town of the islands host numerous hotels, bars, and restaurants serving cuisine from around the world. From here it is possible to rent bikes to roam around the island, take a shuttle to one of the many beaches, or a boat taxi to a nearby island.

Starfish Beach (Playa Estrella)

Playa Estrella, known as Starfish Beach, is one of the many beaches on Isla Colon. Easily accessible by local bus or shuttle (we chose the shuttle because it was leaving quicker) to Playa Boca del Drago, it is a 30 minute ride away from Bocas Town. Upon reaching Boca del Drago, walk along the path next to the water and reach the unique Starfish Beach within 20 minutes.

In the banks of the water, not 15 feet from the shore, you will be able to see starfish living in their natural habitat. The clear water makes it possible to see starfish of every color while wading through the ocean. Seeing as these creatures are in their natural habitat, they should be only viewed and not touched. There are many signs posted that do say not to touch the starfish, yet people ignore these signs and endanger the marine life this beach has been named for. If you see this happening, feel free to remind the guests (either in Spanish or English).

It is possible to spend the entire day at Playa Estrella. Lined up and down the beach are restaurants with some offering beach side service including beach chairs with umbrellas. There are also options without any fee, with open space on the sand to lie a towel on and enjoy the view.

Walking to Starfish Beach

Day 2: Tour from Bocas Town

There are multiple tours leaving daily from Bocas Town, each including their own unique destinations. By taking some time to look at all the options that were available, we found the perfect one for us. One of Chantell’s dreams was to see a sloth in the wild, so this was the starting point for us. Luckily, there is a place called Sloth Island nearby Isla Colon and it was included in part of a tour. We ended up finding a tour including Dolphin Bay, Sloth Island, Hollywood Beach, snorkeling at Crawl Cay, and Cayos Zapatilla.

Our first stop at Dolphin Bay began with an up close experience with a number of dolphins. After a short time all of the dolphins left except a mother and her calf, who seemed to be curious about the boats. They both often swam right up next to the boat and even chased us a bit when we were leaving.

Dolphins in Dolphin Bay

Next we cruised through Hollywood Beach. Here you can lean over the side of the boat and see starfish everywhere! Although a brief site to visit, the ocean looked like glass and the view was incredible. On-wards we went to Sloth Island, in hopes of seeing at least one of these rare creatures. Lucky for us, we saw five different sloths. They are truly unique creatures and it is only possible to see them in this area of the world. Since this was the main reason we went on the tour, we were definitely excited.

Sloth Napping

Once our boat visit around Sloth Island was over, we made our way to Crawl Cay. Snorkeling in Crawl Cay is a good experience to see the local fish and coral life, but don’t expect it to be as brightly colored as the reefs to the north near Honduras and Belize. Snorkeling here can be a bit of a challenge, as fins are not typically allowed due to the shallow waters. The force from kicking with fins could damage the fragile ecosystem of Crawl Cay, so make sure to be cautious when moving around.

Our final stop for the day was Cayos Zapatilla. This small island has one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire region and is the perfect stop off for a packed lunch and afternoon swim. The tour stopped here for nearly two hours giving plenty of time to explore or just relax.

Cayo Zapatilla

Day 3: Isla Colon

For our last day in Bocas Del Toro, we wanted to go to the east side of Isla Colon. That morning, we hired bikes from a local shop and rode out towards Playa Bluff. Around eight kilometers from Bocas Town, Playa Bluff is known for its intense waves. However there are some days where the water isn’t too strong to swim out in, which we were lucky to have experienced.

Bluff Beach is seven kilometers of beautiful golden sand facing towards the Atlantic Ocean with nothing in its way. At first we had the entire beach to ourselves at Playa Bluff, which was extremely peaceful. Even with the arrival of a family of three within view far down the beach, we still felt rather secluded here. It’s perfectly possible to make a day of Bluff Beach by bringing along food and drinks by bike or even on the shuttle van from downtown.

Playa Bluff


Sun Havens Apartments and Suites

During our stay in Bocas Town, we stayed at the pleasant Sun Havens Apartments and Suites. Just a short walk away from the docks and main streets, Sun Havens is perfectly situated close to everything, yet far enough away to have a peaceful nights rest. There are multiple options for room sizes, accommodating as little as two people or as large as six.

Sun Havens Bedroom

Our apartment at Sun Havens included many amenities uncommon to the island, such as high speed WiFi and hot water. It also included air conditioning, a large flat screen TV with cable, and a full kitchen which we took advantage of to save on some money. Daily cleaning is available for a nominal fee.

Sun Havens Kitchen Area

Tomaso, the owner of Sun Havens, was such a hospitable host and a fountain of knowledge on the entire area. He always had the best suggestions on where to go, what to see, and even where to eat. When we first arrived, it had been a long journey with us setting off from San Jose, Costa Rica. Tomaso was waiting for our arrival and quickly showed us to our room to rest up after our long day. Even after we rested a little, he made us a “welcome smoothie” filled with fresh fruits from around the island. It was a perfect introduction to our stay in Bocas and a welcome refresher after a hot day. Tomaso always went out of his way to make sure we had a worry free and amazing stay.

Location: Sun Havens Apartments and Suites, Calle 6a y Avenida Norte, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Website: http://www.sunhavens-bocas.com/

Sun Havens


Budget breakdown: Bocas del Toro

All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (USD). See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to AUD. We always try to find and negotiate the best prices to share with our readers. If you know of a better deal, tell us about it in the comments below.

Accommodation: Sun Havens Apartments and Suites offers multiple room choices for different group sizes. For the full list of accommodations and current prices, please refer to Apartments and Suites.

Food: We purchased groceries and bottled water from local supermarkets. For a couple of meals, we ate out at local restaurants and bakeries, and we had one nicer meal with friends we made on our tour. ($86.41 USD)

Activities: Bocas del Toro Tour ($60 USD).

Transport: Water taxi to Bocas Town from the mainland ($10 USD). Bike Rental ($9 USD). Roundtrip shuttle to Bocas del Drago ($10 USD).

Average daily spend: $29.24 USD each ($39.05 AUD as of July 20, 2016) excluding accommodation.

Playa Bluff South End

Adoration 4 Adventure were complimentary guests of Sun Havens Apartments and Suites. Our opinions are our own and will always remain unbiased in order to provide the best recommendations to our readers.


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Adoration 4 Adventure’s 3 day itinerary for Bocas del Toro, Panama. Including island hoping, sloth sightings, dolphin encounters and serene beaches.

Have you visited Bocas del Toro or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

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Itinerary: La Fortuna, Costa Rica (2 days)

Itinerary: La Fortuna, Costa Rica (2 days)

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 2 day itinerary for La Fortuna, Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a dream destination for many and for good reason. Known for its dense rain forests, unique wildlife, formidable volcanoes and startling seaside, there are so many experiences available to visitors.

During our 9 week backpacking trip of Central America, Darrell and I only had five days of our itinerary allotted for Costa Rica (although we would have loved to spend much longer!). So in the lead up to our visit, I began to read everything I could get my hands on about Costa Rica. I wanted to make sure that we made the most of our short time in this famed vacation destination.

After considering many recommendations, we choose to spend the majority of our time in La Fortuna. Darrell was particularly excited to see Arenal Volcano. A seemingly perfectly formed volcano that dominated the skyline and thick jungles surrounding it. Another positive was that La Fortuna is also very accessible from the capital, San Jose. 

In total, we spent three nights in La Fortuna. As traveling goes, I was sick for the better part of our first day. Therefore, the following is our recommended itinerary for two days rather than squishing everything into one day, as we did. After all, when in Costa Rica you should be on Tico time.

Planning a trip to Central America? Check out our posts on BelizeGuatemalaHondurasEl SalvadorNicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Day 1: La Fortuna

Breakfast on the patio

During our stay in La Fortuna, we stayed in Villas Josipek. Nestled in the lush rolling hills above La Fortuna, Villas Josipek offers cozy bungalows with the option of a fully equipped kitchen. The cabins are available with one and two bedrooms or there is even a four bedroom house available. We choose to stay in the one bedroom with kitchen. This came with a double bed and two bunk beds, so it would be a great choice for small groups or families.

After being on the road for the better part of the past three months, we were so thrilled to have a fully equipped kitchen we could cook our own meals in. My favorite part of the day was sitting on the patio of the bungalow, sipping coffee and looking out into the gardens of Villas Josipek. Cooking is also a great option for those who are budget conscious (aren’t we all?).

Villas Josipek - Bungalow with Kitchen

As I was pretty sick during my stay, I really appreciated staying in a private bungalow with all the required amenities to be comfortable. It was nice to rest in the double bed, under the cool bedroom fan and catch up on recent movies. This is also a great way to unwind after you have had a busy day full of adventure activities. Villas Josipek provides cable TV and WiFi right to your cabin, which is pretty impressive considering we were in the middle of the jungle.

Villas Josipek - Bungalow with Kitchen - Bedroom

Catarata Rio Fortuna

While visiting La Fortuna, you are probably going to want to visit La Fortuna Waterfall or “Catarata Rio Fortuna”. The waterfall is located a short drive from La Fortuna. Alternatively, if you have traveled without a car then you could consider a tour or catching a taxi.

The grounds of La Fortuna Waterfall are well maintained with stairs and a pathway leading through the jungle. It is about a fifteen minute walk from the park entrance to the base of the waterfall. There are quite a few stairs so be prepared with the right footwear. It is also recommended that you take along plenty of drinking water, insect repellent, swimwear, a towel and change of clothes. There are restrooms available near the entrance so you can get changed before descending to the waterfall.

There is an entrance fee, however the waterfall and the view during your short trek are very impressive. Make the most of your money by planning to stay a few hours. After reaching the waterfall, take your time taking snapshots then head into the cool water for a dip.

La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica

Day 2: La Fortuna

Baldi Hot Springs

Imagine a luxury spa, natural hot springs and a mammoth water theme park all rolled in one. That’s what you can expect at Baldi Hot Springs. The park is an architect’s delight of strategically placed cascading waterfalls. Starting from the back of the park, the hot spring water erupts from the top of a man made mountain running down through a series of pools.

In all, there are twenty five pools in the park ranging in design and water temperature. Each pool has a sign indicating what the depth and temperature is for the pool. Whether you want to stay ankle deep or be fully immersed under a waterfall, there is a pool for you. For those who fancy a drink without having to get out of the water, there are several swim up bars in the park, including a sports bar showing the current big match.

Baldi Hot Springs, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Families are in luck, as there is a dedicated water park that will keep kids amused for hours. Tall water slides are available for children of all ages. For those looking for some pampering, Baldi Hot Springs has a dedicated spa with many treatments available.

Darrell and I visited on a day pass, and ended up staying over five hours. We had a great time trying out the different pools and relaxing in the sun chairs. If you are visiting and have some room in your budget, consider the “all you can eat” buffet lunch with an assortment of traditional foods as well as soup and pasta. Darrell and I gorged ourselves on a late lunch, finishing with the sweet cakes and coffee. Be sure to come early and, if possible, on a week day. We arrived around 11am and there were only a handful of other visitors. After midday however, bus loads of tourists started to arrive. Although the park is huge and can take many visitors without feeling full, it was still nice to have a pool to ourselves for a few hours.

Baldi Hot Springs

Exploring La Fortuna

The town of La Fortuna is a mishmash of hotels, restaurants and shops selling tours. Large advertisements for adventure activities such as zip lining, hiking, horse back riding and everything in between, call out to you. The town is very walk-able, centered around a cute little park and with a backdrop of Arenal Volcano.

This is a great place to come for lunch or even just a coffee. The restaurants available range from low cost “sodas” (the name for local restaurants) right up to a full service dining experience. Darrell and I enjoyed a relaxed afternoon walking all over the town and treating ourselves to pastries and coffees in a “panaderia” (bakery).


Villas Josipek

Located just 10 kilometers outside the center of La Fortuna and a two hour scenic drive from San Jose, Villas Josipek is a great place to make your jungle escape. The hotel provides a series of bungalows and a house on the edge of the jungle. The resort is also home to a well loved botanical garden, featuring both native and exotic flora.

Villas Josipek made our stay in La Fortuna truly memorable. The staff were so kind and attentive, going out of their way to make sure we had a comfortable stay. Even as we were leaving, the staff were offering recommendations for places to visit in San Jose. It is such a warm and welcoming place to be.

Location: Villas Josipek, Highway 702, Costa Rica (2km north of Chachagua)

Website: www.costaricavillasjosipek.com

Villas Josipek - Cabins


Budget breakdown: La Fortuna

All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (Costa Rican Colones). See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to AUD and USD. We always try to find and negotiate the best prices to share with our readers. If you know of a better deal, tell us about it in the comments below.

Accommodation: Villas Josipek offers one and two bedroom bungalows as well as a four bedroom house. For the full list of accommodations and current prices, please refer to Rooms & Rates.

Food: We purchased groceries and bottled water from local supermarkets. For a couple of meals, we ate out at a local restaurant and bakery. (2845 Colones).

Activities: La Fortuna Waterfall ($28 USD). We received day passes to Baldi Hot Springs as a gift from a friend. For the current prices for day passes, hotel accommodation, spa and restaurant, please refer to Baldi Hot Springs.

Transport: Initially Darrell and I had planned to travel to La Fortuna by bus, however due to my cold and pinched nerve in my back (did I mention I was sick?), we decided to hire a car at the last minute. Traveling by car to La Fortuna was very convenient and made our trip so much easier. By having the car, we were able to explore the area at our own leisure and easily drive to pick up groceries. When looking for a rental car, make sure to obtain multiple quotes. Also consult with your credit card company as you may already have insurance for car rentals and not have to pay extra for it. ($100.18 USD for 3 days car rental and 13,596 Colones for fuel).

Average daily spend: $39.40 USD each* ($52.45 AUD as of 5 July 2016) excluding accommodation and Baldi Hot Springs. This amount includes car rental for 3 days allowing for travel in and out of La Fortuna.

Villas Josipek - Entrance

Adoration 4 Adventure were complimentary guests of Villas Josipek. We also received day passes to Baldi Hot Springs from a friend as a gift. Our opinions are our own and will always remain unbiased in order to provide the best recommendations to our readers.


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Adoration 4 Adventure’s 2 day itinerary for La Fortuna, Costa Rica. Including visits to La Fortuna waterfall, Arenal Volcano and Baldi Hot Springs.

Have you visited La Fortuna or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

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Itinerary: Backpacking Nicaragua (12 days)

Itinerary: Backpacking Nicaragua (12 days)

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 12 day backpacking itinerary for Nicaragua by A4A guest writer, Darrell Whaley.

.It is always difficult to plan out an itinerary for a country that you have never traveled to before. It can be hard to know which destinations to visit, how much time to spend in each place and most importantly, how much it is all going to cost.

Recently we spent 12 days backpacking through Nicaragua, with stops in Leon, Granada, and Ometepe. This is an overview of where we stopped and what we did on our Nicaragua trip, including a full budget breakdown below. Our route could be used as a full itinerary or modified for any trip type and duration.

Planning a trip to Central America? Check out our posts on BelizeGuatemalaHondurasEl SalvadorNicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Day 1-4: Leon

Leon is located about an hour shuttle or 2 hour local bus ride south of the border of Honduras and Nicaragua. Leon, once the original capital of Nicaragua, is the second largest city in the country. This city is rich in history (the original Leon was buried by volcanic eruptions) and a great place for food. We were lucky enough to be pointed in the best directions for food by Monica of Posada la Gordita and were never disappointed. The Nicaraguan tacos with fresh cream were our favorites.

The main attraction of Leon, for travelers, is the ability to go Volcano Boarding. This is the only location in the world where you can go down the side of a volcano at high speed. Make sure to look around for the best deal, but most companies that provide this experience for around $30 USD.

We used Leon as a low-key recovery location during our 9 week trip. There were many amenities here that we had not seen all over Central America, including a movie theater that showed movies in English. For only a few dollars we were able to munch on pop corn whilst watching the latest X-Men film.

Leon is known for its extreme heat and humidity, yet we only experienced a single full day of the heat. As luck would have it, during our stay, it rained nearly every day. Other activities visitors enjoy include the local water parks, museums and historic walking tours.

Leon Church

Day 5: Travel from Leon to Granada

We took 2 local buses to Granada from Leon with a stop in Managua. All buses leaving from Leon depart from the main bus station next to the market. Our shuttle bus from Leon to UCA bus station in Managua took around an hour and a half and cost 54 Cordobas per person. From UCA bus station it is simple to find the mini bus to Granada. This is an hour trip and cost $1 US dollar per person.

Day 6-9: Granada

Granada is the perfect location to see the variations of Nicaragua without having to go far from the city itself. The city has a very European feel to it and was in fact a Spanish colonial city. Granada is an attraction unto itself with colorful buildings, numerous cathedrals to visit, and perfect places for people watching while drinking coffee.

While here, we joined a night tour to the Masaya artisan markets and to see the current lava flows in Masaya Volcano. This has become one of the top things to do in the area as the lava is highly visible and flowing inside the volcano, which can be seen from the top. We also went to Laguna de Apoyo, a beautiful lagoon about 45 minutes from Granada, which makes for a perfect day trip of kayaking, swimming, and relaxation. Read more reasons why Granada should be your next destination.

Masaya Volcano at night

If you have done everything there is to do and want something more, Las Isletas is an additional option. Las Isletas is a grouping of 365 small islands that were formed when Mombacho volcano exploded long ago. They range from absolutely tiny islands, to ones large enough that people own the land and have built houses on them.

Las Isletas

For a truly unique experience, take a trip to the chocolate spa and museum. This was where we indulged in chocolate spa treatments and even made our own chocolate bars.

Day 10: Travel from Granada to Ometepe

To get from Granada to Ometepe, it requires 2 buses and a ferry. We took the bus from south of the Central Plaza in Granada to Rivas for 31 Cordobas per person. From Rivas we took a quick 15 minute local bus to San Jorge. The local bus can be picked up as it is passing by on the street adjacent to the bus station for 7 Cordobas a person. The final step is an hour long ferry ride to Ometepe for 35 Cordobas per person, but it can vary depending on which ferry you take and the time of departure.

Day 11-12: Ometepe

Ometepe is an island set in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Formed by the two volcanoes, Concepcion and Maderas, Ometepe is an outdoors destination with most visitors intent on hiking at least one if not both of the volcanoes. Try to visit in the non rainy season as it becomes much more difficult to climb any of the volcanoes and all of the activities are outside.

Many visitors to Ometepe rent scooters or motorbikes so that they can explore the island. We heard stories of people not getting their deposit back or having issues, so just be careful in negotiating these deals. Alternatively, there are many tours you can take to various parts of the island. Unfortunately for us, Chantell was very sick during our stay so we literally were not able to explore at all. Luckily, the ferry ride across provides one of the best views of the island and volcano.

Concepcion Volcano

Want to extend your trip? Consider an escape to the northern beaches of San Juan Del Sur.


Budget breakdown: Nicaragua

All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (Nicaraguan Cordoba) when available. Nicaragua widely accepts USD and often encourages it. See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to AUD and USD. We always try to find and negotiate the best prices to share with our readers. If you know of a better deal, tell us about it in the comments below.

Accommodation: We searched on various hostel and hotel websites for the best deals. For more information, read our tips for finding travel accommodation on a budget.

  • Leon – Private room and bathroom for 4 nights ($60 USD)
  • Granada – Private room and bathroom for 5 nights ($85 USD)
  • Ometepe – Private room and bathroom for 3 nights ($45 USD)

Food: We dined on a mixture of street food, local restaurants, convenience store snacks and the occasional mid range cost meal. The most delicious meals were often the cheapest and a sign of a good place will be crowded with locals. We also purchase bottled water, unless filtered refills were provided by the hostel/hotel. (308 Cordobas average per day on food and drink).

Activities: Day trip to Laguna de Apoyo (24 USD), Masaya Volcano/Market Night Tour (40 USD), Leon Movie Theater (110 Cordobas).

Transport: Shuttle from Leon to UCA Managua (108 Cordobas), Bus from UCA to Granada (2 USD), Bus from Granada to Rivas (62 Cordobas), Bus from Rivas to San Jorge (14 Cordobas), Ferry from san Jorge to Ometepe (70 Cordobas)

Average daily spend: $16.43 USD* per person ($21.91 AUD as of 3 July 2016).

*During our time in Leon and Ometepe, we did not do any tours so this amount will vary depending on the activities you want to do. This daily amount could be reduced by cooking your own meals.


Pin it for the next adventure!

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 12 day backpacking itinerary for Nicaragua on a budget. Including stops in Leon, Granada and Ometepe.

Have you visited Nicaragua or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

And if you liked the post – share it with your friends on social media.

Itinerary: El Cuco, El Salvador (2 days)

Itinerary: El Cuco, El Salvador (2 days)

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 2 day itinerary for La Tortuga Verde, El Cuco, El Salvador. 

The beaches of El Salvador are not to be missed. Whether you are an avid surfer, frugal traveler or in search of luxury resorts, the coast of El Salvador has something for you.

One of the most talked about beach towns in El Salvador is El Cuco. Amazingly enough, there doesn’t seem to be much written online about El Cuco and that suits locals and travelers just fine. The location remains somewhat secret and yet word travels by mouth, bringing visitors from far and wide to enjoy the splendor of El Cuco.

While researching our trip to El Cuco, we heard glowing recommendations about La Tortuga Verde, a beach-front resort, restaurant and conservation center. What intrigued us most was La Tortuga Verde’s passion about the environment and their many conservation programs.

The beauty of staying at La Tortuga Verde is that there are so many activities available, you could stay for weeks on end without getting bored. The following are our suggestions for a two day itinerary while visiting El Cuco, including the budget breakdown from our recent trip.

Planning a trip to Central America? Check out our posts on BelizeGuatemalaHondurasEl SalvadorNicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Sunset on the beach at El Cuco, El Salvador

Day 1: El Cuco

Brunch

While on vacation at a secluded beach there is no need to wake up early for breakfast. Instead why not enjoy a lie-in, roll out of bed and then slowly amble outside. The full service restaurant is open from 7am to 7:30pm and serves a good-sized traditional El Salvadorian breakfast with juice and coffee. For those who are early risers, coffee service is available from around dawn.

After eating, take a stroll around the resort and beach. You may see a few mangoes laying around and that’s because there are over forty mango trees on the property. Guests are encouraged to pick what fruit they want for free. In fact, you can even stay in a two-story studio built around a coconut tree and pick coconuts from in your room.

La Tortuga Verde Resort, El Cuco, El Salvador

Surf lesson

This was the spot that we decided to take the first surf lesson of our Central American trip. With calmer waves, no sharp rocks to worry about and a near-empty beach, Playa El Esteron was the perfect place to learn. Also the prices for surf lessons and board rentals at La Tortuga Verde were very economic.

Our lesson was with Nils, a certified surfing instructor who was volunteering at La Tortuga Verde for a few weeks. Neither Darrell or I had barely any surfing experience, so Nils went through the basics starting with a brief and informative introduction on land. Then step by step, he instructed us on how to catch a wave, push up with our arms and eventually stand. I am happy to say that we were both able to stand up by the end of the lesson.

More experienced surfers can either bring their own boards or rent from La Tortuga Verde. Shuttles are also available to Las Flores and El Tunco, other popular surfing spots nearby.

Surf board rentals, La Tortuga Verde, El Cuco, El Salvador

Yoga classes

The Yoga Temple has beach-front views and is available for use by guests. While we were staying there, one of the volunteers was hosting free yoga classes in the afternoons. I wandered over when I saw that they had hula hoops and ended up giving my own impromptu hula hooping lesson.

In addition to hoops, La Tortuga Verde can provide a slack line and fire spinning toys. There are also daily fitness classes including power walking, calisthenics and cardio training to help keep you fit while on holidays.

Happy hour 

Finish the day off with a cool drink at the Coco Bar. You can order your drinks to have at the bar, at a table or take it over to one of the nearby hammocks facing out onto the beach. Happy hour is from 4:30 to 6:30pm with $1 local beers. We also enjoyed their pizzas which were made at the bar with fresh ingredients.

The bar at La Tortuga Verde, El Cuco

Day 2: El Cuco

Coffee and baked goods

For a different start to the day, head to the Cosmic Cucina, a vegetarian cafe serving baked goods, juices and healthy meals. The local El Salvadorian Organic Coffee they sell is really delicious.

Next to the cafe is a music room with instruments, board games, more hammocks and couches to hang out on. Darrell enjoyed taking daily breaks there and strumming away on one of the guitars.

Cosmic Cocina at La Tortuga Verde, El Cuco, El Salvador

Go for a swim

During the hottest part of the day, it might be a good idea to take a dip. The beach in front of the resort, Playa El Esteron, is long with soft sand and calm waves. As the resort, restaurant and conservation facilities span three properties, it feels as if you have the whole beach to yourself. We barely saw anyone else besides the other guests.

If you don’t feel like getting your feet sandy, then you can swim in one of the two pools at La Tortuga Verde.

The pool, La Tortuga Verde, El Cuco, El Salvador

Relax in a hammock

The activity I saw most guests enjoying during our stay was relaxing in hammocks. Whether you are reading a book or just looking out into the waves, this is a great place to spend hours hanging out in a hammock.

Beach front hammocks, La Tortuga Verde, El Cuco, El Salvador

Watch the sunset

The sunsets we saw while traveling through El Salvador were jaw-dropping, and here they were no exception. Grab a beer from the bar, settle yourself in a hammock or beach chair and just enjoy the show. La Tortuga Verde also runs sunset boat cruises for only a few dollars. Check with the reception desk for details.

Sunset on the beach at La Tortuga Verde, El Cuco, El Salvador


La Tortuga Verde

Located on Playa El Esteron, La Tortuga is a short distance away from the town of El Cuco. Its location is far enough away to give the feeling of complete seclusion, however still relatively easy to access from San Miguel.

La Tortuga Verde began as a beach front restaurant until visitors kept asking the owner, Tom, for a place to stay the night so they could extend their visit. The resort was constructed with the intention to have minimal impact on the environment.

The rooms are “beach bungalow” style with clean, natural tones and open air-flow. Air conditioning is available as an optional extra, however with fans in our room and the natural sea breeze we didn’t feel that we needed it. Daily housekeeping is provided.

Bedroom of Las Piedras studio, La Tortuga Verde, El Cuco, El Salvador

La Tortuga Verde was one of the most unique resorts that we have ever visited. There was such an abundance of activities, we were only able to sample a few in the short time that we were there. Throughout the resort, there are many thoughtful touches and hand-painted signs letting you know of the facilities and amenities available. There is also a detailed guest book at the front desk that provides information on activities. If in doubt, have a chat with one of the many friendly staff.

For information on how to get to La Tortuga Verde, read Getting here.

Location: La Tortuga Verde, Calle Pacifica, El Salvador

Website: http://latortugaverde.com/

Las Piedras studio, La Tortuga Verde, El Cuco, El Salvador


Budget breakdown: El Cuco

All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (El Salvador uses US Dollars). See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to AUD.

Accommodation: La Tortuga Verde offers rooms, studio apartments and houses. The resort has three restaurants, including the bar. For the full list of accommodations and current prices, please refer to Accommodations.

Food: We choose to eat all our meals at La Tortuga Verde, however there are other options within walking distance including pupusas and a bakery (ask the reception desk for directions). Filtered water is available for free to all guests at La Tortuga Verde.

Day 1 – Two coffees ($1.50), Pancake breakfast ($3.25), Pineapple Smoothie ($2), Grilled cheese ($2), Chorizo Pizza ($8), Two happy hour beers ($2).

Day 2 – Two typical El Salvadorean breakfasts with juice and coffee ($8), Chorizo Pizza ($8), Two ice creams ($3), Two happy hour beers ($2).

Activities: One hour surfing lesson, including board rental for two people ($20).

Average daily spend: $14.90 USD each ($20.22 AUD, exchange rate as of 5 June 2016) excluding accommodation costs, transport into and out of El Cuco.

Albert the pelican at La Tortuga Verde, El Cuco, El Salvador

Adoration 4 Adventure were complimentary guests of La Tortuga Verde, however our opinions are our own and will always remain unbiased in order to provide the best recommendations to our readers. The feature image in this article is the property of La Tortuga Verde.


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Adoration 4 Adventure’s 2 day itinerary for El Cuco, El Salvador. A secluded beach for the perfect relaxing escape or surfing trip.

Have you visited El Cuco or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

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Itinerary: Backpacking Guatemala (12 days)

Itinerary: Backpacking Guatemala (12 days)

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 12 day backpacking itinerary for Guatemala.

It is always difficult to plan out an itinerary for a country that you have never traveled to before. It can be hard to know which destinations to visit, how much time to spend in each place and most importantly, how much it is all going to cost.

Recently we spent 12 days backpacking through Guatemala, with stops in Flores, Lanquin (Semuc Champey), Antigua and Lake Atitlan. This is an overview of where we stopped and what we did on our Guatemala trip, including a full budget breakdown below. Our route could be used as a full itinerary or modified for any trip type and duration.

Planning a trip to Central America? Check out our posts on BelizeGuatemalaHondurasEl SalvadorNicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Day 1-2: Flores

Flores is located close to the border between Guatemala and Belize. It is an island connected to the mainland by one bridge. The island is small enough to walk around, very tourist friendly and has a slight “European feel”. Lakeside restaurants offer the specialty of fish and various happy hour deals. The best value for money though, is found on the street. At night, food carts line up against the western bank of the river with every imaginable Guatemalan food, both savory and sweet.

The big draw to Flores, is its proximity to the Mayan Ruins of Tikal. It is possible to take a tour from San Ignacio, Belize, however we liked staying in Flores. The island is well worth exploring and it is nice not to feel rushed on your visit to Tikal.

Temple I, Tikal, Guatemala

Tikal is located 65km (40 miles) from Flores. You can arrange transport without a guide, however the shuttle or taxi will not be able to take you past the entrance of the National Park and it is a long walk from there to the ruins. Although we usually prefer exploring temples and ruins on our own, we decided to make an exception for the sake of convenience. It ended up being a good decision. The Parque Nacional Tikal is a labyrinth of pathways which make it quite easy to get lost. Overall the group tour (both in Spanish and English) was very educational and interesting.

The tours of Tikal run at set times with sunrise, morning, afternoon and sunset. The sunrise and sunset tours do cost a little extra. Our friends did the sunrise tour and said it was one of the most memorable experiences of their journey. We took the morning tour, leaving our hostel at 4:30am. This is a good time to go as you arrive after sunrise, but still in the early morning when it is not too hot to explore the ruins.

While walking around the Parque Nacional Tikal, keep a lookout for some of the local residents.

Monkeys in Tikal, Guatemala

Day 3: Travel from Flores to Lanquin

We took an air conditioned shuttle bus from Flores, leaving at 9:00am (shuttle arrived at 8:00am) and arriving in Lanquin at 6:30pm. Through a local travel agency in Lanquin, we were able to secure seats on the shuttle for 125 Quetzales each. This included a 2-for-1 accommodation deal at the hostel that were were already staying at. So essentially we received a free nights accommodation.

Alternatively, you could try to take local transportation from Flores to Coban and then onto Lanquin if you are willing to do the trip over two days and spend a night (or more) in Coban. Day tours to Semuc Champey also run from Coban (approximately USD$65).

Day 4-5: Lanquin (Semuc Champey)

Semuc Champey National Park was one of my biggest highlights in Guatemala. There was just one problem – it was hell to get there. From Flores to Lanquin (the closest town to Semuc), it took us a full days travel in a cramped shuttle. The last couple of hours between Copan and Lanquin are all windy, bumpy roads.

When visiting Semuc Champey National Park, most travelers tend to stay at one of the riverside guest houses. The upside to this, is that they are close to the national park and very secluded. The downside is that there are no other options for food or drink and you have to dine where you are staying, which can be expensive. Also WiFi signal is borderline non-existent. We decided to stay in a hotel in Lanquin. This small town has enough cheap cafes and restaurant options to keep you happy for many days. We had some of our cheapest and best sit-down meals in all of Guatemala here.

From Lanquin, it is easy to get to Semuc Champey. Wander down one of the dusty streets and numerous cars will call out “Semuc Champey?” then proceed to negotiate a price. It should only cost 20 Quetzales per person, each way, up to the national park.  The ride will involve standing up in the back of a ute (pick up truck), unless there is room and you prefer to sit upfront. Standing up is a really fun and scenic way to see the area, waving to the local kids as you pass.

Upon reaching the Semuc Champey National Park, make sure to ask the ticket office for the direction of “Mirador”. What follows is a steep and moderately-strenuous climb, however you will be rewarded with a stunning view of the falls.

Semuc Champey - View from Mirador

After your vigorous work out, head back down to the falls and enjoy the rest of your day bathing in the cool waters and admiring the natural beauty all around you. The local drivers usually head back to Laquin between 3-3:30pm, so make sure you get back to the entrance by then. If you still haven’t had enough of Semuc Champey, you could always go back again the next day.

Semuc Champey, Guatemala

Day 6: Travel from Lanquin to Antigua

Booking directly with the driver of our shuttle to Lanquin, we traveled by shuttle to Antigua for 100 Quetzales each. The trip lasted over seven hours and the shuttle was air conditioned.

Day 7-9: Antigua

Antigua is a small, colonial city with cobbled-stone streets and buildings painted in different earthy colors. It is a popular destination for expats and travelers alike. With a large selection of Spanish Language schools, trendy bars and cafes, as well as a smattering of American fast food chains, it definitely caters to tourists. Despite this, the city still maintains its charm. Antigua is also well connected to most other major Guatemalan cities, making it a great base during your travels in Guatemala.

Budget conscious travelers will appreciate the food carts outside the church “La Iglesia De La Merced”. During weekdays, the carts served sandwiches (giant subs), burritos, tostadas and hotdogs. On the weekend, even more carts and options are available.

A great free activity to do in Antigua is to visit the “Hill of the Cross” (Cerro de la Cruz). An easy stroll up the hill provides a spectacular view over Antigua. There have been known robberies on this path, so please make sure that you leave your valuables behind and take very little (if any) money with you.

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua is close to four different volcanoes, including the active Pacaya. Tours to climb the volcano include transportation and a guide. The guide we had wasn’t especially informative, although it is recommended to have one due to safety reasons. The hike is a moderately steep incline with loose gravel, however those who don’t feel physically up to it can go by horseback. Due to the volcano’s activity it is not possible to climb directly up the volcano, yet from the highest altitude of the tour you will be able to see the volcano peak. The tour guides also bring along marshmallows so you can roast them over the hot volcanic rocks.

Volcán de Pacaya, Guatemala

If you want to extend your trip into Honduras, consider visiting Copan Ruinas. It is very easy to travel via shuttle from Antigua. Read about our 2 day itinerary for Copan Ruinas, Honduras.

Day 10: Travel from Antigua to Lake Atitlan

We went by shuttle to San Pedro in Lake Atitlan. Darrell hunted around for a good deal and the lowest price he could find was 55 Quetzales each. The shuttle arrived over 30 minutes late at our hostel and the journey took longer than the 3 hours that we were told. The shuttle did not have air conditioning and stopped to pick up local passengers along the way.

Alternatively you could take a chicken bus for around 30 Quetzales each, which shouldn’t take that much longer than the shuttle. The chicken buses only leave in the morning so make sure that you confirm the details the day before.

Day 11-12: Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is a huge (130 kilometers / 50 miles square) lake in the highlands of Guatemala. The lake is surrounded by various towns, all seemingly with their own personalities. We stayed in San Pedro as we had heard it was one of the more cost-friendly areas. San Pedro has plenty of tour companies, restaurants and bars lined up along the windy alleys. Both local and western-style restaurants offer a range of low-cost to mid-range meals. There are also a number of great drink deals around.

San Pedro, Lake Atitlan

During your days, you can choose to do one of the many outdoors activities available including horse riding, kayaking, coffee tours, yoga and hiking. Or as we did, just enjoy the splendor of the lake. It is hard not to feel peaceful while visiting Lake Atitlan.

Water taxis run from each town to the other, so you could choose to spend a day (or more) exploring each one. We actually walked from San Pedro to San Juan, then back. Alternatively you could take a tuk tuk. San Juan has a great selection of Mayan style souvenirs and clothing. We also took a water taxi across to San Marcos, an alternative and “hippie” town on the opposite bank. If the weather is right and the sky is clear, head to Panajachel for views of the entire lake.

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala


Budget breakdown: Guatemala

All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (Guatemala Quetzales). See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to AUD and USD. We always try to find and negotiate the best prices to share with our readers. If you know of a better deal, tell us about it in the comments below.

Accommodation: We searched on various hostel and hotel websites for the best deals. For more information, read our tips for finding travel accommodation on a budget.

  • Flores – Private room and bathroom for 2 nights (Q280).
  • Lanquin – 2 dorm beds in a shared 4 bed dorm room with connected bathroom. We paid for 2 nights and received the third for free as a deal with our transport (Q240).
  • Antigua – Private room and shared bathroom for 4 nights. Included complimentary breakfast and free refills of filtered water (Q532.50).
  • Lake Atitlan – 2 dorm beds in a shared 6 bed dorm room with connected bathroom for 3 nights. Included free refills of filtered water (Q378).

Food: We dined on a mixture of street food, local restaurants, convenience store snacks and the occasional mid range cost meal. The most delicious meals were often the cheapest and a sign of a good place will be crowded with locals. We also purchase bottled water, unless filtered refills were provided by the hostel/hotel. (Q137.46 average per day on food and drink).

Activities: Transport and guide for Tikal (Q300), Tikal Entrance fee (Q300), Transport by local truck to and from Semuc Champey (Q80), Entrance fee to Semuc Champey (Q100), Transport and guide for Pacaya Volcano (Q100), Pacaya Volcano Entrance Fee (Q100), Water taxi to and from San Marcos (Q40).

Transport: Shuttle from Flores to Lanquin (Q250), Shuttle from Lanquin to Antigua (Q200), Shuttle from Antigua to San Pedro, Lake Atitlan (Q210).

Average daily spend: 200 Quetzales each* ($35.45 AUD / $25.61 USD as of 24 May 2016) excluding transport and border fees into and out of Guatemala.

*This daily amount could be reduced by taking local transport (see above for alternative methods), sticking more strictly to street food or cooking your own meals.


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Adoration 4 Adventure’s 12 day backpacking itinerary for Guatemala, including stops in Flores, Lanquin (Semuc Champey), Antigua and Lake Atitlan.

Have you visited Guatemala or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

And if you liked the post – share it with your friends on social media.

Itinerary: Copan Ruinas, Honduras (2 days)

Itinerary: Copan Ruinas, Honduras (2 days)

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 2 day itinerary for Copan Ruinas, Honduras. 

While on our 9 week backpacking trip on Central America, Darrell and I wanted to visit Honduras. Neither of us knew much about the country, so we began to research different options and asked around for other traveler’s opinions.

There were many glowing recommendations for the quaint little town of Copan Ruinas, with its proximity to the Mayan site of Copan as well as its reputation of being a very safe town to visit. We only spent a few days there, however could have easily stayed longer.

This is our 2 day itinerary including budget breakdown.

Planning a trip to Central America? Check out our posts on BelizeGuatemalaHondurasEl Salvador and Nicaragua.

Day 1: Copan Ruinas

The Maya Site of Copan

The main reason that most people come to the area is to visit the Copan Archaeological Park. From downtown it is quite easy to get there by Tuk Tuk or even by foot.

Copan Ruins are unique to the other Mayan sites that we have explored, including Chichen Itza in Mexico and Tikal in Guatemala. What we found most striking about the ruins is the amount of detail in the statues and structures.

The Maya Site of Copan - Engravings and Stairway

This site played a very important part in the Mayan culture and is now protected by UNESCO. Unfortunately, damage was sustained by natural elements, including erosion from the Copan River. However, there is much work being done to preserve the remaining temples and sculptures.

The Maya Site of Copan - Plaza

Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve

A short distance from the archaeological park is Macaw Mountain. A haven for rescued native birds, including the park’s mascot, the Scarlet Macaw. This park acts as a nature reserve for birds who have been injured in the wild, rehabilitating them with the ultimate goal of setting them free. To date, over forty Macaws have been released back into the wild with the majority of them living at the ruins.

Macaw Mountain - Scarlet Macaw

In addition to the birds that the reserve cares for, there are plenty of native birds in the area. While exploring the park, it can be fun to spot the different birds hanging out in the trees above.

The best way to see Macaw Mountain is with a guide. This is included in your admission price and enhances the experience. Our guide, Isaac, was extremely knowledgeable, genuinely friendly and more than happy to answer all our questions. After our tour, which lasted at least an hour, we enjoyed sitting in the park’s cafe, drinking icy cold frappes and chatting to Isaac. Overall it was a very enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.

Macaw Mountain - Turquoise-browed Motmot

Happy hour at Don Udo’s

While in Copan Ruinas, we stayed at Don Udo’s Hotel & Restaurant. Udo, a native of the Netherlands who has been living in Honduras for many years, tells us that he owned a very successful restaurant with the same name in San Pedro Sula. In 2000 he decided to relocate to Copan Ruinas, building the hotel and restaurant here. Udo is also a chocolatier, making and selling delicious chocolate onsite.

Don Udo’s restaurant is one of the more upscale restaurants in the area. The signature dish is the tenderloin steak and visitors can enjoy 2 for 1 cocktails from 5 to 7 pm. We enjoyed sipping on our drinks and listening to the soothing music, while working on our laptops in the courtyard.

Don Udo's Hotel & Restaurant - Restaurant

Day 2: Copan Ruinas

Strolling around town

Copan Ruinas is a pretty town with cobbled streets begging to be explored. Take a stroll, stopping in one of the many cafes for some delicious Honduran coffee. Hang out in the town square and if you get hungry, duck into one of the many local restaurants that offers traditional meals for as low as USD $2.50. We loved the Carne de res a la Plancha with beef, beans, sour cream, cheese, pico de gallo and tortillas.

Copan Ruinas City Center

Aguas Calientes

About an hour outside of town, are natural hot springs which have been constructed into an Eco Spa with Mayan-styled elements. The naturally hot water that comes out of the stream, is over 80C (176F) and therefore Luna Jaguar Spa has created various pools which reduce the heat to pleasant temperatures.

The series of pools range from around 45C, 30C and 20C with instructions given to move from the hottest pools to the coldest after 10-15 minutes in each. In addition to the hot spring pools, there is also a mud pool where you can give yourself a mud mask and a sauna. Massages are also available upon request and cost extra. 

At the front of the spa, are two larger pools with water from the hot spring. These are a cheaper admission price at 60 Limpiras however do not provide the full experience.

Luna Jaguar Spa- Massage House


Don Udo’s Hotel & Restaurant

Don Udo’s is a family-run hotel and restaurant tucked away in a side street of Copan Ruinas. The location is just a few blocks away from the town square, however is enough distance away to feel secluded and tranquil.

We stayed in a double room with a private bathroom. The room was very clean, spacious and comfortable. Amenities included cable TV, telephone with international dialing, hot water, extra blanket and complimentary bottled water upon arrival.

Don Udo's Hotel & Restaurant - Double Room

Don Udo’s Hotel & Restaurant has “colonial ambiance with European style”. The grounds are well-laid out with many places you can find solace including a sundeck, sauna and reading room. Massages can be requested via appointment at reception.

Location: Avenida Mirador, Barrio El Centro, Copan Ruinas, Honduras, C.A.

Website: http://www.donudos.com/

Don Udo's Hotel & Restaurant - Courtyard


Budget breakdown: Copan Ruinas

All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (Honduran Lempiras). See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to USD and AUD.

Accommodation: Don Udo’s Hotel & Restaurant offers budget, double, deluxe and deluxe king rooms as well as a suite which has a separate living area, refrigerator and private balcony. Guests at Don Udo’s receive a complimentary breakfast menu. For the full list of accommodations and current prices, please refer to Rooms & Rates.

Food: As it was very hot we weren’t as hungry as usual and only had two meals per day.

Day 1 – Coffee at Don Udo’s Restaurant (65 Lempiras), Breakfast of baleadas at local restaurant (60 Lempiras), coffee and water at Macaw Mountain (85 Lempiras), Dinner and soda at a local restaurant (170 Lempiras), Happy Hour drinks at Don Udo’s (81 Lempiras), Popsicles (30 Lempiras), 2 bottles of 1.5L water from a local supermarket (32 Lempiras).

Day 2 – Coffee at local cafe (60 Lempiras), Breakfast of baleadas at local restaurant (50 Lempiras), Dinner at a local restaurant (140 Lempiras), 2 bottles of 1.5L water from a local supermarket (32 Lempiras).

Activities: Tuk Tuk to the ruins (40 Lempiras), The Maya Site of Copan (660 Lempiras), Tuk Tuk from the ruins to the bird sanctuary (50 Lempiras), Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve (440 Lempiras), Tip for our guide (40 Lempiras), Luna Jaguar Spa and tourist shuttle (880 Lempiras).

Average daily spend: 728.75 Lempiras each* ($31.78 USD / $44.05 AUD, exchange rate as of 20 May 2016) excluding accommodation costs, transport into and out of Copan as well as entrance fees into Honduras ($3 USD each).

*This daily amount could be reduced by walking from downtown to the ruins and taking a local bus to the Luna Jaguar Spa (around $3 USD round trip). The bus only runs in the morning so check the timetable the day before. You could also choose to skip certain activities or spread them out over a longer period of time to reduce the daily cost.

Don Udo's Hotel & Restaurant - Rooftop views

Adoration 4 Adventure were complimentary guests of Don Udo’s Hotel & Restaurant, however our opinions are our own and will always remain unbiased in order to provide the best recommendations to our readers.


Pin it for the next adventure!

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 2 day itinerary for Copan Ruinas, Honduras. Including visits to ancient Mayan ruins, a bird sanctuary and hot springs.

Have you visited Copan Ruinas or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

And if you liked the post – share it with your friends on social media.