Our second tour started where the last one left off – Antigua, Guatemala. It was the week leading up to Semana Santa (Easter Week), one of the busiest weeks in Central America being a predominantly Catholic region. We did encounter lots of traffic and busyness in tourist hotspots but it also meant we got to see and meet even more local people and experience their version of rush hour and public holidays – crazier than I have ever experienced in London or Sydney!
The next stop was Copan in Honduras. It was a long day with over 8 hours of travel however after getting across the border we shortly arrived in Copan and had a $2 dinner of baleadas – just like everywhere else, a tortilla with beans, cheese and a variety of fillings. Can’t say I would overly recommend it but it was very cheap! The next day was fairly relaxed, with the highlight being a tuk tuk protest, finished off by visiting the Luna Jaguar hot springs. We arrived around 5pm so we got to see it in the daylight which quickly turned into a beautiful darkness. Candles were placed around the pools, cocktails in plastic cups were filled whenever near empty and we sat in 28 degree natural water chatting away… we were living the dream! There was even a circular pedicure pool of uneven stones that you could walk through alternating in hot and cold water plus natural mud to clean away all those alcohol induced impurities!
The following day was nowhere near as relaxing and enjoyable. To reach our next destination, the island of Roatan, we had to take a 1 ½ hour ferry ride. We were made aware before departing that the sea could be a little rough but I do not think any warnings could have prepared us for how bad people felt. I will spare the nauseating details but let’s just say we were all very glad to be off that ferry and onto dry land!
Luckily Roatan is a beautiful island where we could forget the previous days experience and completely relax. We took a nice boat ride out around the coastline and did three snorkelling stops – one for starfish, another two for fish, turtles and coral. It was good but nowhere near as great as Caye Caulker. We finished off the boat trip with a hilarious banana boat ride where we got thrown off too many times! Thankfully we reached the beach shortly after and got to rinse out the sea water with some cocktails and ceviche on the beach. That night we had some great jerk chicken, rice and fried plantain for only $5 but I have forgotten the name of the place – sorry! I remember the guy has been running for a really long time and you could see him cooking everything on the barbecue at the front of the open spaced “restaurant”.
Next up we made our way to Grenada, Nicaragua via two plane rides and a stop in San Salvador, El Salvador. We had a fantastic tour the next day lead by Ramon Parra from No Rush Tours. We did his 5 in 1 tour that included a city tour of Grenada, an Isletas boat tour, a beach break at Laguna de Apoyo, a handicraft market and Volcan Masaya… oh and plenty of homemade Macua, the local cocktail which is delicious and moreish!
Our favourite parts were the volcano and the boat tour. On the boat trip we threw fruit to the monkeys on Monkey Island and watched them swinging around. We also stopped off at one of the local villages where they showed us an old skeleton of a bull shark’s jaw – really quite jaw dropping, don’t mind the pun! We started our wait to see Volcan Masaya about 2 ½ hours before we actually got to see it but it was worth it. People start queuing up hours before sunset so as to see the lava at its best! It really was spectacular; the lava was bright yellow and orange, bubbling and flowing only 300m below us. The photos do not do it justice but hopefully give you an idea of how it might feel to throw the Ring into Mount Doom!
The following couple of days in Grenada we spent walking around town, scaling their tall old bell tower, breakfasting on delicious waffles at Kathy’s Waffle House and eating pizza around the pool. We also stopped by Café de Sonrisas (Café of Smiles) which is run by underprivileged and deaf children under the supervision of Tio Antonio. We didn’t get a chance to try the food but we did see them making some beautiful hammocks and it was an inspiring place to visit.
Isla de Ometepe was our next stop where we stayed at a homestay for two nights. The island itself was ok, not as good as some of the other places we had visited on our trip but did have amazing sunsets. We took a trip to the beach and some very average natural springs followed by an evening at the community centre with local dancing. The highlight was the tomato chicken our host cooked for us and learning a new card game called Hosenabe (English translation is Pants Down – don’t ask) from our Swiss German friends!
Our final country on this trip was Costa Rica where we stayed in Monteverde, La Fortuna and San Jose. Monteverde was our favourite and we stayed at a lovely place called Manakin Lodge run by three very cool brothers. We had a delicious lunch of Yucatan tacos at Taco Taco with the most delicious water we have ever tasted, names Rainforest Water. The tacos were much deserved after a morning of zip lining around the Monteverde tree canopies. I didn’t love this experience (although I did somewhat conquer my fear of heights!) so I’m going to hand it over to Stephen to finish off this post.
Imagine flying through the air like Superman, GoPro in one hand and a leather glove in the other to reduce your speed. Those of us who preferred to smash into the automatic breaks at the end needed not use their glove. At times I’d estimate we were zip lining approximately 100m above the rainforest canopy, at other times we were flying right through it. We did 9 total zip lines including a 1590m long monster, supposedly the second longest in the world. To top it off they also had a Tarzan swing where we jumped from a platform and swung through the jungle at great speeds. If you’re ever in Monteverde I’d recommend checking out 100% Aventura. It’s adrenaline fuelled fun for everyone… except Brooke!
Also in Monteverde we visited an enchanting ficus tree that can be climbed through its core. Once upon a time it used to wrap around another large tree, but that tree has since long gone, so you can now climb up the centre of the ficus tree to get a great view of the cloud forest surrounding Monteverde.
Our penultimate stop in Costa Rica was La Fortuna where White Water rafting is the thing to do. Due to previous bad experiences with white water rafting we decided not to do it, and instead we visited the local natural hot springs. However, these weren’t your everyday hot springs. It was essentially a hot volcanic river where people had created little pools out of river stones. We got there in the daytime and left at night. It was amazing sitting in the jungle at night with hot water flowing around you and fireflies lighting up the night sky. Only in Costa Rica!
Our final journey was to San Jose to catch our flight out to Cuba. 6 weeks in Central America done. On to our next adventure!