Panama to Guatemala

25-day trip

Traveling through Central America from Panama to Guatemala is the vacation of a lifetime. This fascinating section of the world is packed with history, culture, and natural beauty that will leave you breathless. If you’ve ever tried to choose a country to visit, but couldn’t settle on just one, this Central American trip will satisfy all your curiosity.

You’ll start your journey in Panama and travel north, getting to know the best parts of each country. While they may share a geographical designation, you’ll be surprised at how very different every country is. 

Chagres River

Panama Canal’s Watershed

Tropical rainforests

Nature reserves

Leon Cathedral

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Antigua Guatemala

Colonial city and volcanoes


Central America has so many incredible sights and experiences to offer that it’s impossible to see it all. We’ve made your life easier by highlighting the best of each country. From Panama’s pristine beaches and Costa Rica’s rainforests to Guatemala’s ruins and Nicaragua’s wildlife, you’ll experience many activities and adventures as you take your Central America journey.


Welcome to Panama! You’ll arrive at the Tocumen International Airport (PTY), in Panama City. Our guide will meet you and, provided the flight is on time, take you on a half-day tour of this beautiful city. Part of the tour takes you to Casco Viejo (Old Town), where you’ll walk cobbled streets and see what life in Panama City used to be.

Your first full day in Panama will take you from the sea to the jungle. You’ll enjoy a boat ride along the famous Panama Canal where you’ll see the Canal in all its glory. Once you leave the Canal behind, you’re off to the Monkey Islands in Gatun Lake. Here, you can expect to see a variety of monkeys up close, including howlers, capuchins, and tamarins. They live on the islands and you’ll get some amazing photo ops as the boat slows to go by them.

Next up is the Agua Clara Visitor Center where you’ll learn more about the Panama Canal, including its history and modern upgrades. You’ll even see ships passing through the locks, which is a sight not many people get to see in person, before enjoying a picnic lunch. 

From the locks, you’ll head to San Lorenzo National Park to see even more of the wildlife that abounds in this verdant country. The park also features a 400-year-old Spanish fort that was once besieged by pirates. You will have the opportunity to tour the fort and imagine what life was like back then, as the Spanish fought off privateers who threatened the area. 

Finally, it’s time to head back to your hotel for some rest before your next adventure.

While Panama City and Canal are fascinating looks at how the country has become modernized, there are still villages where technology is barely a thought. You’ll trek through the incredible Chagres Rainforest on the way to the Embera Village, where you can see how Panamanian tribes live. 

After traversing streams and jungle trails, you’ll arrive at a village where the people are welcoming and eager to show you their way of life. This tribe has chosen to keep their life simple and they enjoy sharing it with select visitors.Here, you’ll learn about native music, food, and more as you interact with the village people. You’ll even have the opportunity to purchase some of the stunning handicrafts the artisans here create.

Take a few minutes to wander the village before sharing lunch with the tribe. They offer temporary tattoos and skin painting that can be a fun memento of your trip. Before you leave, the villagers will show you some of their more popular native dances, where you’ll have a chance to participate in their culture.

A short flight from the Marcos A. Gelabert Airport (PAC) will take you to Bocas del Toro, a much-loved destination in Panama. Half the province is jungle-covered mountains and coastal beaches while the other half is made up of nine islands forming an archipelago.

Upon arrival, you can explore the area, spend time on the beach, have coffee at a quaint cafe, or enjoy a hike through the jungle.

Today is a day for surf and sand. Spend time lounging on the beach with a dip in the crystalline Caribbean, or go snorkeling offshore. You can also book a boat to take you on a tour of the archipelago and its many islets, where you’ll find white sand beaches and brightly colored fish to enjoy.
Another option is to visit Bastimentos Island, Panama’s largest island. It’s mainly comprised of nature parks, so you will find plenty of wildlife here, including the famous Strawberry Poison Dart Frog, sloths, and white-faced monkeys.

It’s time to say goodbye to Panama, so you’ll board a boat to head to the mainland today and take a shuttle to Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica. The land of Pura Vida (Pure Life) is stunning, so the trip will go by quickly.

Upon your arrival in Puerto Viejo, you’ll have a chance to explore the picturesque surf town. If the beach doesn’t appeal, try visiting the Jaguar Rescue Center, learning about chocolate making, and just wandering down the streets of the town to take in the local sights.

After a relaxing travel day, it’s time to heat things up with a trip to the Poas Volcano. A hike up this active volcano affords you incredible views, not only of the smoking crater but of the surrounding mountainscapes. Poas Volcano has one of the largest craters in the world and a surprisingly cool, humid climate. 

Next, head along a trail through the cloud forest to Botos Lagoon, which is a second volcanic crater filled with stunningly blue water, thanks to the mineral deposits from the volcano. More than 23 algae species call this exquisite lagoon, which is surrounded by leafy jungle. It’s often cloudy here, but wait a few minutes and the wind should clear things up so you can overlook the lake.

After all that hiking, you’ll drive to La Fortuna to ease your tired muscles at the Baldi SPA. Their hot springs pool is divine, filled with pure, naturally heated water that will have you relaxing in no time. You can choose from 25 warm pools scattered throughout the jungle for the ultimate spa experience. 

Today’s adventure requires some easy hiking to Volcano Arenal. The views of the lava fields here are spectacular and well worth the trip. The volcano itself has been dormant since 2010, but it strikes an impressive pose against the sky, perfect for some amazing photos.

Not far away, La Fortuna Waterfall cascades 230 feet over a cliff surrounded by thick green jungle and into a naturally formed pool below. Once you’re feeling refreshed, it’s time to head to the Arenal Hanging Bridges, where you’ll walk among the treetops. 

For day 9 of your adventure, you’ll be taken to Rincon de La Vieja National Park. This massive 34,000 acre park features two volcanoes, with a third not far off, and 32 creeks and rivers to enjoy. There are a number of waterfalls and dozens of trails to hike through the lush forest. In fact, it’s so huge that you can check out both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean!

If you need a break while hiking, settle down in one of the many picnic areas and enjoy listening to the birdsong all around you. The forest is full of brightly colored birds and smaller wildlife, so you’re bound to spot a few creatures such as sloths, monkeys, and maybe even a tapir on your trek. Don’t forget the flora, either, as this Costa Rica national park features vibrant orchids and toucanets, as well as motmots throughout the woods.

Choose between hiking to the park’s mud pots and hot springs or riding a horse to the Oropendola Waterfall. Both tours are amazing and let you enjoy all the beauty the park has to offer. Do you prefer a heated soak with healing mud or dipping into the pristine blue pools under a falling sheet of water?

On your final day in Costa Rica, you will hike 3 kilometers along Las Pailas Trail. This moderate hike gives you a better look at the volcanoes and also takes you through a variety of terrain. From dry forests and fields to a tropical rainforest, you’ll experience some of the best nature has to provide in this country. 

During the afternoon, you’ll have time to relax at the hotel and spend some time just enjoying Costa Rica’s unique environment.

Leaving Costa Rica behind, you’ll enter the lush landscapes of Nicaragua. We’ll head up to San Jorge and from there, take a boat ride out to Ometepe Island, in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. The island is remarkable in that it has dual volcanoes surrounded by thick jungle. 

Here, you’ll have the unique opportunity to share dinner with local women at their village hotel. The sustainable community tourism project is designed by the women to give you a look at their daily lives. They’ll teach you to cook local dishes and there’s a wonderful Jamaican wine tasting to end the evening.

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading out on a nature walk. Ometepe Island is a beautiful place that can really only be appreciated by traveling through it on foot. You’ll end up at Ojo de Agua natural springs, where the crystal clear water is incredibly inviting. Sink into the cool waters to wash off the trek through the jungle before heading back to your hotel for an afternoon of relaxation.

Nicaragua is known for its stunning volcanoes, so today you’ll take a ferry over to San Jorge where a shuttle will pick you up and drive you to Mombacho Volcano. While the volcano itself is amazing and photo-worthy, the real attraction here is the dwarf forest with its occasional fumaroles that puff out sulfur gas. 

You’ll also find perma-green cloud forests in the Mombacho Nature Reserve, where low lying clouds keep the air humid. It’s the perfect climate for the unique orchid maxillaria and is also home to a rare tree that is only found in that part of the world, the frazier tree. As you hike the trails, keep an eye out for these and the salamander that is specific to the area, as well. You’ll have plenty of incredible views, so be sure to keep your camera ready.

After the hike through the Mombacho Volcano Reserve, it’s time to head to the colonial city of Leon.

Leon is a city that you can’t miss out on. Its vibrant culture is based around the city’s popular university, so you can expect to find both history and culture here. Many people visit for the architecture and the impressive cathedral in the center of the city is a highlight. You’ll also see the San Francisco convent, the Old Spanish Ammunition Fortress, and more buildings that make this city so famous as we take you on a city-wide tour.

Need to get out of the city? We also offer an optional tour to Volcano Cerro Negro

Today, you’ll travel to the city of Granada, one of the largest cities in the country. Our city tour will ensure you get a good overview of this popular city. It’s considered one of the most beautiful cities in Central America, alongside Antigua Guatemala.

You’ll get up close and personal with the colonial architecture of the buildings here, including the rather striking Granada Cathedral and central plaza. Other highlights include a medieval fortress, La Merced church, and the bright orange Xalteva church.

A quick flight from Managua (MGA) to El Salvador (SAL) (not included in the trip price) is next. You’ll go straight from the airport to your hotel in San Salvador, where you can either relax for the rest of the day or get out and explore a little.

Day 17 is all about exploring the city of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. It’s a modern city with open-air markets, broad streets, and museums, but it also holds an old-world charm, particularly in the outer neighborhoods. You’ll spend the day exploring this interesting city and checking out some of the fascinating sights here. The Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador is a stunning piece of architectural art that has been visited twice by the Pope. You’ll also want to take a closer look at the National Palace, which was used for government offices until 1974.

The amount of history found in these streets is more than interesting and you’ll find that strolling through the old parks and buildings will give you a new appreciation for this overlooked country. El Salvador has suffered through a civil war and many difficulties, but it is still standing, stronger than ever. 

Take a break from the streets to visit El Boqueron, a national park inside a volcano. It’s a protected reserve where you’ll see a wide variety of plants and wildlife that thrive in the rich, volcanic soil. There’s actually a smaller volcano inside the crater, which creates a unique biome that you’ll enjoy walking through.

While the best time to visit Ruta de Las Flores is November to February when the roadside flowers bloom, it’s beautiful any time of year. This full-day tour will take you through each of the towns on the route and you’ll enjoy the history and culture behind each of the stops along the way. 

Your travels begin in Ahuachapan, capital of the Department of Ahuachapán. It’s a coffee area, rich with cafes and historical buildings like the Church Nuestra Señora de la Asunción and the Alfredo Espino Center for Culture and Art. The town is surrounded by beautiful coffee plantations.

In Concepcion de Ataco, you’ll need to get photos of the lovely murals painted throughout the town, but it’s also known for its fabulous gourmet foods. Take some time to taste local dishes before you move on to the next town, Apaneca. Known for being windy, Apaneca is perfect for strolling, with plenty of hiking trails through the coffee plantations nearby.

Next up, Juayua is the main town for the route and holds weekend food festivals. Here, you can enjoy rare orchids blooming year round at many different plant nurseries. After taking in the sights, you’ll move on to Salcoatitán where you’ll head to the central plaza to enjoy stunning mosaics and some tasty food. Art abounds here, so make sure you check out the handwoven textiles and paintings here. 

In Nahuizalco, you’ll get a more authentic feel for the culture in El Salvador. It’s a smaller town with a fascinating cultural museum and an impressive 18th century church. Take a stroll around before heading to your hotel for the evening.

Leaving El Salvador, you’ll transfer to Copan in Honduras. Spend the afternoon on a walking tour of the quaint town with its cobblestone roads and pretty houses. The central plaza is a pleasant place to visit, though the cathedral is far less flashy than those you’ve seen in other Central American towns.

Finally, you’ll settle in at the Tea and Chocolate Place where you’ll watch the sunset while enjoying a pleasant meal.


Your morning will begin with a tour of Copan’s ruins. As one of the world’s top Mayan ruins, Copan is a destination you don’t want to miss. From the Hieroglyphic Staircase to intricately carved stelae and sculptures, there’s plenty to see here. The structures are still remarkably intact, thanks to being hidden away under jungle foliage for centuries. You can still see the impressive hieroglyphs and carvings throughout the ruins, over the many buildings still standing proudly against the Honduran sky. Occupied for over 2,000 years, Copan has a lot to offer even now.

You’ll also have access to the tunnels that allow you to glimpse the temples built long before the existing structures were added above them for the new cycle. While there are multiple tunnels under the ruins, thanks to archeologists, only two of them are open to the public. The comprehensive museum gives you even more of a feel for the rich history of this site.

After your Copan visit, it’s time to cross the border into our final country, Guatemala. You’ll spend the night in Guatemala City so you can leave early for Peten.

The spectacular ruins of Tikal, an ancient Mayan City established somewhere around 900 BC, are located in the upper northeast part of Guatemala. To save time, you’ll fly to Flores Island on a short flight. From there, you’ll travel to Tikal National Park, which is over 350 square miles filled with jungle and the famous ruins of Tikal. As you walk through the thick jungle to reach the historical site, you’ll likely see coatimundis, birds, a variety of monkeys, and other wildlife.

This Mayan city center contains over 3,000 buildings, but the most prominent features are the massive temples at its heart. It was once the biggest Mayan city, with around 100,000 inhabitants. They built impressive monuments, including the Temple of the Jaguar, with its massive steps leading to the crown of the temple. There are also stelae covered in glyphs and altars across the plaza, evidence of ceremonies that were once held here.

While the Mayan tombs in Tikal were looted, you can now see replicas of them, as well as relics found here in the Tikal Museum. Take your time exploring the towering temples before flying back to the city.

The drive to Lake Atitlan is roughly 3-4 hours from the city and you’ll see some amazing scenery along the way, including Volcano Fuego puffing ash into the sky. Upon arrival at the lake, you’ll visit the Atitlan Nature Reserve, which is full of wild animals and incredible flora. Here, you can hike the rainforest, go on a cloud top zipline tour, visit the onsite butterfly museum, or simply enjoy a milkshake in the huge pavilion. 

The lake is surrounded by villages perched on the mountains above the water. Panajachel is the main town, where the Reserve is located and is where you’ll be staying for the night. It’s small, but friendly, and offers a variety of amenities. While the other towns around the lake tend to be smaller and less accessible, except by boat, each one has a distinct personality of its own.

Finish off the perfect day with one of our optional sunset tours, kayaking on the calm lake or going on an artisanal fishing tour. You can’t go wrong with either choice.

 Lake Atitlan is a deep lake in an ancient volcanic crater and the surrounding hills are dotted with little towns. A boat tour will take you to three of the villages. Santiago Atitlan, where you can enjoy stunning views and a colonial church famous for its mix of local and Catholic scenes, is home to many artisans. 

At San Juan La Laguna, you’ll have the chance to visit a thriving coffee plantation and see where your coffee comes from. You can’t leave until you’ve done the coffee tasting, which is an experience in itself. This town is quiet, but offers beautiful streets lined with coffee shops and artisan stalls where you can pick up gifts to take home. Art is big here, as is the traditional back loom weaving, which you’ll see firsthand as you walk the streets. 

Finally, you’ll take the boat to San Marcos la Laguna. This sleepy town is known for its yoga retreats and natural healers, but you’ll enjoy visiting the calm atmosphere and incredible views.

Your next stop in the colonial city of Antigua Guatemala gives you an experience you won’t find anywhere else. Cobblestone streets and Spanish architecture take you back to a simpler time . . . with modern delights. You’ll enjoy a walking tour of this town, which is easy to stroll through, due to its size. 

Stop at the impressive Cathedral in Parque Central, explore some of the local ruins from the 1500’s, chat with some local vendors, and then head to the chocolate museum for a chocolate tasting that will change your life. The city is full of vibrant colors, delicious food, fascinating history, and friendly people. Chances are, you won’t want to leave! 


After an incredible expedition through all of Central America, it’s time to head home. You’ll say your final goodbyes to Guatemala at the International Airport (GUA) and catch your flight home.

map, expenses & price

Panama to Guatemala

Expenses included:
-Private transportation.
-24 nights of hotel accommodations.
-Domestic flights.
-Professional local guides.
-All park entrance fees.
-Tours and excursions as listed.
-Daily breakfasts.


panama to guatemala

San Blas Islands

Tiny islands form an archipelago off the coast of Panama in the Caribbean Sea. Most of these islands are deserted, but a few are home to the Kuna, a pleasant native tribe that welcomes visitors. The islands are considered protected territory, so they’re relatively untouched and give you a pristine view of nature.

One of the San Blas Islands viewed from a sailing boat
The rainforest of Rio Dulce

panama to guatemala

Rio Dulce and Livingston

Rio Dulce is a pleasant town on the east coast of Guatemala, a stunning freshwater river with cliffs jutting up on either side for much of its route. However, it gives way to soft jungles and mangroves in many areas and people have settled here, including a large Garifuna population. Livingston, accessible only by water, is a quaint town with incredible beaches. While warm, the breeze off the ocean keeps things cooled off and the many piers that jut out over the water are perfect for swimming.

The Silk Cayes of Belize viewed from he air

panama to guatemala

The Cayes of Belize

Off the coast of Belize, you’ll find dozens of white sand islands topped with palm trees and jungle. The Cayes are surrounded by thriving reefs that teem with fish of all types, making this the perfect place to snorkel and dive. You can even take a dip with nurse sharks and stingrays in Shark Ray Alley if you’re so inclined.

Similar trips

14 days & 13 nights

A girl sitting on a pyramid with Tikal temples and a jungle in the background
Central America

14 days & 13 nights


7 days & 6 nights