99 Days to Panama
Camping Places
Rev. March 28, 2010                                                                                                                                                                                                     <home>
(For further camping places see Updates and Camping Links)

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Mexico
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Belize
Nicaragua
El Salvador
Honduras
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Panama
Updates to Book
There are Three 1st Class RV Parks In Central America (outside of Belize) that we are aware of.  Let us know if you find more.

These three RV Parks offer an oasis to the traveler tired of boondocking:

  • Turicenter Automariscos in Guatemala, at the 34 km marker on the road from Guatemala City to Escuintla.
  • Belen Trailer Park in San Jose, Costa Rica.
  • XS Memories, 60 miles west of Panama City, Panama at Playa Santa Clara.
  • "Pelican's Beat" in La Ceiba, Honduras might be considered a fourth true RV Park based on recent reports.
NEW!  The Camping Places Appendix from 99 Days to Panama, Updates from this Web Site  and Additional Camping Places are now available in Acrobat format here. Also, see Ian Cassidy's comprehensive list (5/10 update) and find other camping places on our links page.
Central America does not have many developed campsites.  We found pleasure in meeting new people and finding new camping places on our own. We listed all of our camping places in the 99 Days to Panama.  Here on the web site we will list only those which we believe will serve most North American RVers as a "safe haven" where they will feel comfortable.  These will have some amenities.  Detailed directions and maps may be found in 99 Days to Panama.  We have also included a number of useful links containing camping places.  Since our return trip to Central America in 2006 we have added and updated information here.

For the boondockers, there are a few simple rules. Arrive at your destination early with plenty of daylight so you can scout out possible camping sites and meet your hosts before dark.  Find a likely spot and then ask a local if it is all right for you to stay the night there. This is a wonderful way to meet the locals and you will find them hospitable and protective of your safety. We found meeting the locals in this way one of the real pleasures of the trip.  If you are in a group or have a large rig it might be best to park somewhere and reconoiter the area in your dinghy or by taxi to find a suitable place. 
 
 
Many of the commercial locations have a security guard, locally called a vigilante. We made a point of introducing ourselves and giving him a tip, usually $2.

                                                 Boondocking Tips
Spacious parking at the Shell Gas Station on the western edge of Danli, Honduras

 

Good candidates for overnight stays include: tourist attractions (e.g. ruins), balnearios, beach parking areas, next to shops, restaurants, ranches and farms, public parks, city squares and, most importantly, gas stations. The major gas stations, especially PEMEX in Mexico, Texaco and Shell in Central America, have large parking areas. They operate like truck stops in the U.S. We usually had the place to ourselves. Sometimes there is power and water available. It is good PR to fill up with gas at a station, or eat at a restaurant, before asking if you can spend the night in their parking lot.  Most countries have regional supermarkets a la Wal-Mart (Wal-Mart in in Mexico and has plans to expand into Central America).  Hiper Paiz is one such supermarket with six outlets in Guatemala and two in El Salvador.
Camping at the Pinto family's farm in Honduras.

When you stop at a commercial establishment, however humble, make some purchases. If the storekeeper seems pleasant, ask if it would be all right stay. They always said yes to us, and usually went out or their way to make us more comfortable. Meeting the locals in this way was one of the pleasures of our trip. The only occasion we were declined permission to camp overnight was at the Butterfly Farm in Monteverde, Costa Rica, where the North American owners cited insurance reasons.

Camping at the church school in Santa Ana, El Salvador.

On three occasions we stayed at schools. The headmasters welcomed us and the kids were happy to talk to us “gringos”. They were curious about the RV and our lives. At this school in Santa Ana, El Salvador, we were shown around and  invited to make presentation in their class.

 

In most places it would not have been appropriate to offer money, so we entertained families with sculptured balloon animals and hats. We also had brand new soccer balls and ball point pens to hand out as well as packets of flower and vegetable seeds. Postcards and pictures of home were of great interest to our local hosts.

On the beach at the Christopher Columbus Hotel in Trujillo, Honduras.
Beach-side restaurants were the most relaxing places. This is at the Christopher Columbus Hotel, Trujillo, Honduras.
                                                                                                                   
Maps and Campsites
Maps below show the route we took on our 99 day trip. Numbers refer to places camped (by day).  Each is described in the Camping Places Appendix of 99 Days to Panama, complete with directions, and maps in several cases. The following gives some of our recommendations for the most established or comfortable camping places.  We have  updated the maps with callouts to indicate camping places we have discovered or learned about since writing 99 Days to Panama.

On the right is an overview of the entire trip.


                    
Mexico   
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We were bound for Central America and were just passing through Mexico.  An essential reference for Mexican Camping is Traveler's Guide to Mexican Camping: Explore Mexico and Belize With Your RV or Tent, by Mike and Terri Church (www.rollinghomes.com).  A useful website for Mexico is http://www.ontheroadin.com/.  As you can see our route took us down the Gulf Coast.  We crossed the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and headed for Chiapas.  We stayed in trailer parks on the Emerald Coast, Lake Catemaco and in San Cristobal de Las Casas.  Otherwise we found secure boondocking spots.

Entering Central America
You enter Central America either through Belize or Guatemala.  Belize is English speaking and less of a culture shock for North Americans.  There are also good facilities for camping there (see the latest edition of the Church's book).  If this is your first visit to Central America it is a good way to ease yourself in.  Harriet and I did a trip 30 years ago in a rented VW bug. We left Merida in the Yucatan, went  through Belize and Guatemala, ending up in Oaxaca.  This trip took a little over two weeks.  We don't recommend the RVer doing it quite this fast, but this little trip could be a good introduction to Central America.  One useful trip for the timid traveler would be to stay in Belize, but take a short 1-2 day trip across the border of Guatemala to see the Tikal Ruins.  These are the largest and most majestic ruins of the great Mayan empire, and well worth a few days of exploration.  It is in a national park - no pets allowed. You can camp (boondock) next to the visitors center and have the use of  some modest facilities for $7 per day. 


                       
Belize  

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Belize has several developed campsites which are described by the Churches.   We found some nice boondocking sites, including on the beach at Hopkins, at the Baboon Sanctuary and by the river in Orange Walk.   Like the other countries in Central America (except Panama), we bypassed the capital, Belize City.  If you have time, visit the cayes of Ambergris or Caye Caulker.  There is great snorkling, diving and/or fishing off of the world's second longest barrier reef.  A great website for Belize information is www.Belize.com.

An Alternative to Ambergris Caye
You can't easily get your RV to Ambergris Caye, but an alternative destination on the Mexican side of the border is Xcalak.  We stayed on this remote peninsula a few years ago. You can boat to the reef from here. They have cabanas and would probably welcome your RV if you used their restaurant and bar. Call them in advance at 763-295-5960. You can boondock by the pier for as long as you like.


Tip
Electricity and fuel are both very expensive in Belize compared to Mexico and other Central American countries. Fill your tank before entering and be prepared to pay extra if you want electrical hookups.

                        
Guatemala

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Camping Places (numbered) in 99 Days to Panama and new camping places added in 2006


Guatemala Highlands (added3/06)
Useful Waypoints (added 3/06)
(Note: "ITMB" means I determined the  waypoint by scaling from a map. Accuracy is probably about 0.2 miles.  User beware)
Fuentes Georginas (Camping)
N14º44.904' W91º28.596'
Corazon del Bosque (Camping) N14º47.680' W91º15.324'
San Simon Xecul N14º54.28' W91º29.073'
Solola Turnoff ITMB N14º51.060' W91º9.934'
Panajachel - Hotel Tzanjanyu (Camping) N14º44.236' W91º10.018'
Panajachel - Hotel Vision Azul (Camping) N14º44.936' W91º9.866'
Los Encuentros ITMB N14º51.457' W91º9.536'
Godinez Turnoff 
N14º42.517' W91º6.159'
Tecpan Guate (km 87 -88)
N14º45.695' W90º58.681'
Godinez ITMB N14º42.517' W91º6.159'
Antigua Turnoff ITMB N14º36.755' W90º39.934'
Sta. Lucia Milpas Altas - Florencia Park (camping) N14º34.000' W90º41.000'
Barcenos Turnoff ITMB N14º34.967' W90º39.536'
CA9 Intersection ITMB N14º30.795' W90º42.318'
AUTO MARISCOS (Camping)
N14º26.022' W91º11.148'
Z-Gas Propane West of Escuintla
N14º16.530' W90º47.874'


Fuentes Georginas Campsite

Corazon del Bosque

View from Hotel Tzanjuyu Campsite, Lake Atitlan

Auto Mariscos Sites with Hookups


Antigua, Guatemala Camping Places
Guatemala is the first stop south of Mexico, and in some ways it is the most interesting country in Central America.  Over half the population is Maya, and the country is full of interesting culture, markets, volcanoes, Mayan ruins and  great scenery.  Lake Atitlan is, in our opinion, one of the most beautiful places on earth! The country is divided into roughly two parts: Peten in the northeast, and the West.  You can stay in more or less developed camp sites throughout the country if you plan properly.  Entering from Belize your first stop would be Tikal Ruins where you stay in the in the National Park where showers and toilets are available. This is just a few hours from the Belize border.  A few hours further is Sta. Elena, where we found a good boondock site, but if you want to get to a developed camping area drive a few more hours south to Poptun where Finca Ixobel is a mature eco-tourism resort. A few hours further is Rio Dulce, where you will find Brunos Hotel and Restaurant which has a few spots for smaller RVs.  Larger rigs go to Planeta Rio (formerly Hotel Ensenada) on the south side of the river.
Camp at the "Survivor" Location - Laguna Yaxja
The 2005 version of the Survivor TV show was shot at Laguna Yaxja.   This is a National Park, accessible by dirt road seven miles north of the highway between Santa Elena and Melchor de Menchos.  The turnoff  is 33 miles west of Melchor. The road is passable in the dry season.  There is a large grassy area by the lake with palapas, toilets and pit fireplaces.  We camped here in April, 2006. The lake makes for nice scenary.  We swam in spite of the crocodile warnings. The locals said it was safe!  The ruins are being restored and will rival Tikal when the work is completed.   The  sunset view from the  top of   the temple is  worth the trip.
By-pass Guatemala City
Most Central American capital cities are difficult to drive through and it's easy to get lost.  Avoid driving through if you can, but if you must, consider hiring a local guide.  Thor Jansen gave us a useful by-pass route for Guatemala City.  Let us know of other by-pass routes you find. Send info to Updates@brindlepress.com.
Camping at the Guatemala City Airport (added 4/06)

If you are picking up or dropping off someone at the Guatemala City Airport there is a convenient place to camp directly across from the main terminal.  To reach it, take the arrivals ("LLEGADOS") turnoff and pull in at the second Parqueo (simply signposted "Parqueo").  The first parking lot is day use only.  Overnight parking is Q50.  Coordinates N14°35.4' W090°31.9'.
Camping in the Highlands (added 3/06)

Guatemala's highlands are our favorite place to hang out,especially around Lake Atitlan.  We've added a map here to help orient you.  We have also added some new camping places to those in the book 99 Days to Panama (see upper map). The Inter-American Highway (CA-1) is the main artery running basically east-west in the lower chart.  A number of waypoints are given below if you are using GPS for the trip.  Coming from the North:

Fuentes Georginas is a hot springs resort above the town of Zunil, just south of Quetzaltenango (Xela).  To get there you take the road from Xela to Cuatros Caminos and just a few miles out of town take the fork to the right for Cantel, Zunil,  and Retalhuleu.  Just before  you reach Zunil  there is a sign for "Aqua  Georginas" and a fork to the left climbing a mountain.  It is a narrow mountain road with terrific views and  steep dropoffs.  Meeting other traffic is an adventure.  We were fine in our  22' Class C but I wouldn't try it in anything bigger.  At the top you will find the hot springs "resort". Admission is $11 (2/06) and you can park in their parking lot.  There are also basic cabanas. The attraction is the view, and the warm springs.  Take your bathing suit. There is a basic restaurant open until 7:00 PM. Recent input (see updates) suggests it might be best to avoid this on weekends!

Corazon del Bosque is a private eco-tourism development consisting of  a large parking area in the woods in front of a restaurant and administrative office. (It is on the Inter-American Highway, CA1, km 145, about eight miles west of the  Solola turnoff. See GPS coordinates to the left).  There's a swimming pool ("baptism pool") next to the parking area. There is a tent camping site a half-mile down a dirt road, and there are many miles of hiking trails into the forest.  You will receive a guide handout with bird identification. What interested us was the large parking area which would be ideal for RVs.  A Peace Corps volunteer (Christina Martin - mobile +502-5541-3467)  is responsible for developing tourism there. She is most interested in adding the amenities that would make it attractive to RVs.  There is already ample attractive parking for  rigs of all sizes.  The cost is Q10 (about $1.25) per night.  "Potable" water is available (never believe that "potable" means drinking water, see Water Treatment), and  electricity for Q30 ($3.75) per hour.  They say they will install a dump!  There are hot showers. Corazon del Bosque is right on the Inter-American Highway close to Lake Atitlan and Chichicastenango.  Taxis and public transportation are easy to these locations.  A tow vehicle would also be handy to visit the other interesting parts of the highlands from here.  The place is secure and guarded. Considering the difficulty in reaching Lake Atitlan, especially for big rigs (see below), we would recommend making this your first stop in Guatemala if you enter from La Mesilla.  It is about four to five  hours from the border at La Mesilla.

Panajachel on Lake Atitlan has two good camping sites: Hotel Vision Azul and Hotel Tzanjuyu.  Vision Azul is where we stayed  in 2003, Tzanjuyu in 2006.  Vision Azul doesn't have direct hookups (see 99 Days to Panama) but the campsite is right on the water.  Tzanjuyu has electricity and water near the  vehicle, and one  grungy dump site.  You are a little more removed from the beach, but walking to town is much easier than at Vision Azul.  We vote it a toss up.  To get to Vision Azul you need to descend the steep road from Solola to the gas station at the beginning of Panajachel.   Use this as a turnaround and go back up the hill 1/2 mile to the entrance to the hotel.  The entrance to Tzanjuyu is a sharp turn to the right just before  this gas station.  There is a sign advertising "trailer park".

Getting to Panajachel. Lake Atitlan  is my  favorite camping place in Central America (Harriet seems to prefer Trujillo, Honduras).  The only problem is getting there.  The main road through Solola requires maneuvering in very tight quarters to get through the village.  In our 22'  Class C we make it, but sometimes have to jog to get around  the corners. The route is not well signposted.  I think  you could do it in a 26' rig but larger may be impossible.  A back way exists that is steep and winding, but  we know at least one 38' Class A  that came this way. I believe towed fifth wheels have also come this way.  The  back route goes from the inter-American highway to Godinèz  (accent on the last syllable).  See the chart to the left above.  Take the Godinez turnoffor or come from Patzun (depending on your approach direction).

Tecpan Area.  The area around Tecpan on the Pan-American Highway (especially between Km 87 - 88) has several nice restaurants with large parking lots and tourist attractions which would make a good place to camp.  Be sure to ask permission from the restaurant owner/manager and buy a meal in their establishment!  The Rincon Suisse Restaurant at Km 94 is also a possibilty.

Antigua. Antigua is THE place to go in Guatemala if you are a tourist.  Unfortunately it is not set up for RVs, especially big ones. The roads are narrow and there are bollards to keep large vehicles out of the center of town.  We are aware of three decent places to camp as shown on the map to the left.  The Parqueo across from the  market has security and even the possibility of electricity (see comments in updates).  We stayed in Manchèn Park during Semana Santa in 2006.  It was close to the action and free.  There is no security, however. Although we had no problems, a group of campers staying here in July, '06, had one camper broken into and another had a dent.  Others have stayed at the Texaco Gas station.  There is a sign for an RV park on Calle de Chipilapa (East Side) but when we investigated we found an unfavorable location behind a house which wasn't easy to get to. They said there was a dump, but it turned out to be a drainage ditch.  Other's (in 2008) asked directions at the Tourist Office and found a place to camp in the Tourist Police parking compound  (see Updates) (N14.55520 W90.73941). As of 2011 this seems to be the most popular spot. If you have the Lonely Planet map of Antigua, it is number 108.  It is on 6A Calle Poniente between Calz de Santa Lucia and 7A Av Sur, on the north side of the street.  An alternative is to stay in the  regional park called Florencia, just outside the village of Santa Lucia Milpas Altas (N14:34 W90:41). Coming from Antigua, the park is on the right (east) side of the highway, about 8.9km from the Hwy 10 terminus at the edge of Antigua.  The park is pleasant but not close to the interesting sights  (or sites) in Antigua. The park is hard to spot going southbound on the divided highway.

AUTO MARISCOS is a water park on the main highway from Guatemala City to the Pacific that happens to have nine full RV hookups (Fee is Q60 per person, about $8.00). We could not figure out why, their only RV business seems to come from two or three caravans that pass by each year, and several visits by the German tour bus ROTEL between November and February. It is a very comfortable setup with the hookups, but the noise of the  traffic makes it less than a perfect campsite.  Also, to get anywhere without your rig you need to take a "Chicken Bus" (Camineta) to the next town, Amatitlan, to get a taxi.  They're not able to reliably call taxis for you.  Fare to Antigua is Q300 ($40) and about 45 minutes. On the good side, there is a great wave pool and other swimming pools to cool off in.  La Red RV Park next to Automariscos is a cheaper alternative ($5.50).  It is a little run down but they havehookups.

Bruno's in Rio Dulce

Rio Dulce, Guatemala (Day 87)
Bruno's Hotel and Restaurant (N15:39.573 W89:00.122).

Water and Electricity.  Bring an extension cord.  $6.50.

Bruno's is under the north end of the bridge over the river.There is a small slip road on the east side of the bridge where the north end of the bridge joins the town. Northbound, make a U-turn immediately over the bridge onto the slip road. About 50 yds. down you can pass under the bridge to reach a gated entrance for Bruno's.The clearance at this signposted underpass is too low for most RVs! Instead, continue about 300 yards towards the water where the bridge is higher from the ground, and backtrack. Comments: Brunos is a hangout for the yachting crowd.
                     
Honduras

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Honduras is Central America's poorest country but we found it  very pleasant and safe. The Caribbean coast provides a nice change from the highlands of Guatemala. The small coastal town of Tela provides opportunities for lounging on the beach and partaking in some interesting tours.  The Bay Islands are reputed to have the best bargains for SCUBA diving, however we could not fly out there with our dog so we stayed on the mainland.

We are aware of two "RV Parks": one near La Ceiba (see Updates) and another near Trujillo.  We didn't stay in either, but Kirkebride/Regan  stayed in them.  To reach these sites from either the Guatemalan or Nicaraguan border requires two days of travel, so some boondocking is required.  However, nice boondocking sites are available near Guatemala at Copan, and near Tegucigalpa at Valle de Angeles. 



Copan Ruinas, Honduras
Texaco Gas Station (N14:50 W89:09) next to Archeological Park
water and electricity available

We entered the country from Guatemala at El Florido.  This is the most popular route with tourists coming from Guatemala City to visit the famous Mayan Copan Ruins. A Texaco Gas station next to the ruins provides a convenient place to stay with electricity (behind the Coke machine) and running water (sometimes).  You can walk to the ruins and into town from here.

La Ceiba, Honduras
La Ceiba RV Park (N15:46 W86:52)
Courtesy of Kirkebride/Regan
water, electricity and dump available

This is just west of the town of La Ceiba. The  park's sign is difficult to see on the main highway. There is a small sign that says "camping". Once you turn down the lane you have to go a long way (1 mile) to the RV park along a very narrow, at times, lane to get to it...there were lots of branches (Kathe Kirkebride lost her CB antenna on her 38' Class A). The owner is French Canadian. The dump spot had a pipe that was too small and made it difficult...there was water and power. Kirkebride and Regan  left their rigs there while they took the ferry from La Ceiba to Roatan.

"The highlight of the last few days has been our visit to what is described as a Butterfly Museum, on the outskirts of La Ceiba (turn off the main road at N 15.771857 W 86.788753). The museum is nearly all the work of one man, Robert Lehman. Originally from the USA, he worked as a teacher in Central America for many years and retired a few years ago to La Ceiba in Honduras. Since then he has opened his private collection of insects to the public. Definitely recommended, even if it's not raining! Not all the insects are dead."
Courtesy Stephen Stewart


Christopher Columbus Hotel, Trujillo
We stayed here and played on the beach!
Trujillo, Honduras
Campamento RV Park (N15:54 W85:59)
Courtesy of Kirkebride/Regan
water available

In Trujillo you have to go through the town and then along the coast where there are many low wires and you have to be careful. Their lane has a lot of branches that have to be cut down in order for the larger rigs to get through without scratching the heck out of them. There is water if you have a long hose, but no power or dump...in a pinch you might be able to run a 110 cord to the restaurant for power. The site is right on the beach and is "well worth getting to."

Campamento Trujillo RV Park
Choluteca, Honduras (New, March2006)
Gualiqueme Hotel (N13:18.847, W87:11.487)
On CA-1 adjacent to Puente Choluteca
$20/night: pool, electricity, water fillup, internet (wi-fi)

You can park in their parking lot and run an extension about 100 ft to power. Our A/C cutout because of the  voltage drop in our 100 ft 16 AWG chord, but it was fine when we moved closer and used our 50 ft 12 AWG chord (15 amps). You  need A/C here, so the moral is to carry at least 100 ft of 12 AWG 15 amp chord.  Longer is better but make sure it is rated at 15 amp. The pool is pleasant and wi-fi reached our rig.  Plenty of water pressure to fill up too, but it is not cheap. Caravans stay here.



The Pool and Wi-Fi were Attractions at the Gualiqueme Hotel
                             
El Salvador
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El Salvador is relatively unexplored by tourists.  We had visited once before for a friend's wedding and were royaly treated to the best of El Salvador.  We paid our respects to our friends on this trip and stayed at the Marriot Hotel in San Salvador.  We paid top dollar for a first class room for ourselves and our dog, but we could have stayed in their covered parking lot for a  dollar (plus tips to the guards)!


Parking Garage at the Marriot Hotel in San Salvador

Frank & Anne Cartwright (www.NextMillionMiles.com) camped just outside Cerro Verde National Park at Crystal Hacienda.  (Their web site has other useful information on Central American camping.)



Tip
The Pan-American Highway enters El Salvador at San Cristobal, goes through Santa Ana, San Salvador and San Miguel. A better and faster way through El Salvador is via the Litoral Highway (an extension of the Pacific Highway in Guatemala). 

Playa Costa del Sol (Updated 3/06)
(East of the San Salvador Airport off of  CA-2, the Littoral Highway)

The Costa del Sol is the major commericial beach area in El Salvador. Virtually all the beach front is privately owned and the opportunity to camp right on the  beach is limited (see options below).

Hotel Tesoro Beach (N13:19.355, W88:57.097)

We reported in 99 Days to Panama and earlier on this site that the Tesoro Beach Hotel would let RVs stay in the large lot next to the hotel for $15/rig/night.  When we went there in March, 2006, we were told that they no longer "provided this service". They did, however, allow us to camp there for two nights. It is a beautiful location especially with access to their pools and a nice beach.  We have heard that the owner allows RVs to stay there as long as it doesn't interfer with local business, especially around holidays (e.g. Samana Santa). Caravans used to stay here.  If you carry our book and show them the info they should let you stay. Don't  try entering the hotel under their portal entrance ways. There is an open entrance to the field next to the hotel beyond the eastern most portal.

Bahia del Sol (N13:17.893, W88:53.664).

Next to this 5-star resort is a private beach club with a large parking area.  It is used by caravans and they gave us permission to camp if we ate in their restaurant.

By the Sea at the Tesoro Beach Hotel

Playa De Metalío (New March, 2006)
Restaurante El Viejo Pescador (N13:37.434, W89:52.654)
Owner: Daño Guadrón
Turnoff CA-2 at the pedestrian overpass at km. 90 (about six miles west of Acajutla), about one hour from the border at La Hachadura. Head towards beach on paved road which becomes a dirt and gravel road. Bear left at the beach and continue for about 1.5 miles to this restaurant.  Ask to park on the beach next to the restaurant, or they will let you park in the fenced confines of the  restaurant which they will tell you is more secure.

We found this place in the dark after crossing the border late.  It seems the only place to camp along this stretch of beach. The owner (Daño) was most welcoming and their food was great, however the neighborhood is a little run down, not like the upper scale areas of Costa Del Sol.  Yet this is one of the few opportunities to park right on the beach.  Suitable for small rigs.



Next to Restaurante El Viejo Pescador, Playa Metalío
La Libertad (New March, 2006)
"El Indio" Campground (N13:29.661, W89:23.029)
This is down a narrow road at km. 57 on CA-2, about four miles west of La Libertad. Take the  road marked "El Tronco Beach" and the campsite is behind the green door near the end of the street. Ask anyone for "El Indio".  It is only suitable for small rigs due to the narrow turn into the camping area.

This is primarily a tent camping area but there is plenty of parking for small rigs.  "El Indio" is acually Ozzy Reyes Cindio  (+503-7877-4461) who is upgrading this  place with a kitchen and baños. He was installing a septic system when we were there.  I provided him info on a dump station, and  he might add one in the near future. There is elecricity available and water, but it is saline. He is a Salvadoran surfer turned entrpreneur and wants to make this work. He speaks a little English.

Rio Mar Recreational Center (Update 2006)
We also stayed in this place, 1.5 miles east of La Libertad, which was recommended by Kathe Kirkebride (see 99 Days to Panama).  We too had to get special permission to stay after closing.  The mosquitos were particularly bad (we're told they are only there January - March), but it is a nice place with a nice pool. 

"El Indio" Unmarked Entrance & Campsite

Beach in front of "El Indio"

                    
Costa Rica
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                           Click for Larger Image
Costa Rica is the most tourist friendly country of Central America.  Many Americans and Europeans fly down there for holidays, and many decide to return to retire or just have a vacation retreat.  The RVer will find many beautiful places to camp, and even some real RV parks.  The down side is that Costa Rica has some of the worst roads in Central America, but if you're not in a hurry and have your belongings secured you will be fine.  There are so many parks, beaches, cloud forests and rain forests in Costa Rica that you could spend a lifetime there and not see it all. We have visited several times and seem to have only grazed the surface.  Our "99 Day Trip" hardly did it justice.  If you want an eco-tourism experience in a friendly, safe country you could drive directly to Costa Rica from Mexico in 4-5 days and wallow in the natural wonder of this place. On the other hand, Costa Rica lacks the indigenous Mayan culture you find in Guatemala and to a lesser extent in Honduras.  If you are into native crafts and markets you will be disappointed.
Rent an RV in Costa Rica!
There is a service in Costa Rica which rents RVs and has camping places.  We have no personal experience and would  like to hear from some  users.  Check out the web site http://www.rvcostarica.com/.
Liberia, Costa Rica
El Delfin Trailer Park (N10:39.44, W85.28.16).
Water and dump

There is only one border crossing between Nicaragua and Costa Rica,  at Peñas Blancas. A few hours south of there, 5 km north of Liberia, is the El Delfin trailer park.  This is no longer an actual trailer park, but there is a dump station and water available.  A caretaker will accept $4 for overnight camping plus $2 if you want to use the pool.  Adventure Caravans were here when we came by, that is the only way we would have seen it.


Guanacaste
Santa Rosa National Park

The main campsite is available by road.  The other campsites are for backpackers. No pets!

18% of Costa Rica is National Parkland, and some parks allow camping.  We were stymied because they don't allow pets.   The Santa Rosa National Park is just 44 km south of the Nicaragua border at the norther end of the Guanacaste area.  This would be a good place to start your visit to Costa Rica .


TIP
Costa Rica has a well developed tourist trade.  You can go on group tours to the major spots: Arenal, Monteverde, Tortuguero, Guanacaste, etc.  Many RVers prefer to camp in one spot, e.g. Belen Trailer Park (below), and take tours around the country.  This is especially wise if you have a large rig. The caravans do this. You can also fly on small airlines quite cheaply to outlying areas, e.g flights between San Jose and Palmar Sur or Gulfito are under $100.

Santa Elena, Monteverde
Las Orquídeas Bar and Hotel (N10:18.78, W84:49.65)
Water and electricity available from bar!
email: tresbosques@racsa.co.cr
phone: +506-645-5509

The Monteverde Reserve is a three hour horseback ride from Lake Arenal, but an eight hour ride on bad roads.  Monteverde is one of the highlights of Costa Rica, but driving there by RV could be difficult in the rainy season (April to December).  We went in March.  The weather was fine but the roads were still rough.  Traveling from Santa Elena (Monteverde) to the Pan-American highway, a distance of 20 miles, took  us 2 1/2  hours in perfect weather.  The best approach to Monteverde from the Pan-American Highway is through Cañas and Tilarán.  We stayed at the Las Orquídeas Bar and Hotel, 500 m west of Santa Elena Center.  Our hosts, Danilo and Nadia Zamora, made us most welcome.


Las Orquídeas Bar and Hotel near Sta. Elena, Monteverde


Belén Trailer Park near San Jose
San Jose                                                          
San Antonio de Belén
Belén Trailer Park (N9:58.80, W84:10.73)
Water, electricity and dump

This is the first real trailer park south of Belize.  The facilities, laundry and hot showers made this a true oasis.  The owner is Laurie Sutter (lasutter@racsa.co.cr), an LA transplant. 

Nicoya Peninsula
There is reportedly camping at several places on the Nicoya Pensinsula, particularly at the southern end at MalPais, Cabuya and Tambor. We were told the latter two have trailer parks.  We have not checked these out.  We would appreciate reports.


                        
Panama  

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Panama has the highest standard of living of any Central American country.  You will feel right at home in Panama City. The Pan-American Highway is very good (and the only route through the country), but it has been known to have several speed traps, particularly around Santiago.

Camping in Panama City
Before the Balboa Yacht Club burned down in 2000 they allowed camping in their parking lot. We were told by the guard that the lot was run by an adjacent apartment building and that we couldn't park there overnight.  It was a huge empty lot.  The manager of the Country Inn next door condescended to let us park in their lot (there's a TGIF restaurant there if you want familiar cooking!). Several other places were recommended (see our campsite section in 99 Days) but we couldn't confirm any. We would appreciate updates.  One camper in 2005 was able to  track down the owner and get permission (see Updates).

The first  RV park in Panama is XS Memories, run by Dennis and Shiela Parsick.  They have 12 full hookups.  Adventure Caravans stops here and buses people the 60 miles to Panama City for sightseeing.  We stayed at the nearby Restaurant and Balneario Playa Santa Clara right on the beach.  We found this more appealing, but if  you miss the North American ambiance and food, XS Memories is the place for you.  Dennis and Shiela also arrange kiaking trips, and they can help hook you up with a shipping agent if you want to ship your rig to South America.
Camping on the "North" Coast
There are several delightful places to camp along the Caribbean Coast near Portobelo.  You can watch the sunset over the Atlantic!
.

XS Memories RV Park, Playa Santa Clara
Chiriqui Storage & Consignment (new 2010)

A German couple has established a new "RV Park" at the Chiriqui Storage and Consignment on the road from David to Boquete (2010). Information is reprodued on the right.

Space: Max: 10 units of 25 ft or les;. 6 to 8 units of 30 plus ft.
Security: 6 ft chain link fence with 10" razor wire on top. Around the entire property. We have 2 Geese and a watchdog.
Hookups: Potable water, 30 Amp Power, Dump in existing septic tank ($10 per dump), wi-fi around office
Rates:
•   Daily:  Units to 20 ft. -$10 per day; 20 to 30 ft. -$15 per day; Over 30 ft. - $20.
•   Weekly:  Units to 20 ft. -$60;  20 to 30 ft. - $90; Over 30 ft. - $120.
•   Monthly:  Units to 20 ft.- $240;  20 to 30 ft.- $40; Over 30 ft. $450.
•   Electricity.
•   Units with NO air conditioning - $4 per day.
•   Units with air conditioning equipment. (even if you say you are not going to use it) - $6 per day.
•   If you have cars in tow is $ 1 per day per car. Car may have to be parked else where on property
Co-ordinates: 8° 35' 30. 90" N,  82° 25' 15. 99" W ,   Elevation:  1028 ft.
Directions:  We are on the main road to Boquete from David, 1.7 km. north of the Terpel Gas station on the fork in the road to Potrerillos.  Stay bearing right towards Boquete.  Look for a sign that says "Chiriqui Storage". And "RV's welcome". Turn in to our property just before the sign.
Phone numbers:  Linda - 011-507-6714-2487;  Hellmut  011-507-6503-7756;   Penny 011-507-6510-8934  (All are cell phone #s which are all 8 digits here in Panama)
Getting Around: The town of Dolega is 2 ½ km to the south. David is 17 Km to the south , Boquete is aprox. 18 km to the north. Taxis are cheap.  About $ 2-3 to Dolega.  About $ 10 to David and the same to Boquete. We are on the major bus route between David and Boquete.  $1 to David and probably $1 to Boquete – one way.  (to Dolega 50 cents)
Other Info:
•   There are several Restaurants within 10 km.  Closest is across the aforementioned Terpel gas station 1.7 km away which is Columbian food.  In Dolega are typical Panamanian restaurants. Towards Boquete is an Italian Restaurant and a bohio with great food (burgers, fish & chips, etc.) called "Las Ruinas" with a swimming pool.
•   Stores 2 km away in Dolega.
•   Repair facilities in David.  Not specializing in RV's.
•   There are refrigeration companies and diesel repair facilities.
•   As of this writing we don't have a public restroom and laundry but some of that may change by June (2010)
About our property.
…We purchased about 3 ½ years ago. Area is 2.5 acres
…We have a  Wood/furniture shop on the north end. Caretaker's house is in the middle of the property.
…Our main business is self storage and we now have a consignment shop.
…The campground is still under development.  You will not yet find a US style RV park just yet!
…In time we intend it to be so with about 30 to 40 spaces with all the facilities.
…If you don't mind roughing just a little bit we will be able to accommodate you.
…By June 2011 we may have added some improvements.
Chiriqui Storage and Consignment (new 2010)
 





                      
Nicaragua
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Nicaragua has two remarkable colonial cities and the largest tropical lake in the world.  We are not aware of any facilities specifically for RVs.  Plaxtons (Mexico and Central America by Campervan, ITMB Publishing - out of print) parked their RV at the Camino Real Hotel in Managua while they took a flight to the Corn Islands.  We have found hotels such as this are receptive if you talk to the manager and utilize their restaurants and bars.  Park in the far reaches of the parking lot (like you do at Wal-Mart).

Tip
The Pan-American Highway (also referred to as the interAmerican Highway) is excellent in Nicaragua. You could drive through the country in a day (180 miles).  On the other hand, the route from Managua to Leon, and from Chenandego to the border at Guasaule, was one of the worst routes we encountered.  This is unfortunate because Leon is a beautiful Colonial City.  We had trouble finding a place to camp in Leon, but did finally manage to locate a parking lot at a local grocery store (not suitable for large rigs or caravans).


Estelí (Added March, 2006)
Estelimar Turicentro (N13:5.86 W86:20.16) is a daytime recreational center that allows RVs to camp for $10. There are also rooms  available.  It is located about one mile east of town on an unpaved street that runs by a tobacco plant.  From the InterAmerican highway turn east at the statue with the soccer ball mounted on top (we think this is Calle Peru but signs are few and far between).  This is the corner south of the Shell Gas Station and right next to the  tourist office. There is a blue sign indicating the Turicentro.  Large rigs may have trouble navigating into the parking area.  There is electricity available and a place  to fill your tanks with water (not next to the parking area, however).  There are three swimming pools (mostly empty when we were there), a bar and restaurant.

Miraflor and Selva Negra (near Matagalpa) were two eco-tourism developments near Estelí which were recommended to us by Intur and others.  You should be able to camp there, but we have not checked them out.

Parking at Estelimar. Electric hookup is at base of street light at corner of lot.
Granada
Centro Turistico

Centro Turistico runs along the shores of Lake Nicaragua.  It is an upscale place with restaurants and nightclubs.  There's a $4 charge to enter, and we tipped two vigilantes while we stayed for the night.  We expected lots of activity on a Friday night, but is was very quiet.  Caravans camp outside the Center to the south along the beach.  They hire their own security.

Beach Camping in Nicaragua and La Máquina (Eco-tourism site)
(March 2006)

There is camping available at Centro Ecoturistico La Máquina, km 58 on the road from Diriamba to the Pacific (N11:44.37 W86:19.48). The owner is Beranice Marano, a Brazilian. We contacted her by phone before coming via the Masaya tourist office (she is not on premises - phone in Nicaragua is 8857880). She quoted the price (100 Cordoba per person - about $6) including "water, electricity, showers and breakfast". This is a secluded oasis with swimming in a river with waterfalls, surrounded by exotic shade trees with their names posted in Spanish. They claimed there was no electricity available in the parking area, although they rigged an electrical plug in a palapa far from the parking area for us to use our computers. I later discovered electricity in the  toilets right next to the parking area. They could have rigged the same plug there if we had insisted. It would be nice  to have A/C in this climate (we used our generator). Non-potable water is pumped from the river to faucets if you care to use it.  I never saw the showers.  Any size rig could park here for a relaxing stay. The road from Diriamba is riddled with potholes so you will be weaving all over the place (many secondary roads in Nicaragua - and primary roads in Costa Rica - are like this).  Take your time, it is only about 10 miles from Diriamba on gthe interAmerican highway.

Close to La Máquina is the beach turicenter of La Boquita (N11:40.71 W86:22.99). This is a closed off parking area ($3 entry) surrounded by basic restaurants and bars. It is hard but not impossible to get an ocean view from a parking spot.  The beach is very nice for swimming and boggie boarding.  No one was there on our midweek visit but I imagine weekends are crowded.  We had a terrific dinner of fish and lobster at the Ranchon Bravo Mar restaurant on the beach. All the restaurants and bars are pretty basic, with sand floors.  The seafood is fresh, however; we witnessed the boats arriving with the catches.

The Intur office in Masaya recommended that we camp at Pochomil Beach, which is down another highway off the interAmerican.  Pochomil Beach is more developed for tourism than La Boquita.  Next to Pochomil is Montelimar, which is an upscale resort  used by Adventure Caravans. 

The premier beach area is in southern Nicaragua at San Juan del Sur. We have no first hand information on this resort.  Others have camped there, however.


Centro Turistico, Granada
Around Masaya (Added March 2006)

We discovered two good camping places on our 2006 trip.  The best is in the Masaya Volcano National Park (N12:00.79 W86:8.46).  The entrance is next to Nindirí on the  road between Masaya and Managua. Park Entrance is about $4 per person and the charge for overnight camping is $1.76 per person (When we came back for a second night's stay they did not charge again for admission,only the overnight camping fee!) Not cheap for boondocking but the park has beautiful trails and  roads leading right to the craters. You park at the Visitors Center, which is worth exploring.  At nightime you are alone with the animals and plants. Water is available to fill your tanks.  Rigs of all sizes could camp here. 

The Mirador at Catarina (N11:54.79 W86:4.19) also allows overnight camping for about $1.20.  It is a parking lot surrounded by small shops, restaurants, bars and night clubs: suitable for smaller rigs only.   It has a terrific view of the Apoyo Lagoon, Granada and Lake Nicaragua. You are too high to reach the water of Apoyo which is below the Mirador. When we were there on a Sunday night the disco music went on until 2:00 AM.  Catarina is five miles east-southeast from Masaya.  The road to Granada splits northeast of Masaya, the road to Granada goes north of the Apoyo Lagoon, the  one to Catarina goes south.  When you get to Catarina a large sign welcomes you.  Turn in before the sign and the Mirador is about .8 miles through the community. Ask for directions.














Parking Lot at the Mirador at Catarina - Empty in the Morning, Full At Night

Beach at San Jorge
The Beach at San Jorge, just east of Rivas, is a welcoming site to boondock.  The owner of the Ometepe Tours office, next to the ferry terminal, told us that caravans stop here once a year and take over the beach. Just to be safe ask permission at one of the restaurants and/or at the Ometepe Tour office next to the pier.

Ometepe Road Improvement (March, 2006)
In 2003 we rented a jeep on Ometepe Island and drove around the island on some of the  worst roads in Central America.  We did not recommend that you take your rig on the ferry.  We understand that these roads are now paved!  You might want to take your (small) rig over.  Let us know what you find out!


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