|Updates to 99 Days to Panama
Rick and Kathy Howe
In December 2007 we crossed the border into
No Camping at Hyper Paiz in Xela
We had planned to hang out in Xela for a
couple of days,
getting used to being in
Road Work between Xela and Panajachel
The next morning we decided, even though we
had to go back
towards Xela regardless, not to spend more time there; we were
moving on, and so headed for Panajachel, on Lago Atitlan, supposedly
one of the
really delightful spots in this country. But...they
between the two towns. And
that a zoo! This
is a very long-term project,
incidentally; they are rebuilding this road all the way between Xela
We finally did get to Panajachel - and
collapsed. We found a lovely spot at the
in an open field right along the lake. The
hotel provides us with hot showers, water, and a dump;
and with some
electricity if needed at the end of a long cord (we plugged the crock
one day). We can get wi-fi whenever the
assistant manager has his office open; we try not to abuse this
he's most gracious. He and his family
live there; he also has a hang glider-paraglider operation that he
benefit of this is the opportunity to see various folks landing in
"your" field right at your doorstep. We
walk to town every day; it's a nice town, cleaner than
what we have
been accustomed to in
We had reports of various hotels as options, and the most common reference was of a parking area out beyond the bus terminal. We checked the latter out first, but found it locked and unattended. Rather than chasing around an old, old city trying to find hotels in unknown locations, we decided to make our way to the center of town and throw ourselves on the mercy of the tourist office. Getting downtown was interesting; some of the streets have bollards to keep out the big trucks (we squeaked through), but in general the streets are wider than in colonial Mexican towns, and we wiggled along.
Visiting the tourist office was a good idea. The fellow spoke excellent English, knew what we needed, and got us settled. He directed us to the enclosed compound where the tourist police kept their vehicles and had their headquarters. It was an open field with plenty of room, cost us nothing, and we were only about 3 blocks from the center of town. (The location of this place is outside the bollard area and anyone could get in. 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. Don´t know what would happen if someone simply stopped by; as you know, we were referred by the tourist office and they called to say we were coming.....). No services, but I suspect they would have been happy to find us a bathroom if it were needed. We stayed two nights, and they wouldn't have minded if we'd been there longer. The chicken busses were noisy until around 7-8 at night, but after that it quieted right down. We were delighted.
Off to Huehuetenango, where we spent the night. We had heard about a couple of spots, but couldn't find them; we ended up having a very quiet night at the Pinos Montana Hotel, right on CA-1 on the outskirts of town, on the south side of the road at about KM 258. They put us into the interior courtyard area, and security kept a close eye on us.
Huehuetenago to Coban
Next adventure: we
from Huehuetenango to Coban. All
said it was a stunningly lovely
trip through "the real
We took it in stages. The first part of the road is really great. We took a detour partway along, going up into the Ixil Triangle to visit Nebaj, Chajul and San Juan Cotzal. The road goes up and down through the mountains, ultimately rising 3800 feet in 8 miles, quite astonishing. These small, tucked away villages are only now catching up with civilization, have a proud heritage of independence and adherence to the old ways, and are very interesting to visit. They tolerated us well, but are not really set up for tourists, so we merely passed through, enjoying the lovely mountainous countryside and a chance to see "old" areas.
Rejoining the main road, we spent the night
Uspantan. We had heard from one source
that they had spent the night on the town square, and it had been
we were hoping to do better. We found
what was supposed to be the tourist office, but it was closed. Inquiring next door, this very nice fellow
led us through town to the home of the woman who was volunteering to
"do" tourist duty. After a lot
of phone calls and sending her sons off to check on possibilities, she
a place for the night: in the (secure)
parking area of a small hotel, which was also -- a mechanic's repair
yard. It was quiet and sufficient, but
highlight of our time in
Finally back to paved road, we made the rest of the trip into Coban without trouble. We have settled into Parque Nacional Las Victorias, very close to the center of town. They have a nice grassy area under the trees where we can camp, with water nearby. We can shop, wander town, and --- more business to take care of - try and make arrangements to have our mail forwarded to us. We figure this needs about 3 weeks lead-time, and are trying to call places further ahead on our route to see if we can receive mail there. Just another part of the adventure!
Coban is small enough to be very enjoyable, but big enough for a shopping mall that is right on the main drag into town. Heaven, some would say! One special attraction we enjoyed was the Vivero Verapaz orchid nursery. We are happy to be here for a bit.
We would love to hear from you; we're pretty good correspondents - send us a message!
Rick and Kathy Howe, and Trav'ler (the Tiger). We're at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can view more of our pictures on Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/kathyrickpics.
We crossed into Guatemala from Belize at Melchor de Mencos and headed west....the rough section of road was not too bad this year...From the border we went through El Cruce and headed toward Coban on the new road. The new part of the road was terrific....then, when you hit San Cristobal de Alta Verapaz, there is a 30 km section that is unfinished until the bridge....that 30 km took 4 1/2 hours....it was a doozy with some waits while traffic came through from the other direction.
Then the road got good again and we headed to Santa Cruz del Quiche for the short jaunt down to Chichi for market day...at one point we had to put the rig on a ferry to cross a river at Uspantan. Short jaunt, Hah!!!!! The bridge was out and we were re-routed through Chiche' via a terrible, muddy, steep, dirt road cut just the day before.....all the truck traffic was on it with us and at one point we got stuck in a ditch (on the inside of the road thank the goddess) and a long line of traffic had to back up so we could get another run at the hill.....a bit harrowing.....and another 4 hours of pure torture.
The rest of the trip down into Panajachel via Solola was a piece of cake by comparison. Coming home we went through Guatemala City...paid a taxi driver 150 Quetzales to lead us out the other side, thence on to Rio Dulce, Poptun and back into Belice.
1. Hotel Tzanjuyu in Panajachel: despite the latest statement on your update page we are currently staying at this place, and have been for over for over 3 weeks! During our stay there have also been two fifth-wheelers and another C-class camper in here. It appears that the property has changed hands and they are actually doing some work around the place...
2. Fuentes Georginas near Xela: the price has changed to Q40 per person, plus Q20 for the vehicle. Unfortunately we didn't have a nice view to enjoy, nor was it inviting to use the hotspring pools or shower since the rain season (visited late August) brings low cloud and rather cool temperatures.
3. NEW: Hotel Real Pacifico [ http://www.hotelrealpacifico.com/ - website not ready] between Frontera El Carmen and Malcatan. We were very welcomed at this newly built hotel, the english speaking night manager told us that they actually had planned their backyard for use by campers! It's a large grassed area away from the road right next to a bubbling river, so it's fairly quiet. You get to use their lovely large pool and poolside bathroom (toilet and cold shower), and at the time of our stay they were building a large palapa at the campsite which has provisions for power outlets. Free (locked) WiFi is available, too. We would like to encourage people to check this place out! The paved driveway is a little steep and has a few overhanging branches, but it's simply nice to see such a beautiful place willing to open up for campers... It should be easily possible to reach this location in one day via the Pacific route from Tuxtla Gutierrez or Puerto Arista in Mexico (the nearest listings in "Mexican Camping" by the Churches). The official address is Kilometre 272 Panamericana, around 5 miles from border on a T-intersection to Malcatan, GPS is N14°55'00.8", W092°05'38.6". We were the first to use this place and paid Q100, but we also told the manager that we found it just a little too much...
4. Frontera El Carmen: this is supposed to
be the easiest border along the Pacific route (the other being a truck
crossing), and we have only experienced the Guatemaltecan side to
re-new our vehicle permit. We found it rather busy (all car importers
are using it), chaotic and slow! Whereas the entire crossing from
Belize into Guatemala took us just 40 minutes, here we spent around
one-and-a-half hours just renew the vehicle permit. The lanes are
narrow and probably not suited for large RVs, although we saw large
tour buses squeeze through. Then again: we would NOT recommend visiting
Guatemala in a large RV, since the roads are very narrow and turns are
often very sharp, cables and signs often hang very low (not to mention
second-floor balconies) - we often think that our 4x4 truck camper is
the maximum size we would want to drive here.
The CA1 from this border via San Marcos to Xela is rather windy and rough, from Xela to the Panajachel-turnoff is almost all under construction, upgrade to 4 lanes...
Please check our website http://dare2go.com/camping.html for other camping options!
We have been parked here for almost two weeks. There are a total of three campers here. It is true they try to get $10 but deals can be made for less. There is electric and water (with low pressure) and a can for trash. The grass is two feet deep and they mowed a path. The view is beautiful.
Regarding Hotel Vision Azul, Yes we drove there but they are more expensive I think 100Q = about $14. compared to 75Q= 10.50. About the same in view but cleaner bathrooms at Hotel Tzanjuyu and less people. In our view it was nicer and somewhat closer to walk to store and town.
By the time we left Hotel Tzanjuyu there were four of us. They had worked on electric and were beginning to replace the bridge to get to bathrooms. Grounds were well kept but camp area was deep in grass.
Courtesy Aaron and Amy Young
For any one headed to Lago Atitlan, Hotel Tzanjuyu is no longer an option. We stopped there on our return north bound trip about 4 weeks ago. They had not paid there bills and as such had no water, electricity, or staff for that matter. The grass was at least two feet long. It is still an incredible view but not "vale la pena" (worth it). They wanted the equivelant of $10 to camp. We told them that was ridiculous and were told to talk to the manager when he got back. He
finally showed up four days later ( on our way out). We payed him three per night and told him that was all he was getting. He said fine, I was coming to tell you that we don't want campers here anymore.
|Shipping an RV to South America (7/07)
We are now back in Mexico and headed home. Here some more camping places in Central America. Once again remember we have a truck with camper on it so some of these are not suitable for large RVs.
Volcan Masaya Natl Park, camp at visitor center. They asked as we entered if we wanted to stay. Water and toilets, no power. Guarded all night, nice big flat parking lots, lots of birds. You are kept out of the volcano area (spectacular) at night.
Tourist Center Lake Xiloa, just outside of Managua. Shade, near lake, quiet safe place near Managua. No hookups any size rig.swimming.
Ponaloya (beach outside of Leon) go out rd to Ponoloya, turn left to Las Penitas near water. Go south to Playa Roca, small hotel, Cookie is the proprietor a retired Amer. civil engineer, happy to have small Rvs, up to two will fit. $2 per rig. Showers, toilets, no elect., good restaurant. Nice surf at right tide.
Honduras. Note on route north. Nacaome River crossing is EAST of Nacaome not west as listed in 99Days.
Playa Espino, go to end of paved road, turn left go down narrow lane nearly to end, nice places to stay, with room for any sized rig, busses turn here. Pit toilets, water. Great beach good beach break,great sunsets. Watch out for Semana Santa! [Ed. note... we turned right at the beach and found a nice area with a palapa where the owner allowed us to camp, but it was very tight and we damaged our awning getting out. Sounds like going left is the best choicehere! Thanks George.]
Playa Sanzal. Roots, new campground for surfers, good sized rigs will fit. New Bathrooms, water, power maybe. Classic point break to right on beach another local surf spot to left (Boca). $3 PP.On road to Perquin (eastern mountains) Hotel Ocatal $5 pp. pool. showers, restaurant.
Llano del Muerto (Balneario) 20min. off main rd. $2 pp. Showers, pool, water. Great area near Rio Negro.
Atlantis Aquatic Park, near San Salvador airport, on road to beach. Waterworld meets Disneyland! The manager here went out of his way to set us up for the night. This is not an RV place but a major Balneario/entertainment center. They rent airconditioned cabins, first class, have many pools great restaurants, water slides etc. This is a great place to stay and meet someone coming in by air. 20 min. to airport.
Cerro Verde (outside Sonsonate) $10 per rig, lots of room, at 6000 ft to cool off at night. Toilets, botanic garden, great views.
Parque Aquatico Apuzunga, south of Metapan, in mountains in western El Salvador. Another baneario, owner is Raul Sanabria, speaks better English than he admits, great water park around natural spring on a big river (rafting) recreaton area, restaurants, toilets, showers, swimming. Any size rig, little hard to get into, but well signed. $25 for two rigs (6 people) included full use of park!
Poptun, on road to Tikal, Finca Ixobel. Really fine place to stay, many side trip opportunities. Great restaurant, power, toilets, showers, water. Highly recommended! Note you cannot take pets into the Tikal park or campground! You can camp and they don't mind pets at Yaxha.
Road note: The road from St Elena/Flores to Sayaxche has been paved, this lets you easily into another classic Mayan ruin area around the Passion River. There is a ferry to take any size Rv across river $2 for my truck. The road is also paved from here to Coban, making a loop around the Peten possible. Road note; the road from Coban to Huehuetanago is passable with a high clearance vehicle. The first third is unpaved and very rough, but very beautiful. The next two thirds are newly paved and also beautiful but are steep mountain driving (up to 6000 ft. and down to 2000 ft. at least 6 times!) It also passes right through the middle of many small towns on the way, very confusing, especially on Sunday when they all seem to have market day and just block off the way through town! Ask directions frequently! This route lets you return to Mexico, without going back to Guatemala City. This is rough travel right now, only for properly equipped vehicles! There is an even more northerly road/ track along the border with Mexico for the real adventure traveller with proper equipment.
Coban, Parque Natl. Victoria, great park, really a botanic garden, with hiking trails. Water, toilets(poor) and sort of a shower. Medium to small rigs.
Note, we abandoned our plans to tour Bilize due to: 1. dog problems, we couldn't seem to communicate with their system (Semana Santa) and their strange policies. We met about half a dozen travelers that were avoiding Belize because of dogs, 2. by this time the heat and humidity were causing us great discomfort, 3. rumors of confiscation of food items at the Belize border. (one back packer in Tikal said he had his pasta confiscated!), controlling foods to prevent agricultural pests is one thing, but this is too much. Get with a sensible program Belize, you are losing tourist dollars! We will try again on another trip earlier in the year.
This my final report on camping places for now, Mexico is well covered by the Church's. I hope these reports will be of some use to some of you [definitely.. ed.]. It has been a great trip, my advice just do it!
Tela Beach Club, Tela, Honduras, has requested that we no longer list them. They say they can not accomodate motorhomes.
Courtesy Aaron and Amy Young
Bocas del Toro Province: Willie Mazu Rancho Ecologico, KM 68 between Chiriqui Grande and Lago Fortuna. Good hiking.
Boquete: futbol field.
Others from http://www.questconnect.org/sa_camping.htm:
Boquete, on the side of the street, Calle 2 Sur, across from the main square.
Santiago, Hotel La Hacienda, GPS 08 07.42N 80 58.75W.
Playa Santa Clara, XS Memories.
Parque Nacional Soberania, Ranger Station/entrance.
Courtesy George Baines
Here are some more camping places I can recommend. Remember I have a truck camper and 4x4, so I don't need as much space as a big RV.
Hot springs at LaFortuna ( the more northern LaFortuna out of Bagases.) Centro Turistico Yoko.. to entry $5 to pools, you can park on lawn at end of parking lot (free), toilets no power.
Orosi mirador across from Stella del Nord pizza, ask to stay overnight at mirador, fabulous pizza across street. (free)
Dominical. Great beach camping under trees along beach, take road SE out of town along beach (free) no services, great surf be careful, watch your stuff.
Playa Pinuela part of Ballenas park, small cove, very pretty, water and toilets, showers. Fee, but not collected on week days. Watch your stuff.
San Vito near Wilson Botanical Garden (garden has no room, due to construction) about 2K back toward S.Vito on rt is Finca Cantarro, can stay in their gardens for $3 per rig, lots of trails, nearly a botanical garden itself!
Manzanillo (carib coast) got almost to end of road, there is a bus turn around area, benches, can park under tree, right next to beach (free).
Playa Guiones near Samara. Park at end of road, right on beach, watch your stuff, be careful of sand.
Boquete camp along river next to soccer field, as you find field go south of fence, lots of space, don't camp on soccer field, close to town (free)
Near Volcan. Canyon Macho del Monte, camp at gate to power station, ask guard up on hill as you come down, park on cement slab, don't block the gate (free) great birding!
Panama City. To clear up some confusion, you cannot park at the yacht club, but in front of the yacht club is a huge cement city parking lot. You can camp there. It is farther away from the water, some shade. We stayed 3 nights, police came by and were all happy to see us. (free) It is used for informal driving lessons in the evenings. One warning, on Sunday nights the lot is part of a weekly roving progressive party. About 7PM Sunday, we were invaded by cars full of happy young people, it quickly became full with about 500 cars with loud stereos, blasting out Panamanian rap. There was some drinking. After a little more than an hour the cops came and moved them all out, and left us alone. Locals told us it happens every Sunday. Police and Tourist Police check on you any times a day and night. No hassles. Wifi signal from yacht club!
Portobelo area Playa Langostina $5, very busy on weekends. Nearby Bar y Rest Las Palmas is defunct.
Playa Las Tajas Pan. N. central coast. Go end of paved road, turn right, go to end. Water. showers, toilets $5, nice beach break, big beach!
Since leaving the northern beaches of Honduras, we have gone over the mountains through Olancho. On the way to Juticalpa, we found a nice safe camping spot at the Forestry Camp in Gualaco. They seemed pleased to let us dry camp in their compound with guard and army folks nearby. We camped at the tourist park outside of Valle de Angeles, on the way to Tegucigalpa [see Campsites in 99 Days to Panama - ed.]. Another interesting camp was just before the border with Nicaragua. We were planning on staying in a balneario near the border but it was closed and defunct. Across the the road was a restaurant and a soccer field. There were police eating at the restaurant, so we asked them where to stay. They called the owner of the restaurant, got permission for us to stay behind the restaurant and next to the soccer field. Then they had patrols come by nearly hourly to check on us all night! Our only scare was we heard voices late at night, so we got our dog to back, lights came on and a police car pulled up in seconds, it was the police we heard. After crossing into Nicaragua, we turned east at Ocotal and drove to Jalapa and beyond, almost back into Honduras. As it was getting late, we stopped a tobacco barn to ask the caretaker where we might find a safe and level spot to camp. He thought a minute, then said "here". We pulled in next to the big barn, got a tour of the operation and then were beset by the loveliest, biggest group of children. They wanted to see the rigs, the dogs and squealed with delight when I took their pictures and showed them to them on my cameras large LCD. Our next stop was in Somoto, where wanted to take a canyoneering trip. We asked the tourist police in the town square for information. They immediately escorted us, to the tourist office, which could not help. So they took us to the town hall and the alcade's (mayors) office. The two police and the alcalde, gave us permission and made arrangements for us. The alcalde was concerned as to where we would stay that night, and insisted we stay in the towns corporation yard with guard. They arranged a guide(you need one) and a time to go in the morning. In the morning the guide and the two tourist police accompanied us to the canyon. While the guide took us up the canyon, the two police guarded our trucks! We opted to just hike the canyon, don't. Use the inner tubes they supply for a very small fee! It is beautiful, but you will be swimming about half of the way, and tubes would make it a lot less strenuous, and safer for cameras. You need dry bags. A great adventure, but we were exhausted by late afternoon when we got back. Stayed in the city yard that night, after being escorted to a restaurant by our faithful tourist police. They are really concerned about security,. I think overly so. We next went to Esteli, where we went up to the Tissey Reserve, where you can stay in the parking lot for free, hike up to a mirador with really great views. We stayed the next two nights at a private country club, Club Campestre de Esteli, for 20 cordobas/night with use of pool showers, electricity etc. We next drove to Granada and stayed at their tourist park on the lake. We toured around this part of the country and stayed one night on Lake Apoyo at the Narome Resort. They let us park our rigs in their parking area, for free, and invited us to use their facilities (pool, bathrooms, etc.) for having a meal there. Our next spot was in San Jorge to go to Ometepe island. We stayed at the Hostel Azteca, left our rigs there for two nights while we toured the island and then stayed another night. Good food, reasonable prices, room for two small camper sized rigs, pool, water, power. Could be loud on weekends, but great fun, guard at night. Off the main road to ferry by about two blocks, in San Jorge, signed turnoff on main road. Far cheaper and more services than Hotel California! We went out to the beaches near San Juan del Sur, they are rapidly developing this area and closing off beach access like crazy. We tried to go to a park we heard of north of town, Bahia Majagual, don't try it! The park has been sold and is now being developed into a hotel or condos or something, we were escorted out of the area by very grim guards with shotguns, no explanations, just you must leave NOW! We are presently in a defunct trailer park, El Delfin, with pool outside (5K north) of Liberia, Costa Rica. $5/ rig plus $2/person for pool. Large flat area for any sized rig or rigs, very pastoral. Hope this helps some of you find a place!
P.S. In crossing into Costa Rica, they insisted on having your car title, not just registration. I had mine, so no problem but out travel mates did not, had to pay a big bribe. Don't know if this is a scam or not. Copies not acceptable. [ed. note - Vehicle title is always required, we are surprised that Georges crew got this far!. Colored scanned copies are usually accetped as originals.]
Guatemala Money Problems (1 Feb. 2007)
Courtesy Brian and Kit, (99DaystoPanama@yahoogroups.com)
Just a quicky for those of you heading for Guatamala. If you have been following the CA news you may know that in the last three weeks there have been several collapsed Guatamalan banks due to embezzelment I think and there is very little money in any ATMs around the country...if any it is new 20 Quetzal notes. There is some problem with the French company that prints Guatamalan money and they have been slow in providing it..rumor has it that it is a paper problem, and the banks just don't seem to want to part with cash. Here in Antigua and all through the Peten we have only been able to get $1000 Quetzales per transaction, in the bank, on a credit card..not a debit card. I think you can trade dollars and travelers checks ok most places but we did not bring much cash or any travelers checks as they are so difficult to cash in Mexico. Next trip I will take plenty cash and TCs. The banks we have had success with are BAC and Agroindustrial.
Driving to Panama in a Hurry (1/07)This is a post from a good friend of mine who drove to Costa Rica back in 2003. Just thought this may be of interest to you.
Courtesy of Kristine Berg who is driving to Panama with three dogs (www.howlingsuccess.com)!
From: Jerry D......
I got out my Mex. and Central America maps and went over the route I took. It was mostly very easy. You will need a decent map of Mexico, and Central America. The only road map I could find for Central America had one entire side of South America and 1/4 of the other side was Central America with the rest filled out with all the Caribbean Islands. It was the AAA's "Caribbean, Central and South America" map. Believe it or not, the smallish Central America section was very sufficient. [ed. note - we recommmend the ITMB maps unless you are exclusively staying on the Pan American Highway.]
OK, here it is...
I-10 to Houston, take southern loop of I-610 to Hwy 59... At Victoria you get on Hwy 77all the way to Brownsville. There you get your Mexican auto insurance. Use the Sanborns office there, just before the border. AAA recommends them. Matamoros is the border town in Mexico. It was a bit unnerving. Lots of cars. If I remember correctly, shortly after the border station, you make a right with the bulk of traffic... go a mile or two... maybe more, til you hit a pretty big street that you turn left on and go under an underpass. You need to be on Hwy 180 south to Tampico. It is 310 miles from B'ville to Tampico. Follow 180 to Tuxpan (116 miles), on to Vera Cruz (193 miles).
You CAN follow 180 right on to Acayucan, but I didn't. There is a real nice new interstate type highway toll road just inland that bypasses all the coastal crap in that area. Just Below Vera Cruz, at Paso del Toro, you hit hwy 150. It WAS a pock-marked road from Hell in 2003, but may well be repaved by now. In any event, it goes only 25 or 30 miles til you get off on 180 D, the super hwy toll road. Flat, straight, and not so much as a dimple in it. FAST. We saw VERY few cars for close to 100 miles. At Acayucan, you take Hwy 185 down to La Ventrosa. The Vera Cruz - La Ventosa leg is 292 miles. At this junction, go south on Hwy 200 to Tapachula at the border. You are on Hwy 200 for 264 miles. It is a sweet road. Few towns, little traffic. Actually, I passed through Mexico on the Easter weekend, and the only real traffic was in Matamoro and Tampico. The rest was a walk in the park, really. Top to bottom, Mexico was 1118 miles, and took me a little under 30 hours. 27.5, to be precise.
Passing through Guatemala and El Salvador, I stayed OFF the main highway, which is CA 1... it will take the mountain route, and drags you through the capital cities of Guatemala City and San Salvador. DO NOT GO THAT WAY!!!!! [ed. note - we prefer CA-1, including San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico and the highlands of Guatemala. This is our favorite part of Central America. Also, the border crossing at La Mesilla on CA-1 is very laid back and easy compared to the busy crossing on thePacific Highway at Tecun Uman, south of Tapachula. But, Jerry is right if you are in a hurry... the Pacific Highway might be 1/2 - 1 day faster, but less interesting!] CA 2 is the coastal highway, is straight and fairly flat, and a good surface. Little or no cities. You get on CA 1 on the far side of El Salvador, just a few miles from the Honduran border. DO NOT get yourself in the position to need gas in Honduras... I spent about $75 gassing up there. I was on fumes just before the Nicaraguan border, and it was 7:00 PM. Could've saved $30 or more within 15 miles. There are only about 150 miles to do in Honduras. In Nicaragua, stay right on CA 1 til you hit Managua, where it turns into CA 2 again 'til you hit Costa Rica and it mysteriously reverts to CA 1. No matter, it is the only highway to speak of.
In Costa Rica, just stay on the highway to San Jose. It is well marked... big ol' green with white letter interstate highway type signs. In San Jose, DO NOT take "central" into the heart of the city. Go to the next street light where there are a couple lanes that turn left. If you miss it, you will just peter out into a residential type area. Go back to the light and go right ... this will turn out to be Avenida10. Most likely you will never see a sign telling you where you are. Just keep going. After a bit it will turn into one-way, your way. You are looking for signs pointing you to Cartago at this point. You have to go quite a ways on the one-way section before you come to the signs. They will not be huge signs. White with black letters. If in doubt, ask... follow their fingers til you need to ask again. Cartago is easy to find once on the East side of San Jose. Straight through Cartago for the highway to Turrialba. There will be signs. If you have problems in Paraiso, stop and ask for the road to Turrialba. After Paraiso, it is a slam-dunk. No place to make a wrong turn... there are no highway intersections til you are way past Turrialba headed for Limon, then it is a "T" in Siguirres, where you go right to Limon. There are signs there, too. At Limon, you take the coastal road (the ONLY road) south all the way to Sixaola, the border town to Panama. Drive on!!! The only route goes to Boca. Of course, I can give you more detailed info on the Turrialba to Sixaola leg when you get here. I live about 15 K from Turrialba... half of that distance is on the road to Limon.
It took me 6 1/2 days to drive [from where to where??], 9 or 10 hrs a day. I spent about $100 a day, which is what I average Stateside as well. Food, gas and bed. Plan on $1000, you should be OK. You COULD pull over and doze, but I would be carefull about that... you would be a target, especially with a trailer. Traveling gringos have $$$, and they know that... and who knows what might be in the trailer??? Most hotels have pretty safe parking.
Courtesy George Baines
We are now in
As to places to stay,
Hope this helps some of you find places. We are camped right now on
Ollie North's runway outside of
From David Bloom (email@example.com)
Now we have a Coffee Farm!!!
Our Humanitarian Aid organization (non profit) based in Nicaragua now has been donated a Coffee Farm not far from Granada and Masaya, soon to be developed as a working volunteer center dedicated to organic crops other than Coffee. All you 4wd'ers and RV ers are more than welcome to camp out on the property giving us advance notice..just try and help out on a small project for a day or two! View http://www.cindurma.org. The founder and co ordinator, Glenn, lives in the Continental US year round except for his humanitarian trips to Alaska and Nicaragua, Go to the contact page and either phone or E mail Glenn.
- Chinandega: the modern PetroNic fuel station at a big round-about you will pass going towards town. Electricity, water, security, grassy field and toilets. $3. Across the street is another fuel station with fast food.
- Laguna Xiloa: Centro Turistico: beach and warm water to swim, shade to park and primitive toilets. $2. Very hot and humid in August.
- Penas Blancas: New gas station towards the border on the left side, about 2 km from
- Playa Tamarindo: Tamarindo Resort (no signs, you have to ask): It’s possible to park among this cluster of buildings, in the dirt and shade, with electricity and water for $12. The owners are American. Restaurants are pricey, the beach not too special. Tamarindo is favoured by surfers. There is free (but unsafe?) camping on the beach and there’s also a “real” campground, but anything bigger than a car doesn’t fit.
- Samara: Camping Los Cocos: A find (if you fit)!!! Drive into this little town till the end, where you see the beach. Turn left at the end of this road (near the police station) and follow all the way, around the bend to the left, until you see a sign for Camping Los Cocos to your right. If you’re longer than 24 feet or wider than a truck camper, do not proceed! Obstacle 1 is gone, since we cut the branches of a low hanging tree, obstacle 2 is a very tight turn to the right, which you might have to do in two times. Somebody needs to guide you through all the way. Obstacle 3 and 4 are low hanging cables, somebody needs to lift them up from the roof. Obstacle 5 are the palm trees that are close to each other. One dead stump got cut down for our stay, so things should be a little bit easier now, and … we installed a real outlet, so obstacle 6 is gone either. Once you get onto the campground, you get rewarded with a beautiful sea view, shade from the palm trees, a breeze until 4 pm, level, packed sand spot, electricity, toilets, showers and water at the sinks. The water is potable! $3 per person. Say “hi” (and thanks) to Johnny.
- La Fortuna: Cabinas Sissy, across from the river, close to town, view of Arenal Vulcano, level, grassy field, electricity, water, toilet, shower. Nice! $3 per person. Be careful for the low hanging wire!
- San Antonio de Belen:
- Siquirres: Aventuras Naturales Rafting Tour: Along the main road, past town, don’t drive into town, turn left before the big bridge, and right towards the river. Turn left past the bar and follow this road along the water a little bit, until you see a gate on the left and an open building with tables. Next door is a similar set-up from another company. Ask the caretaker/maintenance man (only Spanish) whether you can spend the night if you join the tour the next day. Water, electricity, shade, grassy yard, outside showers and toilets. We only used the electricity during our four hours of rafting, so the dogs had AC. We tipped the friendly guy the day we left. The rafting tour on the
- Cahuita: At the end of the bad road along
- Puerto Viejo: Bad roads! On the other side of town, towards Manzanillo: Camping Las Olas is an option. We didn’t fit. Rocking J’s has camping (in the sun and with protective dogs) for $4 a person. We stayed at Camping Cut Bak for $3 per person and an extra $3 for electricity. Showers, toilets, water, shade. Close to the beach, but swimming is impossible because of the reef.
- Punta Uva: further down the awful road (about 7 km) towards Manzanillo. Turn left at Selvin’s Restaurant (very good food!), and drive all the way to the beach. Park under the trees and you’re in the shade all day, with a sea breeze until about 5pm! Free. No facilities, nice beach, garbage cans. The
Checking out of
To really get on our way, though, we had to pass another four check-points, to show documents, hand in copies and answer questions. The points were manned by either border police, military, police, tourist police, … On our third stop, the officer claimed we needed to have reflectors (a white/red strip) on our camper. We had already prepared ourselves with a safety triangle and a fire extinguisher in the car. We sensed he wanted money and were not going to give in. We discussed with him for a while, pointing out other cars without reflectors, showing him our lights worked and were also reflective, saying we didn’t see a store selling those strips yet, since we just got into the country. The man had taken Mark’s license, so we were powerless. I didn’t give in and he took me to his car, where a huge gun and another guy were waiting. Nothing more really got said, the man sat down in the car, holding the license. I swear I would have grabbed it out of his hand if he were to drive off. All of a sudden, he got out again, handed me the license, didn’t say a word anymore, and we drove off. In our side mirrors, we saw the police officers clean up the cones and get ready to leave. It was 12 pm. Saved by the lunch hour!
During our two hours in the country, we got stopped at 8 check-points in total. We had a very bad taste about
We checked into
We were very tired driving into
The road into the country was very poor, literally and figuratively. We had to drive through craters in the road and poor kids hoped to get food, water or money for filling some of the potholes. After one hour or so, the road luckily improved!
The CA4 arrangement gives a tourist three months to travel in
The border crossing from
From Liesbet Collaert
It's hurricane season, so we're afraid that not many boats go through. We talked to David from the Balboa Yacht Club yesterday. He doesn't allow RV's anymore to spend the night there. Previous RV'ers ruined it for the rest. One of them used power while he was told not to, and broke a freezer in the bar that way. Another group was parked in the small parking lot and didn't want to move out of the way. It looks like we have to see the city and do our chores from XS Memories. Tried to hunt down four E rated tires yesterday, in Panama City. No luck (yet). Traffic existed of very bad and inconsiderate drivers. There is a Ford dealer and we'll get some minor work done on the truck.
Halkyard Note: We found "D" size tires at the Firestone dealer in Panama City.
Courtesy of Rus Krause-Kathleen Krauss
For several reasons we have decided to drive back home to California for our son's wedding and ship to South America from the states. We left Panama 8/11 and we are now in Guayas, Mexico, almost ready to reenter after 6 months on the road! We are very glad we drove back, it really completed the trip for us, refamiliarized us with the places we'd come to know and love and allowed us to visit some new ones. Here are some new additions to your list of useful camping spots:
Hotel Gran Impala, Rio Claro, Costa Rica
N08 40.721 W083 04.081
A nice hotel with level space for RVs, and it has a restaurant. Buses and trucks also park here for the night. We were charged $3 by a very friendly manager. This is a convienent place to camp for the night before crossing the border into Panama, or from the other direction, is a nice day's drive from Panama City.
Hotel Savegre in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica
N09 33.038 W083 48.523
This isn't just a camp site, but a destination in it's own right. Nestled in a little valley on the clear and lovely Savegre River, this Albergue attracts many foreign eco-tourists because it is truly a bird-lovers paradise. There are hummingbirds by the dozens and many other birds including resplendant quetzals and their relatives. The hotel has a good restaurant, lovely gardens filled with birds, trout fishing ponds and trout in the river too. Internet is available on one computer for a fee. There are good hiking trails nearby, we recommend the 2 km hike to the first waterfall where you can view the cascades from a cave formed by fallen boulders. It cost $20 to stay the night in a very private parking lot behind the garages.The staff is exceptionally friendly and most speak English.
Directions: Turn west off CA2 at the 80km marker, the hotel is about 9 km down a steep and curving road. A word of caution here: the road was one of the most nerve-wracking we've been on, incredibly steep and full of tight hairpin turns. Although mostly paved, it is a one lane road and at times almost too steep to back a rig up on when you meet trucks and small buses, which are common. We used 4 wheel drive to get up the mountain and wish we'd used it coming down. This road is NOT reccommended for big rigs (we are 26') and you must have excellent brakes!
Hotel Tilawa on Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
N11 31.324 W084 58.021
If you feel like a bit of luxury, this is a great place. First of all, it's beautifully landscaped and artistically designed with a pool and hot-tub (not really a springs, as advertised) set in lovely grounds on a hill overlooking Lake Arenal. They offer a massage therapist, a restaurant, three vegetable gardens, and maps of hiking trails through the jungle to a lakeside windsurfing shop. There is a lounge upstairs and a sitting room where guests gather or use their laptops, the wifi is only available in the lobby. There is plenty of room to park on a level space below the hotel entrance for a fee of $20. The friendly atmosphere is set by the owner-builder, John Paul, and his wife Helga, who live part time in California. We intended to camp just for the night and found it so pleasant we stayed an extra day. It is located on the road from Tilaran to Arenal, on the west side of the lake.
Reserva Nacional Volcan Mombacho, Nicaragua
This is a very pretty park at the base of the volcano. The 300 cordoba fee covers entry, camping and transit up to the crater and back. You can't drive up and you wouldn't want to either. There are three craters and hiking trails at the top, with fabulous views of Lake Nicaragua, the islets of Granada and the city itself, as well as interesting jungle plants and flowers. The weather is much cooler than in Granada. We arrived around 3:00 PM and the last truck was just preparing to head up, they gave us 1.5 hours to hike around before returning. No electricity, water or dumping, but outhouses are provided, for pee only. (?) The camping area is pretty, well cared for and quiet. We were the only ones there overnight.
Esteli, Nicaragua Turicentro, ESTELIMAR
N13 05.958 W086 20.094
This is a lovely, quiet (at least on week days) and interesting spot to camp. Although there are no facilities it is a good place to boondock safely. The center has been a turicentro for 10 years, but since 2004 the facilities have been mostly used to run an inovative educational project for Nicaraguan kids. Every weekend kids of all ages and all parts of Nicaragua come and are guided in various scientific activities that teach them practical applications of math and technology (from pullies and the use of solar energy to computors and web design). The staff there were friendly and excited to show us around, especially the director, Eduardo Lopez. This "Parque de Ciencia" is funded by a Finnish man who is responsible for the computer program Linus. Although we weren't charged for camping we made a donation to this wonderful endeavor and, of course, tipped the guard. We would advise not stopping by on weekends, there wouldn't be space to park.
Directions: driving north through Esteli toward Honduras on CA1, there is a sign for Turicentro about the middle of the town, turn right and then take a left at the fork in the road a little later. The dirt road is full of dips and holes. But it is worth the 1.5 km drive.
Playa El Espino, El Salvador
N13 10.256 W088 17.426
Although we could have stayed at any number of places along the beach in El Espino, we chose one called Cabanas La Brisa del Mar and had pleasant stay in a small grassy parqueo edged by a few palapas sheltering hammocks that look out on a clean beach stretching for miles. There are bathrooms available, but we used our own. The fee was $8. To get there turn left at the beachfront road when you get to El Espino and drive until you see their hand painted sign. The family that runs the place lives there but nicely gave us our privacy. In the morning we chatted and got to witness their struggle to keep the sea from taking their land, shoveling sand every morning to repack the wall they've each built to slow erosion.
Parque Nacional Cerrro Verde, El Salvador
N13 49.599 W089 37.460 altitude: 6602 feet
This is a good place to camp for spectacular views of volcanos and of the crater lake Coatepeque, with beautiful gardens, a children's playground and treehouse, and a nice hike around an ancient crater that has been reclaimed by the jungle. The fee was $10 and we filled with water. There is no dump or electricity, the bathrooms are clean, though without showers. There are other good hikes available in the park. In the morning we met a string of young guides who take people to the Crater Izalco and other more strenuous destinations.
Chichicastenango, Quiche, Guatemala
N14 56.664 W091 06.576
We had a wonderful stay for 2 nights in the parqueo of a Saserdote Mayan family, Diego and Blanca Estela, their kids and grandkids. When we got to Chichi late Saturday afternoon the man at the Shell station said we couldn't stay there. It was too busy and crowded and we'd never be able to get out on market day. He suggested that we try a parqueo down the street that was "mas tranquilo". It did turn out to be much quieter, plus we met a wonderful local family. Diego also acted as our guide up to the sacred site of Pascal Abaj, interpreting the ceremonies that were taking place there and later taking us to see the effigy of Santo Tomas. The parqueo is completely fenced and secure, and is convienently located a few blocks from the market. There is a bathroom and shower for a small fee but we never used them so I can't comment on the condition. To get there continue down the same street the Shell station is on (7 Avenida), past the Hotel Santo Tomas about 2 or 3 blocks and look for a black gate on your left about the middle of the last block before you come to the end of the street. A hand painted sign says parking or parqueo. That's the entrance. If it's closed, holler or bang on the gate and someone will come. These people are inerested in having RVers stay. They have had several before us and had good experiences with all, plus Diego had to have a serious surgery 2 years ago and can't do the kind of work he used to, so they are struggling to hold onto their land. It cost 100 Quetzals a night. Don't be confused by the sign at the end of the street for another parqueo, it's not the one. If you can't find it, ask for Diego Canil, he is well known in town. Telephone: 77562419 or cell: 55524059
Well, that's probably it for us unless you are interested in South American campsites later. Have a good Labor Day weekend.
From Liesbet Collaert
When I got back from
The following day, we took a bus to Escuintla, and then to
Then we found the Real Plaza Hotel, on the edge of town, but definitely in walking distance. They allow RV’s to park in their small front parking lot, but the woman would have to ask the manager for a price. People have stayed there. Since it was all concrete, small and in front of a fancy hotel, we figured it wasn’t the place for two dogs. Later, we found the back parking lot, near the restaurant of this hotel. The vigilante told us we could park overnight there for Q30 ($4). We would fit in the lot, but not under the only tree (shade). The restaurant has toilets, but the grassy area and the pool are too neat for them to allow dogs on it, we assume. Anyway, this was an affordable possibility!
Next, we checked out the “main” parking lot at the edge of town, near the bus station, and next to a hardware store. This is where most of the RV’s stay while visiting
Then we also heard about two places out of town, which we were going to check out later. Probably nicer for the dogs and we could take a bus to
So, we drove back through
We decided to stay in this park for a couple of nights. They charge Q30 ($4) a person. There are clean toilets and cold showers, and water faucets everywhere. Lots of grass and hiking trails, but noisy, next to the highway. Great view of a volcano, and busy in the weekend. I took advantage of the visiting Guatemalan city folks on Sunday, to sell some Belgian chocolate and waffles! We parked at the first camping area, but couldn’t get very level. If you have those automatic jacks, it wouldn’t be a problem. There’s also a huge camping area in the back of the park, but the tree branches were too low for us.
It would be possible to take a bus into
We decided to check our camping options in the town again, to visit Pacaya volcano (has to happen early in the morning, or late in the afternoon, which means you wont be back before dark) and see more of
From Liesbet Collaert
In one day, we drove all the way from Lago de Coaltepeque, to Perquin, in the North East of the country, with it’s historical and interesting guerrilla past. The best place to camp in Perquin is near the Museo de la Revolucion, past the town center. We wouldn’t recommend large RV’s to drive here. We managed OK (with some double point turns in town) with our 24 foot truck camper. The small parking lot at the museum is free and safe (vigilante at night), while the parking area across the street is larger, more comfortable, but less safe. People are allowed to park overnight there, but the owner doesn’t want to take responsibility for your belongings, since there is no guard at night. He charges $1 for the vehicle and $1 for each person to stay on the lot. We stayed here, because another big group of Salvadorians decided to camp under the big palapa that night, which made the owner stay there too. You can get level here, and there is a nice and short walk to the top of the hill. The museum is across the street. The parking lot (El Manzanal) has two entrances. The first, and easiest one is right on top of a steep, paved hill, past the center of town. To get here, you drive through town and turn left at the end of the street. Keep going, until you see the first sign (parqueo El Manzanal) on your right. This is a not too steep, rocky dirt driveway. Once on the lot, there is a plenty of room. The other entrance, a little further down the road, across from the museum is very steep. Clearance is never a problem. We did check out the El Mozote and Rio Sapo area (only recommended in truck campers), but there were no interesting places to spend the night. We ended up in a Shell fuel station near San Miguel.
From Liesbet Collaert
We checked out Lago de Coaltepeque. All the land, but one grimy boat launch, is privately owned. We did find two camping possibilities, though. The nicest one is the parking lot of Hotel/Restaurant Torremolinos (no lake view). You follow the dirt road along the lake for about two kilometers. If you eat there, you can use their facilities and park for free. There are clean toilets, cold showers, swimming pools and access to the lake, through the restaurant (no problem with dogs). Between the building and the lake is a huge grassy area. If you don’t eat there, they will charge $5 a night. At 6 am life starts, with the noises of barking dogs and selling vendors.
If you order anything on the menu, make sure you ask it “without cheese”, unless you’re fond of the crumbly, moldy tasting Salvadorian cheese on everything you eat… This is, according to travel guides, the best restaurant in town. We didn’t like it a lot and it’s pricey.
The other restaurant, where you can camp, is called Rancho Alegre. It’s not very level and muddy. They charge $1 a person per night, and there are cold showers, toilets and lake view. Be prepared to wait a long time before you get served in this restaurant.
From Liesbet Collaert
[Ed Note - on our trip in April Cerro Verde was closed due to volcanic activity - J & H.] Our first night we spent in
From Liesbet Collaert
We decided to take the Southern route out of
CA8 is a good road to the border of Valle Nuevo. We highly recommend this border crossing into
Then, you drive over the bridge into
And here is the big news: you don’t need to check in anymore when you arrive overland! Since June 2006,
Las Chinamas is very easy and quiet! The dogs were no problem. The guy in charge didn’t seem to know what to do and just put an entry stamp on the USDA forms and made a copy of them. No time limit was given. For the car, we needed to fill in a paper with all kinds of questions (in Spanish) about the vehicle, they accepted copies of Mark’s passport and the title, and checked the VIN number on the car. 60 days maximum stay. And that was that. The whole crossing took about an hour and didn’t cost us anything, on either side! Technically we could stay in the country until our visa (received in
Courtesy of Rus Krause-Kathleen Krauss (See map below for reference. Numbers in white circles refer to our campsites in the book 99 Days to Panama. See this link for an update for camping in Choluteca - on the Pan American Highway between El Salvador and Nicaragua.)
1. Camping/Playa in La Ceiba, Honduras (it's in the Colonia Bonitillo area, west of town) Phone: 995-4122 (N15° 46' W87° 27')
This is an actual RV Park, and it's called "Pelican's Beat" though we only found that out as we left. It offers electricity, water with great pressure!, a dump station, spacious and clean bathrooms, shade, and it is right on the beach. It cost us 100 L/ night (about $5 US), although it's cheaper without hook-ups and for tent camping. They also advertise nautical expeditions to caribbean islands for snorkeling and wildlife viewing and speak English, Spanish and French. It seems that they haven't had many campers lately. Glenya, the gracious and lovely young woman who runs it with her Quebecois husband, was surprised that we found the place because their big sign had been torn down. Here are detailed directions because it is a little hard to find. If you are coming in from Tela, it's on the outskirts of town. Look for the airforce fighter plane with the painted teeth that's mounted in front of the Fuerza Aerea Hondurian. Take a left turn onto a small unpaved track .2 miles past this airplane. You'll see a small hand painted sign that says "Camping/ Playa", which is partially hidden by bushes, follow the signs for "tennis" and "camping" all the way to the entrance on the right, near the end of the track, across from the tennis school. It's 1.2 miles from the highway.
If you are coming from Trujillo, take the road toward Tela (you don't have to drive through town) and in approximately 6 km look for the (commercial) Aeropuerto on your left. Take the unpaved track to the right .5 mile past the airport. There is a small hand painted sign posted on a pole that says "Camping/Playa" marking your turn. There are signs for "camping" or "tennis" at strategic places on the 1.2 mile road to the campground. We had no problems getting in with our 26 foot, 11.5 feet high camper though we scraped the branches of some low hanging trees.
2. Hacienda San Lucas, Copan, Honduras
We had a chance meeting in town with Flavia Cueva, the Hondurian/American owner of this old family hacienda turned Hotel/Retreat, perched high on a hilltop overlooking the ruins of Copan. Although expensive, it is a lovely place to either rent a room, to eat a 5 course dinner cooked with traditional Hondurian receipes accompanied by fine South American wines, or to camp, if your rig is small. There are hiking trails to smaller ruins (Los Sapos) and we had access to a clean and spacious bathroom where I had the BEST hot shower I've had in weeks. We stayed there one night for 190 L (about $10), but there is no level ground to park for a rig of our size (26'). We leveled as best we could but in the middle of the night our refridgerator stopped working and so we left early the next morning. The place is beautiful and tastefully remodeled in the tradition of the origional hacienda which has been in her family for generations. There are flowers and trees and lawns and at night it's all sit up by dozens of candles, creating quite a mood. At dinner it was fun visiting with other travelers and the staff are friendly and interesting. Dinner cost $20 US/person but be careful, the wine and drinks are quite expensive. We also had our laundry done there. There is no electricity or dump but water is available. Come to think of it, you can probably get an electrical connection, but we didn't ask.
3. Texaco, Copan Ruinas, Honduras (adding our experience to others)
This is not scenic, but has a lot going for it. First of all, the armed guard is really cool. We had fun watching him direct most of the goings on at the station, he seems to know everybody and takes time to chat with you (in Spanish) too. Second, it's extremely convienient, situated next to the Ruinas and with as easy and pleasant walk to town via a stone-paved walkway, and thirdly, the price is right. We didn't bargain so maybe you could get it for less, but they charged us 50L/night and we filled up with water and had access to electricity after the station was closed.
4. Campamento Armadillo, Las Vegas, Honduras (Lago de Yojoa area)
Near Parque Nacional Santa Barbara on the west side of Lago de Yojoa, (on the road from Peña Blanca to El Mochito) this campamento is used by groups of up to 125 persons and they didn't know what to say when we asked permission to camp there. It took a while and some discussion before we got an answer but once they decided they were friendly and helpful. Fenced and guarded, with a large and manicured lawn, it was a very pleasant place to stay. You can take a 20 minute hike up the hill to a panoramic view of the lake. In the morning the 'manager' arrived and wanted to charge us 200 L, but we talked him down to 150 L, which we thought was high for a place with no hookups, especially compared to our luxury at Finca las Glorias the night before. If they had a group they probably wouldn't have let us stay. There was another camping spot on that road perfect for small rigs signed as "parqueo".
5. Catarata de Pulhapanzak, Honduras
We didn't camp here, just visited for part of the day. There is a beautiful shady area for camping that would accomodate most RVs in this privately owned park. The entry fee is 30L/person, camping is an additional 30L/person. There is a restaurant, hiking trails and areas to swim. The falls are impressive.
6. Hotel Finca Las Glorias, Lago de Yojoa, Honduras (N14° 56' W88° 00')
A local gave us a tip that this was a great place to stay. We really liked the setting of this hotel which is off the main road in a quiet and more undeveloped area of the lakeshore. It has beautiful and spacious grounds with panoramic vistas, abundant bird life, and many amenities: pool, a good restaurant, playground for kids, boats and horses for rent, fishing trips, and internet services ($3/hour). It is actually a farm and you can walk around and see pineapple, coffee, vegetables and an unknown fruit that hangs from a vine growing. There is a water park before you get to the hotel that is run by the finca also. The fee was 100 L (about $5) for us to park in a cemented area under several large trees right near the marina (we had to lift an electrical cable up with a long pole to get in, though). Water is available, and probably electricity, although we didn't need it. No dump. Directions: Take the road that heads northwest from La Guama toward the Catarata de Pulhapanzak. It is a ways past Agua Azul but not yet to Pena Blanca, and is well signed. Veer right to the hotel from the water park.
7. D and D Brewery
We´d like to reccommend a pleasant place to stop for a few hours although it´s not a campground. The D and D Brewery, built and run by Robert Dale, an expatriot from Oregon, is in the Lago de Yojoa region on the road from Pena Blanca to El Mochito. We had a tasty lunch, good beer and homemade sodas, and a pleasant and informative tour around the place including introduction to many tropical plants and their uses from Bob. Besides being a microbrewery, it is also a bed and breakfast with clean and very charming cabins, a pool and interesting grounds. To get there ask in Pena Blanca for "El Gringo que hace cerveza".
Note from John & Harriet. Other places around Lago de Yajoa where you can camp: Los Naranjos Park, northwest corner of lake (N14° 56.4' W88° 01.2'); Hotel & Restaurant Los Remos, southeast corner (N14° 47.6' W87° 58.9').
8. Hotel Marquez, Yoro, Honduras
We pulled in to Yoro after a long drive on unpaved roads during a torrential downpour, crossing 5 streams to get there. We were running out of daylight. The hotel parking lot had room for our rig and all night security. They wanted 200 L but we talked them down to 150. the hotel has a restaurant, but we ate in our rig. In the morning kids who should have been in school washed our truck for tips, using buckets of water they carried over. We didn't think they would get all the mud off but they did a good job.
9. Bahia Bar, Trujillo, Honduras
The Bahia Bar is east of the Cristopher Columbus Hotel on the airstrip just before town, that is, turn right. This is a friendly, casual eatery right on the beach where families gather on Sunday afternoons. There is a nice space to camp on level ground and even some shade. It took a while to get permission (to find the right person to ask, that is) but we finally did, and parked there for free, eating and buying beer there. No hook ups.
10. Agua Termale, Gracias, Honduras (N14° 33.536' W 88° 34.187')
[This is not Rus and Kathleen's...one we discovered in March, '06 - J.]. Just outside the town of Gracias is the natural hot spring "resort" of Agua Termale. There is a steep drive to a small parking lot where you can camp. It is sutiable only for small rigs (our 22 ft. class C about the biggest!). The hot springs are fun and they serve simple but tasty meals.
Courtesy of Rus Krause-Kathleen Krauss
4. Monterrico, Guatemala
We had trouble finding a place to camp in Monterrico as the hotels there have a policy of not allowing people to sleep in their parking lots in their vehicles, and most didn't have room for us to park anyway. After asking 4 hotels where people who said "no", somebody at Johnny's Place directed us to a local guide named Selso who's brother, Francisco lived about 3 blocks from the beach and had room for us to park in their front yard. He asked for 50 Q ($6.25) and we didn't bargain but probably could have paid less if we were on a tight budget. They had a large family, and were friendly and helpful but gave us our space. They let us fill with water which was messy and sprayed water all over their yard, because the hose had no connector to join with ours but they just laughed and turned the pump on and off when we asked until we got it working better. The next morning we went out on a boat at dawn to tour the estuary with Selso as our guide. There is a Nature Reserve in town that protects and aides 4 kinds of turtles, caimen, and other local endangered animals. The beach is clean with black sand, but the Pacific Ocean is quite rough for swimming. It's a peaceful, enjoyable little village in a lovely natural setting.
PS. The Hotel San Gregorio had a large parking lot that would have been fine for us to camp in but it was against their policy and we couldn't change their minds. We could have stayed in an air conditioned room there for $300 Q. It was pretty with a pool and courtyard but we didn't stay. Maybe if enough people in campers ask they will realize they can make a little more money from their parking lot.
5. Antigua, Guatemala
We when we arrived in Antigua we parked on one of the larger streets and walked into the centro to the tourist center where we got directions to a few places where we might be able to camp. The only one that really worked for us was the large and tree-lined Parqueo (parking lot) on Av de la Recoleccion, accross from the bus terminal and market. It is actually pretty and pleasant there, situated next to a very impressive ruins, and it seemed safe. It's gated and the attendent and his family live and work there. There is also a possibility of an electrical connection, as we saw one camper running a cord from the keeper's dwelling, but we didn't inquire about it ourselves. The cost is 50 Quetzales for the day or 100 Q for the day and night. No dump, possible water, though we didn't ask.
6. Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa, Guatemala
We stopped here to see the large stone heads and other figures carved by the Pipil people around 500 to 700 AD. These had been discovered in the sugar cane plantations and a wonderful collection is on display at the Museo El Baul at the Ingenio (sugar refinery) El Baul headquarters. We got lost going through town but were rescued and lead all the way to the gate by a couple of very friendly tourist police on a motorcycle. The museo is free of charge but it is on the grounds of the refinery which has been closed down for about 3 years, and the property is locked and guarded. If you ask to see the museo they will let you in and direct you to "las piedras". We also asked them if we could camp there for the night because it was late afternoon, we got a positive response so we found a fine, level spot next to the museo. About 10 minutes later another guard came up and apologetically told us that he didn't have the authority to give us permission to stay there but that we could park just outside the gate and we'd be watched over by their armed guard. We moved to the spot they suggested and were given a tour of the hydroelectric plant that powered the refinery by the guard, Victor. It was built in 1914 and still operates, but is not used at present. We chatted a while with the other guards and then went inside to cook and eat our dinner. Just as we finished 2 other men came over and one who had authority told us we should move inside, we'd be safer and the police wouldn't bother us. We weren't eagar to move again but they insisted we'd be safer inside and so we did, and slept well listening to the rain outside. In the morning Victor gave us an extensive tour of the whole refinary including the living quarters of the workers. They had everything, market, church and jail. Seeing all the old equipment and learning the details of the process of refining sugar turned out to be far more interesting than seeing the stone carvings. Victor knew a lot about local plants and animals although this was all related to us in Spanish and we didn't get it all. He refused to take a tip, saying it was his job. N1422.876 W09101.008 Cost $0.
We wanted to go see several large stone heads in the cane fields nearby where the Mayans still pray, light candles, and offer sacrifices but all the guards warned us that it wasn't safe to drive alone into the middle of the cane fields. We don't know if that was true or not but we decided to skip these and head on toward the highway.
7. More on Fuentes Georginas, Guatemala
We arrived at Fuentes Georginas just at dark on a Friday night. The gate was closed but they agreed to let us in for the night although they said we had to leave in the morning because they would have a lot of people coming on Saturday. It cost 60 Q for the 2 of us and camping. In the morning we took another quick dip which lasted longer than we intended because we met Nora and several Spanish students from your school in Xela and had a lot of fun visiting with them. When we got back to the rig the parking lot was completely full and there was not even space for a camper of our size to turn around. Luckily we were pointed in the right direction and as we left we encountered more and more cars coming up the narrow one-lane road. The hot springs really gets crowded on weekends and we would recommend large vehicles only attempt it on week days.
Courtesy of Rus Krause-Kathleen Krauss
This may not clear anything up for future travelers, but here's our experience, to add to the seemingly infinite number of variations on "official" policy:
Entering Honduras at La Florida, we were directed to Agricultura when we inquired about our dog. The Agricultura official wanted to know how long we’d be in the country. We told him we weren’t sure, but up to 3 or 4 weeks, thinking we could get a longer temporary permit. He then told us that the law in Honduras requires all dogs entering the country to have a "cuarentena", not a true quarantine, but a document signed by a vet stating the animal is in good health, and processed by the federal government. Obviously, he said, we had not done this, so next he asked where we were going, and we told him Copan and then to the Carribean coast, and he said excellent, we could present ourselves to Agricultura at the airport in La Ceiba, get our dog inspected at a local vet he gave us the name of, return to Agricultura with the vet and the quarantina form, and we'd be good to go. He said to to negotiate with the vet. He wrote a letter to the Agricultura official in La Ceiba and made us sign it, in effect, promising to do this within six days of entering the country. He stamped our U.S.D.A. form, and we proceeded to Aduana for our automobile permits. He was considerate and helpful, gave us chairs and turned on the air conditioning while we waited. In fact, he was the friendliest and most personable of all the border officials.
A few days later in La Ceiba, we drove to the airport, very near our beach camp at Pelican's Beat, and met with the Agricultura official. We were hoping we could pay the vet to meet us there with the form in hand, inspect Ziggy, fill out the form and hand it to the official. No such luck. The vet insisted we come to her office, and the fee was $100 US!! We debated whether to just skip the whole thing, especially since this Agricultura official said we'd have no trouble leaving the country without the cuarentena, only trouble staying, but decided in the end to show up at the vet's and bargain them down to, say, $50. If they went for it, we were willing to go through with it, and if not, we'd walk and take our chances.
The vet in La Ceiba (actually the vet's daughter; her father was away on a trip. She spoke excellent English, but wan't yet licensed), told us the process would take 15 days, and the fee was not negotiable. We said we'd be out of the country by then, and we'd at least need a signed and stamped copy of the documents she would be sending to the capitol to show that we'd complied with the law. She said that would not be possible. We asked what we could leave her office with to show we'd begun the process, and she said she couldn't give us anything. We then said, well, let's just get an exam and a signed paper stating Ziggy was in good health, which we thought would help us in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and she said it wouldn't help as they wouldn't have an official stamp. Furthermore, she said, since we'd presented ourselves in her office, she was legally required to either complete the cuarentena with us, or notify Agricultura that we'd refused to do it, in which case the border authorities would be on alert for us and we couldn't leave the country with our dog! Additionally, the six-day window we were given to present ourselves to Agricultura did not consitute a six-day transit permit. Does the term "between a rock and a hard place" come to mind here? Another term comes to mind, too, but we won't say it here! But she called Agricultura once more for us, and they agreed to permit us to have a signed copy of the cuarentena document from the vet before they sent it off for processing. We waited a few hours in town for her father to return to sign the copy, but he was delayed at the airport, so we had to return the next morning.
Our papers were ready the next day, stamped and signed, but we wanted to speak directly to the vet about the price of his services, and that we felt we'd been had, not only by him but by the whole cuarentena policy, when we knew of others who've been given transit permits instead. We won't go into the exchange, as it was very spirited and lengthly. Your Spanish gets a lot better when you're mad! The end result was that nothing changed. He was absolutely intransigent, telling us things we knew to be untrue. Both Agricultura officials had this vet's name; the one in La Ceiba Airport even had a stack of his business cards. We would recommend, if you can't avoid the quarantina, using a different vet. For purposes of avoidance, his name is Dr. Sergio Reynel Bueno Ferrera, at the Bueno Hospital Veterinario, La Ceiba, Honduras. (No es bueno!!)
It's hard to know exactly what went wrong. In retrospect, we wish we hadn't even mentioned our dog at the border. There was no interior inspection of our rig, and even though she's a big lab and was sitting in the front seat, no one took any notice of her. We could have then taken our chances at the Nicaraguan border with our existing U.S.D.A. and Mexican Certificates of Health. We also considered shining the whole thing on and not even going to Agricultura at the La Ceiba airport, but our first official seemed genuinely helpful and straightforward, and after all, we'd signed a promise and felt an obligation to follow through. But if we'd known what was to follow, we probably would have just shined it, especially since we had the Honduran stamp on the U.S.D.A. Certificate of Health. Honduras is the first country we've had any dog troubles. Contrary to expectations, Mexico didn't care, even on the Mainland. And at the Guatemalan border they told us, "Just one dog? You don't need anything."
We think the best thing for entering Honduras would be to avoid the "cuarentena" like the plague, and instead press hard for a two-week transit permit, since we know they exist. Perhaps our mistake was in asking for a longer period of time. When does the transit period end and the cuarentena begin? We'd love to hear more details from those who've gotten gotten transit permits, maybe it would help the rest of us educate the Agricultura officials at the border that there's an alternative to the cuarentena.
Note from the Halkyards: We have traveled into Honduras four times now and have had mixed luck with the Dog. The first two times are described in our book, and the the last two on this page below. We've had anything from a two day transit permit (at El Amatillo on the last trip) to an unlimited permit (at Los Manos on the last trip). By the way, on our first entry at El Florido we tried not mentioning the dog. But as luck would have it on this occasion they wanted to inspect the RV and Brindle was vociferous in her welcome. They directed us to cuarentena for the formalities. Friends of ours have a big class A and were successful keeping their dog under a bunch of pillows in the bed room. This requires a special dog!.
It seems all a function of who you meet in the cuarentena office that day!We have never had it as bad as Kathleen and Rus, but clearly Honduras is the worst place to go with a dog in Central America. What we might suggest for future travel is to stop in at a Honduran consulate, either in the States or in the preceding country (e.g. in Guatemala City). Get them to stamp your USDA form. See a vet there if you have to, but get aletter from the consulate saying it is ok to take your dog into Honduras for X days. This is a pain but better than what they were put through in La Ceiba!
- John Halkyard 7/16/06
If you are interested in shipping, easiest is to contact Evelyn Batista from Barwill agencies in Panama (Evelyn.Batista@wilhelmsen.com). She also gives you a list of where to go for police and customs, etc. before shipping can be done.
We first wanted to take a RoRo, $750 for our landcruiser and $1500 for Lucy (see picture below and www.auf-abwegen.de). But it turned out this ship goes most of the time from Colon to Mexico and then to Cartagena so it takes 11 days. So we decided to to ship by container. Our car was shipped with three more cars in 2-40 foot containers for $650 dollars per car. We put our cars in the container on thursday, the ship left friday. If monday had not been a national holiday, we could have started the process of getting our vehicles back then. Lucy was shipped by platform for around $1800. In Cartagena the costs for agent and harbour taxes etc. worked out to about $260 per container/platform.
The flight cost $270 a person, all included. Then of course there are cost for hotels etc., but you can figure that out yourself. We stayed in Cartagena at hotel Villa Colonial, a family operated hotel and very warmly recommended. (The daughter helped Michael for some payment with getting Lucy out of the harbour, with which he was very happy too) It did take us 2 days however to get our cars, but Cartagena is fabulous.
If I would do it again, I would also look into shipping from Mexico. The ship from Costa Rica to Equador [the low cost RoRo recommended in 99 Days to Panama] often does not make a stop in Costa Rica (plus their price is now up to $60 per m3), but does stop in Acapulco if I am rightly informed.
Colombia is fabulous and as long as you stick to the Pan American perfectly save.
From Liesbet Collaert - El Remate/ Tikal
El Remate, south of
From Liesbet Collaert - Finca Ixobal
This is a wonderful place to spend some time. It has everything, from good restaurant, to social atmosphere, ping pong table, internet, activities, big roomy fields, clean bathrooms, pond and pool bar (closed when we were there). Everything is on the honor system, every party has a sheet in a file to keep track. They charge $3 per person and electricity (not enough for AC, but you don’t need it here) is another $1,5. We loved our stay, until the last night, when the camper got swarmed by termites. For two hours they managed to crawl into every crack possible. All our compartments attracted them, we had to close all windows, spray Windex and DEET, and finally got them somehow under control, only to see them appear through our AC unit! They lost their wings and dropped out of the unit for the next hours, through the night. We managed to kill hundreds of them the first hours, but it was so tiring. Poor Kali who sleeps under the unit… The next morning we found an inch thick layer of termites on the roof: dead, alive, wings. We cleaned for four hours and still find more every day.
From Liesbet Collaert - Rio Dulce
Bruno’s in Rio Dulce, you guys know. A convenient place with very friendly managers and a tempting restaurant. To save money, you go into town and eat meals for $1,5. The mojito’s and bloody mary’s are irresistible, though! We joke about the fact that thanks to our savings on eating on the street, we got to splurge on cocktails, which cost more than our dinners… It was still $6,5 a night, and $3,5 extra for the use of AC. Our boat tour to
Coban was next. We planned on following the northern route above the lake. After reading up about that and getting a taste for the road on our bus trip to Agua Caliente ( a nice side trip from Rio Dulce, as is Castillo de San Felipe), we decided to take the paved, but longer route on the south side of Lago Izabal. A good place to camp in Coban is Parque Nacional Las Victorias. It’s mentioned in Lonely Planet and you can walk to town from it. You park on a level parking area at the end of the road into the park and there are cold showers and toilets. There’s also a water faucet and we saw an outlet in the toilet building. The grassy area is nice for the dogs. Price $3 a person. The nicest thing was the climate! For the first time since very long, we didn’t need a fan and used our comforter, just with outside air… Wonderful! To get to the park, you take the main road into town, past the huge western shopping mall, with a Paiz supermarket, bend towards the left and follow until you reach 11a Av. Turn left and you end up at the park entrance.
We planned on visiting the caves of Lanquin (and camp there) and Semuc Champey, the next day. We got an early start, managed to get out of town and into the next one, only to get confronted with the only bridge over the river, with an arch mentioning 3,5 m maximum height. We measured ourselves: 11 feet.
Ed. Note. I think the bridge she is talking about is in San Pedro Cachá, 6 km east of Coban. We crossed under this bridge in our 22 ft Coachmen, nominal height 11.5 ft. Lanquin and Semuc Champey are worth visiting. There is a campground next to the Grutas Lanquin called Guayaja. A large field with an overhead "canopy tour" wire. The owner said they were adding RV facilities in 2006. Semuc Champey is best visited by car or van as the road is very rough and narrow.We did it Semana Santa week which was a nightmare in our Class C. It is doable in this rig and camping by the river at Semuc is lovely if you are adventurous.
Low Bridge between Coban and Lanquin at San Pedro Cachá.------
After precise calculations, we realized we were “only” 3,3 m high. Nevertheless, we didn’t risk it. We either had to find the truck route, hook up with a bus to Lanquin and follow him or give up on the whole idea, which meant we drove this whole distance for nothing. We know that buses drive the 60 km in about three hours. It wasn’t worth it. Instead we went shopping in paradise (our first full size supermarket since
From Liesbet Collaert - Bypassing Guatemala City
We left early the next day, to battle
From Liesbet Collaert - Panajachel, Corazon del Bosque
The next obstacle was Solola. We decided to take the easy paved road to Panajachel, instead of the unknown thinner red lines on the map. It was easy to get through, since there were signs everywhere. If you doubt and don’t see a blue and white sign with the town’s name on it, look on the buildings and there might be a yellow sign pointing towards PANA. The market was basically gone, since we were late, and that might have helped. But know, that buses drive through this town also. Actually if you plan day trips to surrounding areas, we find it easier to take a bus to Solola first and change there, instead of waiting for the right direct bus in Panajachel.
It was already 6 pm when we arrived at the lake, We had missed the views because of mist and clouds. We had great expectations of the place and planned to stay for at least a month. The first place we checked out was Hotel Tzanjuyu. The manager asked $13 a night with electricity. We got shocked, not being used to pay that much for camping. We drove to Vision Azul. The guy there said they didn’t allow camping now, because it was too wet. Hearing that we had 4WD, he showed us around anyway. Run down place, lower than basic bathrooms, empty pool, cold showers, a foot high grass, muddy grounds, garbage everywhere. $ 9.50 a night with electricity. For that night, since it was late, we were going to check out the free camping on the other side of the river. It took a while and some frustration to “get” close. The river had washed away roads, a lot of people were hanging around. Not an option. Back to Tzanjuyu to bargain him down to $9.50 a night. Not accepted. Back to Vision Azul and staying in a swampy garbage dump with a lot of mosquitoes for the night. Our extension cord didn’t reach the outlet. Fireworks stressed the dogs, who didn’t eat nor drink anymore. We were so tired, and so disappointed.
Next day was Sunday. Since we planned doing all the sights as soon as possible, in case we would leave the area, we had to go to Chichicastenango for the market. I was flying home and could take souvenirs! But first we were checking out another camping possibility, all by public transportation. This one is called Corazan del Bosque, at km 145 along the main highway (CA1). You mention the place on your website (see link) and it is indeed very nice. The price is $3.50 a person a night. There is water and an outlet, showers and toilets. The showers need to be fixed at the moment. A lot of shade, a river and hiking trails make for a great doggy place, too. We liked it a lot and keep it as an alternative for Panajachel. After visiting Chichi, we went over to Hotel Tzanjuyu once again and got them (another manager) down to $9.50 a night, without electricity. Then we moved there and felt happy and relieved. Another camper pulled up, from
From Amy and Aaron Young- Belize Zoo
We have been in Belize for about two weeks and have stayed in two places. The first may be of interest to you. The Belize Zoo is very nice and across the street is the "TEC" (Tropical Education Center). The TEC has Cabanas and bunk houses for reasonable rates and did not charge us anything to camp for two nights. We ate dinner and breakfast there and took a night tour of the Zoo which was a highlight. I would not recommend any large RV's attempt the road in or the VERY small entrance.
From Liesbet Collaert - Hopkins
After Placencia, we drove back to
From Liesbet Collaert - Placencia
Our next stop was going to be Placencia. Mark wanted to check it out, because he had heard a lot of positives from other sailors. The last 30 miles was over a bad dirt road. It took us almost two shaking hours to reach the town. We parked the car and were informed about camping at the visitor center (at the end of the road into town, next to the fuel station). Harry’s Cozy Cabanas had a hot parking spot in the sand, with a water faucet as only amenity. No showers, nor toilet, nor electricity, nor view. A big no-no. The only other candidate was the Art ‘n Soul Gallery, where Greta allowed tenters to camp. We followed “the sidewalk”, the only other, and quiet picturesque, “street” in town. There is a level parking lot, with an access road from the main street, across from her shop. It’s public parking (the best one in town), free, and with an open view of the
From Liesbet Collaert - San Ignacio and Cayo District, Barton Creek
In San Ignacio, we stayed at
We loved the Cayo area, and especially the Mountain Pine Ridge. The roads are very bad there and we wouldn’t recommend larger RV’s to do it. Tow cars and pick-ups are fine. Camping is possible in the only little town there: Douglas Da Silva. There is shade, water and a couple of pit toilets. It’s very quiet and close to a nice river, jungle walking trail and cave (
The Barton Creek cave is a highlight around San Ignacio as well. We drove the bumpy bad road to the Barton Creek Outpost, where camping is allowed. Grassy area, cool creek, clean bathroom, restaurant, cave tour and friendly owners. $ 5 a person a night. We wouldn’t drive it again, though. Taking a tour from town to Barton Creek is not more expensive than arranging it here and you don’t have to pay for camping and fuel, that way. The biggest problem on the dirt road, were the low hanging trees. We had to cut branches with the machete and a couple of times I had to be superwoman to hold up heavy branches, move them backwards while the truck drove and climb over them to not get stuck in them or be thrown off the roof. Only drive it when you’re lower than 10,5 feet and have 4WD.
From Liesbet Collaert
We ended up in Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. The entrance fee is US $ 4 per person and you can camp for free at the
The Community Baboon Sanctuary was definitely worth a stop. The camping at the
We checked out
We drove to
Toucan Sittee is the other option in
The Cerro Verde National Park in El Salvador is currently closed due to recent activity of the Santa Ana Volcano. Check with locals before driving there.
This table shows the average gas prices we paid in February - March, 2006 and the associated exchange rates. At the start of the trip in February we paid $2.05/gallon in Victoria, Texas and $1.88 in Brownsville, Texas. On the return in April prices in Texas were around $2.83 per gallon! These prices are for regular leaded gasoline. Diesal is about 15% cheaper than regular gas in Central America
You will find guides at the busier borders who will offer to help you process your paperwork ("tramitadores"). In our book we advised that these guys can be useful, and they were on our first trip most of the time. This time we only used a Tramitador once, at the Hachadura border between Guatemala and El Salvador. The main advantage we could see was that he knew what copies we needed and took us to the copy place before we were asked to go by the officials. After we had finished paperwork in Guatemala, the tramitador took me to meet someone between two buildings and introduced me to a guy who claimed to be an El Salvador official who would, for $150, give me a vehicle permit on the spot. I exclaimed "no", turned and walked away while they laughed. Signs on the El Salvador side proclaimed that there were no charges and that we should not use tramitadores. We subsequently stopped using the tramitadores and have had no problems (El Amatillo is a particularly difficult border to get a vehicle through as the Honduran official in charge never seems to be around. But if you perserver and are prepared to walk around with someone - official - you will get your papers in an hour or so.... don't go during lunch though.). When approached by the tramitadores we simply proclaim "No usamos tramitadores" (We don't use tramitadores) and they leave us alone. We no longer recommend using them even though I believe the majority are honest and are trying to help. It is up to you. If you do use them, we recommend that you ask for his identification, and WRITE DOWN his name.. it will help identify him if he tries something illegal, and if he is good you can ask for him on the return trip.
When we entered El Salvador on March 9 the immigration authorities would only give us five days on our tourist permits. They said it was because there was an election and we wouldn't be safe hanging around. They said this was a policy handed down from above. We explained that we were authors, trying to improve tourism in El Salvador. They gave us sympathy but nothing more. The election was two days after we arrived and it was over when we had to leave. There was no violence or danger. The reason was senseless. When we returned on March 27 after visiting Honduras and Nicaragua. Again, John was given only 5 days (Harriet received 15 from another official at the next window!). John's official said he could have it extended in San Salvador. We decided the problem on the return was that we told them we were going to San Salvador, and that we were just in transit. If we had told them we were touring the country we probably would have gotten more time.
in Honduras (3/14/06, 4/5/06)
We had our USDA form and Vet Certificate, but the Honduran Cuerantena officials at El Amatillo would only allow our dog in Honduras for two days. This is the minimum time to "transit". Leaving Honduras two days later at El Espino the Cuarentena official said he would give us 15 days permission for the dog on the way back. By the way, El Espino was one of the easiest border crossings we have found. It is not very busy. It still took about 1:30, however. We re-entered Honduras on March 25 at Los Manos. The Cuarentena officer didn't know what to do with our paper and just stamped it with no limit. Let us know your experience with dogs in Honduras (John and Harriet).
Camping Places (Spring 2006)
We have added more information on camping in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua on the Camping Places page.
A new digit has been added to the phone numbers in Guatemala since we published 99 Days to Panama. For example, the number for the Guatemalensis Language School in Xela is was +502 - 765 - 1384 but is now +502 - 7765 - 1384. A seperate "7"has been added. All numbers in Guatemala now have eight digits.
The Lagunas are a short side trip from the highway between San Cristobal and the Guatemalan border. The turnoff is about 15 km (9 miles) south of Comitan near the town of La Trinitaria. Head east 25 miles where you pay a $2 toll to enter the National Park. Proceed through the park where there are several parking lots to stop and visit each of several lakes. There is a store and camping possible at the end of the park road, but we continued on a dirt road for about three miles and discovered the village of Ojo de Agua and a nice camping place right along a lake (N 16° 8.123' W 91° 45.147'). It is outfitted with palapas for the holiday crowds, but we had it to ourselves. It is outside the Park so you can fish and boat if you are equipped, or just enjoy watching the locals fish, and farm. It was peaceful and serine, however apparently a mad house on Semana Santa. The dirt road continues to Comitan if you wanted to approach this from the back side.
Soto la Marina is on highway 180 between Matamoros and Tampico. This is a faster route than travelling through Ciudad Victoria if you are heading down the Gulf coast. Camp La Gata occupies a large and pleasant layout next to a river. There is plenty of space but no hookups. Caravans use this occasionally. Electricity is available if you have a long extension (100+ ft). Camping is $10 per night with cold showers. Cabanas with hot showers are available for $30. To find the camp go 3.3 miles east on the highway from Soto la Marina towards La Pesca. Turn right just past the large group of silos down a dirt road. The camp is about .6 miles down this road (N 23° 46.709' W 098° 9.327'). Call Mariza at +52-835-100-2020 for more information or if you are coming with a large group.
In 2003 (Day 2 in 99 days to Panama) we stayed behind Restaurant Ojo de Agua, about 28 miles north of Soto la Marina between km markers 201 and 202 (N 24° 13.218' W 98° 12.504'). We stayed there again in 2006 on our return to Central America. This time we met the owner, Humberto Garcia and his wife Mitalla. Humberto is a rancher and business man who speaks English and was most welcoming. They let RVs park for free (he would have to obtain a license if he charged). There is even a shower (which we didn't try).
Jim Jaillet has just published a nice travelogue on his "340 days to Panama" adventure in 2003. See http://www.panamaorbust.com. We had a nice visit with him at Quartzite. His book is full of interesting experiences he and his buddies had on their odyssey.
From Bernard Latapie (Bernard Latapie)
Bernard in Canadian operator the the RV Park near La Ceiba.
Bernard is the a owner of an RV park 6 km from Town Centre of La Ceiba,
They have electricity and water available at some sites, and a dump station.
There is a private road to the beach, nice bathroom facilities, kayak etc…
Bernard is Canadian and his wife is from
"A good and safe place to park an RV when going to the
You can find a few pictures at http://www.laceibaonline.net/rinag/fotos.htm
In addition to the ATM Scam (see account by Kathe Kirkbride), Jim Jaillet (http://www.PanamaorBust.com) told us about this on. Crossing from Costa Rica to Nicaragua one of the money changers wanted to give him 1000 Cordoba note for his money. He insisted on smaller notes but agreed to take one of the 1000 Cordoba notes. When he went to use this to get gas he found out the note was obsolete and not accepted any more.
From Gertrude and Marcel Lizee
Just a note to let the travellers to Panama and Costa Rica know the following.
1. If you wish to be linehandlers during the months of Dec. and Jan. you are better to go to Colon. 4 to 5 yachts daily cross southward. At the end of Feb and March is the best time to do it from Baboa Yacht Club that is heading north.
2. David Cooper, manager of the BalboaYacht, offered us to stay overnight and during the day as well as make use of showers and toilets for nothing. There is security at night but the guard is down by the marina. Hot spot for wireless for everyone.
3. We took a tour with Panama Marina Adventures from Flamenco Marina. We parked for 24 hrs (overnight and during the day) at the Flamenco Marina for $5. There security is excellent with a guard at the parking lot. Our vehicle was registered with the harbor master Elmer. The guard came several times during the night around our unit.
4. Golfito.CR.excellent place to stay is at the Swiss operated resort La Purruja for $2 per night. A bird watchers paradise. Small unit only.
5. Santa Clara XS Memories.Panama.excellent place with all hook ups for $12 per night and very inexpensive good American food at the restaurant. A birdwatchers paradise.
6. El Valle, Los Capitanes hotel/restaurant, German owned and operated. Free parking on a beautifully landscaped grounds, provided you eat a meal daily at the restaurant. Great German food. Birdwatchers paradise. Small unit only.
7. The restaurant Onleys in Boca del Toro, Quebrada Pitti (Panama east of Almirante) no longer is open. However, you may check La Escapada in the area. We stayed with our small unit and we had the million dollar view for 5 dollars...no services.
Gertrude y Marcel
Canadians travelling in a camperized van.
From David Bloom, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hugo Villarroel, Tourism Specalist and Travel Writer based in Puerto de la Libertad has found a secure camping area on Pimontal Beach off the Coast Highway CA2 west of Puerto La Libertad. As well, if you experience any mechanical problems or require spare parts while in El Salvador, Joe (José) a friend of mine, native of El Salvador who resided 36 years in the Austin, Texas area will be able to help you and is able to put up one person overnight in the city in case of such an emergency if you don't mind sleeping in a hammock..
Contact info for Hugo Villarroel, +503 2346-1127, email@example.com , on 5th Avenue near Punta Roca restaurant.
David Bloom, +503 2512-6637 , firstname.lastname@example.org (San Salvador)
From Ronald Janssen copied from www.rv.net
Check this link out for further information.
Just came back to La Ceiba, Honduras yesterday from our trip. The roads especially the last 3 hours of road 200 in chiapas are confusing and terrible with a lot of bridges out and stretches of unpaved roads, It used to be a divided 4 lane nice highway but now you get send from one side to the other and will have oncoming traffic even if the signs said sometimes not , so never overtake because there might be two way traffic. The first hour from Ciudad Hidalgo into Guatemala towards Escuintla, there are a few bridges out , but there are not to many problems there In Honduras I entered in Copan and went to La Ceiba, this road used to be good, but is terrible now with potholes, a suv can disappear into it especially from La Entrada to San Pedro Sula. There is one bridge out between Progresso and Tela and there is a dirt road of 2 hours to get around it, which is not passable with a RV or nice car without getting damage
From Kenneth Crosby
You might like to know that when I bought my motorhome, knowing that I was going to spend winters in Mexico, I had an ultraviolet water purification system installed, which enables me to use water put into my tank through a filter from virtually anywhere, unless it's noticeably discolored. All water pumped from the tank goes through two filters and then an ultraviolet-irradiated tube before going to sinks, ice maker, everywhere, so I never have to buy bottled water. One source of an ultraviolet purification system is www.waterfixer.com. Others are sold in shops in Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Chapala, etc., though by far most gringos living in Mexico prefer to use bottled water. Such systems are used on homes in Mexico, so finding ultraviolet lamps and filters is not a problem. Also, I soon learned as a full-timer that it isn't necessry to buy expensive RV toilet tissue. Any tissue marked "safe for septic systems" works for me; if in doubt, I shake some in a jar of water to see if it disintegrates. And the manufacturer of my Norcold fridge specifically warns against using butane in any climate, saying that it will damage the burner.
RE: Roads in Guatemala and more.. (12/06/05)
From David Bloom (email@example.com)
Excellent. I always advise travelers with time on their hands busing or driving to go via La Mesilla, it is far more pleasant and much safer than the Tapachula route. The route to El Salvador is best for you via Escuintla, which can now be reached from Antigua in 30 minutes on the new road, east to the La Hachadurra frontier post into El Salvador, all newly paved highway on both sides of border, head into Kilo 5, the intersection south of Sonsonate, go about 4 km. north and turn right onto CA2 Litoral coast highway again, some winding road and 5 tunnels enroute to Puerto Libertad. If you need assistance in Puerto de La Libertad go visit Hugo Villarroel, a journalist, native of Chile, resident 30 years in El Salvador, who publishes a local tourist newspaper based in the Port. Hugo's house is on the corner 5a Avenida Sur y 2a Calle Pte. near Playa La Paz, some 150 meters from Punta Roca Restaurant Telephone 2346-1127. Never arrive on a Sunday, crowded with natives from city, and remember in December many Salvadorians return home from the US for holidays, so could be crowded. My number is 2512-6637 but I live in San Salvador. Good Luck. (I used to park my car at the Texaco when I lived in Antigua in the early 90s).
We would like to let all land travellers know about the roads to La Mesilla and more. We are Canadian driving to Panama in a PleasureWay van.
We chose to travel by San Cristobal, Chiapas to La Mesilla as it was reported that 211 from Tapachula to La Mesilla was in extremely bad shape.
CA1 from La Mesilla by way of Huehuetenango, Los Encuentros all new pavement on a very winding, climbing, descending road. El Cachiho Junction to Panajachel has one lane areas and a replaced one lane bridge with difficult access on and off for large buses. Very steep incline into Panajachel. From Los Encuentros to Chichicastenago, excellent, winding road. Los Encuentros to Tecpan good driving, stretches with a mixture of patched, scraped and on going road repair. Tecpan to Antigua new wide pavement. Good brakes recommended for these roads. Therefore all highways are in good driving conditions.
The Antigua Tourist bureau assured us of good roads south to El Salvador.
As a side note in Antigua we are staying at a Texaco station across from Hotel Antigua. This is the only place that we found that accepted us for overnight.
Regular gas prices as of Nov. 2005: Gautemala $3.48/gal; El Salvador $3.00/gal; Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica $3.40/gal.
We have initiated a page here on South America. We are planning to make this trip in 2007.
The following comment came from a reader. Note, U.S. Citizens must also have a passport valid for six months from the date of entry. A useful link for checking visa requirements is: http://www.wtgonline.com/
The Office of the Canadian Embassy in Nicaragua say...
"Visas for Nicaragua
At this time, Canadians travelling with a valid Canadian passport (valid for at least six months beyond the expected date of departure from Nicaragua) do not require a visa prior to their departure if the purpose of their trip is travel but must pay $5 US on arrival for a tourist card. In general, the tourist card will grant permission to stay for up to 30 days but this is solely the prerogative of the Nicaraguan Immigration Officer at the point of entry."
As far as I can establish Canadians do not need visas for El Salvador either.
"A valid Canadian passport is required for Canadians intending to visit El Salvador. The passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected departure from the country.
A Canadian citizenship card and an expired Canadian passport do not constitute valid travel documents. Airlines have been instructed by Canadian authorities to refuse boarding to those who present themselves as Canadian citizens attempting to travel back to Canada with only a Canadian citizenship card and a Salvadoran passport or an expired Canadian passport. The processing time for a new Canadian passport in El Salvador is approximately two weeks.
Tourist Visa: Not required
Business Visa: Not required
Student Visa: Not required"
Kathe Kirkebride also provided this little story that happened to her in Panajachal, Guatemala. Maybe it will prevent the same thing from happening to someone else! Click here to read her account.
Kathe Kirkebride and Colleen Regan were able to enter Honduras at Corinto south of Puerto Barrios. This saves a day for those coming through Belize to Honduras who previously had to drive to El Florido and Copan to enter Honduras. The road to the border in Guatemala was a "nice paved road". The road into Honduras was described as a "not too terrible" dirt road with some pretty terrible bridges. They made it with their 38' Class A and other heavy trucks made it. This road is under construction and according to a Pan American web site is receiving money from a Central American fund to improve infrastructure between Guatemala and Honduras. It should be improving. We would appreciate reports from others taking this route.
Coordinates for the Planeta Rio south of the bridge should be N15:39.0 W88:59.5. This campsite is used by caravans and is suitable for large rigs. (3/05)
Coordinates for Turicentro Automariscos are N14:26.04 W90:39.30. There are 9 full hookups.
Panajachel, Lake Atitlan
A fellow RVer was allowed to stay in the parking lot behind the Balboa Yacht Club by getting permission from the property owner. They are across the streert from the Parking Lot. You will have to ask the guard to find this person.