We have just returned from Overseas Adventure Travel’s Route of the Maya tour. Trip taken January 23 – February 7, 2023.
Let me start with the facts I’d like to know as a traveler.
TIMING. This was the perfect time of the year to go. We encountered only 1 (partial) day of rain. Temperatures were cool to warm.
OVERALL REVIEW: This is a great tour for those who have travelled extensively. In other words, not your first (or second) trip. UNEXPECTED (in a good way) is how I’d describe the overall trip. We hear and see so much negative news about the region I expected the worst. Quite the contrary. More explanation follows.
TIPS FOR TRAVELERS: Here are few things I’d suggest.
- Everyone accepts US cash or credit cards. We never needed to exchange currency. We were able to use our credit cards for even small purchases (like a single beer).
- Bring lots of single dollar bills (at least 25). More if you tip or shop for small souvenirs. You can use them to buy things, such as optional drinks (beer/wine) during group meals, or even at most restaurants and shops. If you are willing to carry, I’d suggest 50.
- We brought a water canister (as instructed in the handbook). The trip leader handed out individual bottles of water each day. I’d ask if that’s still the practice when you get the pre-trip email or call.
- The cave rafting in Belize is great (and easy). Be sure to bring a bathing suit. They suggest ‘water shoes’ which to us meant thin ones. You’d be better off with Tevas or something with a thicker bottom. You’ll be walking on gravel for 45-minutes.
- Definitely pack much lighter than you normally do. I brought 10 shirts. Could have done with 5. Nothing is fancy. There is a laundry stop midway.
- Sun screen yes. Bug spray? It said to bring it so often we carried a large and small size. Frankly, I saw 1 mosquito. We might have been luck (so don’t blame me) but you can likely get away with just 1 (smaller) bottle.
- If you like bread, don’t miss San Martin in San Salvador (your first night). Incredible baguette and a 2-block walk from the hotel. You will write to thank me (I promise you).
And, if this is your first tour with OAT, don’t forget you can get the ‘Referral Bonus’ of $100-per-person. Simply say you were ‘referred by Jesse Slome, Traveler 932019’
It was so great to actually meet a couple that had saved $100 using my referral info.
Route of the Maya Optional Tours
Let me start by saying we did NOT take any of the 3 optional tours. We were not alone. Of the three tours, only 1 person took the ‘Bird watching” tour (and based on what I saw, I’d say skip) as you’ll see plenty of birds on the regular tour.
More people did the volcano hike. They all said it was a hard climb and no one came back with photos that “you gotta see this’.
A few people did the Zip Line but again, there were no raves. And, if you’ve done zip lines in other places, this one seemed tame and not especially great. So, it’s all up to you. But if you are like me, I’d save the money.
Unexpected Route of the Maya Tour Features
This was our 12th OAT/Grand Circle tour. For one person in our group, this was #44. Most people had taken multiple trips and I agree that this should not be your first trip even to Central America. Costa Rica is prettier. Columbia has better sights to see.
But here’s what I loved about this trip. And, I believe you will too. I definitely recommend it for a number of reasons. Mainly, you will see and experience things you don’t expect (at least I didn’t). And, that’s always a #1 reason to travel.
Also, this is definitely a place you do NOT want to travel on your own (at least I wouldn’t). We never felt unsafe. That said, there are guards with shotguns at every store (even in McDonalds).
GREAT PACE: You really will see a lot over the 15 days. Cities, countryside, volcanos, seaside. Looking back it’s pretty amazing how much we did.
SURPRISING: Watching the news would make one believe everyone has left Central America deserted and cities poor and dilapidated. Quite the contrary. San Salvador has modern glass skyscrapers. We visited the Rodeo Drive (Beverly Hills) section in Guatemala City. Sure there is poverty (there is in the US) but I think you’ll be surprised at the life and people you’ll encounter. Positively.
THE MAYAs THEN: We didn’t take this tour because we had a particular interest in the Mayas. But, several of the sites you’ll visit will knock your socks off. Especially Copan and Tikal. In fact the only negative thing I have to say after completing the tour is that I wish they taught us more about the ancient Mayas.
THE MAYAs NOW: You might be surprised to know there are Mayas practicing today. And, you’ll get to spend time seeing and experiencing it. This was truly unexpected and the part I will remember.
GOOD VALUE: For everything that’s included, I found this trip to be an especially good value. I think you’ll find the same.
Some Final Thoughts on Route of the Maya Tour
FOOD: They told us the food would be basic and indeed it is. Chicken and fish. Rice and beans. But I enjoyed and there are some nice treats along the way. Especially great was the fresh fruit. The hotels had pretty good breakfasts. I gained weight (just a little) likely because of all the carbs.
HOTELS: Were decent. But we’re not fancy. You are there to experience and discover. And, as a cake lover, we stayed in the Genesis Hotel where they had coffee and fresh cake available 24/7. Now where else will you find that?
If you’d like to see photos from the trip, here’s the link to my Shutterfly album.
Route of the Maya trip photo album
Some of my favorite photos: