- Route plan

   Everything starts with the offers we can usually see for travel packages in summer to Mayan Riviera which can be as low as 600€ for being a week in a fantastic all inclusive resort in that paradise.

   The trick is in the necessary tours to the magnificent Mayan ruins or the spectacular landscapes from the cenotes which use to be overpriced from these resorts. My plan was taking one of these packages and doing the tours by my own with a rented car.

   And that would be the plan, so simple, if I hadn’t found out Tikal, which changed everything for this travel.

   As it is not possible visiting Tikal in a one day tour from the Mayan Riviera, we looked after a tour of more days, which would make the fix all-inclusive resort stay uninterested. It is necessary to get into Belize, which offers its own attractions, but reaching Guatemala by car is too expensive because of the needed insurance.

   The solution appeared when looking for an itinerary, arriving to Belize and leaving from Cancun. This way, we could go to San Ignacio, close to Guatemala border, from where a bunch of tours to Tikal are leaving every day. Then we could go to Caye Caulker, the small island which is the main touristic spot in Belize, and we can easily reach Mexico from it by ferry, going to Mayan Riviera and concentrating the visits there in a few days.

   We still added one more destination, out of Caribbean Sea and Mayan ruins, when checking out the wonders Guatemala can offer to the traveler and finding direct flights to this country by less than 400€ the round trip. This way, we start our travel In the highlights of Guatemala.

   The original flights forced us to spend nights in USA cities as Atlanta or New York, but we could avoid that with our definitive route. The extra day in Miami, then, is our choice.

   The domestic flights and the organization in our visits took San Ignacio out of the table. This has been our last spot discarded.

   Finally, the budget is around 2500€ in total for the both of us, which seems to be far from the offers to Mayan Riviera but only in appearance as:

 - The travel is on destination peak season, with higher rates than in summer, when the hurricane season makes them go lower. We also will enjoy the pleasure of going to the beach in winter.

 - The offers from Spain are based on the needing of filling the charter flights for June, July and August, but they’re not in the rest of the year. For March, these offers are around 1000€ per person in the cheapest hotel, which is quite closer to our budget.

 - These offers are for 7 days, as we’re going to be there twice that number of days, and visiting two more countries.

   So, our itinerary through Central America, starting with an arrival at Guatemala City by the afternoon was like this: Our itinerary through Guatemala, Belize and Mexico

  1: Arrival at Guatemala City and direct drive to Antigua. (Lower B)
 2: Visiting Antigua and drive to Lake Atitlan.
 3: Tour in Lake Atitlan and possible visit to Volcano Pacaya. Night at hotel close to the airport.
 4: Flight to Flores, transfer to Tikal and spend the day in the park. (Central B)
 5: Flight to Belize City and ferry to Caye Caulker.
 6: Tours in Caye Caulker.
 7: Ferry to Chetumal (A), in Mexico, and bus to Playa del Carmen.(B)
 8: Visits to Coba and Xcaret.
 9: Entire day in Xel Ha.
 10: Visiting Chichen Itza and night in Valladolid. (C)
 11: Visiting Valladolid and Ek Balam and drive to Cancun airport(D). Arrival at Miami by night.
 12: Tours in Miami and night flight to Barcelona.

   This itinerary is pretty optimized and allows us visiting all the must-dos of the region in less than two weeks.

   The definitive route plan (number of day and where we sleep) is the following, starting at March 4th of 2014:

1: Antigua
2: Lake Atitlan
3: Guatemala City
4: Tikal
5 y 6: Caye Caulker
7, 8 y 9: Playa del Carmen
10: Valladolid
11: Miami
12: Flight

   The map shows the route with the trips by land in blue, the flights in red and the sea trips in green.

- Flights

   A lot of changes have been in the flights due mainly to the rate changes on the most of the companies along the month we were looking at them. We started with a direct return flight with Air Europa by 780€ per person.

   The travel became an itinerary when we found out Delta Airlines allowed us to fly to Belize City and returning from Cancun by around 600€, with the handicap of needing to spend first night in Atlanta and last night in New York.

   When Guatemala appeared in the plan, offers by Iberia flights by 395€ return flights for this country seemed to make a revolution but, surprisingly, there are just a few options for flying between Guatemala City and Cancun, so they are expensive in money and also in time. The cheapest was spending an entire day and night in a couple of Mexican airports by 300€. It was almost the same cost than the transatlantic flights!! And only for a one way flight!! I could find some offer close to that rate linking in Costa Rica or Panama City, but those are nonsense.

   Delta allowed us arrive to Guatemala too keeping the rates for Belize, so I was close to take these flights and assuming the extra nights in the US cities. Somehow, the week I was going to make the purchase I saw Delta raised their rates at the same time American Airlines got lower their flights. We could have our flights with link in Miami the both of the ways by 650€. The definitive solution was near.

   The best option appeared in the websites for flights search and it is with a direct going flight by Iberia and a return one by one of the airlines in the group, as American Airlines or British Airways. For a reason I cannot understand this solution is not appearing in any of the own airlines web sites, so I ended buying the tickets through the website with the better price: Viajes el Corte Ingles.

   I finally purchased a flight to Guatemala City with change of plane in Madrid and return flight from Cancun with a 24 hours stopover in Miami. These last ones are British Airways flights operated by American Airlines. We’ve paid a total of 1240€ for these flights.

Our flights to Yucatan

   We still needed two more flights which were fixed in date and time due to the specific of our itinerary, so I took them immediately after having the main ones:

 - For the one to Belize City, I’ve checked the daily flight operated by the small airlines of this country: Tropic Air. As I couldn’t find good alternatives, I purchased them directly in their website by 128.5 US$ per person.

 - For the early flight from Guatemala City for visiting Tikal, I couldn’t find more valid options either than the one from the local airlines, TAG, by 140$ per person. Somehow, deeper investigation, I found out I could buy cheaper tickets for the same flight through the website of Avianca airlines. There rate was 114$. They add some small charges to that rate later on, but in Tag website they do the same.

   Finally, then, flights are like this:

   Going by Iberia

03/04/2014   BCN  09:10   MAD   10:40
03/04/2014   MAD  11:40   GUA   16:30

   And return by American Airlines by 1240€ (620€ p.p.):

03/14/2014   CUN  16:15   MIA   20:00
03/15/2014   MIA   18:10   BCN  08:15 (+1)

   Domestic flight in Guatemala by Avianca by 190€ (95€ p.p. ):

03/07/2014   GUA  06:30    FRS  07:40

   Guatemala to Belize by Tropic Air by 210€ (105€ p.p.):

03/08/2014   FRS   08:30    BZE 09:15

- Hotels

   We used booking.com to find the appropriate hotel for the most of the places. In Playa del Carmen we searched off the list of all-inclusive resorts as we’re going to spend the entire days out on our tours, so we looked for something more practical, in the 5th Avenue of the city: Xtudio Comfort Hotel. 3 nights by 79$ each: 237$ in total.
   We’ve decided spending the last night in Valladolid in order of having just a short drive to Cancun airport, there we’ve chosen Hotel Mesón del Marqués, with views to the cathedral, by 84$.

   We already knew which of the three lodges inside Tikal Park we preferred: Jaguar Inn, Booking.com offered a better rate than the lodge web site itself, so we’ve booked one of the two available rooms by 518 Quetzals (GTQ), which is around 48€.

   In our three nights route through Antigua and Lake Atitlan we changed our first plan of spending all three nights in Antigua to something more convenient as spending every night in the place to visit and, as our flight out to the North is very early, a7 6:30 AM, spending the previous night in the closest quality hotel to the airport. These conditions seem to be met by Hotel Casa Blanca Inn, where we’ve booked one night by 332 GTQ (31€).

   We’ll spend the first night in Antigua and the second in Lake Atitlan finally, as we’re going to spend the day there. For Antigua our choice has been Hotel Palacio de Doña Leonor, where we’ve booked one night by 917 GTQ (85€). In the lake we could see good rates for allocations in the towns around the lake, but we’ve chosen to be in Panajachel where, although rates are a bit higher there, is the main town, reached by road and where the boats to the different towns start. Hotel y Centro de Convenciones Jardines del Lago has beautiful views of the lake and is located just besides the dock. We’ve got one night in there by 680 GTQ (63€).

   I haven’t found any hotel search web site with one in Caye Caulker, the small island in Belize. I’ve used Tripadvisor and local web sites to choose one because customer’s review: Barefoot Beach Hotel. When I call them in December they have no ocean view rooms, only a couple of lateral ones and the suite is available. I’ve booked two nights in one of their cheaper rooms by 69$ per night, from which I’ve paid the first night as deposit for my reservation.

   At last, we go for Miami hotel and soon I realize the allocation is expensive there. In Miami Beach rates seem even higher. There are just a few of them lower than 100€ in the Northern part of Miami Beach and none in the popular South Beach. We finally take Baltic Hotel, but when I’m going to book there through Booking.com, it is no longer available for the day we need it. Fortunately, it is still available in Budgetplaces.com – internet mysteries – and we finally book it from there by 115$, from which I pay a deposit of 17.25$.

   This makes a total cost for hotels of around 655€:

 237$+84$ in Mexico plus 138$ in Belize and 115$ in Miami = 574$
 48€+31€+85€+63€ in Guatemala = 227€

   We’ve got an average of 60€ by night, which is quite amazing considering the quality of the hotels.

-Car rental

   We need a car for our route for the first days in Guatemala and also for the tours and last stages of the itinerary the last days in Mexico. We’ve thought about renting a car for the day in Miami but we can solve our visits there with one tour and avoid some headaches.

   Looking at the couple of local agencies in Guatemala for car rental and the known international franchises we’ve chosen Tabarini because of price, insurance and deposit. This last point is quite important for us as we must have available around 1000€ for being locked for a month because of deposits from the both car rentals.

   There, the cheapest car is a Kia Picanto, by 39$ per day. Adding the insurance with reduced excess to 475$, taxes and a free service of having a local cell phone, the total is 111.55$. We’ll pick it up in La Aurora airport at our arrival and will deliver it there too two days later, the evening before our early flight to North.

   For Mexico we've thought about looking and comparing conditions and rates once in Playa del Carmen, as we'll have time enough for it there.

-Other expenses

   The fix expenses are coming from the transfers mainly: Water taxi from Belize City to Caye Caulker is 10$ and from Caye Caulker to Chetumal is 45$. Therefore, we must keep ready 110$ for those.

   In Chetumal we must take an ADO bus to Playa del Carmen. It costs 294 MXN, which means around 30€ for the both of us.

   There are other activities and tickets which will be commented in the daily pages.

   On despite of that, we can explain what we’ve done for a specific activity: the entire day in Xel Ha with swimming with dolphins. It is one of the more expensive activities and we’ve preferred to buy it by internet as it seems we can save some dollars this way. We’ve found the best rate in Delphinus web site: 298$ in total, two persons, All-inclusive admission to the park, 45 minutes with the dolphins and even the transfer from/to hotel.

   Detailed plan, then, is like this:

Day Night Morning Afternoon
4 Antigua Flight Antigua
5 Lake Atitlan Antigua Lake Atitlan
6 Guatemala City Lago Atitlán Volcano Pacaya
7 Tikal Flight Tikal
8 Caye Caulker Flight Caye Caulker
9 Caye Caulker Caye Caulker Caye Caulker
10 Playa del Carmen San Pedro Playa del Carmen
11 Playa del Carmen Tulum Xcaret
12 Playa del Carmen Xel Ha Xel Ha
13 Valladolid Cobá Chichen Itzá
14 Miami Valladolid Vuelo
15 Flight Miami Miami