One of two major Guatemalan ports on the Gulf coast, Santo Tomás de Castilla is a few kilometers south of Puerto Barrios on Santo Tomás Bay. It is Guatemala’s largest and most efficient port on the Caribbean Ocean. It was formerly known as Matías de Galvez, and now handles 77% of the country's exports and half the imports, as well as 20% of El Salvador's imports and 10% of its exports. It is a wonderful place to get an authentic taste of local Guatemalan culture.

Port: Santo Tomás de Castilla
Experience

Santo Tomás de Castilla

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  • Executive Collection Full Day Car

    PRICE is per vehicle

    This exclusive arrangement is designed to allow you the chance to customize your time ashore and discover the most interesting sights in the comfort and privacy of your own vehicle. With your private car and the personalized attention of your driver and English-speaking guide, you will have the flexibility and independence to design your itinerary ashore according to your own interests and sightsee at your own pace. See the most famous sights or go beyond to create your own intimate connections and unique cultural encounters.

    The Executive Collection is recommended for the single/solo traveler, couples, family, friends, and special interest groups traveling together. It can also be an excellent choice for physically challenged guests.

    Capacity: 2 guests

    PLEASE NOTE: Private cars/vans/minibuses are ordered per vehicle (not per person), and only one person in the party need order the vehicle. The price shown is the total cost for the vehicle, driver and English-speaking guide. Kindly note, however, that in certain ports only a driver/guide will be assigned (one person), due to limited availability. Entrance fees are not included in this price, in order to provide you with the most flexibility. In many ports, the number of vehicles available is extremely limited; therefore guests are encouraged to make their reservation as early as possible.

    Half-day private tours must depart between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 am, or after 1:00 p.m.

    Upon embarkation, please consult the Destination Manager onboard to personally discuss your itinerary requirements and set your departure time.

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  • Executive Collection Full Day Van

    PRICE is per vehicle

    This exclusive arrangement is designed to allow you the chance to customize your time ashore and discover the most interesting sights in the comfort and privacy of your own vehicle. With your private car and the personalized attention of your driver and English-speaking guide, you will have the flexibility and independence to design your itinerary ashore according to your own interests and sightsee at your own pace. See the most famous sights or go beyond to create your own intimate connections and unique cultural encounters.

    The Executive Collection is recommended for the single/solo traveler, couples, family, friends, and special interest groups traveling together. It can also be an excellent choice for physically challenged guests.

    Capacity: 4 guests

    PLEASE NOTE: Private cars/vans/minibuses are ordered per vehicle (not per person), and only one person in the party need order the vehicle. The price shown is the total cost for the vehicle, driver and English-speaking guide. Kindly note, however, that in certain ports only a driver/guide will be assigned (one person), due to limited availability. Entrance fees are not included in this price, in order to provide you with the most flexibility. In many ports, the number of vehicles available is extremely limited; therefore guests are encouraged to make their reservation as early as possible.

    Half-day private tours must depart between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 am, or after 1:00 p.m.

    Upon embarkation, please consult the Destination Manager onboard to personally discuss your itinerary requirements and set your departure time.

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  • Trolley Town Tour

    Ride a unique trolley for a 50-minute ride through from the Port of Santo Tomas through the simple streets of Puerto Barrios, the nearest town. Your guide provides a narration on the history and folklore.

    Depending on traffic, we’ll stop at one or two local attractions including the colorful local graveyard perfect for some unique pictures.

    Note: Participants must be at least 18 years of age to consume alcohol.

    A maximum of three cold alcoholic drinks (usually beer) or soft drinks per person are included.

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  • Chocolate, Drink of the Gods

    Tour a cacao plantation and discover how the fruit is processed for chocolate and how the Aztecs and Maya made a chocolate drink so valued it was reserved for royalty.

    After departing from the pier, you will settle in for a meandering drive through the jungle to Rio Dulce, a town named for the river there that flows from Lake Izabal. Nearby, you will stop at a plantation that grows cacao or cocoa, the main ingredient in making chocolate.

    The tree’s scientific name is Theobroma cacao; the first word being Latin for “food of the gods,” the second derived from the Aztec word for “bitter water.” The indigenous people of Central America have been processing and eating the tree’s fruit for at least 2,000 years.

    Cacao was so valued at the time that is was depicted in hieroglyphic writings and paintings, and the seeds were used as money. The resulting chocolate, which was often flavored with vanilla, herbs and honey, was reserved for royalty and the wealthy.

    While touring the cacao plantation, you will learn how the fruit is picked, processed, packaged and exported. The steps are fascinating, and you will have the chance to sample the cacao during the various stages of production.

    You will taste a cacao seed, a chunk of solid chocolate, a dollop of chocolate paste, and a chocolate beverage similar to the ones that the ancient Aztecs and Mayas drank. You will also learn how the taste of chocolate develops through fermentation.

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  • Countryside and Rio Dulce By Land

    Explore Guatemala's scenic beauty and storied past during this orientation tour through the Motagua Valley, and a visit to the 17th-century Castle of San Felipe.

    Depart the pier for the drive through the scenic Motagua Valley. Along the way, you will see an abundance of lush tropical vegetation in the countryside. Upon arrival at the bridge over the Rio Dulce, a stop will be made for spectacular views and photo opportunities of Lake Izabal and Rio Dulce National Park (subject to weather & traffic conditions), a protected area and one of the most important ecological reserves in the country. From this vantage-point, you will also see Guatemalan weekend homes, marinas and small hotels dotting both sides of the river and lake.

    On Lake Izabal, you will find the tiny Castle of San Felipe, or Castillo de San Felipe, the Spanish fort built to protect the Rio Dulce from invading pirates. You will then take a brief boat ride to the castle for an inside visit. Located just minutes from the bridge, the Castle of San Felipe was built during the 17th century in honor of the Spanish King Felipe II. The fort, with its powerful battery of cannons strategically positioned at the entrance to Lake Izabal, offered protection to Spanish ships crossing its waters, and transporting products and supplies to and from Spain and Havana. Its walls offered protection from pirates that used to navigate the river and attack the boats they encountered along the way.

    In 1686, a pirate assault burned most of the fort, and the attacks continued until a series of treaties were signed between Spain and England. As a result, the Castillo lost its importance as a defensive fort, and was converted into a prison. It was later abandoned, and fell into a state of disrepair until its renovation by Architect Francisco Ferrus in 1955. Although rebuilt based upon its original plans, the Castle of San Felipe still retains two cannons dating back to the 1790s, and a pair of 400-year-old towers.

    Following your tour, you will proceed to the Catamaran Hotel for refreshments before returning to the ship.

    Please note: Wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and bring sunscreen a hat, sunglasses and insect repellant. Guides will assist guests embarking the boats, but guests must be able to step into and out of the boat on their own; a challenging feat during low tide.

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  • Quirigua Archaeological National Park

    Guatemala's stunning natural beauty is yours to discover during this scenic half-day journey to Quiriguá National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Depart the pier for the 1.5-hour drive to Quiriguá National Park, located on the plains of the Motagua River. The longest river in the country, the Motagua was used by the Maya and served as one of their most important waterways. En route, a brief stop will be made to learn about Guatemala's banana industry, and take in scenic views and photographs of your surroundings.

    Quiriguá was established in a fertile valley at the edge of the Motagua River between 250 and 550 AD. Once a magnificent Mayan city, Quiriguá is now an impressive archaeological site of the early Classic Period, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stela E, the tallest stelae in the Mayan world, is found at this site.

    Upon arrival at the Quiriguá National Park, you will take a 1.5-mile guided walking tour through the park. Along the way, you will take in spectacular views of the picturesque flora and fauna.

    Following your visit, you'll reboard your coach for the return drive to the pier.

    Please note: The drive between the pier and Quirigua is approximately 1.5 hours in each direction. This tour involves a 1.5-mile walk over bumpy and uneven ground, and is not recommended for guests with limited mobility or guests who utilize a wheelchair. Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and comfortable walking shoes, and bring sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat and sunglasses from the ship.

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  • Eco-Hike At Hacienda Tijax

    Experience the beauty of Guatemala's rainforest in a unique new way during this memorable eco-hike at the Hacienda Tijax.

    Depart the pier for the drive through the scenic Motagua Valley. Along the way, you will see lush tropical vegetation in the countryside. Upon arrival at the bridge over the Rio Dulce, a stop will be made for spectacular views and photo opportunities of Lake Izabal and Rio Dulce National Park, a protected area and one of the most important ecological reserves in the country.

    Next, you will embark a small boat for the transfer to nearby Hacienda Tijax, an actual preserved rainforest. A staff member will greet your arrival, then lead you on a walk along elevated cable bridges that rise up to 60 feet high through the rainforest, and cross over crystal-clear natural springs and rivers. As you proceed along the elevated trails, you will learn about the natural products of the jungle, including gum, rubber, spices and medicinal plants. You will also take in splendid views of orchids and epiphytes throughout your 3.25-mile, round-trip journey.

    Halfway through your walk, you will have an opportunity to climb the Observatory Tower for spectacular views extending along the river to the Castillo de San Felipe. The Tower of the Shaman at the top of the hill uses the ancient methods of directional construction. Utilized by the Maya for tracking sun and moon activity, it served as the basis of their baffling advancement in the areas of astronomy and calendar development.

    A poolside barbecue will be served during the 1.5-hour lunch break, followed by some time to relax or swim in the pool. Time permitting, you may choose to take in one of the optional activities available for an addition charge, including horseback riding or kayaking.

    Following your visit, you will re-board your boat for the return trip to the bridge, then be transferred back to the pier. Swimming pool access is not guaranteed.

    Please note: This tour involves a 3.25-mile hike. Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and comfortable walking or hiking shoes, and bring sunscreen a hat, sunglasses and insect repellant. Guests wishing to swim should bring a swimsuit and towel. This tour is not recommended for guests with limited mobility or guests who utilize a wheelchair.

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  • Route of the Mayas: Tikal By Air in Depth

    Explore the history of the ancient Mayan civilization during this scenic and informative journey to Northern Guatemala's renowned Mayan ruins of Tikal.

    Depart the pier for the brief transfer to the airport, and a chartered 1-hour flight to the vast northern region of El Peten. Upon arrival, you will board a coach for the scenic 1-hour drive along rainforest-lined roadways. Along the way, your guide will inform you about the region in preparation for your visit to Tikal, the greatest Mayan city known and studied to date, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Upon reaching the entrance of the 231-square-mile Tikal National Park, you will leave your coach and begin your guided hike along dirt roads and pathways. As you enter the forest surrounding the ruins, your guide will explain the cosmic vision of life at the apex of Mayan rule. After walking approximately 1 mile, you will discover and climb to the top of Temple IV, where expansive views of the park will come into view. You will then continue on to past Temple V before reaching the Great Plaza, which is comprised of Temples I and II, the North Acropolis, Central Acropolis and the Maya royal residential complex, known as the Mahler Palace. Their magnificent architecture is still intact after hundreds of years, and some time will be made available for you to explore the ruins.

    Next, you will re-board your coach for the return drive to Santa Elena, and proceed directly to the Maya International Hotel for lunch accompanied by scenic views of Lake Peten Itza and the Island of Flores.

    After lunch, you will be transferred to the Mundo Maya airport for your return flight.

    Please note: You will spend 3 hours at Tikal National Park, and cover approximately 2.5 miles on foot. Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and comfortable walking shoes, and bring biodegradable sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat and sunglasses from the ship. Rain jackets, ponchos and umbrellas are also advised to provide coverage during cloudbursts. This tour is not recommended for guests with limited mobility and guests who utilize a wheelchair. A minimum of 12 guests is required to operate this program. Cancellations made within 2 weeks of sailing are non-refundable. This tour is non-refundable once booked. The lunch venue is subject to change. Guests are required to bring a valid photo i.d. If none, photo-copy of passport will suffice (page with picture & personal details is needed).

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  • Las Escobas Springs Adventure

    Explore the pristine natural beauty of the Cerro San Gil rainforest and the lifestyle of its local residents during this memorable journey to Las Escobas Springs.

    Las Escobas is one of the two main rivers flowing from the Cerro San Gil, a 117,000-acre protected rainforest surrounded by mountains. The subject of intense study by renowned biologists, scientists, naturalists and ecologists, this thriving ecosystem is home to more than 400 bird species, as well as an abundance of reptiles, amphibious mammals and insects endemic to the region.

    Upon arrival at the Las Escobas Springs Reserve, you will be welcomed by one of the reserve hostesses, then participate in a special educational program funded by FUNDAECO, a nature-preservation NGO that teaches students basic English language skills and incoming tourism services. During the program's 1.5-hour hike, several stops will be made for more detailed explanations and optional bathing in one of the puddles.

    Following your hike, you will proceed to the community of Las Escobas, located just five minutes from the Las Escobas Springs Natural Reserve. Here, you will have an opportunity to interact with the local people, experience their daily lives and participate in a tortilla-making demonstration.

    Afterward, you will be transferred back to the pier.

    Please note: This tour involves a walk of approximately 1.5 miles over uneven ground, and is not recommended for guests with limited mobility or guests who utilize a wheelchair. Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and comfortable walking shoes, and bring sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat and sunglasses. Guests wishing to swim should wear a swimsuit under a cover-up, and bring a towel from the ship. Guests must be at least 21 years of age to be served alcoholic beverages. The tour is operated in minibuses.

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  • Visit to Q’eqchi Indigenous River Community

    Discover the Mayan way of life along the Tatin River, and the generosity of the non-profit organization that made it all possible during this memorable visit to the Q'eqchi indigenous river community.

    Depart the pier aboard a 30-passenger boat (fitted for 15), and proceed for the ride towards Rio Dulce; an area of exquisite natural beauty that serves as a sanctuary to a variety of aquatic birds and wildlife. Approximate transfer time is 45 minutes. Upon arrival, you will visit Ak' Tenamit, a Maya Q'eqchi community development located on the Tatin River.

    Ak' Tenamit is a non-profit organization founded in 1992 by American visionary Steve Dudenhoefer. This successful volunteer-supported operation helps with the sustained development and recuperation of the Mayan culture within the Q'eqchi villages of Rio Dulce. Ak' Tenamit provides assistance to more than 9,000 people that were displaced as a result of land reform and violence stemming from the civil war of 1963-1996. These people have been relocated to 45 villages in this area.

    Ak' Tenamit conducts programs on education, crafts, health, organic agriculture, eco-tourism, community development, gender equality, and more. Its headquarters is divided between the north side of the Rio Dulce Canyon, where the first school was built and a floating dental clinic is stationed, and the Tatin River, where an ecological footpath through the forest, arts and crafts shop, a restaurant and second school has been established. Ak' Tenamit uses computer-based tutorial learning to empower rural students to be successful in their own rural setting. During your visit, you will be served a local snack and have the opportunity to purchase souvenirs made by local artisans.

    Next, you will continue across the river to the opposite bank, and sail past a mangrove lagoon and water lilies for an opportunity to learn how Q'eqchi villagers live. En route, you will see the headquarters on the north side of the Rio Dulce Canyon.

    Following your visit, you will proceed to Amatique Bay Resort for lunch accompanied by a performance of Garifuna music and dancing. After lunch, you will embark the boat for the return ride to the pier.

    Please note: This tour involves a 30-minute walk in the jungle over rough surfaces and includes some steep steps to negotiate. Embarking the small boats requires guests to be agile enough to bend and climb, and endure a bumpy boat ride. This tour will use a local boat (covered on top). Guests may get wet during the boat ride. Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and comfortable walking shoes, and bring sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat and sunglasses. This tour is not recommended for guests with limited mobility or guests who utilize a wheelchair.

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