Where to go in Central America: choosing the best destinations
Central America is full of unbelievable places. I just came back from a long trip there and I want you to know where to go in Central America to see the most amazing places.
Some months ago I started traveling full time and working as a digital nomad, and I decided to start my long trip from Central America.
My decision was great because I literally fell in love with this part of the world. Central America is simply amazing and full of places to see and visit.
It is very complete because it has historical sites such as Mayan ruins, it has stunning colonial cities, but you can also find beautiful beaches and lush nature, like volcanos and waterfalls.
So let’s start this guide in which I will tell you where to go in Central America and what are my favorite places I had the pleasure and the chance to explore in the last three months.
Where to go in Central America: best places in Mexico
Mexico is maybe the most famous country in Central America and the first which comes to your mind when you think of this part of the world.
It is a huge country and it’s not easy to pick its best places, but I will try to tell you about my favorite ones.
Merida is the jewel of Yucatan Peninsula. Quieter and definitely cheaper compared to other nearby cities, it is a place you can’t miss.
It is perfect to be based here while you explore the wonders of Yucatan, for example some Mayan ruins or cenotes nearby.
Merida has a lot to offer and you can easily spend weeks there. Maybe you could be interested in some volunteering opportunities with Worldpackers in Merida, in this way you could save a lot of money while exploring the city and Yucatan Peninsula and help the locals.
2. San Francisco de Campeche
San Francisco de Campeche is a wonderful colonial city. Its historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is a city you must visit if you are planning where to go in Central America. It is also one of the safest places to visit in Mexico.
The best way to explore it is to lose yourself in the colorful streets and eat at the market like a local.
3. Calakmul ruins
Most of the tourists go to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itzá when visiting Mexico, but if you want to discover a place off the beaten path, Calakmul ruins is the place for you.
It is not a common place you will read of when looking for where to go in Central America, but it’s totally worth it and it is also a UNESCO Heritage Site.
These ruins are deep in the jungle and you can reach them from the city of Chetumal.
Plan your trip with The ultimate Worldpackers Mexico travel guide and The guide to travel Mexico on a budget.
Where to go in Central America: Guatemala
When I met other backpackers during my long trip, everyone told me to go to Guatemala because it was one of the best places to visit in Central America. I decided to listen to them and they were absolutely right.
Guatemala stole my heart, especially these places.
Antigua is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen in Central America. Its colonial style, all the volcanos in the background, its shops full of handmade things, simply took my breath away.
You must include Antigua when planning where to go in Central America.
2. Acatenango Volcano
A trip to Guatemala is not complete if you don’t hike a volcano. And you know what? In Guatemala you can hike a volcano and see with your eyes another one erupting in front of you.
You can see this if you hike Acatenango volcano. It is an experience to do once in a lifetime, it is so exciting!
Acatenango hike is not easy, and weather can be very cold up there, but the thrill of seeing a volcano erupting is something you will never forget.
Tikal ruins are the biggest in Central America, and in my opinion also the most beautiful and stunning.
The best thing about Tikal is that despite its worldwide fame, it has not been ruined by excessive tourism and it is still very authentic.
It is a very magical place that you must include in your trip to Central America.
Worried about safety? Check out the article "Is it safe to travel to Guatemala?"
Where to go in Central America: best places in Belize
Belize is not a very popular country among backpackers because it’s considered one of the most expensive places in Central America.
But it deserves so much a visit, and I hope you will give it a chance after reading about these wonderful places.
1. Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker is a quiet little island you can reach from Belize City with an hour boat ride.
It is definitely heaven on earth. Its crystal water, its palm beaches, small fish restaurants and warm wind are a dream.
If you are thinking about where to go in Central America, give a chance to this place and you will have a perfect dream beach vacation.
2. Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Have you ever thought about swimming with manatees and sharks? In Belize is possible!
And did you know that Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world?
I am talking about Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a UNESCO Heritage Site, the second largest barrier reef in the world after the one in Australia, in which you can swim with amazing animals like manatees, sharks, rays, turtles, and see perfect preserved colorful corals.
Have I convinced you to visit this place?
Where to go in Central America: Nicaragua
Nicaragua is one of the cheapest countries in Central America, and it’s full of wonders.
Let me introduce some of the best.
1. Ometepe island
Ometepe island is located in the middle of Cocibolca lake, and it is full of things to explore.
Among the things you can do here there is hiking volcanos, seeing amazing sunsets, and relaxing in one of the beaches.
It is a destination growing more and more in fame for backpackers.
Leon is an amazing colonial city, and its white cathedral is one of the most beautiful in all Central America.
Leon is worth standing on the list of where to go in Central America even just for this important and unique piece of architecture.
Volunteer in Leon in exchange of free accommodation and enjoy this fantastic city.
Where to go in Central America: best places in El Salvador
A lot of people don’t even consider El Salvador when thinking of their itinerary of Central America, but it is a mistake.
It is a small but very nice country and it deserves a bit more attention. Here you can find examples of places that are worth a visit.
1. El Tunco
El Tunco is a very popular surf city, and it is one of the best places in Central America to practice.
This little town is full of surf board rentals and surf schools, and it is a good place to relax and enjoy beach life.
2. Volcán de Santa Ana
The city of Santa Ana, in the middle of the country, is surrounded by national parks and volcanos, and you can hike them, such as the Santa Ana Volcano, in the Cerro Verde National Park.
It is famous for its super green crater on the top and it’s the highest volcano in El Salvador.
Where to go in Central America: Honduras
Honduras is not the safest place to visit in Central America, but there are two places that are wonderful and super safe for travelers.
1. Copan Ruins
These Mayan ruins are some of the best preserved in all the continent, famous for their hieroglyphs. They are very cheap compared to other Mayan ruins, and less crowded. You can enjoy a visit and take great pictures.
2. Roatan island
Roatan island is the most famous place in Honduras and its full of paradise beaches.
It is famous for its Caribbean sea and it’s the perfect place to enjoy beach life.
You can check wonderful volunteering positions in Roatan to save some money in accommodation and have a unforgettable experience.
Check out which are the best things to do in Honduras.
Where to go in Central America: Costa Rica places
It is impossible to choose the best things to do in Costa Rica, it is full of amazing places and it would deserve an entire guide about them all.
Here I picked some of my favorite ones.
1. Arenal National Park
Arenal National Park is one of the most beautiful parks in Costa Rica. It is full of things to see and do, such as hike Arenal Volcano, enjoy the free hot springs, and see the famous hanging bridges.
2. Manuel Antonio National Park
If you want to enjoy one of the best beaches in Costa Rica and spot a lot of sloths, this is the park for you.
Located on the Pacific Coast, Manuel Antonio is maybe the most beautiful beach park in Costa Rica, where you can swim, hike, have amazing views from the top, and see a lot of animals.
Plan your trip with these articles: How to visit Costa Rica on a budget and The best time to visit Costa Rica.
Where to go in Central America: places in Panama
Let’s close this list about where to go in Central America with Panama. I picked two places that I loved but there are more and more if you give a chance to this country.
1. San Blas islands
These amazing islands are a real paradise. Tropical beaches, crystal water, and peace are the things you will find here.
You can visit them with a day trip from Panama City or overnight in one of the islands.
But visit them in any case, because you won’t regret it.
2. Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of islands for all tastes.
If you want to relax, you will find wild and quiet beaches. If you want to surf, you will find waves waiting for you. If you want adventure, you can do snorkeling, hike and explore the jungle.
It is definitely a place to visit, and you can check volunteering positions in Panama to explore while helping the locals and saving money.
Now that you know where to go in Central America… are you ready to pack?
This was my guide about where to go in Central America. It is just a taste of the amazing places this part of the world has to offer.
A trip to Central America will change your life forever. You will see wild nature, stunning beaches, amazing colonial cities, you will try delicious food and meet ancient cultures like the Mayas.
It is a place you have to go once in a lifetime, and Worldpackers can help you exploring with the best social impact. You can help the locals in exchange of free accommodation and sometimes food, and make the difference while you travel and enjoy yourself.
Want to learn more about planning your trip? By subscribing to the WP pack plan you have unlimited access to +120 courses at Worldpackers Academy, the travel school made by travelers!
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