If you’re new to backpacking, Central America is an excellent place to start because the distances are short, traveling is a low budget, it`s very diverse, the people are friendly, and the continent is gorgeous.
There are so many fantastic things to do in Central America that deciding where to begin might be difficult. Apart from Mexico, the countries in this region of the world are somewhat small, yet there is plenty to see and do. Backpacking Central America with our itineraries below will allow you to explore Latin culture, Mayan sites, raging volcanoes, beautiful lakes, historical villages, and relaxing Caribbean beaches while avoiding the region’s notoriously disagreeable major cities.
Our Central America backpacking itineraries are ideal for budget travelers. We at Spanish Travel Classes help you to create an immersive and cultural experience. You will find in this blog also suggestions about the best Spanish schools in Panama and Costa Rica. Do you know that there is even a unique Traveling Classroom with group travel and Spanish lessons? You will combine the best of Panama and Costa Rica and have Spanish lessons in different locations!
When is the best time to travel to Central America?
Central America’s tropical climate has dry and wet seasons, but with a diverse mix of misty cloud forests, elevated towns, and sun-drenched beaches, you’ll need an adaptable backpack. The dry season (November to April) typically provides sunny skies and a consistent weather front. But visiting Central America during the rainy season (May–October) can be breathtaking too, with lush green rainforests and fewer people.
Have you always dreamed about turtles nesting on the beach or releasing baby turtles? With our very popular Spanish immersion program in Santa Teresa, you can make your dream come true! The best time is between July to November. Turtles nest frequently at this time of the year. Expect Spanish lessons, surfing, and adventures, and be part of a turtle conversation program.
But let`s start with our 6-week itinerary, and then we continue with the places to visit in Central America on our ultimate 3 to 4-month Central America backpacking itinerary. Let the Spanish immersion begin! Vamos Spanish Travel Classes! 💪
6 weeks Backpacking Central America Itinerary
You know that covering all the countries within 6 weeks is not enough. It`s difficult to share a brief idea about where to start and what to visit. But we are going to give it a try!
So, our 6-week Central America trip starts from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. You can visit Tortuguero if you like boat trips and hiking trails. Make your way slowly to Panama, for jungle and beaches. Visit Bocas Del Toro and of course, don`t forget to visit the amazing San Andres Islands.
Another option is to explore the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Stop at the laid-back Utviva, visit Manuel Antonio National Park and rise above the cloud forests of Monteverde. Next will be Nicaragua and Honduras. Some places to visit are San Juan del Sur, Ometepe Island, Leon, Granada, Copan and the Bay islands (Roan or Utila).
Depends on your time, but you might add Guatemala to your 6-week itinerary and visit Antigua (Acatenango volcano hike), Lake Atitlan, and Tikal.
3 to 4 months Backing Central America Itinerary
If you have 3 to 4 months you have an appropriate time for backpacking Central America. Here we will share an idea of the places you need to visit.
Consider flying into Cancun, Mexico’s second-busiest airport, which has excellent connections to Europe and North America. Enjoy beaches, and nightlife and visit nearby Chichen Itza. However, you may not want to stay for too long. The beach is pleasant because it doesn’t cater to backpackers on a strict budget.
● Isla holbox
Get your swimsuit on and get ready for tropical vibes. Its crystal clear blue waters, pristine beaches, and very laid-back vibe make you feel in paradise. Holbox is also famous for swimming with whale sharks and for its plankton.
Tulum is very popular among backpackers for a reason. Enjoy magnificent beaches, visit the Inca ruins and explore the cenotes are some awesome ideas for what to do in Tulum.
It’s a long trip to Palenque but worth it once you start to discover the ancient ruins in the dense jungle near an unremarkable town of the same name. There is a sense that your adventure has truly begun when you hit Palenque though. The area is also popular with some travelers due to the widespread growth of magic mushrooms, which were a central part of Maya culture.
● San Cristobal de las casas
San Cristobal de las Casas is every backpacker`s dream. This beautiful city is inhabited by indigenous people and is very interesting if you are into Mayan culture. Not to mention all the outdoor activities in the surrounding area.
Bacalar is one of our favourite places in Mexico. This stunning blue lagoon is an incredibly beautiful place. Take a boat trip or just relax in a hammock!
If you want to escape the main gringo trail maybe Mahahual is a good option. Expect white beaches, turtles, and a chill vibe.
● Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker is a popular backpacker spot for years. Life goes very slowly here due to its laid-back vibe. If you are interested in diving you can dive into the famous Blue hole.
Hopkins village is a perfect spot for a good mix of hiking trails and beaches.
● Lake Atitlan
With a large lake surrounded by volcanoes and dirt inexpensive backpacker villages, the view is breathtaking. You might easily spend a week simply seeing the several lakeside villages, each with its distinct vibe. Alternatively, you may simply sit back and enjoy the scenery.
Antigua is a colonial town surrounded by volcanoes that may be walked about and explored. Antigua is one of the top Latin American travel highlights, as well as popular among backpackers. A must-do trip is a hike to Acatenango Volcano. It`s extraordinary to see the Volcano Fuego eruption on an overnight hiking trip.
Visit the impressive Mayan temples and catch the sunset on top of a Mayan temple. Tikal is impressive and one of your highlights from a backpacking trip in Central America.
● Rio Dulce
A tropical jungle with lakes and beautiful nature sounds good, right? In reality, it`s even better. Rio Dulce is a must if you are a nature lover.
● Ruta de las flores
Explore Ruta de las Flores, one of the most magical regions of El Salvador. It`s a perfect area for hiking with many waterfalls to check out.
● La Libertad
Surf, surf, and surf! Yes, get salt and wet. The beaches of La Libertad are considered the beach surfing spots in Central America. We can tell you that this is not a lie!
● Parque Nacional Los Volcanes
You can guess what this national park is about. There are some amazing hikes and views over the 3 volcanoes. Santa Ana Volcano is the highest volcano in the country and reaching the top rewards you with spectacular views of the crater lakes.
As you enter Honduras, you’ll find out why Copan is such a nice place. There are many hiking trails and you see more old ruins. Copan was an important Mayan center over a thousand years ago. It houses some of the best pre-Columbian art in the world.
● Utila and Roatan (Bay Islands)
Let`s see what is going on underwater. Utila is the best (and cheapest) scuba diving hotspot in Central America and one of the region’s true highlights. The Bay Islands are possibly the cheapest way to experience a Caribbean beach paradise.
Leon in Nicaragua is a stunning place and the Sandinista revolution began here. The town remains firmly pro-revolutionary. It has some fascinating street art that contributes to the story, and it’s one of the few genuinely interesting urban destinations along the route.
Granada is one of our favourite cities in Central America. It´s one of the oldest cities with a lot of colourful buildings. The best way to explore Granada is to wander around the charming streets.
● Ometepe island
Ometepe is a unique island surrounded by a beautiful lake. From kayaking to seeing wildlife to waterfall hikes, this place is a tropical paradise.
● San Juan del Sur
San Juan del Sur is the first stop on the Pacific Coast, which means two things. Massive waves and a swarm of surfers! If surfing isn’t your thing, you can better check out other beaches in the area.
● Corn islands
Corn islands are rustic yet charming. Looking for your little paradise then head out to this beautiful destination. Just relax at the beach or go for a little bit more action with snorkeling or diving.
The nearby Volcan Arenal is the world’s third most active volcano, and it’s also home to some spectacular cloud forests, one of Costa Rica’s many natural wonders. Monteverde is an absolute must in Costa Rica.
Another fantastic place to visit if you enjoy the outdoors. Immerse yourself in a world of waterfalls, ecological preserves, and pristine beaches. Montezuma has a bohemian vibe to it, and it’s one of those Central American backpacking places where you can find yourself lingering longer than you anticipated.
● Santa Teresa
Laidback, surfing, backpackers, hippie kind of vibe. Yes, that sounds good, right? Santa Teresa is a hot beach town and with Montezuma on a short drive a backpacking dream. If you would like to learn Spanish, go on adventures and help in various environmental projects with a Turtle Conversation program. Then you might be interested in taking our Spanish immersion program in Santa Teresa. Be prepared to see turtles nesting and to watch baby turtles crawl out of their nest as they fight to get in the water. Santa Teresa is also considered one of the top surf 10 destinations in the world. Discover why and learn how to surf on a Spanish and Surf program. If you don`t like to surf you can also take yoga lessons.
● San Jose
Costa Rica’s capital city is a little run-down, but it’s better than the big cities further north. It’s easy to skip, but it’s worth staying for a day or two because there are a few intriguing museums to see, as well as a few possibilities for day trips and tours in the surrounding countryside.
● Puerto Viejo
Puerto Viejo is a lovely town and great for surfing and beaches. This laid-back Caribbean town popular is very popular with backpackers and surfers. It`s a pleasant area with Cahuita and Manzanillo National Parks nearby, providing wonderful day trips. It`s not a surprise that taking Spanish lessons in Puerto Viejo is one of our favourite picks.
Turrialba is a beautiful town with background views of the rainforest and mountains. Surrounded by volcanoes there are many nice hiking trails. If you are a nature lover then you would like this place. Turrialba has also an ideal climate to learn Spanish. For this reason, following a Spanish course in Turrialba is a very good decision.
● Manuel Antonio
If hiking is your thing, then you should add Manuel Antonio to your bucket list. It`s one of the best national parks in Costa Rica and amazing with beaches, hiking, and wildlife.
More hikes and beaches can you expect in Uvita. This lovely backpacking town has few crowds and greener landscapes. With the mountains so close to the coast, this place is one of our favourites.
● La Fortuna
If you are looking for adventure you should visit La Fortuna. From hiking through lava fields to rappelling down waterfalls, whitewater rafting fun is guaranteed in this place. And with the Arenal Volcano in the background, good views are part of your trip.
● Bocas del Toro
Bocas is a small island off the coast of Costa Rica with a very laid-back Caribbean island vibe and with dense rainforests. With mostly calm circumstances, it’s also an excellent place to go scuba diving at a reasonable price. Check out our Spanish lessons with a diving course if you are interested in the underwater world. Or just take regular Spanish lessons in Bocas del Toro and enjoy paradise and the beach after your study.
In the green highlands of Panama, Boquete is a place that you should add to your travel itinerary. It`s a popular destination for hiking with as the main reason for the climb up to the Baru Volcano. Do you love adventure and nature? Most students who say yes to that question venture out for Spanish lessons to Boquete.
David is a pleasant town on the Pan-American Highway. There are a variety of activities available, including adventure sports, and a trip to the Los Pozos de Caldera hot springs is especially popular among backpackers.
● Playa Venao
The jungle meets the ocean. No more words are needed to describe this beautiful place.
● Panama City
Panama City is a fantastic city. The capital of Panama, unlike most of the other sites on this Central America trip, is a dynamic urban city.
● San Blas Islands
The beautiful San Blas islands will probably be the highlight of your Central America backpacking journey. This group of islands, with parts where no one else goes to. Some of them are uninhabited and you will explore the most beautiful white sandy beaches that you have ever seen in your life. On our Traveling Classroom Panama and Costa Rica we will of course also visit this majestic place.
Other things to enjoy in Central America During 3 a 4-month itinerary
● Go scuba diving
Many coral reefs can be found off the coasts of Central America. As a result, scuba diving is extremely popular. The colours and variety of fish, as well as the superb vision, will wow you. Diving in this area is less expensive than in the Caribbean and much of Mexico. Panama, Honduras, and Belize are all popular diving destinations.
● Visit Plantations of coffee
Costa Rica and Panama, in particular, are well-known for their coffee production. Visit the plantations to learn about how the beans are cultivated, harvested, and ground. Fresh coffee is also available at a significant discount.
● In Nicaragua, you can go surfing down a volcano.
Try volcano boarding if you enjoy high-intensity activities. Cerro Negro, Nicaragua’s young and active volcano, allows visitors to ride a surfboard down its graveled slopes.
● The Macaw Mountain Bird Reserve & Park is a must-see.
This enclosure is located near Copán Ruinas, Honduras, and is surrounded by a tropical jungle teeming with a diverse array of species. From vivid Buffon Macaws to vibrant Blue and Gold Macaws to beautiful Keel-Billed Toucans, you’ll see it all.
● El Salvador’s La Libertad is a must-see destination.
For those of you who enjoy surfing, this is the best site in Central America to catch a wave. While there is a chance of running into a crowd of beach bums, the magnificent waves, unlimited seafood BBQ, and nice accommodations make up for it.
● The Montecristo Cloud Forest is a must-see.
Ferns, orchids, mosses, spider monkeys, and anteaters are among the flora and wildlife found in this cloud forest. Hike to El Trifinio, the highest point in the park, where El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala meet.
Backpackers never get bored of enjoying places. But it needs a plan to manage the budget, time, days, and destination. The more you can travel, the more exciting the journey becomes. It is difficult to decide where to go and where to study Spanish in Latin America.
If you want honest and personal advice, then contact us today. Book with Spanish Travel Classes for free your language course in Latin America. Lowest price guaranteed!
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