Solo travelling in Central America is life-changing. After hearing countless spellbinding stories and backpacking lore from travellers on the road about Central America I just had to go.

Wedged between the giants of North and South America, you’ll find this solo traveller’s paradise. Where you can wake up in a hammock to the sound of the ocean in Belize, marvel at erupting volcanoes in Guatemala or learn to salsa dance with locals in Panama.

Whether you’re diving into the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean or trekking through cloud forests in Costa Rica – you’ll find the perfect blend of thrilling adventures and tranquil moments.

As a solo traveller, Central America welcomes you in with open arms, full of communities eager to share their culture and hidden spots off the beaten track. It’s the ultimate playground for those looking to explore, connect and discover more about themselves along the way.

Last year, I spent over five months solo in the region and I’m now ready to spill the beans about solo travel in Central America and what makes it one of the best places IN THE WORLD for solo travel – let’s get into this!

man on deck at Lake Atitlan, guatemala
It’s time for some alone time.
Photo: @joemiddlehurst

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9 Things to Do in Central America When Travelling Solo

There is such a wonderful variety of activities for travellers in Central America to discover. Whether you want to sit on a tropical beach with a coconut in hand or embark on epic adventurous missions up active volcanoes, there is something for everyone in this magical land.

Central America is geographically blessed. It’s nothing short of paradise for nature and ocean lovers.

Both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts are packed with astonishing marine life, surf towns, beaches and straight-up chill vibes. Inland, you have a variety of dense tropical jungles, ancient Mayan ruins and gorgeous colonial cities. As well as some wicked topography with some of the best natural viewpoints in the world.

Panama City Waterfront
Summer in the city
Photo: @joemiddlehurst

One of the best things about solo travel in Central America is making new like-minded mates from all over the world. One of my favourite ways of fusing making real connections and having memorable experiences whilst on the road is to join group tours.

Whatever is your cup of tea, you’ll find it in Central America; and I can promise you that!

Note: Despite many people suggesting that Mexico is part of Central America, it has been excluded from this guide as it’s too damn big. Check out this guide to solo travel in Mexico if you’re off to taco-land.

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    1. Get Off The Beaten Track

    Embarking on a solo travel mission presents one with the unique scenario in life of having to answer to no one. Whilst following the crowd can be fun at times, the magic of solo travel is best experienced when going a little bit rogue.

    There is nothing more empowering than wandering off the beaten track, getting lost on purpose, and then finding more than you ever imagined.

    Some of my personal favourite travel experiences have been when I’ve hopped on a moped and driven into the middle of f*cking nowhere. It’s in these remote corners where you can not only find tourist-free hidden gems but also make deep connections with local people who aren’t so used to seeing tourists.

    When Travelling Solo, Travel Safely!

    It’s EXTREMELY important to do things like this safely and carefully. Always take travel safety precautions, especially as a female. Whilst getting lost is fun, it can be dangerous. It’s up to you to decide how much you are comfortable with.

    2. Visit Ancient Mayan Ruins

    Over some 4000 years ago, the Maya civilisation sprawled over 40 cities, some with populations reaching over 50,000 individuals. Central America is littered with enchanting remains of this ancient civilisation.

    Tikal Ruins through the trees
    Mayan magic
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst

    Mayan sites can be found in Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico. I personally explored a nice sample of Mayan sites and can confidently say that none blew my socks off quite like Tikal, in Guatemala. I took a guided day tour of Tikal National Park and it was a highlight of my trip, for sure.

    3. Witness the Wildlife (ETHICALLY!)

    Now then, Central America is home to some of the most INSANE wildlife I have ever seen. The oceans are teeming with all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures and the dense tropical jungles boast some of the highest biodiversity rates in the world. Particularly in countries such as Costa Rica and Guatemala.

    I saw some pretty incredible exotic animals in Central America. My favourite was seeing the iconic sloths of La Fortuna and Monteverde National Park in Costa Rica. I also got to see the rare Quetzal bird in Guatemala’s Tikal National Park. 

    If you head to Caye Caulker in Belize, you’ll find a shallow-water aquatic paradise packed with sharks and rays. That is pretty damn incredible too.

    Sloth in Bocas Del Toro Panama
    Ello m8
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst

    Whatever sort of wildlife tourism you decide to involve yourself in, PLEASE make sure it is with an ethical and reputable company. Ethical animal tourism is for the good of everyone and everything. If you truly love wildlife, ensure they are being treated with respect.

    4. Learn Some Spanish at a Spanish School

    If you are a solo traveller who wants to have meaningful conversations and create connections with local people, there is no better way to do so than by learning Spanish. I’m no expert at Spanish but I’m so glad I spammed Duolingo for 100 days before getting here, it helped me sooo much.

    One of the most popular ways of learning Spanish in Latin America is in a Spanish school. Many solo travellers find themselves here and it’s a good way to meet others who have a similar mindset and goal to yourself. Some of the best locations to join a Spanish school are in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala and San Jose, Heredia or La Fortuna in Costa Rica.

    5. Hike an Active Volcano!

    Hiking a volcano in Central America should be on everyone’s bucket list. There are over 100 volcanoes scattered across the region, many of them still active.

    acatenango and fuego volcano at sunrise in guatemala
    Fuego in all its glory at sunrise!
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst

    One of the highlights of my life was hiking Guatemala’s Acatenango and Feugo volcanoes overnight where you can see eruptions every 15 minutes. Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Panama all have awesome volcano hikes too, but Guatemala is the country to do this – 100%.

    6. Learn to Scuba Dive or Snorkel!

    Central America is one of the cheapest places in the world to dive. Utila in Honduras is a notorious diver’s hotspot and many other locations such as Belize and Costa Rica have awesome dive cultures.

    Two people taking a selfie whilst scuba diving.
    Scuba selfie!
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short.

    Scuba diving or even just snorkelling solo (as part of a tour) is such a fabulous and personal learning experience – whether you’re learning to snorkel or have been doing it for years. From swimming with turtles to learning how to dive into the deep blue – immersing yourself in the underwater world is a grounding experience. Joining a group tour of the Belize barrier reef is possibly the best option for elite sea life.

    7. Take Some Surfing Lessons

    As I said before, Central America is geographically blessed. On both sides of this narrow strip of land, there are two glorious bodies of water – the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

    headstand on a surf board
    It’s a lot easier than it looks…
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst

    Both of these are seriously blessed with some superb waves in the right conditions and are perfect for all types of surfers. If you’re a beginner, I suggest hitting up Costa Rica, somewhere like Tamarindo for surf lessons. If you’re a pro, head to the barreling beasts of Bocas Del Toro in Panama or anywhere in El Salvador.

    8. Embark on a Coffee Plantation Tour

    Central America produces some of the world’s best coffee. If you’re a caffeine addict like me, touring coffee farms on ATV’s and trying all the local coffee is such an awesome experience.

    If you are an extrovert, you can chit-chat away with other coffee lovers on one of these kinds of tours and learn so much about where your favourite speed juice comes from. But, if you’re a quiet, introverted individual, try to enjoy the drive!

    9. Slide Down a Volcano on Your Bum!

    Near Leon, in Nicaragua, is Cerro Negro. Cerro Negro is the home of volcano boarding tours.

    Leon Nicaragua Volcano Boarding
    Family photo
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst

    What’s volcano boarding you ask? Well, it’s sliding down a volcano… on your backside. It’s truly an adrenaline-pumping and unique activity that I can absolutely recommend to everyone.

    Yes, you read that right. Forget snowboarding or surfing, volcano boarding is where it’s at.

    5 Best Solo Destinations in Central America

    Central America is deceivingly large. Most of it is good, some of it’s great, parts of it are awe-inspiring, and some bits are, well, meh.

    Central America is overall a safe location to visit, despite what your family or friends will tell you. That being said, some locations are definitely more suited to solo travellers than others; especially solo female travellers.

    Here are five of the most popular backpacking locations for solo travellers in Central America.

    1. Ometepe, Nicaragua

    Isla Ometepe is a volcanic island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua – the largest lake in Central America. Ometepe is straight out of a fairytale and is one of my favourite locations in the world.

    The travelling community in Ometepe is thriving and there are tons of cool things to do here. Hiking volcanoes, kayaking through mangroves, drinking cocktails on black sand, mango tree-covered beaches and epic moped driving trips are all on the standard backpacker’s Ometepe itinerary.

    girl in lake watching the sunset at ometepe, nicaragua
    Photo: @drew.botcherby

    Nicaragua in general (Ometepe included) is one of the most affordable countries in Central America and my gosh it’s insane value for money. What you get for your money here is simply astounding compared to what you get in neighbouring countries like Costa Rica.

    If you are heading to Ometepe, which you absolutely should, stay in El Zopilote. It’s a gorgeous off-grid hostel and permaculture farm with a good social vibe that’s perfect for solo travellers. Beds are available for just $5 per night!

    2. Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

    Lake Atitlan is a staple location for those backpacking in Guatemala. Surrounded by volcanoes on all sides, Lake Atitlan is a gorgeous lake with numerous picturesque towns scattered around its perimeter.

    Some notable locations include Panajachel, San Marcos, and my personal favourite – San Pedro La Laguna. San Pedro La Laguna is one of the most fun and action-packed little towns in Guatemala. It’s a solo travellers paradise.

    Lago de Atitlán <3

    Some of the best things to do in San Pedro La Laguna include attending a Spanish school, which is extremely popular amongst backpackers. Another popular activity in San Pedro is to party the night (or day) away; the drinking culture here is elite.

    If you want to indulge in a more peaceful time, hike up the Indian Nose for astounding lake views or head to San Marcos. This town is well-known for its yoga retreats and zen vibe.

    If you head to San Pedro and want to party, stay in Mr. Mullets. This super social party hostel is fantastic for extroverted solo travellers. Each Thursday, it hosts the most epic boat party in the middle of Lake Atitlan that lasts all day and will have you meeting new travel buddies with ease!

    3. Bocas Del Toro, Panama

    Located on Isla Colon in a Caribbean archipelago is Bocas Del Toro. Bocas Del Toro is undoubtedly the best location in Panama for backpackers of all types, including solo backpackers. Bocas itself is a lively beachside town with a thriving Caribbean culture and an abundance of activities for backpackers.

    Solo travelling in Bocas Del Toro is just so much bloody fun! Some of the best activities for solo travellers in Bocas Del Toro to do are renting bicycles and exploring, beach hopping tours, surfing lessons and of course, attending the famous Filthy Friday party.

    bocas del toro cyclists
    Cycle buddies 🙂
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst

    Whilst Bocas Del Toro is definitely not the cheapest place to visit on this list, it is definitely one you cannot miss. The tranquil white sand beaches of Bocas and the many surrounding islands are divine.

    If you are looking for a place to stay in Bocas Del Toro I can recommend Bambuda Bocas Town. This hostel is better than the overpriced and busy Selina nearby and has amazing decking right on the sea where you can see starfish and swim in the gorgeous clear water.

    4. Antigua, Guatemala

    I had to get at least one city on this list. Antigua in Guatemala is definitely my favourite city in Central America (sorry Panama City), and to be honest, I think most backpackers would agree with me on this one.

    Staying in Antigua is fan-bloody-tastic, and nothing short of perfect for solo travellers! This extremely affordable and charming city is so photogenic. Hike up to the Cerro de la Cruz for a brilliant view or simply wander the cobbled streets with a good travel camera in hand. You won’t want to miss these photo-ops. My fav camera to travel with is the Panasonic LUMIX ZS100.

    Volcano in Antigua Guatemala
    The view from Cerro de la Cruz 🙂
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst

    Most backpackers who find themselves in Antigua also embark on the Acatenango overnight hike to witness erupting lava right in front of their eyes! However, if you’re a beginner hiker or you are looking for an easier or more accessible hike, head to the nearby Pacaya Volcano.

    My favourite hostel in Antigua is Adra Hostel. There is a great social vibe at Adra and I met some buddies to hike Acatensngo here too! There is also a gorgeous rooftop where you can marvel at Volcán de Agua all day long.

    5. La Fortuna, Costa Rica

    There’s one thing you should know before we proceed. Costa Rica is expensive! With that out the way, let’s talk about my favourite place in Costa Rica, La Fortuna.

    Costa Rica may be expensive, but it’s expensive for a reason. The pura vida lifestyle in Costa Rica is one to be desired, for sure.

    La Fortuna in Costa Rica is a small, lush, jungly town situated close to the marvellous Arenal Volcano. There are a bunch of backpackers in La Fortuna and it’s a great place for solo travellers to come and hang out. Amongst some of the best activities areas are, of course, exploring the Arenal Volcano National Park, and checking out the stunning and famous Fortuna Waterfall.

    Arenal Volcano Costa Rica
    Arenal Volcano is just fabulous

    There are so many cute Airbnbs in La Fortuna but if you are a solo traveller, you’ll probably want to stay in a hostel. Arenal Backpackers Resort is the most popular hostel in town and has the best, most social atmosphere to suit you solo travellers.

    The Best Travel Apps for Solo Travel in Central America

    Having the right apps for travel can make your life a whole lot easier. Solo travel in Central America can be hard, but with some of these tools in your pocket, it can make life just that little bit easier.

    • Hostelworld – The best way to search and book affordable dorms or private rooms
    • – For all of your other accommodation needs at great prices
    • Couchsurfing – Ideal for budget travellers but not advised for solo female travellers
    • Tinder – Suitable for meeting friends (and lovers) in foreign places
    • Hinge – Designed for dating and meeting likeminded travellers
    • Bumble – Ideal for making new (special) friends
    • – Downloading offline maps can be an epic way to get off the beaten track
    • Rome2Rio – An elite travel app that helps you get from any A to B in the world
    • Currency – To check exchange rates and conversions for all the different currencies you’ll need
    • Duolingo + Google Translate – Brush up on your Spanish and let Google Translate do the rest
    • Holafly – An e-SIM application that allows you to download a data-only SIM card without installing a physical card

    If meeting like-minded travellers is your goal, check out the current popular Facebook groups for travellers in Central America.

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    Safety Tips for Solo Travellers in Central America

    Staying safe in Central America is much easier than most people think. Whilst Central America definitely can be a very dangerous place at times, if you take some pretty basic travel precautions, you should be fine!

    amanda hitchhiking in the back of a truck
    Solo female hitchhiking and still alive
    Photo: @amandaadraper

    Some countries in Central America are most definitely safer places than others. And even within these countries, there are some safe areas and some no-go places. I’ve done my best to break down the Central American countries with some basic safety info for ya’.

    • Guatemala – Safe enough. Most of the touristy areas are very safe. Guatemala City is perhaps the least safe location in the country. Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Xela and Flores are all very safe for tourists.
    • Belize – High crime rates, but mostly gang-related. If you stay out of the way, (especially in Belize City) you’ll be fine. Solo female travellers should take extra care in Belize. Caye Caulker is safe.
    • El Salvador – Used to be VERY unsafe for travel; nowadays just IS safe for travel. Play it safe.
    • Honduras – Perhaps the least safe country on this list. Utila and Roatan are safe. Most of the mainland can be travelled safely, but is for experienced travellers only. Do not wander at night.
    • Nicaragua – Nicaragua is mostly safe. Popular locations like Ometepe, San Juan Del Sur, Popoyo, Leon and Granada are all safe for backpackers. Standard travel tips apply, beware of petty crime.
    • Costa Rica – The safest country on this list. Take some care in San Jose and other major cities, but you will be safe in most backpacker hotspots: La Fortuna, Monteverde, Tamarindo, Puerto Viejo etc.
    • Panama – Very 50/50. Locations such as Bocas Del Toro, Panama City and Boquete are safe. DO NOT travel to remote areas solo in Panama, it is unsafe. Research your chosen destinations well.

    Travelling safely in Central America is done by knowing your limits, trusting your gut and most importantly, using common sense.

    Tips for Solo Travelling in Central America

    I’ve come up with eight quick tips to make your experiences in Central America better. All of these tips can enhance your solo travel experience, or save your ass (especially the final tip).

    • Plan YOUR own trip. Keep plans flexible, but don’t let others stop you from doing what you want.
    • Budget accordingly and time spent in different regions. Beware that Costa Rica, Belize and Panama are far more expensive than other countries like Nicaragua or Honduras.
    • Know a basic level of Spanish – vital in more remote regions. However, Spanish fluency isn’t essential to travel to Central America, and you can get by knowing minimal Spanish.
    • Be bold! Approach people, express yourself and engage with local people and businesses.
    • Join group tours and hike volcanoes! Hiking Acatenago and sliding down Cerro Negro are cool. Tours are a great way to make friends in Central America whilst ticking off bucket-list adventures.
    • Stay in a hostel! Some of my favourites in Central America include the super-remote, jungly Greengo’s Hotel and the castaway private beach feel of Surfing Turtle Lodge.
    • Try to fly into Cancun or Medellin to enter (or exit) Central America. Solo flight tickets can be found to and from these locations at cheap prices, globally.
    • Travel insurance is essential for solo travellers. With no one there to watch your back, you need to have some backup. Some good travel insurance is the best way to cover yourself.

    ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

    They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

    SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

    Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

    Final Words for Your Solo Central America Trip

    Solo travelling in Central America will be one of the best experiences of your life – and I can guarantee that. I’ve never met a solo traveller who has set foot in this incredible land and said otherwise.

    best volcanoes guatemala
    “When bro says he knew a good chill spot”
    Photo: Ana Pereira

    I would suggest that you spend a minimum of two months travelling in Central America if you want to even scratch the surface of the magnificent region. If you plan on visiting each country in Central America, you may want to begin and end your trip in either Cancun or Medellin respectively (depending on your direction of travel). These hotspots offer the best flight rates and are a bunch of fun in their own rights.

    The route that most backpackers take skips out either Honduras or El Salvador and sometimes Belize too. These countries are “skippable” (if that’s even a thing). I’m not sure it is.

    One thing I’m sure of though is that Guatemala and Nicaragua are absolutely UNSKIPPABLE. They are two of my favourite countries in the world.

    When travelling solo it’s also important to have flexible plans. You never know, you may meet the love of your life, a bunch of great new mates or fall in love with a specific place and want to stay.

    I hope you’ve been inspired to solo travel in Central America. All that’s left to do now is to pack your bag, book that flight and GO! You got this, I believe in you.

    San Blas Islands, Panama
    See you here, mate.
    Photo: @joemiddlehurst
    Looking for more info on travelling to Central America?