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The 15 Best Places to Visit in Central America (Updated for 2023)

The 15 Best Places to Visit in Central America (Updated for 2023)

Central America is a popular destination for many travelers, thanks in large part to the climate and landscape.

The countries that make up Central America are known for their wild jungles, historical ruins of great empires, stunning beaches, and amazing and colorful cultures.

If the few things we mentioned seem enticing, you won’t want to miss our list. Our travel experts have rounded up the most unique places you can visit, a few things to consider before going, and more. Let us be your guide!

15 of the Best Places to Visit in Central America

Across this journey, we’ll explore Mayan temples, some of the world’s best beaches for snorkeling and diving, and hiking trails that end with breathtaking views.

Some of our favorite destinations are peppered across this beautiful corner of the world. Let’s dive in!

1. Antigua, Guatemala

Main road going through colorful red and blue and yellow homes with a yellow arch above the street at the end and the giant volcano in the background in Antigua, a top pick for the best places to visit in Central America


This quaint, colonial city is home to cobblestone streets, grand buildings, and a thriving local culture. Visit the neighborhood markets, take in the vibrant architecture and energetic environment, or climb the adjacent volcanoes for breathtaking vistas.

During your visit, be sure to pick up some locally-sourced coffee. You can even visit plantations and learn about the coffee-growing process.

Read Next: When to Visit Antigua in 2023 & Where to Stay in Antigua: Best Areas

2. Tulum, Mexico

A small number of tourists playing in the water below the ruins of Tulum, a top pick for must-visit places in Central America, and sun shining down from the deep blue sky above

Patryk Kosmider/Shutterstock

Tulum is where you can find the best of Mexico’s Caribbean coast. It’s known for its magnificent beaches, crystal-clear waters, and prehistoric Mayan ruins.

Visit the ancient ruins of Tulum, go diving or snorkeling, or simply unwind on the white-sand beaches. Nature lovers will not want to miss Sian Ka’an, a massive protected area along the Caribbean coast where you can see many exotic animals.

Read Next: What a Trip to Tulum Costs in 2023 & The Best & Worst Times to Visit Tulum

3. San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Jesus statue towering over the beach and water below in one of the best places to visit in Central America, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua


San Juan del Sur is a well-known surf town on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. You get a blend of relaxed beach vibes and bustling activity thanks to the lively nightlife and a variety of outdoor sports. Go surfing, eat locally-sourced seafood, or take a boat cruise to visit the adjacent islands and coves.

4. Panama City, Panama

For a roundup of the best places to visit in Central America, the modern skyline of downtown Panama City towers over the roads and water below

Gualberto Becerra/Shutterstock

Panama City is one of the most easily accessible Central American cities to visit, thanks to quick flights from Miami. Plus, the country mainly uses the American dollar, so you don’t have to convert your cash to have fun.

Once you arrive, it’s easy to immerse yourself in the ideal blend of historic and contemporary attractions. Explore the Panama Canal, stroll through the famed Casco Viejo district, or enjoy the view of the city from one of the many rooftop bars.

5. Caye Caulker, Belize

Pristine white sand beach meets the crystal-clear teal water in Caye Caulker, Belize, a top pick for the must-visit places to visit in Central America

Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock

For those seeking a leisurely beach holiday, this laid-back island off the coast of Belize is the ideal location. Swim with sharks and rays at the adjacent Hol Chan Marine Reserve or just relax on the sand beaches.

6. Roatan, Honduras

Gorgeous view of the endless white sand beach and clear water adjacent to a stunning resort in Roatan


Situated in the Caribbean Sea, Roatan is a lovely island with unspoiled beaches, clear oceans, and deep cultural history. If you find yourself in Roatan, explore the Garifuna culture, go snorkeling or scuba diving, or just enjoy the breathtaking views from one of the island’s many hilltop viewpoints.

7. Monteverde, Costa Rica

For a roundup of Central America's best places to visit, a metal suspension bridge spans the valley below in the rainforest of Monteverde

J.L. Levy/Shutterstock

With its lush greenery, diverse native species, and breathtaking panoramas, Costa Rica’s cloud forest is a nature lover’s heaven. Visit one of the numerous nearby nature reserves, explore the hanging bridges, or go on a zip-line excursion through the forest.

8. Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Copan Ruinas, Honduras, one of our favorite places to visit in Central America, pictured in the middle of the ball courts, part of the stunning Mayan ruins you'll find there, on a blue-sky day with a few clouds overhead

Diego Grandi/Shutterstock

History buffs must visit the Copan Ruinas in Honduras, an old Mayan metropolis that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If you want to learn more about the region there is no better way than taking a guided tour. Your guide can provide a plethora of information about the history, culture, and key spots to visit before you leave.

9. Granada, Nicaragua

Stunning view of the empty streets in Granada, Nicaragua, with its lampposts lining the streets and an orange church in the background

Granada, Nicaragua – January 2, 2017:One of the oldest colonial city in Nicaragua.Its colonial buildings in pastel shades, interesting history and relative safety make it an important tourism/Kanokratnok/Shutterstock

With its vibrant, colonial-style buildings, gorgeous streets, and extensive cultural history, this colonial town in Nicaragua is a charming vacation spot.

See the old cathedrals, take in the local architecture, or go kayaking on Lake Nicaragua.

10. Arenal, Costa Rica

The mammoth Arenal volcano pictured towering over the jungle below with clouds overhead


Travel to Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano, a scenic natural wonder with hiking trails, hot springs, and breathtaking vistas. Appreciate the unique fauna, soak in the hot springs, or trek to the volcano’s summit for breathtaking vistas.

11. Flores, Guatemala

Cobblestone streets of Flores, Guatemala, one of our favorite places to visit in Central America


Flores is a lovely colonial hamlet that serves as a gateway to the surrounding Mayan ruins of Tikal. It is located on an island in the Petén Itzá Lake.

The town is known for its brightly colored houses, cobblestone walkways, and bustling waterfront with pubs and restaurants. Flores is a wonderful spot to unwind and discover the area’s extensive history and scenic splendor.

12. Bocas del Toro, Panamá

Very unique over-water bungalow pictured in Bocas del Toro, a Caribbean destination and one of the best places to visit in Central America


Bocas del Toro is a Caribbean archipelago known for its relaxed nature. The nine islands have pristine white-sand beaches and turquoise waters and are fully catered to tend to your relaxation needs.

It’s also a perfect place for fishing, snorkeling, and bottle-diving, especially if you consider that there’s a coral reef surrounding the islands!

13. Granadilla, Nicaragua

Unique coffee plantation used to represent one of the best places to visit in Central America, Granadilla, Nicaragua

Granadilla, a small town in Nicaragua’s highlands, is well-known for its coffee farms, colonial buildings, and picturesque mountain views.

It has a stunning neoclassical cathedral, a vibrant fountain, and a bustling market where people can purchase local products. The lively nightlife in Granadilla offers live music, traditional dances, and delectable food.

14. La Ceiba, Honduras

Beautiful and empty port of La Ceiba, a top pick for places to visit in Central America, pictured with its long wooden boardwalk leading up to the downtown area

Quiony Navarro/Shutterstock

La Ceiba, a bustling city with white sand beaches, lush jungles, and vibrant culture, is situated on Honduras’ Caribbean coast. Besides several museums, parks, and markets, La Ceiba also hosts a famous carnival that is held each May.

If you’re looking for high adrenaline levels, visit the Pico Bonito National Park. There, you’ll be able to hike trails, witness waterfalls, and see a variety of fauna that includes toucans, monkeys, and even jaguars.

15. Leon, Nicaragua

Adventurous young woman in overalls pictured holding her arms above her head on the roof of the cathedral in Leon, a top pick for must-visit areas in Central America


Leon is known for its colonial architecture, eye-catching murals, and thriving cultural life. The city’s main square is home to the Cathedral of Leon, a statue of the national hero Ruben Dario, and a bustling market where tourists may purchase regional handicrafts and mementos.

If you’re into trekking across nature, find a guided tour across volcanoes or lakes. You’ll also find that you can try kayaking, swimming, and paddle boarding in the lakes.

Things to Consider

Beachgoers, adventurers, and nature lovers flock to Central America because there’s something for everyone. No matter your reason for traveling to Central America, it’s important to consider some key factors:

  • Safety: Most Central American countries are safe to travel to, but always pay attention to your surroundings and research crime alerts in the areas you’re traveling to before you leave.
  • Climate and weather: Central America’s tropical climate means it’s hot and muggy for most of the year, but they still experience seasonal changes and severe weather at times. Be sure to check the region to know what you’re getting into and pack accordingly.
  • Language: Most Central American countries speak Spanish, but you’ll find many people that speak English. Before you travel, it may be beneficial to learn some fundamental Spanish expressions.
  • Culture: The people of Central America are from a variety of indigenous, European, and African cultures. It’s crucial to respect regional traditions and customs and to take care of your appearance, demeanor, and social interactions.
  • Budget:  Central America can be an affordable travel destination, but the cost of getting there, buying food, and accommodations can vary. Before you travel, we advise doing some research. Remember that the cheapest option may not be the best deal.
  • Dress code: Central American nations frequently have a conservative culture, so it’s crucial to avoid offending anyone by dressing inappropriately. Avoid showing too much skin or wearing beachwear anywhere other than the beach.
  • Be kind and considerate: Central American people value kindness and respect, so it’s important to observe social niceties. Always say “hi” and “goodbye,” and address older people or those in positions of power with formal titles (such as “Senor” or “Senora”).

Frequently Asked Questions

Unique old building with a fountain in front and a brick walking path running the width of the building for a piece on the best places to visit in Central America

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA – JANUARY 18: Night scene of the square in front of the famous National Theater of Costa Rica in San Jose in the night of Jan 18, 2015/Mihai-Bogdan Lazar/Shutterstock

Traveling to a different country, especially one you’ve never visited before, can come with many questions. Hopefully, we can answer a few of them in the following section:

What is the best country in Central America to visit?

The best country in Central America to visit is Costa Rica. It stands out as an excellent choice because the small nation offers something for everyone, and it’s relatively safe.

Whether you’re interested in nature or adventure activities, or simply want a relaxing beach vacation, Costa Rica is a safe bet.

What is the safest country to visit in Central America?

Costa Rica is also the safest country to visit in Central America. According to the Global Peace Index, Costa Rica is 38th in the world in terms of safety.

For comparison, the United States ranks 129th on the same chart. Costa Rica has the most stable government in the region and boasts low crime levels, both regionally and globally.

What is the cheapest country to visit in Central America?

The cheapest country to visit in Central America is Costa Rica. It offers a range of activities and attractions at affordable pricing, making it the ideal location for people on a limited budget.

From tent camping to five-star resorts, you can select hotel alternatives that fit your budget. Also, Costa Rica boasts an advanced public transportation network that includes inexpensive buses and taxis that are available all around the country.

What is the most stable country in Central America?

Costa Rica is regarded as being the most stable country in Central America. It has a strong economy, low levels of corruption, and a functioning democracy with free and fair elections.

Life expectancy, educational achievement, and ease of access to healthcare are all very high indicators of human development in Costa Rica. It also has a relatively low crime rate when compared to other countries in the region.

Is Central America safe for US tourists?

In general, Central America is secure for American tourists. However, there are unsafe areas anywhere you go, so it’s important to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings. Stay informed of the security conditions in any nation you intend to visit.

Most Central American nations, such as Costa Rica, Belize, and Panama, have strong tourism sectors and offer security to visitors. But, some places, particularly in big cities, can be more dangerous.

What’s the most beautiful Central American Country?

The most beautiful Central American country award has to go to Costa Rica as well. This country truly is worth exploring for its unmatched beauty.

From gorgeous vistas to dense jungles, from massive national parks to stunning unending beaches, Costa Rica has been one of our favorite vacation spots ever since we went there for the first time.

So, What Is the Best Place In Central America?

Generally speaking, all of Central America is prime for tourism with mild to hot weather, gorgeous beaches, and exciting nightlife. Costa Rica is probably the best place to visit in Central America because it’s safer and cheaper than the other countries.

That said, you can’t go wrong with any of the locations on this list. Make sure you do your research and find a spot that gives you everything you want from a vacation. So what are you waiting for — book your trip today!