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Backpacking Central America Travel Itinerary

This Central America travel itinerary highlights some of the best destinations in this vibrant region for art, culture, history, and adventure. This guide shares can’t-miss things to do in Central America, from the charming colonial city of Antigua in Guatemala to the laid-back island of Caye Caulker in Belize and the lush cloud forest of Monteverde in Costa Rica. These are the ideal backpacking Central America routes to explore the region’s top sights in one month.

Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours, and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 
Best Central America ToursClick here to check out the top Central America tours
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Best Central America Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Central America

1-Month Central America Travel Itinerary

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One month of work seems like an eternity, while one month of travel goes by in a flash—it’s funny how that works. If you’re thinking of spending one month backpacking Central America and are unsure what to do, we’ve got you!

Narrowing down the best things to do in Central America is challenging, but I suggest focusing on Guatemala, Belize, and Costa Rica. If you try to cram more than three countries into your Central America itinerary, you’ll run around too much and spend a lot of money.

So, what’s the best one-month Central America backpacking route? Let’s get into it!

Central America Travel: Guatemala 9-Day Itinerary

Guatemala is a captivating Central American country with a rich indigenous culture and colonial heritage. Antigua has stunning architecture and vibrant markets, while Lake Atitlan boasts breathtaking natural beauty.

You can also explore the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal, hike active volcanoes, surf in El Paredon, and sample delicious local cuisine. Guatemala’s warm and friendly people, stunning landscapes, and unique cultural experiences make it a top destination for travel to Central America.

Here’s what to do and where to spend nine days in Guatemala.

1. Antigua

An Awesome 1 Month Central America Itinerary

Antigua is a picturesque colonial city located in the highlands of Guatemala. With its cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and impressive architecture, Antigua exudes old-world charm and elegance. 

One of Antigua’s most iconic landmarks is the Arco de Santa Catalina, a stunning archway connecting two convents and offering breathtaking city views. Another must-visit attraction is the local market, where you can find various handicrafts, textiles, and local foods. 

Hiking the Pacaya Volcano is one of the most popular things to do in Central America because of the stunning landscape views. There’s even a pizza place that uses the volcano’s heat to cook its pies!

For a more challenging adventure, hike up Acetango Volcano, where you can see lava while camping overnight. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but the hike up is killer!

Wondering where to stay in Antigua? Check out these options!

Hotel Boutique Los Pasos & Spa
Cacao Boutique Hotel

2. Lake Atitlan

An Awesome 1 Month Central America Itinerary

Lake Atitlan is a tranquil and scenic destination in the Guatemalan highlands. Surrounded by volcanoes and lush forests, the lake offers a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Kayaking on the lake is a popular activity that allows visitors to admire the beauty of the lake and its surroundings. Another must-see attraction at Lake Atitlan is the indigenous villages that dot its shores. 

These towns offer a glimpse into the rich culture and traditions of the Mayan people and provide an opportunity to purchase handmade crafts and textiles. The most popular cities for Central America backpacker tourists are Panajachel and San Pedro.

Luckily, it’s easy to visit them all—hop on a boat, and you’re on the way!

Wondering where to stay in Lake Atitlan? Check out these options!

Eco Hotel Uxlabil Atitlan
Mikaso Hotel

3. Tikal

An Awesome 1 Month Central America Itinerary

Tikal is an ancient Mayan city located in the rainforests of Guatemala. It was one of the Mayan civilization’s largest and most influential cities, with impressive structures such as temples, pyramids, and plazas. Tikal’s peak was during the Classic Period, from the 6th to the 10th century AD, and it played a significant role in Mayan culture and history. Today, Tikal is a popular tourist destination and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Squeeze Tikal into your Central America travel itinerary, as it’s also the pathway to entering the following country. We suggest doing a day tour from Flores, where you’ll base yourself. Then, it’s time to pack up and move on to the next country.

Wondering where to stay in Tikal? Check out these options!

Hotel Jungle Lodge Tikal
Hotel Jaguar Inn Tikal
Jungle Lodge Tikal Hostal

Quick Tip: View my full Guatemala packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my Guatemala Essentials shopping list here.

Central America Travel: Belize 8-Day Itinerary

An Awesome 1 Month Central America Itinerary

Continue your Central America backpacking route in Belize, a small country famous for its beautiful Caribbean coastline, lush tropical jungles, and impressive Mayan ruins. Here, you can explore ancient archaeological sites, swim with nurse sharks and rays in the crystal-clear waters of the Belize Barrier Reef, and relax on white-sand beaches.

The country also has diverse wildlife, including jaguars, howler monkeys, and colorful birds. With its unique blend of cultures and laid-back atmosphere, Belize is a destination that appeals to adventure-seekers, beach lovers, and history buffs alike.

Here are the best things to do in Belize when you travel to Central America.

1. San Ignacio

An Awesome 1 Month Central America Itinerary

San Ignacio, Belize, is easily reached from Flores, Guatemala, via a quick and easy bus ride.

San Ignacio is a charming town in western Belize that serves as a hub for Mayan ruins and outdoor adventures. The ATM cave is a popular attraction in San Ignacio, where visitors can have a unique and thrilling experience seeing a cave filled with Mayan artifacts and skeletons. 

The Xunantunich Mayan ruins are another must-visit attraction in San Ignacio. They give visitors a glimpse into the ancient civilization that once thrived in this region. This is your last chance to enjoy the historic ruins on your Central America itinerary.

Wondering where to stay in San Ignacio? Check out these options!

Cahal Pech Village Resort
Rolson Hotel
Venus Hotel

2. Caye Caulker

An Awesome 1 Month Central America Itinerary

Caye Caulker is a laid-back island off the coast of Belize known for its crystal-clear waters, colorful coral reefs, and friendly locals. Diving and snorkeling are some of the most popular things to do in Central, and Caye Caulker is the ideal place to swim with nurse sharks and explore coral reefs.

The motto is to go slow, so get ready to immerse in Carribean time. The island also offers a variety of dining options that feature fresh seafood, which is a must-try. The food in Belize will be some of the most delicious and fresh you’ll eat on this itinerary—trust me!

Wondering where to stay in Caye Caulker? Check out these options!

Colinda Cabanas
La Isla Resort
Barefoot Beach Belize

3. San Pedro

An Awesome 1 Month Central America Itinerary

San Pedro is a bustling beach town on Ambergris Caye in Belize, with vibrant nightlife, restaurants, and beautiful beaches. Beach-hopping is a popular activity in San Pedro, and Secret Beach (which is not so secret) is the best spot for lounging in paradise. Like Caye Caulker, there are many snorkeling trips to enjoy and yummy fresh seafood to try. Speaking about food, make time for a dinner at Elvi’s—it’s so worth it.

This is the halfway point on your Central America backpacker itinerary, so take the time to relax before you pack up and move on to Costa Rica. When your time in San Pedro, Belize, is up, you’ll take the quick ferry back to mainland Belize and catch a flight from Belize to Costa Rica.

Wondering where to stay in San Pedro? Check out these options!

Mata Rocks Resort
Blue Tang Inn
Belize Budget Suites

Central America Travel: Costa Rica 13-Day Itinerary

Costa Rica is a lush and vibrant country known for its abundant wildlife, stunning beaches, and impressive volcanoes. It offers a wealth of outdoor adventures, such as ziplining, surfing, and hiking through dense rainforests. You can relax in natural hot springs, explore diverse national parks like Manuel Antonio and Arenal Volcano, and experience the vibrant Caribbean culture of Puerto Viejo.

Here’s what to do while backpacking Costa Rica.

1. La Fortuna

An Awesome 1 Month Central America Itinerary

La Fortuna, located in northern Costa Rica, is a popular backpacking Central America destination for its stunning scenery and natural hot springs. It is the gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park, home to the over 5,000-foot-tall Arenal Volcano. You can hike the volcano and its surrounding landscapes and relax in nearby hot springs.

There are many things to do in La Fortuna, but one of the main highlights is hiking to La Fortuna Waterfall, which plunges 250 feet (75 meters) into a massive pool of water.

Wondering where to stay in La Fortuna? Check out these options!

Los Lagos Spa & Thermal Resort Experience
The Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa & Resort
Paradise Hot Springs

2. Monteverde

An Awesome 1 Month Central America Itinerary

Monteverde is a cloud forest reserve in Costa Rica and a paradise for nature lovers. As one of the world’s most biodiverse areas, Monteverde offers many opportunities to explore local flora and fauna. It’s easy to see why many backpacking Central America routes feature Monteverde. 

Adventurers can soar through the canopy on Latin America’s longest zipline, hike through the forest, or take a guided nature tour to spot exotic animals such as monkeys, sloths, and jaguars. Some animals are difficult to spot, so take at least one guided tour in Costa Rica.

Here’s how to get to and from La Fortuna and Monteverde. Luckily, it’s pretty easy and very scenic.

Wondering where to stay in Monteverde? Check out these options!

Hotel Flor de Bromelia
Dreams Lodge
Camino Verde B&B

3. Manuel Antonio

An Awesome 1 Month Central America Itinerary

Manuel Antonio is a national park on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. It is home to some of the country’s most beautiful white sand beaches, and the park’s diverse wildlife includes monkeys, sloths, and iguanas. Visitors backpacking Central America can hike through the lush tropical forest, relax on the beach, or join a guided tour to see the wildlife up close.

There are also some stunning beaches to lounge on here, but watch out for the cheeky monkeys and coatis. They might rummage or steal some of your stuff!

Wondering where to stay in Manuel Antonio? Check out these options!

Shana by the Beach Manuel Antonio
Igloo Beach Lodge
Parador Nature Resort and Spa

4. Puerto Viejo

An Awesome 1 Month Central America Itinerary

Puerto Viejo is a Caribbean beach town on the southern coast of Costa Rica. It is an epic spot to end your Central America travel experience! It has a unique Afro-Caribbean culture, reflected in its food, music, and art. You can explore the nearby national parks, including Cahuita National Park and Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, which offer the chance to see wildlife like sloths.

Anyone who needs to work on their surf skills can head to Playa Cocles to rent a board for $5 an hour and start practicing. For a peaceful afternoon of kayaking and coconut sipping, take a tuk-tuk to Punta Uva, a gorgeous stretch of sand where you can relax.

Wondering where to stay in Puerto Viejo? Check out these options!

Colina Secreta
Terrazas del Caribe Aparthotel
Hotel Indalo

Tips for Travel to Central America

  • Visiting too many countries can be tiring and expensive, so prioritize a few destinations.
  • Don’t underestimate the need for a good-quality travel backpack for your trip. Your back will thank you!
  • Take everyday precautions and keep your belongings nearby. These countries are overall safe, but it’s wise to keep your wits about you.
  • All three countries here use different currencies. In Guatemala, it’s the Quetzal; in Costa Rica, it’s the Colón; and in Belize, it’s the Belizean Dollar.
  • You can change the order of this Central America itinerary to accommodate what makes sense for you. If you find a better flight deal to Costa Rica, head there first and then to Guatemala and Belize. Always check the best deals from your starting city.

Quick Tip: Check out my Central America Essentials shopping list here.

Packing Essentials for Backpacking Central America

  1. Sarong: A versatile sarong used as a beach cover-up, towel, or scarf will keep you stylish and practical.
  2. Portable water filter: Stay hydrated and healthy by filtering your water when needed and reducing plastic waste.
  3. Solar-powered portable charger: Keep your devices charged even when you’re off the grid with a solar-powered portable charger. Remember that phones are also our cameras nowadays, so you’ll need to charge them on the go.
  4. Insect repellent: Protect yourself from mosquito and other insect bites! In these countries, they can come out in full force with little warning. Belize has bottle flies as well, which are particularly annoying. Bring the DEET!
  5. A good backpack: Don’t go cheap on your main backpack. Your back will hate you! Yes, I’m reminding you again. There are many quality bag options, so don’t get caught with a broken strap on day five of your Central America backpacking route.
  6. Waterproof dry bag: Keep your stuff safe and dry with a waterproof dry bag. This is your best friend on a rainy day or when going to the beach.
  7. Quick-drying hiking shoes: Hiking is one of the top things to do in Central America, so invest in a pair of quick-drying hiking shoes that provide comfort, support, and good traction on varied terrain. There are many volcanoes, waterfalls, and jungles to explore!

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $45.08. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

Central America Travel Guide Planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Central America?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Central America which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Central America on Amazon here.

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in Central America?

I strongly recommend using GottoGo. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Central America?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack. 

1-Month Central America Travel Itinerary: Final Thoughts

One month is the perfect length of time to travel to Central America and experience the region’s top highlights. There are many backpacking Central America routes to maximize your time and create unforgettable memories. We hope this Central America backpacker itinerary helps you plan a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Author’s Bio

1 Month Central America Itinerary,1 month in central america,central america,Central America travel,Central America itinerary

Nina has been traveling the world since 2011 and blogging at Where in the World is Nina along the way. She can be found hiking volcanoes, swimming with fish friends, or surfing waves. Nina’s blog helps wannabe long-term travelers find ways to work abroad and remotely to continue exploring the world for longer!

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An Awesome 1 Month Central America Itinerary