Central America, Central America Guides, Central America Series

Visiting Central America Itineraries Guide

Last Updated on April 21, 2019 by Bryony Clapperton

Looking for some suggested Central America itineraries for planning a 4 or 6 week backpacking trip?

Here’s an itineraries guide for Central America including all the popular Central America backpacking routes.

Perfect for budget travellers visiting Central America for 4 weeks or longer. Including everything you need to know before planning your Central America backpacking route.

Central America Itineraries

Planning Central America itineraries

In Central America you’ll soon learn that you can get from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific in under 10 hours. This makes planning your itineraries and Central America backpacking route very exciting.

You can cross through one country into the next in under 8 hours on a shuttle bus. You can easily explore jungle, volcanoes, beaches and more in this diverse area.

But as with planning any trip sorting out your route and your Central America itineraries is crucial.

To help with this I’ve pulled together some suggested 4, 5 and 6 week itineraries for a backpacking trip to Central America.

Planning for your backpacking trip to Central America can be really easy due to the accessibility of the countries and the available transport options and routes.

Border crossings are also very easy when you know the right information.

My Central America backpacking route

We had a lot of time to spend in Central America and managed to experience every country except Belize.

The below Central America route can be covered in roughly 8 – 12 weeks.

Obviously not everyone has 12 weeks to dedicate to planning their Central America itinerary but I have pulled together some options for 4 – 6 weeks itineraries in Central America.

Central America backpacking routes

2 – 4 weeks Central America backpacking route

Belize, Guatemala and Honduras

The above backpacking route it the ideal Central America itinerary if you only have 2 – 4 weeks. You can easily cover some of the gems of Central America in this time.

This popular Belize and Guatemala route in Central America incorporates two of the most popular countries in the region.

If you’re backpacking Central America for only a small time you will want to consider this route as you get a mix of coast, interior and Culture.

Caye Caulker is the place to be. Lobster, cocktails and diving and a big blue hole. For 2 – 4 weeks backpacking fly to Belize City and head straight to Caye Caulker to dive.

Spend one night the capital as mostly Central American capitals aren’t as tourist friendly as you’d wish. Head into Guatemala and enjoy the backpacker favourite of Semuc Champey.

Take an optional trip to Lake Atitlan or go direct to Antigua before going to Honduras. When in Honduras visit Copan Ruins another favourite on most Central America itineraries.

Belize City, BelizeYellow2
Caye Caulker, BelizeBlue4
Semuc Champey, GuatemalaPurple3
Lake Atitlan, GuatemalaOptional5
Antigua, GuatemalaPink3
Copan Ruins, HondurasGreen2
Central American palm trees
Palm trees in Panama

5 weeks Central America backpacking route

The Islands of Central America

Some Central American itineraries are more tailored than others. This one is ideal for scuba divers and island lovers.

Take 4/5 weeks for your backing Central America route. Fly into Guatemala City and spend some time in Lake Atitlan.

Why not check out Antigua too? From Guatemala tick off the Ruins of Copan in Honduras. They are situated on the border between Guatemala and Honduras.

From here you can either head to Belize or The Bay Islands in Honduras for some more diving. If you enjoy the coast and the ocean then why not do both.

If you have a little longer for your Central America itinerary consider flying down to Little Corn Island, Nicaragua for some more world class diving spots.

This is a fabulous and extremely common itinerary for divers and if you can incorporate an internal flight, you can easily spend the ideal 5 weeks on this Central America backpacking route.

DestinationPin Nights
Guatemala City, GuatemalaOptional1
Antigua, GuatemalaOptional2
Lake Atitlan, GuatemalaGreen4
Copan Ruins, HondurasOrange2
Belize City, BelizeOptional1
Caye Caulker, BelizeYellow5
Utila, Bay Islands, HondurasPurple4
Roatan, Bay Islands, HondurasPink4
Little Corn Island, NicaraguaOptional5

6 weeks Central America backpacking route

Nicaragua Costa Rica and Panama route for 4 – 6 weeks

I’m cautious that I’m yet to include the Central American favourite of Costa Rica.

So how about a Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama Central America backpacking itinerary?

Three incredibly diverse countries with more wildlife than I could name. From Sunday Funday in San Juan del Sur, cloud forests in Monteverde to more Costa Rica in Arenal National Park.

From Costa Rica head south and stop off on the coast, from here consider island hopping in Bocas del Toro in Panama. 

Take your time travelling through Costa Rica to see some of the rain forest and wildlife with this Central America itinerary.

Or alternatively do this backpacking route in reverse and travel on to Honduras and El Salvador.

San Salvador, El SalvadorOptional2
Granada, NicaraguaYellow3
Isla de Ometepe, NicaraguaPurple4
San Juan del Sur, NicaraguaPink3
Monteverde, Costa RicaGreen5
Arenal National Park, Costa RicaOptional3
San Jose, Costa RicaOrange2
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa RicaBlue3
Bocas del Toro, PanamaBrown5
Panama City, PanamaOptional2
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Central America itineraries and flexible travel

Planning ahead for your trip is always good practice, but as many of us know this level of organisation and decisiveness often disappears as soon as you hit the road especially as a flexible backpacker.

The above itineraries for Central America should be used as rough guides, but there are many things that can be optional.

There’s something so unpractical about creating an itinerary before even seeing the country you’re about to visit, but it helps to have a rough outline of your Central America backpacking route.

How long to spend in Central America

Depending on how long you want to travel for your Central America backpacking route will change. I would say the optimal amount of time to spend in Central America is between 4 and 6 weeks.

We spent roughly 8 weeks in Central America and could have easily stayed longer as there is so much to see.

For shorter trips my advice would be to not pack too much in. The last thing you want is to be rushing your trip!

Getting around Central America

When it comes to getting around in Central America life is easy. I guess this is the main factor that impacts your itinerary so much when backpacking.

When crossing borders you’ll want to know your options. If you have a strict budget you’ll want to plan ahead.

So whether it’s a chicken bus you need to catch, a collectivo taxi or a backpacker filled shuttle bus, getting from one place to another in Central America is very easy.

Pin Me!

9 thoughts on “Visiting Central America Itineraries Guide

  1. This is going to be so helpful when we get to Central America next year! Planning to do a very similar 12 weeks or so backpacking through every country, but it's nice to have something to refer back to. 'Winging it' makes me slightly nervous!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.