Introducing Central America
Tiny on a map, Central America packs in more diversity than any similar-sized area on the planet. No matter when you visit, or how long you're there, daily adventures are there for the taking. They come in all styles – fun, easy, bumpy, challenging, surprising, fulfilling – the sort you’ll be talking about for decades.
Caribbean white-sand beaches and offshore reefs border lazy backpacker towns while, not far away, coffee-scented mountains reach, Dr Seuss–like, through smoke-ring clouds. Spanish haciendas line the cobblestone streets of 16th-century colonial towns under the ominous gaze of lava-gurgling volcanoes. Wander through dense jungle to find Mayan pyramids that date back a millennium as bulldog-sized rodents scurry past and howler monkeys commute in the treetops above you.
Best are the people you’ll meet. Skip from country to country on open-boats over chocolaty waters, witness colourful modern Mayan life, not much changed over the centuries, or kick back in a Garífuna village, the home to African-Carib culture. Excellent Spanish schools abound so try a border-crossing study hop or stay with a local family to discover more about daily life.
Central America – Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and, parts of southern Mexico – is distinctly apart from its bigger, more well-known American neighbours. That it remains a mystery to so many, makes the trip all the more rewarding.
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These tours & activities make it easy:
Best places to stay in Central America
Central America on a shoestring - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to Central America starts here. You’ll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go and when, how much to budget, plus an all-new Off the Beaten Track itinerary.
Most action-packed jungles
Make like Tarzan and take on one of these truly original rainforest adventures. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Battlefield crossing, Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea Hiker on the Kokoda Track. Image by Andrew Peacock / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images.
Ancient Maya ruins in Central America
Top outdoor adventures in Central America
Need to know
Central & South America: Healthy Travel guide
Don't let a dodgy burrito bring you down. Stay happy and healthy tripping through Central and South America with this indispensable guide.
Costa Rica is sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of Central America because of its comfortable lifestyle, peaceful democracy and overwhelming natural beauty.
These adventures will keep kids and grown-ups smiling while exploring the world. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Step into a fairy tale in Prague, Czech Republic Prague Castle. Image by Fandrade / Flickr / Getty Images.
Best surf spots in Central America
Central America on a shoestring - Costa Rica (Chapter)
Costa Rica is a land of staggering scenery, bountiful biodiversity and peace-loving locals. One-third of the country is protected, making it a wildlife wonderland. Annually it attracts more than one million visitors eager to catch a wave, climb a volcano or otherwise partake of paradise.
Costa Rica Adventure
If you’re looking for a taste of Costa Rica’s world-class highlights but want to keep things spicy with a sampling of hidden treasures, this action-packed adventure tops the menu. In spite of its small size, Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world—explore its volcanoes, wildlife, rainforests and beaches.
From the crystal-blue ocean teeming with marine life to tropical rainforests alive with jungle melodies, take the road less travelled on this trip through Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica with other travellers your own age.
Where to find secluded surf on Nicaragua’s southern coast
Inhaling the salty air, your body pleasantly fatigued from a morning surf, you gawk at the breathtaking, crescent-shaped cove and slouch deeper into your hammock...for surfers, Nicaragua has it all.
Central America on a shoestring - El Salvador (Chapter)
El Salvador is that little dynamo where you’ll find a glorious coastline with world-class waves, glimpses of tropical paradise, hard-core war tourism and small-town charm by the plaza-load - not to mention genuinely hospitable locals.
Sights in Central America
Activities in Central America
Tours in Central America
Restaurants in Central America
Budget hotels & hostels
Guesthouses and B&Bs
Mysterious and often challenging, Central America’s most diverse country offers landscapes and experiences that have been captivating travelers for centuries.