Solo Travelers Shouldn't Miss These Stunning, Highly-Rated Destinations In Central America

A region of seven English- and Spanish-speaking countries that, logically enough, sit between North America and South America, Central America is a realm of great geographic and cultural variety. A curving band of land between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, it's where to find ancient ruins, faded colonial monuments, teeming indigenous markets, and the second-longest coral reef on the planet. 


Travelers could easily spend months exploring the region, kick back on a beach, climb a volcano, or practice their language skills, and many of the countries here are well set up for tourists. For solo travelers, some destinations are more dependable — and some are certainly safer than others. Based on blogs, tourism websites, and our personal knowledge accumulated through trips in Central America, we've put together a list of striking places that single travelers should place on the top of their list for their next trip to this captivating part of the Americas.

Antigua, Guatemala

In this town that is only about 24 miles from La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City (there are frequent shuttles between the two that cost less than $20), the old colonial architecture is unforgettable. It's such a beautiful town for solo travelers, from its setting — it's ringed by towering volcanoes — to the colorful buildings in various pastel shades. Single travelers will note that finding hostels and inexpensive accommodation is a breeze. 


Plenty of expats have moved here, and it gives the town, which is small, a cosmopolitan feel, from the people you'll see to the variety of places to eat. For anyone wanting to learn Spanish, there are numerous schools, and prices are budget-friendly, with one-on-one lessons available for as low as $16 per hour. Solo travelers to this UNESCO World Heritage Site will find striking, standing Spanish-era churches, as well as some that fell following an earthquake in the 1700s, tree-lined cobblestone streets, and weather that always feels like spring.

Bajo Boquete, Panama

In western Panama, not far from the border with Costa Rica, Bajo Boquete has excellent opportunities for hiking and a calm, welcoming atmosphere. The region of Boquete sits in a valley of deep forest, and mountains rise on either side. For outdoor enthusiasts traveling alone, it's a wonderland with trails that lead to hidden waterfalls, volcanic walls for rock climbing, and hot mineral springs to ease your aching muscles. 


The weather is also dreamy — think cool nights and warm days, never sweltering and uncomfortable. The town is dissected by the Caldera River, making it a pretty destination and one that is easy to get around on foot. Tourists looking for something a little unique can visit coffee plantations in the area and experience farm-to-table meals since the land here produces many crops, vegetables, and fruits.

Bocas del Toro, Panama

In the northern part of Panama and part of an archipelago of Caribbean islands with the same name, this town is set at the bottom of Isla Colón. It has an easy charm to it, reached by flight from Panama City in less than an hour, and solo travelers will find a good selection of accommodations and no shortage of places to grab a drink by day or spots at night where the dancing bleeds into the wee hours. 


The real joy of visiting Bocas is the culture and the outdoors, from natural park reserves to indigenous tribes that you can visit (like the Ngäbe-Buglé) to the ubiquitous sounds of the local Creole language of guari-guari. Single travelers can learn to surf, with great waves on Isla Carenero, and Bocas Surf School offers a three-day camp for just $140. Beach bums will find the sand and sea sublime.

Caye Caulker, Belize

On a trip to the islands of Belize, visitors might look to Ambergris Caye, a long skinny isle that's carved out a name as a destination offering sun, sand, sea, and serious partying. But it's the most touristy place in the country. More relaxed and friendlier than Ambergris, Caye Caulker is a sunny idyll where you'll start to feel at home quickly, even as a solo traveler. The pace of life is slower on Caye Caulker than on Ambergris, and since the island is more compact, it's easier to explore. 


Prices for accommodations tend to be affordable on Caulker, and you'll occasionally find dive operators offering trips to the famous Blue Hole. Solo travelers often head to the Split. A channel that separates north and south Caye Caulker, it's a great place to snorkel, sunbathe, and grab a drink or something to eat at the restaurants and bars that attract many a traveler.

Copán, Honduras

The Mayan ruins of Copán had stood for hundreds of years before being discovered in the 1500s, but it took a few more centuries before they were really presentable. For the Mayan people, this is one of the key centers and a place where people first lived more than 3,000 years ago. These ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are not to be missed, and for solo travelers, being alone lets you enjoy them at your leisure, with no nagging friends or family complaining about boredom. 


There is much to pore over, moving from the larger, central section of ruins to the surrounding satellite buildings. Travelers can see a former stadium and nearby altars, grand staircases with carvings on them (including those of jaguars), and a series of pyramids and temples. Spend a couple of days here — there are plenty of reasonably priced places to overnight in Copán Ruinas. 

Corn Islands, Nicaragua

Much has been made of the surfing scene along Nicaragua's Pacific Coast, but on the Caribbean side of this country with large swathes of greenery, there is a solo-traveler island destination that's pure beach-bum bliss. The Corn Islands, or Islas del Maíz, are two blips that sit far off the east coast of Nicaragua. They are most conveniently reached by plane — the ferry takes many bumpy hours, while the flight is a little over 60 minutes — and on arrival, a tourist will find strands of silky beach and beautiful, calm, turquoise seas. 


There are two islands, Big Corn and Little Corn, and while solo travelers can choose either (both are safe), the latter has a more compact core, with a clutch of bars and eateries where single sojourners tend to hang out. The sea is the focus here, from lazing in the shallows to taking snorkeling and diving excursions. The sunsets are also to die for. Pro tip: Bring a flashlight to Little Corn, as the island gets dark at night.

El Tunco, El Salvador

For a solo traveler, this small coastal town has it all. One of the great draws to El Tunco is its Lilliputian size, so a traveler on their own will feel settled and grounded in a heartbeat. The surfing is great, with lessons readily available or board rentals easy to source for more seasoned surfers. For the rest of the time, soloists will want to explore the handful of streets that make up this town, a place that has its share of bars, restaurants, and small boutiques, all easy to access from the many lodging options here. 


The scenery is spectacular, with caves by the water, and in the valleys just outside town, solo travelers will find excellent hiking opportunities, where trails that wind through jungles and forests lead to pretty waterfalls. Around the town, you'll find striking murals and a lively night scene, which kicks off after the stunning sunsets over the Pacific.

Granada, Nicaragua

It only takes about an hour to get from the airport of Nicaragua's capital, Managua, to this town with an inviting setting on a lake. A taxi — the easiest way to transfer between the two — costs under $30, and once here, solo visitors will find a sense of serenity. While Managua is a sprawl, Granada has a sense of intimacy and charm, a manageable town that slowly seduces single travelers with its laconic rhythms and gorgeous colonial architecture. 


The anchor of Granada is its main square, the Parque Central de Granada, with its artfully landscaped trees, round gazebo, and stalls that cater to inquisitive tourists. Along one side is the Catedral Inmaculada Concepción de María, a confection in buttery yellow that is especially striking when lit by the sun, seeming to almost glow with life. From here, it's a five-minute drive to the lakefront malecón, a walkway that skirts the water.

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

One of the most alluring aspects of Costa Rica is the country's sensitivity and celebration of the outdoors, with vast tracts of protected parks dotted around the nation. For an unforgettable Costa Rican vacation, Manuel Antonio is one of the best spots in Central America, a fabulous destination for solo travelers thanks to its safety, affordable lodging, and friendly locals. The panoramas here are mind-blowing, with rainforests and jungles rolling all the way down to the Pacific Ocean and sunsets that are worthy of any scrapbook — or an Instagram post. 


Look forward to excellent hiking in Manuel Antonio National Park, just outside the village of Manuel Antonio, and some heart-melting beaches; in the town itself, be sure to stop by Playa Espadilla, a long, curling sweep of sand bookended by forested headlands. For some adrenaline-pumping thrills, hit the zip line or a gondola-style cable contraption at Zip Coaster.

Panama City, Panama

A dizzying melange of old and new awaits solo travelers who visit the capital city of Panama, a place that's the hub of COPA Airlines, which services cities all across North, Central, and South America. Wandering around the city, tourists will take in a modern skyline, with fearless buildings like the F&F Tower, a striking skyscraper that looks like a drill bit or inverted tornado. 


The old part of the city, Casco Viejo, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and feels like its own island, with brick streets and fine colonial shapes and forms. Walking around the lanes and alleys feels like stepping back in time, and solo travelers will not only find a wide range of lodging options, from reasonable hostels to pricey boutique properties, but also a selection of museums, like the Panama Canal Museum. On that point, visitors can easily arrange a day trip to the canal from Panama City, and they should.

San Blas Islands, Panama

The sea and sand at the San Blas Islands, which can be reached from Panama City in a few hours, are incredible — clear turquoise water lapping at soft beaches where the grains crumble underfoot. But what heightens the experience is that the islands are part of a region called Guna Yala that is administered by the Guna, an indigenous people. Solo travelers will gush over the scenic vistas, outrageously attractive seascapes, and cultural magnetism. 


The Guna are known for their artisanal wizardry, especially in textiles, and their brightly colored woven pieces called Molas, with patterns and symbolism informed by their traditional beliefs, are magical. A stay here is a break from the wired world — you'll find no internet, no banks, no heated water, and lodging is usually in simple thatched huts. What you will relish is a portal into a proud culture and snorkeling in some of the finest seas in Central America.

San José, Costa Rica

Connections from U.S. cities to the Costa Rican capital are excellent, so San José can easily be visited as a destination in itself. This city has much to entertain visitors within city limits, from excellent museums to fine performing arts. Rich history is evident in the colonial buildings, and the pretty parks peppered around the metropolis lend the cityscape slashes of nature. That said, nature is hardly lacking — San José sits in a valley and has volcanoes around it. 


For solo travelers, the lodging options seem never-ending, and finding a dorm room under $10 isn't hard. Public buses are frequent and cheap, and getting lost on one is an adventure waiting to happen. Costa Rica is the safest country in Central America, according to Statistica, which makes it a popular destination for single travelers. And when the outdoors beckons, there are incredible day trips close to the city, from volcano hikes to tours of coffee plantations.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

This town on the Pacific Coast is a sound base for surfers or newbies in search of some inexpensive lessons. Even non-surfers can enjoy the water, either on the town's curling beach or at fine strands of sand just beyond. San Juan del Sur is a small, sleepy town with lodging and places to eat tucked into a few compact sections. There are hostels, apartments, and traditional hotels, all within a few blocks of San Juan del Sur Beach. 


Solo travelers will easily get in the swing of things as the light wanes since San Juan del Sur has some lively nightlife — especially at the drinking spots along the waterfront. A fun excursion to do — and photograph — is a walk to the Cristo de la Misericordia (Christ of Mercy) statue rising from a hill on the edge of town; the views of the coast from it are spellbinding.

San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

At this town on Lake Atitlán, solo travelers will encounter a boho-chic vibe, like that found at another popular, larger, more commercial Guatemalan lakefront destination, Panajachel. San Pedro La Laguna has incredible views of the lake, but it's more backpacker-friendly than Pana, with plenty of single travelers, and has a lively party scene, great for solo sojourners who want to mingle and let off some steam. 


It's an easy place to take Spanish lessons or wander around the alleys to find a bite to eat. Solo travelers can exercise their body and mind with a yoga retreat or tone their biceps with a kayaking trip on the lake. Nearby, volcano hikes will test the calf muscles. While swimming in the lake is an option, some hostels and hotels also have pools with lake views, giving you plenty of opportunities to take a dip. 

Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

It won't take long for you to become a surf rat at this understated Pacific coast town on the Nicoya Peninsula because Santa Teresa has some great waves. The underrated town is the antithesis of a glam beach resort — instead of luxurious commercial properties, you'll see low-rise buildings with red tile and thatch roofs flanking the main paved road. Solo travelers will find a range of accommodation choices, from simple retreats to slickly designed minimalist hotels to comfortable rental apartments, all close to the waterfront. 


Many visitors come here just for the consistent surf, with boards for rent and operators offering lessons, while away from the swells, ATV exploration of the countryside is a big draw. A cool hangout spot for solo travelers is Eat Street, a container-style foodie joint that has many vendors and communal seating — you'll quickly strike up a conversation with a fellow diner.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

In Guanacaste Province, Tamarindo is a beach town with a reliable draw for young solo travelers in search of a lively, fun Pacific Coast idyll. It's eminently walkable, with most lodging within 15 minutes of the beach and plenty of hostels and vacation rentals in addition to traditional resorts. The beach is the focus, with clear turquoise water ceding to deeper blues and gently rolling waves pushing onto sand the color of brown sugar.


The beach vibe pulses through the town, from the brightly colored shacks lining the streets to the restaurants, cafes, and bars sitting right on the sand. Sunsets pull many visitors onto the beach at night, and afterward, following dinner at an Asian restaurant or taco joint, Tamarindo starts to thrum, with live and DJ music fueling raucous revelers. For daytime excitement, book a zip-line adventure in the hills around town.

Utila, Honduras

The island of Roatán boasts some gorgeous water, but the Honduran island is firmly in the crosshairs of mass tourism — it has two cruise ports, and thousands of passengers regularly engorge the waterfront. Cheaper and smaller than Roatán, its sister Bay Island of Utila has great beaches and diving, and solo travelers will prize the lively après-snorkel scene. The island has only a few thousand residents year-round and houses a range of affordable hotels and hostels for solo travelers to check out, many located along the main road. 


The diving and snorkeling are exceptional, which won't come as any surprise to visitors once they look eyes on the crystal-clear water that rings Utila. There are staggering beaches dotted around the island, and a visit for any solo traveler here is likely to include time on them and in the water. Nights are never dull, with plenty of haunts to meet fellow singletons.

Uvita, Costa Rica

Perhaps the most striking natural feature of this South Pacific Coast town is its coastline, with sweeps of sand meeting before pushing out to a peninsula, or point, that looks exactly like the tail of a whale — no wonder, then, that this part of the country is known as Bahia Ballena, or Whale Bay. That said, there is dolphin and whale-watching here, just one of the distractions likely to enthrall solo travelers. 


This is a realm of jungles, mountains, and beaches, the trifecta of terrain that makes Costa Rica such a dizzyingly desirable destination. Long strolls on the beach allow solo travelers to take in all that natural majesty, while inland hikes will bring them to numerous waterfalls that drop into pretty swimming pools, among them El Pavon and Nauyaca. For snorkeling excursions where turtles and sharks are frequently spotted, single travelers can book a trip to Caño Island Biological Reserve.

Our methodology

Central America is never short of things to do and see — for couples, for families, and for people traveling alone. To put together the list of places featured in this story, we first mined the knowledge gleaned from solo trips that we have taken in Central America and then added layers by poring over travel blogs from solo travelers, tourism board information, and studied data on destinations that are dangerous for all travelers, especially those taking a trip alone, to discount them from the final choices.