When I think of Central America, my mind just goes to those white-sand beaches, clear blue water, and exciting water activities. While that sounds amazing, Central America has so much more to offer. There are loads of hiking trails to explore, culture to learn, and delicious food to try.
In this article, I will discuss 3 weeks in Central America itinerary. I will show not only the best beaches to visit but also which places to explore if you are a food or want to conquer some mountains. I will also include how many days you should stay in each place and how to get from one country to another.
RELATED POST: 3 weeks South America itineraries
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THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE TRAVELLING TO CENTRAL AMERICA
Before you book your trip to Central America, check out these travel tips and very essential things you should know before going. You don’t want to get to the airport or arrive at your destination just to be told that you cannot board the flight or enter the country.
When is the best time to visit Central America
It’s best to visit Central America between December to May. From December until February, the temperature is cooler and there’s barely any humidity. There’s also almost no rain, meaning your beach plans don’t have to get ruined. On the other hand, it is peak time, which means the prices of accommodations, flights, and even tours are much higher and the crowd is bigger.
If you visit between March to May, it’s less crowded and still has a low chance of rain but it’s very hot and humid. The typhoon season in Central America is between June to November, which you really want to avoid. The only good thing during these months is the promo discounts in hotels and activities and of course, a smaller crowd.
Here’s a list of the most reliable sites for travel advisory in the region of Central America. Check these sites before you book anything to stay up to date with any travel changes:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Cayman Island
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- St. Lucia
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Antigua and Barbuda – passport holders of Latin America, North America, Europe, some Asia and Oceania can receive visa-free for 30-180 days. While the rest of the world can apply for an electronic visa
- Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten – countries holding passports from Latin America. North America, Europe, some East Europe, and some Oceania can enjoy a free visa for 90 days
- Barbados – most countries in America, Europe, Central Asia, some Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania will receive visas for free from 28-180 days
- Cayman Island – to be granted a visa-free, your passport must from most Americas, Europe, South Africa, and Oceania
- Costa Rica – you can enjoy 90 days of free visa if you are a national of countries in most Americas, Europe, Oceania, and some Southeast Asia
- Cuba – almost every tourist has to obtain a tourist card to enter Cuba, except Russia, Mongolia, very few European countries and Central American countries
- Dominica – almost all tourists from any country can enter Dominica free of visa for 180 days
- Dominican Republic – if your passport is from the Americas (except Cuba), Europe, Oceania, and some Africa, Southeast Asia, and Middle Eastern countries, you can receive a visa for free for 90 days
- Grenada – enter Grenada with 30-180 days visa-free for passport holders from most Americas, Europe, South Africa, South Asia, Oceania, East Asia, and some Southeast Asia
- Guatemala and Honduras- travellers with passports from the Americas, Europe, South Africa, Oceania, and some Asia may enter for free and stay for up to 90 days
- Jamaica – passport holders of Americas, Europe, some Africa, and Oceania will receive 90-180 days visa for free, while some European and Central Asian travellers can enjoy a visa on arrival (for a fee)
- Nicaragua – offers up to 90 days to travellers with passports from almost all countries, except many Asian and African countries
- Panama – stay up to 180 days if your passport is from the Americas, Europe, Oceania, and some African and Asian countries
- St. Lucia – travellers holding passports from the Americas, Europe, Oceania, and South Africa can enjoy visa-free entry for 90-180 days, while many Asian and African countries can receive visas upon arrival
- Trinidad and Tobago – you can enter visa-free for 90-180 days if your passport is from the Americas, Europe, some South Africa, and Asia. While Oceania travellers will receive visas on arrival
CHEAP DESTINATIONS FOR 3 WEEKS IN CENTRAL AMERICA
Central America is made up of numerous countries that have diverse cultures, histories, food, sights, and sceneries. We created a comprehensive guide for those who are planning to stay for 3 weeks in Central America. We divided the countries based on what activities you are fond of or what type of sights you want to see.
Beach and History
3 weeks in Central America is never complete without a visit to the beach. First on the list are the countries filled with beaches and history. Jamaica is one of those countries. Since it is an island, it has 50 public beaches and these don’t include privately owned resorts, hotels, or luxury residential properties. The Dominican Republic on the other hand has more than 200 beaches while in Panama, there are more than 1,000 beaches which is nothing but amazing.
Beach and History Pinned Map
To spend 3 weeks in Central America, you must have Jamaica on your itinerary. Aside from having tons of beaches, Jamaica has also a rich culture. Music is a great part of their lifestyle, specifically the reggae genre. They are also very fond of arts and dancing. This country was first settled by a native American tribe called Arawaks. Here are some of the activities you could do include:
- Snorkelling in Negril Beach – one of the most beautiful stretches of white sand in Jamaica. On the southern part of the beach, you’ll find Negri’s Cliffs where Cliff diving is very popular. I do want to remind you to not participate in any Dolphin actitivies.
- River Rafting in Martha Brae – a great way to soak up the tropical scenery. Some of the guides even sing reggae songs to keep the tourists entertained.
- Climb the natural tiers of Dunn’s River Falls – then cool off in the pools found at the base. Some even offer whole-day tour packages which include visiting the village of Nine Mile, which is Bob Marley’s birthplace, as well as Mystic Lagoon night boat ride and dinner.
- Rainforest Adventures Mystic Mountain – you can zoom down the mountain through a single-person roller coaster ride called bobsled Jamaica. They also have zip lines, chairlifts, rope courses, and other rides.
- Rose Hall Great House – which is a restored plantation house with scenic ocean views. You can take a day tour but if you’re fond of scary stuff, you could opt for a spooky evening tour by candlelight instead.
- Bioluminescent Lagoon
Dominican Republic’s recorded history started in 1492 when Christopher Columbus came across the island. By 1946, Spaniards set up their first Spanish Colony at Santo Domingo. This country is rich not only with history but offers stunning beaches as well. Some of the top attractions in the Dominican Republic are as follows:
- Punta Cana – country’s premier resort destination, where you’ll get to swim or sunbathe to your heart’s content at the Bavaro Beach. Book a Punta Cana to Saona Island Cruise or Catamaran Cruise and Snorkel.
- Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo – enjoy the museums, crumbling ruins, and preserved buildings.
- Cabarete – a more laid-back beach town compared to Punta Cana, this is perfect for those who prefer tranquil surroundings. You can also do some surfing or kiteboarding here.
- Whale watching at Samana Bay – thousands of humpback whales enter the bay premises from December to March, these are the perfect months for this place if you want to see these beautiful creatures.
- Las Terrenas – is the perfect place for those who are curious about Dominican culture.
- Punta Cana – ziplining
Did you know that Panama is the only place in the world where you’ll get to see the sunrise at the Pacific and set at the Atlantic? There are a lot more interesting things, sights, and activities in Panama, some of which include:
- Bocas del Torro – is the main beach destination in the Caribbean for diving, surfing, and getting some tan.
- Sunset Coast – is one of the very few places in Panama where you could watch the sunset over the Pacific ocean. If you’re not convinced, read these reasons why you should visit Bocas del Torro.
- Taboga Island and Catamaran Cruise – don’t miss this fun activity
- Hike up Baru Volcano and explore nature in Boquete, which is a hot spot for wildlife and nature. One of the rare species you can see here is the hummingbird. This is also the highest point of the country where you can enjoy that unique sunset and sunrise view.
- Casco Viejo – immerse yourself in Panama’s history as you stroll the streets. It is filled with historic ruins and colourful buildings.
- San Blas Islands – picture-perfect islands, including palm trees, white sands, and crystal clear waters. You can explore these islands through a sailboat charter.
- Join Panama Canal and City tour
Culture and Nature
Now that we’ve finished discussing countries filled with beaches, the 3 weeks in Central America itinerary in this portion of the article is filled with natural scenery such as mountains, falls, and parks. Aside from that, I will also list places where you will be able to enjoy or immerse yourself in the country’s culture.
Culture and Nature Pinned Map
Panama has so many great and beautiful natural sceneries. Not only glorious beaches can be found here but also plenty of locations for other activities. Here are some things to do in Panama:
- Chagres National Park – enjoy a hike and visit the indigenoous Embera village and swim at a waterfall
- Santa Fe and San Francisco – an undiscovered area of Panama where you can pass through mountains, ending in Santa Fe National Park. You’ll also come across the town of San Francisco where you’ll see one of the oldest churches in the country, which is the Iglesia de San Francisco de la Montana.
- Join Canal and Jungle tour – you will visit the monkey island, San Lorenzo National Park, and Agua Clara visitor centre
- Gamboa Rainforest – explore this forest with a naturalist guide, visit Gatun Lak, and enjoy a butterfly farm and orchids centre
Spending 3 weeks holiday in Central America must include a visit to Costa Rica. A country filled with rainforests and with coastlines on the Pacific and Caribbean. If you love relaxing on the beach, check this list of beach towns in Costa Rica, each spot offering different activities.
Aside from beaches, this country is also well-known for its volcanoes and biodiversity. Costa Rica is perfect for adventurers at heart as there are tons of things to do to experience nature to the fullest.
- Arenal Volcano – hike up then swim beneath the La Fortuna Waterfall afterwards. There are also 16 hanging bridges to cross in this whole day’s adventure. – Join this all-in-one tour.
- Rio Celeste, Sloth Sanctuary, and Llanos de Cortes Waterfall
- Hacienda Guachipelin Tour – includes horseback riding, zipline tour, and tubing. You can even soak in natural hot springs and have a volcanic mud bath.
- San Jose Chocolate Tour with Arenal Hot Springs
- Tamarindo’s beaches and forests through an ATV tour
- Costa Rican National Museum – displays artworks that showcase various timelines of the country, including Pre-Columbian, Colonial, and Industrial to the most recent artworks.
- Join this San Jose hanging bridges tour and Manuel Antonio Night Jungle tour
Guatemala is home to numerous rainforests, volcanoes, and ancient Mayan sites. It also contains preserved Spanish colonial buildings, not only is it rich in natural wonders but its inhabitants also have a diverse culture. Here are some of the things you can do in Guatemala:
- Explore the Mayan ruins of Tikal – a huge complex and is spread throughout the jungle, it will take time and navigational prowess to complete the tour. You can join a day tour or Lake Atitlan Mayan ceremony tour.
- Cool off in the turquoise pools of Semuc Champey. Aside from swimming to your heart’s content, you can also candlelight cave tour and river tubing.
- Antigua – filled with cobblestone streets and colourful buildings, you can even further immerse yourself in this tour by drinking Guatemalan coffee and visiting farms. Join the Pacaya Volcano trek tour.
- Watch the Volcan Fuego erupt all night long. This activity is surely not for the faint of heart but there are tons of people who are fascinated by watching a volcano eruption live. This type of tourism is also approved by the government.There are multi-day trips to hike this volcano and Acatenango.
- Town of San Marcos – a hippy town. They have various ceremonies, practices, and rituals that you could witness up close such as Temescal and cacao ceremonies. They also offer reiki healing sessions and yoga classes. You can even try being vegan for a day in this town.
FINAL TIPS ON CREATING 3 WEEKS CENTRAL AMERICA ITINERARY
If you want to visit more than 1 country, flying over the Caribbean Sea is most likely inevitable. When writing your travel plan, plenty of time between these flights to avoid rushing yourself every time you have to take a flight.
You should also remember the typhoon season, this region is experiencing heavy rains during this time while in summer, it can be scorching hot. These countries are popular destinations for North American tourists, it’s vital that you plan and book your accommodations, flights, and tours ahead of time especially if you are coming during peak season.
I hope that you found this 3 weeks in Central America itinerary helpful. The countries listed here are magnificent and have so much to offer. Remember to take your time, and do activities that you love (if water activities aren’t part of that – that’s totally okay!). If you have any questions, let us know in the comment section below.
SAVE THIS TRAVEL ITINERARY ON YOUR PINTEREST:
How long should I spend in Central America? ›
Still, if forced to give an estimate I would say that six weeks is probably the ideal minimum time to do a full tour of Central America. You'll be able to spend about a week in each country, getting a good taste of what they're like. If you're a completionist, I'd recommend a minimum of three months.How do you travel around Central America? ›
- The easiest and cheapest way to explore Central America is by bus. ...
- Taxis are plentiful in all the major cities. ...
- Hiring a car is expensive, but great for exploring. ...
- A boat journey in Central America will take you places you wouldn't otherwise reach. ...
- Let the plane take the strain. ...
- Urban transport is easy in major cities.
- Costa Rica. Costa Rica is generally regarded as the safest Central America countires. ...
- Panama. Panama is a close second to Costa Rica in terms of being one of the safest countries in Central America. ...
- Nicaragua. ...
- Belize. ...
- El Salvador. ...
- Guatemala. ...
More importantly, which country is safer? Belize is safer than Mexico, because the small nation is so dependent on tourism that they have to make strides to keep visitors safe. In truth, each of these nations boasts a stunning landscape, rich history, and friendly people.Is Costa Rica safer than Mexico? ›
Costa Rica is generally safer than Mexico, although as with many tourist destinations, beware of thieves and pickpockets, especially at the beach. If you keep your car properly locked and your eyes on your bags, you should be fine.What is the cheapest Central American country to visit? ›
Choose the cheapest Central American countries to explore
You'll find the best-value destinations are Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador; in each, by staying in a hostel, taking public transport and eating street food you can get by on around $30 a day.
Three weeks is the ideal time to absorb the Costa Rican way of life and enjoy all the top things to do. Use this Costa Rica 3-week itinerary to plan your route around the country's waterfalls, volcanoes, national reserves, and beautiful beaches. Get ready for the trip of a lifetime!Is 3 weeks enough for Peru? ›
Allocating 3 weeks in Peru is plenty of time. It's not too much and also not too short. With this time frame, you can definitely visit so many places around Peru and that includes a long stay in Cusco.Is Central or South America cheaper to travel? ›
Generally speaking, Central America is even cheaper because it is closer to the USA and you can find more cheap flights. Flights to places like Brazil and Argentina can be quite expensive, but there are lots of other cheap South American vacations to take.How much money do you need for Central America? ›
Backpacking Central America Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker budget of $30-50 USD per day, you can stay in a hostel dorm, eat some local street food and local fruit, visit a few attractions (like museums and national parks), do some free walking tours, and take local transportation to get around.
Where can I not travel in Central America? ›
Use Caution in Capital Cities, especially in “The Northern Triangle” When most people picture the dangers of Central America, they're thinking of the Northern Triangle: Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. These countries statistically hold the highest homicidal and kidnapping rates.What do I need to know before traveling to Central America? ›
- Be Ready To Enjoy The Nature. Central America is just amazing! ...
- Language. You need to know a bit of Spanish. ...
- Food And Water. You can eat cheaply at roadside restaurants. ...
- Traveling And Transport. Safety can be an issue when riding buses. ...
- Respecting People And Culture.
Both countries are equally safe for visitors: that is, extremely safe with a minuscule chance of robbery or petty theft.Why is Costa Rica safer than other Central American countries? ›
Political Stability and Representation
Since 1949, Costa Rica has maintained a stable and democratic government. Therefore, Costa Rica has avoided the political and gang violence that other Central American countries struggle with.
Exercise increased caution in Belize due to crime. Some areas have increased risk. Please read the entire Travel Advisory. Country Summary: Violent crime – such as sexual assault, home invasions, armed robberies, and murder – are common even during daylight hours and in tourist areas.Is Belize or Costa Rica safer? ›
Is Belize safer than Costa Rica? If you look at the numbers, Belize and Costa Rica are pretty much the same. Belize has more gang related crime. However, both are stunning countries to visit – they just need a bit more caution and research, but it's well worth it.Is Peru safer than Mexico? ›
So statistically, you may be safer in Peru than in Mexico. But if you've got some street smarts and some common sense, traveling in both is fine.Is Panama or Costa Rica safer? ›
Is Costa Rica or Panama Safer? When it comes to elements affecting public safety, Panama rates higher than Costa Rica on the Safety Scale, according to recent data. Panama and Costa Rica are two of the safest, or at least the countries with the lowest crime rates in Central America if not all of Latin America.Is Jamaica or Belize better? ›
On a whole, Jamaica is the perfect vacation destination for persons who want to relax and bask on white sand beaches. On the other hand, Belize is ideal for individuals seeking premium dive and snorkeling spots as well as history enthusiasts who want to visit Mayan ruins and archaeological sites.What is the biggest problem in Belize? ›
The constant threat of hurricanes, expected to increase in both frequency and intensity due to climate change, remains a real threat to Belize's coastal populations, coral reefs, and protected areas.
Why is Belize so popular? ›
Unspoiled beaches, lush jungles, rich and authentic culture, endless adventure, pristine reefs, friendly locals, delicious food, and uncrowded Maya ruins all await you in Belize.What are the negatives of Costa Rica? ›
- Undeveloped Roads. Many of the roads in Costa Rica do not have signs, lights, or guardrails. ...
- Dangerous Local Driving. ...
- Long Health and Government Wait Lines. ...
- Rainy Season. ...
- Slow Business Service (ex: Plumbers showing up late) ...
- Slow Shipping. ...
- Earthquakes. ...
- Slow Public Transportation.
It comes down to what kind of activities do you want to explore. If you are a nature and adventure lover then Costa Rica is a better option whereas Puerto Rico is a better option if you want to explore a diverse range of activities ranging from history, beach activities to outdoor activities.Which country is safer Dominican Republic or Costa Rica? ›
Costa Rica is safer compared to the Dominican Republic, although both face petty crimes. Still, exercise your common sense! Travel in groups if possible, especially in the early morning or late night. Don't get drunk solo, and pay attention to your surroundings on public transport.What is the freest country in Central America? ›
In 2022, Costa Rica ahd the best press freedom score among countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Central American nation scored 85.92.Which country in Central America is the most expensive? ›
What are the most expensive countries to visit in Central America? The most expensive countries for travel in Central America are currently Belize ($85.69), Costa Rica ($78.24), and Panama ($63.74).Is Guatemala cheaper than Costa Rica? ›
The average cost of living in Costa Rica ($893) is 2% less expensive than in Guatemala ($910). Costa Rica ranked 80th vs 77th for Guatemala in the list of the most expensive countries in the world.What is the cheapest month to go to Costa Rica? ›
Answer: May, June, September, October, or November
Travel to Costa Rica is least expensive during the low season, especially during non-shoulder-season months (i.e., May, June, September, October, and November) when accommodation prices are at their lowest.
The average cost of living in the Bahamas ($1809) is 102% more expensive than in Costa Rica ($893). the Bahamas ranked 15th vs 80th for Costa Rica in the list of the most expensive countries in the world.What month is best in Costa Rica? ›
The best time to visit Costa Rica is between December and April, when the weather is at its driest and brightest. We'd also recommend traveling in the country's green season, from May to June or in November.
Is 3 weeks in Colombia enough? ›
But generally speaking, three weeks is enough time to see the best of Colombia, but definitely feel free to spend more time if you want. This itinerary will cover middle to northern Colombia, which is where most of the best places to visit are.How can I spend 3 weeks in Colombia? ›
- DAY 1: Bogota – Graffiti Tour.
- DAY 2: Bogota – Salt Cathedral.
- DAY 3: Cali – Salsa.
- DAY 4: Cali – Sightseeing and Salsa.
- DAY 5: San Cipriano – Day Trip.
- DAY 6: Salento – Explore.
- DAY 7: Salento – Valle de Cocora Trek.
- DAY 8: Medellin – Settle In & Go Out.
Contrary to popular belief, the best time to visit Machu Picchu or hike the Inca Trail is before and after the rainy season, that is late March, April, May, and September, October, and early November, the dry season months, that is June July and August, are great too but beware of the crowds.What is the safest country in Central and South America? ›
Chile. In the 2019 GPI, Chile scored the highest ranking of all the safest countries in Latin America, ranking 27th worldwide.Is Peru or Colombia cheaper? ›
The average cost of living in Colombia ($548) is 18% less expensive than in Peru ($672). Colombia ranked 158th vs 125th for Peru in the list of the most expensive countries in the world.What is the most safest country in South America? ›
According to the GPI, Uruguay is the safest country in South America, ranking 46th in the world with a score of 1.795. It's one of the most economically developed countries on the continent, with a low level of corruption, stable democracy and a high standard of living. Even so, Uruguay is not completely without crime.How long can I stay in Central America? ›
As a tourist you can stay up to 90 days and the immigration officer will write the number of days he/she allows you over your stamp. If you plan to visit for over 90 days, you must exit the country and re-enter for another stamp of up to 90 days.Is Central America worth visiting? ›
If you've ever dreamed of hiking a volcano, exploring ancient ruins and snorkeling across a coral reef all in one trip, then Central America is the place for you. Its seven countries offer some of the world's most sought-after destinations.Is 10 days in Guatemala enough? ›
In 10 days, you can visit many regions of Guatemala, embark on active tours, and see the major highlights. It's also enough time to enjoy off-the-beaten-path trips to indigenous villages, coffee plantations, and natural wonders hidden in highland rainforests.How long should I visit Guatemala for? ›
To get the most out of your Guatemala experience, plan on spending 10 days here. This will give you enough time to travel around the lakes, volcanoes, and ruins without having to rush. Having such ample time also reveals much of the local culture.
What is the cheapest country in Central America? ›
Choose the cheapest Central American countries to explore
You'll find the best-value destinations are Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador; in each, by staying in a hostel, taking public transport and eating street food you can get by on around $30 a day.
Despite its bounty of natural beauty, Honduras remains one of Central America's least-visited countries, making this destination one of the more inexpensive places to book a trip. It's time to throw out the book on what you think you know about Honduras and instead discover its wealth of attractions yourself.What is the best time of year to visit Central America? ›
The best time to visit Central America is between December and April, which is the dry season in most of the region. Temperatures vary from country to country, ranging from lows of 50°F to highs of 90°F, and are normally lower in areas of higher elevation, like mountains.Which is safer Honduras or Guatemala? ›
Honduras is home to two of the most violent cities in the world, San Pedro Sula (homicide rate of 51) and Tegucigalpa (40). Guatemala City is even more violent, with a homicide rate of 53.Is Guatemala cheaper than Belize? ›
Belize is 41.2% more expensive than Guatemala.What should I avoid in Guatemala? ›
Country Summary: Violent crime such as extortion, murder, armed robbery, carjacking, narcotics trafficking and gang activity are common in Guatemala. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to criminal incidents resulting in a low arrest and conviction rate.What is the biggest problem in Guatemala? ›
While Guatemala holds regular elections that are generally free, organized crime and corruption severely impact the functioning of government. Violence and criminal extortion schemes are serious problems, and victims have little recourse to justice.Is Guatemala cheaper than Mexico? ›
The average cost of living in Guatemala ($910) is 28% more expensive than in Mexico ($713). Guatemala ranked 77th vs 118th for Mexico in the list of the most expensive countries in the world. The average after-tax salary is enough to cover living expenses for 0.5 months in Guatemala compared to 0.9 months in Mexico.Is Antigua Guatemala safe to walk around? ›
At all times of the day, it is safe to walk around the streets in Antigua Guatemala. Most crime that happens in Guatemala are petty crimes such as pickpockets and thefts, which typically don't offer in the streets.