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Backpacking in your mid-twenties: 6 reasons why Central America is the PERFECT destination.

Your mid-twenties to thirties are an amazing time to go travelling. You’re old enough to be responsible and street-smart, but young enough to have a sense of freedom and open-mindedness. And whether you’re an adrenaline junkie seeking adventure, a history buff looking to explore ancient civilisations, or a free spirit in search of the perfect beach party, we think Central America is the perfect place to travel in your mid-twenties to thirties! 

In this blog post, we will unravel the reasons why Central America stands out as the ultimate destination for travelers out of their teenage years. We’ve interviewed a few people for this article, so it’s not just our opinions you’ll be getting. Let’s go!


The Spanish settled the narrow region between Mexico and Colombia earlier than they did either North or South America. Yet, Central America has yet to be fully embraced by European travellers. 

Although Panama’s canal, Costa Rica’s biodiversity and beaches, and Mexico’s Mayan pyramids are firmly on the itinerary for backpackers and family travellers alike, the rest of Central America’s many treasures are only now beginning to get the attention they so rightly deserve.

Perhaps it’s because of the region’s dangerous reputation? Or lack of major tourist infrastructure? Or maybe that, outside of a couple of countries, there’s very little English spoken. But we think this makes Central America all the more exciting!

Swinging into the Nicaraguan Sunset


Few areas of the planet have so much to offer in such a small space. Nature unfolds in this narrow stretch of land, wedged between the Pacific and Caribbean. Lush green rainforests form a tapestry across the landscape, interrupted by the chain of steaming volcanoes and emerald-green mountains that snakes through the centre of the seven Central American nations.

The magical combination of sunshine, rain, altitude and shade provides cloud forest and rainforest habitats where ocelots prowl, three-toed sloths snooze, and multicoloured birds, like the keel-billed toucan and Guatemalan quetzal fill the skies with their exotic calls. These conditions are also ripe for the cultivation of the most delicious bananas (pun intended), and some of the world’s finest coffee and cacao.

The volcanoes make for great hiking and mountain biking trails. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try the newly-invented sport of volcano surfing. Central America also boasts highly Instagrammable beaches, beautiful colonial cities, and some of the world’s best (and cheapest!) surfing and diving. 

But why, specifically, is this region so awesome to visit in your mid-twenties to thirties??



For most travellers in their 20s, money is a major obstacle to adventure. It’s rare for a young person to have substantial amounts of money saved, especially right after studying at university. We’re all broke and doing our best, right?

That’s why most young people head to Southeast Asia. This region is well-known as one of the most budget-friendly areas in the world: Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Nepal all consistently top the list of ‘cheapest countries in the world for travellers’.

But scroll further down this list, and you’ll find Central American Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. And the only reason Honduras doesn’t make the cut is probably because the authors were too scared to go there! After all, their capital city, San Pedro Sula, is known as the most dangerous city in the world (more on that later!)

This lesser-known region is a haven for budget-conscious travellers, offering an unparalleled blend of affordability and adventure.  Whether you’re hiking volcanoes, diving in the world’s second largest barrier reef, or immersing yourself in indigenous cultures, Central America’s affordability ensures that your travel budget stretches further, allowing you to delve into the region’s rich tapestry of cultures and natural wonders. 

Volcano Boarding with new friends on Nicaragua’s Cerro Negro


But some countries in the region can be little more expensive. Panama, Costa Rica, and Belize may-well leave a dent in your wallet if you aren’t budget savvy. Many travellers skip these countries, but we loved them – yet another reason to save this region for heading to when you’re a little older!

Whilst you may not be made of money (we certainly weren’t!), if you’re in your mid-twenties (and upwards), you’re likely a bit more established than you were at eighteen. Perhaps you’ve worked for a few years, or managed to save up a bit more money than you had straight out of high school. 

This means you’re more likely able to afford to splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime experience – perhaps diving with sharks in Belize, desert island–hopping around Panama’s San Blas archipelago, or hiking an active volcano in Guatemala. These are things I could never have afforded at eighteen when I visited Southeast Asia! Heck, I missed out on so much on my trip to Nepal when I was twenty-one, because I didn’t have any money for the things that weren’t planned up-front.

Whilst it’s still a budget destination, having a little money saved up will go a long way in making sure you have the best time in Central America. If you don’t have the cash to splash, we recommend sticking to the cheapest four countries: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala!


In Central America, we found that there were lots of other backpackers in their mid-twenties to thirties and very few eighteen-year-olds. This gives it a whole different vibe to other backpacking destinations, such as Southeast Asia, which tend to draw a young, often first-timer backpacking crowd. Let’s face it, we don’t have the energy we did at eighteen, so when everyone else is straight out of high school or university it can be hard to keep up! 

Central America, in comparison, tends to draw an older, more experienced crowd of late-twenty- and thirty-somethings, which we loved. It was so easy to make friends, and we’re still talking to some of the amazing people we met months after we all returned home. 

On the other hand, younger travellers, such as Giselle, have said that she found it hard to form friendships with others as there weren’t so many people in her age-group. 

Is there a reason for this age disparity? I think so. Most new backpackers head to Southeast Asia. Especially backpackers from Europe, where it’s fairly common to take a gap-year straight out of high school.

And what can I say, Southeast Asia is cheap(ish) for us Europeans to fly to and different enough to be exciting. It’s easy to get around, most people in touristy areas speak English, and it’s super budget friendly. It’s the perfect place for young people to build travel experience and gain confidence whilst having a great time with friends of similar ages. 

In the USA, backpacking really isn’t a popular thing. Ashlyn, who we met on our adventures, thinks that many people in her country don’t really understand the concept or culture around backpacking. And those that do tend to head to Europe!

Ashlyn also agrees with us that, at least in the USA, backpacking in Latin America gets the reputation of being risky and dangerous. Many people have a misconception of what it’s actually like (beyond resort culture in places like Costa Rica or Mexico). This makes Central America the choice of more experienced travellers. And ‘more experienced’ often means older. 

Diving in Honduras: everyone else is a similar age to us!


But does this average age difference make Central America really boring? Not at all!

If you want to party, you can certainly find it! From popular events like Nicaragua’s Treehouse Party, to chill evenings drinking with new friends around a hostel campfire, Central America has a lot to offer for those in their twenties and thirties who love a good night out. 

And it’s not just limited to the evening: Central America is a party all day, every day. You’ll find that everyone blasts salsa and reggaeton, especially on the local public transport. Even if you don’t think you like this kind of music, you’ll soon get into the groove, especially if you take a dance class (we highly recommend it!). 

As this region tends to draw an older crowd, you’ll find fewer drunken kids who can’t handle their booze. Everyone’s really fun to be around whilst still being really respectful of the places that they’re visiting. 

Yes, backpacker bars have their place, particularly in touristy areas such as San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, or San Pedro, Guatemala. But we also found that backpackers in Central America tend to join the local nightlife as there are fewer party hostels, something Claire and Nick also experienced during their trip to Central America.

Central American ‘tourist parties’ also attract a lot of locals. Young city-dwellers flock to the beaches on the weekend to take part in popular events like Panama’s Filthy Friday and Nicaragua’s Sunday Funday at the weekend. This gives the nightlife in this region such a good vibe. You’ll really get to experience the real Central America alongside the locals, and not just the shiny parts that they save for the tourists. 

From Panama to Mexico: here’s the low down on Central America’s BEST Parties! (coming soon) 


But Central America is not just non-stop drinking. 

Don’t get me wrong, we love a good night out. But as you get older, hangovers get increasingly worse (we’re experiencing that!) and we find that we need to slow down a bit compared to when we went backpacking in our early twenties. 

Fortunately, Central America isn’t just party. There’s also tons of adventure travel options too! And usually they’re side by side. You can have a few lazy beach days, hike up a volcano, and make it back to town in time for one of the biggest parties of the week, all without having to travel too far. It’s great! 

Even in popular ‘party areas’, there’s still so much more to experience. And if you’re not keen for staying out late drinking, there’ll always be people about that will join you for a day of adventure. Claire, over at The Restless Beans, found that ‘people [she] met were more keen on adventure travel than partying’. And we found that most travellers in their mid twenties upwards wanted a mix of experiences. 

Even in popular ‘party areas’, there’s still so much more to experience. And if you’re not keen for staying out late drinking, there’ll always be people about that will join you for a day of adventure. Claire, over at The Restless Beans, found that ‘people [she] met were more keen on adventure travel than partying’. And we found that most travellers in their mid twenties upwards wanted a mix of experiences. 

From Panama to Mexico, you’ll find some great parties. But you’ll also find so many epic adventures, and places to relax and unwind. 


Central America has historically had a bad reputation for drugs, crime, and gang violence. Especially El Salvador, once known for having the world’s highest murder rate, and Honduras, who’s capital city San Pedro Sula used to be the most violent city in the world.

While it’s true that some parts of Central America have faced challenges related to crime, poverty, and political instability,  these issues are not universal across the entire region. El Salvador is now making headlines for its huge crackdowns on gang violence and is safer than it has been in years! And Honduras, the ‘bad boy’ of Central America, is much lower risk in the tourist areas outside of San Pedro Sula. 

Still, this reputation puts a lot of newbie or first-time travellers off visiting Central America, something also experienced by Giselle, over at The Globetrotting Turtle!. Instead, the region attracts those with a little more backpacking experience and confidence getting around. And more experienced often means older! 

Which is another point: it isn’t as easy to get around in Central America compared to other popular backpacker regions! The overall infrastructure of many places isn’t what we may be used to in Western countries, which may initially turn people away and towards an option that is a bit more comfortable and familiar. 

Ashlyn sums up our point perfectly here. ‘Now that I have had extensive experience in Latin America, I can definitely say that it does take a bit of adaptability to travel through this region. For example, public transportation is less structured/consistent, air conditioning and hot water shouldn’t be an assumed commodity and credit cards cannot be used for a lot of things.’ Being this way, it may take some more “experienced backpacker skills” to travel in Latin America, thus drawing an older crowd.

Hiking with hostel buddies


Am I biased because I went here in my mid to late twenties? Maybe! But I honestly don’t think I’d have had the same experience if I travelled to Central America in my teens or early twenties, for all the reasons listed above! So, if you’re in your mid-twenties upwards and are considering packing your backpack and hitting the road, I would 100% recommend considering Central America. The region may be small, but you’ll never run out of things to do!

That said, if you are thinking about heading to Latin America as a younger backpacker, I wouldn’t be put off. Backpackers are a super friendly and open crowd and age never really matters much. Other travellers agree that it’s sometimes nice to bond with people who have more backpacking experience, as they can help you pick up new tips and tricks along the way. 

Maybe because Latin America is a destination that’s a bit ‘out-there’, it draws even more of an open-minded and adventurous group, making it even easier to connect and make friends, no matter who you are.

No matter your age, we strongly recommend Central America and we hope you have the best time!

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Alice is a UK travel blogger who advocates sustainable travel and being more eco-conscious on a budget. She loves coffee, her houseplants and summiting mountains.

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