Interested in backpacking through Central America? Curious what the best destinations are, specifically the best islands? We’ve put together an expert list of the top Central America backpacker islands and let our readers rank them from best to worst.
Bocas del Toro, Panama may be my personal favorite island of all-time. An island where you take boats a.k.a water taxis to attend parties and buy delicious empanadas for only $0.70 on the corner. Home of beautiful surfing spots, tons of fun-loving tourists, and wild island parties on the many neighboring islands. One strange thing about Bocas is that you can't walk through the streets without a shirt on, even though it's an island. I think it's related to gang tattoos so just a warning if a cop sees you he will ask you to put a shirt on. Bocas has a few hostels and I had a great experience staying at Selina - they have another hostel on the island across from Bocas called Selina Red Frog.
Bocas has a great nightlife scene and beautiful waterfront clubs and bars all along the coastline. Check out the Bookstore Bar for a drink or two if you're looking for something strange and out of the ordinary, but some of my favorites are Aqua Lounge, Blue Coconut, and La Buga.
Caye Caulker, Belize is the epitome of a backpacker island, unlike its expensive neighboring island Ambergris Caye. It's uncommon to walk down the beach without being offered three or four coconuts overflowing with rum - Belize's version of a Coco Loco. Its motto is 'Go Slow' and it's easier to see why everyone on the island is so laidback and friendly. If you're looking for a hostel to stay and get the real backpacker party vibe then look no further than Dirty McNasty's Party Hostel, if you think you can stomach it. If you're looking for a more upscale hostel that feels a little more comfortable, don't forget to stop by for their free rum punch at 7 p.m.
Though not the typical destination for most backpackers, due to its expensive prices - especially compared to Caye Caulker - Roatán has an incredible beauty that must be experienced once in a lifetime. Roatán offers some of the most beautiful snorkeling in not only all of the Caribbean, but the whole world. Enjoy boat or helicopter trips to the famous Blue Hole and even go scuba diving in it if you're adventurous enough.
The Corn Islands, Big Corn and Little Corn - both located in the Caribbean 50 miles off Nicaragua's eastern coast - are two underrated and hard to reach islands that are well worth the hour-long flight from Managua to Big Corn in a small prop plane and 30-minute additional boat ride to Little Corn...if you have the luxury of purchasing a flight.
If you've got the sea legs for a 5-day Catamaran ride through dozens of the most beautiful islands of all-time, which I didn't, then you're in for the time of your life. The San Blas Islands of Panama is an archipelago comprising approximately 365 islands and cays, of which 49 are inhabited.
This quiet island located in southwest Lake Nicaragua is known for its two twin volcanoes. If you're looking for a chance to rent a motorbike, this is your ideal chance. It takes about 45 minutes to drive end to end across the island by motorbike. There are plenty of quiet hostels (Hostel Lazy Crab) on this island and there is one party hostel (Little Morgans). If you go during rainy season a.k.a mango season - when it's raining mangos - you'll enjoy eating free mangos directly off the floor.
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