I didn’t plan on spending two weeks each in Guatemala and Nicaragua this year, but things fell into place nicely. Because I’m such a short flight away, these short jaunts were the perfect way to experience the places and the relatively small sizes made it possible to see a lot in a short amount of time. I found both countries to be affordable, especially for a backpacker like myself. I stayed in some hotels, some hostels, and some campsites, mostly less than $20 USD per night. I’ll be sure to update this post as my travels take me elsewhere!
Cucuruchos Hostel, Antigua
There are a few design-forward hostels in Antigua that tend to cost nearly twice as much as those you’ll find in the rest of Central America. And while I didn’t see Cucuruchos Boutique Hostel at the time on Hostelworld (it is now!), I heard about it elsewhere and gave it a shot. I loved my stay for its bunks with full curtains, great location, and a rooftop balcony. I was glad to have a place of my own after staying at my sister’s apartment for a few days, which isn’t included in this post for obvious reasons.
See also: Antigua, Guatemala for Gringas
Volcan Pacaya, Antigua
I slept in a tent on the side of a volcano outside of Antigua and, thanks to a dose of Ambien, slept through the night without freezing to death. I don’t want to rehash the whole experience, but you can read all about it below.
See also: Sleeping on Volcan Pacaya
La Iguana Perdida, Lake Atitlan
I booked my stay at this remote hostel in a small town on Lake Atitlan and knew it could go one of two ways. Either it would be way to rustic for me or I’d love it. Thankfully, it was the latter and I added time onto my stay. It was great to be able to disconnect, make new friends, and start my day with yoga. Accommodations are definitely on the rustic side, as expected, but I slept well every night at La Iguana Perdida.
See also: Santa Cruz La Laguna for the Soul
Casa Elena, San Pedro
After being disconnected for so many days in Santa Cruz, I knew I needed to buckle down and get some work done. I hopped on a ferry across the lake to the party town of San Pedro. I didn’t partake while I was there but instead took advantage of fast WiFi and cheap hotels. Casa Elena was recommended to me by a friend at La Iguana Perdida. The rooms were simple, but had hammocks outside and were surrounded by restaurants. I didn’t need a reservation and instead asked about a room in broken Spanish before paying cash.
El Retiro Lodge, Lanquin
Travelers to Lanquin, the gateway to the water wonderland known as Semuc Champey have essentially two options. You can be closer to town and its shops and restaurants, spending money to get to the park, or closer to the park, usually within walking distance, and spend money to get to town and to dine at your accommodations. I chose the former. El Retiro was a laid-back spot along the river. My door didn’t shut all the way unless locked with an actual lock, so sometimes dogs and cats got in. I also shared it with an older French man who walked around in his tighty whiteys. Bathrooms were open air and you had to walk across the courtyard to access them. I enjoyed my meals there and even had a strong drink at the bar on Inauguration Day.
See also: Semuc Champey: The Best Day Ever?
Los Amigos Hostel, Flores
Upon arriving, I was unsure of the party atmosphere at Los Amigos Hostel, but it ended up being much quieter than expected. You could partake in the raucous happy hours, but also could book excursions to Tikal and beyond with them. Beds were comfy, meals were great, and the garden courtyard was full of colorful murals. Their activity offerings were fantastic, but plenty of people spent their days on their laptops lounging on the massive pillows set around the space.
Theatre International Hostel, Guatemala City
Pickings were slim in the capital city as most travelers skip it entirely. I arrived early after an overnight bus and had some trouble finding Theatre International Hostel, but once I did, I liked it. Located upstairs in a grand old building, it has an open courtyard where backpackers lounge with beers. There’s a daily pancake breakfast and it’s a short walk from bars and restaurants.
See also: Exploring Guatemala City’s Zona 4
La Bicicleta Hostel, Managua
La Bicicleta Hostel was my base in the city when I arrived late at night and left early to fly home. The fairly new spot feels like a gated home covered in murals. They have a full-sized kitchen for you to prepare meals and include breakfast. Rooms have cozy bunk beds and nearby bathrooms, some ensuite. It’s also within walking distance of countless restaurants and a grocery store. The airport is less than 20 minutes drive away.
Mango Rosa Resort, San Juan Del Sur
I didn’t pick Mango Rosa, as it was the site of a creative retreat I went on, but it was a nice place to spend the week. It has a great restaurant and bar, pool, hammocks, and spaces for yoga and quiet reflection. I stayed in a casita with its own kitchen and bathroom. It’s a short walk down the road to the beach and is located a bit further out from downtown San Juan del Sur, but is ideal if you’re planning on spending your visit surfing, horseback riding, or exploring in your own vehicle.
Casa Oro Hostel, San Juan Del Sur
After a week out in the country, Casa Oro was perfectly central in SJDS. I tried to book in advance when I was there, but they said to come back that day. I chose a smaller dorm with air conditioning after seeing the massive dorms with open doors. The beds had curtains and their own bathrooms. Breakfast was included daily, usually gallo pinto and eggs.
See also: San Juan del Sur for Gringas
Hacienda Merida, Ometepe
You won’t find it on booking websites, but Hacienda Merida was one of my favorite places in Nicaragua. Pictured with the all-important mosquito net, outfitted in all rooms. The property, which doubles as a school, offers camping and sleeping in hammocks during the dry season. It has its own restaurant and collects plastic to use as building materials. They rent kayaks and bicycles to allow you to explore on your own.
Where would you stay in Central America?
This post contains some affiliate links, but I paid for my stays at each of these places out of my own pocket.