Solo Backpacking: Costa Rica / Nicaragua / Panama

I managed to sway 15/16 days off work from my boss and decided that I’d go to Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua. It seems like a lot of travelling around, and it was, but I had it all planned. I arrived in San Jose and that was the hub for travelling around.

Here was my route:

San Jose (Costa Rica) – Samara (Costa Rica)

Samara (Costa Rica)  – San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua)

San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua) – Granada (Nicaragua)

Granada (Nicaragua) – San Jose (Costa Rica)

San Jose (Costa Rica) – Puerto Viejo (Costa Rica)

Puerto Viejo (Costa Rica) – Bocas del Toro (Panama)

Bocas del Toro (Panama) – Panama City (Panama)

Panama City (Panama) – San Jose (Costa Rica)

There were a lot of buses to catch, but that what you got to do if you want to see as much as you can. I didn’t book anything ahead and I’d spend longer or shorter in certain places depending on how I was getting on.

San Jose

San Jose is a transit city, but it also has a great nightlife. I met a few lads at my hostel and we all went out for a few drinks. We drank a lot and ended up at a club that was full of locals and exactly what we wanted. One of the American lads I was with actually got kicked off the dance floor by security for showing off his ridiculous dance moved to ‘I’m sexy and I know it’. I guess that shows how seriously they take their dancing.


This is where you’ll find complete bliss, beautiful beaches, chilled vibes and a laid back attitude. I spend about 2 hours on this beach and that was enough to give me the worst sunburn of my life. I loved it here, it is very quiet but if you’re with someone it could be exactly what you’re looking for. There’s some great surfing and brilliant beach bars and restaurants.

Central America

Central America

Always try the local dishes!

San Juan del Sur

If you’re interested in drinking all day in beach bars, sea fishing or surfing then San Juan Del Sur is the place to be – it’s grown to become very popular with backpackers. Many often stay here a lot longer than they planned. You can get here from the boarder pretty easily, just hop on the famous ‘chicken’ busses, which are old American school buses, it’s only a dollar.

Central America


I paid $1 dollar to get a bus from San Juan del Sur to Granada which was more than an hour’s drive. It was so cheap that I paid about $15 for a taxi to the boarder on my way out. Granada is a colonial town, it’s bustling with markets. It’s well worth a visit, it’s cheap to stay and a great place to stop and learn Spanish at one of the schools. I climbed a volcano while I was here and it was one of the most gruelling things I’ve ever done, especially since I had my 9kg rucksack and only one litre of water.

Central America

Central America

My backpack (everything I had for 2 weeks) on top of a volcano.

Puerto Viejo

If you like reggae music, smoking weed and pretty much just bumming about then you’ll probably never leave this place. It has the nightlife you want, it’s surrounded by jungle and it’s beaches are just stunning. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who has been to Costa Rica and has not been to Puerto Viejo. You’ll likely to see some wild sloths around here and if not, there’s a sloth sanctuary right up the road!

Central America

Bocas del Toro

These clusters of islands were probably my favourite place on my Central America tour. Absolutely stunning scenery, great nightlife and island hopping, I stayed here for about 4 nights. I loved every second of it. There’s some amazing hidden beaches (go to starfish beach) so be sure to explore. It was just the bit of panama I was looking for.

Bocas Del Toro

Panama City

The carnival was taking place while I was here and it was a struggle to find a place to stay, It can be an expensive place but I was only here for one reason and that was to see the panama canal. I paid $15 for the museum entry and to see the canal. It wasn’t a mind blowing experience, but It was impressive to see these huge ships going through the canal and you do learn a lot about the history. If you visit Panama City then be sure to stay in the old town, it’s beautiful.

Panama Canal

3 passport stamps are better than 1!

It wasn’t too difficult to get a bus from one place to the next but it does help a lot if you speak a bit of Spanish. Most buses are grey hound busses that only leave at certain times during the day, so make sure you know the bus departure times or you’ll risk having to spend an extra day somewhere.

You can climb volcanoes, trek cloud forests, stretch out on Caribbean beaches and roast your own coffee beans. Travelling Central America, you’ll meet the locals, wobble through the jungle canopy on rope bridges and glide along Rainforest Rivers. Combining these three countries will give you an untamed adventure and a real glimpse into Central American life. Swing in a hammock on a tiny tropical island; see the wildlife in all its glory and grasp at the scale of the Panama Canal.


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