Central America and Mexico are growing in popularity with travelers after the pandemic, according to travel agents and tour operators.
New booking data from Hostelworld reveals that Central America overtook Europe in hostel bookings for the first time in 2022.
Bookings in the region are up 40% from 2019. But the uptick in interest is highest among women traveling alone.
This may come as a surprise, given that several Central American countries – which includes Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize – have high rates of violent crime that have deterred some travelers in the past.
UK female solo travelers are the biggest fans, with their bookings up 78%.
Mexico (up 79%), Costa Rica (up 60%) and Guatemala (up 55%) appear in Hostelworld’s top 10 trending destinations for solo female travelers for the first time in 2022.
Skyscanner has also seen a huge jump in flight bookings to Mexico. Over the past two years, he says that Mexico City moved his world ranking up 148 places, from 197th to 49th place.
Mexican Riviera tourist favorite Cancun rose 43 places from 124th to 80th.
What is the attraction of Central America for travellers?
The area’s growing popularity makes sense, given the growing demand for nature-focused travel since COVID.
In Hostelworld’s March 2022 Solo Travel survey, 74% of solo travelers said they seek out nature and experiences of the natural world.
And solo trip is on the rise as people reevaluate their lives in the wake of the pandemic.
Some 49% of respondents said they were traveling alone because they wanted to prioritize life experiences over their career for a while.
Cost is also undoubtedly a factor in Central America‘s popularity, at a time when the cost of living affects many people’s vacation purchasing power.
In Budget Your Trip’s Travel Cost Index, Guatemala is ranked as the cheapest country to travel to in Central America. He estimates that the average daily travel cost for a solo traveler is $39.
Costa Rica is ranked the second most expensive country, with an average daily travel cost of $69.
Compare that to the most popular travel destinations in Europe. The same index estimates that the daily cost of travel in France is €186; in Spain it is 119€.
Where are the best hostels for solo travelers in Central America?
The quality of hostels is another big draw for travelers to Central America
At Hostelworld’s annual HOSCAR awards this year, two of the five overall winners were from this region.
The winner of “The People Person” category was the Che Tulum Hostel and Bar.
It is in one of Mexicomost popular destinations, with a white sand beach and Tulum ruins at its doorstep.
Offering private rooms as well as shared dorms, the hostel is popular with solo travelers for its on-site bar, hot tub, social nights, and hands-on staff. And a double en-suite room costs as little as £40 a night.
Palmar Beach Lodge in Bocas del Toro, Panamawon the “Eco Warrior” category.
With a prime beachfront location in an island archipelago, the hostel is proof that immersive nature experiences can be cheap in Central America.
popular for its beach cleanups with customers, Palmar is powered 100% by renewable energy. It uses only on-site filtered rainwater and contributes to local community projects.
And you can sleep there for as little as £17 a night in a dorm. There are also a number of private options including bell tents, basic double rooms with shared bathrooms and deluxe double rooms for up to £200 a night.
Why Costa Rica is a beacon for nature lovers
A fun fact about it Central American eco-haven: Although it covers only 0.03% of the earth’s surface, Costa Rica contains almost 6% of the world’s biodiversity.
Its landscape is characterized by volcanic cones, tropical rainforests and sandy beaches along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
And Costa Rica is a pioneer in sustainable tourism. About 25% of the country is protected by conservation areas.
In 2022, its Certification program for sustainable tourism celebrated its 25th anniversary. To date, more than 400 tourism businesses in Costa Rica have been certified.
It also focuses on weaning off fossil fuels and runs almost entirely on renewable energy.
The popularity of Costa Rica covers all corners of the tourism market. As well as being increasingly in demand by budget travellers, as shown by booking data from Hostelworld, it is also a top destination for luxury sustainable tourism.
The tour operator Pura Aventura, specializing in Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula, has doubled the number of Tours in Costa Rica it is running for 2022. So far this year bookings have increased by 10%.
“Costa Rica continues to be one of our most popular destinations,” said Tom Power, Founder and CEO of Pura Aventura.
“Being woken up in your rainforest eco-cabin by the cry of howler monkeys, strolling along the beach at sunrise, and spotting sloths and toucans in a little-known coastal nature reserve will never lose its appeal. ”