Volunteer, work and travel in
Central America

36166 Active hosts

local communities, projects and families

184 Countries

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Low cost travel

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Volunteer and work in Central America - low cost travel abroad - Workaway

Here at Workaway you will find 929 hosts and organizations for volunteer work in Central America.
Low cost travel without having to pay expensive agency fees.

Chill hostel looking for volunteers! Bocas del Toro, Pa...
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Teach English and practice your Spanish in Guatemala
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Help us in our hostel in Manuel Antonio and enjoy the b...
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Help us with off-grid community building in Golfito, Co...
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Travel to regions in Central America

  • Belize (29)

    Belize City, Orange Walk, Belmopan, El Cayo, Corozal

  • Costa Rica (351)

    San Jose, Alajuela, Cartago, Puerto Limon, Puntarenas

  • El Salvador (19)

    San Salvador, Santa Ana, San Miguel, Sonsonate, Nueva San Salvador

  • Guatemala (146)

    Guatemala, Quetzaltenango, El Progreso, Escuintla, Huehuetenango

  • Honduras (45)

    Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, Choluteca, Comayagua

  • Nicaragua (143)

    Managua, Leon, Chinandega, Masaya, Matagalpa

  • Panama (196)

    Panama City, Colon, David, Balboa, Santiago

Last minute volunteer opportunities

Here you will find 16 last minute opportunities for volunteering in Central America from Hosts that have indicated that they require help immediately.

Last minute
Workaway help at our unspoilt beach and surf spot and h...
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Help us at a hostel in Guatemala
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Last minute
Chill hostel looking for volunteers! Bocas del Toro, Pa...
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Last minute
Beautiful family-run jungle hostel offers position at r...
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Workaway feedback slides

There are 3838 reviews for 571 Hosts and organizations in Central America.
571 Hosts in Central America were rated 4.8/5 on average!

My stay at la isla was wonderful. The work was 4 hours a day and not difficult. Tamara and Sebastian are really friendly people. They showed me their ...

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I enjoyed my 3 weeks here and in San Pedro. I will say this isn't an opportunity I would recommend to everyone. The hostel is very quiet, and many tim...

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Amazing times!! Very dynamic place with really close contact with the nature, awesome group of people and the time work and activities is really fun t...

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I had an amazing time helping Johanna at her wonderful retreat center surrounded by the beautiful jungle, lots of animals and the scenery of Lake Aren...

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I stayed with Martin and the team for a month and had a great time!!! The location itself is amazing - close to the beach, surf, supermarket and all n...

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Registering as a Host

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Popular Hosts and organizations in Central America

Hostel (324)

Family (209)

Farmstay (100)

Other (89)

Central America

The narrow strip of land that connects North and South America is home to seven small tropical countries that offer travellers a complex web of cultures, ancient ruins, tropical wildlife and adventure.

Only 30 miles separate the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea in Panama, and even at the widest sections of Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, you can easily visit both coasts in a short trip. The region’s warm waters, flourishing marine life, and soft sands spanning two diverse coastlines mean that most of the tourism industry is along the edges. Broadly speaking, the Pacific coast is more developed and is popular with both surfers and beach lovers. The more sinuous coastline of the Caribbean provides a contrast with many rivers and areas of swamp and marsh, as well as stretches of unspoilt sandy beach to explore, lots of small islands and, most enticingly, the 560-mile long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Stretching from Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula down to Honduras, this is the second largest coral reef system in the world and easy to access, especially from Belize’s many cayes (low-lying islands). So whether it’s surfing the Pacific shoreline where waves rush onto golden beaches, or learning to dive in the Caribbean with affordable certification programmes that will introduce beginners to sea turtles and nurse sharks in a maze of coral reefs, water lovers will find plenty to do in Central America.

Few areas of the planet – including far bigger regions – pack in the degree of biodiversity and topographical variety found between Panama’s Darién Gap and Guatemala. The chain of steaming volcanoes and emerald-green mountains that snakes through the centre of the region means that in a relatively short distance the land rises from its two coasts to heights in excess of 13,000 ft. The magical combination of sunshine, rain, altitude and shade provides dry, cloud and rainforest habitats ideal for ocelots, three-toed sloths, capuchin frogs, poison dart frogs, multi-coloured birds such as the keel-billed toucan and Montezuma’s oropendola (which produces a quite remarkable call), plus a mind-boggling variety of butterflies and moths, flora and ecosystems – as well as creating the conditions for the world’s best coffee and most of its bananas. Inland you can climb volcanoes with perfect cones poking above the cloud line, take jungle walks past Mayan pyramids and through the dark canopy where pumas, sloths, howler monkeys and quetzals live, and participate in every variety of adventure sports.


Budget Travel and Safety in Central America

Until the 1990s, the region, (apart from peaceful Belize and Costa Rica), was subject to brutal repression (Guatemala), civil wars (El Salvador and Nicaragua), and proxy wars between opposite parties supported either by the US or the Soviet Union. Now the region is living a process of change and reform that is allowing travellers to discover an interesting and relatively cheap travel destination. Official advice for the region – which has above-average street crime rates – is to avoid run-down areas and unpopulated districts after dark, and protect belongings in cities. Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica are generally safer than Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Belize, which suffer from the maras (street gangs) and also have the highest crime rates in the region. Crossing into South America overland from Panama might seem feasible when you look at a world map, however it’s not generally considered to be a good idea. Known as the Darién Gap, this is the only break in the Pan-American Highway – check the situation when you plan to travel, and bear in mind that the usual advice is to avoid the area.

But generally, the people of Central America are kind and warm, and welcoming to foreigners. There is a diversity of culture from one end of Central America to the other, and indigenous culture plays an important role in the region, especially in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Travel on the continent is usually still quite affordable and volunteering with some of Workaway’s nearly 1000 hosts in the region will bring down costs associated with accommodation and food further. Between volunteering stints you can use some of the tips shared in this post about a solo traveller’s experience travelling around Central America to help keep costs down.


Climate in Central America

Central America is hot and generally humid. Generally speaking, January to April is the dry season. From May, rain can be heavy but sunny spells are frequent. In hurricane season (between June and November) tropical storms strike – and occasionally lash – the Caribbean coast.

Research the weather in the area you plan to visit, and plan your packing well. Visit our Blog to get packing hacks and other advice and tips from seasoned Workawayers, and read on for more specific tips on where to go in Central America.


Central America - country by country highlights

Belize

Formerly known as British Honduras, English is widely spoken in this tiny but very diverse country – along with Belizean Creole, Garifuna, Spanish and Mayan languages. Urban life is not one of the country’s attractions, and travellers spend much of their time off the coast among Belize's brilliant waters.

  • Hop in a water-taxi to visit one of the several hundred cayes (islands) that lie along the edge of the Unesco-listed Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System that offers some of the best scuba and snorkel diving in the world. The Great Blue Hole, made famous by Jacques Cousteau, is at Lighthouse reef, some 43 miles offshore. Caye Caulker is a Caribbean paradise that is a popular spot for backpackers visiting Central America.
  • The Mayan site at Caracol is impressive and was one of the most important Mayan centres at one time, covering a larger area than Belize City does today.
  • Passing through jungle and orchards as it skirts the northern edges of the Maya Mountain range, Belize’s Hummingbird Highway offers a constant stream of incredible picture-postcard views. There are also plenty of reasons to stop along the way, chief among these being a visit to Cave’s Branch for cave tubing and St Herman's Cave, where, with a guide, you can explore its huge caverns and classic Maya ceremonial chambers containing calcified skeletons and artefacts.

Guatemala

Guatemala is truly one-of-a-kind, a country of incredible vistas and staggering beauty. The most populated country in Central America, it is also the most culturally interesting and indigenous communities continue to play a major role, as witnessed in local clothing, food, fiestas and the more than 20 languages spoken here, as well as Spanish.

  • Many of Central America’s highest peaks are in Guatemala – including a handful of climbable volcanoes: Volcán de Agua, the impressive conical stratovolcano, looms over Antigua, and Volcán Tajumulco, the highest of all, is close to the Mexican border.
  • Lake Atitlan has been praised as one of the most beautiful spots on the planet – a volcanic lake with three volcanoes around it. Fishermen in rustic craft fish the lake’s tranquil waters, while indigenous women in multi-coloured outfits do their washing from the banks.
  • Set against the pictorial backdrop of three imposing volcanoes in the central highlands of Guatemala, the beautiful, old colonial town of Antigua is one of the country’s top tourist destinations and is a major centre for learning Spanish.
  • Located in the tropical rainforest in northern Guatemala, Tikal was one of the largest cities of the ancient Mayan civilization. Its many plazas have been cleared of trees and vines, its temples uncovered and partially restored, and as you walk from one building to another you pass beneath the dense canopy of rainforest.

Honduras

Though Honduras has a history of conflict, it is arguably the biggest surprise in the Americas and increasing numbers of travellers are discovering the country's abundant attractions.

  • The Bay Islands draw the most visitors and offer some of the best diving and snorkelling in Central America. Perched on the southern terminus of the Mesoamerican Reef, this is a paradise for water lovers with amazing reef systems and enough marine life to keep divers and snorkelers busy for days on end. Backpackers and indie travellers will love the sand streets and cheap accommodations of Utila, while mainstream Roatán – the most visited of the islands – offers a few more creature comforts.
  • The Cloud Forest of Cusuco National Park is a Meso-American biodiversity hot spot encompassing several very distinct habitats and a destination for many a scientific expedition.
  • Honduras is also home to the captivating Mayan ruins at Copan. Accessed from a welcoming town well equipped to receive travellers, the ruins are surrounded by a stunning natural landscape that is also a Macaw reserve.

El Salvador

El Salvador is one of the world’s smaller countries, making its ancient Mayan sites, volcanoes, jungles, and beaches easily accessible. But for many, the real draw of El Salvador is its gutsy people and its gritty history.

  • During the 1979-1992 civil war, a lot of the key battles took place in the south east, and this is the region to visit if you like military tourism. Perquin’s Museo de la Revolución is an untidy but never boring collection of weapons, memorabilia, agitprop posters and photographs of guerrillas.
  • Unesco-listed Joya de Cerén is the country’s main Mayan site. Sometimes dubbed the “Pompeii of the Americas” it was covered in ash in AD 600 after the eruption of the Loma Caldera volcano.
  • The Ruta de las Flores is a 36km-long winding trip through brightly coloured colonial towns famed for lazy weekends of gastronomy and gallery-hopping, as well as more adventurous pursuits like mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking to hidden waterfalls scattered throughout the glorious Cordillera Apaneca.

Nicaragua

This is Central America’s largest nation and between 1962 and 1990 was the site of a series of popular uprisings that have turned the capital, Managua, into a sort of living museum of the revolution. However, the quainter León and Granada are the most popular cities among travellers. Home to the second largest rainforest in the Americas and the largest freshwater volcanic island in the world, Nicaragua's land mass holds 7 per cent of the earth's biodiversity. After years of unrest, Nicaragua is emerging as the new Costa Rica at a fraction of the expense.

  • León offers crumbling colonial beauty, awe-inspiring churches and cathedrals, fabulous art collections, stunning streetscapes, cosmopolitan eateries and great nightlife. Located just a few miles inland of the Pacific Ocean, it is also home to popular beaches like Poneloya and Las Peñitas, which offer water activities and extend the nightlife options.
  • Granada is its great rival, and while smaller, it is also one of the country’s oldest and most historically important centres, featuring a wealth of Spanish history and well-preserved colonial architecture. Located in western Nicaragua on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, Granada offers tourists plenty to see and do from sightseeing to outdoor recreation and arts and culture.
  • Located in the largest rain forest north of the Amazon, Rio San Juan is a biodiversity hot spot and a new eco-tourism destination.
  • At 3,191 square miles, Lake Nicaragua is the largest lake in the region and the Isal de Ometepe’s twin volcanic peaks rising out of the lake capture the imagination of the surprisingly few travellers who make it out here. The island’s fertile volcanic soil, clean waters, wide beaches, wildlife population, archaeological sites and dramatic profile landed it on the 2006 shortlist for the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica receives more travellers than any other Central American country (2.9 million in 2016) and though small in size, the country contains 5 per cent of the world's biodiversity. For travellers, that means countless pristine beaches, tumbling jungles, and abundant flora and fauna. The country also specializes in adrenalin-fuelled adventure tourism in all its forms. Canopy walks, zip-lines, white-water rafting, mountain biking circuits, hiking trails and horseback rides are not the “extras” in Costa Rica, but the main reason most people come here.

  • Visit the Arenal Volcano National Park, bike or hike around its cone-shaped, dormant stratovolcano and bathe in its hot springs.
  • Located in central Costa Rica, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the country’s most coveted tourist destinations due to its astonishing natural beauty and abundance of activities including ziplining and canopy tours. The reserve however is most famous for its extraordinary biodiversity: around 400 species of birds are found here, more than 100 species of mammals including howler and capuchin monkeys and 1,200 species of amphibians and reptiles. Along with the mega-diversity of wildlife, there are 2,500 species of plants, 420 of which are orchids
  • Tortuguero National Park, accessed via taxi-boat, is a great stopover on the Caribbean side: the breeding ground of the green sea turtle, it also protects manatees, river otters, many reptiles and amphibians, and 300 bird species.
  • On the Pacific coast, the Nicoya peninsula is a paradise by the sea offering great surfing.
  • At 12,530ft, Cerro Chirripó is the highest mountain in Costa Rica – from the summit it’s possible to see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Its wild terrain protects very high biodiversity and endemism.

Panama

Panama City is the most American-looking capital city of Latin America, but its Casco Viejo – historic district – has the best-preserved Franco-Hispano-American colonial quarter outside New Orleans. This American influence is a direct result of its location, since narrow Panama forms a land bridge between North and South America.

  • The star attraction is the mighty, recently expanded Panama Canal, a feat of human ingenuity that passes through the San Lorenzo protected area and the Las Cruces and Soberanía national parks, as well as the wildlife-rich Gatun Lake. It can be explored by cruise boat as well as by train on the wonderful 47.6-mile railway.
  • Panama’s best beach on the Pacific side, Santa Catalina, although gaining popularity on the tourist circuit, is still very laid back. Most travellers come to here to surf, but scuba diving is also becoming popular and the chance to dive at Isla Coiba, part of a UNESCO World Heritage marine park is a rare treat.
  • Bocas Del Toro is a popular chain of islands in the northeast of Panama and is a favourite stop for people travelling through the Central American and onto South America.

Volunteering in Central America

Workaway is the world’s leading community for volunteering and cultural exchange. Lone travellers backpacking through Central America will find plenty of opportunities to meet and connect with the locals, but Workaway also offers many opportunities for couples, friends, families and groups. Workaway’s many hosts offer volunteers free accommodation and meals in exchange for a few hours of work a day, normally five days a week. This is the perfect way to make travelling affordable in Central America, or to extend your stay. Whether you want to visit Central America’s Pacific or Caribbean coastal paradises, or get right off the beaten track and immerse yourself in wild nature and local life, the perfect host is waiting to welcome you. It doesn’t matter whether you are exploring during your summer holidays, or seeking a gap year adventure, the volunteering opportunities are almost unlimited and will guarantee you have the time of your life.

Volunteer abroad: find the perfect host in Central America

As a member of the Workaway community you can use the many thousands of reviews and feedback provided to find your perfect match among our hosts. Share your culture, skills and language with the communities, projects and families that offer a wide range of volunteer programmes, volunteer projects and volunteer jobs. If you want to take a backpacking trip through the heart of Central America, use our regional filter to check out the many offers far away from the usual tourist spots. Combining these more off-the-beaten-track opportunities with a stay with some of the many host families and organizations in Central America’s towns and cities is the ideal way to enjoy the country’s diversity.

Travel and make a difference

Who doesn’t enjoy going on holiday and relaxing in a tourist hotspot? However, travellers who want to connect more deeply with the host country and make a real difference will find perfect opportunities to do this by joining Workaway. Do you want to find out more about the diverse cultures of Central America? Volunteering is the perfect vehicle for cultural exchange, providing the traveller with a truly memorable experience while doing something useful, like helping to restore an old building, helping with household tasks, or caring for children or animals. Working and travelling in Central America is the perfect opportunity to get to know this unique region, the countries that form it, its nature and its people.

Working and healthcare in Central America

If you are planning to visit Central America as a volunteer and not as a tourist, you must have the correct visa for each country. To find out about the latest requirements, you need to contact the Embassy of the country you plan to visit in your home country before travelling. And please don’t forget to take out appropriate insurance to make sure you qualify for healthcare!

So, whether you want to wander deep into the heart of the jungle to hear the call of the wild, or climb high above the clouds on the slopes of a volcano, surf the Pacific coast’s ocean rollers, scuba dive the reefs of the Caribbean, or sway to some reggae with a rum and coke in your hand on a remote island, Central America is waiting for you to do some exploring – join Workaway and get planning your trip!