An arial shot of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the most dangerous city in Central America

The Safest and Most Dangerous Cities in Central America

One of the charms of travelling in Central America is how many small towns and villages there are to visit. On a whole, to say it spans an impressive seven countries, there are not many large cities in Central America. The tourist trail in Central America generally avoids big cities due to their dangerous reputation. But what happens when a true cosmopolitan arrives in our favourite sub-continent?

Luckily for you I’ve done my research!

I’ve done a deep dive into the safest cities in Central America, and the most dangerous cities in Central America, so that you don’t have to.

I created this by researching the safety index of all cities in Central America that have a population of more than 200,000. That means that some popular destinations like Antigua, Guatemala and Granada, Nicaragua, have been missed off the list. However, the safety of places like that are really easy to look up online.

You will notice the distinct lack of destinations in Costa Rica on the “safe” list, what with it being the safest country in Central America! This is because Costa Rica is largely made up of towns and smaller cities, especially when it comes to the coastlines. Its capital, San Jose, narrowly missed the safe list.

The Safest Cities in Central America

1. Mixco, Guatemala

In first place as the safest large city in Central America is Mixco, Guatemala. Mixco is a city in the department of Guatemala, right next to Guatemala’s capital, Guatemala City. For this reason, although it’s calculated Central America’s safest city, it’s usually missed by tourists and is not necessarily a touristy place although you do find immigrants/expats here. Most of Mixco is separated from Guatemala City by canyons and is the second largest city in Guatemala.

2. Alajuela, Costa Rica

Alajuela is both a city and a district in Costa Rica, which is very common in Central America. It is located in the central valley of Costa Rica, not far from the capital of San Jose. Already we’re seeing a running theme here – cities you can escape to just outside of the capital! Alajuela is the second safest city in Central America.

3. Panama City, Panama

Panama City is, of course, the capital city of Panama. Whilst there are more dangerous areas of the city and safer areas of the city (you only need to read my guide to areas in Panama City to know that!), overall it is the third safest large city in the whole of Central America.

4. San Miguelito, Panama

San Miguelito is not far from Panama City, and in fact is in the same district as Panama’s capital. Their motto is Tierra de la gente buena which is Spanish for “Land of the good people”, which might explain why it’s the fourth safest large city in Central America. The city is also well known for producing some of Panama’s best football players.

5. Managua, Nicaragua

Managua is the capital city of Nicaragua, and the fifth safest large city in Central America. It is located in the north east of Nicaragua, on the southern shore of Lake Managua. It is one of Nicaragua and Central America’s major economic hubs and is one of the most well developed cities in the continent, despite having to rebuild after several catastrophic earthquakes.

The Most Dangerous in Central America

5. Villa Nueva, Guatemala

Villa Nueva is a city just south of Guatemala City, with quite a tumultuous history. Its economy mostly relies on industry, with a large number of factories. It is the fifth most dangerous large city in Central America.

4. Soyapango, El Salvador

Soyapango is a city close to San Salvador, which is the capital of El Salvador. Whilst El Salvador has gone through big political reform (which is why San Salvador escaped this list), some dangers of the country still remain here. Soyapango is the fourth most dangerous city in Central America.

3. Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Honduras is one of the more dangerous countries in Central America, and as it has a lot of large cities, a few of them have sadly made this list. Tegucigalpa is the capital city of Honduras and the third most dangerous country in Central America. 

2. La Ceiba, Honduras

La Ceiba is famous for its pineapple exports and famous carnival to commemorate Isidore the Laborer. The city has been officially named the “Eco-Tourism Capital of Honduras,” as well as the “Entertainment Capital of Honduras”. I’d love to think that this means that the safety of La Ceiba will grow over the next few years as the tourism industry develops in Central America. For now, it is the second most dangerous large city in Central America.

1. San Pedro Sula, Honduras

The dangerous reputation of San Pedro Sula unfortunately precedes the city. It spent several years as the murder capital of the world until Caracas, Venezuela, took over in 2016. San Pedro Sula is the most dangerous city in Central America, and one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

The history of Honduras (along with every other country in Central America) is absolutely fascinating, and I really encourage reading about it.

If you’re going to Central America soon, remember that tourism powers growth, and Central America is trying to develop its tourism trade to grow the economy and create a better life for its residents.

With that in mind, when you’re travelling, remember to tip your guides well, always visit local businesses and restaurants, and use local tour companies wherever possible.

Method and Results for Finding Safest & Most Dangerous Cities in Central America


Here’s the method I used to find out which are the safest cities in Central America and the most dangerous cities in Central America:

Firstly, I used this list of all cities in Central America with over 200,000 inhabitants.

I then researched each city on Numbeo and organised them into the list of most dangerous to least dangerous using their crime index.

Two cities (Santa Ana in El Salvador and Choloma in Honduras), were omitted due to lack of information.


Here is a table of the results:

CityNumbeo Safety Index
Santa Ana, El SalvadorNo Data
Choloma, HondurasNo Data
San Pedro Sula, Honduras20.26
La Ceiba, Honduras24.06
Tegucigalpa, Honduras25.65
Soyapango, El Salvador26.96
Villa Nueva, Guatemala30.15
San Miguel, El Salvador31
Belize City32.09
Guatemala City, Guatemala37.99
San Salvador, El Salvador39.35
San José, Costa Rica44.26
León, Nicaragua44.36
Managua, Nicaragua46.6
San Miguelito, Panama48.04
Panama City, Panama52.82
Alajuela, Costa Rica53.53
Mixco, Guatemala60.29

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