There are seven countries in Central America, and therefore seven Central America capital cities. The largest Central America capital is Guatemala City, and the smallest is Belmopan, Belize.
A few Central America capitals, like Panama City and San Jose, represent some of the region's top destinations. Others will prove mere stopovers on your way to other attractions. All are vibrant, bustling metropolises (except for tiny Belmopan) worth a second glance, or even an extended stay.
The capital of Panama is Panama City.
Home to the Pacific entrance of the famous Panama Canal, Panama City has a population of approximately 813,000, with a total metro population of 1,207,000. Panama City is widely heralded as the most cosmopolitan of the Central America capital cities, primarily because of its historical American influence and the income generated by the Panama Canal.
The capital of Costa Rica is San José.
The largest city in Costa Rica, San Jose has a population of approximately 160,000, while the San Jose metro area is home to 612,000. Unlike many other Central America capital cities, San Jose is a favorite destination in its own right, home to numerous museums, galleries, theaters, and other cultural attractions. It's also a popular place to study Spanish.
The capital of Guatemala is Guatemala City.
Known as "Guate" by the locals, Guatemala City is the largest city in all of Central America and the Caribbean, with a population of 2.9 million in the metro area. This represents a population explosion in the last few decades, with Guatemala City's infrastructure struggling to catch up. The largest airport in Central America, La Aurora International, is located in Guatemala City, and the city's location makes it unavoidable for Guatemala travelers and those venturing throughout Central America. However, crime in Guatemala City is high, and travelers should take extra precaution when in the city.
The capital of Nicaragua is Managua.
The second-largest city in Central America, Managua has a population of approximately 1,850,000, with 2.1 million in the metro area. The city is located on the southwestern shore of Lake Nicaragua. Managua is very much Nicaragua's economic and cultural heart and continues to emerge as a tourist destination.
The capital of El Salvador is San Salvador.
San Salvador (meaning: "holy savior") has a population of approximately 541,000 with 2.2 million in the metro area, making it the third-largest city in Central America. Although San Salvador has experienced a tumultuous history -- including civil war and a series of earthquakes -- it's lively and fascinating in many ways and can serve as a hub for exploring the rest of El Salvador.
The capital of Honduras is Tegucigalpa.
Often called "Teguz" for short, Tegucigalpa has a population of approximately 1.2 million people., with 1.3 million in the metro area. Although Tegucigalpa proper includes a number of worthwhile cultural attractions, the country's social discrepancy is utterly apparent in the sprawling shantytowns surrounding the city.
Contrary to popular belief, the capital of Belize is not Belize City; it's Belmopan.
The Belizean capital was moved to Belmopan after a 1961 hurricane nearly destroyed the former capital city. The population of Belmopan is approximately 20,000 (in contrast, the population of Belize City is over 70,000). For tourists, there isn't much to see in Belmopan -- it's mostly a stopover between Belize City and the coast, and Cayo and the western jungles.