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12 of the Best Beaches in Central America

Central America is packed with great beaches, from the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean coast to the slightly rougher (but still beautiful) beaches on the Pacific side. Here is a list of some of the best beaches in Central America — I visited most of these but I roped in some other travel bloggers to help fill in the gaps.

Long Beach, Big Corn Island, Nicaragua

Most people breeze through Big Corn Island, in favour of spending more time at its smaller neighbour, but Big Corn has some great beaches. Long Beach is my favourite and it was completely deserted — we walked along the perfect sand for about an hour without seeing another person! The water was a bit rough for swimming but we visited Long Beach in rainy season.

Best beaches in Central America - Long Beach, Big Corn Island, Nicaragua

Otto Beach, Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

The blue waters of the Caribbean meet white sand and palm trees at Otto beach — it’s the perfect place to relax on Little Corn Island. It’s a bit of a walk from the main town but it’s one of the best beaches in Central America, so it’s worth the walk!

Further reading: The Corn Islands, Nicaragua: The Caribbean on a Budget

Best beaches in Central America - Otto Beach, Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

Playa Bancon, Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

Playa Bancon is definitely one of the best lake beaches in Central America. It features black volcanic sand, a great view of Volcan Concepcion and a chance to swim in the warm waters of Lake Nicaragua. Ometepe Island is one of the most scenic places in Central America; don’t miss it.

Further reading: Ometepe: A Magical Volcanic Island in Lake Nicaragua

Best beaches in Central America - Playa Bancon, Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

Playa Maderas, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Playa Maderas is famous for surfing, but walk around the rocks for a while and you’ll reach some amazing stretches of quiet beach which are perfect for relaxing. You can walk for hours along beaches (and over rocks) in this area, so it’s not just for people who want to surf or be lazy.

Further reading: Exploring the Northern Beaches in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Best beaches in Central America - Playa Maderas, Nicaragua

Isla Coco Bandera, San Blas Islands, Panama

Of all the beaches in Central America that I visited, this was my favourite. This tiny island is basically one big beach, and the bright blue water and perfect sand is surely what everyone pictures when they think of a Caribbean Paradise. We even saw dolphins jumping just offshore. You can see lots of other small islands surrounding Isla Coco Bandera, and you’re up for it you can swim to the closest one. (The photo at the top of this post is also from Isla Coco Bandera).

Best beaches in Central America - Isla Coco Bandera, Panama

A beach on Isla Ballena, San Blas Islands, Panama

This is another great beach in the San Blas Islands, located on one of the biggest islands in the region. The water was great for swimming, but as you can see by the looming clouds in the photo, the skies were about to open (we visited the San Blas Islands in rainy season and were pretty lucky with the weather for most of the trip, except for this day).

Further reading: The San Blas Islands: Time Travel in the Caribbean

Best beaches in Central America - Isla Ballena, Panama

Red Frog Beach, Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Panama

By Claudia from My Adventures Across the World

From the hidden surfers’ spots of the Pacific Coast, to the white sand and palm trees lined beaches of the Caribbean coast that are perfect for beach bumming, Panama has some fabulous beaches catering to any need and taste. I am known for being a picky person when it comes to beaches and sea, as I grew up in Sardinia, which really is a paradise. Yet Red Frog beach, in the beautiful Bocas del Toro Archipelago, met all my expectations. This is a beautiful beach, best reached by water taxi via a small marina which is located on the south side of Isla Bastimentos, and which is famous for being populated by the rana rojo, the strawberry poison-dart frog. It’s white, powdery sand, the thick vegetation that surrounds it, the clear turquoise waters make it – to put it quite simply – the perfect place to relax.

Further reading: Check out some of Claudia’s favourite beaches in Sardinia

Best beaches in Central America - Red Frog Beach, Panama

Playa Espadilla, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

This beach is a short walk from the far more crowded Playa Manuel Antonio, and while it doesn’t look quite as good for swimming, it’s still a great beach. This area is also a wildlife lover’s dream — we saw sloths, three different kinds of monkey, raccoons, toucans and a deer.

Further reading: A Week of Budget Backpacking in Costa Rica

Best beaches in Central America - Playa Espadilla, Costa Rica

Playa Conchal, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

By Samantha from My Tan Feet

Playa Conchal is one of the most beloved and popular beaches in Costa Rica. Located in the province of Guanacaste, nicknamed the golden coast of the country for its beautiful beaches, Playa Conchal enchants visitors from all over the world with its sparkling clear blue waters and white shells instead of sand. Visitors can enjoy a complete beach day at Conchal, laying out and swimming or enjoying one of the many sports such as snorkelling, kayaking and jet skiing. For any visitor to Guanacaste looking for the ultimate beach vacation, Playa Conchal has to be at the top of their list.

Further reading: If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica make sure you check out Mytanfeet.com, it’s one of the best Costa Rica resources out there

Best beaches in Central America - Playa Conchal, Costa Rica

Punta Uva, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

By Mary from Bohemian Travelers 

Puerto Viejo is one of the nicest beach areas that I have ever been to. It is situated on the Caribbean coast and enjoys a beautiful climate year round. There is a real laid back atmosphere with a Rastafarian vibe as a back drop. It is a 5 hour drive from the capitol of San Jose, through a stunning landscape. The area offers something for everyone; hiking, swimming, snorkelling, various adventure sports, and great food. The main town where you will find shopping and lodging is Puerto Viejo but the most beautiful beach in the area is Punta Uva, about 15 minutes outside of town on a rustic dirt road. There you will find pristine water, a snorkelling reef just off shore, and most days you will be visited by a local troupe of howler monkeys.

If you go, be prepared; bring your own durable beach supplies, drinks and food, towels, and anything else you may want for a fun beach day. Although the town is a short drive away, the beach has NO services and is somewhat isolated.

Further reading: Costa Rica is home to some of the best beaches in Central America — see some more of them in this post

Best beaches in Central America - Punta Uva, Costa Rica

Playa El Tunco / El Cuco, El Salvador

By Jules from Don’t Forget to Move

El Salvador isn’t necessarily known for its beaches, and we’d be pretty happy if it stays that way. These quiet, underdeveloped and seriously underrated beaches offer some amazingly long stretches of pure white sand, stunning sunsets and ripper surf. If you’re looking for some waves and a bit of a backpacker scene, head to El Tunco, where the beers are cold and the food is cheap. Otherwise, the sleepy town of El Cuco offers some equally decent waves, but is less developed, has whiter sands and is a little more off the grid from the usual tourist crowd (the photo below is of El Cuco).

Further reading: Check out a full post on El Salvador’s beaches over at Dontforgettomove.com

Best beaches in Central America - El Cuco, El Salvador

Ambergris Caye, Belize

By Tyra from BarrisTourista

Ambergris Caye, off the coast of mainland Belize, offers the most gorgeous, warm waters and ocean views. Numerous beach-front resorts offer prime vistas. The different shades of blue are magical, and because Belize is the home of the second largest barrier reef in the world, the snorkelling and diving is absolutely remarkable.

Further reading: Find out why Tyra thinks you should visit Belize (we didn’t end up visiting during our trip through Central America, maybe we should have!).

Best beaches in Central America - Ambergris Caye, Belize

Have you been to any of these beaches in Central America? What was your favourite? If you’ve been to any great beaches in Honduras or Guatemala, get in touch as I’d love to feature your photo (I didn’t go to Honduras and I didn’t visit any beaches in Guatemala).

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Jon Algie

Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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11 Comments

  1. November 28, 2015 at 5:02 pm — Reply

    Fantastic post! I love it that you have included Ometepe too – who said that beaches only have to be on an ocean?

    • Jon Algie
      November 29, 2015 at 9:40 am — Reply

      Definitely – I love that beach and the water was so warm!

  2. November 28, 2015 at 10:50 pm — Reply

    I have always thought Nicaragua is fascinating, but never imagined so many fabulous beaches it has! All 12 are top-notch indeed!

    • Jon Algie
      November 29, 2015 at 9:41 am — Reply

      Thanks Svetoslav, Nicaragua is a great place to travel, we spent longer there than anywhere else in Central America.

  3. November 29, 2015 at 1:39 pm — Reply

    Great post! I just came back from Central América so I got nostalgic! Next time in Guatemala you can visit the beaches around Lake Atitlan

    • Jon Algie
      December 2, 2015 at 8:59 am — Reply

      Thanks Maria! I saw a couple of beaches there but they weren’t great – I don’t think I went to the best ones!

  4. November 30, 2015 at 3:27 am — Reply

    Well I definitely realize from looking at your awesome pictures that Nicaragua is definitely a place I must go and soon. Wow, what incredible beaches. I live part-time in Panama and can honestly say I have not yet been to San Blas either. I need to get with it. 😉

    • Jon Algie
      December 2, 2015 at 9:02 am — Reply

      Haha, definitely get to San Blas and Nicaragua!

  5. November 30, 2015 at 11:52 am — Reply

    Thanks for including mine! So many excellent beaches in Central America!

    • Jon Algie
      December 2, 2015 at 9:14 am — Reply

      Thanks for helping out!

  6. Christy
    December 28, 2015 at 5:42 am — Reply

    We didn’t care for the beaches at Ambergris Caye Belize. Lots of trash and seaweed near town. Maybe further north they are pretty.

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