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.
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
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
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
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).
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!).
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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