10 Best Central America Beaches

By on Published: March 7, 2016 | Last Updated: January 14, 2022 in Central America, COSTA RICA, GUATEMALA, Latin America, NICARAGUA, PANAMA with 14 Comments

The 10 Best Cetnral America Beaches

Bordered by both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Central America is really a skinny strip of land dominated by huge bodies of water on either side.

This makes the whole continent a beach-lovers paradise and the array of different coastal areas in this small continent is astounding!

From scuba diving and sipping rum on the east Caribbean coast, to surfing and relaxing under palm trees on the west pacific side there’s plenty to enjoy for everyone.

Barely taking 4 hours, in some places, to get from one coast to the other, this is perhaps one of the best places on the planet to enjoy all the ocean has to offer!

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#10 Uvita, Costa Rica

Far less crowded than any of Costa Rica’s more popular resorts, the southern beach of Uvita is certainly one of the most stunning Central America beaches.

I actually went there to attend the Envision Festival, which is an annual gathering of music and dance, but this white-sand beauty would be a paradise at any time of the year.

Perfect for swimming and sunbathing you can explore nearby waterfalls, or take your chance to see humpback whales in the nearby national marine park.

Failing that, it is always possible (at low tide) to visit the Punta Uvita.

This amazing land strip has been naturally carved by the sea into the shape of a whale’s tail, as if to announce their presence here.


#9 Santa Catalina, Panama

Panama’s best beach on the pacific side, Santa Catalina is slowly making its way onto the tourist radar, but has wonderfully retained a very low-key feel.

Most travellers come to here to surf, but scuba diving is also becoming popular with the chance to see whale sharks being perhaps the biggest draw.

Sadly I didn’t see any when I was there, but the chance to dive Isla Coiba, part of a UNESCO World Heritage marine park was a rare treat.

Stay at Hostel Villa Vento Surf and don’t miss a trip to the incredible village bakery – a must!


#8 Monterrico, Guatemala

I loved Monterrico purely because it was so different to the rest of Guatemala, which is why it’s made its way onto my list of the best Central America beaches.

Largely dominated by mountains, going down to the steamy coast in Guatemala is a great way to experience a different side to this fascinating land.

I stayed in the Hotel el Delfin and spent 5 blissful days there simply relaxing and enjoying the sound of the ocean again after so long away from it.


#7 Caye Caulker, Belize

This quintessential Caribbean paradise is a popular spot for backpackers visiting Central America and is famous for its incredible diving and super snorkelling. A tiny island with a big heart, Caye Caulker is only accessible by boat or airplane.

Once there, enjoy the welcoming atmosphere of this small village community and the peaceful, undeveloped feel of the place.

A tiny island with a big heart, Caye Caulker is only accessible by boat or airplane. Once there, enjoy the welcoming atmosphere of this small village community and the peaceful, undeveloped feel of the place.

Once there, enjoy the welcoming atmosphere of this small village community, the peaceful, undeveloped feel of the place and one of the best Central America beaches.


#6 Isla Mujeres, Mexico

This island, off the coast of Cancún in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, is a very welcome relief from the craziness of its very developed and tourist-driven neighbour!

I ended up spending a week on Isla Mujeres – free camping on the beach (sssh!) which by law has to remain public property in Mexico and can’t be bought the numerous luxury resorts that skirt its edges.

I can’t tell you how great it was to wake up every morning, roll out of my sleeping bag and wash off in the crystal-perfect waters of the Caribbean not 2 feet away!

I also saw some incredible wildlife whilst on Isla Mujeres including paddling turtles and soaring frigates.


#5 Playa Gigante, Nicaragua

Many people love the busy Nicaraguan beach town of San Juan Del Sur, but as I’ve said on numerous occasions, I love the nearby and quieter resort of Playa Gigante far more – in fact it’s one of my top 5 places to visit in Nicaragua.

Here you can easily spend days swinging under hammocks with a good book or walking along the quiet beach searching for shells.

Of course. for the surfers among you there is plenty of action to be had too!

So beat the crowds and head out to Gigante, definitely one of the best Central American beaches in my opinion.


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#4 Bocas Del Toro, Panama

This popular series of islands in the northeast of Panama is favourite stop for people travelling through Central American and onto South America.

(You can read more about this in my post about how to travel cheaply from Panama to Colombia)

Add to that, the wonderful diving available in Bocas, as it’s casually known, and you’ve got yourself a great Caribbean escape.

Stay at Bubba’s House on one of the quieter islands and enjoy a good atmosphere, less touristy feel and one of the best Central America beaches.


#3 Mazunte, Mexico

I loved Mazunte on the pacific coast of Mexico for its low-key feel, windswept days and yummy cafes.

Situated in the province of Oaxaca, this little beach is quieter than nearby Puerto Escondido, but still provides its fair share of shoeless adventures and wild waves.

I visited here in May, the most humid month of the year, so my advice would be to avoid this time of year if you can (think endless sweating and relentless mosquitoes!).

Yet even that did not dampen my experience of this gorgeous Central America beach – a must-see!


#2 Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

This stunning part of Costa Rica definitely provides some of the best Central America beaches, a title it would claim just for its sunsets alone!

Add to that the stunning natural surrounds, the abundance of wildlife and the sort of conscious development that makes Costa Rica stand out in this part of the world and it’s hard to overlook Santa Teresa.

In the southwestern corner of Península de Nicoya, the alternative hotspot of Montezuma isn’t far away either and waterfall trips, plus great places to eat and drink, are an added bonus to this paradise by the sea.


#1 Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

And coming in at number 1 of course, is my home away from home, Little Corn Island.

I’ve written plenty about how I went for a week, but stayed a year and about all the great things to do on Little Corn Island, not least explore the stunning beaches which fringe the whole edge of this tropical paradise.

This is what initially brings the scuba divers, snorkelers and sun-worshippers here, but soon, the sweet taste of the local coconut bread and fresh mangoes get under their skin and before they know it, they’re hooked just like me!


Best Travel Insurance for Central America

I wouldn’t dream of travelling anywhere these days without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads which I’ve used during my time in this region and across the world.

World Nomads are actually one of the few companies that will insure you for a huge range of outdoor activities as standard – essential for a spot like Central America.

Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker looking for travel insurance with Covid-19 cover, then look no further than Safetywing’s great Nomad Insurance policies.

These guys will cover you at some seriously great prices, including if you have to quarantine!




So those are 10 of the best Central America beaches.

Have you visited any of them?

Which was your favourite?

Any that I missed?


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About the Author

About the Author: Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile .

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There Are 14 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Suze - Luxury Columnist says:

    I thought the beach in Rio was pretty impressive, the way it carried on for miles – but some of these sound amazing!

  2. Adrienne Lee says:

    Great info. I’ve been to lots of beaches in the Caribbean, but none in Central America. Thanks for the recommendations.

  3. I’ve not been to Central America, so when I started reading this post, I found myself saying “That’
    s my favourite”. As I scrolled down the page, I have now decided that they are all my favourites, so I had better start thinking about when my travels can include some of these 🙂 Costa Rica seems to be all the rage at the moment. Maybe I might start there as the sunset photo in this post is to die for.

    • Steph says:

      Ha ha, good place to start Kerri! Costa Rica beaches are certainly some of the best, but the whole of Central America is a great continent that is well worth exploring – glad the post inspired you!

  4. pgbk87 (A.P.P.S.) says:

    This list is opinionated and includes Mexican beaches, so it should be taken with a grain of salt. Based on my travels, here is a list of the top beaches on mainland Central America with absolutely no islands or any Mexican beaches added:

    10) Playa Hermosa (Jacó), Costa Rica


    9) Playa La Ermita, Panamá


    8) Playa Marsella, Maderas and Majagual, Nicaragua


    7) Uvita, Costa Rica


    6) Playa Mata Oscura, Panamá


    5) Playa Cocles, Costa Rica


    4) Playa Conchal, Costa Rica


    3) Maya Beach (Placencia) Belize


    2) Playa Blanca (Punta Leona), Costa Rica


    1) Playa Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica


  5. Instantly knew I’d love this post as soon as I saw the words beaches and Central America in the title. As always a fabulous post. More pictures please.

  6. Sorry for the second comment it won’t let me edit. Red Frog Beach in Boca’s del Toro was an absolute fave of mine! Hope you got to see it.

  7. Bea says:

    Not sure why you included Mexican beaches since Mexico is not a Central American country. The list also isn’t very encompassing or diverse.

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