22 Breathtaking Beaches in Central America

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Bucket List Worthy  

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With the deep, blue Pacific Ocean on one side and the tranquil Caribbean Sea on the other, few places in the world can rival the breathtaking beaches of Central America. Choose one of these 22 picturesque Central American destinations for your next beach vacation, and you’ll return home refreshed, relaxed and ready to do it all again.

#1. Ambergris Caye, Belize

Really trying to get away from it all? The Caribbean-style, car-free town of Ambergris Caye offers the hammock napping, coconut drinking lifestyle you’ve been seeking.

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#2. Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Playa Manuel Antonio — amidst the jungle surroundings of Manuel Antonio National Park — may be getting a little more popular, but the minute you sink your toes into the sand, watch the monkeys swing from tree to tree and simply take in the view, you’ll feel the area’s tranquility.

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#3. Isla Bastimentos National Park, Panama

Spend your days sinking into the soft sand of the Cayos Zapatillas islands as you admire the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. And don’t forget to pack your snorkel, because the vibrant coral and colorful sea life are simply unforgettable.

Photo credit: Magalie L'Abbé
Photo credit: Magalie L’Abbé

#4. Hopkins, Belize

Swing in a hammock strung between two palm trees, swim in freshwater pools or explore the caves, waterfalls and ruins— you can be as carefree as you were as a kid in Hopkins, Belize.

Photo credit: Joshua Skaroff
Photo credit: Joshua Skaroff

#5. Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica

You don’t have to give up nightlife and supreme dining to enjoy the tranquil beach lifestyle — Tamarindo is the perfect beach for travelers who like a little more action in the evenings and picturesque ocean views during the day.

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#6. Palencia, Belize

Don’t plan on lifting a finger during your beach getaway? Head to Palencia, Belize, where relaxing, drinking coconuts and the occasional scuba diving or snorkeling trip are just about all you can do — and that’s a good thing.

Photo credit: Phillip Larson
Photo credit: Phillip Larson

#7. San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

More adventurous travelers have fallen in love with San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. It’s a popular surfing, fishing and sailing destination that gives you that little bit of adventure you crave, but encourages you to relax and take in the gorgeous jungle views when you’re through.

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#8. Barra de Santiago, El Salvador

Discover the natural wonderland of Barra de Santiago, where tourism has yet to make its mark. Located in northern El Salvador on the Pacific coast — less than two hours from San Salvador — you’ll enjoy the dreamy thatched-roof housing and locals so friendly, you’ll leave feeling like family.

Photo credit: Paul Alexander
Photo credit: Paul Alexander

#9. Playa Samara, Costa Rica

Bring the kids to play in the white sands of Playa Samara or use it as your own personal yoga retreat — this Costa Rican beach destination is perfect for snorkelers, surfers, adventurers, fisherman and laid back travelers alike.

Photo credit: Manuel Reinhard
Photo credit: Manuel Reinhard

#10. Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

Don’t forget your camera when you pack your bags for Roatan, because the white sand beaches and turquoise Caribbean waters are worthy of a post card. With a happening nightlife scene, fresh seafood everywhere you turn and low prices, you may want to give yourself a little extra time to explore Honduras’ Bay Islands.

Photo credit: James Willamor
Photo credit: James Willamor

#11. Playa Venao, Panama

Less than a five hour drive from ultra-modern Panama City, is an undeveloped, tranquil beach town — Playa Venao. Enjoy the city life if you please, then escape to soft sand, warm tidal pools, sweeping palm trees and old-time culture of Playa Venao.

Photo credit: Roman Königshofer
Photo credit: Roman Königshofer

#12. Mal Pais, Costa Rica

Relax and take in the breathtaking views from one of Mal Pais’ warm tidal pools or try your hand at surfing one of Costa Rica’s best waves. Yoga classes, spa days, horseback rides and fine cuisine are all available at Mal Pais, so you don’t have to sacrifice luxury for that authentic Costa Rican beach feel.

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#13. Monterrico, Guatemala

You won’t get photos of turquoise water lapping on white sand beaches at Monterrico, but that’s what makes this beach so enticing. The volcanic black sand and undeveloped, uncrowded setting are what draw true beach lovers to Monterrico.

Photo credit: npatterson
Photo credit: npatterson

#14. Water Cay, Honduras

Pack a cooler for your trip to Water Cay, because there are absolutely no facilities on this island, which is what makes an afternoon with your toes in the sand even more enjoyable. Don’t worry, it’s just a short swim over to Pigeon Cay or Jewel if you forgot your lunch or are seeking a cold local beverage after a hot day in the sun.

Photo credit: Andrew Hall
Photo credit: Andrew Hall

 #15. Whale’s Tail Beach, Costa Rica

Nothing beats a bird’s-eye view of Whale’s Tail Beach in the Ballena Marine National Park, because this awesome beach destination is actually shaped like a whale’s tale. Even better, whale sightings are common in the Ballena Marine National park, and this breathtaking beach still hasn’t been saturated by tourists.

Photo credit: costaricaproperty
Photo credit: costaricaproperty

#16. Costa del Sol, El Salvador

When you want to be pampered on your beach vacation, there’s no better destination than Costa del Sol, El Salvador. High-end resorts provide everything you need to relax and unwind, but if you feel like a bit of adventure, boat rides, fishing trips and watercraft rentals are on hand as well.

Photo credit: MjZ Photography
Photo credit: MjZ Photography

#17. San Blas Archipelago, Panama

Few beaches in the world rival the beauty of the 378 islands that make up the San Blas Archipelago in Panama, and when you set foot on one the islands, it’s likely you won’t see another person or even a footprint on your own little piece of tropical paradise.

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#18. Dominical, Costa Rica

When you’re seeking a beach vacation that allows you to lay in the shade of a palm tree, but encourages you to engage in some adventure (snorkeling, surfing or whale watching to name a few), Dominical offers all of the ingredients to create an unforgettable beach getaway.

Photo credit: Roman Königshofer
Photo credit: Roman Königshofer

#19. Playa Estrella, Panama

On the northern tip of Boca del Toro’s largest island, you’ll find a charming beach littered with cartoonish starfish that simply must be seen. While it’s not the best beach for soaking in the sun, it’s ideal for snapping photos and simply admiring mother nature’s work.

Photo credit: Jean-Marie Prival
Photo credit: Jean-Marie Prival

#20. Nosara Beach, Costa Rica

When you’re looking to balance quiet days on an uncrowded beach with enough restaurants and shops to keep you busy if you got a little too much sun, Nosara (also known as Playa Guiones) is the perfect place to take a surfing lesson, relax under the palm trees and admire picturesque Pacific sunsets.

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#21. Cayos Cochinos, Honduras

The north coast of Honduras is home to one of Central America’s most dreamy beach settings. Admire the tiny islands (big enough for just one palm tree) of Cayos Cochinos and swim or snorkel in the pristine waters — this undeveloped, uncrowded beach destination is perfect for travelers who want a little time to themselves.

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#22. Half Moon Caye, Belize

There’s no better way to end a list of beautiful beaches than with this quintessential beach paradise — a white sand beach with towering palms trees overlooking turquoise, crystal clear waters. Basking in the sun and simply admiring nature are the most popular activities at Half Moon Caye.

Photo credit: side78
Photo credit: side78

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About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a freelance writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, learning new cultures and surfing new waves.

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