Emerald Coast, Nicaragua
A gem on the Pacific, the Emerald Coast runs for 30 miles from El Astillero to Playa Guacalito. It’s one of the best stretches of sand in Central America. There are some amazing luxury resorts here, as well as great surfing. If you don’t want to spend the whole time on the beach, hike inland to volcanoes and birdwatching trails.
San Blas Islands, Panama
The ancestral home of the Kuna people is still entirely managed by the community, which means that huge developments have been kept at bay. Explore the islands by sailboat on a trip to the Colombian port of Cartagena, or return to Panama after you’ve seen as many of the 360 small islands as you can.
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Treat yourself to a stay at Ambergris Caye and you’ll be in paradise. You could go to Caye Caulker if you’re on a budget, but those looking for a more relaxing experience should head to nearby Ambergris Caye. There are no cars here, and you can get a beach bungalow right on the water.
Malpaís, Costa Rica
Head to the Nicoya peninsula on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast and you will be treated to great waves, beautiful beaches and a relaxed vibe. There are upmarket resorts if you’ve got cash to splash, or budget surf schools for backpackers. Surf in the morning and stretch out with some ocean-view yoga in the afternoon.
Little Corn Island, Nicaragua
This small island is isolated from the rest of Nicaragua and retains its Creole culture. Reggae is a big deal here, and the relaxed island life seduces many a visitor. Cocal beach is a must-see; a long stretch of pure white sand that evokes all of the stereotypes of a Caribbean island. There are also plenty of amazing dive spots to explore if that’s your thing.
West Bay Beach, Roatan, Honduras
Roatan is the biggest of the Bay Islands, and boasts the most beautiful beach of all. West Bay Beach is picture perfect, with white sand and palm trees, plus there are great diving and snorkeling opportunities. Avoid the days when the cruise ships come into port and you’ll have a great time.
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Explore Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast at Puerto Viejo and you won’t be disappointed. Swim at Playa Negra, surf at Puerto Viejo, and eat at the restaurants on stilts at Koki Beach. It’s the kind of place that will make you want to stay forever. A real gem in Central America.