Find out what the best beaches in Central America are as awarded by millions of real travelers.
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
Surf’s always up in the Costa Rican beach town of Santa Teresa. Bright sun and gleaming sands make the perfect backdrop to hang ten in the crystal-clear waters, and fishing, snorkeling and kite-surfing are popular among vacationers. Yoga and spa services are a must for the ultimate relaxation, and, at night, catch a glorious sunset on the same beach where earlier you caught a wave.
Playa Samara, Costa Rica
Horseback riding, fishing and yoga are just a few of the myriad things to do on the gorgeous Playa Samara. The white-sand beach is the perfect place to relax with a book or run wild with the kids, offering a fabulous setting for any beachside activity you could dream of. Offshore, a coral reef rewards snorkelers with active, beautiful marine life.
Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Tamarindo is a prime spot for surfing and sportfishing, diving and sunning. Nesting leatherback turtles do their thing along the beaches from October to May and, for some nesting of your own, gorgeous beach houses, B&Bs and luxury hotels line the sunny sands. Shopping and dining options are superb and plentiful, perfect for sampling the true flavors of Costa Rica.
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
The charming white sand beaches of San Juan del Sur are the perfect launchpad for a fishing trip, surfing session or the journey to a deeper tan. Popular with ex-pats and surf bums, this beach on the edge of a crescent-shaped bay gives way to a lighthouse and the ruins of a historic fort.
How about a Caribbean beach vacation with plenty of pristine white beaches and fewer crowds? Head to Roatan, a diving paradise with the world's second largest coral reef at its doorstep and a number of diving sites a short boat ride from shore. Travelers love its weather, its friendly people, and its soul - "(it's) not one huge all-inclusive resort after another." Get here before word gets out.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica
Only real-deal surfers should brave the torrid waters of Puerta Viejo de Talamanca, known both for their beauty and for their dangerously strong riptides. Surf’s especially up at Salsa Brava and Playa Cocles. Not to fear—the rest of you water bugs can enjoy snorkeling, kayaking and diving in the calmer waters of Cahuita or Manzanillo. Rent a mountain bike to coast to Manzanillo for a full, fun experience.
San Pedro, Belize
San Pedro is "La Isla Bonita" that Madonna made famous. Now it's a tourist mecca, but still boasts great beaches and plenty of dive shops so you can enjoy the sun, sand, and sea. Plan a side trip to Caye Caulker while you're here; it is less developed and more laid back, and has its own splendid swimming areas.
Mangroves and palm trees sway gently over the carpet of bright white sands of Placencia beach. Strap on a snorkel or suit up in scuba gear to explore intricate coral reefs or kayak gently amid peaceful lagoons. There are sailboats and catamarans available for day and night rentals, which range from sail-it-yourself to full-staffed vessels. Don't forget to wave hello to the manatees—they're the pride of Placencia.
Caye Caulker, Belize
"Go Slow" is the motto in Caye Caulker, an island so small you can walk across it in about 20 minutes. Travelers report that it's "not for the party animal." This relaxed island attracts backpackers, painters, divers and snorkelers, and is close to many gorgeous dive spots.
Gulf of Papagayo, Costa Rica
Papagayo sparkles with dazzling shades of blue and gold—the sea meeting a carpet of rich sand. The beaches here are unspoiled and tranquil, yet provide ample opportunities for activities like deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, sea kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing or simply frolicking in the warm waves. Nearby volcanoes, tropical forests and hot springs add to Papagayo’s magic.