When you think of Central American beaches, swaying palm trees, sugar soft super white sands and ocean waters in every shade of blue/green come to mind. Indeed, this is an archetypal image, particularly on the Caribbean coast, but the beaches of Central America, including those on the Pacific coast, also throw up rugged surf breaks and swathes of black volcanic sand. I’ve picked out some not so obvious choices of Central American beaches.
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There are some nice beaches on the Pacific coast of Honduras, but they tend to be windswept and with large surf. The beaches of the Bay Islands are considered to be among the best Central American beaches, but the beaches of Honduras’ Caribbean coast are often overlooked. Trujillo is a charm if you don’t mind the 3 hour bus ride to reach it. You’ll appreciate the laid-back lifestyle and serene life here.
Punta Chame, Panama
One of the best kept secrets of Central American beaches is the gorgeous Punta Chame. Located on a peninsula about 90 minutes from Panama City, it is the terrible road leading to the beach that keeps it from being the target of beach bunnies and developers. Considering its beauty and the distance from the city, which makes it an easy day trip, if you can survive the journey this is definitely a beach to be savored. The road, however, is under construction so get to Punta Chame before the Hilton Group do.
Playa Balandra, Mexico
Mexican beaches are already legendary – particularly if you love highly developed resorts such as Cancun. With over 450 to choose from spread between the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, picking a best one is not easy. Playa Balandra in La Paz on the Gulf of California is a major contender. Surrounded by mountains, the water is warm and shallow and the sand fine and soft. You can actually walk out into the remarkably turquoise blue water for some distance.
Maya Beach, Belize
Placencia is one of the coolest beach towns in Belize. The name is derived from the original Spanish meaning pleasant, which truthfully is somewhat understating the delights the narrow peninsula beach offers. There is some development here but it hasn’t spoiled the aspect in any way, and there are no major sprawling resorts. The beach is on a strip between the Caribbean Sea and a lagoon, the water is as clear and blue as you wish for and the sand cashmere soft. If you’re looking for Central American beaches and like the idea of Belize, Maya Beach will not disappoint.
Hawaii Beach, Guatemala
If you name a beach Hawaii, it needs to live up to some expectations. Hawaii Beach is one of the black sand beaches of Guatemala. It is in a nature reserve area, along with neighbor Monterrico, and there is an animal sanctuary nearby where turtle conservation is a prime focus. While other destinations in Guatemala are being developed to attract the surfers who frequent other beaches in Central America, Hawaii has a focus on eco-tourism. The vibe here is definitely laid-back, offering a place to simply relax and enjoy.
Playa San Diego, El Salvador
The Pacific coastline of El Salvador presents a mix of glittering black sand beaches and shimmering white sand beaches. El Salvador has some of the best Pacific Central American beaches for surfing, but if you prefer your waves gentler and calmer so that you can benefit from a swim after soaking up the sun’s rays in your own little patch of pristine sand, Playa San Diego is for you.
Playa Gigante, Nicaragua
Another of the beautiful beaches of Central America somewhat off the beaten track, Playa Gigante is a delightful crescent shaped swathe of sand on the southern Pacific coast of Nicaragua. The beach and its waters support a small fishing community and the locals are happy to serve up some of the day’s catch from a few shacks on the sand. If your beach heaven is culturally authentic and stunning sunsets, you’ll fall in love with the tranquility of Playa Gigante.
Playa Cocalito, Costa Rica
Costa Rica has been blazing a trail for eco-tourism for years now and the country boasts some of the best beach destinations in Central America. Whether you choose the Caribbean or Pacific coasts, Costa Rica has splendid beaches and many would love to claim the title as being the best. So where do you go if you want a real cast away type experience? Why, Playa Cocalito, of course. You have to walk through a jungle trail, including a suspension bridge, surrounded by monkeys and parrots, to reach the super soft sand fringed by swaying palm trees.
Playa Manzanillo, Colombia
Colombia? I hear you ask. Colombia is South America, not Central America. Totally true, however, Columbia has two islands in the Caribbean Sea and Isla de Providencia is one of them (the other being Isla de San Andrés). Practically devoid of development, Playa Manzanillo is often deserted, making it the perfect place to simply chill and let the cares of the world wash from your shoulders into the blue/green ocean.
Magnificent, aren’t they? I’d love to hear of your own favorite beaches in Central America.
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