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Mayan ruins, whites beaches, active volcanos, stunning lakes – if you’re thinking about the best places to visit in Central America, a lot of images might come to your mind. We are sure that amongst them are some of the best beaches in the world.

Central America is lucky to border two different seas – the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other side. That means you can find lots of different beaches in Central America. You can go surfing on the Pacific Coast, or you can sip a cocktail underneath a palm tree on a Caribbean island.

To help you choose and to inspire you for your next trip, we have put together this list of the best beaches in Central America. Plus, we’ll give you lots of helpful information along the way, so you know how to get started in planning a trip to any of these destinations!

Best beaches in Central America

#1 Starfish Beach, Panama

Starfish Beach

Starfish Beach is, in our opinion, one of the best beaches in Panama. Central America offers lots of white sand beaches where you can relax underneath a palm tree, but at Starfish Beach, you can also see giant starfish in the water!

Plus, when we visited, we came across a sloth. What else could you possibly expect from the perfect beach?

You can find Starfish Beach on the Caribbean coast of Panama in an archipelago called Bocas del Toro.

Bocas del Toro has a lot more to offer than just Starfish Beach. You can search for red frogs, escape to uninhabited islands (which were some of the best islands in Central America that we’ve visited) and even try organic chocolate on a cocoa farm. As we can’t cover everything in this blog post, we have put together a whole post with all the information you need about Bocas del Toro!

If you just want to relax and enjoy the sea, you’ll find it easy to spend a whole day at Starfish Beach. The water is shallow and crystal clear, making it fun even for children. Plus, the water temperature is just perfect for enjoying swimming in it.

Keep your eyes open at all times, as you might see the giant starfish we mentioned above. You should be able to find quite a few of them along the beach, often close enough to the shore that you can take pictures with them.

Make sure not to touch them, as picking them up can kill these creatures. But you can pose next to them, and that still makes for pretty awesome photos.

Along Starfish Beach, you’ll find multiple restaurants serving seafood. This is an excellent opportunity to try some very fresh and delicious food.

Restaurant at Starfish Beach

How to get to Starfish Beach

If you want to visit Starfish Beach, you need to first get to Bocas del Toro. You have multiple options, and the shortest one is to take a plane from Panama City. The flight takes just 45 minutes, so you’ll be there in no time.

If you’re looking for more environmentally friendly options, you can take either a tourist shuttle from Costa Rica or a public bus from Panama City. Either option will take you to Almirante first, from where you then take a boat to get to Bocas del Toro.

Once in the area, you can take a bus from Bocas Town. These regularly leave from the town square, so you shouldn’t have any problems getting to Starfish Beach.

Pineapples at Bocas del Drago

Where to stay in Bocas del Toro

Unfortunately, you cannot stay in a hotel directly on Starfish Beach.

On the bright side, this also means that this beach remains natural, and the jungle starts right behind the sand. It makes for a pretty cool atmosphere, and the good news is that you can stay in a hotel close by.

Hospedaje Yarisnori offers affordable rooms within walking distance to Starfish Beach. If you’re looking for a place to spend a relaxed week or two, then you’ve come to the right place. Click here to check out reviews and prices!

As an alternative, if you’re looking for a beach resort in Panama with more comfort, you should check out The Hummingbird. The cabins here look lovely, and you’ll have a nice pool as well. It’s not quite as close to Starfish Beach as Hospedaje Yarisnori, but it has its own beach, and you can always take a taxi to see the starfish.

#2 Isla Holbox, Mexico

Ilona sitting on a swing in the water in Isla Holbox, Mexico

Our next destination takes us to Mexico. Have you ever scrolled through your social media feed and seen those swings in the water?

We found them on Isla Holbox!

Besides the swings, the island also offers one of the best beaches in Mexico and Central America. We were a bit unlucky with the weather when we came here, as the rainy season had just started. But even on cloudy days, the beach on Isla Holbox is beautiful!

Plus, the island itself is worth a visit. You’ll find lots of colourful houses on Isla Holbox, but no cars or paved roads. It’s almost as much fun to walk through the town as it is to lie on the beach.

Isla Holbox is known for its relaxed atmosphere. If you’re backpacking in Central America and Mexico, the chances are high that you’ll end up here at one point.  But the island is also perfect for any other traveller looking for relaxation and a few carefree days.

Street art on Isla Holbox, Mexico

How to get to Isla Holbox

If you want to visit Isla Holbox, you first need to travel to Chiquila. You can either use a rental car, which you can then leave at one of the many parking lots in Chiquila, or you can take a bus. Buses regularly leave from Cancun and will take around three and a half hours.

If you want to look up the schedule or book the bus in advance, you can do so online.

From Chiquila, you can then take a ferry to Isla Holbox. The ride is short and will only take you around 15 minutes! Once you’ve made it to the island, you can then catch a golf cart taxi which will bring you to your accommodation.

Where to stay on Isla Holbox

Street art on Isla Holbox Mexico

What we love about Isla Holbox is that you can find accommodation at every price level. You don’t need to be rich to stay here, but you can also choose a more luxurious Mexican beach resort if you want to.

A fantastic option for budget accommodation is Frequency. You’re going to stay in a dome so remarkable that we’re surprised that this place isn’t more expensive. Plus, the reviews are excellent. If this had been available when we visited, I’m sure we would have stayed here. Go and check out the reviews and prices now!

If you want more comfort in a four-star hotel, you should check out Palapas del Sol. The beachfront cabins look fantastic. Plus, you have access to a pool and a private beach. What else could you possibly want?

#3 Utila, Honduras

Utila beach, Honduras

Utila is a paradise island in the Caribbean that features some of the best beaches in the Caribbean. If you like white sand, sunshine and palm trees, you’re going to love your stay here.

The most accessible beach to visit is the public beach, where you can hang out underneath a sun umbrella in the water. You’ll find it easy to spend a whole day here, relaxing, enjoying the sand and the sun.

If you’re looking for a more remote beach, you should head to Water Caye. This island is so tiny that you can walk around it within a few minutes, but it features the perfect white beach.

Plus, the other side of the island offers some of the best snorkeling in Central America that I’ve done. You can find a reef just off the shore where you can discover lots of colourful fish.

School of blue fish while snorkeling in Utila

My favourite moment was when hundreds of blue fish passed underneath me, but I also loved the striped fish that darted in and out of the seaweed forest.

If you’re tired of lying on a beach, you should head out to explore the island of Utila. Visit the Iguana Research Station to learn more about the iguanas that live on this island. Or stroll through the colourful village and grab a smoothie or a plate of fresh fish.

And then head back to the beach to relax.

If you’re looking for detailed information about Utila, we have you covered. Check out our guide to the best things to do in Utila now!

How to get to Utila

Getting to Utila is easy.

Most international visitors either land at the airport in San Pedro Sula or Roatan. Roatan will be easiest, as you can catch a ferry to Utila from here.

If you land in San Pedro Sula, you have two options. The first one is to catch a flight to Utila. Do this if you’re short on time, as it’ll allow you to arrive in Utila on the same day. Take a look at flight schedules and prices on Skyscanner.

Water Cay beach, Honduras

The more environmentally-friendly alternative is to take either a bus or a private shuttle to La Ceiba. Keep in mind that the shuttles are pretty pricey, so if you’re on a budget, get the public bus. See here for an example of a shuttle service that picks you up at the airport in San Pedro Sula.

From La Ceiba, you can then catch the ferry to Utila. It leaves twice daily, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. If you can’t make the afternoon crossing, you will need to stay in La Ceiba for the night and take the ferry the following day.

This is also the route you’ll take if you already are in Central America and would like to visit Utila. Head to San Pedro Sula and take the bus to La Ceiba from there.

Sometimes, you’ll also find flights to La Ceiba directly, from where you can then transfer to the ferry.

To get from Utila to Water Caye and enjoy some of the best beaches in Latin America, you can easily catch a boat from Utila. Most companies also offer you the chance to rent fins and mask if you want to snorkel.

Street from Utila, Honduras

Where to stay in Utila

One of the best places to stay is Chez Mylady. Mylady offers both rooms and apartments with a kitchen at an affordable rate. You can find her right in the jungle behind Utila, in a lovely setting. We enjoyed having breakfast outside our room and listening to the jungle sounds.

Plus, Mylady is an outstanding host. She took us on a tour around the island and hiked with us to the top of Pumpkin Hill. If this sounds good to you, then check out current prices and availability for your next stay!

At the other end of the price range, you’ll find Manurii Boutique Hotel. This hotel is perfect if you’re looking for a resort-style accommodation with a pool while also keeping your privacy. The garden is beautiful, and most reviews mention how friendly the hosts are. Go and check it out on booking now!

#4 Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Beach in Tamarindo Costa Rica

Next on our list of the best Central American beaches is our only beach on the Pacific Coast.

All of the places mentioned above offer turquoise water, white sand and the perfect location to enjoy a cocktail. The Pacific, on the other hand, gives you the opportunity to enjoy the best surfing in Central America. Here, you can find the perfect waves.

In Costa Rica, Tamarindo offers a fantastic beach if you’d like to learn how to surf. You can take lessons here, or, if you’re already experienced, rent a surfboard and go straight into the waves. Check out these lessons, for example, which you can book online.

Even if you don’t want to surf, we’re sure you’re going to enjoy Tamarindo Beach. While the waves are strong, they are also fun to jump into to refresh yourself. Afterwards, lie down on the beach and enjoy the fantastic sunset.

Street sellers in Tamarindo Costa Rica

How to get to Tamarindo

The closest airport to fly into is Liberia airport. From here, you can take a bus to Tamarindo, and you’ll reach your destination within an hour and a half.

An alternative is to take a bus from San Jose. You can find regular connections between the capital and Tamarindo. It takes around five and a half hours. Since public buses can book out and you cannot reserve your tickets online, an alternative is to book a shuttle from San Jose to Tamarindo.

Or you get a rental car. Driving yourself is the most expensive option, but it’ll save you some time compared to taking the bus or shuttle.

Umbrellas in Tamarindo Costa Rica

Where to stay in Tamarindo

Tamarindo is one of the more touristy places on this list, so you have a wide range of accommodation available. Some of them also have excellent ratings, so you’re likely also going to love them.

Ten North Tamarindo Beach has an excellent location and a fantastic pool. You’re only three blocks away from one of the most famous beaches in Costa Rica. Go and check them out!

If you’re looking for a budget option, you should check out Hotel Mahayana. It’s not the cheapest accommodation you can find in Central America, but it offers excellent value for the area. You have a pool, a lovely room and fast wifi. What else could you ask for?

#5 Placencia, Belize

Beach in Placencia, Belize

Placencia in Belize offers one of the best beaches in Belize and possibly one of the most beautiful beaches in Central America.

If you’re looking for a long stretch of sand with crystal-clear water and lots of palm trees, you’ve come to the right place. Plus, Placencia will charm you with its laid-back atmosphere and “the Sidewalk”, a walkway that runs behind the beach.

Here, you can buy frozen yoghurt or a smoothie, which you can then enjoy on the beach. You can also enjoy fresh seafood in one of the many restaurants or shop for souvenirs.

If you’re looking for more inspiration for a trip to Belize, check out our one week in Belize itinerary! We’ll recommend the best places you need to see in the country, plus lots of information on what to do, where to stay and how to get there.

If you want to explore the area further, you can do lots of day tours from Placencia. Go and search for whale shark or meet the howler monkeys at Monkey River. You won’t get bored.

How to get to Placencia

Placencia is also known as “the caye you can drive to”. That means you can take a direct bus from Belize City.

Unfortunately, that bus only leaves once a day. Therefore, a far better option is to catch a bus to Independence and continue by water taxi from there. There’s no need to book the water taxi in advance. You can just show up and book your ticket for the next available ride.

Tipsy Tuna bar in Placencia, Belize

Where to stay in Placencia

You have lots of options of where to stay in Placencia, from small cabins on the beach to larger resorts.

Heavens Gate Beach Bungalows offers bungalows right at the seafront. You’ll wake up with a view of the Caribbean every morning. Go and check out more information on

As an alternative, we came across Miramar Apartments during our research. These apartments have a fully furnished kitchen, plus you have access to a pool. They receive excellent ratings, so we think you should go and check them out.

#6 Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Isla Mujeres is another Caribbean island that we loved. Many people visit on a day trip from Cancun, but you should stay overnight if you want to enjoy the beaches fully.

The most famous beach on the island is Playa Norte. Here, you can lie down in the sun, enjoy a drink and refresh yourself in the crystal clear water. Isla Mujeres is the perfect place to travel to if you want to spend a few days doing nothing.

Once you’ve spent enough time on the beach, we recommend renting a golf cart and exploring the island. Those golf carts are lots of fun to drive, and they’ll allow you to see everything Isla Mujeres has to offer.

Check out the baby turtles in Tortugranja, a turtle sanctuary. Or, if you’re visiting from May to September, try your luck at finding whale sharks.

Off the coast of Isla Mujeres, you can also find an underwater museum. It’s the perfect day trip if you know how to dive, but you can also snorkel to see parts of it. Here is an example of a tour that takes you there, plus to two other great snorkelling locations.

The sea at Isla Mujeres, Mexico

How to get to Isla Mujeres

Getting to Isla Mujeres is straightforward. You just need to catch a ferry from Cancun, and you can check out the schedule and prices online. Be aware that the ferry port in Cancun is called Puerto Juarez, so don’t be confused about the port names.

The easiest option to get to the ferry dock from any place in Cancun is to take a taxi. As an alternative, you can also take the Ruta 13 bus, which stops close to the ferry terminal. It runs past the central bus station where you can catch it.

Where to stay on Isla Mujeres

What we love about Isla Mujeres is that it offers accommodation for a wide range of budgets. You can find affordable hostels here, but you can also discover some of the best luxury resorts in Central America and Mexico.

Casa Talavera, for example, offers fantastic rooms at an affordable rate, close to Playa Norte. It’s the perfect location if you don’t want to bother renting a golf cart and just want to spend your days lazing on the beach. Go and check out the prices on now.

If you’re looking for a beautiful all-inclusive resort, on the other hand, you should check out Zoetry Villa Rolandi. We love the rooms and the large pool, although I don’t think we’ll be able to afford this place anytime soon. But as we said, you can find everything from hostels to luxury resorts on Isla Mujeres.

#7 Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Beach in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca Costa Rica

The beach in Puerto Viejo didn’t stand out to us as one of the most beautiful beaches we had ever been to. We still decided to include it on this list because Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is one of the best destinations in Central America you can visit.

This laidback village is the perfect place to relax on the beach and enjoy a smoothie or pancake at one of the nearby restaurants.

Puerto Viejo is also great for sampling traditional food from Costa Rica. Want to know which dishes to try? Then head over to our complete guide to Costa Rican cuisine!

But Puerto Viejo is also a fantastic location if you’re hoping to see some local wildlife. The Jaguar Rescue Centre helps injured animals and nurses them back to life. Once they’ve recovered, the caretakers try to release them back into the wild.

Not all animals can survive in the jungle on their own, though. Sometimes, their injuries were too severe, and in this case, the rescue centre keeps taking care of them. Come here if you want to discover felines, monkeys and baby sloths!

Sloth in the Jaguar Rescue Centre, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Yes, you heard that right. The Jaguar Rescue Centre regularly raises baby sloths that lost their mothers. They nurse them and even teach them everything they need to know for their future life in the jungle.

And what could be better than taking a break from the beach by watching baby sloths? We definitely think it’s one of the best things to do in Central America!

How to get to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

We arrived in Puerto Viejo from Bocas del Toro, which we found pretty easy. All we needed to do was take a bus to the border, cross and then continue to Puerto Viejo. If you prefer, you can also book a tourist shuttle.

Beach with shipwreck in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

If you’re coming from San Jose, you can take a direct bus. MEPE bus offers multiple connections daily. The trip takes around four and a half hours.

If you’re travelling onwards to Tortuguero, by the way, you should check out our public transport guide on how to travel from Puerto Viejo to Tortuguero.

Beach in Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

Where to stay in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

We stayed at Vista Verde, which we can highly recommend. This hostel had a fantastic atmosphere, and we loved lazing around in hammocks in their beautiful garden. If that also sounds great to you, then you should check out their availability and prices now!

Unfortunately, Vista Verde only offers rooms with a shared bathroom. If you want more comfort, then you should take a look at Coco Loco Lodge. They feature individual bungalows, and you have access to their pool. Plus, some of the deals include breakfast!

#8 Caye Caulker, Belize

The Split, Caye Caulker, Belize

Technically, Caye Caulker doesn’t have a proper beach. But we still had to include it in this list since it features one of the best beach towns in Central America.

Like many other places on this list, Caye Caulker is famous for its laid-back atmosphere and its colourful houses. We loved walking through the village and grabbing smoothies or bowls of fresh fruit. You can also eat freshly grilled seafood.

If you want to go for a swim, head to The Split. The northern part of Caye Caulker got split off by a hurricane, and the channel between the two parts is now a popular spot to hang out. You can lie down on a wooden chair or hop into the water and stand underneath one of the sun umbrellas there.

Caye Caulker also offers a few other highlights, including some of the best diving in the Caribbean. If you want to know all the details, check out our post about the best things to do in Caye Caulker.

If you want to lie down on a proper sandy beach, you need to head to the northern part of the island. Catch a boat to Koko King, where you can rent beach loungers and an umbrella.

Do you prefer to spend a few days being active? Then you can find some of the best diving in Central America close to Caye Caulker. We’re talking about the famous Blue Hole, which makes for a fantastic day trip if you know how to scuba dive.

Koko King, Caye Caulker, Belize

How to get to Caye Caulker

Travelling to Caye Caulker is easy. You just need to catch a ferry from Belize City. The ferry ride takes around 45 minutes, so it’s only a short time on the boat.

When buying the ferry ticket, make sure to say you want to go to Caye Caulker instead of Ambergris Caye. Both water taxis leave from the same place, so specify where you want to go.

It’s enough to buy your ferry ticket when you arrive at the port. That’s what we did, and we had no problems. If you prefer peace of mind and want to get your tickets in advance, you can also buy them online. Click here to check the schedule and prices.

To get to the ferry terminal from the airport, you need to take a taxi. Unfortunately, you don’t have the option of taking a public bus. Always negotiate with your taxi driver to make sure you don’t get ripped off.

If you are looking for more details, we have a whole post about how to get to Caye Caulker that you should check out!

Street with colourful houses on Caye Caulker

Where to stay in Caye Caulker

Barefoot Beach Belize is a great place to stay if you’re on a budget but still want to have a private bathroom. Plus, the hotel has a private beach/pier, so you can spend hours relaxing in the sun chairs. Check out all reviews and prices now!

If you’re hoping for a pool, then you should take a look at Island Magic Beach Resort. You also get access to a sun terrace, and the rooms look pretty comfortable. Perfect for enjoying your time on Caye Caulker and having the best vacation in Central America.

#9 Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Black beach on Isla Ometepe Nicaragua

If you’re looking for a beach that’s very different from any of the ones mentioned on this list, you should head to Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua. It might not be the best beach in Central America if you’re looking for white sand, but it’s definitely worth a visit.

Isla de Ometepe is an island in Lake Nicaragua and consists of two volcanoes, joined by a stretch of land. The volcanic nature of this island means that you’ll only find black sand beaches here.

One of the most famous stretches of sand on Ometepe Island is Punta Jesus Maria. Come here in the late afternoon to enjoy a drink and watch a sunset.

If you want to swim in Lake Nicaragua, Playa Santo Domingo is an excellent choice. The water here is shallow and warm. Plus, as the beach stretches along the isthmus between the volcanoes, you have a great view of the mountains from here.

Boat on Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua

Besides relaxing on the beach and going for a swim, you have lots of other options to keep yourself entertained on Isla de Ometepe. Go for a hike on one of the volcanoes, or rent a motorbike to drive around the islands. We also highly recommend a kayaking tour along the island, where you have the chance of seeing local wildlife.

It might not be your typical beach holiday, but all those activities make Ometepe Island one of the best places in Central America to visit.

How to get to Isla de Ometepe

To get to Isla de Ometepe, you first need to make your way to Rivas. Most touristy locations in Nicaragua offer shuttles that will take you here, but you can also use local transport. We took a chicken bus from Granada and had no problems at all.

From Rivas, you then need to get to the ferry terminal in San Jorge. It’s a short 10-minutes drive, and you might be able to catch a bus. Ask the locals for advice, but if you can’t find the bus, you can also take a taxi. Prices are usually reasonable, and if you join up with other travellers, you won’t pay much more than for the bus.

From San Jorge, you can then take the ferry to Isla de Ometepe. Ferries leave regularly, but if you’re worried about the schedule, you can look it up online. Most ferries take you to Moyogalpa, the main town on the island, from where you can then continue by taxi.

Sunset on Isla Ometepe Nicaragua

Where to stay on Isla de Ometepe

If you want to be close to the beach, you should consider staying at the isthmus of the island. Apartment Beach Cabins, for example, offers very affordable rooms with a private bathroom. You’re just across the road from the beach, so you can go for a swim whenever you want to. Click here to read recent reviews and check out prices.

As an alternative, take a look at Hospedaje Soma Boutique Hotel. The location is not as good, but the hotel has a pool. Plus, it is located in Moyogalpa, the main settlement on the island. This makes it more convenient for organising tours and getting to and from the island.

#10 Isla Cozumel, Mexico

Beach on Cozumel Island, Mexico, seen from the water

Isla Cozumel is the third Mexican island to make it on this list, and it’s also the biggest one.

While you could walk anywhere on Holbox and take a golf cart on Isla Mujeres, Isla Cozumel is big enough that you need a car to get around.

One of the best public beaches on the island is Palancar Beach. If you bring your own snorkelling gear, you can also snorkel. Besides that, the best way to enjoy a beach is by either buying a day pass to a private beach or by staying in a resort.

If you want to see more of the underwater world, you should go on a snorkelling tour. Some tours take you to multiple locations in one day, so you get to see various marine habitats. Check out this tour, for example, where you’ll visit Palancar, Columbia and El Cielo beach.

One of the highlights on Cozumel Island is to visit the Punta Sur Eco Park. Entrance costs 16$, but here, you can see natural fauna and flora, walk along eco-trails, and discover many birds. Plus, there’s a beach where you can relax as well.

The sea and the lagoon on Cozumel Island, Mexico

How to get to Cozumel Island

To get to Cozumel Island, you need to make your way to Playa del Carmen first. From here, you can take a ferry to Isla Cozumel. You can just arrive at the ferry dock and take the next boat, but to minimise waiting time, take a look at the schedule and prices online.

If you have a rental car (and you’ll need a car to get around Cozumel), you need to head to the ferry dock south of Playa del Carmen. The car ferries land here and will take you and your vehicle over to the island.

Signpost on Cozumel Island in Mexico

Where to stay on Isla Cozumel

Isla Cozumel offers some of the best resorts in Central America and Mexico.

The Grand Park Royal Cozumel, for example, offers everything you’d want on a beach holiday in Central America. A private beach, a pool, all-inclusive rates… If this is what you’re looking for, you should check out the reviews and prices here.

If you’re not a fan of all-inclusive resorts, then we’ve also found a well-rated hotel option for you. Hotel Mary Carmen offers rooms close to the sea, in the centre of San Miguel de Cozumel. The hotel receives excellent ratings, so take a look at availability and prices here.

Best Central American beaches for specific activities

The best snorkelling in Central America

Daniel snorkelling in Bocas del Toro

We’ve already mentioned a few fantastic Central American snorkelling spots above. If you want to admire the underwater world without having to scuba dive, then you’ll find lots of suitable locations.

For snorkelling, you’ll want to stay on the Caribbean side. Here, the water is calm and shallow, and you can find lots of coral reefs.

Utila is perfect if you want to snorkel at an easily accessible coral reef. Take a boat to Water Caye, and you’re guaranteed to see lots of fish. Nearby Roatan also offers many snorkelling spots. We loved Utila, but we’re sure that you’ll have a great time on both islands.

Starfish in Bocas del Toro

Caye Caulker is a great spot if you want to have access to the Belize Barrier Reef.  You need to go on a day tour to see the reef (check out this tour, for example), but you’re guaranteed to see extraordinary marine life there. In Belize, Ambergris Caye is another island from where you can easily reach the reef.

The best scuba diving in Central America

Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye don’t just make it on the list for the best snorkelling; they’re also out there for the best diving in Central America. From here, you can visit the Blue Hole on a day trip and explore one of the most famous diving sites in the world.

Another perfect diving spot in Central America is Utila. The island is known as one of the cheapest places in the Caribbean to get your scuba diving certification.

A sea turtle at Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Bocas del Toro also offers excellent diving if you’re willing to go on a day trip from the archipelago.

The last diving spot that we would like to mention might seem a bit unusual. It’s not great for seeing marine life, but it’s terrific if you want to explore underwater ruins and cook an egg on a volcanic vent. Lake Atitlan in Guatemala has a lot to offer for avid divers.

Lake Atitlan is known for its cute villages that surround the lake. Are you curious about which ones to visit? Then check out this guide to the villages of Lake Atitlan!

The best surfing in Central America

If you want to learn how to surf, you need to head to the Pacific. While you can sometimes find nice waves on Red Frog Beach in Bocas del Toro, and there are famous waves in the Caribbean, you’re likely better off choosing a beach on the west coast of Central America.

Tamarindo in Costa Rica offers fantastic surfing. Plus, you can easily take surfing lessons here. Check out these lessons for beginners, where you’ll learn how to ride your first wave!

Sunset in Tamarindo Costa Rica

El Salvador is famous for its excellent surfing conditions. Here, you can find lots of perfect waves and great conditions for both beginners and more advanced surfers.

Many surfers head to La Libertad or El Tunco, from where you can reach lots of different surf spots. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, then, that you can also find some of the best surf camps in Central America in El Salvador.

Practical Information

Best time to visit Central America

In general, the dry season is the best time to visit Central America. We’ve had our fair hair of rainy and sunny days here, and believe us, the sunny days are far more fun.

While the climate varies slightly across the different countries, the driest months are usually from December to April. In May, you’ll see more frequent downpours, and if you stay until June, as we did, you’ll experience your fair share of rain.

Red Frog Beach

Hurricane season starts around June, although it can also come as early as mid-May. Travelling to Central America during that time is not impossible, though!

On the contrary. As fewer tourists travel to Central America during the wet season, you’ll see more empty beaches and can get better deals on hotels. Just keep an eye on the weather forecast.

Essentials to pack for a beach holiday in Central America

Cayos Zapatillas island

Packing for a beach holiday in Central America is pretty straightforward. We have a packing list specifically for Belize, and items will vary a bit from country to country (and even beach to beach), but there are a few essentials you need no matter where you go. These include:

  • Swimwear: This is an obvious item on your list. Make sure to bring at least one swimsuit, preferably two if you plan to stay at the beach all day long. That way, you can wash out the saltwater in the evening and wear a dry swimsuit the next day.
  • Sunscreen: When you travel to Central America and Mexico, it’s essential to bring reef-safe sunscreen. Regular sunscreen contains chemicals that can harm the corals and fish, and you want to leave as little impact on nature as possible. Click here to see a reef-safe FSP 50 sunscreen that is perfect for a holiday in Central America. Also, together with your sunscreen, remember to bring your sunglasses.
  • Insect repellent: You can find mosquitos everywhere in Central America. Their bites are not only annoying and itchy, but they can also spread diseases. That’s why insect repellent is essential. Plus, on the Caribbean coast, you will encounter sand flies. They can quickly turn a dream holiday into a nightmare and cover you with hundreds of bites. Therefore, go and buy some insect repellent that will keep you safe.
  • Towel: If you’re staying in a beach hotel, your hotel will likely provide towels for you. If you don’t, you might have to bring your own. Take a microfibre towel that dries quickly. Check out this one from Rainleaf, which is perfect for the beach.

We hope we could inspire you for your next trip to Central America or Mexico. It’s a fantastic region to visit, and we loved our time there.

Swimming in the waters at Isla Cozumel, Mexico

If you’re thinking about travelling to Central America, we have a few more hints for you. We have given you information on how to get to the beaches above, but first, you need to get to the area. We recommend that you use Skyscanner to check flights, where you can compare prices and get the best available deals.

Second, we have a lot more resources on our blog that will help you plan your trip. We have written about many of the countries mentioned above, so take a look at the posts that are relevant for you:

Until your next adventure!

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Ilona is a world traveller passionate about sharing her experiences and giving advice to fellow travellers. Having visited over 70 countries, she is always excited about her next trip.


  1. This is a great list. I also recommend San Juan del Sur Nicaragua. I stayed at Los Cardones Ecolodge, a sea turtle sanctuary right on the beach. If you hung a sign outside your door they would wake you when the baby turtles hatched and made their way into the ocean by the moonlight. It was a really unique and beautiful experience.

    • Ilona Reply

      That sounds absolutely amazing! We unfortunately didn’t make it there, but we would love to go to see the baby turtles. Thank you for the tip! 🙂

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