• Placencia, Belize: This is the hippest little beach town in Belize. In a Caribbean country decidedly lacking in long stretches of beach, Placencia offers nearly 26km (16 miles) of white sand fronting a shimmering turquoise sea. You can wander up and down the length of this long beach, or hang out near the little creole village, whose main thoroughfare and directional reference point is a narrow strip of concrete running north to south and known simply as "the sidewalk."
  • Playa los Cóbanos, El Salvador: Who knew? El Salvador happens to be home to some of Central America's best Pacific diving. Specifically, El Salvador's Playa los Cóbanos features a 161-sq.-km (62-sq.-mile) reef system filled with tropical fish and a half-century-old shipwreck to explore.
  • West Bay Beach, Roatán, Honduras: The crystal-clear water and powdery white sand have led many to call this the one of the top beaches in the entire Caribbean. Don't forget your snorkel gear; the world's second-largest barrier reef is just offshore
  • The Corn Islands, Nicaragua: You won't lack company while taking a dip and exploring the coral reefs around these classic Caribbean treasure islands: Spider crabs, parrot fish, and baby barracuda among others will dart before your eyes in the pristine blue waters here.
  • Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica: The first beach destination to become popular in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio retains its charms despite burgeoning crowds and mushrooming hotels. The beaches inside the national park are idyllic, and the views from the hills approaching the park are enchanting. This is one of the few remaining habitats for the endangered squirrel monkey. Rooms with views tend to be a bit expensive, but many a satisfied guest will tell you they're worth it.
  • Playa Montezuma, Costa Rica: This tiny beach town at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula has weathered fame and infamy, but retains a funky sense of individuality. European backpackers, vegetarian yoga enthusiasts, and UFO seekers choose Montezuma's beach over any other in Costa Rica. The waterfalls are what set it apart from the competition, but the beach stretches for miles, with plenty of isolated spots to plop down your towel or mat. Nearby you can explore the Cabo Blanco National Park.
  • Isla Bastimentos National Park, Bocas del Toro, Panama: Cayos Zapatillas, or the "Slippers Islands" (so-called because they resemble footprints), not only fulfill the beach lover's fantasy with their soft sand backed by a tangle of jungle; they are also surrounded by a rich display of coral that attracts hordes of fish, providing good snorkeling. The park's main island, Isla Bastimentos, offers terrific beaches with clean sand and blue water, which can be reached by a short walk or hike, or by boat during the calm-water season from August through October.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.