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Where to find some of the best playas escondidas

Where to find some of the best playas escondidas

Beyond the tourist traps, Latin America has plenty of amazing beach towns.

Our countries are well known for their incredible beaches, all of which are made better by amazing food and welcoming communities. 

According to a recent study, US travelers' favorite beach destinations in Latin America are Cancún and San José del Cabo in Mexico, and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

But with over 15,800 miles of coastline, there is so much more to see and experience than just the popular tourist hot spots.

With that in mind, here are some of the most underrated beach towns in Latin America.

Latin America beach

Playa Maderas, Nicaragua

A busy spot popular with local surfers, Playa Maderas is one of the prettiest beaches in Nicaragua.

Just north of San Juan del Sur, Nicas know and love it for its scenery and vibesy atmosphere that also attracts a veritable crowd of holidaymakers, and digital nomads alike.

Although the beach is only accessible via a bumpy dirt road, it is well worth it if you feel like catching a wave with locals – or getting a lesson from them.

It's also just about the best place to simply soak up the sun while snacking on tostones and Toña.

Bocas del Toro, Panamá

Comprising seven islands off the northwest coast of Panamá, as well as a section of mainland, Bocas del Toro offers visitors a superb two-in-one combo: beautiful Caribbean beaches and some of the most biodiverse rainforests in Central America.

Of the islands, Isla Colón is probably the most popular (and most populous). Here, visitors can visit Starfish Beach to see the fascinating sea creatures during the day and head to the "big city" (Bocas Town) after sunset to experience the vibrant culture and delicious food.

For something a bit more laid-back, try Isla Bastimentos – a smaller, rural island close by.

A ten-minute water taxi ride from Isla Colón it is well worth a visit for its pretty beaches, including Wizard Beach, which is reached via a lush jungle path, and Red Frog Beach, where visitors will also find a popular local bar.

Cahuita, Costa Rica

About four hours' drive from Costa Rica's capital, San José, Cahuita is a favorite beach destination for Ticos where they can choose between the black-sand beaches of Playa Negra or the white-sand beaches and coral reefs of Playa Blanca.

The low-key beach town has not lost any of its charms to commercial ventures yet and visitors can experience real island life here. 

It's also the best place to taste the unique Afro-Caribbean cuisine of the region. Especially the dessert crepes made with local fruit at the local cafés.

Latin America beach

Tobacco Caye, Belize

A tiny caya in Belize shaped like a yam, Tobacco Caye is home to about 25 Belizeans on any given day, give or take a few tourists.

Often considered the "other" Belize, the island has no nightlife or fancy resorts – just a few brightly coloured bungalows, sandy shores, palm beaches and turquoise waters.

Oh, and the best scuba diving for miles around.

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio is another beach spot popular with Ticos.

That's because the Manuel Antonio National Park offers four beautiful unspoilt beaches with none of the tourist traps that have popped up nearby.

It's the perfect place for a fun day in the sun, lounging under swaying palm trees and frolicking in the emerald water. And because the park's beaches have visitor limits, it is never too busy.

The four beaches are linked with hiking trails that offer some pretty fantastic scenery. Closest to the entrance is Playa Espadilla Sur. It's the largest beach in the park and fringed with rainforest. Next is Playa Manuel Antonio, a favorite spot for families with small children, and more to the North of the park, Playa Las Gemelas – a tiny, secluded beach.

Playa Esmeralda, Honduras

With coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, visitors to Honduras are spoilt for choice when it comes to beach destinations.

One of the most popular beaches with Catrachos though is Playa Esmeralda. With its characteristic Caribbean vibe, soft golden sand and glittering, calm waters, it is the perfect spot for a beach day.

Plus, there are plenty of little cafés around and loads of water-sport activities, such as scuba diving, snorkeling and parasailing, on offer.

Ana Sofía Morales

Ana is from Costa Rica and has worked as a food and travel journalist since 2017. She has a keen interest in Central American history and started writing for Orgullo Latino in 2022.

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