Situated between Honduras and Costa Rica, Nicaragua often flies under the radar – but is one of Central America’s best-kept secrets. With hundreds of miles of coastline split between two different coasts, Nicaragua has some seriously stunning stretches of sand.
Whether you’re a beach bum hoping to work on your tan or a surfer looking to catch some waves, this small country will not disappoint. To the east, you’ll find the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean with luxurious sandy beaches, and to the west, the wavy waters of the Pacific await.
No matter where you decide to lay your towel down, you’ll be treated to fantastic views and likely not too many tourists. We’ve found the 10 best beaches to visit in Nicaragua, so all you have to do is scroll down and pick your piece of paradise!
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1. Corn Islands
The best beach in Nicaragua will require a bit of travel, but once you reach your destination, you’ll understand what the hype is all about. The Corn Islands are located about 70 km (43 mi) from Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast, and there are a variety of ways to reach this gorgeous oasis.
The quickest way is to take a flight from Managua. The trip takes about an hour and a half, and although slightly more expensive than some of the other avenues, convenience is worth the extra cost. You could also opt to take a series of boats and buses, but these modes of transportation will take up a big chunk of your time.
Beautiful golden sand and turquoise blue waters, and a hefty dose of Creole culture will greet you when you land on Big Corn Island. You can choose to stay here or make the 20-minute trek to Little Corn Island. Both islands will provide you with a choice of beautiful beaches and opportunities to snorkel, scuba dive, or kayak
The main difference between the two is that Little Corn Island is much more secluded. You won’t find as many tourists and there are more beaches to choose from, though they’re a bit smaller than those on Big Corn Island.
If true relaxation is what you’re after, we recommend the smaller island – but if you’re a restless traveler who likes to have their pick of restaurants and entertainment, you’ll do well on Big Corn Island.
One of the best times to visit the Corn Islands is between July and March, when the lobster season is in full swing.
2. Las Peñitas
Another one of the best beaches in Nicaragua can be found on the other side of the country along the Pacific coast. Las Peñitas boasts 5 km (3 mi.) of soft white sand, and gnarly waves that are great for surfers of all levels. The area is growing in popularity, and it’s easy to see why. The shore is lined with cozy cafes and bars, and the sunsets will take your breath away.
Las Peñitas is also in a great location for exploring some nearby attractions. Brave souls can hike up Cerro Negro, an active volcano, take in the spectacular views, and sandboard back down. You’ll also be close to the nature reserve on Isla Juan Venado, and if you’re visiting in September or October, you may even get to witness some turtles hatching.
3. Playa Maderas
One of the most popular beaches in Nicaragua is Playa Maderas. It’s located near the city of San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast, and is a renowned surfing destination. This beach is popular with locals and tourists alike, so you can definitely expect some crowds on your beach day.
Even if you’re just looking to soak up some sun, its beautiful surroundings make this one of the best beaches around. The famous rock formations and jungle coves make for incredible vistas, especially when the sun goes down.
After the sun sets, head to one of the nearby bars or restaurants for some fresh seafood, cold beer, and great vibes.
4. Playa Redonda
If seclusion is what you’re after, then head to the private beach of Redonda Bay. You’ll have to pay to access this private paradise, but if you can afford it, the price is well worth it.
The beach is located on Nicaragua’s southern Pacific coast and is owned by the Aqua Wellness Resort. Even if you are not staying here, you can access the beach by making a lunch or dinner reservation.
The soft white sand and tranquil clear waters make this beach one of the best in the country, and you’ll be surrounded by thick jungle as you soak up some sun or cool off in the water. You can also kayak, snorkel, paddle board, or fish in the lovely waters or hike up the nearby sandstone cliffs for incredible views of the surrounding area.
5. Pearl Cays
Some of the best beaches in Nicaragua can be found about 20 km (12 mi) from the country’s Caribbean Coast, on the 12 small islets that make up the archipelago of Pearl Cays. The collection of islands boasts beautiful white sand, calm turquoise waters, and seclusion that is hard to match.
The only way to reach Pearl Cays is via boat, which is part of the reason why the islands are so infrequently visited. If you do decide to make the trek, be sure you have your passport with you; there’s a military checkpoint when you leave the mainland.
The verdant palm trees add to the oasis-like ambiance. There are tons to see under the water, making swimming, snorkeling, and diving popular pastimes. You could just as easily spend your time soaking up views from your towel on the beach.
Infrastructure is limited on the islands, but you can still find some bars, restaurants, and even guesthouses if you’d like to stay the night.
6. Playa La Flor
The best beach in Nicaragua for wildlife watching is undoubtedly Playa La Flor, located about 20 km (12 mi) south of San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast.
The beach is part of a large reserve that’s home to a variety of creatures, including monkeys, iguanas, possums, and various migrating bird species. The most noteworthy resident of this sandy stretch is the olive ridley sea turtle, an endangered species that comes here to nest. You’ll also find hawksbill, leatherback, and green sea turtles – and in the months of July and December, there are over 100,000 of nests laid.
Switch up the scenery and head to the beach of Jiquilillo, located well off the beaten path on Nicaragua’s northern Pacific coastline. The black sands of the beach is a result of the nearby Cosiqüina Volcano, and when combined with the coconut palms and seashore dotted with fishing boats, you’ll have the perfect recipe for some Insta-worthy snapshots.
Juquilillo is popular with backpackers and surfers, thanks to the wide variety of hostels in the area – but it’s not as lauded by tourists, so the beach is never overly crowded. It’s a great spot for catching some waves, shell collecting, or simply relaxing – and there are lots of fun activities in the surrounding area.
Head to Padre Ramos, the largest mangrove forest in Central America, to do some kayaking and wildlife watching, or enjoy a hike up to the aforementioned volcano for incredible views of El Salvador and Honduras.
8. Playa El Coco
Those looking for a family-friendly beach near San Juan del Sur should head to Playa El Coco, located about 20 km to the south.
The beach has calm waters and is usually not very crowded, making it a great place to spend a sunny afternoon. The rock formations and verdant hills surrounding the beach make for a pleasing backdrop, and there are plenty of lodging options nearby if you’d like to stay in the area for a night or two.
Once you’ve had enough fun in the sun, head into town for a game of volleyball or soccer or even spend a few hours horseback riding.
9. Punta Jesus Maria
Punta Jesus Maria is one of the best beaches in Nicaragua, and it’s also one of the most interesting. Located on Isla Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua, this black sand beach and the entire island has been dubbed a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
Punta Jesus Maria is situated on a narrow strip of land that shrinks and expands, depending on the season. It’s at its smallest during the wet season, and during the dry season it swells up to one kilometer. No matter when you visit, though, swimming and relaxing are the best way to enjoy the beach with incredible views of three volcanoes (Mombacho, Concepción, and Maderas).
You’ll find plenty of accommodations on the island, so you can (of course) hike the nearby volcanoes or spend some time wildlife watching once you’ve had enough of the beach.
Last but not least on our guide to the best beaches in Nicaragua is Popoyo, also known as Playa Guasacate. Located on the country’s Emerald Coast (on the Pacific side), Popoyo is especially popular with surfers.
There is also a large swath of tidal pools, beautiful natural hot springs, and a nature reserve located nearby. Popoyo is a bit off the beaten track, and we recommend visiting before more tourists discover this scenic stretch of beach.