The Top Central America Islands

Central America has tons of different things and places to offer that will suit most tastes and budgets. That long list of things includes gorgeous islands on the Caribbean Sea that offer amazing opportunities for relaxation and adventure. You can enjoy the gorgeous coral reefs that surround the islands by taking a boat trip, swimming, snorkeling, diving, or just relaxing on the beach. 

There are tons of islands in the region so deciding which ones to visit can be a challenge. Here are eight of the best.

  • 01 of 08

    Corn Islands in Nicaragua

    Pile of coconuts and palm trees on beach at Little Corn Island, Nicaragua.

     Erik Peterson / Getty Images

    The Corn Islands are not one but two small islands. They are located in the Caribbean Sea, about 70 kilometers off of the Nicaraguan coast. On these islands, you will find tons of people that speak English, due to the fact that it was once a British colony.

    In them you will find the characteristic tropical weather of the Caribbean along with clear blue water, White sanded beaches, tons of palm trees and stunning coral reefs.

    What makes them so good is that even though there are restaurants and hotels but they still aren’t flooded with huge resorts and tons of tourists. So you still get to experience the true, laid-back vibe of the Caribbean.

    Plus it is really easy to get there, there are daily flights from Managua. You could also drive to la Rama Town and take a ferry, but it only runs once per week. 

  • 02 of 08

    Ometepe in Nicaragua

    Ometepe
    Marina K. Villatoro

    Ometepe Island is located in the middle of a huge lake in Nicaragua. The island is actually the result of the intense volcanic activity of the region. It is formed by two huge volcanoes.

    But there is much more to do in it than just hiking volcanoes (which can be a lot of fun). On Ometepe, you will find an eco-friendly hotel, a relaxed and friendly population, tons of plantations to explore, beaches to relax in and even an archaeological site from the days before Spaniards discovered the region.

    The beaches are not white sanded pieces of paradise but they are still pretty good places to relax in.

    To get to Ometepe you will have to drive to Moyogalpa where you can take a ferry.

    Even though this is becoming a popular place to visit with each day that passes, its natural beauty has managed to be preserved due to the efforts of locals. So the forests still look untouched. 

  • 03 of 08

    Roatán in Honduras

    Marina K. Villatoro

    This is one of the main destinations in Honduras and for a good reason. It is located about 65 kilometers off from the coast and located in the middle of one of the largest coral reefs of the world and surrounded by two other, smaller islands.

    For centuries the islands were either inhabited by local tribes or visited by individual settlers, traders and even some of the most famous pirates. It was also a popular stopover for military forces and was then populated by former slaves. Therefore, on Roatán you can find people that speak English, Spanish and even French.

    Aside from beautiful beaches, it offers great opportunities for divers who want to explore the reef. You can also take boat tours to see dolphins. If you ever go to the island make sure you go on the submarine tour.   

  • 04 of 08
    Beach in Utila
    Marina K. Villatoro

    Roatán is part of a reef complex along with two other islands, including Utila. Utila is slightly smaller and a better place to visit if you really want to get away from touristy stuff.

    The island is just as pretty as its neighbors, with its white sand beaches, crystal clear water, amazing weather all of the time, tons of small eateries along the beach and a few small but cute hotels.

    When it comes to learning or practicing how to dive, this is the place. Biking is also a lot of fun here: the relaxed pace and lack of cars make it perfect for a leisurely bike ride.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    The Island is actually a National Park in the Chiquirí Gulf of Panama that includes a marine reserve. It is also a bit different than the previous one because you will find it on the Pacific coast. In case you still need more reasons to visit, what about the fact that UNESCO named it a world heritage site in 2005 due to its biodiversity and natural resources?

    Due to its ecological importance, the Panamanian government decided to restrict the number of people and tour operators that can visit the place. They are rare but you will be able to find eco tours in the form of birdwatching, fishing and scuba diving. Of course, you can also hang out at the beach as long as you don’t damage the plants or leave any trash.

    If you are lucky you might even find one spot available to camp in its small ranger’s station.

  • 06 of 08

    Bocas del Toro, Panama

    Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of 11 islands: Bocas town, located in Colon Island (the largest), is the most popular destination in the archipelago.

    This is a much better option for those looking for a resort kind of vacation. You will find all sorts of hotels and resorts with every amenity you can think of, and the town is so small that everything is within walking distance.

    The beaches are amazing here but you should keep in mind that there are strong rip tides that might be dangerous if you are not aware of them. This makes it perfect for surfers.​ Diving is also an activity you should try when in the area.

    To get there all you need to do is take a boat or ferry. 

  • 07 of 08
    Local man snorkeling with a sting ray in the Hol Chan marine reserve, Ambergris Caye, Belize

     Matteo Colombo / Getty Images

    Belize’s coast is also guarded by a large coral reef on the Caribbean Sea. This allows it to have tons of tiny islands that they named Cayes. Ambergris Caye is the largest of them.

    Before the Europeans found the region this was a land of mangrove swamps surrounded by a white rim of sand and inhabited by a small Maya community. Now it is an important tourist destination that a lot of people use as a home base for exploring the surrounding reef.

    That’s why you will find tons of hotels and restaurants in it, as well as a town offering any service you might need. There are even a couple of resorts on the northern side of the island.

    From here you can go on snorkeling, diving, horseback riding, biking and cruising tours. 

    To get there you get to choose between boat taxis and small planes.  

  • 08 of 08

    Caye Caulker is Ambergris Caye’s neighbor. Historically it was used by sailors, pirates and military fleets to replenish fresh water.  

    Just as with Roatán and Utila, Caye Caulker is the underrated brother. This is still mainly a fishing town where you can find lobster at an extremely affordable price. There are also some hotels and restaurants, but nothing large.

    You will find small hotels, family-owned restaurants, and almost no cars: golf carts and bikes are the vehicles of choice.

    The beaches are also a lot less populated, so you don’t need to get too far away from the town to feel as if you were on your own private beach.