A seemingly endless stretch of soft, light-colored sand, this Blue Flag beach is the idyllic paradise people picture in their tropical dreams. There is only one property on the entire beach, the upscale Hotel Sugar Beach. The north end of the beach has some good snorkeling when the sea is calm—usually around low tide—and the swimming out from the middle of the beach is relatively safe. But if the swell is big, children and weak swimmers shouldn't go in past their waist.
Playa Penca, a short walk south along the beach, can be a good swimming beach as well. A large part of the attraction here is the forest that hems the beach, where you may see howler monkeys, black iguanas, magpie jays, trogons, and dozens of other bird species. Amenities: none. Best for: solitude; swimming.
Playa Pan de Azúcar, Costa Rica