Santa Catalina – Panama

Best hidden-gem beach

Mainly on the map for the rifling right-hand point break of La Punta that keeps surfers happy from April to October, Santa Catalina is one of the long-lost fishing towns on the Panamanian Pacific. It's still little more than a clutch of ramshackle fishing huts and surf villas, but there's growing interest, not least of all because it's enfolded by two sweeps of unbusy, coffee-hued sand – Playa Arrimadero and Playa Santa Catalina. Oh, and be sure to check out Coiba Island just across the strait, where you can swim with mantas and whale sharks at certain times of the year.

Isla Robeson – Panama

Best beach for pretending you’re a castaway

You don't get a moniker like Isla Robeson (Isla Robinson Crusoe in English) without some top-quality beaches in the bank. Although the actual place where Defoe's hero is thought to have been stranded is some 4830km (3000 miles) away in Chile, this speck in Panama's spectacular San Blas chain still has all the hallmarks of a castaway spot. There's not an overload of activity, just a few snorkeling reefs, a patch of jungle inland and – of course – a powdery lip of white sand on the west shoreline.