Most travelers don’t think of beaches when they visit Guatemala, but the country boasts great options for surfing, marine-life tours and conservation. Read more to learn about the best beaches in the country, including tips on planning your visit, transportation and accommodations.
Quickly becoming a leading surf destination, El Paredón is home to a small (but growing) backpacker and surfer enclave. Though it’s still a relaxed beach town, there are multiple options for ocean-loving activities, including sea-turtle conservation, mangrove and salt-farm tours. El Paredón will show you a good time, so pay the good vibes forward at La Choza Chula, a local NGO that fosters education and conservation in the local community.
Getting There: The shuttle from Antigua takes about 2 hours and will run about 16 USD/ 120 GTQ. You can find transportation at the numerous travel agencies, hotels and hostels in Antigua. Or, book transportation directly with the hotel (El Paredón Surf house offers private accommodations).
Stay: All the accommodations here are geared toward surfers; complete with lessons and boards for rent. The prominent options include the Driftwood Surfer hostel (be ready to party) and the more upscale Swell and Hotel Paredon Surf House. Regardless of where you decide to stay in this humid and tropical environment, be sure to bring plenty of mosquito spray (the hotels provide mosquito nets for your bedding but not much else).
Spend the day at Champerico. Used for shipping coffee in its heyday, Champerico is now known as a vacation spot for local Guatemalans. Walk the long stretch of volcanic black sand beaches to the wooden pier – there you’ll find tourist shops and restaurants with fresh seafood and camarones al ajilleo (garlic shrimp). The surfs not bad, either.
Getting There: Take the three hour bus ride from Guatemala City. If you’re starting in Antigua or Lake Atitlan, travel to Quetzaltenango first, then transfer to the Champerico line.
Stay: Many tourists decide to make Champerico a day-trip, and it is still recommended that you stay to the more populated areas around Champerico. The nearby hotel and restaurant “El Diamanté” offers simple and clean rooms, and the similar Hotel Masa is close to the beach.
Between the two beach towns of El Pardon and Monterrico, is Iztapa. Iztapa was the first Pacific port in Guatemala, and was used by the Spanish in the colonial period until the mid 19th century. The area has a new claim to fame now, and Iztapa is world-renown for deep sea fishing and whale watching. Try to catch your dinner on a fishing tour, or catch a glimpse of marine life at Puerto Quetzal cruise. Puerto Quetzal offers unique things to do in its own right, such as thermal springs and city tours!
Getting There: Take the bus from Guatemala City (via Ezcuintla) for 6 USD/ 35 GTQ. Or, hire private transportation. The ride takes about an hour and a half from the city.
Stay: While Iztapa is small, there there are budget options for backpackers and travelers. If you’d like to stay in the (larger) nearby Puerto San Jose for more comfort, you’ll find The Hook Lodge and Hotel Cayman Suites as more traditional lodging.
A locals weekend retreat, Monterrico offers a perfect tropical getaway from Guatemala City and Antigua. The area offers tourists the chance to explore the mangroves and lagoons in the neighboring nature preserve, Biotopo Monterrico-Hawaii. Or, get a close view of sea turtles and marine life at Tortugario Monterrico.
Getting There: The easiest way to access Monterrico is from Antigua. A two hour shuttle ride from Antigua costs about $10 USD/ 80 GTQ. Departing from Guatemala City costs around $20 USD. Get your ticket early to avoid the buses being sold out.
Stay: Monterrico has a fair number of lodging, with hotels, hostels and rental home options available. Prices are decent – especially if you’re booking on a weeknight! Check out Hotel El Delfin for modest but clean rooms and rest at Hotel Adelie del Mar if you’re feeling swanky.
Off the beaten path is an understatement when it comes to Playa Tilapita. Located on the Pacific, Tilapita is on the northernmost point of the west coast. This tiny village is 10 miles from the Mexico border, and is remote and slow paced. Enjoy some serious rest and relaxation – just beware of the riptide current offshore.
Getting There: This town is extremely remote, so plan on taking multiple buses to access it. I’d recommend arranging for private shuttle accommodation, which might cost around $30 USD/ 200 GTQ to access.
Stay: Enjoy mariscos at the single restaurant in town, Hotel Pacifico del Mar, which also doubles as the only hotel accommodation nearby! Otherwise, rent out the El Pacifico beach cabin.
General tips for your visit
- Allot 2-3 days to visit the beaches!
- Check the swells before you go: March – June offers the best waves, but October – May is best for beginners.
- Pack mosquito repellent BEFORE you go! Due to the sultry conditions, the mosquitos (and risk of diseases they carry) are everywhere.
Definitely venture up to one of the beaches if your itinerary permits, since the surf, sand and seafood are well worth the effort. It is recommended to head up from Lake Atitlan to spend a few days before coming over to the coast for R&R. If you’re looking for activities up at the lake, check out the Lake Atitlan guide for suggestions.