Guatemala may not be famous for its beaches, but it does have a long stretch of Pacific coast, so both during and after our volunteering at Maya Pedal and Proyecto 123 Candelaria, we took some time to relax on the beach. Monterrico is perhaps the most known beach resort, popular with holidaying Guatemalan families and foreign tourists alike. 2-3 hours from Antigua by a tourist shuttle, a chicken bus or a series of micro buses (we tried them all), it makes for a good short break from the cooler climates of the highlands.
While there are several hotels, restaurants and shops selling beach-wear, Monterrico has a village feel and most development is pretty simple and low-key.
There are several turtle sanctuaries on the coast, some more ethical than others. We paid a another visit to one at El Banco, some 5km along the coast (walk on the beach, cycle, or jump on a micro bus that can drop you off at the entrance). On the afternoon we went, the waves were so strong that the baby turtles kept being thrown back on the shore, and we had to make sure they didn’t end up too far from the ocean.
As Monterrico isn’t suitable for surfing, we also spent a couple of days in El Paredón, splashing out on a bungalow with a sea view. During the day, we would surf (Roger), swim, relax in the hammock and eat – this is another place where evening meals are communal, a feature we’ve come to enjoy.
For volunteering opportunities (or souvenirs) in El Paredón, check out La Choza Chula, a social enterprise that helps locals to benefit from growing tourism in the area.
Our remaining time in Guatemala will be spent at the many villages around Lake Atitlan.