Guatemala is known for having spectacular volcanoes, gorgeous highlands and some of the best Mayan ruins you are going to find anywhere in Latin America. One thing it is not known for is its beaches. That being said, there are still spots along the Pacific coast where you can find some nice black sand Guatemala beaches resulting from the volcanic nature of the country. While none of these are going to make a "world's best beaches list" anytime soon, they offer a change from the highlands, and will appease most visitors nonetheless. The east coast of Guatemala is relatively small, offering practically nothing in the way of a quality Guatemala beach. If staying in the inland capital, you will obviously not find any Guatemala City beaches, but a short trip has you heading down slope for the western lowlands Pacific coast. Take into consideration that along Guatemala's Pacific coast, the waves can be strong and you should always be prepared for a rather sinister undertow.
On most people's list of top Guatemala beaches
is Monterrico. If you are looking for beaches by
Guatemala City, this is one of the closest and can be
reached in a few hours by bus or car. The most "done-up"
of Guatemala beaches, Monterrico manages to manifest itself in your heart, if not for the
wacky nature of the village, where pigs, chickens and
other animals roam free, then for the simple reason that
it is unpretentious. Unlike beaches like those found
Beach in Miami,
where the idea is to see and be seen, Monterrico, like
other Guatemala beaches, is a place where keeping up appearances
takes a back seat to just being yourself. Monterrico's
collection of varied beach front hotels range from backpacker
hostels to 3-star affairs with air conditioning.
Near Monterrico you will find Hawaii beach, and part of
the area is considered a nature reserve. The Biotopo
Monterrico-Hawaii animal sanctuary is a nice place to
visit and you may be able to take part in their turtle
release program. Both Monterrico and Hawaii beaches
are also easily reached from Antigua by bus or shuttle.
Puerto San Jose
Not far up the coast from Monterrico is the second largest port in Guatemala, Puerto San Jose. You will find a decent Guatemala beach here, with restaurants and bars near the strip, but the town itself is somewhat sleazy. Outside of Puerto San Jose is the small village of Chulamar. There are better beaches found here than at Puerto San Jose, as well as one of the finer Guatemala resorts, should you be looking for one. 20 minutes away is the town of Itztapa, where you will also find a nice hotel and opportunities to arrange a sportfishing charter. The Pacific waters here are noted for their large sailfish. These locales are among your best bets for anything close to beaches by Guatemala City. Large by Central American standards, Guatemala is still not a big country, thus all its Pacific beaches could really qualify as beaches by Guatemala City.
If you are staying in Quetzaltenango, also known as Xela, the closest Guatemala beaches are Champerico and Tilapa. Both are just a few hours ride, and day trip tours to both can be arranged from Xela or Chichicastenango. At Champerico, also known as Champe, the people are very friendly, and small surf shops are beginning to gain in popularity. Boasting some decent restaurants, seafood lovers are sure to find some agreeable dishes. Tilapa is the northernmost Guatemala beach, resting none too far from the border of Mexico. There's not too much here but a small fishing village with a simple hotel and a decent small restaurant. Extremely uncrowded, this is a great Guatemala beach to get away from it all.
While surfing is still a growing sport along the Guatemalan coast, die hard wave chasers are starting to take notice, and beach resorts in Guatemala are starting to cater to that crowd. One of the last frontiers where you can surf the great waves of the Pacific and not have to fight with competition, it might not be long before things start to change. Just 80 miles south of Antigua, the beach at Sipicate is where you will find the somewhat secretive Paredón Surf Camp. Opened recently, the surf camp is tucked away near the Sipicate-Naranjo National Park. Unless you are serious about visiting and actually reserve a spot with them, the manager of the Paredón Surf Camp may not give you directions. A simple operation, you can expect to find hammocks with mosquito nets as your bed and a simple well for water, which you likely will not want to drink. Instead, there is a small tienda (store) nearby selling cheap Gallo beer and a local family provides red snapper and tortilla meals for a small fee. Starting at under $20 a day, your meals, hammock and short board are covered. Round-trip shuttles from Guatemala City and Antigua can get you in and out for a reasonable fee.