The Beaches of Guatemala

November 25, 2013 by

Local Guides, Local Recommendations, Sightseeing, Things To Do

La Playa Tilapa on Guatemala's Pacific Coast (photo: Wikimedia, Carlos López Mendizábal)

La Playa Tilapa on Guatemala’s Pacific Coast (photo: Wikimedia, Carlos López Mendizábal)

Guatemala is not typically the first destination that springs to mind when you think of countries with good beaches in Central America. People often associate Guatemala with being the spot to visit for Maya ruins and hiking volcanoes, however sun seekers should not discount this Central American hotspot. The beaches of Guatemala may not be as pristine as those found in neighboring countries, but there are a number of options for travelers looking to kick back and relax.

Guatemala is blessed with coastline on both sides of the country – the Caribbean Coast on the east and the Pacific Highlands on the west. And, with popular lakes like Atitlan, visitors to Guatemala have a variety of options to choose from.

Pacific Coast Beaches

Head west to Guatemala’s Pacific Coast to experience beautiful beaches, many of them covered in black volcanic sand. As with other countries’ beaches on the Pacific side, they tend to have a strong undertow, so even the strongest of swimmers should stick close to shore. The beaches on the Pacific are the best choice for travelers who are looking to surf.

Monterrico is probably the most popular beach in Guatemala and is easily reached from Guatemala City and Antigua. It is about a 2.5 hour drive from either city and has a number of hotels and resorts. Aside from its signature black sand beaches, Monterrico is known for its sea turtle population. The long stretch of beach serves as a breeding ground for four different species of turtles and foreign tourists are increasingly drawn to Monterrico due to its recognized conservation efforts.

Puerto San Jose is near Monterrico and is recognized as Guatemala’s biggest fishing town on the Pacific Coast side. One draw is its airport, which means travelers can fly in and completely avoid Guatemala City altogether.

Most vote for La Playa Tilapa as Guatemala’s most remote beach, located about 10 miles south of the Mexico border. Tilapa is a very tiny fishing village, popular with fishermen and surfers wanting a quiet weekend getaway.

Caribbean Coast

Guatemala’s Caribbean coast is a narrow stretch of land, but with a little effort you can find yourself on soft, white sand beaches in no time. Playa Blanca is only accessible by boat and remains pretty isolated and quiet. It’s not overrun with hotels, but the white sand and coconut palms are worth the day trip.

Younger adults and teens tend to flock to Punta de Palma, a small beach located near the port of Puerto Barrios. Facilities are pretty much limited to refreshment stands only, but it’s only a ten minute boat ride from the docks, making it a great “off-the-beaten-path” beach.

Lake Atitlan and Lake Izabal

Aside from Guatemala’s coastal beaches, the country has two lakes worth mentioning as well. Lake Atitlan is one of the most popular destinations in Guatemala and is often called the most beautiful lake in the world. Ringed by three volcanoes, the beaches are rocky, but the views are unsurpassed. Some hotels in the area also offer beach access as well.

Lake Izabal is the largest lake in Guatemala and its southern side is home to light-colored sand, calm waters, and a host of facilities. Hotels, seafood restaurants and water sport rentals are available in this area, making it a popular beach for families with younger children.

– Contributed by Erin De Santiago  

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