The best beaches in Guatemala … and the worst!
This is an unapologetic guide to the best beaches in Guatemala, but also the worst ones. If you are planning a trip to the beach in Guatemala this article will help you put things into perspective and decide whether you should go visit one of the Guatemalan beaches or just wait for the next destination.
Let’s be honest, you don’t go to Guatemala for the beach, unless you are a surfer, or you want to check out surfers, which could also be a good reason, for the matter.
I lived in Antigua Guatemala for a year and traveled around Guatemala quite a bit and I can say that Guatemala is a spectacular country with amazing things to see and incredibly warm people, with a beautiful cultural heritage to discover and natural wonders to explore.
Read my guide to all the amazing things to do in Guatemala to learn more about that.
But the beaches? oh well, the beaches in Guatemala are not exactly something to boast about.
I mean, if you have a limited time in Guatemala there are much nicer and more interesting places that you may want to check out rather than going to the beach, especially if you are coming from Mexico. Come on!!
Read about The best beaches in Mexico to see what I mean
In Guatemala, you want to visit the gorgeous city of Antigua, hike a volcano, do yoga on the magical Lake Atitlan, watch the sunrise from a Mayan temple in Tikal, and if you really want to swim, you go all the way to visit the natural monument of Semuc Champey.
Having said that, there are beaches in Guatemala that you may like or not, and some of them have the crystalline water of the Caribbean sea. And if you are an explorer like me, and travel for the sake of knowing and learning about a place, you may want to check them out, especially if you have plenty of time. After all, even if you won’t find anything like the best beaches of Latin America, you can find some interesting shorelines!
Therefore without any further ado, here is a list to the best beaches in Guatemala, but also the less appealing ones. I didn’t spare anyone so that you can decide what is best for you. After all, who am I to judge? Right?
Best Beaches in Guatemala Map
Guatemala Beaches on the Pacific Coast
As you may already know, Guatemala is a small state but it stretches out from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast so you can have the best (and the worst) of both worlds. Both coasts are in their way fascinating.
The Pacific coast is pretty much volcanic and that’s why you will find black sand which is different from the coral white sand, burns like hell on a sunny day. Keep that in mind, if you are going to take a walk on the beach, wear shoes unless you are walking along the shore, in the water.
But enough of ranting, let’s get to the Guatemala Pacific coast beaches.
El Paredon has been on the tourist map for the past few years only. From an unnoticed fishing village, it became the hottest beach spot in Guatemala not only among surfers but also for a young tourist crowd of party lovers and locals alike.
In fact, it’s the only destination where you can get there by tourist bus, which is the safest way of getting around in Guatemala.
You can book your ticket in any local travel agency for about 120Q and they will take you straight from Antigua to your hotel at El Paredon.
The fact that there is this option available means that it’s one of the tourists’ favorite destinations. However, do not be misled but that. Despite being travelers’ favorite destination, it is not touristy at all or crowded, simply because it lacks all the necessary infrastructures to become a big overdeveloped beach resort.
El Paredon is a very laid-back village with a spectacular black sand beach and ocean waves that are perfect for surfers and skilled swimmers. If you are not good with current and waves I would suggest you don’t attempt getting into the water.
You will find any sort of accommodation from cheap hostels for young party lovers to tranquil boutique hotels and luxury villas.
El Paredon is relatively safe except for quite an excess of street dogs that may bark at you. Beware of that. You will enjoy amazing sunset on the beach and long walks.
WIFI is pretty much inexistent, even when you manage to connect. Some hotels and properties have it for their clients but sometimes (very often) it fails.
Mind there is a funny rivalry between El Pardon and Monterrico for some reasons and when I asked for information about going from one place to the other I was kindly ignored. So interesting, because there is no comparison. I mean El Paredon is the absolute winner.
Where to stay at El Paredon
The Swell – new upscale delightful property, definitely the best choice. Check rates and info
Ka’ana Surf – a gorgeous property with spacious and nicely decorated rooms around a pool Check rates and info
Paredon Surf House – the best option for both, those who travel on a budget and those who love more upscale rooms. Good WIFI is included for the hotel guests only as well. Check rates and info
Driftwood surfer – Check rates and info
I went to visit monterrico for the sake of learning about the place and my 2 days there ended up being one as I run away.
As you can imagine, I didn’t really like it but I don’t want to convince you not to explore it yourself.
Let’s say as a female solo traveler it was the first time that I felt uncomfortable and unsafe being in a place on my own.
If you go with a group of people and in a nicer hotel than the one I chose, you will probably have a blast.
Monterrico is basically one main road along the beach with hotels and a few restaurants.
Nothing charming about the town which I found filled with trash all over the place, as much as the beach.
However, the sunset was remarkable I have to admit.
In Monterrico the ocean is even more dangerous than at El Paredon. In fact, the strong current and big waves aren’t even suitable for surfers.
There are a couple of tours that you can join, one will take you along the beach to see the turtles laying their eggs (seasonal) and the other tour is a boat tour along the river in the early morning to watch the sunset.
Other than that I don’t really see any reasons why you would want to visit Monterico.
Besides, there are no busses that take you there. You must get on the chicken bus which is not the safest option, especially because the bus is passing through Escuintla, where assaults on local busses are quite commons.
I got there by UBER which cost around 400 Q one way.
FUN FACT – the best part of my trip to Monterrico was the return trip when we decided to take the shortest route which implied getting the car on a boat and navigating the river for about 30 minutes. So much fun and great views. Maybe I was so happy to leave Monterrico that a simple boat trip seemed one of the most beautiful experiences in the world. Who knows!
Where to stay in Monterrico
Dos Mundos Pacific Resort – this is the only upscale resort in Monterrico and the only one I would recommend. It’s a little overpriced but the best option in town. Check rates and info
Playa Las Lisas
This beach is quite off the beaten path and the best way to enjoy it is staying in one of the beach hotels where you can have access to restaurants and all the necessary facilities, besides staying safe.
A good trustworthy friend recommended staying at the Ecolodge Cabañas in Playa Quilombo, a simple but cozy place right on the beach from where you can relax and enjoy amazing sunsets. The owner Peter and the friendly staff will make your stay memorable.
However, other than that there is not much to do and WIFI is not available. This is a place where you really want to disconnect and read a book or meditate if you go on your own, or to go with friends and enjoy some good chats and laughter.
There is no public transport to get there so you either rent a car (which I discourage doing in Guatemala) or get an UBER which may charge around 500 Q/ one way.
Playa Tilapa is a lesser touristy beach on the northern Guatemalan Pacific Coast at only 10 km from the Guatemala Mexico border.
There is not much to do and very few places where to stay. I haven’t been there personally but from my research result, I wasn’t really drawn to visit. Probably the adventure of getting there is the highlight of the trip than the beach itself.
The small town of Tilapita is actually a fishing village, it has nothing charming to offer, from there you can take an interesting 10-minute boat ride to the beach when you will ride through mangrove trees.
On the beach, you could enjoy great sunsets and sometimes you can catch good waves for surfing.
There are very rustic cabañas for rentals in case you decide to stay for a couple of days and you can get in touch with the owners if you need more detailed information. (disclaimer – I don’t know them personally)
The easiest way to get there is by the Golondrina bus from the Minerva Terminal in Quetzaltenango (Xela). You need to ask for the bus that is going to the town of Coatepeque.
The bus runs every 30 minutes or so. From Coatepeque look for the Santa Lucia bus line which runs to La Blanca and onward to Tilapa. It will take approx 5 hours by bus from Xela. Quite a journey I would say.
Located just a few km south of Tilapa, also close to Quetzaltenango, Champerico is more popular for its port that has been serving the shipping industry in the past.
What is left now is an old rusty pier which will make a great subject for your photography interrupting the long dark sand beaches and crashing waves.
The laidback atmosphere and strong waves mainly attract local expert surfers in search of new challenges, and curious travelers who want a break for the amazing hikes in Quetzaltenango.
Puerto San Jose
Located on the Guatemalan Pacific coast between Monterrico and El Paredon, Puerto San Jose is an important fishing port in Guatemala and mainly popular among tourists for sport fishing which is one of the few reasons somebody would want to go there.
It was a popular trading and commercial port before but Puerto Quetzal a few miles away has taken over.
Regardless, if you are not into sportfishing, there is not much to do in Puerto San Jose other than trying a local meal in one of the beach restaurants and watching the waves.
But to be really honest the beach there is not particularly appealing and not even very good for swimming either. The village is quite chaotic too.
Puerto San José is indeed the closest beach reachable from Antigua or Guatemala city but I would rather spend an extra half an hour on the bus and get to El Paredon instead.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 🙂
I have discovered this beach just now while browsing around and I decided to include it on this list because it seems like an amazing laid-back beach where you can actually swim without fearing being taken down the abyss by the strong currents. Paradise.
The best way to enjoy this place is by renting a spectacular luxury lodge and enjoying the beautiful beach and sunsets from the comfort of your balcony. Pacific Pearl Lodge will do the job.
If you are traveling on the cheap or you just don’t care about the luxury you can rent a basic bungalow on the beach at Mar Maya. It’s not fancy, it’s actually very very basic, but you have the beach at one step from your door.
This beach destination in Guatemala is very much off the beaten path and therefore with very few facilities.
Although Sipcate is a stone thrown away from El Paredon, there is no access from there because of the river. To get to Sipcate you will need to make a turn in Escuintla towards Squinala and there turn again towards the coast.
Although I don’t recommend renting a car in Guatemala, it would still be safer than getting on the bus.
Beaches in Guatemala – Atlantic Caribbean Coast
Guatemalan Caribbean Coast is quite small but you can still find some lovely beaches if you are really missing the turquoise waters and white sands.
To get there is quite a journey from Guatemala City or Antigua but it’s doable.
You will need to get to Livingston first. And the best way to do it is to spend a few days on Rio Dulce around Lake Izabal where you will find dreamy ecolodges where to relax immersed in nature.
From Rio Dulce, you can get a ride to Livingston a small town that borders Belize, with incredible beaches and waterfalls.
Livingston is an interesting laid back town where the majority of the population is Garifunas, descendants of indigenous Arawak, but you will also find some Mayans, who fled here escaping from the Guatemalan civil war. A fascinating mix.
I would suggest you should stay a couple of nights in Livingston both to appreciate the local laidback life and the different culture but also to take some tours and explore. But let’s go back to the beaches in Guatemala Atlantic Coast. Here below is the list.
Although Playa Dorada is actually not on the sea, on the tranquil Lake Izabal, it has nothing to envy to the Caribbean beaches. In fact, it’s quite popular in the area mostly used for the different watersport activities that it offers.
It’s a quiet beach is lined by lush greenery including towery palm trees and washed by warm waters that invite you to swim.
The name, playa Dorada, means golden beach and comes from the tiny golden pebbles on the shore that, mixed with the sand shine when kissed by the sun from the right angle.
The beach also offers restaurants and facilities, but if you want to stay in the surroundings you should consider G Boutique Hotel, a lovely upscale boutique hotel nearby.
Playa Blanca is probably one of the best beaches in Guatemala. Imagine white coral sand washed by turquoise waters and lined with palm trees and hammocks where you lay and enjoy the gentle Caribbean breeze.
Despite being so popular it’s not a crowded beach and you will find peace and tranquillity.
To get to Playa Blanca you will need to take a small boat from Livingston. Make sure you ask the fisherman to pick you up at a specific time.
Where to stay in Livingston
Hotel Villa Carribe – situated right on a beach in Livingston this hotel offers a great lodging option with its spacious rooms and Caribbean feel. I ate in their restaurant when I went on a tour from Rio Dulce and it was delicious with spectacular views over their manicured garden overlooking the ocean. Check rates and availability
Casa Nostra – Cozy colorful hotel right on the beach. The guest loved the most impeccable clean room and the lovely staff. Check rates and availability
Livingston Resort Hotel – Cute little hotel with simple but clean rooms and a large pool for the guests’ use. Check rates and availability
Puerto Barrios is not exactly a beach, but a small port town located on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala right opposite Livingston on the other side of the river.
However, it’s worth mentioning because from Puerto Barrios you can find ferries to Punta Gorda in Belize and shorter boat rides to beautiful beaches such as Punta de Manabique, and Playa Blanca.
Amantique Bay Hotel – spectacular upscale hotel in the Marina Puerto Barrios – Check rates and availability
Punta de Manabique
If you love nature beyond beautiful beaches, this is where you should go. Punta de Manabique is in fact a wildlife reserve since 1999 for its rainforests and mangrove, home to a variety of wildlife.
Here you can combine relaxing beach time on a beautiful stretch of white sand and some nature exploring.
But this is not all. The underwater world also offers an incredible wealth of marine life to enjoy if you are a diver.
To get to Punta de Manabique you need to get to Puerto Barrios and get on a boat to take you there.
When is the best time to visit Guatemala beaches
Although it’s always a good time to visit Guatemala‘s beaches, there are times that are better than others for different reasons.
The best time to visit the Guatemala Pacific coast
On the Pacific coast, summertime is great to see baby sea turtles release, whereas wintertime is the best time for surfing, especially El Paredon because swells on the Pacific coast are smaller and more perfect, ideal for surfers and body-boarders.
Pro surfers will love this part of Guatemala all year round, though.
The best time to visit the Guatemala Atlantic coast
On the Atlantic coast, the weather is less predictable and you can get rain all year round. However, the best time of the year would be spring, March, and April, when you have less chance of rain right before entering the wettest season.
For better understanding, you may want to read my post on the best time to visit Guatemala.
What to pack for the Guatemala beaches
If you’re going to the beach in Guatemala (or to a hot and humid area like Río Dulce), this is one place where shorts, tank-tops, short skirts, and bathing suits are as common among the locals as the tourists. (something that wouldn’t be common in a city, just so you know)
Read more about what to wear on the beach and in Guatemala in the ultimate Guatemala Packing list article
I hope you enjoyed my article on the Guatemala beaches and it didn’t discourage you from exploring. If you disagree please let me know I am happy to know your thoughts. Happy travels.
More about Guatemala
- Visit Guatemala in October – Weather and Climate and Other Travel Tips
- Where to Stay in Lake Atitlan Guatemala – The Best Areas & Hotels
- 11 ways to get from Antigua to Lake Atitlan
- 7 ways to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan + practical tips
- The Day of the Dead in Guatemala – 6 incredible things to do
- Guatemala celebrations – the 20 best holidays and festivals in Guatemala
- How Independence Day in Guatemala Is Celebrated + 6 Exciting Things to do
- The ultimate Guatemala Packing List + what to wear
- The Best Time to Visit Guatemala for deals, weather, and events
- 5 amazing things to do at El Paredon Guatemala + how to get there and useful tips!