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Guatemala is well-known for its Mayan Ruins and backpacking adventures, but visitors looking for some rest and relaxation on the beach are also in luck. Guatemala has superb beaches on its Pacific and Caribbean coasts that are as unique as its ancient culture, but not as crowded as others in Central America and the Caribbean. Keep reading for our list of the Best Beaches in Guatemala.
Once a sleepy fishing village, Monterrico is now Guatemala’s most popular beach. Found on the Pacific Coast, a striking detail you’ll first notice is the beach’s volcanic black sand. The beach is famous for this feature, and some visitors come here for this spectacle alone.
The exotic, tropical flavor is a big draw for the area. From its rustic, thatched-roof architecture to the awe-inspiring volcanoes in the distance, every scene is full of character and begs for a photo. Other visitors flock to marvel at the sea turtle conservation efforts on the beach. The beach serves as a breeding ground for four species of sea turtles. You can even pay a small donation fee and release your own little baby turtle. As the country’s most popular beach, there’s no shortage of resorts and restaurants here. Among all the beaches in Guatemala, this one offers the most tourist accommodations. But it’s rarely crowded, and the commercial development here is not overbearing.
Also on the Pacific Coast, Champerico is another popular beach vacation spot. The location has long served as a vital shipping port. It has a famous antique pier, which still receives coffee, timber, and sugar. This timeworn structure set against an evening sunset makes for a breathtaking image. Like Monterrico (and most beaches in Guatemala), it’s not too crowded here. One reason why visitors choose to come here is its fresh and delicious seafood. Restaurante 7 Mares has an excellent reputation among locals and tourists. Fried fish, prawns, shellfish, and ceviche are favorite features on the menu here.
Surfers evaluating the beaches in Guatemala should look no further. The massive waves here make it a paradise for them. That also makes it a bit dangerous for others, so be careful out there in the surf. This area is also notoriously hot, so be prepared. On the bright side, the water is consistently warm, so there’s no need for your body to warm up to the water.
Puerto San Jose
Puerto San Jose is another beach locale on the Pacific Coast. It is best known to locals as Guatemala City’s nearest and most popular beach destination. So if you’re staying in Guatemala City, this is your place. Even if you’re not staying in Guatemala City, this could be a great beach spot for you. The region’s alternative airport is in this city (Guatemala City’s airport is the main option). So if you want to avoid the crowd of Guatemala City altogether but still hit the beach, this is a great destination.
There is a huge variety of seafood here. No surprise, since Puerto San Jose is the country’s biggest fishing town on the Pacific Coast. Sport fishing is an extremely popular activity for tourists here. Novices and seasoned fishermen alike rave about Big Buoy Fishing Charters. From sailfish to marlins, the diversity of the fish here is incredible, as are the first-class fishermen accompanying you. The variety of birdlife also attracts many birdwatchers to the area.
Not all the best beaches in Guatemala are on the Pacific Coast. Livingston, on the Caribbean Coast, has beaches that appear a bit more familiar. The sand is a more conventional shade of white, as compared to the darker color of the beaches on the Pacific, and there’s no shortage of coconut palms to give you a little shade when the heat becomes too much. The appearance of the beach may be more familiar, but the aura here is completely unique. The Afro-Caribbean atmosphere is unlike anything you would experience on the Pacific Coast. Nestled between the Caribbean and the rainforest, Livingston has a distinct, vibrant culture.
Livingston is also more off the beaten path – you can only reach it from Puerto Barrios, or via the Rio Dulce river. Playa Blanca is the most popular beach in the area. Despite its beauty, the commercial aspect of Playa Blanca is still developing. Bona fide adventurers will love spending the night here. Another popular destination here for tourists is the Seven Altars waterfalls. Here you hike up a small, tree-covered river with cascading pools and waterfalls. Keep an eye out for the pelicans, and take a cooking class to learn how to make the local cuisine.
As you’ve noted, this is a country with plenty of superb yet uncrowded beaches, but Playa Tilapa somehow manages to stand out for being even more rural and more scenic than the other beaches on the list. Tilapa is found on the Pacific Coast near the Mexican border and you will arrive on a gorgeous route from Tecún Umán, passing endless palm-oil and banana plantations. It’s considered to be one of Guatemala’s most secluded beaches, which is saying something. This is the beach in Guatemala for those who truly want to get away. Apart from cruising the nearby preserve in small boats, there aren’t a lot of tourist activities here.
What stands out in Tilapa is its untouched beauty, and how starkly remote and personal the beach and town are. The gentle waves here are as easy-going as the people. It’s a place that exists out of time, and you get the feeling that things will be just as you left them when you return. Indeed, visitors come away feeling like this beach was all theirs. It’s impossible to not make a memory in this hidden heaven.