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10 of My Favorite Things to Do in Escuintla, Guatemala

Escuintla is mostly visited by locals, it’s still a hidden gem for tourists and besides Pacaya Volcano, most of its attractions are often missed. On my first visit to the volcano, I didn’t even notice we were at a different department, so I started to research and visit different places and I was surprised by the amount of things there are to do in Escuintla, Guatemala.

On my different visit to the Escuintla department, I discovered amazing hidden gems like Puerto San Jose, which is a coastal town with a popular beach and Puerto Quetzal, a major seaport and cruise ship terminal but the crown of the jewel was El Paredon.

It may not be the top tourist attraction in the country but, it has a lot to offer and the biggest draw is its proximity to Antigua and Guatemala City.

el paredon escuintla guatemala
My favorite place to visit in Escuintla is El Paredon, I loved how the town developed and got this chill and relaxed surfer vibe to it.

Things to Do in Escuintla

I know Escuintla well, I lived in the country for more than 20 years and traveled around the department several times, both alone and with my kids. We set El Paredon as our destination for a beach getaway and it never failed to surprise us.

But here, you can experience a lot of natural beauty, from volcanoes, and lush tropical forests to popular beaches along its Pacific coast and more

But of all the attractions in Escuintla Department, Pacaya Volcano is probably the most well-known and most visited. And for good reason, as it is one of Guatemala’s most active and also most accessible volcanoes.

Visit El Paredon Beach

In Escuintla, you can visit Puerto San Jose which is just a couple of hours from Guatemala City and is a popular beach for locals, but it isn’t the best or safest place unless you stay at a large resort. 

Instead, I’d suggest you go to El Paredon, near Sipacate. El Paredon is well known for its waves, as a surfer’s town and also it’s a lot cleaner and safer than Puerto San Jose.

It’s also easy to get there by bus, or shuttle which is one of the safer ways to travel around Guatemala.

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Roast marshmallow in lava at the top of Pacaya Volcano

Without a doubt, Pacaya Volcano is one of the well-known places to visit in Escuintla and one of my kid’s favorite hikes in the country. This is one of the most active volcanoes in the country.

The biggest draw about hiking Pacaya is that you can walk up almost to the crater and walk among the lava rivers.

There are a number of Pacaya Volcano tours and day trips you can take and of them even offer marshmallow roasting in small holes on the ground that is still extremely hot.

The hike is not hard but can be challenging, but there are horses available for you in case you can’t make it!

woman and kids next to a horse while hiking pacaya volcano
My kids and I agree that Pacaya Volcano is one of the best hikes in the country, you not only get to see lava but also roast marshmallows in it!

Visit Auto Safari Chapin

This is easily one of the most unusual attractions in Guatemala and indeed all of Central America and it’s located in Escuintla, the Auto Safari Chapin, where you can drive through grounds harboring a variety of animals, including zebras, hippos, rhinos, giraffes, and a lion. 

There are also local species such as macaws and monkeys, which you can see in a small zoo, and an aviary.

There is a rest area partway through the drive where you can get up close and personal with the park’s giraffes. A swimming pool and restaurant round out the list of amenities.

lions in front of a car in auto safari chapin  in escuintla guatemala
One of my funniest and usual recommendations for Escuintla is Auto Safari Chapin, it’s something you don’t see coming!

Visit a coffee farm and enjoy the ecotourism

One of those hidden gems in my opinion would have to be Finca el Barretal, a family-owned coffee farm and ecotourism site.

Here you can experience a private tour of a beautiful Coffee Farm and learn more about the cultivation and processing of coffee, which is one of the main products of Guatemala. 

Apart from the charming coffee farm, there was a picturesque garden for special events, stunning waterfalls, and scenic trails. But my favorite places were the cozy picnic sites where I could relax and immerse myself in nature.

woman holding a kid next to Valhalla Macadamia Farm in antigua guatemala
Fincas are all over Guatemala and I never miss the chance to visit one and recommend it to everyone, you learn and have so much fun!

Visit Finca el Zapote or Aquaventura Park and slide

Along the highway that leads to the beaches, you will find a number of waterparks with decent slides and pools that you can visit for fun family time in Escuintla.

There are a few, but at the moment, Finca el Zapote and Aquaventura might be your best choice. 

Finca el Zapote’s main attractions are the large botanical garden, a natural pool that is fed from a natural water source as well as lakes, trails, and other fun things to do.

Here you can enjoy walking in the gardens, swimming in the pool, fishing in the lake and other activities such as birdwatching.

In addition to the natural water parks, there is the Parque Acuatico Aquaventura, the largest water park in the area with giant slides, interactive water games, and a wave pool among other attractions, making it great for young families.

Dolphin and Whale Watching

While dolphin and whale watching may be more associated with places like Costa Rica or California it is still possible to observe these marine mammals in their natural environment off the Pacific Coast of Guatemala.

Dolphin and whale watching tours usually leave from Marina Pez Vela and usually take place between January and mid-April, which are the warmer months of the year in Guatemala.

You will be taken on board a yacht off of the Guatemalan coast to search for these huge mammals, making it one of the best things to do in Escuintla.

Go kayaking in mangroves in Sipacate Naranjo National Park

Sipacate Naranjo National Park can be found between the coastal towns of Sipacate and El Naranjo in Escuintla. The park is naturally diverse and includes mangrove forests, lagoons, and sandy beaches

This is a protected area where locals are trying to preserve mangroves. To explore them you will be able to rent kayaks and do some kayaking in mangroves.

The place also serves as a protected and safe area for sea turtles and some kinds of iguanas to lay their eggs without the danger of poachers stealing them.

path and hut with hammocks el paredon beach
El Paredon is well known for its waves and as being a surfer’s town and is less crowded and safer than Puerto San Jose.

Check out Mayan ruins in La Democracia

While not as famous as other ancient Mayan ruins in Guatemala like Tikal and El Mirador, there are definitely noteworthy and interesting archaeological sites in Escuintla worth checking out. La Democracia archaeological site is one such site in Escuintla and is an ancient Mayan ruin dating back over 2,000 years. 

Here you can get a glimpse of ancient Mayan civilization through its preserved pyramids and structures.

The town of La Democracia where the ruins are located also has a small archeological museum that has pottery, sculptures, grinding stones, stone heads, and an impressive jade mask.

Visit the Cathedral of Escuintla

The city’s cathedral is a remarkable testament to the rich heritage of the city. I was in awe of its intricate architecture, beautiful stained glass windows, and the peaceful atmosphere inside.

It was a perfect place to take a moment to reflect and appreciate the incredible craftsmanship behind this spiritual sanctuary.

Even if you’re not a religious person, you need to at least check it out, and if possible light a candle and take a moment for reflection.

Try waterfall rappelling in Finca el Barretal

Finca el Barretal is a relatively new attraction, a privately owned water park where some travel agencies have started to offer waterfall rappelling tours. 

And many visitors have called this the best rappel in Guatemala where you can rappel down a 40-meter-plus natural waterfall! But there is much more than just that, things like glamping and coffee tours are also available at Finca el Barretal.

Ecotourism in Escuintla may not be as developed as in some other regions of Guatemala, but this can also be an opportunity for those who like to get off the beaten track and discover hidden gems.

woman doing Waterfall Rappelling
I remember the adventure and excitement of rappelling down a waterfall, hands down one of the best things to do

Where to Stay in Escuintla

There’s no need for you to stay in Escuintla since it’s close enough to Antigua and Guatemala City to visit it as a day trip, but if you’ve decided to do it, your best bet is to stay in El Paredon.

And remember that finding the right place to stay is essential for a memorable experience. Here are some of my and my family’s favorite hotels:

Ka’ana Surf Hotel

The Ka’ana Surf Hotel is just steps away from El Paredon Beach. It gives an idyllic setting for someone like me who loves the beach and sunsets!

With its outdoor swimming pool, comfortable beds, and amazing beach access, it was the perfect spot to unwind and enjoy the stunning views.

I particularly enjoyed the delicious food served at the hotel’s restaurant, which made my stay even more delightful.

Paredon Surf House

When I visited El Paredón for the first time with my kids, I found the Paredon Surf House to be a hidden gem. The hotel features an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, and a stunning terrace.

The rooms are cozy, like a hut and the food is truly exceptional. Whether you’re a surfer or just seeking a tranquil escape, Paredon Surf House is sure to exceed your expectations.

entrance to el paredon surf house
Me and my family have visited the Paredon Surf House several times, it was our place to go whenever we needed a beach getaway to El Paredon.

Wander Boutique Hotel

The Wander Boutique Hotel offers a more upscale experience, it has an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant, and a bar.

The friendly staff ensures a warm welcome, and the rooms are beautifully designed. The restaurant serves delicious meals, and the overall experience is top-notch.

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How to Get to Escuintla

Escuintla is 64.6 km from Guatemala City, since it’s the third-largest city in the country, it is fairly easy to get there. You can rent a car and head down to Escuintla using the CA-9 which will take you there in around 1 hour and 35 min approximately. 

There are buses too if you are a risky adventurer and want to travel like a local, which I don’t recommend. Another option is using a taxi, quick, easy and comfy.

FAQs

Is Escuintla safe for tourists?

Yes, Escuintla is generally safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s essential to take precautions and stay informed. Use your common sense and you’ll be okay.

What’s the best time to visit Escuintla?

The dry season (November to April) is ideal for visiting Escuintla since the weather is pleasant and rainfall is minimal suitable for beach getaways.

Are there any cultural attractions in Escuintla?

While Escuintla is known for its natural beauty, you can also explore local markets, historical sites, and traditional cuisine.

Can I find vegetarian or vegan food options in Escuintla?

Yes, many restaurants offer vegetarian and vegan dishes. Be sure to ask for recommendations!

How do I get around Escuintla?

Taxis, buses, and rental cars are available for transportation within Escuintla. Just make sure to plan your itinerary accordingly and beforehand.

Best Things to Do in Escuintla, Guatemala

Overall Escuintla department, aside from Pacaya volcano, is not very popular among travelers, but it’s a popular place for beach activities like surfing! Guatemalans visit it all the time in search of pools and warmer climates.

Also, surfers should definitely take some time to experience what surfing in Guatemala can be like.

A great advantage to visiting lesser-known places like Escuintla is the chance to experience a less crowded and touristy side of Guatemala and for many visitors, this alone can make it worth a visit!

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Top 7 Things to Do in Escuintla, Guatemala

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Last Updated on July 13, 2024

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