Escuintla is a Guatemalan Department located in the Southern Region of the country. Escuintla may not be one of the top tourist attractions in Guatemala, but it’s a great place to visit. This is where you will find attractions like Puerto San Jose and Puerto Quetzal. Mainly known because of the Pacaya Volcano. I’m an ex-pat living in Guatemala for the past several years, and I have traveled around this country a lot. I know Escuintla pretty well, That’s why I decided to write the best things to do in Escuintla, Guatemala, and a lot more information.
Another four-lane highway continues south from Escuintla to Puerto San José, Puerto Quetzal (called like that after the national bird in Guatemala: El Quetzal), and Iztapa. A bypass means you don’t need to even pass through town unless it’s absolutely necessary. The town has some nice accommodations and a variety of restaurants, but it is best to skip it and pass the northbound toll booths.
Since its proximity to Guatemala City, you don’t really need to stay in the city, since most of the activities in Escuintla are related to the Pacaya Volcano, the beach at Puerto San Jose, and some other activities close to the port, and heading to Sipacate Naranjo National Park. All of that stuff can be done without actually staying in the city.
Things to Do in Escuintla, Guatemala
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.
They are not beautiful, but the Pacific coast of Guatemala is known for being a good place for surfers. In Escuintla you can visit Puerto San Jose, but it isn’t the best or safest unless you start at a large resort. Instead, I’d tell you to go to El Paredon. This is a surfer’s town, a lot cleaner and safer.
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 might be your best choice, they have swimming pools trails, and other fun things to do.
This is one of the most active volcanoes in the country. It is always active at low levels. There are tours in many places of Escuintla where you can walk up almost to the crater and walk among the lava rivers. Some tour companies even offer marshmallow roasting in small holes on the ground that is still extremely hot.
Dolphin and Whale Watching
These tours usually leave Marina Pez Vela. They usually happen between January and mid-April in Guatemala, which are the warmer months of the year. You will be taken on board a yacht off of the Guatemalan coast to search for these huge mammals, making one of the best things to do in Escuintla.
Sipacate Naranjo National Park
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.
Finca el Barretal is a relatively new attraction, a privately owned water park where some travel agencies have started to offer waterfall rappelling tours. But there is much more than just that, things like glamping and coffee tours are also available
This department, aside from Pacaya volcano, is not very popular among travelers, but Guatemalans visit it all the time in search of pools and warmer climates. However, surfers should definitely take some time to experience what surfing in Guatemala can be like.
How to Get to Escuintla, Guatemala
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 1h 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 it. Another option is using a taxi, quick, easy and comfy.
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