When visiting Guatemala, the usual suspects of places to visit are Antigua, Lake Atitlan, and Tikal. If you’re adventurous and have more time, next on the list would be Rio Dulce, Livingston, Lanquin, and Semuc Champey. Yet, what most people miss out on is Playa Monterrico, Guatemala, and other beach areas. That’s why I decided to write an incredible guide with all the info you need when visiting Monterrico in Guatemala
You’ll learn, what it is like to visit Monterrico, one of the best beach destinations in Guatemala, the things to do in this town, where to stay, and some tips. Since I’m an ex-pat living in Guatemala, I have some of the best first-hand tips and information about most of the places here.
Monterrico in Guatemala
Playa Monterrico is Guatemala’s top beach destination, but the town is tiny and accommodations are limited. The beach here is a broad swath of dark volcanic sand (Guatemala is full of volcanoes)backed by coconut palms and mangroves. Perhaps the town’s biggest draw is its other natural charms. While often inhospitable to most sunbathers, Monterrico’s beaches are prime nesting grounds for several species of sea turtles, and the beach’s backing mangrove forests have been protected as part of the Reserva Natural Monterrico and are home to a wide range of tropical flora and fauna, making it one of the best places to visit in Guatemala.
Things to Do in Monterrico Beach
I’m not going to lie, Playa Monterrico is quite a small paradise, and you need to open your eyes to spot the best activities and opportunities it has to offer. As I told you before, this place is amazing for nature lovers, relaxing on the beach or spending some time with the locals. Since there are a ton of people saying there’s not much to do here, I’m going to list the best things to do in Monterrico, Guatemala.
Spending time on the beach
After all, this is a beach town, and its main attraction is the beach. The particular thing about this beach is the sand. You will have the chance to step on a black-sanded beach due to the volcanic activity of the region, which is perfect for playing in and perfect for building and creating as well.
However, it’s important to note, that the riptide is terrible, and the waves can be relentless. Actually, this is the very reason it’s perfect for turtles. They love the surf. You also can swim on the beach, but be careful or spend time lazying on the shore. Nothing is more suitable on a Guatemalan hot day than the beach!
Spend some time in the town
I love towns where the main roads are made of dirt and sand. They just add to the uniqueness of the village. Aside from being one main street, there are cute local eateries and Guatemalan Street Food Stands in the center of town. You also can spend some time shopping for local jewelry and some local street art made out of shells. Also, there are some small canals on the sidewalks where you can spot some fish swimming (possibly turns into dinner when no one is looking, lol)
Boat tours along the mangrove canals
Mangroves here are amazing, the best time to do this is early in the morning as the sun comes out or for sunset. This is where you get the best chances to catch as many kinds of animals as possible.
Most of those tours will take you to the Hawaii-Monterrico Biotopo, where you can enjoy the canals full of mangroves. You’ll need to hire a local guide that will take you in a non-motorized boat with only a pole to navigate through the mangroves, it’s a good experience, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
Birdwatching and Wildlife Watching
Yes, watching birds is an amazing thing to do in Guatemala, but Playa Monterrico is so nature-friendly that it makes the entire activity more breathtaking. You will be able to spot many animals and a huge amount of birds. While wildlife watching is not an activity everyone has in mind, it sure can be entertained.
The area is flooding with all kinds of gorgeous birds that any animal lover would enjoy checking out. The best thing to do about this is to start inquiring about travel agencies from Antigua or to start researching on the internet before you get there. There aren’t as many tourism-oriented businesses in the area, so you might not find anyone offering it near you.
Turtle tours at night
If you decide to go to Monterrico Beach between June and December, you will have the chance to see one of the most magical things to experience. A huge amount of sea turtles come to lay their eggs at night on the shore of the black-sanded beach. This is the favorite nesting for leatherback, olive ridley, and green sea turtles.
Baby Sea Turtle Release
Without a doubt, this is the most incredible attraction in Playa Monterrico. It is a rare and amazing moment when you get to hold a day-old turtle in your hand and then release it into the Big Blue or dark sea, as it is in Monterrico Beach.
A few weeks after the nesting season comes the hatching season. During this time the conservation organizations also organize tours where you get to help see that one newly hatched sea turtle makes its way to the ocean safely. Once more, this allows for sea turtle numbers to go up.
If you want to learn more about turtles you can visit the Tortugario Monterrico, each year workers and volunteers (you can do it too), during the hatching season release newborn baby turtles to the sea, you can pay to release your own baby turtle.
How to Get to Monterrico
Monterrico is located on the Pacific coast of Guatemala in the department of Santa Rosa, if you’re coming from Antigua or Guatemala City it’s not really complicated, all you need to do is follow the road to Escuintla, Puerto Quetzal, and then you’ll be arriving in the Town of Monterrico, the drive should take you one hour to two hours if you go slow, you know, checking the view.
I love the quote, “Getting there is half the fun”. In this case, it’s so true. Before the new bridge was built, and you can drive directly to Monterrico, you had to take a ferry through the mangroves and canals. But it’s no ordinary ferry and service, making this one of the funniest parts of visiting Monterrico in Guatemala. Getting the car on this ancient ferry is a feat in itself and involves the whole village to pitch in.
This is not necessary anymore since they build in a bridge, but you can still do either option. The bridge costs around $2 to drive over, and it’s not much of a drive. Or you can pay $10 for the ferry and have a blast!
Where to Stay in Monterrico
What’s a hot beach destination without pool fun. Especially visiting with kids. Although there aren’t many super luxury places to stay, you can find some awesome places to spend some nights comfortably. To make your search easy use Cozy cozy which is your one stop shop for accommodation searches. With one click you can browse airbnbs, hotels, homestays and more.
You might want to keep in mind that Monterrico is extremely hot. And during certain times of the year, has way too many mosquitos.
So when I searched for a hotel for my family, it had to have two requisites:
1. Air Conditioner – to keep us cool and not let in any flying insects
2. Pool and garden
And those were the best options:
Hotel Atelie del Mar
The tropical hotel had the biggest pool we have ever seen in any hotel we have stayed at in a long time. And we stay in many hotels. The hotel is very simple, with cable and a restaurant with lots of options for lunch and dinner. Typical Chapin breakfasts are included in your price for the night. And nothing beats eating breakfast outside on a patio.
The owner Stig and Violeta are very accommodating. Violeta, from meeting her, seemed to be a very special and lovely person. Even though she is 90% blind, her colorful artworks are displayed all over the hotel, bringing it to life.
Hotel El Delfin
This is probably one of the most budget-friendly hotels that actually are in Monterrico, it’s also very popular among locals and backpackers. Offers beachfront terraces, has a great location and the staff is super nice. Now offers wifi too, has a decent pool and the food is amazing, also, there’s a bar and lounge!
Hotel Cafe del Sol
Another great option for spending some nights in Monterrico, is you have clean rooms with an air conditioner, wifi, and bar. Also offers access to the beach and is not too far away from the center of the town. They have a pool and a kid’s pool. The staff is really helpful and friendly, a great option to stay in.
Where to Go
Guatemala is packed with national parks and natural reserves, so, some notable places to go in Monterrico are the Parque Hawaii (Hawaii Park), the Reserva Natural de Monterrico (Monterrico Nature Reserve) and Tortuguerio Monterrico. You can do a bunch of activities like hiking, horseback riding, and many more in those places. They are great for hiking, wildlife watching and birding. Many hotels in the zone offer different activities in those areas, so you should ask as soon you get to the hotel.