Monterrico: Travel Guide to the Best Beach in Guatemala
Here is our travel guide on how to visit Monterrico which is the best beach destination on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala. Read tips on the best things to do, where to stay, when to visit, safety advice, and how to get there.
Monterrico is a small laidback town on the west coast of Guatemala, and one of the best and most popular places among both locals and foreign visitors to hit the beach in the country. It is true that Guatemala is usually not considered as a country to relax on the beach, as it is better known among travelers for its highlands, blue pools, waterfalls, volcanoes, and indigenous culture.
But even though swimming in the ocean is not the main reason you want to travel to this increasingly popular Central American country, after a couple of days spent in colder weather conditions, you might start craving warm temperatures and slower pace.
In that case, it is always good to know that Monterrico is there, and what is even better, it is pretty close to some of Guatemala's must-visit places.
Beaches on the Pacific side of Central American countries are usually different from their Atlantic counterparts. We believe they have different vibe, character, and it's the smell of freedom, and the surf-like way of life, that makes them so special.
It's the same case with Monterrico. The jet black sand beach with the volcanic origin (yes, you read it right, there is no white pristine sandy beach) has its untamed soul surprisingly still unspoiled despite its growing popularity and is one of the must-visit places while exploring Guatemala.
We knew right from the start that visiting a beautiful beach is a must-do activity while road-tripping around Guatemala, and we chose Monterrico without hesitating.
If you are still reluctant to include the destination of Monterrico in your Guatemala travel itinerary, we might change your mind in the next few paragraphs.
Things to Do in Monterrico
We'll be honest with you, and spare you disappointment right at the beginning.
There is not much to do in Monterrico.
Having said that, we know that some travelers prefer slow and lazy beach destinations, and if you are one of them, Monterrico might be the perfect choice where to spend some quality beach time in Guatemala.
We certainly did enjoy our time there.
Here's the list of the best things to do in Monterrico.
Lazing on the Beach | On a usual hot Guatemalan day, lazing on the beach with your friends or family, watching the waves crashing into the shore, or reading your favorite book is one of the best ways on how to spend your day in Monterrico.
Play in the Waves | Grab your bathing suit and make a spontaneous dip into the sea. If you are in Monterrico, chances are, that you want to play and have fun in the Pacific Ocean.
Watch out for the undertow and strong waves though, to stay safe, read our safety advice at the end of the article.
Mangrove Tours | Aside from having fun in the water, you can join one of the organized tours to Hawaii-Monterrico Biotopo.
Hire a local guide in the town, and he will take you at 5 AM to the estuary, when is the best time to spot wildlife, and to explore the waterways on a small non-motorized boat using only a pole to navigate the boat through the mangrove maze.
Sea Turtles | Every year, hundreds of turtles come ashore at night to lay their eggs, and you have a great opportunity to observe them between June and December.
This is a prime nesting area for giant leatherback, green sea, and smaller olive ridley turtles. You should also pay a visit to the turtle hatchery Tortugario Monterrico (CECON) where you can learn more about turtles, caimans, iguanas, and conservation ideas.
We visited the hatching station for turtles in the Galapagos Islands, and it was really interesting.
During the hatching season, workers and volunteers release newborn turtles back to the sea every day just before the sunset around 5:30 PM, and you can pay GTQ 10 (which goes directly to the sanctuary) for releasing your own turtle.
Soak Up the Atmosphere | Sometimes we don't need much when it comes to entertainment, and as the traveling can be pretty exhausting at times, places like Monterrico are perfect for recharging your batteries, reconnecting with yourself or loved ones.
How to Get To Monterrico
As we had a rental car, getting to Monterrico was extremely easy.
No matter if you drive from Antigua or Guatemala City, you want to follow the road first to Escuintla, Puerto Quetzal and then you will finally arrive to the town of Monterrico. The drive should not take you more than two and a half hours.
We opted for a more adventurous way though and drove from Escuintla to Taxisco, from there to La Avallena, and this is the place where the road ends and the adventure starts.
In La Avallena, you need to take a ferry through Canal de Chiquimulilla in Biotopo Monterrico-Hawaii. The ferry itself is considerably small and looks like it's going to sink any minute. Fortunately, we made it to the other side in one piece, and it was a truly amazing experience.
If you don't plan on renting a car and don't mind spending a little bit more, arrange a tourist shuttle from Guatemala City or Antigua is also a possibility.
You can arrange the transport through a travel agency or ask at your accommodation. Using a tourist shuttle will also save you a lot of time, as they go on time and don't stop to pick up locals along the way.
In case you do not have more than one day for exploring Monterrico (which is, by the way, absolutely enough), you can take a one day tour from either Guatemala City or Antigua.
The most budget way how to get to Monterrico is by chicken bus. There are direct buses from Guatemala City's Terminal Central Sur in Zona 12.
There is no direct public bus from Antigua, it is necessary to switch the bus several times to get to Monterrico.
Travel Tip How to Enjoy the Beach in Moterrico the Most
Plan your trip on a weekday. No matter how unimportant this piece of advice sounds to you, it might affect your overall experience of this place.
As the beach is getting more and more popular with locals, citizens from Guatemala City arrive in flocks on weekends to have fun, relax or party and completely change the vibe of this beautiful place.
On the other hand, if you like lively places, don't mind crowds, or you want to hang out with Guatemalans, the weekend is the time to go.
How Many Days to Stay in Monterrico
Although it is easily possible to visit Monterrico in only one day, in case you simply want to check off this destination from the list of must-visit places, or you are really pressed for time, we recommend you to stay on Guatemala's coast for at least two days which is the perfect number of days to unwind, and not to think all day about your departure time.
During our travels we found out that from time to time we need visit destinations like Monterrico, where there are not exactly that many things to do, but simoultaneously we never feel bored.
Where to Stay in Monterrico
There are many places and hotels on the way from Puerto Quetzal where you can spend a night like El Conacaste, but in this article, we mainly focus on Monterrico and will select only hotels in this town, because we think the main reason to travel to this destination is to stay as close to the beach as possible.
Monterrico area is still under-developed, and you won't find here luxury hotels and resorts in the true sense of term like you would expect somewhere else, but you will find here a good compromise in price and service in more expensive places.
Good news is, that Monterrico is still budget-friendly for backpackers or people who don't like to spend a fortune on accommodation.
Here are three best hotels in Monterrico for every type of traveler.
Budget | Hotel El Delfin - This is the most popular and affordable hostel among backpackers traveling in Monterrico. Great location, friendly staff, and beachfront terrace. You will get excellent value for your money.
Mid-range | Hotel Cafe del Sol - If you are looking for nice clean rooms, great amenities, outdoor pool, free parking, private beach for excellent price, this is the place to stay in Monterrico.
Luxury | Dos Mundos Pacific Resort - Set in a beautiful grounds and with beach access, this hotel offers spotlessly clean and air-conditioned rooms, on-site restaurant, and the friendly staff will help you arrange activities you can do in the area.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
What to Pack for Visiting Monterrico
Also, a good and strong sunscreen with 50+ SPF will help you survive the harsh sun in Guatemala.
What might not be that obvious, especially if you don't have any prior experience with black sand, is that the volcanic sand turns into something resembling red-hot lava around noon, and you will need good flip-flops for Him & for Her for walking on the beach or water shoes for Him & for Her.
If you plan on staying for a couple more days, you can bring Kindle and catch up on reading.
When to Visit Monterrico
The most important question you need to ask yourself before you go to Monterrico is if you want to see sea turtles nesting.
If you just exclaimed 'hell yeah' then you need to plan your trip a little bit more carefully.
The best time to visit Monterrico for turtle season would be then between June and December as August and September are the nesting months.
If you don't have any interest in this activity, you can visit Monterrico all year round as temperatures of sea and the air are equally pleasant.
Where to Go Next
If you are a beach bum and plan on visiting more countries in Central America on your trip, we have a few extra tips for you.
If you ever get tired of the Pacific side, Panama offers some great beaches on Bocas del Toro islands.
We also can't fail to mention traveling north of Guatemala, where you will find Caye Caulker in Belize or Tulum in Mexico.
We didn't enjoy the so-called Paradise beach in the town on the Carribean coast though as the huge piles of rotten seaweed washed upon the shore have spoiled the beach there. We liked the Maya ruins though.
Although some parts of Guatemala are still considered dangerous, Monterrico, as usually small quiet beach towns relying on tourism are, is reasonably safe to visit.
Nevertheless, this might change after dark in poorly lit streets and especially in the low season when the place is at its quietest.
There is one more extremely important thing you should know before you go.
The beach is known for its unpredictable riptides, huge waves and dangerous conditions for swimming.
Even if you consider yourself an above-average swimmer, be careful when going for a swim, and don't swim too far away from the shore.
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