From June to December, hatchling turtles migrate between the volcanic sands and pounding surf of this Guatemalan beach town, enticing nature lovers to stay beside the shore.
With long, black-sand beaches washed by powerful Pacific waves, Guatamela’s Monterrico Coast is all about the drama. People don’t come here just to chill in the sun and sip cocktails under the palms, mind. Over the last decade, the area has become an important center for turtle conservation and while hotels are basic, it’s the best place between Costa Rica and Mexico to see hatching reptiles waddle into the big deep.
Rooms and dorms in the main building, and the plusher and more spacious garden villas behind, are simple at Hotel Maya Jade – done up in brown tile and whitewash, with little more than a bed. But turtles nest on the beach right in front of the hotel, there’s a tiny pool and the hotel has a wealth of activities – from wakeboarding in the adjacent canal to surf classes and sports fishing.
Popular with weekend visitors from Guatemala City, Dos Mundos has a range of rooms (the largest big enough for families) in balcony-fronted palm-thatched villas gathered in an open-lawned garden. They’re stylish but simple affairs – in all white, with tiled floors and airy pitched roofs – but the hotel is right on the sand and has a big infinity pool and cocktail bar. Activities include mangrove tours, massages and turtle-release trips.
This on-the-beach hotel, with a selection of swimming pools for all ages, is great for families. Most rooms are simple – in whites and sky-blues – so consider an upgrade to a Superior King suite for enough space for five and a large, shared living area. Adirondack chairs lining the shore and a beachfront restaurant grant you a front-row seat of the Pacific at all times.
With a huge pool, swim-up bar and a cavernous beachside restaurant, the Cayman are popular with families at weekends. Whitewashed rooms are simple and sparsely furnished, but they’re larger than nearby neighbors. And what the hotel lacks in intimacy, it makes up for in location (just a few minutes from Monterrico, right on the beach) and value. Tours to the mangroves and turtle-releasing trips are also on the menu.
With dorm beds as cheap as a couple of caipirinhas, a busy bar, pool and ample party space, this beachside hostel is a backpackers’ favorite. Mixed dorms are cheerfully painted in rich marines. But for just a few dollars more, it’s worth upgrading to the doubles (with shared bathrooms). In keeping with the sociable style, there are hammocks for lazing, ping-pong and pool tables, beach and pool volleyball nets.
Low scale, low rise and low key, Marbella sits right on the quieter end of the beach, 1,640ft (500m) from downtown Monterrico. Double rooms and small dorms are set on the shore and in a small shady garden – all whitewashed and simply furnished; the best with balconies facing the sea – and there’s also a small beachside pool.
Bustling with families, with a big pool and a swim-up bar, a paddling area for kids and beach palapas, Café del Sol is very popular with locals, especially at weekends. Accommodation is simple, but brightly-colored and adorned with art. The centrepiece is the beachside cafe, with its tables and chairs all angled towards the sea – especially welcome at sunset, cool drink in hand. The couple behind it run a social enterprise that invests in rural areas, so many staff are hired from local villages near Montericco.
Painted in whites and ocean blues and with rooms splashed in Guatemalan indigenous textiles, the Buri sits on the edge of a palm grove, a mere minute from the sea. There’s a small pool (with a walled-off shallow area for kids) and a large rooftop sundeck. The staff are welcoming and there’s a decent on-site seafood restaurant.