While I’ve lived in Guatemala for a while and had previously visited many other times, I hadn’t found a chance to visit any of its beaches.  Guatemala rarely figures in any guidebook as a beach-worthy destination.  Part of it I think is that other fantastic attractions tend to overshadow perfectly serviceable beaches, like El Paredon Guatemala. Did you know you could surf in Guatemala? See my review below of Paredon Surf House.

The closest beaches to Guatemala City and Antigua Guatemala are those on the Pacific Coast, located about 2 hours away.  Monterrico beach gets top billing, due to being more developed and having more amenities, although it’s not necessarily the best beach on the west coast.

While looking up info about possible beach destinations, I found out about El Paredon Beach, located inside Sipacate-El Naranjo national park.  This area is known as Guatemala’s best surf spot and featured in El Paredon Surf Report.

Heading to Paredon Surf House

I found online a neat little hotel on El Paredon beach, Paredon Surf House.  I decided to drive there one Saturday morning to check it out.

If you don’t have access to a vehicle, there are now some travel agencies offering shuttles to and from El Paredon. A one-way shuttle costs about $12USD. Plan to spend the night, as shuttle schedules allow for a 2-3 hour stay if you want to come back the same-day – far too little time.

From Antigua Guatemala, you need to head towards Escuintla, the road that goes through Ciudad Vieja.  We were barely on our way, and we were already looking forward to sucking in some clean sea breeze.

Smoke from chicken bus

Smoke from chicken bus

Keep following the signs to Escuintla as you head out of Ciudad Vieja.  This road is also known as CA-14.

Bear left on CA-14, towards EscuintlaBear left on CA-14, towards Escuintla

As you continue heading towards Escuintla, you’ll pass by the town of Alotenango and La Reunion Golf Resort, a five-star hotel and planned community.  Designed by Peter Dye, it is said to be one of the best golf courses in all of Guatemala.  The place looks magnificent inside, even if it doesn’t look like much from the outside and its location is in the middle of nowhere.

Overloaded pickup truck

Overloaded pickup truck – a common transportation mode in Guatemala

As you drive past Alotenango, around the bend, you’ll notice a striking hill dominating the landscape.  Known to locals as “Pikachu Mountain,” it’s a popular rock climbing destination.  Why the name? Not sure, but I have a theory.

For a Q10 ($1.25)  fee per person, you can enter the small park and climb to the top.  There’s also a shallow river, safe for kids.  Street vendors gather here to sell food on the weekends. The entrance to the small parking lot can be easy to miss. Look for a turnoff on your right.

Guatemalan landscapeStriking Guatemalan landscape

As you get closer to the mountain (a hill, really), you’ll notice a distinctive boulder.  I guess if you squint your eyes, you might confuse the rock with Pikachu, of  Pokemon fame.  That’s my theory on the name.

Pikachu mountainPikachu mountain

After experiencing cooler temperatures at the start of the trip, it warmed up considerably once we reached Escuintla.

Driving past the Pikachu, you’ll come to a fork in the road allowing you to enter the Escuintla bypass.  Otherwise, you’ll have to drive through the city of Escuintla and find your way to CA-9, the new highway that leads to the coast.  Bear right at the fork.

Entrance to CA-2 Highway

Entrance to CA-2 Highway

After a short drive on the bypass road, you’ll see signs for Puerto Quetzal, which is on the coast.  The Mazatenango/Retalhuleu (Reu) exit is CA-2, which takes you all the way to the Mexican border.  From here on, follow signs for Puerto Quetzal.
Head to the coast, toward Puerto Quetzal

Head to the coast, toward Puerto Quetzal

Antigua Guatemala to the coast

Antigua Guatemala road to the coast

The drive down CA-9 is fairly nice, as the road is in great shape.  This is the same road that leads to Monterrico and Iztapa, another popular beach.  El Paredon beach is further up north, so you need to drive through Puerto San Jose and away from Puerto Quetzal.

Highway to Guatemala's Pacific Coast

Highway to the Pacific Coast

Puerto Quetzal is Guatemala’s main shipping port, so it makes sense that the Guatemalan Naval Base is located nearby.

Guatemalan Naval Base

Guatemalan Naval Base

Keep following the signs for Puerto San Jose.

Follow turnoff to Puerto San José Guatemala

Follow turnoff to Puerto San José

Puerto San Jose is a familiar town with visitors from Guatemala City, because of its accessible public beach.  It was at the very least interesting to drive through.

Small church, Puerto San José

Small church, Puerto San José

Left shark hanging out in Guatemala

Left shark hanging out in Guatemala

If you continue on the main road, you’ll come to a 4-way intersection.  Continue straight and follow the coast to exit Puerto San Jose.

Drive past Puerto San José, away from Puerto Quetzal

Drive past Puerto San José, away from Puerto Quetzal

You’ll see a sign for Masagua, the direction in which you’re headed.  You’ll also see signs for Escuintla, which can be a little confusing since Escuintla is where you came from originally.

It turns out that CA-9 is U-shaped, and makes its way to Escuintla.  This means you can head to El Paredon from either end, from Escuintla.  I guess we missed the exit for the old CA-9 while on the Escuintla bypass.

In any case, it is just more convenient, and faster, if you drive on the new road that goes through Puerto San Jose (unless you’re going to the beach during Easter Week:  Puerto San Jose gets super crowded, and it’s best to avoid driving through).

If you’re coming from the new CA-9 section, via Puerto San Jose, you won’t have the benefit of certain landmarks.  There’s a sign for “Linda Mar,” but only viewable when you’re heading TO Puerto San Jose from the old CA-9 that winds through the town of Masagua.  There’s also a giant billboard with a girl in a bikini, which is the only thing I recall from it.

The entrance to Linda Mar is around Kilometer marker 98.5.  Below is what the turn off to the road looks like, on your left, if coming from Puerto San Jose.

Linda Mar Guatemala

If coming from Puerto San José, you won’t see signs for Linda Mar

And if you’re coming from Masagua, on old CA-9.

Linda Mar signage

If you missed turn off, go back – Turn off will now be on the right

Head down the road until you see signs for “Parc. Los Angeles”.  Turn right at the Pepsi shrine and head towards Juan Gaviota.

Juan Gaviota guatemala sign

Follow signs to Juan Gaviota village

After a few miles, you’ll find Carrizal Gas Station on your left.  Turn left shortly after you drive past the gas station.

Carrizal Gas Station

Carrizal Gas Station

After driving over a small bridge, you’ll see a rural school.  Turn right.
Juan Gaviota Public School

Juan Gaviota Public School

This road used to be all dirt until a new development was built on the coast, Juan Gaviota Marina del Sur.  Now it’s partially paved, at least until you drive past the resort.  You’ll see the high-rise condos in the distance, to your left.

As you drive further down the road, the paved road ends.  You’ll have to stay on that dirt road for almost 10 miles.

Road to El Paredón

Road to El Paredón

The landscape is gorgeous and peaceful.

Coastal landscape Guatemala

Coastal landscape Guatemala

At some point, the road winds through a private lot.  Slow down, as there are cows, horses, and other livestock on the road.  They’ll slowly move out of the way – hopefully.

Rural Guatemala, Pacific Coast

Watch out for cows

Arriving at Paredon Surf House

After driving for what seems like forever, you’ll see the signs for Paredon Surf House (PSH).  Turn left and park in the lot behind the hotel.

Entrance to Paredon Surf HouseEntrance to Paredon Surf House

Paredon Surf House parking lot

Paredon Surf House parking lot

PSH is laid back, as you’d expect for a hotel built by surfers, for surfers.

PSH accommodates visitors of all budgets.  There are separate bungalows with private, open-air showers, to cheap sleeping cots above the main building and other options in between.  It pays to book ahead, as all the private rooms were fully booked and only a few beds remained when I called ahead the morning of my trip.

Paredon Surf House dorm views

Dorms are upstairs

There’s a Q25 fee, per adult, if you just want to spend the day and make full use of the facilities.  There are more than a few options, besides surfboard rentals and lessons.  You can go kayaking, take a horseback ride on the beach, get yourself a massage, take Spanish lessons, among other things.  Lots of options at very reasonable prices (listed in quetzals below).

Note:  Only dollars and quetzals accepted.

Paredon Surf House prices

Paredon Surf House prices

There’s also a restaurant that serves very reasonably priced a la carte meals during lunch hours.  At night, the restaurant offers a communal meal, and all guests share in the dining experience.

While it took forever to get our meals (we arrived close to the restaurant’s closing time for lunch), the food (grilled fish) was very fresh and quite tasty.  Each meal cost about Q50 (~$6.15), plus drinks.  Not bad at all.

The pool, while small, is in a shaded area and nice.

Paredon Surf House pool

Paredon Surf House pool

The pool came in handy, as Guatemala’s Pacific Coast beaches are of the black, volcanic sand variety.  This type of sand gets super-hot between midday and 4 p.m., making that a very good time to have lunch and lounge by the pool.

It’s best to enjoy the beach during the morning hours, before the sun heats up, or after the sun starts setting down a bit, giving the sand a chance to cool down.

Guatemala Pacific Coast breezes

Pacific Coast breezes

The surf was producing waves 3-feet high when we arrived, but by the time we left, before sundown, waves were picking up and getting to about 5-feet high.  I would recommend children stay at the pool, even when the waves are not that high.

Paredon Beach is not treacherous like Monterrico'sParedon Beach is not treacherous like Monterrico’s

Even though the hotel was almost near capacity, we had the beach all to ourselves.

Paredón Beach Guatemala

You’ll have the beach to yourself

After hanging out most of the afternoon, it was time to hit the hammocks for some relaxation time.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay to watch the sunset.  It was time to leave as I didn’t want to get caught driving back at night on a dirt road with livestock roaming around.

Hammocks, Paredon Surf House

Hammocks, Paredon Surf House

One last look as we headed out at sundown.

Sundown on the Guatemala Pacific Coast

Sunset on the Pacific Coast

El Paredon beach was a pleasant surprise after what I’d heard about Guatemalan beaches.  I enjoyed it, even though I’m used to gentler, white-sand beaches.  I’ll make plans to go back and visit other beaches.

If you want to visit Paredon Surf House, book online ahead of time or call Amy, the English-speaking hotel administrator.  Definitely worth the trip.

*****

Have you visited El Paredon Beach?

8 COMMENTS

    • Thanks! Paredon Beach is a cool place to hang out. Hope to take some surfing lessons soon :)

      -Rich

  1. Rich, I really enjoyed the post! My wife and I are going to El Paredon in November and staying at the Surf House. Do you have any photos of the village you could share with us?

    Thanks, Larry

    • Hi Larry!

      No pics of the village. Well… there isn’t much of “village” there, only a few houses. The nearest town is Sipacate, which a mile or two north.

      We drove in from the south, through El Remate, and that’s a good 10 miles+ away.

      Haven’t had a chance to visit Sicapate yet.

      Happy travels!

      -Rich

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