Sipacate Guatemala, The Mar Maya Hotel

Yolkobsens continue to scratch their pointy, ancient noggins trying to understand why the Guatemala beaches just southwest and southeast of Antigua Guatemala remain one of the best kept secrets in this part of the New World.

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Our latest foray into the Guatemala Pacific beaches, just a 1 1/2 hour car ride from Antigua Guatemala, found us in Sipacate, a pueblo located southwest of Antigua Guatemala.  From there, a single but perfect hotel beach resort is just a fresh water channel ride away.

The Mar Maya Hotel is reached by hired launch from Sipacate.  Don’t worry about looking for the dock, a helpful and enterprising person will spot your car or you on foot and take you there immediately.  It’s an inexpensive ride, with pretty much of standard 10 Quetzales per person rate.

You’ll be on the launch for about 8 minutes and the ride is a treat in itself.  It’s a marshy mangrove lined strait with a lot of wildlife to admire. We saw a Supreme Court of serious looking pelicans, an interesting counterpoint to the coven of Cranes, who never take themselves seriously.  Anyway, who could with legs like those?  Another surprise sight was the large mound of whiter than white harvested sea salt we saw drying in the salt farm sun.  Small flying fish got into the act as well.

On arriving at the Mar Maya Hotel, we headed straight for the beach.  This is the only hotel resort for kilometers and kilometers of gorgeous pristine Pacific shoreline.  In fact, as far as the eye could see, there were no other beach resorts, soda pop stands, souvenir kiosks, nada any way you look up and down.  No litter, hardly any people.

This hotel, which has been here in one form or another for over 40 years, is a maze of rooms, bungalows, bars of various sizes, three pools, including one for the kids, and crocodile and turtle pens.

The painted notice on the croc pen the first of the interesting warnings, kind admonishments and directions painted in large letters through this somewhat eccentric hotel compound.  The croc’s name is Juanando, one sign explains helpfully.  The next sign asks you not to feed him or throw stuff at him. Oh if Juanando could only talk, the tales he could tell.

My favorite sign with the biggest letters of all is located at the back of the large breezy outdoor restaurant, warning guests not to go swimming within 2 hours post-meal. This was a charming throw-back to our childhoods, we thought, as the eatery speakers cranked out vintage Frank Sinatra.

Before reading further, you should know that the beaches in this part of Guatemala all have deadly undertows and are not to be trifled with.  Most Guatemalans will not go into the water past the ankle level and you should adopt this as a wise example.  The Mar Maya Hotel provides a series of flags on the beach indicating where it’s safe and extremely unsafe to take the plunge. Directly in front of the restaurant sits the all-clear flag.  Here you can see steady breakers that many visitors surf in relative safety.   Still, caution is the watch word.

After we got through admiring the beach from the dark lava sand, we headed back to the restaurant for cold beer, cool breezes and lunch.  Our lunch of fried whole curvina fish, small salad and fries was outstanding, advantaging the fresh from the sea flavor that cannot be imitated.  Mr. Y had the house special seafood soup with a whole curvina fish hammocked across the large bowl.  The broth was a meal in itself and definitely had been made from scratch; no store bought soup stock here.  It was an excellent meal, we declared and the price was very reasonable.  Our lunch, which included much beer, came to about $12 per person.

Room rates at this funny, sprawling character of a resort is also very reasonable.  Rooms that can sleep four are in the $60 range and bungalows that accommodate six, are in the $75 range.  Rates are 25 percent less during the week.

Like all Guatemala beach resorts, there is a big crowd on the weekend and hardly anyone there during the week.  A hotel van will shuttle you from Antigua Guatemala and back on the weekends.  Check out their web site for more info http://www.marmaya.com.

Johnny’s Place, Hotel in Monterrico, Guatemala

Johnny’s Place, Hotel in Monterrico, Guatemala

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About Johnny’s Place

From the web site this is the story is told.

Johnny’s place story goes back to 1988 when a German pioneer named John Luttman decided to build a few guest houses on the Monterrico beach. Originally built for friends and family, it quickly became Johnny’s Place Hotel due to the numerous demands.

On one of the nicest beach in Guatemala, between the Chiquimulila lagoon and the Pacific ocean you find Johnny’s Place. The charm and laid back atmosphere is what made Johnny’s Place the most popular spot on the beach. Ideal for family retreats or party’s with friends.

Johnny’s Place in Monterrico Guatemala is the local and gringo hang out. A cool place right on the beach Johnny’s Place is just that a place to hang out on the beaches of Monterrico, drink cheap drinks, have great food and yes Johnny’s Place has the beach view all beach loves crave.

Monterrico (Guatemala) can be reached first via Highway #14 southbound and then taking Highway CA49 and then joining the southeast-bent coastal road. This road careens around small sandy villages and a scattering of roadside palm trees, tiendas and ad hoc bars, which cater to the weekend crowds of Guatemalan visitors.  Sometimes you have to swerve around sleeping dogs and the amblings of pigs and chickens crossing.  Adds to the charm.

Monterrico (Guatemala) is a consummate beach town, full of hotels, hostels, bars and restaurants.  The government tourist agency has built a modest walkway to the beach.  The beach itself is stunningly beautiful, with its hot dark slate-gray lava sand and a Pacific vista that calls to your camera.  Unfortunately, the beach is not as tidy and clean as a tourist might wish for.  There’s plenty of litter, but not enough to put you off a stroll down the shore.  There are many beachside bars and restaurants from which perch you can watch the gentle waves in their good-bye-and-hello rhythms.

Year-round, Monterrico (Guatemala) is at least 85 degrees F by noon.  Be warned: the lava sand will burn your feet like no other you’ve experienced. Best thing to wear is a pair of athletic shoes that completely cover the feet.  Mrs. Y made the mistake of trying to cross the sand in sandals and wound up making a fast dash for the shade.  Luckily we landed at one of the many agreeable bar/restaurants planted along the shore.

Depending on the kind of beach person you are, you will have a different reaction to this iteration of the Pacific shoreline. By Yolkobsens’ standards the town and the public beach are well worth the visit, if only to experience a beach town in the Guatemalan style.

There are many comfortable hostels and hotels that line the shore of Monterrico (Guatemala).  The beach fronts of these establishments are all well tended and clean, unlike the public beach described above.  Almost all of them have swimming pools to address the afternoon lethargy caused by heat and too many mojitos.

Again, it’s important to know that Monterrico (Guatemala) is a sleepy and calm oasis of warm sunshine and sea breezes during the week.  The weekends are a different matter altogether.  The place takes on the force of one loud and continuous party Friday and Saturday nights.  So if that’s what you like, then go for it.

If you prefer quiet breeze-propelled swaying in a hammock with an undemanding beach novel and few people around, we recommend Monterrico (Guatemala) during the week.

La Reunion Resort for Golf in Guatemala

I love settling down in Antigua Guatemala for the winter. With all its restaurants, sights, interesting people, and surprises, Antigua makes a great home base after escaping winter up north. But like many people that spend time in Antigua, there comes a moment when you crave a brief change of scenery and activity outside of the cobblestones and colonial architecture.

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Often, when this feeling creeps in, most people make their way to Lake Atitlan for a few days – to swim, kayak, explore the towns around the lake, or just stare at the lake as it changes hour by hour.

Lately, I found a different Antigua diversion – golf. I usually save my time on the links for summer days with my friends at home, but visiting the La Reunion golf course, 10km out of Antigua, had me fantasizing about trying a few rounds down here in Guatemala. The course has only been around for a few years and I was lucky enough to be treated to tour of the course in one of their shining new golf carts. I went there during the week and the course wasn’t busy. With no golfers in front of them and no one behind, the golfers I did see must have felt the luxury of having the whole course to themselves.

Surrounded by lush rolling hills of perfect green grass, it felt like a welcome relief to all the senses. There were luxurious landscaping touches everywhere. All this beauty was nestled within a backdrop of magical volcanoes. The course is a Pete Dyes design. Many fairways looked long, narrow and challenging. For this high handicap golfer with a rusty swing, I found myself calculating how many extra balls I would need to carry in my golf bag to finish a round. Watching one party of golfers putt out, I could see that the putting greens were deceptive and challenging too. I decided that even a high score wouldn’t tarnish the pleasure of playing this beautiful course.

A few days at the La Reunion resort are in the plans for me. After seeing the course, I am itching to get back there, take a quick practice at their driving range, buy some extra golf balls and tee off.