Yolkobsens have a thing for the Guatemala beaches, but for different reasons. Mrs. Y freckles and burns so likes to sit under an umbrella with a cool and liberally-laced cocktail while she watches the surf and beautiful view from a protected distance. Meanwhile, Mr. Y is the consummate sun bunny, soaking up the sea, sun and sand and tanning like each day is the last sunny day he’ll ever see. Guatemala beaches have something for both of us so we figure there’s something for all visitors. Broadly speaking, there are two great Guatemala beaches that are a sure bet: Livingston and Monterrico.
Monterrico is on the Pacific coast and Livingston is on the Caribbean side. Getting to each area from Antigua Guatemala is about a 6 hour bus trip no matter how you cut it and you have to go through Guatemala City.
Livingston Guatemala Beach
Livingston is a small virtual island town that offers the best of both worlds. Here you’ll find the famed Rio Dulce, meaning sweet river, on one side of the town and a wonderful Caribbean strand, of a different kind of Guatemala beach, just a short 5-minute walk to the other side of town.
There are no land access routes to Livingston. Remember, it’s sort of an island. Although Livingston is situated on Guatemala’s mainland. Access can only be made by water; either by traveling down the Rio Dulce or by entering the port of Livingston on the Caribbean. Boats come frequently from Rio Dulce Town and Puerto Barrios.
From Rio Dulce the Lancha Colectiva holds a virtual monopoly and charges a steep 125 Q(about $15 US) one way for the pleasure of their ‘tour’ down the river to Livingston. All members of the boat (typically 12 or so) have to agree to skip the tour if you want it to go as quickly as possible (shortest: 1 hour). Normal duration 2 to 2.5 hours. It does, however, pass very beautiful scenery on the way.
A ferry leaves Puerto Barrios for Livingston Monday to Saturday at sometime in the morning (sometime around 11:00, but confirm first) and at 17:00. It costs 10 Q (about $1.25 US). Collectivo Lanchas from Puerto Barrios to Livingston leave all day and cost 35 Q (about $4.30).
Boats also arrive on the Caribbean route direct from Punta Gorda, Belize on Tuesdays and Fridays for US$17(there is a BLZ 37.5 departure tax at the immigration office located at the dock). Boats from Punta Gorda to Puerto Barrios run daily and are the only option when it is not Tuesday or Friday. When arriving from another country, make sure to check in with immigration (500 feet uphill from the dock) to get your entry stamp.
Livingston is a very small town and it does not take long to become familiar with the place. The main street running through Livingston is Calle Principal. The majority of the town’s shops, restaurants and bars are situated on this road. Everything else is situated on roads directly leading from Calle Principal. Should you need a taxi, the price is us 10 Q, no matter where you go. Make sure you negotiate the price in advance!
Monterrico Guatemala Beach
Monterrico is the most popular of the Guatemala beaches and also the closest to Guatemala City and Antigua Guatemala. The beaches are full of interesting but awkward steep angles due to the strength of the pounding surf. The ocean floor here drops off very steeply after only 20-40 feet, making the undertow here very strong; only strong swimmers should venture out very far.
This topography also provides some nice waves for surfing. There are lifeguards on duty during the weekend. Don’t forget to bring some sandals as the sand is of the black volcanic variety. It is a stunning feature for the beauty of it, but it is too hot to walk on after 10 a.m. The beach is 50-80 feet wide and stretches for miles. It is busiest (not crowded by any measure) on Sunday, with mostly Guatemalans. Most local girls prefer to swim in sweat shorts and t-shirts although you will find a few who brave a bikini.
By public bus: From Guatemala City to Iztapa (from the bus terminal in zona 4, 05:00-18:00 more or less every hour, 1 hour and 45 min), boat across the canal of Chiquimulilla to Puerto Viejo, and from there by bus to Monterrico (four buses a day). Or by bus to Taxisco, another bus (or pickup truck) to La Avellana, and finally a lancha (boat) to Monterrico. If you don’t want to boat you can now (as of Nov 2008 at least) take roads totally over-land in any combination of bus, mini-bus or mini-van all the way to the main intersection in Monterrico. There are also 3 direct buses from Guatemala City to La Avellana, leaving the bus terminal in zona 4 at 10:30, 12:30 and 14:30 (check the schedule with Transportes Cubanita). By shuttle: From Antigua Guatemala, you can take a direct mini-bus shuttle for $18 US round-trip which leaves at 8 a.m. and returns at 3 p.m. daily.
By car: Head for Escuintla – Puerto Quetzal – Iztapa – across the new bridge (opened October 2007) to Puerto Viejo – and then to Monterrico. Or you can take the Carretera al Pacífico from Escuintla – Taxisco – La Avellana and a ferry to Monterrico.
For information on accommodations
Centrally located, Villa hosts can link you to all that the region has to offer the curious traveler: from the historical cobblestone walks in Spanish colonial Antigua Guatemala to the Mayan ruins at Tikal to the beauty of Lake Atitlan, to the shopping bonanza in Chichicastenango market or to Pacaya, an awesome and very much alive volcano.
Located on two scenic acres, four kilometers from town, our Villa features five bedrooms, each with en suite bathroom. Here energy can be renewed after a day’s sightseeing. Cocktails and light dinner can be served at La Villa or transit can be arranged so that you can take in the restaurants and nightlife of Antigua Guatemala.
Your hosts are Canadian and American who love the region and can guide you to its many attractions. A menu or package of activities can be arranged by the Villa or we can advise you on how and where to go to get the most out of your visit to Antigua Guatemala and its environs.