Guatemala Pacific Coast Beaches
A recent January “cold snap” (day temp. 67 degrees and night time 52 degrees F) in Antigua Guatemala sent Yolkobsens out in search of heat at the nearby Pacific beaches, targeting Monterrico (Guatemala) as our end destination.
Though we are Canucks through and through and used to the cold, we had become totally spoiled by Antigua Guatemala weather, a perfect climate by anyone’s thermometer. Daytime, even January breaching February, is usually in the mid to high 70s F and evenings ring in with a low-60s sweetness, requiring a light sweater or shawl. But this time, Mother Nature was playing one of her pranks so we set our sights southward.
First, a Warning about the Beaches
They all have an undertow and caution is advised. Very few people venture into the water. In part, this is because relatively few Guatemalans know how to swim. The other reason is, even waist deep, the unpredictable force of the Pacific in this part of the world can take even a middling-strong swimmer away very suddenly. Please be careful if you go to the beaches here. Go for the warmth and beauty, but stay very close to the shore. There are no lifeguards.
Getting There – The Highway
At 8 a.m. I was wearing a few layers of clothing when we got in the van that would take us south, first via Highway #14 and then southeast changing at Escuintla Guatemala for Highway CA49. Dahr, our trusted and expert guide was at the wheel.
About 10 minutes outside of Antigua Guatemala the full force of countryside beauty was smacking us awake. To the east were volcanoes, collared with clouds, and highlands standing guard over a topography that would soon take us to the plains. To the west loomed “La Montana Encantada,” the Enchanted Mountain. You can make out the faces etched by nature into its sides: a young woman’s profile; another, a cross between a Chinese style Buddha and a Maya icon. Even the dullest and sleepiest imagination could make them out.
Dahr told us the legend of the Enchanted Mountain. If you go up the mountain, you can eat anything you find there: vegetables, fruit, animals. But if you try to take food out, you will be forever lost up there. We decided to do our snacking at the beach instead.
About 20 minutes outside of Antigua Guatemala, the palm tress started to appear and some of my outer layers came off. It was now about 75 degrees F and humid enough that you could hear your hair curl.
After about 30 minutes we were on the plains. Here you see splintered herds of steer grazing, but most of the land is given over to sugar cane. After passing Escuintla Guatemala, we were headed southeast on C49. As we approached signs for Puerto de San Jose (Guatemala) were took the coastal road that winds strongly southeastward shadowing the shore.
First stop – The Beach at Puerto de San Jose Guatemala is about 45 minutes from Antigua Guatemala. This was my first sight of the famous black lava beach sand. We found ourselves in a Guatemalan beach town for blue collar Guatemalans. It has a carnival ambience and somewhat brutal architecture. Charming it’s not. It’s set up for fast and furious partying by Guatemalans on a weekend toot. It was Tuesday and the beach was still littered with the aftermath of the weekend. We stayed for about 30 minutes, mostly to warm our bones, took pictures and got back in the car. It was now about 82 degrees F.