MonterricoPacific Highlands : Monterrico
It is a 2.5 hour drive from either Antigua or Guatemala City. 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 10am. The beach is 50 - 80 feet wide and stretches for miles. It is busiest(not crowded by any measure) on Sunday with mostly Guatemalans.
By public bus:
- From Guatemala City
- by bus to Monterrico - there are direct buses from Terminal Centra Sur in Zona 12 (not Zona 4!) ;
- 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) 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 (may have moved as of Jan '08?) at 10:30, 12:30 and 14:30 (check the schedule with Transportes Cubanita).
- From Antigua: take a bus to Escuintla (8Q), once in Escuintla there will be several vans near the bus stop, ask around for one going to Monterrico, they will say it's "directo" a Monterrico, although it isn't. Take the van or bus to Puerto Quetzal (10Q) or Puerto San Jose, from there take another to Iztapa (15Q), and lastly one to Monterrico (10Q). It's almost "directo", no waiting times.
By shuttle: From Antigua you can take a direct mini-bus shuttle for US$15 round-trip which leaves at 8AM and returns at 4PM daily.
By car: Head for Escuintla - Puerto Quetzal - Iztapa - across the new bridge (opened October 2007) to Puerto Viejo - and then to Monterrico.
Or you can take the Carretera al Pacífico from Escuintla - Taxisco - La Avellana and a ferry to Monterrico.
Walk, run, bike, mini-van, horseback ride, boat in the canals.
- Turtle Release
The turtle release is daily at 5:30pm during turtle season and is Q10 per baby turtle. This money goes to the Turtle Hatchery, to help buy eggs from locals in order to rebury them and conserve them until they can be hatched.
- The mangrove swamp
Tours are given by local guides, ask your hotel to recommend a good guide. Prices between Q50-100 depending on number of people and times of day, feel free to bargain with the guide. Tours are normally at 5:30am to catch the beautiful sunrise. On clear mornings, it is possible to see the volcanoes in the distance.
- Club Auto Safari Chapín 
If coming from Antigua or Guatemala by car, head towards Carretera a Puerto Quetzal, and just after Super 24 (on your right) take a left turn towards "Taxisco" or the border with El Salvador. You will see a sign with animals on it on your right, just in front of the turn. Continue on this road until you reach Km 87.5. Just before this there will be a second bridge crossing the Maria Linda river, a wide right curve, a huge hydroelectric turbine mounted in a concrete base on your left (this is the road to the Aguacapa hydroelectric facility) and at the end of this portion, a sign will show that Auto Safari is near. This is the last curve before reaching the park.They accept all major forms of payment, including US$ and major credit cards. The park has over 105 different species, local and international, and its collection includes up to 1200 animals. They have a restaurant, snack bars (one is located at the middle of the drive through tour), clean restrooms, adult and child pools, souvenir shops, children play areas, and a large interior parking lot.A $7 ticket for admission gets you:
- Drive through the Park
- Bus service around the drive-through area (If you didn't bring your car)
- Access to the walk-through zoo
- Boat ride in their lagoon
- Pool Access
They also offer a package price for $9, which is the same as above, but includes a full meal. They have several food options, but a typical menu in this package consists of:
- Deluxe hamburger
- French fries
- Soda or bottled water
- Ice cream (They serve Sarita Brand ice cream, really tasty!)
They open from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm Tuesdays through Sundays. It's closed Mondays. For major holidays, you can expect the park to be open even if it is on a Monday. You can call their main office Monday through Fridays to confirm if they are open: +502 2363-1105 (English spoken). The park has a phone number as well, but no english is spoken: +502 5517-1705
You can also e-mail them. They answer to Spanish and English e-mails.
You should know that Monterrico is for relaxing, meeting people, having a meal or some drinks, and then relaxing some more. To put it plainly, there isn't much going on in Monterrico yet. The weekends-only night-life, internet cafe (2 as of June 2013) and mangrove swamp is pretty much it. At times there is a lot of litter along the main street, but as the town grows more tourist-aware, the local businesses have a campaign of cleanliness, including new garbage cans in public. The beaches are mostly clean, and the hotels between the Dulce y Salado and the Eco Beach place generally keep it the best. You can take a 2 hour boat tour of the mangrove swamp for $5. The main road leads from the beach to the mangrove swamp dock and is a pleasant little 10 minute walk. There are a few mosquitos at night and you will get bitten so bring repellent. Some hotel rooms have mosquito netting covering the bed, but not all. The waves at the beach have a short and dangerous break.
There are 2 internet cafes as of June 2013, and they charge Q12 an hour.
There is a Spanish language school.
Horses are available to ride on the beach.
Baby turtle release is one of the most fun activities. There are several places along the beach that collect eggs laid by sea turtles and when hatched, they will mass release all the turtles. Ask your hotel manager or locals for more information. Generally the laying and release season runs from June through March.
Affluent Guatemalans drive their ATVs up and down the beach. So do the police. Be aware.
More affluent folk fly their single or twin propeller plane in for the weekend and often fly low along the beach. There is a grassy landing strip along the main road, owned by the Aeroclub de Guatemala. Helicopters also fly along the beach once in a while, usually the affluent folk touring around before landing at their beach houses. If possible take an ATV ride along the beach, (west or east for about 10 Km) you will see some fascinating houses.
Not much here in the way of local textiles as in other regions of Guatemala, but there are some local specialties worth noting; this region grows and dries massive loofas (they can be found drying hanging from most any surface in early November). There is also a profusion of coconuts here, so plentiful in fact that they sit in big piles at the base of trees scattered all over town, and local merchants gather them and put them in big coolers. For 2Q you can have a freshly opened coconut with cool natural coconut milk inside, and then you can pour other drinks into it or smash it open and eat the coconut meat, which is delicious.
You may want to bring all the cash you need for your stay. There is one bank in town, a Banrural which are located on the road heading to Hawaii, where you can exchange US dollars (With your passport) cash traveler's checks and other banking needs like change. There is one ATM in Monterrico at the Banrural Bank and when it runs out of cash or is shut down it can be days before it's in service again. Some of the more expensive hotels have been known to exchange American Express travelers checks e.g. Johnnys Place, but they will not give you the best of exchange rates. Be warned VISA traveler's checks are not accepted anywhere in town. Many hotels now accept credit cards, with a 5% surcharge. Some hotels such as Hotel el Delfin and Johnny's Place exchange dollars, but the banks have better exchange rates.
Many of the hotels along the beach have restaurants. Some of the best are at the Hotels " El Delfin" (http://hotel-el-delfin.com), "Cafe del Sol", "Pez de Oro", "Johnnys" http://johnnysplacehotel.com/restaurant.php).
El Pelicano is the best high-end restaurant, run by a Swiss-German Chef/Owner. It is located behidn Johhny's Place. Note they are closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Food in most of the beach restaurants is more expensive, but dependable and you might feel much more comfortable depending on your level of travel exposure. The best part is, you get a great sunset almost everynight. Budget-food you get along Calle Principal. Here you will find a place selling chow mein tostadas for a bargain price. But be careful you can also get stomach problems. Vegetarian food is particularly hard to come by here with seafood being predominant on most menus.
On the main road from the beach to the mangrove dock street vendors sell chicken sandwiches for Q5 and fried chicken with fries for Q6. You can get a small slice of cake for Q2 at some of the local stores (tienda in Spanish). "'
- Hotel el Delfin Great place for sunset volleyball with the locals and Happy Hour from 4-7pm. Hammocks for relaxing and a great view of the sunset.
- El Cafe del Sol enjoy the sunset with a tasty tropical cocktail - on the best part of the beach.
- Osmosis Near Johnnys Place. Open on weekends.
A cold 600ml plastic bottle of Coca Cola cost Q5 at the local stores.
- El Animal Desconocido. weekends 4pm-3am. Famous for it's cocktails and great vibe, a fun and funky disco-bar located close to Hotel el Delfin on the beachfront. Happy hour 9-11pm, open weekends. edit
The beach hotels usually operate with different prices for weekends-weekdays. On the weekends it can be difficult to get a room at your hotel of choice. Book ahead, or be prepared to walk along the beach asking for available rooms. Children often will greet you as you arrive by bus and show you the way to a hotel but they do not know about the availability of the rooms and will expect a small tip of some kind.
- Hotel El Delfin, a great budget option for backpackers or anyone looking for a great deal. Prices starting at Q40 per person. Dorms, Rooms with private or shared bath. Relaxed bar and restaurant on the beach. Many hammocks, so there is plenty of space to relax. It was recently taken over by a young couple, who are making the place more comfortable and friendly. English, German and Spanish are spoken by staff. One of the few hotels in town with WIFI. Tel.: (+502) 5702-6701 [email protected] Check out their new website: (http://www.hotel-el-delfin.com)
- Eco-Beach Place Located right past Café del Sol. Beachfront hotel, with pool, hammocks, steakhouse and bar. A laid back and chill place, it is run by Luis, who is fluent in English and Spanish About Q150 for a private room with bathroom.. Clean and sociable atmosphere attracts visitors from around the world. English and Spanish spoken.
- Hotel "Café del Sol". Excellent menus, nice and clean rooms, sunset-terrace on the beach, ask for mangrove-tours and horse-backriding. 180/140Q. Tel 5810-0821 (http://www.cafe-del-sol.com/)
- Pez de Oro. One of the best hotels in Monterrico (http://www.pezdeoro.com).
- El Mangle, Tel 5514-6517, 5490-1336. Q180/150 double weekend/weekdays. Nice grounds, roof terrace with hammocks. Restaurant serves clay oven pizza. Accepts VISA cards.
- Hotel Baule Beach
- El Kaiman Cheap and clean, but basic; Q100 for a double, and they have great pizza cooked in a clay oven.
- Johnny's Place Hotel  Tel 5812-0409, 4369-6900. Q190/150 double weekend/weekdays. Dorms (~Q45 per bed), private rooms, pools, traditional bungalows, deluxe bungalows and private houses. Pools, great restaurant, beach soccer and volleyball every afternoon. Accepts VISA cards with a 5% surcharge.
- Brisas del Mar, excellent value for money hotel with basic but clean van or aircon rooms, large swimming pool. From Q60 per night per person.
- Playa Club (Johnny's Place Hotel), calle de los hoteles (monterrico), ☎ 5812-0409, . This new beach bar is located at Johnny's Place. It is open fridays and saturdays from 8 PM till ... They have DJ and VJ with reggeaton, salsa, electro and houyse music. Cocktails are very good (ask for lady special!). The happy hour is from 8 PM till 11 PM every weekend. Spectacular fire show every saturday with Cesar. edit
While Monterrico is a rather safe town and serious crime is rare, it is best not to walk alone at night to avoid problems. Like most towns, it is best to walk in groups if out late at night. Also, be careful not to leave valuables laying around as petty thievery is a problem in all of Central America.
Shuttles leave daily for Antigua at 4pm, tickets can be purchased on the Calle Principal at Calle Real Restaurant, or at Hotel el Delfin or Johnny's Place. Prices start at Q70 per person, and it is better to reserve the day ahead. Private shuttles to Guatemala City cost about Q800 or $100, depending on number of people and time of day. To head to Guatemala City, there are direct chicken busses at 5am, no ticket required. To head to El Salvador, it is easy to take the ferry to La Avellana and then a quick bus to Taxisco where there are frequent busses to the border. No tickets required. It is also possible to catch the shuttles in Taxisco that are going from Antigua to El Salvador Beaches, if your hotel will contact Global Surf in Antigua.  To head to Lake Atitlan, you can take a bus to Escuintla, then to Cocales and onto San Lucas Toliman.
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