There are some beautiful beaches in Guatemala. As a matter of fact, there are Guatemalan beaches on two coasts: the Pacific and the Caribbean. Because the majority of the country's most popular attractions are inland, most travelers don't make it to the coast.
But if you have the time, and want to explore the road less traveled (though not untraveled), the beaches of Guatemala are a great choice. There are beaches for surfing, black sand beaches for relaxing, and opportunities to go deep-sea fishing.
Monterrico, located on Guatemala's Pacific Coast, is the most popular Guatemala beach. With black volcanic sand and a strong current, Monterrico isn't one of Central America's postcard-perfect gems, but that's part of its draw.
Its wide, lengthy stretch of sand is rarely crowded, and the massive condos that crowd the sands of other beaches are, thankfully, absent. Monterrico is easily accessible for travelers; buses leave from Guatemala City and Antigua. It's a popular guided day trip from Antigua.
Funky Livingston is a cluster of colorful wood structures wedged between the Caribbean and the rainforest. It can only be reached by boat, from Puerto Barrios, or by traveling down the Rio Dulce, a river that winds through the jungle.
The beach right outside of Livingston isn't too inviting, but hiking along the coast leads to more remote, cleaner beaches. Playa Blanca is a favorite, though more easily accessible by boat.
You can take a taxi 5 kilometers to the north of Livingston to see seven beautiful waterfalls and pools known as Los Siete Altares (entrance fee).
Playa Tilapa is located right near the Mexican border and is one of the most remote Guatemala beaches.
The little town of Tilapita, a fishing village, is basic and rather rough looking. You can take a 10-minute boat ride to the beach, passing through the mangrove trees. There are beautiful sunsets, potentially good waves for surfing, and a laid-back rural Guatemalan beach experience waiting for you at Playa Tilapa.
A couple hours from Quetzaltenango (Xela), the shipping port of Champerico (or Champe) is a vacation spot for Guatemalans, though as with all Guatemala beaches, it's rarely crowded.
Under the right conditions, the surfing can be good and there are surf shops that can rent you a board and gear and offer instruction.
A massive wooden pier is a striking feature, dating back to the late 19th century. Since the town is a major port you'll be able to find services and shopping.
Buses from Puerto San Jose often continue to Iztapa, one of Guatemala's most scenic dark sand beaches.
Iztapa served as Guatemala's original port and, like Puerto San Jose, is now a base for some of the world's best sail fishing.
From Iztapa, you can surf, go whale-watching or take a fishing charter out to sea. For relaxing on the beach, it's ideal to take a boat across the river to a sandbar where you can watch the waves and enjoy a meal and a cold one at one of the little outdoor restaurants.
Puerto Barrios is a port town on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala. It serves as a jumping-off point for Livingston, and for travelers heading to Punta Gorda on Belize's southern coast by boat.
Puerto Barrios itself isn't home to beaches of note, but you can take a short boat ride to nearby Guatemalan beaches like Punta de Manabique, Punta de Palma, and Playa Blanca.
Puerto San Jose
Not far from Monterrico, Puerto San Jose is a port town home to 20,000 Guatemalans, the most populated of any town along Guatemala's Pacific Coast. You can fly into this scenic area with the volcanoes providing a backdrop.
There's a Guatemala beach worth checking out, and the sail fishing off the coast ranks among the world's best. Whale-watching is also is also popular.
The nearby village of Chulamar has some nicer restaurants and accommodations and more charters for deep sea fishing.