Guatemala’s Pacific Coast

Because of Guatemala’s orientation, its “western” coast—that is to say, its Pacific coast—is actually for the most part to the south, and most Guatemalans refer to it as the “southern” coast. It consists of the provinces of San Marcos, Retalhuleu, Suchitepequez, Escuintla and Santa Rosa.

These provinces are similar in that they comprise the land between a string of volcanoes inland and the coast. The rich soil means that these provinces are home to thriving agricultural and livestock industries as well as a booming fishing industry. Home mostly to working-class Guatemalans with little or no indigenous blood, these provinces tend to be somewhat rough-and-tumble, and more than a little dangerous. The main towns, such as Escuintla and Puerto San José have little to offer visitors.

The biggest draw on the southern coast is almost certainly the small beach town of Monterico. As beaches go, it’s not too impressive—head north to Mexico if that’s what you’re looking for—but it’s probably the best Guatemala has to offer. Ruins buffs will want to visit some sites along the southern coast, most notably Abaj Takalik, near the city of Retalhuleu. A relatively small site, with only about 80 structures, Abaj Takalik is most interesting due to several impressive stonecarvings and possible links to the ancient Olmec culture.